Catching up

So, where have I been?

I have tried to write a few times since October, but something would always come up. Primarily, I was spending an inordinate amount of time working with Claire and some of the challenges a gifted kid runs into at school. We had decided to bump her up to third grade last year, as she was pacing with the second graders. In fact, she was doing better than many of the second graders, though she was technically still in first grade. We decided to officially keep her in second grade (primarily to avoid having to go through the rigorous testing at the end of the school year), though she would work with the third graders in the classroom.

The Challenge of Gifted Kids

12183864_10153686372922438_6476460127467095901_oAcademically, Claire has been doing fine. Quite well, as a matter of fact. She still has that natural curiosity about her world, and she has the mind to analyze and decode her world. She reads at a sixth grade level and can do both multiplication and division easily. She memorizes facts with ease, and if it has something to do with horses, she’ll probably know a lot more than the average adult. Academically, I have no worries about her or her academic career.

Socially, however, she’s still only seven, though a precocious seven year old that can pace with older kids fairly well. However, the older kids know she’s only seven. And when you’ve got kids that have issues beyond your control or understanding, there can be challenges. Claire has a heightened expectation of how other kids should treat her. She’s very aware of right vs. wrong, and when wrong happens, she spends a lot of that mental power on trying to figure out why things aren’t right or acting out in ways that were rather challenging. That mental activity was better spent on learning and having fun, of course, but she was preoccupied when things were not going right.

I spent time with her at school, which I rather enjoyed. I love her school, her teachers, and it was nice hanging out with some of the other kids. And I did witness some kids acting out for various reasons in ways that were challenging to Claire. I would coach her through it, but at the same time, I had to wonder whether or not it was worth her energy, or my energy, to focus so much on just being okay socially with other kids. And, of course, it’s not all of the kids. But Claire is very good at sorting right from wrong and finding what’s wrong and trying to fix it.

We had a short break, then we all got sick. Stomach bug, then a cold hit us all. Claire was out altogether for three weeks. And, I noticed her personality changing… for the better. She started researching things of interest to her, asking more questions about her interests, and exploring her world in ways she wasn’t doing a month earlier.

It seemed that without the pressure of social issues, her mental bandwidth freed up so she could focus on more positive things.

Because she’s in that parroting stage still, the stage of life where kids are soaking up information, it made sense to homeschool for now. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, but her educational facilitator and the director of the school confirmed with me that she would be fine. And intuitively, I got the message that I don’t have to be confident in my ability to teach, I just have to be confident in Claire’s ability to learn. And in that I have complete faith. So, we’re homeschooling for now. She’s happier. I’m more relaxed. We’ll meet with her educational facilitator every so often and we’ll document what she’s doing. I asked her if she’d like to keep a blog about what she’s doing, but she’s told me that blogs are boring. So, there you go.

What’s not boring to her is David Bowie. Since his death in January, both of my kids have been listening to David Bowie. Max, in high school, spent a day at school learning about David Bowie’s influence on the music world. Claire, seeing this, dove into Ziggy Stardust. She is also fascinated by the Blackstar video, and thinks it is a fantastic song. Not something you expect to hear from a seven year old, but she’s no ordinary seven year old, this is for sure.

Cooking up miracles in the kitchen

homemade deodorantAnother project that has taken up quite a bit of my own bandwidth is creating personal care products in the kitchen. Last summer, I made some of my own deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda, arrowroot, and bentonite clay. You see, your armpits are a primary detoxification center for your lymph nodes. I had found some soreness in one of my armpits, and it turned out to be an inflamed lymph node. I decided to ditch traditional deodorant, and I absolutely loved what I came up with.

After talking to a friend who operates a health store, I started making it for his customers. It has been one of the more successful products, which encouraged me to start sharing some of the other things I make for myself and the family, including remineralizing toothpaste, colloidal silver, and calendula salve. I decided to brand my offerings as Shasta Sage Wellness, and all of a sudden I have a new business. The logo is from a painting we purchased from a local artist that hangs in my kitchen, and the name Shasta Sage has dual meanings, of course. Overall, I’m really excited about the business and how well it’s been received.

calendula oilSo much of my work life over the last 25 years has been spent sitting in front of a computer, wrestling with code and words. There’s something meditative about making something physical and tangible. It’s akin to gardening or cooking in my mind, and I am really enjoying the change of pace. For a change, I get to let go of having to sell things and let others do that. I get to make things, and sell a little, and it feels really good. After spending a day making something, I am physically tired yet mentally still awake, and that feels good, too. And it’s also something I can involve both of my kids in the process of creation, too.

My friend recently asked if I could emulate a formula for a competitive product, something I’ve never done before. It took a few weeks of research, experimentation, and ultimately creating something that turned out better than the competitive product. And in doing so, it gave me more ideas for creating complementary products. I actually really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a new product using all natural ingredients that will blow the petrochemical-based product out of the water. It was daunting and completely outside my realm of expertise, but it turned out being exceptional. It’s not a publicly available product yet, as it still has to go through the testing phase, but I’m excited.

Enjoying Mount Shasta

mount shasta californiaThis place… it nurtures my soul in ways I’ve never experienced elsewhere, except perhaps far northern Wisconsin. When things get overwhelming, and sometimes they certainly do, this place sets me right again. I am blessed and so very thankful to be able to live here.  The people here are like nowhere else, and the natural beauty of the surroundings, even when we’re socked in by snow, is beautiful. And if I want to escape the snow for a bit, the rest of California and Oregon provide respite.

Someone I know here that has lived here for decades mentioned to me that the mountain either spits you back out or it won’t let you leave. I had to laugh, as I’m certainly a part of the latter. No matter how I might fantasize about moving to the beach, the universe conspires to ensure I stay here.

When I first visited 9 years ago, I cried when I left. When I visited again, the desire to live here was overwhelming. Now that my kids have also fallen in love with the place, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

And of course, still writing

Even with all of these new and surprising activities, I am still making time to write. Most of the time, its early in the morning before anyone else is awake in the house. I am writing for me, for fun, and maybe for someday sharing.

And I’m hoping to get back into the blogging and podcasting thing now that so much is settling into routine.

 

Your body, your health, your choice

I ended up watching a documentary last week called Oxyana, about a town called Oceana, West Virginia that has been decimated by oxycontin abuse. It is not an easy watch, but I got sucked in. It’s a powerful story, powerfully told.

It’s unfortunate that it is not fiction.

I started doing research. It’s not just small towns in West Virginia. It’s everywhere. Here’s another documentary about Staten Island and the epidemic of opiate pharmaceutical abuse that has turned into heroin addiction. Kentucky sued the maker of oxycontin because of the devastation in their state. It looks like it is everywhere.

Prescription drug abuse is rampant in this country. And our country and our youth are being decimated by addictive prescription abuse.

Through my research, I found that doctors are trained by the pharma company sales staff to prescribe 30 day supply of opiates for even minor pain management. Thirty days. After 30 days, those unfortunate souls who trusted their doctor without doing their own research are addicted. Stopping means withdrawals. And then they spiral into the hell of addiction, not to get high, but to just avoid painful withdrawals.

Digging further, I found out that these pharmaceutical companies knew that these drugs were highly addictive before they marketed them. Kentucky’s lawsuit exposed the alarming fact that the maker of Oxycontin knew it was highly addictive and did not disclose this information to doctors or patients.

Oxycontin. Meet the Oxycontin Clan. They’re the newest members in the Forbes richest families list. Believe me, if you read the article about their wealth and watch Oxyana in the same day, try not to eat any heavy foods that will taste bad on the way back up.

I’ve never been a big fan of mainstream medicine. When Max was a baby, I read a number of alternative parenting books that encouraged me to question everything about his healthcare. Even still, I had a horrific experience in the hospital where he was born. I was often pitted against ill-informed and condescending practitioners who advised me to do things that medical studies did not support (e.g., stop breastfeeding and formula feed because he had jaundice). After some other experiences with mainstream healthcare, my trust in the system is shot.

So, excuse me if I am a little leery of being forced into a healthcare system that does not exactly have our health as a primary motivational factor. (In case you haven’t noticed, it seems to be more about profits. I know. Imagine that.) When Obamacare came around and my once-affordable catastrophic healthcare insurance plan became wholly unaffordable, I was forced into a government mandated healthcare management plan that has created more logistical nightmares than it has helped me. (Apparently it’s well known that California’s Obamacare initiative, Covered California, is not faring very well. It’s a good thing they’re handing out pay increases to executives.)

After watching the destruction of human lives by pharmaceutical non-disclosure, I guess you could say I am a little fired up about the hell of large pharmaceutical companies, you know the ones… the ones that go through extreme efforts to discredit doctors that might have concerns about their products, whether it is Vioxx or vaccines. (I’m looking at you, Merck.)

I’m supposed to trust these companies to do the right things? I am supposed to trust these guys, the ones negotiating behind closed doors on the TPP, the ones that sneak through executive orders requiring girls to be vaccinated with Gardasil, the ones pushing for mandatory vaccination (nice job, California), the ones allegedly falsifying efficacy data of those same vaccines, the ones selling Oxycontin and ruining lives? I’m supposed to trust the CDC, an entity that has been found to have severe conflicts of interest in 64% of their advisors?

Instead of ensuring that medications and vaccines are as safe and effective as possible, our government ensures that we’re locked into a system from which there is not much escape. A system that, in my experience and opinion, creates more problems than it solves, a system that does more harm than good.

I’d say there ought to be a law, but I lost my faith in government solutions a long time ago. There needs to be a movement… a movement to encourage people to take back their healthcare away from these systems that destroy more than they heal.

Fixing the problems in healthcare is not going to come from the government. It’s going to come from you, me, and other people who wake up to the lie that has been foisted upon the American people that these drugs being marketed to us are always safe and effective. It’s going to come from us opting out of a system that ensnares and entraps those most vulnerable.

Your health is your greatest asset, and you are the only one entrusted with protecting your health and making good decisions about that asset. What you eat matters. What you consider medicine matters. What you think matters. You can’t just turn over responsibility for these types of decisions to someone else and pay them to make choices for you.

We fought long and hard for choices in healthcare for women, but now we’re losing those choices by blindly trusting an industry that cares more about profits than the people they treat. We’re losing those choices to lobbyists advocating for further profit centers without liability. If we don’t start making choices for our own health, we’re going to lose them altogether.

 

 

Comfort Zones Kill

About 20 years ago, I was working out a lot. My partner and I joined a gym, and as a part of our new membership, we were required to go through a fitness assessment. Frank went first, and he got a fitness trainer that was incredibly easy on him. I am pretty sure she was a cheerleader and thought that two sits ups were cause for celebration.

I went for my assessment the next day. My trainer was a former marine.

As marines are known to do, he pushed me and pushed me hard. During the time we were together, we chatted quite a bit when I wasn’t coughing up bits of lung tissue. I told him how I had just purchased a house in the suburb we were in and that I worked in the city.

“I grew up here. But things have changed. This town isn’t the same anymore. We’re being overrun by mocha-drinking, cellphone-talking, SUV-driving moms with perfect manicures and judgmental minds. They’re all as comfortable as can be.”

“I think I pulled something in my leg,” I said.

“You’ll live,” he replied.

He told me how he was moving away from the Chicago suburbs and to the Pacific Northwest to escape the decline of civilization as he knew it. “Comfort zones kill,” he said. “And these people here are all as good as dead.”

A well-lived life

I have to admit, I like a comfortable life. I live a comfortable life. I have a beautiful home in a beautiful place, a wonderful family, and good friends. Sure, I have to drive 60 minutes to get to civilization, but it’s worth it for the daily experience of waking up in Mount Shasta every morning. I have the best of all worlds, and I am pretty happy with my life.

It’s an easy place to get comfortable.

And I am. I have been.

When we get comfortable and secure, we tend to erect patterns and structures of protection to keep us in that comfort zone. We stop stretching, challenging, and pushing. It’s an incredibly first-world problem, yes, but it is a problem that our modern comforts and accoutrements tend to create for us.

And it’s killing us.

All we are is change

Being comfortable and secure is not the natural order of things. That marine that pushed me out of my physical comfort zones gave me a huge gift that day, a wake up call to never let myself get too comfortable. But here I am, again, getting comfortable with what is and not really wanting to grow or change.

Growth is all we are, however. All we are is change. And if we’re getting too comfortable, we’re losing out on a part of who we are. We lose out on our expansion. We lose out on joy.

The more comfortable and content I have allowed myself to become, the more I stopped wanting. I stopped feeling much desire to do anything, including the things that really excite me. I lost a sense of creativity and inspiration that comes with feeling hungry for something more.

I started creating some of those structures and patterns to keep things just as they are. I didn’t want change, even though I know intellectually this principle that all we are is change. It became apparent that the amount of effort to keep things just as they are is equal to the amount of effort it takes to grow and change. The world keeps changing, and if I am comfortable with where I am and want to keep things as they are, I still have to exert effort to keep static in the face of the change that is ubiquitous in our world.

Luckily, we don’t live in a vacuum. Sometimes things happen. Wake up calls, enlightenment, awakenings… we get a message. Something unconscious in us recognizes that we’ve become our own worst enemy and it shakes us up a little, destroying some of the structures we’ve created to keep everything just the way it is.

I’ve had a few of those, but I still haven’t wanted to give up where I am. So, the wake up calls get a little louder. Change is going to happen, whether you choose the change or not.

Comfort zones kill. So I choose change.

Pushing out

Part of that comfort was being happy enough with hiking my standard route every morning. When I got the message about comfort zones again, I ran. It hurt. I used to run all the time, but running is one of those activities that is never very comfortable so I stopped. And I got a little too comfortable, and I lost my ability to run long distances again. So, I am running again.

Mark started pushing me in different ways, too. Putting myself out there more, and not worrying what other people think. Taking pictures of myself and putting them on social media. Writing again, even if it isn’t all that great. I’m even going to start with podcasting and vidcasting.

Why do all of this? I explain a little in the podcast I recorded this weekend. The world needs our voices, and the world needs our expansion. This is no time for comfort zones.
success-beyond-comfort-zones life-happens-outside

 

Kittens, School and Raw Milk

Luna and OliverWe have kittens!

I wasn’t exactly planning this. Claire and I have been going to the Siskiyou Humane Society and visiting kittens this summer. She met one, Tatiana, and fell in love. She was a great kitten, but when we met her she was not ready to go home. Then, life got extremely busy again.

My cat, Little, moved in with the ex-husband last year. She’s a calico and somewhat tempermental, and she took some swipes at Claire. Little started spending some time outdoors, but as the weather got cooler, she went to live with the ex.

This summer, Little came back while the ex was traveling. But his travels ended, and Little went back. We found ourselves cat-less again.

So, we talked it over and decided we could go get Tatiana. Of course, being the sweet cat she is, she was already adopted. We met two other kittens that stole our hearts immediately. I was sure Mark would kill me for bringing home two kittens, but he has been awesome about it. They were named Daisy and Oren, but they are now Luna and Oliver.

Luna is the black one (with a little white moon on her chest). She is very outgoing and sweet. She has a cute little squeaky meow and she loves sitting on people. She also gets called Lunalove and Lunabug.

Oliver, the tabby, is a bit reserved. He’s still very sweet, but he likes a little more autonomy. He’s extraordinarily soft. He reminds me very much of my cat, Bacia, a maine coon that I lost in Texas. I still miss her, so I am thrilled to have Oliver.

They’re wonderful. Oddly, Luna is very much like Claire. Oliver is more like Max. And they’ve kind of matched up that way.

Alex is a little jealous, but he is very sweet with them. Kittens are not quite ready to connect with the dog, though.

I was not planning on adopting this year, but it is entirely wonderful. It is giving me an opportunity to work with Claire on allowing things — and kitties — to come to her instead of trying to go get them. It has been slow going and it’s a tough thing for a rambunctious five year old to get. But she loves the kitties enough to want to get it.

Getting Ready for School

Summer is ending. The kids have one more week before school begins, and my life will change more than I think. After a not-so-great 6th grade in the standard public school, Max is switching to a charter school. He’ll have to do more on his own, I’ll have to be more involved. But last year was not good on many levels, and it’s time for a big change. After meeting with the staff at the charter school, I have a lot of faith he’s going to do much better there.

lake

Claire enjoying Lake Siskiyou while Alex, our dog, watches.

Claire I don’t worry about much at all. She’ll be just fine. This summer, she’s taught herself how to swim (backstroke and dog paddling) and she’s taught herself to read. All with a little help from mom, but honestly not very much. She just decides she’s going to learn something and she does it. She’s also taught herself to count to 100 and she’s doing basic addition/subtraction. She’s a case study for unschooling, for sure. But she wants to be around kids. So, we are really lucky that we’ve got an amazing charter school in our county.She can jump ahead at any time to a different grade level, while still being in the same general age group. She’s going to do really well there, I think. She’s really excited about attending.

Raw Milk and Sustainable Farming

We went on a farm tour yesterday at Kid Creek Pastures. I am a big believer in growing my own food and buying local from sustainable farmers. I was really impressed with the entire operation and the awesome people, Shawna and Jacob, who run it.

Their kids are really involved in caring for the animals. I loved watching their daughter scoot the pigs from their hiding spots so we could see them. She is an amazing little girl, and Shawna and Jacob are giving her such a gift to be able to learn how to work with the earth and the animals in a sustainable farming practice. Though Max wasn’t very excited to go on a farm tour, I asked him to please come. Claire loves animals and farms, so it was a great experience for her. I feel very lucky to grow my own food and live so close to cows, chickens, horses, and pigs. My kids might not think it’s interesting, but I think it’s better for them to grow up under the assumption that food comes from farming instead of food coming from stores.

Anyway, Claire loves the milk, and I hope to make some cheese on my own from the incredibly fresh milk. So, I am now owner of a share of a small herd of beautiful cows. I got a half gallon to start, but after one day, I can already tell I will need to upgrade and get more.

 

Remineralizing Claire’s Teeth

Claire said, "You better show me that big orange bridge."

“You better show me that big orange bridge.”

We just returned from a whirlwind, too-fast trip to San Francisco. It has been a wildly hectic summer for some reason, and we had to squeeze in a trip to SF to visit an alternative-minded dentist for Claire.

A new kind of “Texas Teeth”

Claire started teething extremely early. Her first two teeth were in by the time she was 3 months old. As such, she didn’t sleep much as a baby. It also meant I didn’t sleep much. Given the amount of stress I was under when we lived in Texas, lack of sleep was not exactly helpful. I lived off sugar, caffeine, and adrenaline for at least 9 months.

The stress of living in a hostile environment coupled with hyper-fluoridated water were primary causes of Claire’s teeth decaying pretty much as soon as they came into her mouth. All four of her front teeth, as well as two molars, began showing decay by the time she was a year old.

I went to a couple of pediatric dentists. I was told that each damaged tooth would either need to be capped or pulled, and that she would need to be sedated in a hospital for the procedures. Estimated cost was $10,000. I was also told to stop nursing her, that it was nursing that was causing her teeth to decay.

There was no way I was going to put her in the hospital, sedate her, and have that type of mutilation to happen unless her life was in danger. I knew there had to be a better way.

After a few days of tears, I found Ramiel Nagel’s book, Cure Tooth Decay. I bought it right away, and started making dietary changes. I devoured articles about Weston A. Price. I read every single thread on Mothering.com’s dental health forums. I decided that the cost and effort of supporting her body’s natural ability to create healthy teeth would be a better investment than invasive sedation, extraction, and capping.

This type of decay was not normal. It was indicative, in my opinion, of underlying issues. I felt that those issues could be remedied somehow. If I opted for what the dentists recommended, the underlying problems would still be there. It would have been a vicious cycle of decay and invasive treatments ad infinitum.

And if her teeth were a window into her nutritional situation, then there was an underlying problem that would cause other health problems I cannot even fathom. I owed it to her to find a way to correct those issues.

This approach wasn’t easy. If you doubt me, try a dose of fermented cod liver oil, x-factor butter oil, in bone broth soup. The easy changes were adding cell salts, MI Paste, and Spry xylitol candy and gum.

Fermented cod liver oil and x-factor butter are not exactly delicacies. I took them along with Claire since we were still nursing. We did that for a few months, until it became apparent that the flavor was too much for both of us. Bone broth soup was barely palatable, so I had to sneak it into other soups. I couldn’t make the jump into eating offal. I don’t know that I ever will!

I became vegetarian for health reasons. I started eating meat again as an experiment, but it wasn’t something I had committed to or enjoyed. Then I found research supporting a “primal diet,” I discovered Mark’s Daily Apple, and I reduced sugar consumption in the house as much as possible and upped our protein intake from grass-fed animals. The primal diet research dovetailed with Weston A. Price dietary guidelines. It all made sense.

You don’t realize how much carbohydrate you consume until you make a concerted effort to keep your consumption around 50 grams per day. I ate a ton more greens, free range eggs, and grass fed beef and dairy. As a vegetarian, most of my carbs were coming from grains. And I thought whole grains were healthier. But after researching, I started soaking and fermenting the few grains we were eating as a compliment to the primal foods.

I wish I could say we’ve stuck with the diet completely. We haven’t. I still eat bread, but I opt for sprouted grain or sourdough instead of traditional breads. We still eat white rice occasionally. We eat lentils (soaked).

And we eat ice cream. I know. The horror. It’s organic, grass-fed dairy in our ice cream, but there is also sugar in there. Life is too short to not eat ice cream.

Checking in with the professionals

I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants through all of this. I check her teeth pretty much every day, and it has seemed as if they were just frozen in time. Every once in a while, something would look a little off. Usually, it would be because she was sleeping with her mouth open all night.  Then, I’d up our efforts. We adhered to the principles pretty strongly over the first 6 months. But we did not do this religiously over the past 3 1/2 years. We still allow treats. Ice cream still happens. She’s a kid, you know? Being too hardcore can often cause kids to rebel. I didn’t want to be that mom.

Since Claire is starting Kindergarten this fall, I received a dental health evaluation form from the school. My stomach bound into knots just reading it. Yes, I could have opted out, but given the visible damage to her teeth, I felt it was time to find a dentist that could tell me whether or not any of these efforts had helped. If it had helped, I would have proof.

In my initial telephone conversations with local dentists, I sensed condescension. I explained the situation, and I said I didn’t want invasive treatments; I just wanted a check to see how she was doing. One dentist said they would “educate me about my treatment options.”

But my treatment options were already happening, every day! Talking to mainstream dentists actually made me feel worse.

Having spent as much time as I have spent researching dental health, I am obviously open to hearing as many options as possible. But knowing how barbarically invasive dental treatments can be, I was incredibly wary.

I widened my search, and I ended up traveling 5 hours by car to the bay area for a dentist.

When I walked in and saw the high quality supplements on the shelf, and the water alkalizing machine in the lobby, I knew I was probably in the right place. Still, I braced myself for what I might hear about Claire’s teeth. For over 3 years, I have held a fear of bucking the system and being judged for it. I even felt fear for not bucking the system enough! I mean, we had ice cream in the house.

I felt that this dentist was my last hope, and yet I still wasn’t very hopeful.

Claire sensed my fear, and did not want to go. We made a trip of it, visited the Golden Gate Bridge, and “oh, by the way, hello dentist.”

The Verdict

Dr. Smith and his staff made Claire feel comfortable and at peace. He counted out her teeth, and said the magic words: “caries arrested.” Meaning, yes, she has decay, but the decay was stopped. The dentin that is exposed is hardened. And, the teeth that are the worst off in the front are already beginning to loosen. She’ll get her adult teeth soon, and the visible caries will be gone.

I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I cried. I felt such a sense of relief that her teeth are okay. He also said her jaw development is excellent. He congratulated me — and Claire — on a job well done.

I think that years of anxiety about her teeth came out in those tears. What a relief…. a relief to know she’s okay, and a relief to know that trusting my gut and not the condescending dentists was the right thing to do.

There is so much judgment out there about parenting – what is one person’s religion is another person’s sin. Some people are such hardcore vegetarians, others are hardcore medical establishment. I had a few situations in which I was questioned in my decisions. I started to learn to shut up. Some people find comfort in root canals, I suppose. Not me. I find comfort in knowing that we can support our health through diet.

Claire shows off her "teeth wig."

Claire shows off her “teeth wig.”

Claire was happy she got some vampire teeth from the toy bin after her appointment. She calls them her “teeth wig,” and tries scaring everyone with them.

I’m relieved that her teeth are healthy, and that the efforts we undertook made a difference. I’m hoping those adult teeth coming in are going to showcase the benefits of the health-supportive efforts we have taken.

Wouldn’t it be great if neither of my children ever have to endure having a cavity filled? It is completely possible.

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