Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Dad

My dad and Carol met with Hospice yesterday.  I hate knowing my dad is in pain.  I hate knowing that he won't always be here for me to hug and joke around with.  But, I also know that he doesn't like me to be sad.  So, I am trying to focus on all the wonderful memories I have of him and let them fill me with his love.

  • When I was a little girl, he was in charge of putting my socks on before church one Sunday.  I remember vividly how I laughed because he didn't have the knack of putting socks on like mom and it tickled my feet.
  • For years my dad was a tea drinker.  After work he would make a huge glass of instant tea with sugar.  He always seemed to have the right combination and I loved taking drinks from his cup.
  • My dad always wore cowboy boots.  However, he once bought a pair of Kangaroo tennis shoes (they had a little zipper pocket on them).  He tried them on when he got home and challenged us to a race.  It was the only time I ever remember my dad racing us and I LOVED it.
  • When I was upset, I always went to my room or somewhere outside.  My dad would always find me.
  • When I was 13 years old my dad taught me how to drive.  The two of us would wake up early, go to mass, and then he would take me out to country roads and I would drive.  Sometimes we would get home and everyone would still be asleep or at mass and he would make his special hash browns, eggs and bacon.  I was a little disappointed when my lessons were over.
  • My mom worked as a part-time nurse when we were growing up.  She worked every Wednesday night.  These were special nights because my dad let us stay up late and watch TV. 
  • My dad always had a way of making us see the other person's side of view, even when we really didn't want to.
  • When my parents got divorced I was an adult.  My dad always encouraged me to have a good relationship with my mom (I am glad I do!  She too is an awesome person) and even after their divorce, continued to admire her strengths.
  • I set my dad up on a blind date with Carol over 17 years ago. All four of us went out to dinner on their first date.  Carol was a teacher friend of mine.  They hit it off immediately and now she is my mom friend.  I have loved watching their relationship blossom. 
  • He always makes sure I have food that is gluten and dairy free. 
  • When I visit Wichita now that we have moved away, my special time with my dad is early in the morning.  We are both up and spend several hours sitting and talking. 
  • My dad is not a dog lover.  In fact, he has always been afraid of dogs.  However, he allowed me to bring Izzy into his house and was able to see her wonderful characteristics. 
  • I have always felt like my dad's "favorite" child.  What I have realized over the years is that each of us six kids are his "favorite" in our own unique way.  I love that he always makese me feel so special.
Being far away from home is hard.  Being away from home when one of your parents is sick is really hard.  I am comforted by the almost daily texts I get from Carol keeping me up to date on my dad.  I know my life will always be a better place because of the influence he has had on me.  Please pray/send comforting thoughts that Hospice can help make his days more pleasurable.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Freedom in Learning and INHOME Conference

On Friday, Alexander was a panel member with five other teens for the workshop "Is Freedom Scary?  The Best and Worst Things About Being in Charge of Your Own Education" at the annual INHOME Conference in St. Charles, IL. 

On Thursday, he was looking over the agenda for the workshop.  Each panel member was to introduce themselves and then share "what it's been like to have freedom in education".  I asked him what he was thinking about sharing.  He said, "I don't really know.  I have never known anything but freedom so I don't know how to compare it to anything else."  Awesome!  

The last two days have been exhausting but full of energy and memories.  As I sat in my workshops and listened to Peter Gray who is a research professor of psychology at Boston College, Sandra Dodd who has written and been speaking on unschooling for years, and Blake Boles who writes, speaks, and leads trips for self-directed teens, I felt renewed in our decision to unschool.  Peter Gray spoke on Sudbury Schools and how his research on graduates who learned in freedom did not show one person who regretted their educational experience or felt they did not have the skills to progress in life successfully.  His presentation on lessons we can learn from hunter gathers was amazing.  I could have sat for hours listening to him. Sandra Dodd started off her workshop explaining that her children are now grown and she wanted to share the unforeseen benefits of unschooling and there were many.  In fact, she continued on after the workshop was over because she had so much to share.  As I sat listening to her, I knew I could also make a rather long list of the unforeseen benefits we have experienced.  Blake Boles's workshop was on unveiling the works of John Taylor Gatto.  Interwoven into the works of Gatto were Boles's experiences with homeschoolers/unschoolers in his leadership training programs.  What I took from his workshop is that our kids do amazing things and with time and freedom they are able to experience failure, an important part of living life fully.

Besides being a participant on a panel, Alexander attended many workshops.  He gained a lot of information from his workshops with Blake Boles. In fact, one of his first workshops was titled "Speed Meeting."  He loved this because he met a large number of teens face to face right away.  Later at the teen dance he felt free to walk up to (or dance up to as I have heard) many people.  I guess he danced to every single song.  I will never forget how happy he looked coming out of the dance. 

For Sophia this weekend was all about independence.  She told me upfront that she wanted to be on her own without having to text me about her every location.  She loved having the freedom to decide if she would attend a workshop or not.  She had a wonderful time.  The only problem she experienced was not being allowed into the  teen dance.  Last year she attended the dance without any problem and never assumed she wouldn't be allowed in this year. For months now the girls (about eight of them) have been planning outfits and dreaming about this dance.  When I picked up Sophia's friend early in the morning they were both bouncing on the seat of the car as they excitedly talked about the dance.  Together the girls all celebrated one of the gal's birthdays at the swimming pool and then headed up to the hotel room to get dressed.  The rules had changed this year for the dance and they were very strict on being 13.  Sophia won't be 13 until June.  One friend had changed her birth date when registering to attend the workshops for kids 13 and up and all the other friends were already 13, 14 and 15.  So, Sophia was the only one that could not attend the dance.  One of the moms tried explaining the situation and then I talked to them but they would not budge.  Due to a little sneakiness, Sophia did finally get in and had the time of her life.  As we talked about it on the way home, she totally understood that at some point they have to have a cut-off and agreed it should be for teens.  The problem I had and still have, although I don't have a solution, is that homeschoolers (maybe it is just unschoolers, I don't know) tend to be big braggers about how our kids aren't confined to an age group or friendships within a certain age range.  I felt like a little leniency could have been applied when it was obvious that a large group of girls were attending together, had planned this out together (they were wearing tutu's), and only one was not able to attend.  Anyhow, I admired her determination to get what she wanted at whatever costs.  

Overall, a wonderful weekend.  We ran into a lot of friends we haven't seen in a while and I think all three of us took a lot of good information and wonderful memories from this weekend. The kids could not stop talking as we drove home.  They were both full of great stories to share.  We definitely appreciate all the hard work that was put into this conference and can't wait for next year.          

Moms enjoying a little fun together while teens attended the dance.

The dads arrived at the hotel Friday night for a little parent fun!   

Sophia (far left) and friends

Alexander with a few friends before the dance

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barefoot Walking, Vibram Five Fingers, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Last week we were in Wichita, Kansas visiting my family.  We were fortunate to have one day that was in the mid to upper 70's and the other day in the low 80's.  Beautiful.

Knowing the temperatures were going to be high, I opted to bring my Vibram Five Fingers with me on this trip.  How do I feel about them now that I have been able to wear them outside? Well, I have mixed feelings.
  • My left foot continues to fit into this glove like shoe quite easily and feels completely at home.  My right foot never seems to find a happy place. 
  • While my left foot feels no pain in these minimalist shoes, the toes on my right foot feel numb as in all shoes these days, even my reliable Dansko clogs.
  • I love the way my legs and hips feel when I am wearing these odd looking shoes.
  • The verdict is still out on how much I will wear these shoes.
After walking in the Five Fingers with numb toes and warm temperatures, I felt my feet calling out to me, "It's time to go barefoot Cathy."  As I have shared before, I grew up with strict instructions to always have shoes on when leaving the house, so this was a little scary, even though I have been dreaming about it all winter.  As I prepared to leave my sister Robyn's house, I velcroed my Five Fingers together to take along "just in case".  (They are super light and easily velcroed around the treat bag I carry for Izzy.)  Robyn has always defied the rules of wearing shoes and quickly slid out of her flip flops to join my feet as they felt the warm concrete.

How was my first official barefoot walk?  Lovely!  Besides walking on a few pebbles and fertilizer (yuck), my feet felt completely happy! Frequently when I finish my two mile walk with Izzy I can't wait to get out of my shoes because the balls of my feet hurt so much and as of lately, my toes are numb.  I didn't experience any of that while barefoot walking.  A few pebbles are nothing in comparison to how my feet feel in shoes and I figure with more barefoot walks my feet will toughen up a bit and handle the pebbles with more ease.

The sad news?  After such a wonderful first experience walking barefoot, I returned to my home in the Chicago suburbs and my feet are once again freezing which means no barefoot walking for me right now.  But I got a taste of it and I want more.  Come on warm weather!  I am ready for you!

To read more about shoes and rheumatoid arthritis, see my newest post at MyRACentral

For further barefoot reading check out this blog : The Barefoot Professor .  Dr. Daniel Howell wrote a great book on barefoot walking/running but also had lots of good information on his blog.

Although I am a walker and not a runner, I have been reading and watching a lot of videos about barefoot runners.  This is one of many videos I enjoyed. 

From my Amazon Store:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Paleo Car Trip

We just got back from a car trip to Kansas.  We were in the car for about eleven hours each way.  When we travel to Kansas to visit my family, we pack the car ready to eat yummy foods that will fill us up and keep us away from temptations such as fast food, candy filled with corn syrup, and grains.

The last two car trips we took, Alexander and I made Everyday Paleo's Meatball Soup for our *thermos'.  It is not only filling, but full of good ingredients.  We generally also make deviled eggs.  This is my favorite car trip meal.  This time however, my schedule was super busy the day before with grocery shopping, meat coop pick-up, library, and work.  So, I decided to do super simple.

For breakfast:
We started the morning early.  I woke up, put four sweet potatoes in the toaster oven and walked Izzy while they baked.  In the meantime, the kids started the sausage patties and helped Steve load the car.  Together, the three of us prepared a filling breakfast of sweet potato, coconut oil and cinnamon with a side of sausage from our farmer.  Working together, it didn't take much time to prepare or clean-up. Plus, we knew we were starting our day off with full tummies.

For lunch:
Applegate turkey & roast beef rolls - Smear the meat with avocado, add some broccoli/carrot slaw mix from Trader Joe's, and a piece of lettuce.  Roll and put in baggies.  We use a reusable sandwich bag.
For snacks:
Applegate pepperoni wrapped around carrot sticks.
Jicama dipped in salsa (leftover from dinner the night before). Our dog ate the avocado.  :(
Trader Joe's corn chips and sweet potato chips for the kids. (Not exactly Paleo, but not the worse thing we could have on a car trip.)
Coconut flakes.
Lara Bars
Apples, oranges and bananas for the kids.
Chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe's.  (Hey, it is a car trip right?) 
Bottles of water from home.
A few bottles of Trader Joe's sparkling water.

Sometimes we also bring beef jerky, but not this time.

For Izzy: 
She started her morning off with raw meat and veggies before leaving the house.  In the car she enjoyed apple cores and the tiny ends of bananas, plus anything she found laying on the floor of the car or on the ground when we stopped for gas.  :) 

During the trip:
I brought a supply of food plus we are fortunate to have family that is supportive of a gluten free diet and prepared yummy meals for us during the visit.  We did however find ourselves at a restaurant one evening with only one gluten free option on the entire menu.  After going into a slight panic, I accepted the food choice (chicken, spinach, apples and red potatoes) and enjoyed it.  Sophia, however, decided to live dangerously and order a pasta dish.  She has been about 85% grain free for many months now and 100% gluten free.  The morning after her meal, her eyes were super puffy, her bones hurt, and within 48 hours her legs were itching and her eczema had returned.  It was a good reminder of how strongly our bodies fight back after it has been treated with respect.

Traveling is difficult, but with some careful planning and good decision making, you can make choices that keep you feeling happy and full while traveling.  

*Thermos:  Christmas 2009, Steve bought me a thermos for Christmas.  It is by far one of my favorite gifts ever.  I use it at least three times a week.  If I am in a hurry on Tuesday/Thursday mornings, I throw my hot breakfast in the thermos and eat it during break.  When I need to attend a work related lunch meeting, I always bring my own food as I know the food provided will make me sick.  The thermos has been extremely beneficial in me eating well.   At the beginning of this winter we invested in two more thermos' for the kids.  They are about $20-$25 each for a good thermos, but when I thought through how many times we would avoid running by someplace to pick up food when out, it made sense.  They love having hot foods to take with them and of course it makes a momma's heart happy to know they have nutritious food to eat . 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Visualization is Powerful

Last week my family and I were able to take a short trip to Kansas to visit my dad.  It was exactly what I needed.  I needed to hear his voice, hold his hand, and feel his hugs. 

As I spent time with my dad and went with him and my stepmom to his first radiation appointment, I saw where he and I are very alike.  Despite all the pain he is in, he doesn't give up hope.  In his mind he is imagining the pain gone and replaces it with strong images of himself out mowing not only his own lawn, but also his neighbor's lawn as he wants to help him out.  He visualizes himself doing some woodworking projects and other activities around the house.  He doesn't pity himself for being sick or thin.  He continues to be himself as much as possible.  He continues to make his family smile and he continues to think of other's before himself as he has always done.  He doesn't give pain the power to take over his very existence.

While he visualizes himself in a better place, he also isn't delusional about what is happening to him.  We went through the funeral arrangements and it was good for me to hear him and my stepmom talk about them. (By the way, my stepmom is amazing.  She too has strength that I admire beyond belief and has been a huge support system for my siblings and myself.)  He has put a lot of thought into the funeral arrangements and is accepting of what will eventually come.  That gives me comfort.  But for now, I too feel a renewed hope that his days will be more pleasant and less painful as he continues his radiation treatments. 

Thanks to everyone who has sent prayers and wonderful thoughts for both my dad and myself.  They are truly appreciated and still needed. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Dad

I have always had a special relationship with my dad.  When I call him on the phone, I frequently say, "Hi.  It's your favorite daughter."  He says, "Hi Cathy."  Of course he has caller id on his phone so he knows it is me when he answers, but my whole life I have felt like his favorite child just as I imagine my five siblings have felt.  He has a special way of making me feel that I am the most important person. 

When I was a little girl/teenager he would hear me cry and come into my room to talk to me.  He understood my personality well and would often just hold me as I cried.  He saw me through many teenage break-ups by just holding me and letting me cry without feeling he needed to give advice or force me to share. As an adult he has supported my choices for unschooling my children and has often told me how proud he is of my children.  When I went gluten/dairy free, he and his wife Carol made their home my safe spot when visiting Wichita.  I knew I could eat at their house and I would always be safe.  I feel taken care of when with my dad.

As I talked to him on the phone yesterday about the cancer that has spread further into his body, I shared with him my sadness.  I want to be strong, but with him I always feel I can openly share what is inside me and I needed to share that with him.  As I talked, I imagined his arms wrapped around me and I felt safe. 

Like his own mother and father, he doesn't appear to be afraid of death.  He has had many good experiences and had a lifetime of love from family.  When he shares this attitude, I feel calm. 

Sophia, Cathy, Dad, Carol (Dad's amazing wife and my good friend), Steve, and Alexander
January 2010

My dad's cancer is now beyond any cure. What bothers me now is the pain he is experiencing.  They are hoping to start radiation soon to manage the pain.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers that the pain can be managed and his days more relaxing. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hello Rheumatoid Arthritis

Hello RA.  Yes, I know, you are back.   I have felt you making your way back into my life the last few weeks through my feet.  I was on to you.  I know you like to hit the feet first so I wasn't surprised when you came to me in my sleep two nights ago and invaded my right hip.  That's okay.  I honestly haven't missed you all these months that you have been away, but I knew you would return.  I had finally passed the stage of worrying about your return each morning I wake up, but I knew it would happen. I wasn't foolish enough to believe that our relationship was over. I do need to warn you about something RA.  I am now physically and emotionally stronger than I was last time you visited.  You may still make me cry in pain and frustration, but what I have now is months of good days stored in my memory and they will see me through this tough spot.  Plus, I have had months of exercise that have made my body strong and balanced and makes dealing with you that much easier.  So, bring it on!  I am ready.  (Kind of.)        

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Part of the Crowd

One thing I really like about myself is that I generally follow my heart.  If something feels right, I do it.  If it doesn't, I don't.  The reason I like this about myself is because as a teen and young adult I often felt like I made decisions based on what others would think of me.  I never felt like I was being true to myself.  Now, I am often following paths that many people don't understand.  The disadvantage of following my heart is that it often leaves me feeling alone, which for an introvert like me, isn't exactly the worst thing. 

Yesterday I attended an ESL workshop with a group of my peers.  I knew lunch was going to be served so as I always do in these situations, I prepared my own lunch.  For many people, this seems to be a little extreme to reheat food from the previous night and throw it into a thermos so you don't feel sick to your stomach from eating foods that don't agree with you.  Many comments were made (as they often are when I pull out my thermos and reject the pizza, lasagna or other foods loaded with foods I don't eat) at lunch time about me bringing my own food.  Over the years, I have gotten used to being the oddball and it doesn't really bother me or make me feel like I need to hide in a corner and eat.  Besides that, the group was making me laugh so hard that it didn't matter what they thought about me bringing my own lunch.  Saying all of that, it is on occasion nice to be part of the group and connect with them 100%. 

After lunch, we had two hours of workshops left.  As I headed out of the restroom, one of my peers had her personal items and was heading out the door.  She reminded me that since there was a screw up, our professional hours would not be available to us immediately after the workshop.  Instead, we would receive them through email.  I was tired, but I still planned to head back in for the remainder of my time.  Then, I ran into another peer with her personal belongings.  She too reminded me that hours were coming through email.  She said, "Go grab your coat and let's go."  Suddenly I felt connected.  As a high schooler, I loved "jipping" school and her invitation to leave suddenly left me feeling like I was 16 years old.  I worried they might take attendance at the end and I would lose my credit hours and get in trouble with the two schools I teach for  who are expecting these hours, but I didn't care.  Suddenly the thought of skipping out and being a part of the group was too tempting.  I ran into the classroom, grabbed my personal belongings and met up with my peer.  We talked a few minutes and then we were both in our own cars going our own directions again.  Now, I am keeping my fingers crossed that those hours come through.  :) 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Exciting Things Happening for Cateepoo

Life is always changing and always bringing new gifts and new challenges.  I want to share a few exciting things that are currently happening for me.

First, I volunteered to be in a "Paleo Diet & Autoimmune Conditions" study many months ago.  It is finally happening.  I received my first set of questions this morning.  I am super excited to be able to add to this study as I feel this diet supports my beliefs in promoting local organic farmers, free range meat and eggs, and focuses heavily on autoimmune disease.  Robb Wolf even has suggestions for additional foods to eliminate if you have autoimmune disease. 

Second, I have been asked to be a contributor for MyRACentral.  Check out my first three posts:

"Keep moving." This has been a personal motto for me since rheumatoid arthritis became a part of my life seven years ago. I have a stubborn streak in me that decided early on that rheumatoid arthritis was not going to take any and everything it wanted from me. I was going to fight back. A huge part of that fight was to keep moving no matter what.
You can read the rest of the post here.

Ever since my diagnosis in 2004 of rheumatoid arthritis, I have had a belief that our body wants to heal itself.  I believe our bodies are amazing beings that are constantly trying to fix the evils we throw at them. 
You can read the rest of the post here.

My name is Cathy. I also respond to" Mom", "Momma", "Cateepoo"," Cath", and "Teacher". I am many things to many people. I am a wife of 22 years to Steve, I am a child led homeschooling mom to Alexander, 14 and Sophia, 12. I am a sister to five siblings. I am an adult ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. I am a friend. I am the owner of a four year old border collie and I am a life learner. I also have rheumatoid arthritis.
You can read the rest here.

It feels wonderful to be in a good place right now with my rheumatoid arthritis and it feels wonderful to know I can contribute to helping others in the small ways available to me.  I am very hopeful that this study will shed light on how diet plays a part in autoimmune disease and feel honored to give my input.  At one time I felt that rheumatoid arthritis was the focus of my life and decided to not contribute any longer to another health site.  For now, I feel that rheumatoid is taking a back seat in my life and I feel comfortable writing about it in a place other than my own blog.  Let me know what you think about the posts.