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.

Unpredictable: a story of motherhood in my 30’s

Looking back, I wish I had been able to relax and enjoy the process, cherish each birth for what it was. Women get so many disconcerting circumstances thrown at them during pregnancy and labor. In my case, it is taking years to process it all and figure out how it has changed and molded me into the woman I am.

Pregnancy Photosession at Saulkrasti beach, Latvia | Nikon D750

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Pregnancy number 1

I was a career missionary. The title Mom wasn’t in the plan for me. Despite the unusual amount of life experience gained from missionary life, I feel like my eyes were opened to the dangers of life in this world really and truly, starting at the time I first became pregnant.

When I started blogging, I had no idea what a rainbow baby is. Now thanks to the brave mommies who share their stories, I have learned that a rainbow baby is one born to a mother who experienced a miscarriage or infant loss, often multiple times. I learned that my daughters are technically rainbow babies.

Not many know this, but I got pregnant in 2008. I was happily living my childhood dream of serving as a foreign missionary in Latvia. My husband and I had been married 10 years without so much as me having a late period. To say we were shocked when we found out would be an understatement. Becoming parents was not part of the plan. (For my non Jehovah’s Witness readers, every Witness is basically considered a volunteer Bible teacher whether they live near home or not and regardless of how many hours they are able to spend in that work. But official full-time foreign missionaries don’t have children. They pledge to spend 130 hours a month in the public ministry and as much time as necessary helping the local congregation. That does not allow for having children or a secular job.  If missionaries start a family, they need to step down from special full time service to care for their family responsibilities. We consider taking care of your family as an assignment from God as well, so we view it simply as a change of assignment.)

So like I said, this was not part of the plan. Our whole life was turned upside down in an instant. Even so, I was quickly enchanted by the idea of a little tiny person growing inside me. I’m not sure if it was hormones or something else in the way we are made as women, but I was amazingly happy. We told our immediate family, who were also thrilled. Both with the idea of a little mini ‘us’ in the making and the idea of us coming home to live. (Even though everyone was supportive of our choice, I could still tell it was hard for them to have us so far away.)

One week later, the 5 to 6 week old pregnancy was over. I was devastated. Even though it meant not having to go through the upheaval of changing our whole life, in my mind, that had almost already been done. I had unquestioningly accepted the fact that this little person would come into the world and change our lives forever. And then he or she was gone.

Somehow I moved on. I threw myself into the ministry and slowly recovered emotionally. The few who knew what had happened were super supportive. Life kept going as it had been. But inside, I felt like I had lost everything I ever wanted, even though it was something I never even knew I wanted until a week earlier. I felt surprisingly a little bitter towards this extremely fulfilling life and career I had chosen for myself, because that meant I was not to be allowed the comfort of trying again. There was no rainbow baby in my future.

I didn’t know it at the time, but what happened to me was not unusual. Around 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and of those the majority in the first trimester. I had been introduced to the roller coaster that is parenthood. Later I became pregnant again with our older daughter. This time I was skeptical and I hesitated to allow myself to get excited or too attached to the ‘bun in the oven’. Looking back I realize that my pregnancy with her was relatively trouble free. But I had been initiated. I knew now that pregnancy is dangerous.

Pregnancy number 2

With every passing week I learned about more and more dangers that in the world of obstetrics are part of the every day. Screenings, ultrasounds, blood tests, checkups. I was 32, going on 33 years old, and so already considered “elderly”. Potential risks pile higher each year older the mother. I learned about gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, genetic defects, RH factor, and danger of sepsis from strep B. I felt blindsided. Why is such a human and normal undertaking as having a baby such a risk?

My upbringing heavily influences my feelings on this subject. I’m the oldest of three, but my 2 siblings were born at home. My dad caught them. There wasn’t even a licensed midwife attending. I definitely subscribed to the notion that pregnancy is not an illness. A pregnant woman should be allowed to grow her baby without unnecessary poking and prodding, even during labor and delivery. I insisted on getting Bradley method birth classes instead of just going to what my local hospital offered.

The risk that became my obsession was breech presentation. My daughter was butt first and did not budge the entire 9 months! My biggest fear through the entire pregnancy was having a c-section. And that’s what we ended up with. I looked up and tried every method known to man to turn a breech baby, but it didn’t happen.

I was disappointed. I dreamed of the perfect relaxed natural birth, and instead I got the king of all birth interventions, a surgery!

Certain friends and advisors tried to warn me that in the business of having a baby you need to be flexible and ready for the unexpected. They emphasized that the most important thing is the well being of the baby and mother, not what kind of birth experience you have.

But I wasn’t really able to process that. I felt like I had cheated, I hadn’t done any work to deserve this beautiful newborn bundle of life. I lay there while the doctor did it all. I felt guilty. My daughter is now 7 and I’ve come to realize that being a parent means constant guilt feelings. It means sorting out conflicting ideas and information on a myriad of subjects. How to have the baby is just the first of a lifelong string of decisions and with each decision self-doubt and guilt about whether it was the right decision.

Pregnancy number 3

My pregnancy with my second daughter had me feeling more nervous. I was thrilled that I had another shot at natural childbirth but this time I was more aware of the odds that were stacked against me. Not only would this be an attempt at a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but now I was even older. At 36 I was now in the “geriatric” category. In addition to all the normal pregnancy screenings I was offered genetic tests to screen for abnormalities. I was petrified of a repeat of my last pregnancy.

However, as you mothers of multiple children know, this pregnancy and birth was nothing like my previous one. She turned head down at 32 weeks to my immense relief, but the fear of the helpless feeling that came with being forced to plan a c-section with the last birth had me on the defensive. I also think the tone of Bradley method childbirth class taught parents to be in defense mode against needless interventions as well. I sought out the hospital with the best record of VBAC births in the state and chose their midwife group for delivery.

Making a long story short, I barely, by the skin of my teeth, managed to have a VBAC. I was on the operating table being prepped for a c-section when she was born! By no means the calm, relaxed, textbook Bradley birth I was hoping for. That was probably the hardest fight in my entire life thus far. But I at least accomplished my goal. I experienced a natural, vaginal, drug free birth.

Unpredictable, maybe even dangerous, but totally worth it!

A friend of mine recently reconnected with me, and she, like me, unexpectedly had a baby after choosing a career in full time service. She and I also fervently hoped for a natural birth. I found myself now in the role of adviser and cheerleader. I found myself guardedly giving the same advice I hadn’t been able to fully process, that it’s not the birth itself but the health and safety of the mother and child that matter most. I’ll tell you what I told her. Every mom is a rock star!

Looking back, I wish I had been able to relax and enjoy the process, cherish each birth for what it was. Women get so many disconcerting circumstances thrown at them during pregnancy and labor. Most of us agonize and worry. We do research. We gladly deny ourselves anything that could potentially harm the baby. We are superheroes! But we do it humbly, quietly, willingly. And in my case, it is taking years to process it all and figure out how it has changed and molded me into the woman I am.

As parents, we sometimes struggle with losing our own identity during the process of raising children. I can identify with that feeling. But I’ve come to the conclusion, I don’t believe I’ve lost myself. True, becoming a mother totally changed my life. But look at what I’ve learned. Look at the two beautiful human beings God allowed us to create! Look at the strength and resilience I’ve discovered within myself! I would rather own this change and let it empower me, than allow it to make me feel like a lesser version of myself.

I think that each parent has to conscientiously decide what to do in each circumstance, and for each child. But after they have done all the research and made a decision, they should do their best to be at peace with that. Don’t let differing opinions make you second guess your choices. Don’t feel as if you have to take the blame for circumstances beyond your control.  Don’t get too distracted by fear or guilt to enjoy the moment. It goes by too fast!

Childbirth is a miracle. Raising children is an amazing journey. Now, whenever I feel fear and doubt creeping in, I remind myself, the best results come when you let yourself be guided by love!

I would love to know, did you moms and dads out there anticipate how unpredictable pregnancy and childbirth is? Were you prepared? Did anything about it take you by surprise? Please leave me a comment!

How to become a wiser media consumer and a wiser human.

What is bias? As a consumer, how can I choose the right media sources in this emotionally charged climate? As a writer, can I present my view to many audiences without offending?

Festival of Light " Staro Rīga " – Latvia | Nikon D750

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What do you think, can a writer or journalist ever offer something truly unbiased?

With all the news about fake news, many people are struggling to trust even traditionally trusted news sources. As a busy mom of two, my main news source is public radio. I listen to drown out fights over Barbie dolls going on in the back seat of my car, and hear some grown up conversation. I also listen in hopes of forming some kind of understanding about what is happening in my area and around the world. I grew up listening to public radio, and always assumed that “public” is a synonym for unbiased. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not writing to criticize any public radio channel or personality. I think public programming is about as close as you can get to the ideal of unbiased reporting, and I truly enjoy the content I listen to. I guess I’m just a little shocked to discover how naive I am.

Why did I not realize that bias is inherently human? It seems that the heated political climate surrounding the election in U.S.A. caused journalists here to collectively finally lose their cool. Their emotions, like many media consumers’ emotions just took over! They lost the will to be neutral in what they said because they were just plain angry. This situation has got me thinking, is it even possible for media to be unbiased, completely objective? What is bias? As a consumer, how can I choose the right media sources in this emotionally charged climate? As a writer, can I present my view to many audiences without offending?

What is bias?

According to vocabulary.com bias is a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation.  

I propose that without realizing it, we are all biased. Granted, bias is often used with a negative connotation, but I don’t believe it always is negative.  While I lived outside my home country, I learned to question the stream of information forming my viewpoint. I realized that people believe a certain set of collective traditional wisdom without even questioning it, based on what a majority of people in their area believe. I guess that’s part of what we call culture, and what causes culture shock when we move somewhere new. Those differences fascinate me.

Latvian folk dance | Nikon D750

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Culture and bias . . .

For example, what do you think of sitting in a drafty room? In Latvia and surrounding countries, collective wisdom says that if you sit in a draft you will catch a cold, or possibly even something worse. This belief is so strong that even on the hottest summer days no one wants to open a window in a crowded bus. I know, it may sound strange to some of you.  We all know the same facts about germs causing colds, but somehow this collective view about drafts is so strong, that people in Latvia believe both. They go to the doctor when they get sick and gladly take a dose of antibiotics to help them get over whatever bug is going around. But they do not want to risk sitting in a draft.  Americans, on the other hand, have taken sanitizing to the Nth degree under the assumption that if bacteria cause illness, then we must kill as many bacteria as possible.  Many of us are obsessed with antibacterial soap, despite current evidence that it doesn’t reduce our chance of catching colds any more than using regular soap. (https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm)

But the really crazy thing is, I change my behavior, depending on where I am despite what I believe.  As a resident of Latvia, I didn’t open a window when I normally would have. Not because I started believing drafts cause sickness, but because I knew it would make the people around me uncomfortable and upset. When I sneeze or cough in public in the U.S., I tend to apply antibacterial hand sanitizer, mostly to reassure those around me that I care about their health.

I’m using this subject as an example of differences in culture affecting an individual person’s beliefs or habits.  It is not intended to offend anyone who uses antibacterial products or avoids drafts. But do you see what I mean? A certain set of collective “wisdom” is believed without question, because “everybody knows” it to be true. And the prevailing belief may affect your life whether you subscribe to that idea or not. So when I traveled, I learned for the first time what some of my biases really are. I say some, because I don’t believe I’ve discovered them all. I believe it may take a lifetime of traveling, learning from, and sharing with other people to find them and decide which ones I want to keep, and which ones I should get rid of.

Media and bias . . .

Members of the media are also products of their environment. I have come to the conclusion that the content I listened to on public radio in the state where I grew up was tinted by the culture there all along.  I didn’t notice it because that culture was all I knew.  Now I have gained different cultural perspectives, and I’m discovering this thing we call bias seems to be everywhere!

Our writing is a product of what has been going into our minds and how we filter that information through our set of previous assessments and beliefs. This is why I believe it’s impossible as humans to be truly unbiased. Being part of a culture, a collective understanding of ourselves and the world, is part of being a human.

How important is “the sell”?

Another factor that affects a writer’s ability to offer unbiased content is that writing is also a product meant to “sell” to a particular audience. To read our writing, a person has to identify with it’s point of view and be interested in the slant we are offering. At times this need for audience can lead to some damaging practices such as using false information, sensationalism, or resorting to gimmicks.  It certainly influences choice of topic. I’ve noticed that parenting magazines rarely feature pieces about the dangers of too much screen time for kids anymore, not because it’s become less dangerous, but because we parents are kind of sick of hearing about it. The topic has gotten old and tired even though it’s still relevant.

Festival of Light " Staro Rīga " – Latvia | Nikon D750

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Bias within ourselves . . .

Those of you who follow developments in the field of psychology may be thinking about the cognitive biases right about now. Psychologists have pinpointed certain areas where our opinions and reality tend to differ. These are the cognitive biases.  One of them, confirmation bias, is the tendency to believe the information that confirms what we currently think. The newest discovery is the SPOT effect, which stands for Spontaneous Preference For Our Theories. I learned about this newest cognitive bias and the research that revealed it this article in The Big Think, posted by Robby Berman on March 6th.(http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/my-theory-is-true-if-i-do-say-so-myself)  So apparently we are wired to stick to our own point of view, sometimes ignoring logic or evidence. I have to admit that learning about these built-in biases has made me start mistrusting myself a little.

In order to avoid letting your own biases become too extreme or too narrow, I recommend listening to an opposing viewpoint from time to time. Watch a news media channel you normally don’t, read a different newspaper, look for different social media feeds, befriend someone new. Try not to immediately break in, either mentally or verbally when they say something you don’t entirely agree with. Let them have their say completely. Of course we have to set certain standards for what goes into our mind, and filter everything through those.  But don’t judge. Respect the other person’s right to an opinion. Really try to understand why they think the way they do. You may be surprised how alike we all are in the end.

If being biased is inherently human, can it be inherently wrong? Isn’t it part of the beauty and diversity of the human family? Having an opinion is not wrong. Instead of letting our bias fuel fear and hate, I think we should couple it with respect for each person’s God-given free will. One of the best pieces of advice I got when adapting to life in a different culture was, don’t try to be one of them, you never can be, try to behave as a guest should. As their guest you must respect their views and ways. But to respect does not necessarily mean to adopt them as your own. Similarly, when you read someone else’s work, you are a guest in their mind. Let their work inform and educate you, but do not feel obligated to take on their beliefs as your own or disprove them if you disagree.

Sunrise at Ķemeri National Park, Latvia | Nikon D750

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Is there any writing that is completely trustworthy?

How can you tell if something you’re reading can be believed? Often it helps to look at the source. How transparent are they about their sources? Do they have a vested interest in promoting a certain view? Ultimately, I believe the best measure of trustworthiness is this; does it agree with what the Creator of humankind and this universe has revealed in the Bible? That is the information filter I use.  Like laws of physics which are self evident, Bible principles and narratives speak to all humans whatever our culture and background. Isn’t that as close to unbiased as we can get?

The 5 Senses of Feelings

macroportraitdroplets.jpgPhoto credit: @garythomas_photography  Instagram

“Just think positive.”

Have you ever heard those words and said to yourself, I CAN’T!?  If you have ever dealt with clinical depression, chances are a well-meaning loved one has said them to you.  You may have struggled to find a way to explain to your would-be comforter that it just doesn’t work that way.  Well, a dear friend of mine has come up with a way.  And I think it’s brilliant!

Feelings, those fleeting, illogical things that our brain creates from a combination of neural connections and chemistry.  Why can’t a person with a disorder affecting his or her emotions just “think positive”?

 

Five Senses

Photo credit: Nicki Dugan Pogue

Well, imagine you wake up one day and your 5 senses are not working properly.  You can’t smell or taste, and your sight is only registering black and white.  You are disturbed by this sudden change, and you have no idea if your ability to smell, taste, or see in color will ever come back. Your other senses of hearing and touch are hypersensitive, leaving you feeling bombarded and irritated by the tiniest sound or touch.  If someone told you, “you’ll feel better if you come outside and smell the roses,” what would that accomplish?  Absolutely nothing!  Except possibly to leave you feeling exasperated and misunderstood.

Each sense = an emotion

If you deal with depression, maybe this tip will help you break through to those logical, rational beings in your life (or even within yourself) who need something tangible to explain something abstract.  When your joy and happiness have disappeared, and your fear and anger are hyper-alert, it’s not because you decided one day to dwell on the negative.  It’s because your emotional senses have become impaired for whatever reason, possibly a trauma, anxiety disorder, a chemical imbalance.

And if you have a loved one who is depressed, you surely feel their pain.  Don’t assume that the answers lie in a simple formula: think positive, get out more, eat right, focus on others, etc. etc.  If that were true, the blight of depression would not exist.  Try to understand, listen, empathize.  Don’t take the emotions they feel personally.  Give them a hug!  And don’t let them give up hope that the 5 senses of feelings will be restored one day. Once again they will be in that rose garden, seeing the color, smelling the fragrance, and loving life again!

Photo credit @antikleopatra Instagram

 

Dark

I’ve discovered I’m in the minority on the subject of darkness. I love to go outside in the dark!

I’ve discovered I’m in the minority on the subject of darkness. I love to go outside in the dark!

Do you know that feeling when someone takes your picture and the flash blinds you? In our modern world, we are all unknowingly being blinded. Headlights, street lamps, front porch lights, city lights are all blinding our eyes to the brightness of night.

You’re probably saying, “brightness of night?! Is she crazy?” Ok, maybe a little, but maybe I can help you understand what I mean.

When I was little our family often went camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness between Minnesota and Ontario. (Yes, it is in all capitals! In Minnesota anything having to do with nature is given high status. The DNR are more powerful than the local police. We take our nature seriously.)

When we were out in the wilderness, the worst thing you could imagine was having to get out of the tent at night and walk to the bathroom down a tiny path leading away from the campsite on the lake’s edge and taking you deeper into the forest. Imagine how petrifying! Now I was not one to be afraid of the dark. I used to argue with my little sister in our bedroom at home, trying to get her to turn off the night light, but she refused. But even I felt nervous to leave the tent at night.

One night my dad showed me the beauty of darkness. He told me it was much easier to follow the trail without turning on the flashlight. I was skeptical, but when I tried it, wow! It was a revelation to me! Our eyes are made to slowly adjust to darkness, probably because darkness falls gradually in the evening. But when you turn your flashlight on suddenly, your eyes are forced to close the pupils as if in daylight. It pushes the dark out and keeps it at arms length like an invisible fence, turning the darkness into an enemy. Outside your little circle of light you can’t see anything. Any little noise from out there in the shadows gets amplified and twisted by our instinctual fear of the unknown.

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When you don’t turn on your flashlight, your eyes, accustomed to the darkness see all the details of the path in stark relief against the soft moonlight and the pinpricks of starlight. There are no shadows beyond and you are a shadow. The darkness of night is no longer an enemy, but a comforting friend. And you discover that night is not dark at all, it’s just like daytime only in black and white.