Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living Simply Brings Happiness

One morning early last week I was walking Izzy when I realized that with each step I took, there was a little hop.  I felt almost like I was as light as a feather hoping along our walking path with a great big smile that came from nowhere.  The next day it was the same.  The day after the same again.  This wonderful  feeling stayed with me all day as I traveled to work, to the grocery store, as I cooked, as I cleaned the house, to homeschool group, and back to work. Even at the end of the day I realized I was still smiling.  What I was experiencing  was a feeling of complete happiness.

My schedule has been busier the last month than ever before.  When I get home at night, I can't wait to jump into bed and fall asleep.  Yet, I feel happier than I can ever remember.  Why?  My guess is that even though  my hands are extremely full right now, I have simplified my life to include the things that really mean the very most to me. 
  • Work:  I am working a lot of hours (for me anyhow).  But I love my two jobs!  Both jobs are as adjunct faculty teaching adult English as a Second Language and although I get paid for my job, I leave each class feeling like I have given something to my students and they have given something to me.  They each leave class saying, "Thank you Teacher."  One day we had about ten minutes left of class time so I stood at the door and asked each one of them a different question as they left.  The next day they wanted it again.  Teaching makes me feel creative and dramatic.  Getting up in front of a classroom of limited English speakers requires me to come outside of my usual quiet personality into a personality of drama and fun.  I love being this other person!    
  • Food:  I am eating very simply.  I am purchasing my meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and eggs) from a farmer that has been providing for us for eight years now.  We have seen his family go through some ups and downs, but they have always been there for us.  I like having this relationship with the people that provide the foods I eat.  We are eating veggies that are organic (and local if possible).    That's about it. We add some good fats to our foods and the kids eat some fruits. Very simple, yet delicious.  My body is responding well to these foods.  It doesn't overeat because without the grains (even gluten free) my body knows when it is full and it listens.  
  • Sleep: I am not getting as much sleep as I have in the past, but I make it a priority to get to bed as early as I can.  My body likes that I am caring for it this way.  Sleep is so important in healing.
  • Responsibilities:  I took a close look at the list of things I am responsible for and got rid of the ones that weren't nourishing my family and me anymore.  I am so proud of myself!  People have taken over and done such an amazing job!  It is nice to think we have to do it all ourselves, but really, we don't.  We just have to give up the control and realize things will go in the direction they were meant to go.  I am also saying "no" to things that add stress to my life, even if it means disappointing people.
  • Exercise:  I am exercising more than I have in years.  Each morning I get up with Steve and we work out together.  This time is probably the one thing that has made a huge difference in how I feel.  I love having time together in the morning to see each other grow stronger, to laugh, and to give little hugs during breaks. When schedules get busy it is very easy for couples to slip into conversations that focus only on the necessary day to day things.  I am glad we have carved this time out together.  Afterwards, I take Izzy for a walk where I get to experience the gifts that nature gives each day: cold, rain, wind, and heat.  It sets the stage for the rest of the day physically and mentally.
  • Family:  Even though my schedule has been really busy, I have found new pockets of time to spend individually with each member of my family that wasn't planned.  With me being away from home more, they each need that one on one time with me to reconnect.  I need it too.
  • Friends:  I have been connecting with a few friends that I have known for many years on a whole new level.  I like knowing more about them and that I get to share me with them.   
  • Rheumatoid arthritis:  RA is taking a backseat in my life right now.  It sneaks in every week with a new nodule in the wrist, swollen wrist and fingers, or a limp caused by swelling in the knee.  But, overall, it is allowing me this time to experience true happiness.  Thanks RA! 
There have been times when life brings events that get me down and at my worst with rheumatoid arthritis I have felt some depression, but overall I am usually happy.  What I am experiencing now is a whole new level of happiness. I feel it radiating from me. I have focused on the simplest things that give us nourishment and energy: food, sleep, exercise and family/community.  I have llet the other things go to the sidelines. I have been searching for many years for new "alternative" types of medicine, but what makes me feel the happiest and most content is just the very simple things in life. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  I am so thankful that you read my thoughts here on my blog and that many of you share comments with me.  I love reading them.    

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful that My Daughter Notices My RA Progress

Last night I was upstairs in my bedroom and remembered something I left in the laundry room.  Down the stairs I went.  I retrieved what I forgot and ran back up the stairs to my bedroom.  Sophia was upstairs and said, "You were really fast on the stairs.  I thought it was Alexander because you ran as fast up the stairs as we do.  Are your knees better?......  That makes me happy. "  Oh, yeah!  That is what I like to hear.  Comments like that from my 12 year old daughter are like music to my ears. 

I am doing better.  I have so much energy.  Some mornings I have flares, but they aren't the scary ones.  When they come I know they are here just as a reminder that rheumatoid arthritis is still a part of me and they will be on their way again soon. 

Two weeks ago when the flare was in my left knee (it really likes that left knee), I was limping.  Sophia, who has seen me go through flares so many times right away tried to give me the pep talk, "Don't worry.  You are doing better than before.  Remember you have a lot of good days."  I stopped her with a smile and said, "It's okay.  I realize these little flares will probably be with me off and on my whole life.  I can handle these because most days now, I feel energetic and I am able to do just about anything I want."  It is true.  My whole outlook seems to be different because overall I just feel different.   I feel light and happy and for the most part, pain free! 


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anti-inflammatory Potential of Human Breast Milk.

As a momma that nursed both of her babies due to the miraculous stuff it provides, I found this article about human milk and inflammation quite interesting.

I especially loved this, Buescher calls mother's milk "a mix of medicines." Our bodies truly our amazing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Teen Paleo Solution Challenge Update

Sophia survived her sleepover, had an awesome time with friends at the opening of Harry Potter, and stayed true to eating clean.  I admire the strength and determination of this 12 year old girl like crazy. 

What she learned from the sleepover is that if she wants to eat clean, it is totally up to her.  She has to be educated about the foods she eats and assume everything has gluten in it unless she herself reads the ingredients, which she did.  She also realized that even though you explain that you have eliminated grains, dairy, legumes, and for the most part sugar, that you will have to reexplain it many times. You might turn down a cookie at 7pm and it will be offered again at 9pm. 

She also learned that friends that have eliminated foods for health reasons are very encouraging and she likes to be around them.  They supported her and made sure not to offer her foods she didn't want to consume or make comments like, "Oh yeah, Sophia can't have that."  Trust me, making a point over and over that someone is eating a special way is not wanted. 

Her goal was to bring all of her own snacks for the movie and hanging out.  She was successful in meeting her goal.  She said usually when she goes to a sleepover she feels sick afterwards.  This was the first time she didn't feel that way.

Since starting the Paleo Solution Challenge, Sophia has discovered some nice benefits:
  • Her stomachaches have disappeared.
  • Her teeth don't get yellow in between brushings.
  • The eczema that itches and draws attention in the summer when wearing shorts is improving.
  • An overall "good" feeling everyday.     
When my kids went gluten free years ago, several parents expressed a concern that I was not allowing my kids to experience "being a kid".  I think Sophia might have felt some of that at the sleepover.  What I often tell my kids is that their bodies are too awesome to be putting that junk into them.  Yes, it tastes awesome when we are eating it, but afterwards we feel like crap.  And I would be lying if I said we never eat crappy foods, because we do.  However, crap is being thrown at them all the time.  Moms offering candy.  Parties with food that is almost total sugar.  Samples at the store.  It is everywhere and we just don't need it that often.    

And what about Alexander?  He is doing great.  He decided not to eliminate corn as he loves having some popcorn at night.  Last week he and his dad bought some coconut ice cream.  He chose that because it was dairy free (and delicious).  After he started eating it I realized he bought the cookie dough coconut ice cream.  I decided not to say anything at the time and just let him enjoy it.  The next morning I said, "You know the ice cream had gluten in it, right?"  He said he didn't know when he bought it that it did.  He assumed it would be safe.  But, he said he figured it did because after he ate it, his stomach felt sick.  I love that they are both listening to their bodies and really getting to know themselves.   When we eliminate foods from our diet, it gives our body a chance to regain some strength and when we bring offending foods back, our bodies are strong enough to shout out to us that they don't want to go down that road again. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Paleo Solution 20 Day Challenge for Tween/Teen

Seven years ago I went gluten/dairy free.  About a year later I said to my kids, "Did you know you have been gluten free for three days?"  They were surprised.  It had been easy.  We had been talking about the possibility of them going gluten free not because they have celiac, but because my daughter Sophia, now 12, had severe eczema since she was six weeks old that wasn't affected by pharmaceuticals.  My son Alexander, now 14, had leg aches almost nightly since he was younger than two years old.   For one year they were completely gluten free.  They did awesome.  When we went to friend's home, they either provided gluten free options or we brought food.  The results were amazing.  For the first time, Sophia was clear of eczema and Alexander no longer had leg pain at night.

Then we made a horrible mistake.  We said, "Maybe we will be okay with gluten at friend's homes."  At first they were fine, but as they started visiting more, it became easier and easier to eat gluten.  We rarely had it in the house, but gluten at friend's homes also meant gluten at restaurants and before you knew it, Sophia was covered in eczema again. 

When I read about the Paleo Solution, I knew it felt right for me.  It was so simple.  Avoid dairy, grains and legumes and eat lots of veggies, meat, and fat.  So simple.  After providing Paleo meals at night for the family, I asked the kids to participate in a "20 Day Paleo Challenge".  Two days after Halloween, they started the challenge.  Sophia decided to trash all of her leftover Halloween candy while Alexander chose to store his for a later date. 

Both kids have been very cautious of everything they eat and don't seem to be suffering too much.  In fact, Sophia told me that she doesn't have stomach aches anymore.  I wasn't even aware she had them.  From the way she described them, they were just part of her daily life and now that they are gone, she feels different.  She said, "I just feel better." 

Today I noticed a huge benefit of starting this challenge when we did.  I am working more hours and away from home more than I have ever been which means the kids are responsible for more of their own meals.  They are both at an age that they are cooking more on their own which makes this the ideal time to also learn to cook healthy meals.  Today Sophia made chicken breasts with mixed veggies for herself and Alexander for lunch.  They eat apples and almond butter for snacks as well as nuts and carrot sticks.   They have found that the only thing in our kitchen are foods they can eat and therefore they are eating lots of salads, eggs, leftover meat, avocados, and other healthy, nutritious foods.  This afternoon Sophia and I made deviled eggs for snacks.  Afterwards she went around the house with the deviled egg tray asking everyone if they wanted one.  It was like a dessert!

I was so proud of Sophia this afternoon.  She is attending the midnight release of Harry Potter on Thursday night with friends.  She knows there will be lots of junk food at the movie and afterwards at the sleepover.  She wanted to discuss how she is going to handle the evening.  She definitely doesn't want to be tempted by the foods she has been avoiding.  We made a list of potential foods that will be a challenge for her.  She decided she wants to eat dinner at home before she goes so she is full and then she is going to bring Trader Joe's sweet potato chips (I don't love the oils used in the chips, but the ingredients are very minimal), a dark chocolate bar, a Lara bar, trail mix, and beef jerky.  These are all foods she can easily pack her in bag and pull out as needed.  Plus, they are all foods that are more on the "snacky" side of what we normally eat, so it will feel like a treat to her.

There are people all over the Internet taking the 30 Day Paleo Challenge, but we decided on 20 since the kids wanted to do Halloween and then we are leaving for a trip with our family over Thanksgiving.  Hopefully 20 days will give them a sense of how good foods can make them feel and live more comfortably.  Sophia has already told me she plans to get off the diet on Thanksgiving, but definitely wants to get back as soon as we are home since she feels so much better.  I am really curious to see how both kids feel.  Anyhow, I am really proud of both of them.  It isn't easy to be a teenager trying to eat mostly non-processed foods, lots of veggies/meat and very few junk foods.  But, when it makes you feel better, you want to keep experiencing that great feeling.   

RA Update

I was released from physical therapy last week.  The pain/stiffness in my right shoulder has disappeared and my right hand grip is now equal to my left.  I still can't make a complete fist and the swelling in my right hand is still there, but I have come a long way.  I think with more work I will one day be able to make a fist again and will be able to pick up small things without a problem.  Until then, I will continue doing my home therapy every day.

Other than that things are going pretty well with my rheumatoid arthritis.  I have short flares here and there.  Last week it was in my knee and it took all my energy.  But, within a few days I was back to working out and walking without a limp again.   

I hope today finds you feeling as well.  Happy day!  Be gentle with yourself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Teens Deserve Kind Words Too!

Yesterday morning I met two colleagues at the copier.  They were discussing their teenage children. One immediately asked me, "What mean things are your kids saying to you?"  I honestly replied, "They aren't."  She sarcastically came back with, "I know, your kids are good."   

Many, many years ago I learned a valuable lesson from the La Leche League group I was involved in and that is as parents we need to be our children's biggest supporters.  Rather than focusing on the negatives about their personality, let them overhear you sharing a wonderful story about them.  Also, talk about them in private as you would if they were there with you.  If I heard my children or husband talking about me the way I hear parents talk about their children, it would honestly break my heart.  What is worse, I hear parents saying these awful things about their kids in front of them. 

As my kids get older, they are developing their own opinions about life and yes, there are times that we disagree and times we get angry with each other.  That same thing happens sometimes with adults.  We disagree.  However, with adults we back off before trying to control their every thought.  Teenagers deserve the same respect and when they don't receive it, they fire back, just like any adult would do.

Our children do grow up and they do form their own opinions about life.  This doesn't mean they are terrible.  It means they are in a transition place from honoring and valuing every word you said to thinking for themselves. Would you want it to be any different?  We want our children to think for themselves, yet many parents put their kids down for doing that exact thing.  How can they win?

Stop and listen to your kids.  Find out what they are really thinking.  Remember they don't have the experiences  we do and sometimes they have to live life before they can come to similar thought patterns.  Compromise. Remember that like all humans, they too want individual control over many of their own actions and beliefs.  And please, please, do not put your children down.  When you are about to say something ugly about them to another person, think hard about something you admire about them and share it instead.  Remember that they are people who are at a challenging time in their life and still need their parent's support.  As a parent I always think, "As humans we NEED support and if our children can't get it from us, they are going to look elsewhere for it."  Personally, I would rather work with my kids, I would rather find the amazingly good characteristics they possess, and I would rather have to change some of my judgements than risk them looking for others to give them the support they need because they can't find it at home.

I do have good kids.  I am not going to lie about that or try to find negative things to say about them so that I can fit into a conversation.  I know it makes people uncomfortable.  Later in the day one of the colleagues mentioned my kids being good again.  Luckily the secretary was sitting with us and I said, "You have good kids, right?"  (She has mentioned to me how wonderful they are many times.)  She said, "Oh yes!"  It was then that this colleague said, "Well, my daughter really is good too."  She then went on to mention many wonderful things about her.  Wouldn't it be nice if all our conversations about our kids were like this? 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Neighborhood Role Model

I have a role model in our neighborhood.  It is a golden retriever.  On hot days, he lies on the driveway and watches as we pass.  On colder mornings like today he is out sniffing around in the yard.  This golden retriever is never on a leash and often the owners are not even outside.  Nobody minds.  As each dog passes this house, a calm comes over them.  I can even see the calm come to my highly reactive border colllie Izzy as we pass. 

This dog possesses a rare and unique trait of bringing calm to other dogs.  I admire this trait not only in this dog, but also the few people I have encountered during my lifetime who bring this same calmness to me.  It is a trait that attracts me and one I want to possess.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Strength and Flexibility

Highlight of my day:  Sophia and I went to a yoga class together this morning.  On the way home she said, "Why were you able to do more of the moves than me?  A few months ago you couldn't even sit on the floor?"  It is true.  My workouts (cardio, weights, yoga) have continued almost as if I haven't taken almost two years off.  Granted, I worked out whenever my body allowed, but for the most part, actual workouts just didn't happen.  Yet, my strength and flexibility have returned strong.

I felt proud today that Sophia noticed my strength and flexibility.  I knew she was proud of me too.  The last several years I have felt weak physically.  That isn't how I want my almost teenage daughter to see me.  Today she saw me as I want her to see me; as a strong woman who is always challenging herself to improve!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Paleo Diet is About More Than Just Food

During the last few months I have become a Robb Wolf addict.  I have been listening to all of his podcasts and recently finished his book The Paleo Solution.  Not only do I love his ideas about eating and life, I find his personality fun. 

What I have taken from this recent addiction is the following:
  • Avoid grains, legumes and dairy.
  • Avoid gluten like the plague.
  • Eat plenty of protein sources from free range providers.
  • Eat local organic veggies.
  • Eat good fats and plenty of them!
Robb Wolf suggests trying this diet for 30 days and if you "look, feel, and perform better" than continue.  If you don't, then move on!  I use a similar saying with my kids, "You know your body best.  How do you feel? "  When I listen to my body, I know this feels right not only physically, but philosophically.

Besides giving great advice on diet, Robb Wolf and other paleo sites I have visited talk about a few other essentials to healing:
  • Get LOTS of sleep!
  • Things won't make you happy!
  • Get out and PLAY!
I listened to Robb Wolf's podcast #52 this afternoon where he talks a little about "burn-out". He shares how he and his wife have found fun things to do together outside of the realm of their business. As I was listening, I thought, "This is why Steve and I are always excited about the weekends. It isn't that we hate our jobs (we both actually like our jobs a lot), but that the weekend generally allows for more playfulness." The two of us have always had a strong need to be playful with each other (I assume every couple does, sometimes they just let the craziness of life take over) and when we don't allow time for it, we can always feel it.

As I continue to grow and learn more about nutrition and health, I learn more about other areas of my life that need a little tweaking.  I have the food part down for the most part and although I have always enjoyed play and sleep, I find that as my schedule gets busier and busier, I have to work hard at making sure these two things happen.  This weekend we don't have much of anything planned.  After a couple of days this week in a flare, I think my body is telling me that it deserves some extra sleep and play.  I can't wait!

I recently started reading a book titled, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. So far, I love it and can't wait to share more as I get deeper into the book. It confirms many of the ideas that have become a foundation for my homeschooling philosophy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

Alexander and Sophia have a tradition of carving a pumpkin with Steve.  This year they each decided to do their own instead of one.  I think they turned out pretty cute.

Here is Alexander.  He is "Splicer" from the videogame Bioshock.

My little devil.  

This year my kids hosted the Halloween party at our house.  Together they "trick or treated" and then came back to eat chili (I made a Paleo chili and a vegetarian chili.  I think I was successful at not mixing the meat chili spoon with the vegetarian), chicken ziti, chips, cookies and of course lots of candy.   Luckily for Steve and me, many of the parents stayed for the evening.  We REALLY enjoyed ourselves.  I am doing a pretty good job at eliminating sugar and gave the Norcal Margarita a try.  Delicious!!!

This was after "trick or treating".  This is one of my favorite parts of the evening when the kids organize their candy in their own unique ways and then the trading begins. 

RA Update:  We had some crazy high winds last week in Chicago.  Although my heart loved the winds as they reminded me of Kansas, my joints weren't very happy with them.  I had that intense flare in my right shoulder, my left wrist was swollen and in lots of pain and my fingers swelled up.  Oh, my knee and feet were included in all of this too.  For some odd reason I didn't panic, I didn't feel depressed, and I wasn't scared.  I have been feeling so good lately that I just knew this flare was a temporary situation and I needed to remain calm and like the winds, it would pass.  And it did.