A friend shared a post that spoke about autoimmune diseases and how frustrating it is to have one of these "invisible" diseases. People often make assumptions that people who suffer from them are "fine" because they "look" fine or they make annoying suggestions about how people can be healthier. I've heard this many times and it has made me more aware that I should never presume to know what is going on with another person's health.
But the word that really jumped out at me was the word "rare". I feel like we are being programmed with this word. Yes, we are being duped.
Sure - perhaps each specific autoimmune disorder is "rare" - but as a group, are they? Let's take a look:
Autoimmune diseases are the 3rd most common category of disease in the US, after cancer and heat disease. They affect approximately 5-8% of the population, or 14-22 million persons. Hmmm. I don't know about you, but that doesn't exactly fit my definition of "rare"!
Why are we being conditioned to think of them as "rare", when they are clearly NOT rare?
What else are we told is extremely rare?
Vaccine injuries! We are in the middle of the COVID vaccine rollout, and many people are very excited to receive it. Others don't want anything to do with it and some fall in the middle - cautiously watching and waiting before deciding whether they want the vaccine.
My newsfeed is full of news every day of various reactions to the new vaccine, ranging from sore arms, fevers and a couple days of being out of commission, to miscarriages, severe neurological injuries and death. Are these reactions really "rare"?
I wish it was as easy as pointing someone to a place where there were black and white statistics laid out for us - this percentage of people get sick/die from the disease and this percentage from the vaccine. Unfortunately it is not that simple. You have to be a detective and dig. You have to understand a lot of different aspects of the world and how it works.
I will continue to point people to VAERS and the Harvard study funded by the Department of Health and Human services that showed that 1%, or even less, of vaccine reactions are captured by our reporting system. This means that any reactions reported represent a tiny fraction of the actual reactions occurring. So far 500 deaths have been reported to VAERS, so we know that the number is likely much larger than this.
Children are increasingly suffering from chronic illnesses and these include autoimmune diseases. Robert F Kennedy Jr. has noted the explosion in chronic illnesses since the late 1980s. You can watch a video about that here.
I think many people intuitively sense that our overall health as a population is not at the level that we want it to be and what it should or could be. Why aren't we able to change these trends? What is stopping us from becoming healthier?
I invite you to reevaluate this definition of "rare". Perhaps we've been programmed to believe something that just isn't true.
My friend on Facebook said it perfectly:
People "apply circular reasoning. They start with the premise that vaccine injury is rare. Then, when something happens after vaccination, they immediately rule out the vaccine as the cause since vaccine injury is rare. Since that injury goes unreported, the low number of reported injuries reinforces the idea that vaccine injuries are rare."
People don't speak up about these things because there are a lot of rewards for doing so. In fact, one thing that is increasingly rare these days is the ability to have a calm, compassionate and rational discussion about difficult topics. I hope that this becomes more and more common, that all illness does in fact become more rare, and we all move towards a healthier lives.
ps did you know that there is a whole text book that covers the topic of vaccines and autoimmunity?? Wild, right??
***Going to start right off with a disclaimer. This post is not to brag or to make others feel bad, although it may come off as doing both. Ideally it will make people think and even start some discussions! Why is this post "extremely biased"? Because it is based on my experiences and mine alone.***
I keep thinking about Health. What is health? What does a healthy person look like?
How many people do you know that you consider "the epitome of health?" To me that would mean: no allergies - food or environmental, no digestive issues, no autoimmune issues, no problems functioning in their environment that require on-going medication. How many people do you know? Is that number becoming increasingly small?
I think it is. Kids are increasingly medicated for ADHD. A large percentage of Adults are on medication for stress and anxiety. Seasonal allergy meds, epipens for peanut allergies, drugs for skin issues, digestive issues, headaches, arthritis, the list goes on.
Check out this chart below, you can click on the image to open the website an the complete list.
Right now in our family of 5 we have 0 prescriptions. Zero. That's not to say we are perfect. We've dealt with anxiety. Seasonal allergies in the past - check. Chronic sinus problems. Yep.
But if I look at our health (and I know that looking at my own and my loved ones health is biased, how could it not be?) I see some very interesting things.
So you tell me:
Why on earth would we change what we're doing? In what universe is it logical or fair for us to be MANDATED to change what we're doing? Why would I start listening to the health advice of individuals and a large scale system in which most people do not have the level of health that we enjoy in our family?
Everyone has to make choices. We are happy with ours. We are also happy to share with people! We want others to be happy and healthy too.
I'm on week three of starting a new habit: waking early several mornings a week to walk, before the kids wake up and Mike leaves for work. The first week was awesome. Monday April 1st I woke up and it was barely light when I headed out. Mother nature decided to make this morning extra magical for me by shrouding our neighborhood in a misty fog. Even the moon was out to cheer me on. It was so wonderful.
Twice more that week I rose with the sun and got my walk on. My favorite part of this new ritual is stepping outside into the fresh, cool, morning air and being greeted by the joyful sound of birds singing. A friend even joined me one day - what a great way to start the day!
Spring finally has sprung around here and the trees were showing off too.
Week 2 Life decided to throw some challenges at me. Monday went off without a hitch, but Wednesday Gerry woke around 4 am and didn't go back to sleep. I tried convincing him to join me in the stroller for a walk as the sun peeked up over the horizon, but he wasn't going for it. I was exhausted, so I didn't push it.
The good news - my parents were coming through town that day. That evening the kids, my parents, and I went on a walk and climbed the stairs at the Masonic Temple which is a couple blocks away from our house. The view at night was so beautiful and the kids loved climbing the steps.
On Thursday we went downtown to go to the Natural History museum (Gerry had been wanting to go to "our dinosaur museum" since watching an episode of Team UmiZoomi that has dinosaurs ;-) and we saw the blossoms. Lots of walking done that day too! So I still got 3 good walks in that week even though only one was in the morning. I also walked to Mike's work after my last Hypnobabies class on Saturday - so that's 4!
Sunday night I had that feeling in my head, "ugh, do I really want to get up early tomorrow?" That made me laugh at myself - it's so easy to get off track! So I reminded myself how amazing I felt the last two weeks and how much I enjoy walking as soon as I'm out. One of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits written by Leo Babauta, talks about how to change our lives and make things regular habits. One idea that helps is going "public" with your intentions - with your family or friends, or even on your blog or social media. Once you know that others know you said you are doing something, you are much more likely to do it! I've definitely found this to be true. I know that there is something magical about "21 days" too - I'm not sure how this will apply to me since this isn't something I'm aiming to do every day, but I know that the longer I do it the more deeply ingrained in my every day life it will be.
Leo's recent post, The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers, has been really helpful to me too. So many people said that they schedule their exercise into their lives and it just is NOT an option to miss it - only a TRUE emergency keeps them from keeping their habit up. Remembering this has helped me keep on when I feel a bit tired the night before. The cool thing is that I've been waking up before my alarm on most mornings that I plan to walk.
Here are some pictures of today's walk. I decided to head over to the temple again and do some stairs to get my blood pumping.
If there was a soundtrack to put to this post it would be birds singing. I decided to take a little video while I walked to capture some of the early morning sounds. I just happened to capture two crows squawking at this cat! Haha, not exactly the most beautiful sound, but it was kind of funny. (btw - do you have an opinion on keeping cats in the house? The past couple of years I've heard several people voice the opinion that cats should NOT be let outside because of how many birds they kill. My first reaction is, huh?? I think most carnivores kill other animals and I don't see how cooping cats up inside is fair or the answer. But maybe I'm missing something?)
This new habit has been a long time in the making. I've wanted to get back into some kind of routine for a while now, but have struggled to find a way that works for our whole family. Right now turned out to be the perfect time. Gerry recently started sleeping from roughly 7:30 pm to 7 am or so. So I knew that getting up around 6:30 am wouldn't disrupt any of our sleep too much. Even so it's been a bit of an adjustment, but the benefits are so worth it! With Spring, more light, and nicer weather, it's been a great new beginning. I feel energized and accomplished now by the time that I used to be just rolling out of bed. Keeping it to every other day has been smart though, so we don't get too tired or sleep-deprived.
My other inspiration is the book, The Blue Zones. I plan on writing more about it in the future, but I really am thinking of walking and exercising as a life habit - something that becomes as natural and essential to me as eating or breathing. Ideally it is something that I will do every day eventually, even more than once.
Have you started any new habits lately? Has spring inspired any fresh starts for you? What helps you stay on track?
The first time I was introduced to Natural Family Planning (NFP) was when Mike and I went to our "Pre-Cana" or marriage preparation class. A young couple talked to us about the hows, whys, and benefits of NFP. They definitely left a strong impression on me and the biggest thing that I noticed is how much they seemed to LOVE using it.
But I wasn't quite ready to take that "leap of faith" and for the first year of our marriage I continued to take the pill to prevent pregnancy. A year later the timing felt right. I knew we would want to start a family (relatively) soon and didn't want to continue with a chemical contraceptive. Also I had decided to convert to Catholicism around the same time. The decision to learn and use NFP felt right.
Why was I drawn to this method? More importantly, why do I feel so strongly about it now that I want to spread the word about it? Well, first of all it is a great method both for preventing pregnancy and also maximizing your chances of achieving pregnancy when you want to. Because your body isn't dealing with any foreign chemicals you are free every cycle to decide what is best for you and your family. There is no waiting or worry that you may not be able to get pregnant because of the contraception you've been using.
On that note, check out this awesome post about birth control. I believe most people will learn something that they didn't know about the various forms of "birth control" and why these prevention methods may not be the best for you. I'm not going to rehash them all because the author does a great job of breaking down each form of contraception and explaining what the real, very serious physical and psychological health issues that are associated with each type.
"But what about EFFECTIVENESS?" you ask. (I can hear you yelling all the way over here!) Before letting you in on the rate of effectiveness you need to know that NFP is NOT the rhythm method (or counting days), it is a method that uses a woman's fertility signs (basal body temperature, cervical mucous, and cervix position) to determine with a high degree of certainty when her fertile time is. Yes, you are going to get very familiar with your body. No, it is not gross (well you may need to retrain your mind on this one, but I really believe it!) Yes, it is a wonderful and beautiful thing.
With that said, let's have a little drumroll please...
(INSERT DRUMROLL SOUND HERE)
When properly practiced NFP has an effectiveness rate of over 99%. That's right, I said OVER 99%. (See the aforementioned awesome article for some links to studies about the effectiveness of NFP in areas of the world where it is the norm.) I can tell you from experience that NFP is VERY effective both in preventing and facilitating pregnancy. Both of our children were completely "planned" and very much desired pregnancies. In addition I used NFP to prevent pregnancy for a full year between the time of stopping conventional contraception to the time when we started "trying". Once we were ready to "try" it only took 2 cycles for Miss Marisol to be conceived.
So in addition to the health benefits I reap from NOT using chemical or barrier forms of contraception, I still have peace of mind knowing that we can effectively use NFP to prevent pregnancy.
"But what about our sex-life??" I hear you wondering now. I mean surely using this method will have an impact on *that*.
Fear not, as my new favorite article notes:
"It might be misleading, however, to say that there are no side-effects of using NFP. There are some: NFP couples report increased respect for self and spouse; they almost never divorce; they report an increase in communication with each other and an increase in the quantity and quality of intercourse. (emphasis mine) For me, I think women deserve to have these side effects."
Wow. So what more is there to know? It's safe, it's effective, it costs virtually NOTHING once you know what you're doing, and it improves your marriage and sex life! That sounds too good to be true - but I'm here to tell you that it's not.
I believe EVERY WOMAN should have this intimate knowledge of her body and cycle. For me, my fertility signs have only become clearer and more obvious with time to the point where it takes very little effort for me. Yes - there is a learning curve in the beginning, and it takes time and commitment to learn, but it is SO worth it! I am definitely going to make sure that Marisol and any other future daughters (wink wink) are armed with this knowledge later in life because I believe this is so much more powerful than any other "birth control options". (I'm not going to keep information about contraception away from them either, I do trust that they will know what is right and best for them when that time comes). I really feel so strongly about NFP because of all the benefits I have felt in my life. I think it's rather obvious, but I still feel the need to state that this method is NOT "just for Catholics" or "religious" people - it's for everyone. I am infinitely grateful to the Catholic church for introducing me to this method before I was married though.
I learned the method through a home study course through the Couple to Couple League. The home study course used the book, The Art of Natural Family Planning, but has the added benefit of getting support from someone knowledgeable in the practice. So as you learn to chart your cycles you mail them to the person and they help you by looking over your analysis and giving you feedback.
I highly recommend this book and home study program if you are interested in learning about NFP. If there are live courses with an instructor near you, that may be an even better option.
This week's giveaway book ties into this topic but is specifically about how breastfeeding can help space babies for families using natural methods.It's called, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies by Sheila Matgen Kippley.
After the birth of a baby many mothers that practice NFP and choose to breastfeed are able to prevent pregnancy for many months through lactational amenorrhea. Most doctors will tell new moms that as long as baby is exclusively breastfeeding (no bottles or pacifiers either), that baby is nursed on demand (including during the night), and the baby is less than 6 months old, then it is safe to trust lactational amenorrhea to prevent pregnancy. This is a very conservative interpretation. One of the biggest factors that affects a return to fertility is night nursing (or the lack thereof). The easiest way to continue to nurse your baby throughout the night is to sleep with your baby. With my two children I experienced 27 months of no periods after my daughter was born and 31 months after my son's birth (yes, over 2 1/2 years!) Needless to say I love that part of breastfeeding and co-sleeping. I know that not every mom's body reacts the same way mine did - even moms who practice attachment parenting. However, it *is* true in native cultures the average age difference between siblings is 3-4 years old without any use of contraceptives. So families that use NFP and ecological breastfeeding don't necessarily have huge families and babies very close together in age. At this moment my family consists of two children 3 years apart in age (6 and 3) - oh, and none currently on the way either (wink).
After Marisol was born, I wasn't sure how or if I would know when my fertility was returning, but I trusted and waited and sure enough my body began to give me signs. I was fairly certain of the first time I ovulated - even before having a period. This is definitely an advantage to learning about your fertility signs before having children - when the pressure to understand your body is less (in my case I could not have been terribly upset if I got pregnant again since I knew we wanted to have a second child!)
After Gerry's birth I felt even more confident about when my fertility was making a comeback - so much so that I packed my "feminine products" when we took a vacation to Florida last winter - and sure enough after over 2 1/2 years my dear friend, Aunt Flo, made her comeback appearance while we were there! I'm pretty amazed at how in tune with my body I am now.
I realize that this book will be for a very specific person - but if you are in your "baby years", and are breastfeeding and co-sleeping then this is a great book for you. I read it quite a while ago but remember it being a great resource for me when my babies were tiny.
So please leave me a comment here to let me know if you would like my copy!
I made this Venn Diagram a while ago to remind me of the ways I can take care of my body, mind, and spirit. Then this past weekend we were doing various things around the house and another analogy popped into my head.
I've been aware for some time now that I need to get back to exercising my body regularly. I've just not gotten into a regular habit since Marisol was born 6+ years ago. Luckily for me my lifestyle is such that I stay fairly active and I'm also continuously expanding my healthy diet options, so it's not that I'm in TERRIBLE shape exactly. It's just that I've not made it a priority and I'm really starting to crave that now.
So we were doing a couple of things upstairs where our bedrooms and one bathroom are and I thought (not for the first time!) how it was the most neglected level of our three-level home. I really don't want to describe to you the state of affairs upstairs, but let's just say it is far from clean or neat. Dusty, clothes often everywhere, Marisol's many babies piled here and there... and the bathroom! Let's just not go there. Yet the rooms are used every day for very important things - namely sleep, potty, and hygiene. So I thought, jeez, that's just like my poor, neglected body. My body is also used every day for very important things yet not getting the love it truly deserves!
Now the main living level of our home which includes the kitchen and attached craft area, dining area/computer desk, and living room - well, let's just say we "keep up". The kitchen of course needs to be relatively clean just to use it every day. This "mid-level" is comparable to how I keep up with my spirit. I mean it's pretty darn important to tend to your spirit regularly, right? I definitely have room for improvement both in the mid-level of my home and in tending to my spirit. Ironically, the biggest thing I do once a week on this floor of our house is make sure that there is a safe path for my students to walk to the stairs to the basement.
Ahh, the basement. This is my teaching space. Every week it gets cleaned up really well (by my standards anyway). The bathroom is the cleanest bathroom that I've ever personally taken care of. The toys must be put away and the rug vacuumed every week (especially for my students with cat allergies!) And this of course is analogous to my mind. I'm constantly feeding and exercising my mind - primarily with reading, but also with having conversations with friends and loved ones, and now I've added writing regularly to my mind's "workout". I've got this one COVERED! In fact, I'm realizing that I'm a little too good at exercising my mind and not so good at resting it which would be better for my spirit and body. I find this analogy ironic but appropriate because 1) the basement is the best taken care of space in our house (this doesn't seem normal) 2) my analogy is a little backwards with the bottom of the house being compared to my mind - which I think of as being housed in the attic of my body and 3) Teaching is a very "mind" centered activity - although it does serve my spirit as well.
There you have it - how I the levels of our home are similar to how I take care of my mind, body and spirit.
In the middle of my Venn Diagram I spelled out the word balance (it fits perfectly!) because I believe if I'm feeding my body, mind, and spirit I will find the best balance for myself. (I'm beginning to think that "Balance" is my word for this year, not "Embrace"... but oh well, they're both good!)
The "e" in the center symbolizes emotions to me. When we are balanced we will experience peace, happiness, joy, acceptance, love and many others. So I am more and more getting to a place where I realize I need to feed, use, and rest all parts of myself. The saying below is becoming a new mantra for me and is really helpful when I'm falling asleep, "Rest your mind... Calm your heart". Ahhh, it just feels peaceful and I can let go of all of the busy thoughts of the day.
How about you, is there are specific "part" of you that you particularly take good care of or neglect? What could you change to feel more balanced?
"Synchronicity is an ever present reality
for those who have eyes to see." ☼
This is going to be a rambly, stream of consciousness post. I was thinking of this word "synchronicity" today and not even sure if it was the word I thought it was. Then I opened Facebook tonight and my friend Angie had posted the above picture and quote. All I can say is: Holy Synchronicity.
It is so weird how these things seem to keep happening. I feel so connected lately to so many people that I've never even met in person. It's pretty amazing. I'll be thinking about something, or have a question, and then I read a book or a blog or a quote on facebook and it is like the Universe read my mind.
Here are some recent examples. The other day Gerry was playing with my phone and handed it to me. Somehow he had opened this video on You-tube.
I liked it a lot and posted it to Facebook. (I realize I am often slow to pick up on things - this video has almost 4 million hits and 40,000 likes. What can I say, I'm a stay-at-home-mom, I'm not exactly "up" on the cool music). I like this song so much, I've been listening to it a lot this past week.
Then twice more this week "friends" of mine have referenced this song: Here and here. Call me strange or stalkerish, or whatever else, it made me feel close to these women whom I only know through the internet. Music is cool like that - it connects us. I am also realizing how I need to incorporate music back into my daily life. It is such an important part of who I am and that I have lost touch with since my kiddos were born.
Ok, so synchronicity. Was it just a crazy coincidence that Gerry opened that You-tube video? I don't know, but it wouldn't have meant as much to me later when other people mentioned it.
What else? I've been interested for some time in learning more about essential oils. Several of my friends from my Hypnobabies training use them and talk about them. But I haven't had the time to really look into them more. Then Tara Wagner had a free call about them and I learned more and it spurred me to buy some. I can't wait to get them and try them! I couldn't help feeling the synchronicity of the circumstances - something I had been vaguely wanting for a while and then an easy way for me to access it literally popping into my path. One of my good neighborhood friends is into essential oils too, and we have been talking a lot and she lent me a book to learn more about them!
Something else that has been on my mind is forgiveness. Specifically the process of it. I get why we should forgive others - that is necessary to our own well being to let go. That if we cannot and dwell on the past, that we are only hurting ourselves in the present moment. The thing that I personally struggle with is the "how". How to let go and stop dwelling in the past? I put the question out there - literally - in a forum of amazing women that I am on. I haven't gotten any responses. Maybe they're not sure how to do it either.
Then this evening I just happened upon another website that looks super-interesting and it included a post called "How to Forgive Those Who Have Hurt You".
And *then* I saw this in my Facebook newsfeed:
"Just as a truly courageous person is someone who knows fear but acts bravely in spite of it, a truly forgiving person is someone who experiences all the anger merited by injustice and still acts with fairness and compassion." ☼
- Martha Beck
In the words (or word) of my friend Angie, "BAM!"
I've been wondering a lot lately if all this feel good stuff I've been writing about - affirmations, positive thinking, etc. etc. - is only really relevant when you already have it pretty good. It's a question in my mind. Like, yeah, sure it's all good and well for me to "think positive" when I am already blessed with so many things. But what about people who aren't so lucky? Life keeps answering me again and again. I see so many beautiful, strong examples of people who overcome tragic circumstances in their lives and are saying the same things. Louise Hay and Immaculee Ilibagiza immediately jump to mind (and Immaculee is a truly inspiring example of forgiveness too, her books are amazing).
If you have a question, let it sit, the answer will likely come to you. Other people have the same questions. Here is a clip of Deepak Chopra answering a similar question to mine on Oprah's new show. Every day I am seeing how we get in life what we are looking for. I certainly didn't look or feel inspired today, in fact I was drained. But instead of feeding into the tired feeling with negative thoughts, I really didn't think much at all. The kids and I stayed in all day. We rested. Then we made it outside and saw some neighborhood friends, had dinner, and a nice evening. The house even got picked up a bit. I am slowly learning to allow myself to be tired and do nothing and not feel bad about it. I know that my energy will pick back up if I just let it happen. This weekend we are traveling to Ohio for Mike's cousin's graduation. So my next post may be later next week. Until then, look for the Synchronicity in your life. I promise it's there.
"All coincidences are connected by meaning, but synchronicity happens when the meaningfulness is relevant to our personal evolution." ☼
- Dave Richo
Shared via: SoulfulLiving.com
Every week I have ideas of what I want to write about, but usually at the last minute I end up changing my plan because something going on in Life actually sparks a new direction. Balance has been on my mind a lot lately. A post titled "Balance" has patiently waited for months in my drafts folder. In fact not a day goes by that I don't think about this word. What does it mean? What does it look like and how does it feel?
There is no formula for perfect balance. Balance will look different for every person and it changes with time too. This makes sense to me intrinsically. Individuals need varying amounts of sleep, different types of foods to thrive on, and are stimulated by a unique pursuits. Yet we seem to think that there is a magic number of hours or a specific percentage of our time to spend on various aspects of our life that will lead to this magical state called, "Balance". And then we judge and compare ourselves to others when we perceive what we think is an "imbalance". I am certain that what is a good balance for me would not be a good balance for many people.
What is it exactly that we are trying to balance in our lives? Here are a few simplistic dichotomies that jump to my mind:
Work and Play
Work and Family
Activity and Rest
(and one especially near and dear to my heart...)
Thinking and Being
For all of my fellow homeschooling parents, there is the balance between home-tending (got this from my friend Shan and love it so much more than house work!), supporting our childrens' learning (however we decide to do that) and of course we can't forget, self-care. So I guess that is a "trichotomy".
I'm currently reading Deepak Chopra's book "Perfect Health" which is based largely on the ancient Indian system of healing called Ayurveda. It is fascinating. In Ayurveda there are three doshas inside each person - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha - and the amount of each one in a person makes up their "body-type". (This is a very simplistic explanation of it and I'm still just learning about it). But what is really interesting to me is the idea that for each person there is an ideal level of these 3 doshas, and that it is different for each person. When one or more of them rises or falls from the optimal level it manifests in our bodies - often in illness. I'm sure we've all noticed that during times of stress, lack of sleep, or poor diet, in other words poor balance, we are more prone to getting sick.
Speaking of illness, there is a nasty cold/virus making it's way through my family right now. Currently I have a sore throat and just really low energy. Yet, it is one o'clock in the morning and I am working on this post. Balanced? Most people would probably say, "No way!" (I can hear Mike yelling at me right now - Go to bed!) But I dozed on the couch for about an hour earlier and these ideas are buzzing in my head. I know myself, and I know that sleep wasn't happening right away. So here I am writing.
Speaking of writing - I suddenly seem to have this intense desire (need?) to write every day. (My sister thinks this is weird. I have to agree. But what can I say, it's there and I'm going with it!) Anyway, one of my challenges right now is figuring out my balance point - for myself and my family. I really want to write, but my top priority is to be present with my kids during the day. Difficult to do when you keep having these awesome ideas for blog-posts! So I usually write late at night, or right when I wake up, or sometimes even the middle of the night if I can't sleep. I also write little notes and snippets down when I can (journals and scrap paper are now easily accessible).
Speaking of my kids - how do they learn about balance? Many parents think that they have to control things for their children because they haven't developed the capacity to make decisions about "balance" on their own. Unschooling has led me in a totally different direction. As much as I can, I support them in finding their own balance. This means with food, television, computer games, going outside, social activities, reading, sleeping... really anything you can think of. This can be difficult for many parents who are attached to the idea that children couldn't possibly know what is best for them. I see my children prove this idea wrong every day. Just the other day Marisol said, "I have to listen to my body so I'm going to stop eating this cupcake now. My tummy's starting to hurt." Later she asked for more "healthy food" and chose a ham sandwich. Marisol can watch TV when she wants and every day she is itching to get outside and play with her friends. Was it always this way? Nope. When she was 3 1/2 she didn't want to get outside or see other people hardly at all. (She was also adjusting to big sisterhood). Her balance was different that winter. It was challenging for me when I got serious cabin fever, but I pushed myself and I'm glad I did. We both learned a lot about ourselves and trusting each other through that experience.
Allowing our children to learn about their own balance does not mean that they will always make the "right" choice, or the choice you would make (you know, the one you want them to make). (Side-note: Do you always make the "right" choice?) Sometimes we have to experience extremes to find out what is really right for us. I know sometimes I just need to sit around, because I'm tired or uninspired, or whatever the reason may be, until the urge just builds up in me and I can't to it anymore - I just *have* to get sh*t done! I firmly believe that allowing our children to figure out what is right for them when they are young helps them develop and believe in their own decision making abilities as they grow older. Yes, I give them input and my *opinion*, but really there is very little in life that is black and white, cut and dry. Marisol recently asked me if sugar is bad for her. Lately I have "heard" vague "whisperings" through the internet that there is "scientific evidence" that sugar is a "toxin" to our bodies (By that I mean, I've seen some headlines, but have not read deeply or paid it much attention.) So I proceeded carefully when I answered her question, not wanting to allow fear to color our conversation. I told her that some people think it isn't good for you. But that what I think is most important, is to listen to her body. She concluded that a little bit of sugar probably is ok for her. I'm sure that her relationship and understanding of food will continue to grow and evolve as she does. I feel very strongly about letting her make her own choices and learning through her own experience. I also know that I will be by her side supporting her in the best way I can. It's not always easy but I believe the benefits outweigh any fears I still have. Gerry is already pushing me out of my comfort zone even farther - that kid LOVES his sweets! I feel better by making sure he also gets fruit (strawberries and apples are a favorite now) and a carrot every day. I know that they are learning about their own limits and developing their own internal sense of what's good for them instead of relying on me to tell them what is right.
And besides all that, I just look at human nature. If someone tells *me* what to do or what I *should* be doing I immediately dig in and don't want to do it! Why would I want that dynamic in my relationship with my children? For instance, I can't stand it when Mike "nags" me to do something. I rarely get up and do something cheerfully if I feel like he's asking in a not-so-nice manner. But as I'm making my own choices to get things done, I feel his nagging fading (also I think my response is changing, but that's another topic). And I am feeling good about what I am doing. From his point of view, the "nagging" may have worked. But I know differently. I know that I am *choosing* to do things that make me feel good and to please him too.
Personally, besides writing I'm also learning what is a good balance for me and my family in regards to teaching. I'm so happy that I found something that I really love in Teaching Hypnobabies, but I also am constantly evaluating if it's the best fit, not just for me, but my kids and husband. Right now I don't feel perfectly balanced. I'm so hyped up about a lot of things (teaching, writing, and just life in general), that I'm feeling a little lop-sided. I'm also a little sick and that is my body's way of saying, "slow down!" Also as a mom to young children I can't always take care of my own needs immediately, in the optimal way. Sometimes I have to suck it up and take care of them. But I'm learning small ways to get my own needs met at the same time. Just this week we had an amazing day, followed with two very low key days at home. Instead of looking it as a "high" followed by a "low" I know that they are just different kinds of days. We are all sick and need some down time.
I guess that sums it up for me - listening to our bodies, minds, and spirits the best we can. It's about being mindful and checking in with yourself. All of the important things in life require practice and dedication (ie inspiration and positive thinking). At first it might seem like a lot of work, but it is worth it. I am consistently asking myself now, "what do I want to do with this moment right now?" One time I am especially aware of my choices are when Gerry naps. I can do the dishes (or other home tending), I can get on the computer, I can take that time to connect with Marisol, or I can rest myself (usually while cuddling with Marisol). But I know whichever I choose I have thought about what is best in that moment - for me and my loved ones. I am not just rushing to the first thing that jumps in my line of vision and then wondering later why I didn't choose something else. Will we always make the "right" choice? Probably not - but we can get better at it. And we can always get back on course.
Stop letting others or what you "think others think" dictate what you choose. If you are tired the house can wait. A clean house with an exhausted mama is not balanced (in my opinion!) Don't worry about what others say about how much time you spend with your children - listen to the people that matter - yourself and your children. If you are working so hard that you cannot enjoy any other aspects of your life, examine why you are doing that. Is it serving you? No one except *you* can tell you what is *your* perfect balance. And your balance will change - that's why you need to be in tune to yourself. Your needs for exercise, for nourishing food, for stillness, for connection, for stimulation are your guiding posts. Of course, we have to balance our needs with our loved ones' needs too, which is where things get trickier. But we try. We listen to each other with love and problem solve when our needs seem to clash. I loved this status from a friend on Facebook, "Balance is taking care of what matters MOST at the time it matters most!" This especially rings true to me for mothers of young children. Sometimes when you have a sick child there just isn't anything else that's going to get done except caring for that baby. And that is the perfect balance for that moment.
I lay in bed tonight at 10:30 - Gerry went to bed "early". I thought, "I'm just going to go to bed in my clothes (at least they were linen pants) without brushing my teeth or anything." It felt so good. I thought of this post on "balance", and it seemed fitting. My body is tired. But habit and my bladder weren't listening and the need to release (my thoughts!) won out. My kids - if they are tired you can't convince them to brush their teeth or anything else. It's just time to sleep. Things are simpler for them. I hope that maybe they can stay that way.
Anyways here I am working almost till midnight like a kid in school with a paper due. And I love it! I feel good and I know tomorrow even if I'm tired I will be more present with my kids. Sometimes I am better at being still when I'm tired. Guess that's part of my balance.
Two more things and then I really must retire. During Lent I was randomly opening the Bible some mornings to read. A few days after I wrote in my journal about balance I opened up to Proverbs 11, which state, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord but an accurate weigh is his delight." (it also went on to say "whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent" guess we better not knock other people's sense of balance!) Powers bigger than me continue to speak to me. I try to listen.
And finally, check out this sticky note that has been posted on my computer's desktop for months now:
I don't think I could say it any better than that. So thank you, whoever I saved that from.
What are your thoughts on balance? What are things you do to help you achieve your optimum balance? Have there been times in your life where you felt either particularly balanced or unbalanced?
Today something really remarkable happened. Well if you were watching my house it would have looked entirely UN-remarkable because what happened was completely inside of me, hidden from the outside world.
Marisol is a little under the weather - headache, a little feverish, leg pains, and all around tiredness. She didn't sleep that well last night and today she has a runny nose too. So we had a very relaxed day. We stayed in all day, largely in PJs, lounging on the couch, watching TV, reading books, and cuddling. Friday is normally dance class but I had a feeling she wasn't up for it. As the time approached when we should leave, I asked her again what she thought. Since she wasn't terribly ill I think she could have gone if she wanted to, but I left it up to her. She didn't feel up for it. So I let it go - it was probably the wisest choice as she hadn't eaten that well in over a day and also so we didn't spread whatever she had to other classmates. Plus I really trusted her to make the decision that was best for her.
So that was cool. But not the remarkable thing. Normally on a day like this I would have been feeling quite "blah" by the end of it. We didn't get outside; indeed, we barely moved today! I read a lot on the computer and a book that I got out from the library. But when Mike got home from work and Gerry woke up from nap (around 6 o'clock both!) I was actually able to move on with my day without any sign of the blahs. (This to me is the epitome of the blahs - losing motivation to do ANYTHING)
What was different?
I'll tell you what's different - it's the power of affirmations and using our minds for good in our lives. I just finished reading my second Louise Hay book, "You Can Create an Exceptional Life" (coauthored by Cheryl Richardson). It is great, no - unbelievable - stuff. For example, I'm not known for being a morning person (Ask my dad! He got to see me at 6 am a lot growing up as I worked for him on our family golf course). But I'm changing that now and it's not even hard, it just takes practice. In the morning I've been starting out with positive thoughts - how I'm going to approach my day, what nourishing food I will provide for myself and my kids, how I love life (and life loves me!) I know it sounds hokey, but you should try it because it works!
I've always thought of myself as an optimistic person and I believe most people who know me would describe me as such. But the truth is that many, MANY of the thoughts that run through my mind on a daily basis are NOT positive. When I'm feeling bad about what the kids and I have done all day, when I'm feeling not good enough or running through my list of "shoulds", none of those thoughts are kind towards myself nor are they even helping. We often think that we can motivate or will ourselves to "be better" with these negative thoughts, but I'm learning this is not the case. Instead, by affirming what we love about ourselves and what we want in our lives we create the space - mentally, physically, emotionally - for change to occur.
So this evening I was able to get off the couch, feed Marisol, play with Gerry and let go of the idea of getting out for a walk when it became clear it wasn't meant to be, easily and with love. And I don't feel blah at all! That is REMARKABLE!
And now that I am slowly learning to reign in my mind, to retrain it to think only positive, loving things, I want to learn to still it when I want or need it to quiet. To actually NOT think at all. That's my next step, it may be even more challenging but I'm sure with some affirmations I can do it!
There was so much in this book that resonated with me, I highly recommend it. It's a quick and easy read. See if your library has it - what do you have to lose? Nothing says I, and everything to gain! ;-)
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.