Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thermodynamics and Heaven

First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another. (

Human beings, like all forms of matter, are more empty space and energy than tangible substance. We seem to know this instinctively; we are drawn to certain people because of their positive or warm energy and turn away from others whose energy feels difficult or dangerous. With the arrival of new scientific truths we also learn that many of our body functions run on electrical energy: the heart and stomach and brain send electrical messages to and fro and without stimulation may stop functioning. Blockages and constraints to our energy (or qi or chi) can cause illness or emotional or spiritual turbulence.

When I was very ill, my chi was certainly blocked and my intuition faltered. On a few dark days when the medical professionals did not know how to help me and no medication worked as intended, I contemplated death. Medically I was nowhere close to that point, but emotionally and spiritually it seemed a good subject to prepare. One tough night I prayed hard for help, and I felt strongly that help would come either in this life or the next. I woke up convinced beyond doubt that there is a friendly force at work in the world and that we go into a loving energy when we die.

After all,  the energy that exists in our bodies cannot be destroyed. That fact exists in science and in many, if not all, religions. Electrical currents do not disappear, they must go to ground or travel in a circuit. The electricity and energy that compose our essence must similarly travel somewhere in the universe; whether to heaven or to the Earth or to a different plane none can say for sure. But have confidence that it will be safe and loving, for "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beyond the Paleo

"I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being--forgive me--rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger."
 - Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

My nutritionist recommended a book to me. As my gut makes tiny baby steps toward improvement, she thought I might be able to hasten the path of progress by going paleo.  I didn't know what this meant, so when I received the large Amazon box containing Practical Paleo (by Diane Sanfilippo) I dove right in to its 400+ pages. Turns out, going truly paleo means giving up ALL grains, not just gluten and corn as I have already.  In addition, no dairy or soy and only certain seeds and nuts, seed/nut oils. If the book didn't have such pretty pictures of delicious foods I would have given up right away.

But lured along by the tasty photos, I found the section entitled autoimmune diseases and then digestive illnesses, both of which apply to me. Ms. Sanfilippo says that my superfoods should be homemade bone broth and fermented cod liver oil along with ghee and liver. I had to google ghee and fermented cod liver oil as - surprise! - neither have come up in previous menus. I was pleased to find both available at the ultra health food store known as Amazon, and fortunately for me, the recipe for bone broth is included in my book. Now I just have to figure out how to get my hands on some appropriate bones.

The real kicker was the advice under the "what to avoid" heading. The foods I mentioned, of course, plus coffee, alcohol and caffeine. Also, pain medications, including aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.  And lastly, high intensity exercise such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) and "chronic cardiovascular exercise" as they might "provoke a stress response" (p 152). Since I spent the eighteen months prior to my illness training for a marathon, joining and then co-leading a HIIT bootcamp class and living off of caffeine and ibuprofen, I appear to have, er.......erred. A correspondingly huge set of mistakes.

At least I have a chance to remedy the situation. Progress TBD . . .

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bumblebee Science

One of my guardian angels visited us for the long President's Day weekend. She came in the form of my younger sister, whose humor, intelligence and cooking ability always make her a welcome guest in our home. That she can beat William in a game of HORSE, outwit Rob at the dinner table, and sing Mumford & Sons songs with me all weekend long are just cherries on the ice cream sundae of her visit. In the course of several walks together she dropped a few pearls of wisdom, one of which I managed to catch.

Karen told me that bumblebees should not be able to fly as calculated by Newtonian laws of physics. The bees, happily unaware of Newton's laws, fly on merrily. This caught my whimsy, as I pictured our summer horde of lavender-loving bumblebees zipping along in defiance of all logic. This morning I did a bit more research on the saying "bumblebees can't fly" and discovered that science does not actually prohibit the flight of bumblebees, but one has to take into account all kinds of variables to make it possible, and the early scientists did not do so.  Kind of the difference between planning out the amount of paint you will need to redo the dining room and the actual amount of paint you need after discovering the flaws in the wall, light switch cover, etc.

My new research doesn't disrupt my delight in the rebellious flight of the bee. It's just like saying "that's impossible" about any task, and then - when it's accomplished and proven against all odds - going back and saying, "I didn't really mean it." Anything is possible; life is composed of infinite possibilities. All we need to do is choose which we want to pursue, and we can make it happen. We can heal, we can create, we can do anything. And when we're done, then let someone go back and put the science and logic under our amazing feats.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beams of Love

Valentine's Day compares to Christmas in Daniel's eyes. His countdown began Monday, his class Valentines were ready and in his backpack by Tuesday, and his cards for the family were hidden in his special desk drawer that same day.    He was afraid to go to Spanish before school this morning, thinking that perhaps his classmates might assemble extra early and have their special brunch before he could get to school at the normal time. Rob teased him last night, asking "what day is tomorrow, Daniel?" and the little man leaped over our couch while shouting "Valentine's Day" at the top of his (considerable) lungs.

Daniel's appreciation is poignant because today is also our Family Day. On February 14th, 2008, we sat for several hours in the US Embassy in Guatemala City. The boys played blocks and Aden colored on the floor as we waited for Daniel's US Passport to be issued and to be given our official approval to make him the youngest member of our family. For me, Family Day both transcends this Hallmark holiday and injects it with new meaning. When a friend asked about my Valentine's plans with Rob, I told her we always have a family dinner and give Daniel a present from our long-ago shopping in Guatemala. "Not so romantic," I offered, but she replied, "that's exactly the definition of romantic."

In my explorations of healing I have been told many times to ditch my deeply ingrained emphasis on intelligence and knowledge and switch to feeling and "knowing."  As William Blake wrote, "we are put on earth for a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love" (Quoted in Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle). It's challenging to re-train my brain and heart and reject forty years of societal indoctrination, but I really think that Daniel has the right idea. It's all about relationships and love and joy. Anything else is just drama.

Monday, February 11, 2013


William got to shake the hand of swimming superstar Missy Franklin last week. She's volunteering at the Elementary School for a few weeks and he just happened to be wearing his summer league all-star tee shirt when he passed her in the hall. By his account she exclaimed over his fellow swimmer status and asked his name while he shook her hand. The run-in with superstardom had him beaming all night. Only through repeated acts of heroic restraint have I kept myself from stalking the school looking for my own encounter on pretext of volunteering or having lunch, snack, or recesses with my boys.

Another milestone occurred when Rob went back to work today, his borrowed crutches covered in matching green washcloths and blue rubber bands. The color coding and placement was carefully coordinated by my oldest child. She has decided that my recovery has progressed sufficiently to the point where she can criticize me freely and point out my defects. . . . in grocery shopping, cleaning, and placement of crutch supports. I take this as a healthy sign of things returning to normal.

And, by some miracle, we have almost reached normalcy. If you came to our house and overlooked the mini trampoline in the living room (for spending of Daniel's excess energy), the small store of natural supplements that I have lined up on our kitchen counter, and the massive knee exercise machine in our family room, you would just about think we were a normal family. Which I suppose we are, though my head still hurts and Rob can't put any weight on his right leg.  I am so thankful for the blessings of (almost) normalcy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Investing Love

"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die.Where you invest your love, you invest your life."
- Mumford & Sons, "Awake My Soul"

Over the past several years I have been learning about meditation, centering prayer, spiritual direction and mindfulness. The learning has been directed at the brain but has not traveled to the body. My spiritual director says that the greatest distance in the world is the distance between your head and your heart, and I have found this to be true, as all the learning in my head did me no good until I got really sick and had to embrace and practice it with body, mind and soul.

Meditation time is now one of my favorite spaces in the day, and one of my biggest challenges is fitting the two sessions in my schedule, while at the same time starting early enough to get to bed on time. Before the illness (BI) I rather dreaded meditation at my Just Faith meetings, and fidgeted through the twenty minutes. Now I go for forty and I am about to step up to fifty minutes, though I confess to cheating and using a guided meditation led by Dr. Joe Dispenza. He wrote the book How to  Break the Habit of Being Yourself, which I am hopefully using correctly to alter my brain and change my life's direction.

I get distracted often in meditation, by my still-aching head or by Daniel's wandering in midstream to ask for water. Often I start to fall asleep, or wander to the day's events, but mostly it works. Dr. Joe says "love yourself enough to do this," and I guess I do. Time to give control to my heart, and trick my head into thinking she got the better party of the bargain. I want to invest in myself and my relationships and shift away from desiring control and ego-strokes. It can feel a bit like War and Peace in here, but I'm betting on the home team.