Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We All Carry a Doctor Within Us

"The witch doctor succeeds for the same reason all the rest of us succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside himself or herself. They come to us not knowing that cure. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work. " ~Albert Schweitzer, M.D.
When I was seeing a naturopath regularly about four years ago, I left each and every appointment with a feeling that not only would my body heal but that I was the one responsible for making that happen. She supplied me with her knowledge but left much of the work to me. By doing this, I felt strong in my fight against rheumatoid arthritis. Also, I made the greatest leaps in my recovery that I have ever made. In the last few years, I think I have allowed myself to fall into a mode of half believing that I carry that doctor inside myself.  However, recently, I have been rediscovering that belief again and I really like it. It makes me feel strong and free.

As I enter week four of the Body Ecology Diet, I am slowly seeing changes in myself physically and mentally. I am enjoying foods that are nourishing my body and replenishing missing vitamins and minerals. Daily I am preparing foods that are not only healing a digestive tract that has suffered for some time but also healing my joints and who knows what else. I am eating fermented foods that put good bacteria into my body that will help protect me from future illnesses. I am treating my body as a whole realizing that each system works together and for one to work correctly, they all have to work correctly. By listening to the doctor within myself, I was drawn to a diet that is working towards not just the immediate release of pain in my joints but an overall healthy body that will be able to enjoy the things in life I most enjoy for some time.

I am rediscovering that as I listen to the doctor within myself I feel more in tune with who I am and what I want to accomplish. I feel my spirit becoming more aligned with its true self. I like trusting the doctor within myself. It feels right.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Everything Shapes Us.

Today I received a package from my mom. A few days back she sent me an email letting me know that she had something she had been meaning to mail to me but now seemed like the right time. Inside my package was a beautiful print by Kelly Rae Roberts that reads "everything shapes us". Not only is the print absolutely beautiful, but so is the message on the back that shares the artist's road to finding her heart's passion and a quote from her. "My hope is that my work invokes a sense of clarity and peace inside of you as you walk your own path in life, and that it inspires you to discover you own limitlessness."

When I first opened the package and saw the beautiful woman with painted wings, she somehow reminded me of myself - dark hair and brown eyes. But the message immediately brought to mind how my mom knows that right now I am following a path that is right for me. She knows that I have been very fortunate to have experienced 41 years of experiences that have been shaping me for the changes that are happening within me right now.

As child number four out of six kids, I was surrounded by people who loved me and "shaped" me with the values I still hold dear to me today.

When Steve and I were engaged to be married we attended an Engaged Encounter. The weekend was led by two couples, one of which said something that has "shaped" my married life. They said, "Remember that you are always an example, whether you realize it or not. When others see you and your spouse together, your relationship, good or bad will affect them." I have always kept this message in the back of my mind in the way I treat my husband and I believe that message must be in his mind too because he always shows his love for me and I think it has helped "shape" others.

When Alexander was born and cried at night one night when I let the wrong books for me "shape" me into believing that he was better off in his own crib away from me than snuggled up next to me nursing, Steve reminded me to follow my heart and bring him back to bed with us. Together with that one decision our parenting style was known to us. This parenting style went on to "shape" our children into the loving, caring people they are today and also to "shape" us into more caring adults.

Today I had three teenage boys in my car. I needed to stop by Whole Foods before heading home and asked them if they wanted to stay in the car or come into the store and wait for me. They chose to wait in the car but one of the boys said, "Thanks for at least asking us." "Shaping"...letting others know we care about their opinions.

This evening Steve discussed a conversation he had at work today about homeschooling. One of the guys said something like "A girl like your daughter would be exactly the kind of girl we would look for in college." I asked Steve, "You mean because she would be a naive homeschooler?" Yes. We both giggled. Our Sophia has a good sense of people. She steers away from those that she believes will hurt her. Because she has been "shaped" to experience only good relationships with people that care for her, she chooses to stay away from those that don't have that interest in her. Naive she isn't. Smart she is.

As I read and learn about new things to heal my body I have to remember that "everything shapes us". I guess that is why I feel this need to read only those things that are leading me in the direction my heart is telling me to go. If I read outside of that, I risk "shaping" myself into something that my heart didn't intend me to be.

Our lives are full of experiences and all of those experiences shape who we are and who we become. People I meet for lasting relationships to the stranger I meet who smiles at me to the news I listen to on TV to the environment I choose to surround myself- they all help "shape" me. I feel so fortunate that I have been "shaped" into the person I am today and that I am following the path that feels right for who I am.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"When your determination changes, everything else will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately... orient itself toward your success."
- Daisaku Ikeda

This is exactly how I feel right now!!!

People In My Life: My Sister Stacey

Growing up in a family with six children allows for many adventures and many kinds of relationships. With each of my siblings I have a unique relationship that I am thankful for each and every day. This morning I finished talking on the phone with my sister Stacey who lives 700 miles away. We try to catch up on each other's lives once a week and our phone calls generally last several hours.

When I talk to Stacey on the phone or in person, I can let my guard down. She knows my strengths and weaknesses which makes it so much easier to share my fears and frustrations. She is also my cheerleader. If she knows I am experiencing a big flare-up she will call to check on me. In the two weeks that I have been on this diet, she has called during the week to see how I am doing. It feels great to know someone is thinking about the challenges you are going through. She goes one step further though in cheering me on. In order to learn more about the diet I am on, she bought the book and is reading it. This may not seem like a big deal but it is huge to me. What better message can she send than to learn about the things I am doing so she can encourage me more. She may decide this diet is a good match for her too or she may not. Either way is fine because I know that she will support my decisions and continuously encourage me.

When I talk with Stacey we discuss so many things: our spirituality, our beliefs in religion, family, friends, spouses, children, health, etc, etc. The list goes on. With her I feel a sense of freedom to discuss topics I may not generally participate in like politics and this morning immigration. We often see things the same way but find that we each can bring new knowledge to the other one.

Stacey brings many good things to my life. She is a constant reminder that full time workers and full time mothers can incorporate healthy diets and exercise into their lives. There is always time when you make it. She reminds me to always ask more questions. For the last three years she has fought doctors who claimed her son would "grow out" of his tics and seizures and gone on to find alternative routes for him. Stacey is strong. She has shown me that even though a mother may need to work, she can still practice attachment parenting. If ever there was a woman succeeding at being Super Mom, it is my sister Stacey.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

People In My Life: Suzanne from Cameroon

Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been. - Mark Twain

I find other people's lives interesting. Maybe that is why I enjoy my job so much. Every eight weeks I get to meet 20-30 (well, double that now that I am teaching two classes) new people with lives very different than my own. Although I am their "teacher", I learn so much from each of them.

This quad Suzanne, a 65 year old woman, is in my "high beginning" class. Suzanne is her American name. She is from Cameroon and speaks French as well as many African languages. She was married when she was 16 years old, had nine children, lost two of them, and was widowed when she was only 40 years old. She has lived in the United States for the last six years with her son and his family.

Each evening that I enter my classroom, I find Suzanne has already arrived and is studying. She greets me with the most beautiful smile and when she shares an answer or a story in class her eyes light up. She reminds me of a teenager the way she giggles when she talks. She seems to love life. I feel like she is a magnet that pulls me in and makes me want to smile and feel good about life too. I have noticed that it isn't just me that has noticed these traits about Suzanne. Although she is a grandmother, she always has young men choosing to sit next to her. I think they see the same beauty in her that I do.

Besides her beautiful personality, her contagious smile, and her magically lit up eyes, Suzanne has skin that intrigues me. Her dark black skin is covered with various scars and several years of wrinkles. Sometimes I find myself wanting to reach out and touch her skin. I get this sense that by touching the scars and wrinkles I will gain access to all of her knowledge and stories. I find myself wanting to leave our classroom and go sit with a cup of tea for hours listening to story after story of her life.

I am lucky. I feel like I continuously have people entering my life that give me new things to think about and new things to admire. I know that Suzanne's smile, giggles, eyes and skin will always remain a sunny place in my mind. I thank her for that.

Daily Affirmation

I claim my own power, and I lovingly create my own reality.
~Louise Hay Daily Affirmation

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Everyday Health Blog Post

Check out this week's post about My Addiction to Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I am not sure yet how I feel about writing a weekly post for Everyday Health. It is always therapeutic to write about my experiences with rheumatoid arthritis and honestly I love writing. I appreciate that this gives me one more outlet to share my way of thinking about rheumatoid arthritis. But, I also believe that I think about rheumatoid arthritis too much.

As I enter week two of my diet, I feel a need to back away from all things RA related and I am not sure how I feel about having to purposely focus on rheumatoid arthritis every week. I feel the need to see myself free of RA and see myself doing the things I want to do. I hesitate in saying this because I don't want any of my friends in the RA community to think that I don't appreciate their stories and support because it isn't that at all. I just feel like I become too consumed sometimes with reading about the lives of others and this can throw me off track of my own beliefs in healing. I realize that my approach to rheumatoid arthritis is quite different than the majority and for some is maybe even viewed as being irresponsible or in denial because I am not taking the medication route. But, it is the right track for me. So, even though I may not be reading as many RA blogs right now, please know that I am still sending healing thoughts to all of my RA blogger friends. I just need to take a temporary break from RA for now.

Hidden Surprises in Camping Trip

Saturday night our unschooling group hosted a "Not Back To School" camping trip at a nearby forest preserve. I woke up early on Saturday morning and for a moment considered cancelling due to being awake most of the night with an achy knee. But, that moment quickly disappeared when I considered all the fun we would miss out on. My joints would just have to deal with it.

We decided to take Izzy with us and see how she handled camping. We knew we were close enough I could run her home if things got bad and Steve could go home with her after his gig rather than joining us. The only problem was the forest preserve closed their gates at 8:05 PM at which time we became prisoners of the campground. This also meant Steve could not drive back after his gig and join us which I was bummed about. Izzy did great and seemed to adjust well to camping! That is until dark came and all the kids brought out their flashlights. In hindsight I should have thought about the flashlights, but just never did. Like many border collies, Izzy is a little OCD, especially with flashlights. They drive her absolutely nuts and we rarely use them at our house for just that reason. I ended up taking her back to our campsite and sitting alone for the remainder of the night. (Except when my sweet Alexander came to check up on me. I tell you, I don't know how I got so lucky with this guy.) Izzy was calmer at our campsite where the flashlights weren't in her face but still became anxious when anyone walked by with a flashlight. Finally, I decided to lay down for the night and realized that not only were the air and ground wet and cold but my air mattress was losing air. I knew I couldn't make it through the night sleeping in my tent. Instead I set up camp in the back of our car for Izzy and myself. It was actually a comfy situation and as soon as we were in the car, Izzy snuggled up next to me and was fine. I even woke once during the night and thought, "This is kind of cool. I like the feeling of camping out with my dog and having her snuggled up next to me." The kids said they peeked in on us when they returned late from playing with friends and said we looked quite comfy.

The best part of my solo evening was talking to Steve on the phone. As I lay snuggled up next to Izzy in the car, I talked with Steve late into the evening. I felt like a teenager up late talking to her boyfriend. It was fun. In the morning, my "boyfriend" arrived early with a hot cup of tea from Starbucks for me. It was just what I needed. (How did I get so lucky with this guy too?)

After walking Izzy we headed over to the main meeting area where Izzy stole food from a couple of unsuspecting children but overall did well. My knee however wasn't. Each time she pulled away from me I feared the tears would stream. The kids and I are always the caregivers/disciplinarians for Izzy and Steve is her playmate. But that day he took her leash so that I could have a break. He just always knows what to do for me.

During the daylight hours I had a great time hanging out with my friends and during the evening I had a great time hanging out with my puppy and on the phone with my hubby. Looking at this photo will always remind me that life turns out just fine and might even have a few hidden surprises for us.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"I Can't Wait." - Blossoming and Finding Your Place

There is a lot of excitement at our house today. Sophia is going to a birthday slumber party tonight at a hotel for swimming and other fun AND Halo ODST for XBOX has its midnight release on September 22 so Alexander is making plans with his friends. He is planning to pick the game up with Steve and then the two of them will join three of his other friends online to play. Alexander and his friends discussed having a sleepover for the release night but the details were getting messy so they will probably play together online from 1am to whenever and then get together the next day. So much fun!

I find it enjoyable to watch my kids excited about getting together with their friends for many reasons. One, as homeschoolers we aren't supposed to have friends. (He-he) The number one question we get when we tell people we homeschool is, "So, do they socialize with other kids?" If people only knew that we have to limit the socialization so mom can have a few days at home. Two, I was never a very social person as a child. I always considered myself "shy" but now when I look back I wasn't really shy, I was more of a "loner". I enjoyed having friends but they weren't necessary for me either. I was always quite content being home with my family and/or spending time alone. I never looked forward to sleepovers but instead preferred parties that had a time schedule so I knew when I would go home. I used to think something was wrong with me because I was this way, but I have learned to appreciate that it is just who I am. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, I seem to bring balance to many of my friends that are social creatures, just as they do for me. So, it works out. We all have the personalities we were meant to have.

As I watch my kids enter their teen years excited about get togethers with friends, planning get togethers with friends, and counting down days until big get togethers with friends, I find it fun and intriguing. What makes some people thrive on socializing with others while it drains others. Even today I LOVE having lots of friends and am thankful each day that I have the friends I do in my life, but I also find it exhausting sometimes. I need lots of time alone and when I don't get it, I don't handle life as well.

My children seem to thrive on time with their friends so I do whatever I can to make it happen. Luckily for me I have been able to establish friendships with other moms that don't expect me to be anyone other than myself. This group of friends embrace the fact that we are all different and have our own unique characteristics. It definitely helps me break out of my "loner" shell at a level that is comfortable for me.

Through my children I find my own personality blossoming. I find lots of joy in their excitement and when we host their friends over here, I love to be in the background listening to their giggles and conversations but also look forward to hanging out with my mom friends as they drop off and pick up their kids or decide to hang out at our house with me. My children's social personalities show me a way I have never known, but our lifestyle allows me to stay in the comfort of my own "loner" self. Life with children makes you feel like you "can't wait" for the next fun thing or development in your personality to happen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Simplest Things

"I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life."
- Louise Hay

Life often piles a lot of stress on us at one time and it is easy to forget to stop and enjoy the "simple" things that bring us so much relaxation, enjoyment, and healing.

~All four of us were busy with various activities and responsibilities this week so it was nice to take a long car ride together last night in Steve's new (used) car with the windows open and the music blaring. He has been driving an old junker for a long time and it felt good to see his excitement about the new car and to know that I am helping to contribute to it by adding on an additional class for a while.

~With our busy schedules I haven't seen much of Steve during the week which I really don't like. On Saturday morning we both just happened to wake up around 2:30am and couldn't get back to sleep. It was nice to have that quiet time together without any interruptions (well, other than Izzy who kept trying to lay in between us for pets).

~Friday was rough for me for many reasons and when Steve came home he gave me a huge hug. When he wraps his arms around me, I feel all the stress moving out of my body.
~On Friday I went to lunch with a good friend. We spend time together but usually with our kids nearby. It was really nice to go out alone and talk. Thanks Leanne for listening!

~I am starting the Body Ecology Diet on Tuesday. Yesterday I met my friend Olif at Whole Foods where we discussed fermented veggies, coconut water kefir and our menu. Olif is in school right now to be a naturopath and with her busy schedule I don't see her as often anymore. I really enjoyed getting together yesterday and today we are meeting again at an Asian store to pick up some more things. It will be encouraging to have her on the diet with me.

~This morning my mind feels clear and I feel excited about new changes coming my way. I have nuts soaking, coconut water fermenting for my kefir and veggies in the refrigerator ready to be cut and fermented. I dreamed about fermented veggies last night. I am taking that as a good sign. Whenever I think about this diet, I see myself sitting crossed legged. That is my big goal. I am so excited to get started!!!

Any "simple" things that happened to you this week that added to your relaxation, enjoyment and healing?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Hey, My Boobs Are Up Here"

At work the other night, I had a serious limp going on. As I neared students I know during break they smiled at me, said "Hello" and then immediately looked down at my knee or in some cases said "Hello" while narrowing in on my limp. I know they don't mean anything by it. It is natural to look when something appears to be out of whack. But as the eyes went to my knee I thought, "Hey fella, get your eyes back on my boobs and stop watching my limp." Do you ever feel that way? Like you just want the focus to be anywhere but on your weak area? I think I might need to invest in some push up bras and low cut shirts to make certain the attention is anywhere other than my limp. I can just pull them out anytime I have a flare-up in my knee. I have tried the great big smile, but they have become accustomed to that so I think it is time to become inventive. Any ideas of your own?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thriving While Unschooling

Although unschoolers don't typically have a school year because we consider learning to be in progress all the time, my family does like to reevaluate our learning style each August as the neighborhood kids return to school. Alexander, Sophia and I discuss whether our current style is working for us and if there are any changes we want to make. This is always a chance for us to narrow down on some new interests they have and to figure out what we will do with those interests.

After talking, I discovered that Alexander wants to focus more on his reading and writing. As the most conscientious spender in our home, I was delighted when he said he was going to spend his own money on a journal. He had seen a leather bound journal at Barnes & Noble and thought that would be an ideal way to improve his writing. Hmmmm......write more to become a better writer. Good idea! Each night before bed, he sits at his desk and writes about his day. If he doesn't know how to spell a word, he underlines it. A few days back he asked me to sit down with him and help with spelling. What I enjoyed as I watched him look over his writing was that as he found the underlined words, he would reread the sentences surrounding the word. He was self-editing. As an elementary school teacher for many years, I can't tell you how much time we spent on learning this skill and here he was doing it on his own!

Alexander also wants to learn to play some songs on the keyboard. Steve got him started on a few things and each day I hear him down there playing. Yesterday he told me he is ready for Steve to show him more.

Alexander has many other things on his list that he wants to pursue. After talking to a friend on XBOX LIVE, he asked if he could learn algebra. How many kids come to their parents and ask if they can learn algebra? I posted to our group and we now have a dad that will be teaching algebra to any kids or parents that are interested. (I say parents because as I was talking with this father about teaching the class another dad in our group came up and asked if he could learn too. Isn't that awesome? I love this dad anyhow and the example he is to our kids, but for them to see him learning algebra with them will be the greatest.)

Unschooling in my opinion is based on the belief that our children are naturally curious human beings. They want to learn. They want to do well. As my children enter their teen years, I still find it exciting to watch them, to guide them and to learn from them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Everyday Health - A Natural Path to Healing

This week my post on Everyday Health is titled Temporarily Defeated by Rheumatoid Arthritis.

After a major flare up has calmed down, I always look back at what was happening before and during the flare-up. Sometimes it seems like nothing out of the ordinary was going on and the flare-up makes absolutely no sense at all. This flare up definitely had many things going for it - I was on a detox tea and added a few extra acupuncture treatments that may have stirred things up a little too quickly, we had lots of rain last week, and we had a stressful week with cars breaking down and me returning to work. Plus, I didn't see my husband much at all last week which I never like. When I look back at all that was happening last week, it makes sense that my body was reacting. I was putting a lot of stress on it and it was letting me know it doesn't appreciate it.

The good news is when I went in for acupuncture this week, Jim felt like my organs looked better than they have in a while which means we are making improvements. He is looking for an herb that will be a good match for my cold body and warm knee.

"My body is healing. My body is healing." (Breath deep and say 100 times throughout the day!)

Emotional Blockage Set Free

The last five and a half years have led me down a journey of experimentation with many different types of alternative care. Although not one has been the magic cure, they have each played an important role in my recovery and lead me to the place I need to be next. Last summer I visited with a gal that practices a form of kinesology known as "Diffusion". Basically we were working on the emotional part of how rheumatoid arthritis affects my body and mind. "Diffusion" is a way of releasing a lot of built up emotional blockages that may play a role in rheumatoid arthritis. After each session I felt a sense of freedom. I felt like issues that I had been holding onto for years were released from my body and have never returned. It was an amazing and powerful therapy.

On one of my first visits with this gal, we briefly discussed what was going on with my body and how I felt about it emotionally. She then pulled out a book titled
Your Body's Telling You: Love Yourself!: The most complete book on metaphysical causes of illnesses & diseases by Lise Bourbeau. Lisa Bourbeau is a student of Louise Hay. She started reading to me the following:

Emotional Block: Generally, if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, you are very self-critical; you have difficulty doing what you enjoy and asking others for help. Although you seem amenable enough, you let resentment build up while you wait for others to figure out telepathically what you need. You may even have thoughts of vengeance when others don't figure it out. Just as this disease is paralyzing physically, it also indicates emotional paralysis.

Mental Block: Why do you think it is so difficult for you to express your needs to others? Do you feel that you will be viewed as selfish if you do what you enjoy? Is that really true? What is "being selfish" for you? Listen to your own body and learn to say no when you are asked to do something you do not feel like doing. But if you decide to say yes, experience greater enjoyment of the things you are doing without criticizing yourself. Heaping responsibility on yourself simply to gain the recognition of others is ok, if you accept the fact that you're doing it only for yourself and not because someone is forcing you. If you want and need recognition, acknowledge and accept this in yourself without judgement or criticism.

Immediately I asked if she could make a copy for me because my husband was not going to believe this! This is exactly what he had been telling me for years. I have a difficult time asking for help and assume he understands my thoughts without telling him. Oh boy!

This last year I have referred back to this reading many times and today as I look at it again, I realize how far I have come in the last year. Last week when our only car broke down and my kids needed to be picked up, I took a deep breath and called a friend. She was at a restaurant and was quickly going to have her food boxed up but would still have a 30-45 minute drive. Then I contacted another friend (Alexander was at her house) and she immediately took off to get Sophia and then me. I think in the past I always felt I might be inconveniencing someone but what I am learning is that people like to help. When I talked to the first friend the next day she apologized that she couldn't get there faster. She wanted to be able to help me. Wow! Lucky for me I have also had a couple of people come into my life that are very good at asking for help and have been great role models for me. I love when people show up in your life at just the right time!

I am also working at sharing my feelings as they are occurring. This is so liberating! I still have a ways to go in this area but I like the progress I am making.

For many of you with rheumatoid arthritis you may read this and feel it does not relate to you in the least and it may not. As someone who avoids all labels and even dislikes claiming I have rheumatoid arthritis because I feel it puts me in a box that is hard to crawl out of, I totally understand. This may not be you. But, I found it is me and I am glad this reading was shared with me so I could take it to heart and bring changes to my life.