Endings 

So it’s the end of the school year. Another year done. Finished, complete. That means my baby is getting older!(sobbing voice, sniffle). But I’m so proud of her for all she has accomplished this year.

I’m such a rookie mom, but I hope I’m starting to get a few things figured out. Having my oldest start school was like entering a whole new world. I have had little to zero contact with the world of formal education since my own graduation from high school. Not only has it been a long time, but times have changed, and the style of education has changed too. I’ve changed. Now I’m approaching it from the perspective of a mom not a student. School years seem to go by quickly and slowly all at once. One school year ends. The next one will start up before 2017 gives way to 2018. My newfound mom perspective makes the time seem to fly.

I’ve been thinking about how deeply children feel the changes involved in their school career. They say goodbye to a beloved teacher, they move on to a new classroom, often with a new group of students. Some switch to a new school. Everything starts again. It’s true, they have the experience of past years, but essentially it’s a new start. It’s almost like changing your entire family every year. There’s a new mother or father figure, new siblings. If the child is moving into upper grades, there could be a complete structure change, from one classroom most of the day to different ones per subject.

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I can see the positives of these changes. If there’s a bad mix of personalities in a class, well next year there will be a new group. Also, the teaching style has to change with the development of the children. But the emotional aspect of it all took me by surprise. Imagine the emotions you would feel if you literally had to change parents and siblings. The time it takes to build trust again. To understand your new family and your place in it. To mourn the absence of your old family. That all seems to happen on a mini scale. The summer break softens it a little. It gives an emotional respite, some breathing room to regroup.

As for myself, I look forward to the summer, to having my girl with me all day every day. To being the main adult in her life again. To not having to share her with perfect strangers most of the day. On the other hand, when the new school year starts, we all enjoy having the added structure to our days, accomplishing something that is measurable in lesson plans and report cards.

My conclusion so far has been that the benefits of change have outweighed the drawbacks. Sure it can be tough in the moment. But we also want our little ones to learn how to be resilient, adaptable. And each teacher leaves his or her stamp on the children’s little minds. You never know which one will be the one to unlock your child’s hidden potential or help them spark a lifelong passion.

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I overheard the sweetest goodbye speech by our K-3 gradeschool’s art teacher to her third graders. She reminded them that everyone’s an artist. She said even if they don’t know it yet, each one of them has a talent they can enjoy and share with the world.

Each school year is a milestone. Maybe it seems more so to me now than it did when I was in school. In my mom perspective it marks the calendar with a date that symbolizes the physical and mental growth my child experiences with each passing year. A stamp that marks off the passage of time.

That one day, The Last Day of School, embodies all the achievements and growth, all the challenges met and overcome, all of the inches and shoe sizes gained, all the baby teeth lost.

Another school year gone, never to return. Did she learn what she needed? Did she enjoy the process? Did she make friends? Was she a good friend? Did she stand up for herself and for what she believes in? I hope and pray the answer is yes. Because what comes to pass in these formative years will leave it’s indelible mark on her mind and personality.

Time

Is time real? Opinion is divided among physicists on this question. I’m not a scientist but I love science.

I’ve noticed that many scientific ideas are presented to the public while they have yet to be proven. This has definitely been the case with this mind bending question, what is time? When I think about it, my brain almost hurts and I feel as if I’m straddling the borders of science, philosophy, and religion. 

From a physics point of view, time defies categorization. Physicists attempt to explain the universe by breaking down each component into the smallest possible increment, the fundamental measurement, the quantum. (Space and light cause controversy as well. Is light a wave or a particle? How many dimensions does space have?) Time seems to break down into nonexistence after 10 to the -43rd degree. This has led to the possible conclusion that time only exists in our perception. The only reality is now, and time is simply a series of nows that we perceive as past, present, or future.

If I understand this theory correctly that argument disintegrates into an infinite mirror effect. Like when you look at a reflection of yourself looking in the mirror and in that mirror you see yourself looking in the mirror on into infinity. If time doesn’t exist, does physical matter even exist or do objects exist only when we perceive or measure them? From that point of view, this theory of time is also just the perception of the scientists who believe it. When they cease to exist, so will this idea. This logic leads to the belief that nothing is real.  

I wondered, what does the Bible teach about time? Here are a few truths I found:

  1.  God made the heavenly bodies and natural laws that allow humans on earth to perceive the passing of time. He also made our brains with the ability to understand this concept. “Then God said: “Let there be luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to make a division between the day and the night, and they will serve as signs for seasons and for days and years.” Genesis 1:14. So the natural division of a day is created specifically for human inhabitants of earth. Seasons and years also have natural divisions visible on earth. This is not inconsistent with scientific theories that time is relative. A person standing on Jupiter would perceive a day and a year much differently. To the Author of the Bible though, the important perspective was that of humans on earth, the intended readers of that book.
  2. Since He Created ‘time’, He stands above it’s constraints. The prophet Daniel wrote, “He changes times and seasons.” Dan.2:21. At Psalm 90:2 it says God is “from everlasting to everlasting”. And verse 4 says a thousand years to him are “as yesterday when it is past”. For him even a thousand years could be just one unbroken time period in which he begins and completes some activity or purpose.
  3. Many verses in the Bible inform humans of the definite time appointments God has set for certain actions toward earth. For example Gal. 4:4 says God sent his son “when the full limit of the time arrived”. Prophecy is an integral part of the Bible, which means that our view of the future is important to God. He wants us to have hope, and so the Bible is full of promises of everlasting life. 

From these points I conclude that God meant us to have a sense of time.

Consciousness and our sense of self depend on experiences and memories, which require the passage of time to accumulate. These things can’t be easily measured or quantified, they often tend to be skewed and illogical, yet they help form who we are. It’s a miracle of life that each human who has ever lived is completely unique.

My question is: does it matter whether time disappears after being broken down into immeasurably tiny increments? In the grand scheme of things does this theory, even if it turns out to be true, change anything about the way we should live our life in order to be successful and happy? I would argue that it doesn’t. If I want to make sense of human history, and my place in it, I need to accept God’s construction of time. 

This doesn’t mean I believe time is a restriction of my free will. I believe the passing of time molds my choices based on my previous experiences and thus develops my exercise of free will into a more rounded out process. Which is another way of saying what the proverbs already say, knowledge and understanding build wisdom. However, true wisdom requires a reverence for the Creator, otherwise how can our choices fit the construction of the universe and fulfill our place in it?

To me, it’s a beautiful thing, the way space, time, energy, matter, and the perceptions of each of us meld to produce the physical world we inhabit. It contains limitless potential for exploration and fuel for the imagination. 

Photo credit: Holly Ziemba

Articles and videos used to research this post:

http://wakingscience.com/2016/02/quantum-physicists-why-time-is-not-real/
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.livescience.com/29081-time-real-illusion-smolin.html#ampshare=http://www.livescience.com/29081-time-real-illusion-smolin.html
https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001132
https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200000970

Spring

Spring is here and it’s my favorite season. I love watching as frozen landscapes come to life. Ice on water gradually fades into transparency, and the next moment waves dance on its surface. Snowbanks turn dingy and brown but remain after the ground cover of snow has melted like stubborn old men.

And the smells of spring! A little mud, some new greenery, some moldy leftovers of last year’s fallen leaves. Smells of old and new, conflicting yet shouting to your nostrils in one voice, spring is here. The smell of rain sinking into the soft ground and then snatched up by tree roots ascending to feed the fat buds of baby leaves.

The sounds. In New England it’s peepers with their incessant nighttime chirrup. It becomes so embedded into the background that you don’t even notice them until your 2 year old, looking quite nervous asks, “mommy, what is that noise?” In Minnesota, loons start making their calls that similar to howls echo from the distant shore. In Latvia the clacking of stork beaks rattle as they settle into their nests after returning north.

And the colors, that pale baby leaf green that looks like a hazy halo in the treetops. The dark brown mud during spring rains. The blue sky, it’s own new blue, as if the sky was just born yesterday too, along with the baby robins hatching from their speckled blue eggs. And the white, purple, yellow, pink, orange of spring flowers. Crocuses, daffodils, lily of the valley, tulips, hyacinth.

Photo credit to my talented friends on instagram @antikleopatra and @_jnphotography_

Patience

In short supply and high demand, this virtue is something I’m striving for. You moms and dads, can you relate? My little one starts screeching or whining and it takes exactly half a second for it to get under my skin and stretch my nerves to the snapping point. 

While volunteering at my daughter’s school today, I heard a popular quote or, more accurately a proverb. It got me thinking about patience. I have already been working on not responding to the tantrum, being the grown up, and keeping my cool. When I’m in the school and I see teachers doing this every day with large groups of children I am constantly amazed. One of the teachers told us that one particularly stressful morning, she happened to catch a glimpse of the coffee shop barista’s tattoo on her arm. It said

This too shall pass 

 

This is something her mother always said to her while she was growing up. And she felt as if she was meant to see those words that morning. The barista is also a mother and she survives each day with the constant reminder of those words.

This too shall pass. When you think about that phrase, and really let the meaning sink in, it’s the equivalent of a mental deep cleansing breath. It means you can get through this.



But it also means you’d better cherish this. I need this double sided reminder. These days and years when they are little are so transient. Every day they change. And they will never be little again.

This too shall pass, so savor the good parts and breathe through the tough parts. You got this!

Macro

One day from my childhood stands out like a jewel in my memory. We were traveling to a very remote lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Before writing on, I tried using Google maps to scroll around the lakes and refresh my memory so I could tell you the name of the lake, but I give up. Mom and Dad, when you read this you’ll have to help me out.

We went on a day trip from our campsite to visit this little lake, and if I remember right, there weren’t even any sites on it and it didn’t lead to any other lake either. In other words, about as remote as you can get in the lower 48!

Photo credit: Christine D’Anza

It was a perfect day full of sunshine and sparkle. You know when there’s a very light wind and the waves are barely bigger than ripples. The sun reflects off each ripple so the lake looks like it’s wearing sequins. I remember canoeing around and then landing on shore. We all got out and just wandered around exploring. I came across a perfect rock shelf about 8 inches above the water line and just the right size for me to lie down on and stare into the lake.

I was instantly transported to a different world. Under water, creeping along the vertical face of my shelf were about 40 tiny snails. I actually counted them. I watched long enough to discover that each one was traveling a slightly different direction. They were going about their daily business totally unaware of their observer from above. Some were speeding right along, others took their time. That conclusion in itself seemed weird. A snail’s pace is one speed, slow, right? Actually, no!

When I finally got up, I had absolutely no idea how much time had gone by. Space and time had bent and stretched in ways I had never considered possible, until I experienced this vertical world where time moves at a snail’s pace. I had been so completely engulfed in what I imagined to be Snail Times Square, that I lost all sense of reality and was unaware of anything else around me.

Here are some pictures and video I took this week, using a macro lens on my phone. Looking at the world in macro brought the memory of Snail Times Square rushing back!

*Update: Mom says we weren’t in the Boundary Waters but Ontario, Canada and it was Eric Lake.  Sorry Google maps, it wasn’t your fault I couldn’t find the lake!

Good morning, beautiful?

Beauty and diet, aaaagh!

This morning, when I woke up and looked at myself in the gigantic full-length bathroom mirror, I was pleased with what I saw for the first time in a long time. Ever since children happened to my body, I have felt self-conscious of a belly pooch that won’t go away. But today I feel like the belly area is acceptable. Not amazing, but acceptable. Because of this I find myself heading into the very unfamiliar territory of beauty and diet with this post. I can’t even believe this is happening to me, the one who has had one single salon manicure in her entire life. The one who is too lazy to make an appointment to get her hair done. The one who has literally spent approximately 2 1/2 hours for the entire year of 2017 so far clothes shopping for herself. The one who likes comfortable earrings that match everything so she can go 2 weeks without changing them. Well, here I go. Bear with me. Please don’t judge. But you may be surprised where this post ends up.

 

So, I’m wearing a skirt today. While showering I mull over the various basic black skirts I have in my closet, and I find myself settling on a full volume skirt I bought about 10 years ago. Way pre-child days. To spare you the trouble of trying to understand the descriptions of someone so fashion challenged, I’m adding selfies here. (The horror, I’m sorry. If you keep following my blog after all of this, you are a true friend.) And then I thought to myself, why is it that when I am comfortable with my body, I am comfortable wearing styles that add bulk, but when I’m not, I opt for more form fitting silhouettes? I wore the bulkier one, and I felt good.  It just goes to show, beauty is not necessarily in how you look, but also in how you feel.

I’m not counting calories or dieting. I haven’t been exercising more than usual. By that I mean chasing my girls around or carrying laundry baskets and groceries up and down the stairs. This is not because I’m satisfied with my body. It’s pure laziness, *please see my previous explanation of my beauty philosophy. So, while showering I also started wondering why my belly blob seems to have gone away, finally. This is when the swirl of thoughts and recent conversations rolled together in my mind to come up with the substance of this blog post. I believe this miracle of belly fat disappearance is because I recently pinpointed a food allergy I have, and enough time has gone by for my body to regain it’s health since I started strictly cutting my allergens out of my diet.

Allergies and intolerances

Now here’s something I know more about. I feel entirely comfortable with this subject, because I have had food allergies all my life. I have a severe tree nut allergy, and as a child I was also allergic to eggs, dairy products, legumes, and coconut. My parents once dreamed of being vegetarian. Then I was born. Try getting any plant protein into a kid who can’t have nuts or legumes. Oh, that’s OK, just give her cottage cheese or eggs. Nope, never mind. She just threw up. Legume allergy meant no soy. I challenge you to find a pre-made salad dressing, non-dairy spread, pasta sauce, or store bought loaf of bread with no soybean products in it!

My mom was amazing! She made homemade whole wheat bread the entire time I was growing up. She taught me words like whey and lecithin. Ingredient label speak for milk and soy products. Even when I was 3 years old, an adult could read me a label and I could tell them if I could eat that food or not. She became an expert at adjusting recipes to be allergy friendly. Keep in mind, this was the 70’s. I was still the weird allergic kid that everyone was afraid to inadvertently poison. Allergy awareness was not a thing. There were no rice, soy, or almond milks in the section next to dairy. (Weirdly again, I am not allergic to almonds or peanuts.) So my mom made almond milk for me with a blender and a cheesecloth. She made me peanut butter and carob balls as a substitute for chocolates.

Of course, I took this all for granted as a kid. I knew, eat that, you may end up in the ER, so don’t even go there kiddo. My favorite food on pizza night was Dinty Moore Beef Stew. (anyone?? I thought not, lol) dinty-moore-stewAnd I didn’t feel deprived. I was the kid eating fruit leather from the Whole Foods store before that was the cool thing to do. Looking back, I realize how wonderful it is to have a mom like that who was able to roll with the punches. She kept me fed, healthy, and even happy with what I could eat.

Once in my volunteer work I met a mom who’s infant had just been diagnosed with several food allergies, and she was distraught. Her mind was zooming ahead through her baby boy’s life, and she was envisioning all kinds of issues and problems. Like a gift from God, I appeared at her door. A living specimen of a functioning, normal adult with food allergies. My tips about how my mom dealt with it as well as my reassurances that I had a truly happy childhood calmed her fears. That was the first time I had thought about this subject from a parent’s perspective.

So if you are a parent of a child with food allergies, take heart. I survived. So did my mom.

In my adult years my dairy and legume allergy went away. I was able to eat any dairy products I wanted for about 15 years until I started experiencing sudden digestion and fatigue issues. A couple of years went by before I connected them with dairy. I know, duh, right? Just wait. I quit eating yogurt and cottage cheese, stopped adding milk or cream to my coffee. I felt much better. Fast forward to earlier this year, another 7 years later. Once again, digestive issues and other mystery symptoms were plaguing me. Things like clenching my teeth in my sleep, wheeziness, sinus headaches. I was a little baffled. So I went into battle mode, allergy sleuth style. I decided to do an elimination diet of all potential culprits. I gathered my tools: a bullet journal, a couple of allergy cookbooks, a calendar for scheduling when to reintroduce certain foods. I went all out. I cut out things I never had an issue with in the past, because I was going to get to the bottom of this.

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My bullet journal. Not pretty, I know. Nothing glamorous is happening in this post 😛

Five weeks later after many baffled evenings contemplating my growing pile of conflicting evidence, there was an epiphany, a light bulb! I read the label on the English muffins I usually eat for breakfast and guess what? Yep, dairy! Duh! I had forgotten about breads, cereals, granola bars, crackers, dressings, sauces. I spent five weeks sleuthing out what I already knew I was allergic too. Grr, (eye roll) whew! I dusted off my ingredient label skills and I have now weeded out all hidden dairy (and soy was causing the wheeziness, so I’ve also gotten stricter with that). Good morning to a day of poochlessness. Yay!

Do you have unexplained fatigue, headaches, digestion issues, bloating, sinus problems, etc, etc? I highly recommend doing a little detective work yourself. I suspect many, many people would feel much healthier (plus happier) if they were able to pinpoint hidden food allergies or intolerances. It is much simpler than it seems. I felt overwhelmed too, even with my extensive food allergy experience, when I started my elimination diet. But it has been so worth it. It’s not just the belly. It’s your mood, your well being, your pain level.

Here are some suggestions that may help you get started.

  1. Do you have any health conditions? Start by researching diets geared toward that. For example, if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, many experts recommend restricting dairy and/or gluten. For some conditions a vegetarian diet is recommended.
  2. Make a list of foods or food groups that you would like to test.
  3. Make a list of symptoms you feel.
  4. Make a menu plan. In my case, I did better using a general plan versus writing out complete menus with recipes, but do what is easiest for you. Aim for at least 3 weeks of NO suspect foods at all.
  5. Go shopping. Make sure you have plenty of allowed food in the house. No one needs to starve!
  6. Using a calendar, plot a plan for reintroducing foods one by one, with a 2 day gap in between for noting symptoms. This way you will be completely certain which food causes which symptom.
  7. When reintroducing foods, take careful note of how you feel the next couple of days. Don’t worry, it will be pretty clear if something bothers you.
  8. Get answers, and hopefully a little relief.

 

5 steps to quiet anxiety

I’ve done a lot of research on how to cope with anxiety in the past year. This is not something I’ve ever felt. So when someone I love started experiencing anxiety, I could not relate. I needed to help her, but I had no idea how to deal with anxiety. Thankfully, there are some really helpful books out there for children and adults. I started by putting a few on hold at my local library. I would educate myself, and we would get through this!

One thing I learned is that anxiety is very common. If you deal with anxiety, you are not alone! 1 in 8 children and 18% of adults in the United States have anxiety disorder. Many more struggle with feelings of anxiety or panic but are not officially diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

I was convinced of two things: 1) I did not want her to feel unsafe 2) I wanted her to be armed and ready to face her fears.

I knew she would have a huge struggle on her hands all her life if she got into the habit of giving in to her fears and running away from scary situations.

These are 5 steps to follow when fighting anxiety or dealing with a panic attack. This especially holds true when you don’t have a trusted person around to help you. Or, if you are the trusted helper to someone with anxiety, you can refer to these steps when your loved one is feeling overwhelmed. First we practiced together and I talked her through each step. Then I explained that she could do the same on her own even when I wasn’t there to help her out.

  • Label the fear
  • Ask yourself, is it true or false
  • Take deep breaths
  • Say a prayer
  • Lock it away or let it go

This is why each step helps:

  1. Label the fear. It helps to label what exactly makes you anxious. Otherwise it’s just a big, overwhelming emotion. By labeling it you start to take control.
  2. Ask yourself; is it true or false? If the thing or situation you fear starts with the words “what if”, it’s false. And 9 times out of 10, the worry starts with those words. Panic is when your brain starts up the fight or flight response. This is a perfectly normal and useful process, except when it kicks in in response to something that is not immediately dangerous. Usually when anxiety takes over, your panic is lying to you and making something that isn’t dangerous seem to be. Now you’ve labeled your fear or worry and your brain knows it’s not really dangerous.
  3. Take deep breaths. This helps your body calm itself down from the fight or flight response.
  4. Say a prayer. Prayer is calming, but also reminds you that you are never truly alone. Who better to have on your side when you feel afraid than a loving, all-powerful Father?
  5. Lock it away or let it go. For an adult who has experience with anxiety, you may be able to just let it go. But if this is new to you and you aren’t sure whether this item you fear is or is not truly dangerous, put away the worry for now. Lock it up until you can talk about it with a trusted listener or write it out in a journal. When you are calm and feel safe, the worry won’t seem as real or as dangerous. You will be able to put it into the right perspective. This helps lessen the impact anxiety has on your everyday life. A word of caution, make sure you do later express your feelings in a healthy way. 

Learning to ride out the panic wave, using these techniques has really helped.  I hope they help you as well. It’s good to have some tools to deal with panic and anxiety. These steps don’t make anxiety go away. I’ve learned that it comes and goes randomly, when you least expect it. But knowing what to do when anxiety strikes is invaluable.

This challenge is relatively new to us.  We are just learning how to deal with panic and anxiety.  This simple theory has worked for now.  I’ll keep you posted if we learn more useful tips as we go along.

Have you used any of these 5 steps to deal with anxiety? What else have you found that helps? Please leave a comment below.