Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meditation and Nature Bring Focus To Life

Many wonderful things are happening in my life right now which means I have been very busy. I don't do busy very well - it has never been a strength of mine.  I become easily overwhelmed with "to do" lists.  I often find myself living two hours in the past or two hours in the future instead of living in the moment.  Living too often in the past or future rather than in the moment makes me crazy. It makes me feel disconnected from myself and the people and things that I love most in this life. To remedy the problem, I am making some changes to my schedule and returning to a somewhat regular meditation practice.

Last week I listened to a guided meditation that asked me to think of times in my life that I felt "in the moment".  It took me a few seconds but then it came to me. Whenever I am in nature, I feel myself get lost in just being. My list of things to do disappears as I enjoy the sun on my face and as my body experiences all the sounds and colors around me. This feeling of "being in the moment" is why I love my morning walks.  Even taking the same path each day brings something new that allows me to focus on what is happening at the time.  This feeling of "being in the moment" is also the main reason I like being in nature with my family - it allows me to totally soak them in right then and there without worrying about anything else.

Here are some photos that bring happy memories to me and remind mo of where I need to be more often.
Hike with Izzy
Hike with kids and Izzy
Camping with my family last summer

2011 Annual Easter Walk

What helps you experience the moment you are in?

For additional reading on getting back to nature, here is a post by Mark Sisson who says, "As Primal enthusiasts, we owe it to ourselves to spend time in the great outdoors – early man’s original stomping grounds."

Read more:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mindless Eating

Shortly before rheumatoid arthritis became a part of my family's life, I was heading down a path to better nutrition.   A friend of mine had introduced me to Weston A Price and I began making more of my own foods at home and for the most part removed processed foods.  We also started buying all of our meat, eggs, and milk from a farmer that raises animals outside eating grass and getting the sunshine all animals should receive.  We also joined a CSA where the kids and I volunteered.  We are still known by the farmer as his lettuce cleaners.  Making food for my family turned from being a chore to being a small gift that I could give them two to three times a day.  When I eat "clean", I feel good.  I feel connected to the earth and feel that we are making choices that not only nourish us, but also nourish our earth.  This is what I consider mindful eating.

This all sounds wonderful, right?  When you eat "clean" and eat foods which actually come from a place and person you know you feel awesome.  Sitting down to the table knowing where every piece of food came from provides huge rewards.  While eating you think, "I will never stray away from this type of diet."  The problem is that I have a food enemy called gluten free pizza.  We have searched long and hard and finally found two places that serve gluten free pizza that tastes good. When I am eating this pizza, all of life seems perfect.  I love the tastes of pepperoni, sausage and black olives mixed with tomato sauce and cheese. Since I rarely eat grains, I love the texture of the crust.  I eat way more than I ever eat on an average night.  I forget that I will wake up numerous times during the night thirsty, bloated, and overall feeling sick.  I just eat.   This is what I call mindless eating. Mindless eating doesn't agree with me physically or mentally.

Every time I eat pizza I promise myself I won't have it again for a really long time.  We end up spending a lot of money just to feel awful.  The pizza problem occurs when I haven't planned ahead.  I knew yesterday was going to be a long day and we would get home just as everyone was starving.  Plus, I left the house hungry which made things even worse.  I knew I should have prepared the hamburger patties we planned to grill, I knew I should have cut the sweet potatoes we planned to turn into fries, and I knew I should have bought the wood chips needed for the grill before we left the house for many hours.  When I am mindful of our food, I do these things.  When I am not, we eat gluten free pizza and then I suffer.  I am mindless and I suffer the consequences all night and the following day.

Today, I am mindful.  I cooked two eggs in bacon grease for breakfast.  I have wild caught salmon and veggies in the refrigerator for lunch with ingredients to make guacamole if I so desire.   And for dinner, Alexander plans to make Puerto Rican Beef, one of our favorite meals, since I will be out tutoring all afternoon.  Today we will eat mindfully and enjoy the positive consequences.    

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do Something Scary!

Frequently do something that scares you but can be done safely. 
  ~ MovNat

I read this quote on Facebook this morning and was instantly flooded with images of doing things that scare me.

  • When Sophia was only four weeks old we picked up and moved from Kansas to Illinois.  If leaving my family and friends wasn't enough, I also had committed to being a stay at home mom rather than an elementary school teacher and on top of that, our income decreased by a lot.  Scary!  
  • When my son was five years old we listened to the school bus drive by our house without him!  We were heading down a path of not only homeschooling, but an alternative type of homeschooling known as unschooling.  We knew absolutely no other families at the time following this path.  It was both exciting and terrifying to hear the bus drive by without my son.  Almost 11 years later - this is by far one of the best choices I have ever made.
  • In January I was without one of my teaching assignments which meant I was out of money we counted on.  With my mom and husband's reassurance, I took plenty of deep breaths and saw myself moving forward with other professional goals.  This has led to private tutoring with many positive people (which I needed at the time too) and a future assignment at a community college I have been trying to get into for years! 
  • When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis I chose to follow an integrative/alternative path. I searched for a naturopath and made food choices that were different than anyone I knew of at the time.  It was scary at the time because I knew I was making huge changes not only for myself, but for my family and these choices were not going to be reversible. (In my opinion once you treat yourself well with nourishing foods, good sleep, and low stress you don't want to return to what you had before.)  Eight years later, the scary choices I made for myself and my family are definitely not reversible and I am so happy for that!  I have made HUGE food choices that are so different from how we ate eight years ago and I have met the most amazing people that share my love for nutritious food.
  • During a flare a few years back I was standing at the overhead projector teaching a class when I realized my knees had stiffened up to a point they wouldn't move.  I felt panic as visions of myself falling forward in front of a class of 20 some students made its way to my mind.  I took a deep breath, assigned my students to a group assignment that would take their attention away from me and then used the tables and chairs around me to scoot myself around until my knees loosened up.  Scary! 
  • As my rheumatoid arthritis has improved over the last year and a half, I have tackled many things I worried may never be part of my life again - bike riding with my family, weights, long hikes, a clean house, energy for my family and myself, etc.  With each obstacle that I have challenged myself to, I have felt exhilaration knowing that I had overcome a fear and because of that, had brought myself to a greater place in life.  

What have you tried that is scary?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review of Ugg's Adirondack

As many of my RA friends know, our feet can take a beating.  Finding the perfect pair of shoes is no easy task.  Trying them on in the store and finding comfort in no way guarantees that same comfort after walking in a pair of shoes for more than fifteen minutes.

I am on my feet a lot.  I walk every morning with my dog and I stand for hours at a time teaching classes.  Finding a pair of shoes that work with my individual feet is crucial since the way my feet feel often determines how my knee, hips, and back may also feel. 

Late fall/early winter I began an all out search for the perfect boot.  I needed something that could withstand the snow and salt of a Chicago winter, keep my feet snuggly warm, and not create pain.  After many, many returned orders to Zappos, I finally found a boot that I am happy to call my own - Ugg Adirondacks.

The Adirondack II is a premium cold weather boot. The leather and sheepskin upper combine to provide you with protection while the genuine sheepskin and eVent™ lining inside give you comfort and warmth. - Zappos (my favorite place to buy and return shoes because they make shopping easy and they carry small sizes.)

I know for many with rheumatoid arthritis, a supportive shoe is best for their feet.  I haven't found that to be the case for me.  In fact, the brands I tried that worked for others killed my feet almost instantly. This boot does offer a wide toe which I have found to be mandatory in my shoe selections, but it doesn't offer a lot of support. It feels more like wearing a heavy slipper.  The surprise I had with these boots is that even on the worst of this mild Chicago winter, I didn't need to wear socks. The inside of the boots are completely lined in sheepskin! In the past I would wear a couple of pairs of socks on my morning walk in an attempt to keep my feet warm (it didn't help) and the results were that I felt the circulation was being cut off in my foot.  With the Adirondack, I never wore socks and not once came home with cold toes.  Cold fingers, yes, but NEVER cold feet.  I have worn them all winter as my shoe of choice for morning walks and to work and they have proved to be a good friend.  My only complaint is my feet would sometimes get too warm when I was teaching.  But pain in the balls of my feet and into my toes, never!!!!

With an early spring this year, I have had to move away from my Uggs and back into my Vibram Five Fingers.  Although I love my Uggs, there is a certain freedom to being back in these minimalist shoes.
  Plus, I have purchased two new pairs of minimalist shoes for this spring and summer that I will do reviews on soon:

Ozark Sandals 

Sanuk's  Donna
And of course I will be spending a lot of my nonworking hours barefoot, my number one choice.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Change is Good

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
Anatole France

Last summer I had experienced almost one year of feeling physically good.  The relief from constant pain and stiffness in my joints allowed me to take a good look at my life.  What I saw was that my kids and I weren't moving forward as I had hoped we would on our homeschooling journey and in some of our friendships.  In fact, I felt our current situation was draining us and preventing us from moving forward. I knew that I now had the energy to make some changes, but the changes would be hard.

Anytime we leave friendships, groups, and responsibilities that have been a part of our lives for a long period of time, it is difficult, even if you know they are no longer nourishing who you are and who you want to become. By moving forward I knew I would lose some of the friendships I had truly enjoyed years earlier.  I knew I would be leaving a group that had given us so much in the past and that the three of us loved having a part in creating, but that no longer served our needs.  I knew that moving forward would mean I didn't know what lay ahead for us and that was the scary part for all three of us.

Out of desperation for change, I made the decision, with the help of my kids and husband to move forward and away from the friendships, groups, and responsibilities we had held dear to us for many years.  I also stood up for myself at a school I didn't like teaching at and was not asked back in January.  I could no longer breath in these situations.  They were holding me down and not allowing me to move forward and find the next path I was meant to follow.  They were not allowing me to find the new ME. I felt scared not knowing where this path was going to take my kids or me but I knew it had to happen.  Luckily, my kids did too.  

I experienced a couple of lonely months trying to figure out where I belonged and how I was to find my next life path.   Despite the loneliness, I knew I had made the right choice. A heaviness I had felt for some time felt lifted from my body and my heart. I knew that I had to let go of my past in order to allow new things to come into my life.  

The last few weeks have been extremely busy for me and I sometimes find it hard to catch my breath.  I am trying to find the balance of how to include all the good that has come my way since leaving my past behind.
  • To replace the income lost from the school I was not asked back to, I began private tutoring while continuing to teach two classes at the community college where I have been for over ten years.  I love it!!!  It feels like I am finally helping my students in a way that I could never do in the classroom.  I have time to invest in lessons that are very individualized and the results are amazing. 
  • I was asked to be a board member for Show Us Your Hands!  This project and the people involved bring so much positive to my life.  
  • My family is moving ahead and finding their own paths.  My husband became manager of his group about six months ago and he is finding his own strengths and strengthening his weaknesses.  He has a very unique way about himself and it gives me pride to see him succeed by being who he is.  Sophia has decided to go to high school next year which means the end of her homeschooling experience.  I am excited for her.  Her education has always been in her hands and this is 100% her decision.  Alexander is considering part-time high school but only if it works within his terms.  I love that he knows he has options.  Both kids are busy finding out who they are as teenagers and while it can sometimes be exhausting for me, it is also amazingly exciting.  I sometimes feel helpless not knowing how to help them find their path but I also know that they will.  They are such great kids.  I don't know how I got so lucky having the two of them.  
  • I have been asked to participate in a couple of other adventures that I am considering down the line and I have other ideas that I want to explore professionally, when I have time.  Also, I have an idea for a book that I would love to dive into, but now isn't the time because really, I have no time.
I have always been a positive person.  It seems to be my nature.  I like to see the sunny side of life and it has benefited me well.  I struggled for a long time knowing that I was in several situations that no longer nourished me but not knowing how to get out of them.  Finally letting go has opened up so much space in my life for what I need now.  The new experiences and challenges are the ME now and it feels right.  Life feels good.