Almost 16 years ago to this day, I accompanied my Grandma to Bolivia as she was taking a sort of reunion trip. Her family had lived there during her teen years as missionaries. I don’t remember what church they were serving under, but do remember that her time there left a lasting impression. She had the heart of an adventurer, and after 50 years spent working and raising 5 children of her own she wanted to go back to explore and remember.
As I looked through the old disposable camera photos of that trip, I smile inside and out. I learned a lot more about her, about poverty and about how missionaries from various church groups try to help even when they can’t agree on how to work together back home.
I remember the redhead on our flight to Bolivia who was going to meet a guy she clicked with during his weeklong holiday in the states. How they were going to meet up in Argentina, and wondering at 16-years-old myself if that was such a good idea. So, I just listened to her as she excitedly told me about how amazing he was and excited she was to finally have found a guy like him.
I remember there was the restaurant in La Paz where we ate lunch. She couldn’t read the menu except for a few words here and there. I ordered what amounted to a pile of rice with veggies and a meat sauce. She ordered something that smelled like dirty socks. I kid you not. It was a yogurt like cold soup. Being the stubborn, frugal woman that she was, she finished it, holding her breath to as not to taste it as much.
I remember how after trying in vain to find her family’s old apartment in Cochabamba, my Grandma found us a Taxi that took us to a main Plaza. From there, she found her way home on foot or “shanks pony” as she called it. I was impressed at the memory her body held that her head could not as the walk took us straight there when street names were too fuzzy to recall.
I promised myself then that I would return some day and help out. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I would somehow. Well, I have finally found the how and now is the when. You see, I’m rather intuitive when it comes to my relationships in life, but I am also very practical and rely on logic for my business. I’ve decided to start following my heart instead of my head and I’m excited to see where that takes me. First up is Bolivia!
Will you help me get there? I am raising funds through Indiegogo, and offer two deals on portraits through the campaign. You get a jump start on Christmas card photos and I get to fulfill a promise I made to myself.
Not the kind of update I had hoped to give!
The workshop may be postponed until spring 2015. So, I have decided to put my fundraising efforts on hold until a decision is made (they chose Sept. 1st to make the final call). I am dedicated to attending no matter when it happens.
The other day, my kids had made a mess of legos on their bedroom floor just before bedtime. Instead of scolding them, I took a moment and saw the wonderland they had created. That made a light-bulb go off above my head: childhood is full of inspiration. You never know what experiences you provide a child will blossom later in life.
When I found this photograph of myself eating a strawberry in my Grandma’s garden, I smiled. She always had a garden, whether with raised beds in the city or on a few acres in the country during her retirement. Those first memories of fresh strawberries and Lemon Balm are still with me, and inspire me to garden myself.
I wish she could see me today, and come wander our community garden where I am trying to grow some of my own vegetables and give my own kids the experience of watching nature bloom. Or that my photography is inspired by nature: capturing people in their natural beauty. She really was my second photography fan, and I always think of her when I smell Lemon Balm!
So, remember that even just providing experiences for children can inspire you or them days and years down the road!
When I go shopping for a Father’s Day card for my dad, I never go for the mush, long lovey-dovey stuff. But, glancing at all the variety of cards prompts me to think about what my Father means to me. My parents divorced before I could even remember having my Dad home to wake me up or tuck me into bed at night. Even though I saw him regularly growing up, I don’t remember any tucking in or cuddling. When I asked my Mom about it, she tells me he was very attentive and she thinks he’s done a good job. I do too. But, I think I didn’t really understand the depth of relationship a daughter can have with her father until we had our own daughter. My husband’s relationship with our 3-year-old girl really tugs at my heart.
I am grateful that my father has chosen to be in my life. That he has chosen to show up and be a part of my life is sadly unusual for divorced families. I’ve seen closely the ache absent father’s leave in their child’s hearts. So, Dear Fathers, those of you who choose to show up and be an active part of your child’s life have my utmost respect. I think that a Father is uniquely qualified for the job even if he doesn’t have a four-year-degree or hasn’t taken parenting classes.
Around our neighborhood playgrounds, I’ve met several Stay At Home Dads, and they always fascinate me. I want to thank all active Fathers – you are filling a role no one else can.
The very best compliment I have ever been given was by a Father named Keith. We met during a 10 day Mission Trip to Honduras. We built houses for Refugees of Hurricane Mitch in 2000. It was a grueling, heart wrenching experience. During our goodbyes to the native team members and each other, Keith shed not one tear. He shook hands with folks instead of embracing everyone in hugs. He was a calm, steady guy who came on the trip with his wife and two teen age boys. After I hugged his wife good-bye, I looked at him and tried to decided if I should hug him or not. He gave me a short quick hug and said, “If I had a daughter, I would want her to be just like you.” To this day, his compliment makes my eyes get all teared up.
Thank you, Fathers everywhere, for filling your integral role in raising future generations.
You are now 5 years old. Your questions about life have become more complex. You love to hear about the day you were born. I have told you about the who, what, where and how things happened to welcome you into the world. What I haven’t told you, you are not yet ready to understand. But, I hope that some day you’ll look at this letter and come to understand the miracle of your birth and the way you forever changed my life.
I went into labor earlier than expected. We had planned a birth in a Birthing Center, but you wouldn’t wait for the best dates for that to be possible. Instead, you wanted to come early. Just early enough for us to go to the Hospital, instead of the Birthing Center. This was my first lesson in going without a plan and taking life in stride. I loved plans, but your birth taught me I should not stress out about sticking to them. I was scared when my contractions started. Worry about the date filled me, about needing a couple more weeks for you to be grown enough to survive in the world.
Birthing you felt like a miracle. I was blessed with the ability and freedom to birth you naturally. The experience was one of the most empowering I have ever
had. Your Daddy and I had our world turned around in ways books could have never explained. You were perfect. You only needed some extra sunshine and a few blood tests to make sure your Jaundice went away.
Today you are you, most perfectly you. You love to make jokes, to dance, to sing, to dress up in character, to tell us every detail of your day. You have opened up to strangers and are no longer so shy. You walk right up to kids at the playground and ask them if they want to play a game with you. You open doors for other people.
Your budding personality has also flourished in challenging our authority as you explore new phrases and find buttons to push. You have made me cry more than once as you flex your willfulness. But, I am thankful. Thankful for the patience you require of me. The creativity you require now that you’re such a picky eater is pushing me to keep on learning and trying every day. I hope that I can keep on learning along side you, to guide you and give you freedom to grow into a man.
I was going to finish up a post to share why and when I think you should decide to “Go Organic” or become an independent food consumer. But, I have something else on my mind that I want to share while the glee is still in me. Anyone who has visited my home can tell that we love art. For Mother’s Day I got my gift yesterday: Silhouette Portraits of my kids. I have always admired this old art form – portraiture for the common folks.
I am delighted to have these portraits, and to see the artist, Karl Johnson making a living for himself with a “lost art.”
My mind took the thought further and made the connection to something else close to my heart: volunteering locally. I know many people who volunteer or lend a hand by sending money to worthy causes, but I see less who get out into the world face to face with their cause. With social networking sites making it as easy as clicking a button to support these causes, there is less of a reason for people to leave their comfort zone. There is nothing wrong with this, but I think you may be missing out.
Last weekend our family was consumed by my cause – I am a volunteer with our neighborhood council. I helped plan and host a neighborhood clean up event. We had enough folks show up (with kids in tow) to fill an Adopt-A-Street Team to pick up trash on our main thoroughfare street, spruce up the park by pulling weeds and mulching, and refreshing the Welcome to Delridge Sign.
I coordinated a smaller event last year dedicated only to the Delridge Park, and it was cool to see that sprout into something bigger this year. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t have done this type of thing three years ago with a new baby and an almost 3-year-old. But, now that the kids are almost 3 and 5, I am finding the time to get involved and volunteer locally – An always helpful husband helps too! So, if you have kids or are doubting the benefits of being a local volunteer wherever you live, let me share why I think it’s better than an social networking.
Volunteering is better than Social Networking because:
– You engage with people face to face opening up a new horizon for friendships, and can really see who they are more than in a bio on the computer screen or a one minute introduction with a business card.
– You get those “warm fuzzy” feelings that last longer than clicking a “support” button.
– You can learn new things about yourself (like you may find that you LOVE pulling weeds to let off steam).
How to choose where to volunteer:
1) What are you passionate about? Make a list of 5 things.
2) Look around your community for ways to apply those passions. For example, if you love animals, you may live near an animal shelter. You could walk those poor critters, comb their hair, pet them, etc. once a month or week.
3) Make some calls and if you walk into a wall, look for another venue. If you’re the animal lover and the animal shelter is booked with volunteers, maybe you could organize a fundraiser for the shelter instead.
Got Kids? No problem!
If you are in those first 3 months of “newborn honeymoon” just focus on getting your parental bearings…If you need to get out of the house and talk to adults, then start small. Maybe you could bake cookies for a clean up event. Or attend a meeting for a local fundraiser and offer to create a flier.
If you have kids old enough to walk or help, you can find something to do together. Our clean up event last weekend was in a park. So, our 2-year-old spent time loading a bucket with weeds I was pulling, then would take breaks to swing on the swing-set. Our 4-year-old loved using a gardening claw and loosened the soil to pull weeds for me. Another mom recruited her 3-year-old to pick up trash around the park, kinda like hunting for Easter Eggs. The limitations with having kids can seem huge, but really if you can take the time to think creatively and look for opportunities to include them, you can have a lot of fun volunteering together.
You might not have experienced constipation yourself, but chances are you understand it is very unpleasant. There are dozens of over the counter remedies available at drugstores all over America. Did you ever notice that there are special pediatric remedies too? I never did until my daughter, Iris, suffered from constipation starting at 9 months old. I had always thought it was something only older adults or those with a medical problem suffered. I never imagined that my breastfed, full term, healthy, happy baby would suffer from it.
Lucky for you, dear reader, I have a happy ending to share. But it started out with a simple problem, and demanded that we change our eating. As one of my favorite inspiring authors, Chris Guillibeau, pointed out in his book, “The Art of Non-Conformity,” people won’t change unless they miserable enough to take action. Though his book has nothing to do with diet or nutrition, that nugget of truth helped me persevere to find a solution. This is how we discovered it and changed our diet.
As a family, I used to think we ate healthy. I purchased some organic foods, or made things myself from scratch. When we ate out, it was usually a real restaurant, not a fast food chain, unless of course we were on a road trip. We enjoyed all the typical treats too: cupcakes and ice cream being favorites.
As my daughter reached 6 months old, I began to feed her the normal suggested diet: rice cereal (Organic, Brown Rice), pureed fruits and vegetables, whole milk yogurt, and let her try anything safe for her to munch on or simply explore with her own two hands. She wasn’t really eating solids on a measurable level until she was 8 months old. By her 9 month check up, I noticed changes drastic enough to ask our Pediatrician about how to deal with constipation. She suggested giving our daughter about an ounce or less of real Apple Juice with water, and some Cod Liver Oil. I tried the Apple Juice and some Prune Juice. But, neither helped. My baby girl started having harder, difficult poops that took longer and longer to pass. It was painful, and she became visibly upset every time she had to go. She’d cry and seemed to try to avoid pooping. At that point, she was pooping twice a week.
I decided to try to experiment and reduce the amount of “snacks” she consumed that were dry and not really providing nutrition. My older son was almost three by the time Iris turned 1. Snacks were my live saver, and always with us in the diaper bag. After a week I didn’t see a difference (I didn’t know that for allergies you have to wait 2 weeks or more to see results). So, we went back to our old eating habits. By the one year check up, I was very certain something was wrong. Our Pediatrician did a physical exam and didn’t find anything anatomically wrong, but did refer us to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. It took 3 months to get the nearest possible appointment to see her. The constipation increased, and at the worst point, she was pooping only once every 10-14 days.
To make a long story short, here is what I learned navigating through a series of specialists and alternative health care practitioners:
– When you don’t like the protocol a doctor prescribes, you are free to get a second or alternative opinion. The Pediatric Gastroenterologist gave me a prescription for Iris to take until she was 10 years old. As a brief afterthought suggested she go on dairy free diet. We couldn’t see her for another 4 months (she was that booked). After 2.5 months of little results from both, I decided to seek alternative advice. This was taking too long. Iris was over 1.5 years old.
– Naturopaths are like doctors: they prescribe things, conduct tests, and go to school for a long time. The difference is that they actually listen to you for more than 15 minutes and prescribe natural remedies not prescription drugs. The ones we consulted were very nice, but kept adding supplements and waiting for 4 weeks to see any results. At one point they suggested giving her an enema every day for 2 weeks to reprogram her nervous system. Yeah, like that isn’t going to scar a person for life. I did it for 2 days, and realized that I needed to trust my Mama instincts and pay attention to the fact that it was traumatic.
– Homeopathic practitioners pay attention to everything about a person from their moods, energy levels, relationships, etc. They believe that by giving someone a minute dose of something they can allow the body to build itself back up. Sounds good in theory, but for us, after 3 months, I suspected that they were stumped and just guessing.
– We found a solution for Iris through a Traditional Chinese Herbalist. Iris was 2.5 when we decided to see a Herbalist. At first, the ideas seem almost obvious – good health comes from diet, exercise and balance. But, I thought we were already doing great in those areas. And, for those of us used to being given a pill, have tests done, etc. the methods seemed like folk tales. After a month of giving her a low dose of herbs for digestion, daily abdominal massage, regular exercise and diet changes, we saw a dramatic difference. Pooping was no longer painful. Eat 70% of your diet from vegetables? Don’t consume much if any sugar? Those were the questions I had to tackle. After learning how to embrace them for the past 7 months, Iris now poops every 5-6 days a week.
Iris is almost 3 years old. While I’m frustrated that it took us this long to find her the help she needed, I can recognize that I had the privilege of trying all the available resources and did find a solution.
How we eat differently:
We consume more vegetables, about equal to all other carbs (bread, grains, fruit). We eat less meat, and when we do we eat fish, poultry, grass-fed or antibiotic free beef. We don’t eat store-bought snacks anymore, and make our own crackers, tortillas, bread, cookies and even chips. Artificial flavors, coloring or anything I cannot pronounce do not appear on any ingredient label is not welcomed.
Thankfully, I already love to cook, bake and create recipes. Hopefully sharing what we’ve learned will inspire you to never stop looking for answers. There are many types of alternative health practitioners, and I believe they each have the potential to help. It’s a matter of finding something that works for you.
p.s. We still love our Family Physician and still see her for annual check-ups.