Thursday, March 31, 2011
When my family has been called to walk the difficult paths, I always start to question whether I actually listened to God, or mistakenly gone my own way because it's so hard, and I'm not up to the task. But He never said following Him would be easy, and He certainly didn't tell me to go it alone. He never said I need to up to the task. It doesn't matter if I am. HE is.
Sometimes life is very very hard, and I think my tears could be measured in gallons during these times. Happiness isn't measured by how easy something is though. And sometimes true joy can be experienced when you're traveling a path of tears and heartache. It's part of the seeming paradox of knowing the joy and peace that can only be found in Christ, while living in a fallen world.
It's been a hard day, but I'm ending it with a grateful heart. I'm grateful to my God for never leaving me in my distress. I'm thankful for his followers who pour His love out on one another. I'm thankful that I am His.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
It's getting close to Summer. While I'm not a big fan of hot weather and bugs, what I dread the most is summer shopping...for my 8-year-old daughter. I don't want my little girl in bikinis, halter tops, hot pants, mini skirts, or short shorts. We're trying to teach her modesty, and most of the time when I enter a children't store, I feel like I'm battling the whole world in the process. Especially when I'm checking out the news, and I see this.
A lot of parents think I'm being ridiculous, and chide me that they're "just little girls. It's no big deal." I think it's a big deal; it's important to me that I don't want to raise her to treat herself as a sexual object for men. We don't let her wear anything now that we wouldn't want her to wear when she's 17. What kind of message would we be sending her otherwise?
It's also important to me that men don't view my little girl as a sexual object. What kind of society will we create if we sexualize children? That's almost too scary and nauseating to contemplate.
I like winter. I can buy her boys jeans and cute girly t-shirts and sweaters. Modest and cute. Win win. Summer is so much more complicated. I'm not going to find anything that can pass as girly in the boys' section, and I rarely find anything appropriate in the girls' section. Too bad I don't sew...but on the other hand, I'm not sure I want to be one of those homeschoolers!
I want to briefly touch on 3 areas of women’s health where I think many women don’t realize they have all natural, healthier options.
When most people hear “birth control” they assume you’re speaking of the pill. The birth control pill is a relatively recent invention though, while birth control has been practiced for ages. And no, I’m not speaking of the rhythm method! Natural birth control, often referred to as natural family planning, is a method whereby you listen to your body and understand your fertility to avoid (or cause if that’s your plan) pregnancy. You aren’t filling your body full of hormones (with a cautionary list of side effects as long as your arm!) you aren’t losing your sex drive from the pill, AND you come to know your own body and how it works very well. It’s a win win win situation!You can find basic information with links for the different ways you can practice natural birth control here.
If you’ve ever suffered severe PMS (mood swings, irritability, breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, hot flashes, etc) you’re probably wondering how on earth it can be treated naturally. After nearly 20 years, I’ve finally been able to virtually eliminate PMS naturally. It’s not as difficult as you might imagine.
The first key is ChasteBerry Vitex. If you’re on a 28 day cycle, days 5-28 you take Chasteberry Vitex every day (400 mg twice daily for the first 8-12 weeks, then once daily as a maintenance dosage)
Next it’s important that you’re taking a daily supplement of calcium with D and magnesium.
The hard one though, is no caffeine. Ever. The stuff really isn’t good for you even apart from PMS. Read the book Caffeine Blues for more reasons why it’s essential to your health to give it up, as well as for a plan to quit.
Finally, if you can find the time (and unfortunately I often cannot), yoga is important for getting rid of PMS.
Rather than trying all these changes at once, start with the supplements, then work on getting rid of caffeine. It took me years to kick the caffeine, but once I experienced a cycle with no breast tenderness, I realized it was worth giving up just about anything!
This one may seem like an odd title for all-natural women’s health, but 21st century American women do not handle menstruation in a natural way. Most women use tampons—increasing their risk of TSS, infection, and micro vaginal tears, all while exposing themselves to dioxin. Women who go the pad route deal with uncomfortable sweating, heat rashes, exposure to dioxin, shifting protection, as well as sticky adhesive that can have, ahem, ouch worthy consequences if it sticks to the wrong thing!
There is a better way. Remember that disposable menstrual protection is relatively new, and new doesn’t always equal progress! Women used all natural methods for thousands of years previous to disposable.
Personally I think the most natural, reliable, and comfortable option is reusable pads. They are sooooooooooo comfortable, a cute accessory, better for the environment, money saving, better for your health and they make you more comfortable with the process of menstruation (many women even report less cramping, finally ridding themselves of infections and lighter easier periods after switching.) Sow how does it work? You purchase or make a selection of pads (and depending on your needs you can get them in various shapes, sizes, and absorbancy.) During your period you change your pad as needed (every 3-4 hours for the average woman.) You rinse the used pad under cold water, then place it in a pot to soak with cool water and a splash of vinegar (some women add a smidge of Oxy Clean.) After your period, you add a little stain treatment to any stubborn stain, toss them all in the washing machine, then in the dryer (or line dry, whichever your preference)
My two favourite sellers of the best and most comfortable pads are:
Also, you can do a Google, ebay, or Etsy search for “Cloth Menstrual Pads” and you can find many many options on your own!
So what about some of the unpleasant side effects of cramping, nausea, diarrhea that often accompany your period? Here are some great tips to deal with that:
Hydration decreases cramps significantly. One doctor in one of my books says "I tell women to drink as much water as they can until their cramps go away, then cut back." It seems so simple, yet it really works!
I haven't tried this, but the traditional Chinese acupressure points for cramp relief are found in the middle of the crease where the leg joins the trunk of the body. You can press there with your fingertips, or you can stimulate these points one at a time by positioning your left fist over the points on your left side, and your right fist over the right side, then lying on your stomach with your fists in place, using the weight of your body to apply pressure.
Walking is also scientifically proven to reduce cramps. I know, it's hard to even imagine doing that sometimes, but if you use some of the other tips here, they may be able to get you to the point where you can add some walking too.
Calcium is very important to ease the issues that arrive with your period.
B vitamins are very important, because they help your body metabolize hormones, so you may want to consider taking a 50 milligram supplement of B-complex all month long...this is supposed to be very effective, and is very often touted alongside the calcium advice.
Stay away from beef--the saturated fat causes the body to produce 2 series prostaglandins (which are what cause cramps)
Get plenty of omega-3s (from wild Alaskan salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, freshly ground flaxseed, walnuts etc.) They help ease cramps.
Vitamin C with bioflavinoids is also supposed to help with heavy bleeding.
Evening primrose oil or black currant oil. These are sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that can help influence prostaglandin synthesis.
Raspberry leaf tea is an effective remedy for painful menstrual cramps.
Experiment, and find out what works for you!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I have a secret. If you know me well, you’ll be shocked by it: I fantasize about living in the Midwest. This will surprise people who know me, because whenever the state of Illinois is mentioned, I have 500 reasons on the tip of my tongue as to why it’s the worst place you can live. Nonetheless, my heart longs for home. My daughter and I just got back from a trip back to the Midwest to visit my parents. In many ways it was a balm to my soul.
I had such an excellent time with my mom and dad. I miss both my parents so much. If I could have one wish granted, it would be to live near to my parents. My heart aches to be near them. Of all the difficulties in my life, I think one of the hardest for me to bear is to be so far from my mom and dad.
I was able to see a cousin of mine that I haven’t seen in years. I got to meet all 3 of his children, whom until this trip, I had only seen in photographs. I had a very lonely childhood, and this cousin was my best (and often only) friend. It meant so much to get to see him again, and I left filled with regret that we don’t live nearer to one another.
I saw beautiful rivers and trees, and longed for my dog, Mercy, to be with me there so we could walk and jog amidst such beauty.
I saw with panic the toll the years have taken on my grandparents, and I felt a frustrating urgency to be nearer to them.
I was also unfortunate enough to experience something we have never experienced in the southwest: blatant racism. From people glaring at us, to not serving us food, to refusing to speak to us, to refusing to sit near us. I was shocked, angered, and hurt by the behaviour strangers exhibited towards us on our trip. We had experienced racism in Florida (someone even left feces outside of our hotel room door once), but we had brushed the behaviour off as something unique to Florida. It is not.
In the southwest, not only have we never experienced any sort of racism, but we’ve seen a number of families who look like ours. Interracial marriages are also very commonplace here. On our train trip, we traveled through Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois. We did not see even one interracial couple. We didn’t see even one parent with a child of another race. We did not see any African Americans sitting with, or speaking with any Caucasians either. And there was plenty of opportunity to do so. I would estimate that the train on the way to San Antonio was probably 40% Hispanic, 40% Caucasian, and 20% African American. From San Antonio to Chicago, the racial makeup was probably 45% African American, 53% Caucasian and 2% Asian. Yet, everywhere I looked, I saw self- imposed segregation.
I came home with shattered dreams. I know in my heart I cannot ever move home. The implications for my children would be devastating. My heart has been weeping. For the people who allow hate to rule their lives. For the family whom I desperately miss. For the home I was dreaming of. At the same time I feel hope. I know this world is not the end, and that the world to come will contain no hate. I know in that world, I will have eternity to enjoy the loved ones I miss so much in this life. In the meantime though, it hurts. I have longings that cannot be fulfilled in this life. It’s hard. I want to be wholly satisfied with the life to which God has called me. And He has blessed me incredibly. I love my husband, my kids, our dogs, our friends, and our wonderful, accepting community. I feel privileged to enjoy all of these things. At the same time, I know my heart will be weeping for home and the desires that cannot be realized for a long time to come.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
When I turned 20 I gained 43 lbs. in under 2 months--with no change in diet and exercise...then the gain slowed, but continued over the years. I went to doctor after doctor after doctor over the following 5 years. I ended up a few misdiagnoses (including PCOS...yikes!) and the general consensus seemed to be an inexplicable slowing in my metabolism. One doc told me that the change of decade weight gain due to slowing metabolism hits swiftly, heavily, and accurately. In 2005 I lost 60 lbs. Unfortunately in order to do that, I was working out 3 hours/day 7 days/week and consuming under 1200 calories per day. In other words, it was impossible to maintain it long term. My body became exhausted. So I returned to a more doable healthy lifestyle, and gained 20 lbs. I was happy enough with that.
Fast forward to my 30th birthday: in the 3 weeks prior to, and the 2 months afterward, I've gained 15 lbs. Once the weight gain began, I start working out more often and being super careful with the content of my diet, but the weight won't budge. I'm assuming my precautions are the only reason it's been 15 lbs. instead of 40!
My clothes don't fit. I don't feel like I fit in my skin. So now not only have I been struggling with my life's goals and paths on the inside (hey, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!), I feel like I don't even fit in my skin on the outside. My life just feels uncomfortable right now. Inside and out.
To make matters worse, I'm leaving on vacation in 9 days. I'm going to visit extended family. I feel uncomfortable enough around friends who have seen my gradual weight gain...I don't want people to see me suddenly larger who haven't seen me in years! I'm really really hoping they've all gotten fat too...
I'm irritated with myself that I'm so hung up on this. Why can't I just be confident regardless of my size? Why can't I just focus on being healthy, rather than obsessing over weight loss? I don't want to pass this on to my daughter. I want her to be a healthy, confident young woman. How to I teach her to be one, when I'm anything but??
My mom is 52 and she still struggles with all of this. Since I picture my 50's as a time of being confident and peaceful with my life's path, and happy with and grateful for my body, I better figure out something soon, or before I know it, I'll be 50 and still uncomfortable in my own skin. I would like to be happy with and grateful for my body even when it betrays me by making me 25 lbs. over my ideal weight.
I think part of my issue aside from discomfort (and I do feel physical discomfort in my back, knees, and ribs that I would like to be rid of) is worrying about the perception of others. It's sort of like when I take my RAD child to the store, and he throws a fit because he wants something, and I won't give in, and people look at me with disgust. I want to scream "IT'S NOT MY FAULT! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! IF YOU PARENTED A TRAUMATIZED CHILD YOU WOULD BE FEELING MY PAIN RIGHT NOW!" Instead I blush and feel like a failure as a mother. It's the same way with weight gain. I worry that people are judging me as a lazy sloth when they see me, and I just want to yell "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! I WORK OUT! I EAT RIGHT! MY BODY IS SABOTAGING ME ANYWAY!" Instead I blush and feel like a failure.
So I guess the real issue is caring less about what others think of me. As a human being, how is that even possible?
Isn't that what keeps us from a lot of things in life though? Caring about what others think keeps us quiet when we know we say something. It often makes us take a step back instead of forward. What about when it comes to serving Christ? Often that entails the potential for looking foolish. I'm not saying we should never care about the thoughts of others. Obviously as an ambassador for Christ, I need to be careful not to needlessly offend others, but I'm talking about being fearful of judgment and ridicule. That fear can hold you stagnant and keep you from growing. It can prevent Christ's love from flowing out from you to others who need it so desperately.
The only solution I can imagine is becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, and reminding ourselves 1,000 times a day that pleasing God is so much more satisfying than pleasing man.