I’m Not Doing Anything

It’s a new year. 2017. I lived through one more pass around the sun, and a lot of other exciting and not so exciting things. I still don’t want to be my mother, and I still live in terror that I’m creeping ever closer to being exactly like her. No news there.

Biggest news, I’m trying to give up things. I’ve been trying to give up perfectionism for years, but it’s really insidious. It has taught me to judge myself on every single thing I do.

Things I’m trying to give up:

  • Stuff (objects, crap, linens, clothes, furniture, things that we don’t need and which take space that we do need)
  • Unrealistic expectations (this is tough, I have a hard time seeing my expectations as unrealistic, as I used to be able to do so many things, but no longer can)
  • Long term goals (which could probably be categorized with unrealistic expectations)
  • Taking on too much (this all jives with goals, and unrealistic expectations…)
  • busy-ness (see above!)

Obviously, I’m still having trouble accepting my health issues and limitations. My current feud with my physical body is problematic. I want to see it as a holy temple, but the things it does most often are hurt, and lie to me. My nerves are liars, sending constant pain signals to my brain. My limbs suddenly refuse to support me at the most inopportune moments. My muscles and connective tissues are constantly playing a “yes, no, maybe” game with me, when I ask them to perform even the simplest tasks. My gut is constantly upset with me, and is apparently dragging my esophagus and vocal cords along on it’s constant, downward spiral.

So, the things I’m trying to give up are things like long-term goal setting, things like goal races that actually require training for more than 5 miles at a time, finishing vet tech school, because my body already tried to kill me once for taking on the clinical hours to complete it along with everything else I do, taking on new clients who need a lot of work, offering classes that require me to feel good every week, or need personal effort from me to be successful.

What I really want to give up is being mean. I have anger issues, and I always have, but I have, in the past, had the wherewithal, intestinal fortitude (definitely none of that now!), self-discipline, or whatever you want to call it, to check myself and be a decent human being, most of the time. Now I’m so fatigued all the time, I feel like I don’t even have the energy to be nice. I lose my temper quickly, I yell at dogs and children, I say mean, cutting, sarcastic things. And I’m paranoid. I feel like no one would want to be my friend, (and why would they, I’m mean, I’m always sick and complaining, I never show up when I say I want to, I’m just basically a huge drag!), I always think people are thinking ill of me, or trying to cut me out of things, or avoid me. Of course, as I said above, who wouldn’t!?  I don’t want to be that person (my mother) and I don’t want my kids to have that role model for their lives, otherwise they’ll end up like me, trying to find new ways to express anger or sadness, and periodically falling back into unhealthy and unpleasant behavior patterns.

So, if I’m not setting goals, working, going to school, being busy, what am I doing? I’m doing what I previously thought of as “nothing”.  I’m handling basic life skills and survival. I am actively pursuing health care and diagnostics, I can accept, on some level, that I may not be able to beat this, but I cannot accept not knowing what I’m fighting.  I’m a data driven person, I need answers. This is a very time-consuming and exhausting task.

I’m actively homeschooling the kids, and enjoying it. This is also a time and energy sink. Humans require a lot of energy output and attention. They need more than I’ve been allotting to them.

I’m caring for the house, and the pets, and myself. Not doing a great job, but making a serious effort for all of us. I’m cooking and eating, and playing games, and knitting and running, and doing yoga.

Right now, I’m emotionally working through being what I’ve always thought of as a “Quitter”, and not in a good way. Quitter equals waster of time and money and preparation, person who doesn’t have enough self-discipline to follow through, person who will never get what she wants, because she’s not trying hard enough, or doing enough. Person who is a disappointment.  To everyone who expected more of me, I’m sorry, I expected more of me, too.

I’m avoiding adding things to my schedule, and trying really hard to focus on doing one task at a time, another thing I’m not good at. I have a lot of personal “work” going on.

But if you ask me what I’ve been doing, I’ll tell you, “Nothing”.

If “nothing” consists of  cooking, cleaning, playing, teaching, reading, knitting, running, doing yoga, spending time with friends and family and not resenting the time “loss”, making art, and being a lot less stressed, and a lot more happy, I’m sticking with it. So, my goal this year is to do “Nothing”.

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Why Protest? Why Black Lives Matter?

Why do I protest?  Why do I, as a white person, with white privilege and everything to lose, care about Black Lives Matter?  Do I hate white people? Do I hate police?  Do I want to overthrow the government?  What is my role in the Black Lives Matter movement? What is wrong with me, anyway?

All valid questions. A couple I can answer quickly, no, I don’t hate police. No, I don’t hate white people. No, I don’t want to overthrow the government.  But there is much more, even to these “simple” questions.

I’ll start with the typical statements that my privilege allows me to make. I have friends who are POC. I have friends who are LEO’s. I believe that not all people are bad. I know that there are bad people of all races, and all job descriptions. But again, it’s complicated.

I deeply want to change how policing is conducted in our current climate, militarization of police forces, setting up the relationship between police and citizens as an adversarial one, black people and all people of color dying in disproportionate numbers at the hands of law enforcement. The climate of fear for LEO’s.  The relationship between police and ordinary citizens should not be one of mutual fear. There is plenty of research to show that people of color, particularly black people, are dying in higher numbers.

Policing as a means of raising funds for a community is not a valid option. The cascade of expenses incurred by poor people in disproportionately poor and black communities due to money raising policing tactics like ticketing broken taillights, high grass, broken windows, and requiring court appearances, and charging court fees for attending court, and interest on fines, and parking fees for appearances, ticketing cars of people caught in court, until finally placing a lien on their homes, and taking them away, is an untenable option, and certainly no example of serving and protecting. Many of these communities at the same time have notoriously poor policing service, extremely long or non responses to emergency calls. Their officers are often also at the low end of the pay scale, and in short numbers for the areas policed.

I do support Law Enforcement, I am not an anarchist. I also have a problem with the “Blue Lives Matter” hashtagging, though. Yes, police lives matter. As individuals, lives matter. But being a LEO is not the same as being black. LEO’s can remove their uniforms, and they then become whatever race they are, which for white officers, gains them privilege, and for black officers, puts them back into the same danger as other black citizens, and can be an even greater conflict, because in some black communities, the last thing people want to deal with is a cop. I don’t think anyone wants police to feel unsafe in their jobs. I don’t think most officers join the force because they want to harm people. On the contrary, I think they have the same desire to help people that I have.  They are supposed to be serving and protecting us, we pay their salaries, they are public servants. I think good cops would love it if their brotherhood would stop protecting bad cops and weed them out, while focusing on better training for the rest of the force.

Community policing initiatives and demilitarization of the police force will go a long way to improve those relations. Unfortunately, our government promotes militarization of the police, because it gives them a place to sell off all their war equipment as they replace it with even bigger, more expensive, killing machines. At our expense.  We pay for military equipment upgrades over health care for veterans and training for cops on a daily basis.

Rational gun control would go a long way to help, we’ve seen plenty of examples of open carry advocates being less than useless in active shooter situations, on the contrary, they cause the police to work even harder, trying to discern the “Good guys with guns” from the “Bad guys with guns.”  The second amendment is to allow us to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government, not black people, our neighbors, some guy at the wal mart.  To those who believe they need to carry  because the government is after their rights, I’d say, time to stop harping on those who want to change the system, and start doing something more responsible than whining and carrying a gun to try to intimidate individuals. I have guns. I would happily register, and license them. Report them within 24 hours if stolen. I keep them locked in a gun safe, and ammo in a different location, locked as well. I have no illusions of fighting off intruders with a gun. I have sticks and mag lights and 911, the police, who are trained, for that.

Do I want to overthrow the government?  I want to unsettle the government. I want some serious fundamental change in systems. I want equality for every human being who is a participant, subject, citizen of our government. I want less money for military equipment, more money for healthcare and mental health care of soldiers and the citizenry. I want a separation of church and state. I can appreciate other people’s beliefs, but they should not be forced on me by my government. I want people from classes other than the very rich to be able to run for office on a national level. I want women, LGBTQ people, homeless people, people with disabilities, and POC to have the same voice, with the same weight,  as white males. I want truly equal education for all, early, and consistently. I want more money spent on schools than on prisons. I don’t want a child’s education to depend on that child’s parent’s ability to pay high property taxes.

White privilege is real. I have it. I participate in racism every day, I am not a willing participant, but the reality is, I am a holder of privilege and benefit from the inherent racism in our culture every single day. So then why would I want to speak out against something that benefits me?  Because I truly believe that no one is free until all are free. I think other human beings are as important as I am. I have the advantage of being viewed as speaking only for myself, my entire race isn’t burdened with my words, and judged by my actions. I can’t be silent and complicit while other people die. If not me, then who?  POC are not heard in many circles, or are immediately judged as having a bigger racial agenda, questioning authority, the status quo, is either dismissed, immediately seen as overtly threatening, or treated with retaliation, verbal or physical.  Black people are treated as if they speak for the entire Black race.  I believe that people like me, who have access to those circles through my whiteness, have a responsibility and an obligation to have the hard discussions about race, privilege, and how we can make positive change in our culture, for ourselves and our children, even when it’s exceptionally uncomfortable. Even if we lose friends. Because while I’m uncomfortable for 20 minutes, people of color are dying. While I am offending my kids’ friends’ parents, another mother somewhere is losing her son. I’m not willing to ignore that.

My role in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the general movement toward social equality for all, is complicated. I do go to marches and protests, but I don’t need to be the person talking to the camera, the press, being the do-gooder. It’s not about me. Black people have their own voices, and they need to be heard.  As a woman and feminist, I don’t appreciate men being paternalistic and taking over women’s protests, and talking over me.  If it is beneficial for me to be present, to create a buffer, to make an opening for someone’s voice, or make a block to keep someone safe, I will be there. If I am causing more trauma to someone by my presence, I will leave that part of the fight to the people who are on the front lines. Much as I empathize with my black brothers and sisters, I cannot pretend to have lived the same experiences they have. I have worried for their sons, but not my own. I can easily slide into my privilege, but they cannot remove their blackness and “take a break” from activism, or fear.

My job in the social justice for all movement is to be awake to my own privilege, to speak in spaces where POC are immediately judged as “angry black people”, or “militants” or expected to speak for their entire race. My job is to call out my white brothers and sisters when they are sleeping, being paternalistic, coopting other people’s voices for their own gain. My job is to document, see things, not turn a blind eye to racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia and hate. My job is to help when asked.  My job is to continuously educate myself, present options, accept criticism. I want a better world for everyone. My job is to work for it.

What is wrong with me?  I think that one is open to discussion and depends upon to whom the question is directed!

 

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Self Care and Health Care, and Other Misc.

I was going to start this with, “this post might piss some people off”, but why bother?  Anything that comes out of my mouth might piss some people off and they’ll just have to read at their own risk.

I’ve been out “running” for the past couple of days. After having the doc tell me my lungs are essentially clear, and starting a new Advair inhaler, as well as a new compounded medication for another issue, people may ask, “Why are you running when you should be resting?”  My answer is this, I am resting.  For some people, resting means lying in bed. I cannot rest that way. If I lie in bed, I will hurt more, sleep less, and my anxiety will reach such a fever pitch that i will first think, re-think, re-re-think, list, list again, rearrange the list, write the list, re-write the list, and eventually lie there, sobbing and depressed and unable to find any value in myself or my world. Rest is not going to fix my physical pain. Aside from the thyroid, and the heart/asthma stuff, most of it is caused by the general inflammatory state, which is basically my nerves telling my body it hurts. So, I’m not doing any further damage by running/walking/hiking/biking/swimming.  The fatigue is also a side effect of the inflammation, and my crazy brain and nerves basically lying to me. I am not yet willing to give up living and believe the lies from my nerve tissue. Being outside, seeing the plants, the animals, the sky, and hearing all the sounds of the world, and moving forward, no matter how slowly, brings me peace and quiets my mind. It’s not a punishment for my body, it’s not a test of endurance, it’s a meditation. Which is why it doesn’t matter if it’s fast or slow, if I’m skinny or fat, if my hip hurts, or my foot.  I need to move in the world, it’s my connection with life.

So, self-care then. It’s realistically the only self care option available to me.Don’t question the self care of others, unless it’s doing real harm. I’m not cutting, I’m not anorexic, I’m not hurting other people.  I cannot quit working to “follow my dreams” or “rest and recuperate.”  The kind of self-care defined by the radical self-love advocates we see in the media, the Eat, Pray, Love/go to the ashram/travel the world on $6 a day folks are living a privileged lifestyle I can’t ever hope to attain.  Sure, I’d love to stop working, spend all my time with my kids, do art, travel, play, hike the AT for a year, or the PCT, or whatever.  This is not an option, and if you’re about to explain to me how I can totally do that, if I just budget correctly, or cut some things out, you are using your privilege in a very ugly way. Sure, I could abandon my family and go on a trip. Spending the money we collectively need to pay for our home, our prior debts due to poor decision making in a time of extreme duress and trying to do the best thing available to us at the time for our kids’ futures, and my extensive health care. But I wouldn’t be doing that with my family, or for my family, and I am not the only important person in my life.  I live an extremely privileged life. I’m white. I’m well educated. I’ve moved into the middle income bracket. I have health insurance, and life insurance, and cars, and two mortgages.  I have the luxury of being able to homeschool my kids, which is definitely a luxury of the privileged class. I have the luxury of owning my own businesses. It took a long time and lot of work, but it’s still a luxury not available to most people. I also have responsibilities, which don’t allow me to engage in “radical self care.”  To maintain my health care with my boutique doctor who is the only one who has even made a dent in the health issues and even pretended to believe that I’m not crazy, but who costs me a monthly fee not covered by insurance, to maintain my business insurance for both businesses, my professional association membership fees, my credentialing, and continuing education, and to maintain my skill set, I must continue to work. Yes, Jacob has a good job, with health insurance. His job could probably cover both mortgages, our relatively small car payment, our life insurance. My businesses, expenses we use for homeschooling, like netflix, internet access, books, camps, classes, the minimal amount of travel we do, the luxury items like fabric, art supplies, raw dog food, pet supplies, all cost money. Medications not covered by insurance, co pays, food. without my income, we could not maintain my healthcare. The irony is, unless I decide to choose to be bedridden by the fatigue, to give up on life, to not run, play, work, I am not technically “disabled”, so I will have to work. I will continue training other people’s dogs until I’m too fatigued to train my own, caring for other people’s pets while they travel, so I can’t take my kids and pets camping for a weekend, traveling for work so I can’t travel for pleasure.  I am extremely thankful that I do enjoy the work and do and love the results it brings. I love the people I work with, and am fortunate enough to earn a good amount of money and lots of reinforcement for the work I do. If I was forced to work a job I did not love, enjoy, and feel invested in, my life would feel completely hopeless.

Until we as a culture and country find it more important to fund real health care and real self care for people than to militarize our police forces and build walls against those who would like to join our population, this is the somewhat marginalized life people with chronic illness live. Remember too,  I am so, so lucky, and so privileged, my life is much better than so many people who have the same type of health issues without the fantastic personal support and financial support system in place, their lives are often quietly failing desperate struggles to keep their heads just above water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk

I don’t share or blog as often as I’d like.  I tend to toss something on Facebook or Instagram, it’s quick and gives a snapshot (literally!) of my life.  But sometimes there is more information that may prove useful in understanding my life a little better. So, before you congratulate me on how great I look, my weight loss, or all the projects I get done, or question why I don’t race so much anymore, give this a quick read.

So, let’s talk. Lets talk about:

Illness/health

Medication/self-care

Beauty/weight/body image

Running/walking/competition

Yoga/crafting

I’ll start with health, which will likely segue into the rest. My health is not great. Yes, I eat carefully most of the time. Although I live off of Smartpop cheese popcorn, for the most part. Yes, I exercise, I run, I do yoga, I work out sporadically. But, I’m slow, fatigued, weaker than I used to be, and my body is evaporating before my eyes.  In the last several years I’ve had serious issues with my gut, (inability to keep food down, rectal bleeding-I know, TMI, food intolerance, chronic pain), my joints and general body health (bruising, pain so severe I sometimes can’t walk because the soles of my feet hurt so much, I drop everything because my hands won’t close, eczema, joint pain, fatigue so severe I can’t remember what I’m doing, accompanied by insomnia, sometimes because I’m anxious, sometimes because my body hurts so much my legs can’t touch one another, and the pain from the surface area of my body touching the bed and sheets is too much, headaches, mouth sores, chronic sinus infection, pneumonia). I also have frequent bouts of various skin cancers, but those are the least of my concerns.

So, health issues, then.  Previously, I was diagnosed with Thyroid disease, hypothyroidism.  I’ve been on medication for that for several years. A couple of years ago, I was not satisfied with the diagnosis, I still felt terrible, and I found a new doctor. Since then, she has tested me and sent me to multiple specialists. Outcomes so far are as follows:

  • Hypothyroidism. Thyroid ultrasound reveals 3 polyps on my thyroid, not a big deal medically, unless they get large enough to really inhibit swallowing (which they do to some degree already) or decide to become cancerous and grow like mad, or metastasize.
  • Positive Celiac Gene profile.  Thus some of the gut issues, eczema, and possibly some of the pain and fatigue. Celiac type diet. No Gluten. Careful of other foods, as well. Most everything except popcorn and yogurt make my stomach hurt excessively and give me gas. Still can’t eat lots of foods, except in tiny amounts. Among these, onion, garlic, peppers, rice (which is a real problem when eating any gluten free prepared foods), nuts, sugary foods.
  • Rectal bleeding/hemmorhoids.  Some of you know that I had surgery for this issue a couple of years ago. Hands down, the worst thing EVER. Much worse than childbirth, dental work, anything unpleasant or painful. I’m still having some issues with this, of course, it’s just more gut problems. Seeing my specialist again in a couple of weeks. At least there was no diverticulosis/diverticulitis/cancer the last time I had a colonoscopy. This concerns me deeply, since my father died of colon cancer. I often wonder if he actually was a celiac sufferer and went undiagnosed and kept the tissue so inflamed all his life that it finally developed cancerous growth.
  • Ehlers-Dahnlos Syndrome/Fibromyalgia. After seeing the rheumatologist for the chronic body pain, she initially diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia, as I have the classic pain profile, and also when discussing my joint hypermobility and skin and gut issues, says I likely have Ehlers-Dahnlos, but the treatment would be the same as for Fibro, anyway. This explains the intermittent extreme fatigue and joint/body pain.
  • Heart Valve Insufficiency. After a recent echocardiogram, I learned that two of my heart valves are leaking. The docs tell me that this may be the cause of my inability to build up any endurance in my running, and my attacks of severe fatigue, as well as my difficulty breathing when exerting.
  • Asthma. I’ve had it, along with allergies, for most of my life. It gets worse when I get a cold, bronchitis, or anything that leads to pneumonia, which is apparently my new normal.

Okay, let’s talk about Medication/Self-Care:

Medication first. All you woo practitioners out there, don’t shame me with your magical essential oil and coconut oil cures for all that ails me. I have tried various things, I use adjunct treatments when I can, believe me, but actual medications, prescribed by doctors, built by valid scientific research, are what make real change in chronic health conditions. That said, here is the rundown on medications.

  • Synthetic Thyroid Hormone (Levothyroxine)  T4 supplement
  • Cytomel (Levothyronine) T3 supplement
  • Savella (Milnacipran) A pain control drug that functions as a Serotonin and mainly Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. This drug is the 3rd I’ve used for pain, and it really seems to work, enough that I can get up and do things almost every day, and live an almost normal life. Unfortunately, it also causes nausea, hot flashes, excessive sweating, and several other unpleasant side effects.
  • fiber and stool softeners as prescribed by my gastroenterologist
  • Antibiotics. I have a standing prescription for a cipro antibiotic, due to my constant sinus infections morphing into pneumonia
  • Albuterol Inhalers. For the days I really can’t breathe, and for the times when I have pneumonia.

Self-Care:

Self care is important in all things, but particularly when one’s health is “fragile.”  You might think this would involve me doing less and sleeping more. To that I’d say yes and no. Self care for me consists more of budgeting my time. Planning time to do the things I enjoy the most (work travel, running, yoga, sewing, knitting, arts, school and play with my kids, walking the dogs), forcing myself to take time off from client work when I can, making sure I have adequate family time, and planning realistic breaks and down time between work travel. So, if you invite me to do something, and I seem excited about it, and say “Sure!” I probably am excited about it, and want to do it, but I may or may not show up on the day, because that could be the day that I feel really awful, which is more often than one might expect. I may have to budget my time that day to care for my kids, dogs, and house. And I may only get one of those done. Jacob picks up all the slack here, and facilitates my self care constantly. Self care is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do, and sometimes I fall off the wagon. I was brought up to be the woman who does it all, and when I can’t, I feel like a failure. I’m still learning the power of NO.

Let’s talk about beauty, weight, and body image. Also, let’s talk about relationships with food:

Aging  has been difficult. We have a love/hate relationship. When I think of myself, I look like I did when I was about 26. When I look in a mirror, it’s a surprise that there’s an old woman looking back. All the fat has gone from my face, I’m sort of cadaverous, with a long nose and chin, like a witch in a kids’ picture book. Bitchy resting face, too, where did those big lines that make me look so angry come from?  I’m not angry. I expected my body to hold up and continue to do my bidding forever. It lets me down frequently these days. My joints, my fingers, my skin, my bladder. Learning to accept the limitations of my body, especially the heart part, has been difficult. But with aging comes a lot of self knowledge and strength that I didn’t have as a younger person. And the ability to not give one single fuck what anyone else thinks or believes about me.

Weight is another thing. I’ve always been pretty hefty.  Maybe not ever as hefty as I thought, but the messages I got as a kid were that I was large, stocky, hefty, uncoordinated and not good at sports (lies!) and would always be big. Oh, and that was not a good thing, either. My mother spent her entire life concerned about being “Fat.”  Every diet, every drug, she tried them all. Maybe the amphetamines she took when she was pregnant with me, so she’d only gain 5 pounds, which was what her doctor told her was “healthy” as he prescribed them, caused some of my ADHD issues, who knows?  Anyway, fat was bad. Big was bad. I was bad. I liked food, too much. Of course, I always got the “you’re skin and bones” message from grandma, which was also not true. The truth was somewhere in between, of course. I was probably an ideal weight, I was an athlete, swimmer, runner, horseback rider, all my life, not to mention all the hiking through the woods that was my daily self care.  As an adult, I’ve never weighed less that 140 pounds, except after my time in the hospital when I couldn’t keep food down. I got down to about 130, I think. When I got home, I was afraid of food. Afraid to eat anything, because I didn’t want to vomit, or be a failure. With Jacob’s help, I got over the fear of food and gained right back up to 145 or 150 when I stopped eating gluten. And now I’m evaporating before my very eyes. Side effect of the medications. I’ve continued to lose weight, and not have much appetite. I’m below 130 now, and maybe still losing. When I look at myself, I still see a fat belly, which is so weird. I think at some point, body image becomes a fixed thing. In my brain I’ll always be fat. When I look in the mirror, it’s another surprise. Why are those bones in my chest showing?  I wonder if I have anorexia. I try to make closure with all my clothes, which I feel like I should keep “for when I get fat again”, but which fall from my body like dead leaves. I wonder if I will stop losing weight, or just disappear. So before you congratulate me on my weight loss, think twice. My relationships with my body, and with food, are both very fucked up. I hope that I haven’t passed this to my daughters, but I’m sure I have.

Let’s talk about running, walking, and competition.

I have run for as long as I can remember. From bullies, from home, from fatness, and anger, and asthma, and aging.  I run because it makes me feel good. I used to enjoy competing. I used to enjoy doing marathons, triathlons, and races of all kinds. I liked to challenge myself, beat my times, beat the person who beat me the week before. Now, I can’t seem to build up any stamina. “Training” doesn’t happen for me anymore. I cannot seem to build time, distance, etc. I feel pretty much the same, no matter how far, or how fast, I go or don’t go. I am too cheap to race. I used to race 1 or 2 races every weekend. I had a race calendar on the fridge. Now, I plan an annual goal race, and see if I can manage it. I wanted to run a 50K last year, when I turned 50, but I wasn’t healthy enough. So much for those kinds of goals.  This year, I do have a goal race, thanks to friends Alison and Pam, who wanted me on their Ragnar team, despite knowing how slowly I run. So, in December, I’ll be doing a Ragnar relay, in Florida, with friends.  Two good things at once, friends, and running.

Let’s talk about Yoga, and crafting, and other self-care.

Yoga is a great path to self care, both mental and physical. I had a daily practice for a very long time. I don’t anymore. Some days I just can’t. Some days it’s all I can do to wake up, put away clean dishes, and feed the dogs. Some days, I have energy to do it all. I am still following the Yoga path. I’m learning more about me, where I am now. That’s why we call it practice, right?

Crafting is a thing that makes me feel accomplished, and keeps my hands busy and my body still, so I can be social, so I can think, it’s a meditation, with a product as a side effect.  Do I need a bunch of scarves?  No, but I need to sit still, and knitting a scarf is one way to get my body to do that. So, when I’m super productive, it may just be a healthier way of venting my mania. I’m not trying to outdo you, I’m trying to outdo me.

Change. Another post I wrote was about change being the only constant. Well, it’s still true. Everything changes, and is changing. It’s not making me sad, (well, it has, at times) it’s making me re-assess and re-evaluate my relationship with my body, my family, my life. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning to rest, the best I can, I’m learning to accept my body’s limitations and practice the things I’ve always done in new and different ways. I may be sick, but I’m healthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Urban and Not-so-Urban Farming

Today as i read back through my blogs I realize that my personal ongoing theme in life is moving on and forward motion.  I express this through my thoughts in my writing, my actions (running, walking, traveling) and my constant pursuit of education.  I am working toward more space, maybe slower forward locomotion.  I can’t ever stop the ongoing motion in my mind, though.  I keep myself company.  

But this is not the piece I’d planned on writing in this blog today.  Today, I am visiting on a farm where my daughter is working.  It’s a religious retreat center with a small, just starting out, working, sustainable farm.  They have a lot of acreage, most of which is leased to local, conventional farmers.  So the place is surrounded with conventional farm rowcrops.  They also have summer camp here.  There is a beautiful chapel, if you’re into that kind of thing, a house, where my daughter lives, a gorgeous barn that has been converted to housing for camp staff, a couple of little house trailers for the next set of farm interns, a conference center, a beat up tennis court, an old, in ground swimming pool, a small greenhouse and a couple of sheds for the farm implements.

This morning I walked around the grounds.  I took my camera phone, and a novel.  I sneaked up on my daughter working in the field, sowing seeds with a walk behind manual sower.  She was working hard.  It made me feel proud, and I took a picture of her working, before she noticed I was there.  She gave me a ride back to the barn in a Ranger pickup, which she has learned to drive in her time here.  She took her implements from the bed and put them away, then gave me the short tour of the farm area.  She shows me the tractor she knows how to operate, it’s a small Kubota, like the one I used to use to pull the manure spreader over the hunt field when I worked at the stables 30 years ago. She showed me where the chickens lived before they were all killed by an animal, shortly before she came.  She said the director of the center wouldn’t let them eat any of the eggs, anyway.  The eggs I had at breakfast were powdered.  I said they needed a goat or two, she could train them to pull the seeder. They have no animals on the property, except two cats, whom she says stay at her house, “Because they know they are not supposed to interact with the guests”.  They have no beehives.  She said the people at the center don’t want animals because they smell.  That they don’t really appreciate the farm, and think it’s a waste of space and money, and smells bad.  I wonder at this, their commitment to sustainable agriculture, their commitment to their God, and their Jesus and his feelings on animals, and growth, and stewardship.  She has also told me that the real focus is keeping the lawn in front of the chapel in peak condition. 

I leave her to her work and take a walk around the property. It is all planted in fescue, the lawn grass of the upper midwest.  Paths are mowed.  There is little native vegetation and nearly no trees.  I walk around the lake.  It is suffering a huge algal bloom, typical of lakes in the path of agricultural chemical runoff.  Too much nitrogen.  Probably no fish.  Very few frogs, I’ve heard some peepers in the evening, and hear the telltale plops of bullfrogs hitting the water as I pass. There is a family of Canada geese, who have liberally covered the path around the lake in goose poop, but no other waterfowl.  There are two duckblinds on the edges of the lake, which look absurd, with camo netting, and painted black camo-ish, against the green field of alfalfa behind, with nothing to hide it.  There are bird houses placed around the edges of the pond, they’re filled with swallows and purple martins.  I listen to the babies peeping inside, and watch the parents skimming the water surface and through the field, bringing bugs back to the babies.

I find the source of the water entering the lake, and it’s coming from between two agricultural fields. I see the pump from which they irrigate the farm fields.  So, sadly, they are using the same agricultural chemicals as the surrounding conventional farms. I feel badly for my daughter’s boss, who is the person in charge of the farm, but has very little experience being a farm manager, and very little support from the higher ups of the diocese, who are her bosses.  

As I’m walking, I’m thinking of all the things I would do if I was in charge of this farm. I’d start with neutralizing the lake, stocking it, and putting some natural water plants around it, like cattails, lilies, and willows, to prevent more bank erosion, get rid of the musk thistles, and to provide some habitat for something other than Canadian geese.  I’d plow under the fields and fallow them for a year or two, or grow some red alfalfa and mustard and plow it under as green manure. I’d put in an orchard, apples, peaches, pears and cherries.  I’d put in some trees, oaks, walnuts, and sugarbush full of maples.  Id’ get a bunch of chicken tractors, or a bunch of electric netting and put many chickens on the fallowed fields to peck and scratch, and poop, lay eggs and weed.  I’d put 5 beehives on the place, for starters, to pollinate and produce honey, and I’d put an acre or two in native prairie plants to feed the bees.  I’d get some sheep and some goats, for fleece, milk, weeding, and draft.  So many dreams.  

I think about all my big ideas, and how much research I’ve actually done on this, and how I will probably never get a chance to put any of them into practice.  And how I need to start making closure with this fact.  Now that I’m nearly half a century old, and I’ve not done the things I needed to do to get to the place I wanted to be, and how much I really do appreciate the place I am, and what I do have.  It’s a hard row to hoe, planting the seeds of giving up dreams.

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Urban Dirt Hippie Organic Kale Chips

This morning, I have a great little bunch of organic kale, and I didn’t want it to get wilty, so I decided to make some kale chips.  It’s a super easy thing to do, you don’t have to pay $5 a bag for them!

Preheat the oven to 350F

Wash the Kale, cut the stems out, and cut or tear into chip-sized pieces. (I cut because I’m lazy, I’m cooking them immediately, and I like handling sharp knives!)

Spin the heck out of them in your salad spinner, or dry well with a towel

Prepare a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper

place you kale on the sheet in a single layer, if possible

spritz liberally with olive oil

sprinkle with whatever seasoning you like, I used garlic powder, Spike and Pink Salt

bake 10-12 minutes, or until they’re crunchy!

Eat ’em up!

https://plus.google.com/photos/100223322420521666905/albums/5884934364710867201

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Spring 2013 A world away from 2012

Wow.  I just realized why I haven’t written a blog post here for so very long.  The last post I made was when Finn was so sick that he nearly died, and I didn’t realize until we were in the PICU how very serious the illness was.  My world was shaken, my life was irrevocably changed.  I learned so much.  How helpless I really am, how strong my son is, how much I love my family and how many caring, loving friends we really do have.  I learned all the classic cliches.  Life can be short, family is more important than anything, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, there is always someone who’s situation is worse than mine.  Moving on is the only choice.

Now, a little over a year later, I’m still an Urban Dirt Hippie, though with more invisible scars than I had before the whole illness.  My son has chatted with mortality, which has changed him dramatically.    We are all moving forward, well, zigazagging in a mostly forward direction.  LIfe does go on.  Work continues, the urban farm continues.  We still have children and dogs and bees, and life is an ongoing adventure.  I may write more about this soon, but for today, I want to focus on moving on.

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