Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ēostre

Hair alive and wild
meringue tipped cerulean
gales taming my heat.

 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Special Delivery: Garden Hoard


My seed stash is officially reaching hoarder status, and I blame it all on companies like Garden Hoard, Baker Creek Seeds, and Seeds Now for dazzling me with their enchanting selections of organic, heirloom, and non-gmo inventory.  But, I suppose all things considered, seeds aren't the worst things in the world to be "hoarding," and you're certainly not likely to find a family of dead cat skeletons under my seed collection, so I figure I'm still within a healthy range.  I am, however, desperate to get them in the ground.  Like, toddler on Christmas Eve all planting season long -- My window sills are already overtaken with the ones I couldn't wait any longer to start, and now I wait for the weather to relax a little since I'm not trying to turn my garden dressed like the Gorton's Fisherman in a monsoon.  I know I'm PNW stock, and like a good rainstorm, but even I have my limits, especially when it comes to Spring yard work. 

Until it dries up around here, you'll have to excuse me while I fan-girl out a little bit over Garden Hoard.  Female owned, and operated, Garden Hoard brings us a decent sized inventory cultivated, and grown on their newly-ish acquired Renegade Acres where they've been able to consolidate their growing operation to one location.  What I love most about this business, aside from getting to watch it grow from its infancy (@gardenhoard for those kool kats on ig), is the amount of care, put into every aspect of it.  This is a business that wants to grow, and thrive, run by people who really believe in what they're doing -- and that's something I can totally get behind.  A lot of seed companies will throw in a free packet of something or another, and that's great (who doesn't love a freebie?), but Katie & Christopher stuff orders with complementary seed sowing, saving, and fact sheets that, if you're a nerd like me, can be tucked straight into your gardening book (gigantic 3-ring binder in my case) creating an excellent little quick reference library.  And since they do everything hands-on, personally, it's nice to have pieces of their advice for what has worked for their seeds based on first-hand experience, and not just generic generalizations.  I can't sing their praises enough, but if you're looking to put in a garden this year, especially if this is your very first, I definitely think Garden Hoard is worth checking out!

xoxo

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Invictus

 Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.


-William Ernest Henley 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Small Leak Will Sink a Great Ship


~Benjamin Franklin


"Leaky gut" is a phrase you've probably heard a lot recently, especially as the syndrome picks up popularity in alternative health circles, and natural publications.  The problem is, it doesn't exist, at least, it isn't a diagnosis taught in medical school.  This poses quite a problem when trying to find a qualified physician to help you navigate the path of intestinal permeability.  That's what you need to call it, by the way, to be taken remotely seriously by a healthcare professional: Intestinal Permeability.

What's the big deal anyway?  What's all the fuss about?  Why is everyone obsessed with guts these days?  Well, Hippocrates (the Father of Modern Medicine 460-370 BC), himself told us, "All disease begins in the gut," and with recent developments in our understanding of the importance of the human microbiome, as well as the gut-brain connection it seems science is finally catching up with his teachings.  Just think how advanced we could be if mankind didn't have to learn every single lesson the hard way, but I digress.  Gut health, if you've done any personal research on the topic already, you've discovered is incredibly important, and when it's compromised even by the smallest of "leaks" the effects are far reaching, and linked (but not limited) to:
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Bowel problems (probably the most obvious)
  • Diabetes (II) 
  • Depleted immune function
  • Eczema (among a whole host of skin conditions) 
  • Female reproductive health complications
  • Mental health (anxiety, depression, bi-polar, etc.)
  • Migraine 
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Weight management problems (overweight / underweight)

So, you've been in digestion-hell or suffering with seemingly random maladies, googled your symptoms, and fallen down the rabbit hole that is WebMD and are convinced you'll be dead within weeks ... What's to be done now, then?  Maybe before getting your affairs in order, you could look over the regimen I used to support my body on its path to healing, and incorporate what is manageable to you.    
Worth mentioning first, is that fresh is always best.  However, I know it's not even remotely realistic for everyone to be growing herbs and medicinal plants in their own back yard (never mind how difficult, and sanitarily suspect it would be to get in on the first feeding of a mammal post-birth!  More on that later...) so, do your best to find high quality supplements from brands you feel you can trust. 

Licorice Root (DGL-deglycyrrhizinated licorice root)
  • What it's for: Protects against ulcer formation, discourages proliferation of H. pylori, provides acid reflux and digestive support, soothes sore throats and coughs, prevents autoimmunity, relives constipation, offers adrenal support, and eases the discomfort of many female reproductive issues, among a laundry list of other things. 
  • How to use it: Chewable tablets (500 mg) three times a day 20 minutes before meals.
  • Warnings: Headache, heart palpitations because the glycyrrhizin compound causes potassium levels in the body to drop leading to abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure (over extended use).
This is something meant for small doses, and short periods in order to heal, and move on.  As one of the first supplements I found to aid in my sub-par digestive experience, I made it through 2 bottles, and found it very helpful before retiring it from my routine.  By then, I had graduated to Betaine HCL with pepsin, and digestive enzymes to better, and more fully break down my food which made digestion an overall more comfortable, and gentle experience.  When you find yourself with lackluster gut health it is not uncommon to have low stomach acid levels, or have low output of naturally occurring digestive enzymes leaving the food you eat sitting too long, and purifying in your stomach and then shoved through the rest of the digestive tract in its awkward state as opposed to being properly broken down into a substance your intestines can absorb nutrients from.  Read more about low stomach acid (as well as its connection with heartburn and GERD) here.

Marshmallow Root
  • What it's for: Soothes mucus membranes, and protects against stomach ulcers, acid reflux and digestive disorders, restores saliva volume, alleviates sore throat, cough, and cold, respiratory infection, eases asthma, ulerative colitis and Chron's disease, offers kidney support, treats eczema and myriad skin conditions, as well as small cuts, and burns.  It's even helpful in decreasing inflammation in teething infants - many people peel the root, and let the child chew on it.  If that doesn't work, cut it in half and stick one piece in each of your ears.
  • How to use it: 2 capsules (480 mg) three times a day with meals.
  • Warnings: Typically considered safe while pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your healthcare professional before using, and use caution if diabetic as it could be linked to drops in blood sugar levels.  It may also cause malabsorption of medications, be sure to wait 1 hour after taking any medicine or supplements before ingesting.
Plantain (yeah, that funny little weed growing in your yard)
  • What it's for: With anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties that heal intestinal wounds, seal intestinal permeability, and protects the liver just to name a few.  Used topically for for all manner of skin conditions including sunburns, burns, minor cuts, blisters, insect & snake bites, and stings. 
  • How to use it: Rinse 2 cup of leaves and combine in french press with 4 cups of water, and steep until cool, once strained it can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Or cram a few handfuls through your juicer and drink with veggie juice of your choice.
  • Warnings:  I can't find a definitive answer, but people with melon allergies should use caution with this herb.  Pregnant, and breastfeeding women should also avoid it, as it is rumored to assist in miscarriage.
 
Slippery Elm
  • What it's for: Stimulates nerve endings in intestinal tract, increases body's mucus secretion, enhances stomach lining, combats excessive acidity & ulcers in digestive tract.  It is also a hefty antioxidant that guards against inflammation.
  • How to use it: Mix 1 teaspoon of powder with 8 oz boiling water, stir & sip. 
  • Warnings: Slippery Elm has been rumored to cause miscarriage, and while no scientific proof of this claim exists, it is wise to exercise caution.  It may also cause malabsorption of medications, be sure to wait 1 hour after taking any medicine or supplements before ingesting.
Slippery Elm, Marshmallow Root, Plantain, and Licorice Root are all considered demulcent herbs, which simply means that they create a protective coating that diminishes irritation and inflammation of the mucus membranes.  

Colostrum
  • What it's for: Praised for it's immune boosting, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-aging properties, it is said to provide support for healthy cells in your skin, hair, joints, bones, and organs, and used to heal injuries, repair the nervous system, and what we're most interested in here, it helps to seal the digestive tract, and keep pathogens and toxins from passing through our intestinal walls, and protects against further inflammation.
  • How to use it: 3 capsules (1500mg) twice a day on an empty stomach.
  • Warnings: Use caution with bovine allergies.  Although rare, people with HIV need to be aware of possible nausea, vomiting, abnormal liver function, and decreased red blood cells.
This might be the most difficult of all to acquire in its freshest form, nor would it be entirely appealing to ingest I imagine, but what you can do is look for a product that boasts USDA Grade A bovine origins and is BSE, antibiotic, pesticide, and hormone free.  Also look for a "first milking" derived product, and of course third party verification is preferred.  I was most apprehensive to try this supplement, myself, because I actually have a beef, and cow milk allergy so I wasn't exactly sure what would happen or what kind of undesirable reaction I was in store for, but I was in so much pain and discomfort, and so sickly, and weak I kind of didn't care what happened to me after I swallowed the capsule.  To my astonishment, nothing happened!  Nothing negative that I could discern, anyway, and honestly that was good enough for me, but even better was that I began to feel better almost immediately in my supplementation process.

Possibly the single most important thing you can do for yourself during this supplementation and healing process is to slash inflammation in your system by eliminating any foods that are known irritants (dairy, corn, gluten, soy, sugar, and wheat) and focusing on incorporating as many gentle, organic, whole foods into your diet as possible.  Juicing is also incredibly helpful, and allows you to flood your body with vitamins, nutrients, and trace minerals you've been deprived of because of your struggle with intestinal permeability.  One excellent juice used to raise stomach acidity is fresh, pure celery juice first thing on an empty stomach.  If you haven't researched the benefits of ordinary celery juice yet, I urge you to do so, it's basically a miracle food.

I've mentioned earlier in this post the topic of low stomach acid levels, and another great juice, and handy way to test yourself for low stomach acid or check your progress with healing your gut is beet juice (see my favorite recipe below).  After ingesting a beet or its juice, if your urine has pink tinges of color it is likely you have low levels of stomach acid.

Just Beet it!
1 beet
2-3 carrots
1-2 apples
1/2 lime
1" knob of ginger

Run everything except the lime through your juicer (I prefer an auger model), once finished, ream your lime and combine with the rest of the juice, serve and enjoy!

Additional supplements and foods you can add to your daily routine to aid this process include: Aloe Vera Juice, Chamomile, Coconut oil, Ginger, Glutamine, Green leafy vegetables, and Yarrow.  

Happy healing!

xoxo

Monday, March 27, 2017

Life After The Day of the Dead: Marigold Drying Instructions

A couple of summers ago I discovered the deliciousness that is fresh Marigold Tea
October 2016: Brocade Mix (Tagetes Patula)
Never one to be bowled over by the beauty or even particularly interested in marigolds, I began planting them strictly as borders in my raised garden beds to act as a natural pesticide, and guardian to the other, more tender plants inhabiting the protected interior.

What anyone who's ever grown this little flower possibly most easily recognized for its association with Dia de los Muertos will tell you is how ridiculously easy they are to grow, how prolific the blooms are (they go positively wild with frequent clipping, and proper dead-heading), and how insanely long the growing season is (especially in the mild PNW) -- Last year they were still going strong all the way through mid-November. 

Rinsed & Drying on a rack
After witnessing this explosion of carmine, canary, and cadmium myself, I knew I had to figure out something to do with all of these flowers since just collecting, and drying for seed saving wasn't enough to stay ahead of the output, had me swimming in more seeds than I knew what to do with, and seemed like a bit of a waste at a certain point.  That's when I discovered marigold tea, and created my own ratio for the best cup!

Since then, it has been my goal to find the perfect drying instructions in order to keep this precious exlixir flowing through the off-season ... And I've done it (cue maniacal laughter)!  My fresh recipe found: here is simply 1-2 cups of rinsed and snipped petals combined with 4 cups of boiling water in a french press.

Dried & Ready to cool
The recipe for dried marigold petals is simply 1/4 -1/2 cup of petals per 4 cups of boiling water.

Drying Marigolds
  • Clip blooms & Rinse well
  • Shake off excess water
  • Arrange on roasting pan rack to dry  
  • Once mostly dry, place pan in oven on lowest setting (typically 150° F) with the door cracked open to ensure generous air flow, and proper circulation (we don't want to bake them, just dry them).
  • After any trace of water has disappeared, and the flowers have begun to shrink and become brittle (about 1 hour) remove pan from oven, empty it of all flower heads, and remove the rack.
  • Snip petals from the green calyx that secures them to the stem, and scatter them around the bottom of the pan.
  • Place roasting pan back into the oven (still on lowest setting) with the door cracked until all discernible dampness, and moisture is gone.  The timing here depends entirely on the size, moisture content, and oil found in the marigold petals.  Check every 15 minutes, rustling them around each time until a deep, rich color has developed, and the petals are "crunchy" to the touch.
At this point, don't be fooled - "warm & crunchy" does not necessarily mean "dry".  Before storing your new hoard in the airtight container of your choice (mine), you need to allow your petals to cool to room temperature, and set-up (for lack of a better term).  I keep mine in the roasting pan cooling on the counter for a day after oven drying, keeping them covered with a paper towel (cheesecloth, parchment, whatever) so no dust or foreign objects find a way into the stash, uncovering every so often to disturb their position and make sure nothing is clumping or sticking together.  Petals sealed in containers too soon before they've fully dried will develop little white spores on them.  If you see this, discard the entire batch, and start over with fresh flowers. 

Known Folk Uses for Marigolds:
-Often referred to as the "poor man's saffron" dried marigold petals can be used in place of the much more expensive spice in many dishes.
-Dye & Food coloring.
-Poultry feed.
-Mosquito and pest repellent.
-Fragrance in perfumes.
-Relieving digestive discomfort.
-Activating menstruation, soothing breast tenderness, and protection against miscarriage.
-Tagetes oil has been used to ease the discomfort of all manner of skin irritations including eczema, wounds, and ulcerations.

Further Reading:
A recent study tackling the claims of antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of marigolds.
Irakli Chkhikvishvili, Tamar Sanikidze, Nunu Gogia, et al., “Constituents of French Marigold (Tagetes patula L.) Flowers Protect Jurkat T-Cells against Oxidative Stress,” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2016, Article ID 4216285, 10 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/4216285

Cheers!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Semple vs. Kapoor

Throughout history, the art world has been (g)littered with rivalries ... how far back this goes, I can't even begin to imagine, petroglyphs perhaps?  Da Vinci / Michelangelo, Van Gogh / Gauguin, Picasso / now some people would put Matisse here, but I'm going with Modigliani.  C'mon, painting over someone else's work?  That's a nice bit of drama, just look at the  Banksy / King Robbo paint-fracas in which each artist notoriously paints over the other's works.  I feel, however, their defacement is on a more playful scale.  By trying to one-up each other they push the limits of their respective humor, and creativity, and it's endlessly entertaining for the audience, but there's a new feud in town, and it is the stuff of which petty dreams are made!

Stuart Semple versus Anish Kapoor:

It all started with Surrey NanoSystems' creation of the black-est substance on earth in 2014.  According to their website:
Vantablack® is a super-black coating that holds the world record as the darkest man-made substance.  So dark, in fact, that it absorbs light to such an extent (99.965% actually) that it renders many 3D objects flat to the human eye.  
Promptly expressing interest in using the material for artistic purposes after learning of its existence, Anish Kapoor wasn't ready to stop there.  Taking his enthusiasm a bit too far (for many in the art world) Mr. Kapoor aquired the exclusive rights to the substance known as Vantablack® and in doing so prevents anyone else from using it in their artistic endeavors.

Enter Stuart Semple.  This absolute legend is having NONE OF IT.  Disgusted by the (is this a stretch?) Faustian bargain between Kapoor and NanoSystems -- whose CEO is admittedly a Kapoor fan-boy leaving little wonder to how the artist jumped the queue to being considered for an artistic partnership with the company -- Semple (and his band of mad scientists) began creating his own "est" colors: Pinkest Pink, Greenest Green, Yellowest Yellow, Loveliest Blue, and even the world's glitteriest glitter dubbed "Diamond Dust" all available for sale on his website Culture Hustle, and all of which Anish Kapoor is banned from using until he can learn to play well with others.  Upon purchasing from his online store you agree to the terms and conditions of owning the pigments, and media for sale by Semple:
*Note: By adding this product to your cart you onfirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make it's way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.
But he hasn't stopped there.  Last month, Semple released his own version of the blackest black, a two part medium consisting of a matte acrylic Super Base able to hold more pigment than any other acrylic medium available today, and a micronized pigment, Black, also known together as Flattening, Ultra-matte, Artistic, Key-chromer ... or, FU A.K. for short.  Did I mention it's also non-toxic, and does not require the laborious methods of applying heat and pressure that is necessary for Vantablack® to perform its magic, and is a lot easier and cheaper to make resulting in a very consumer-friendly 16 GBP price tag?  Oh yeah, adding insult to injury, it's also scented ... black cherry, rather fittingly.  As if you needed another reason to buy.

FU A.K. is a fraction of the $ of Vantablack? That's none of my business.
Kapoor did, in fact, end up with a pot of Pinkest Pink thanks (allegedly) to London's Lisson Gallery, a crime so heinous, Stuart "No Chill" Semple has insisted on a course of specific, if not deliciously tedious, action (found here) to be followed in order to keep the matter from escalating.

All antics aside, there is a clear winner here: Artists.  Thanks to Semple's efforts to clap back at art media monopolies, cronyism, and the enormous egos that rear their ugly heads in the art world, we have a whole new set of pigments (and glitter) in our kits to play and create with (at an affordable price, even!).  What could be better than that?

I will, without a doubt, be following the development of this color war now having found my very own petty-soul-twin in Semple.  Meanwhile, why don't you grab some supplies and share your creations?

**UPDATE**


#ShareTheBlack

Monday, February 20, 2017

Naked Kisses


Although it waited behind painted lips,
Her kiss never masqueraded as anything else.
Always honest,
It left him raw, and exposed.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Showing Some Love

During this month of love, it might be nice to extend some support to independent authors, and self publishers who work extraordinarily hard to usher their creations into existence to delight our senses, and enrich our lives.  Discover a few rascals I've had the fortune of knowing, below:

Revolution of the Spirit: Awaken the Healer, a delicious handbook revealing 9 essential ingredients to living our best, and most sacred life, by: Holistic Medical Practitioner, Gerri Ravyn Stanfield.

Timeless Chatter Between the Heart and Mind, a selection of 200 pieces by Hudson Valley author and poet: Jay Long.

To Write of Hope, a charmingly sized collection of poems staged on original photographs of the equally rugged, and delicate Wisconsin wilds, by: free-spirited, maker of beautiful things, and all around cool chick, Jen Brady.

Soul, mastering the art of the flashback in his debut novel weaving together scenes from 19th century Puerto Rico with 1980s New York multifaceted creator, mischief-maker, and poet: José Rafael Prieto.
  • Keep an eye out for his book of selected poems due in early March: 
For You, Beloved: From Beyond The Obvious And Within The Darkness (available now!).


xoxo

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Do a Little Dance, Make a Little Love ... Get Down Tonight!

Daysy Update:

You may remember, eight months ago I decided to invest in a little device that monitors and tracks a woman's fertility from daily basal body temperature readings.  Not only can this genius little computer help a couple conceive, it likewise can also help you avoid pregnancy (with 99.3% accuracy, ranking it better than most other forms of contraception available to us today), as well as keep a close eye on your personal hormone fluctuations (my reason for purchasing) which comes in handy when your body is on the fritz and you're experiencing imbalances.  A great reference source for learning, and understanding the correlation between your basal body temperature and hormone fluctuations is the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by, Toni Weschler.  Hormones get a really bad rap; if they're not being blamed for bad monthly behavior, then they're at fault for boys' "uncontrollable urges" or they're only deemed important to pay attention to when you're actively trying to conceive, but the truth is you can't live your best, most vibrant life if your hormones are all out of whack.

So with my overall vitality, and the fact that the device has a 7 - 10 year lifespan (and that I'll be well on my way out of my childbearing years by the time it dies) in mind I took the leap and started temping last Summer, and after a few blunders figured it out, and began my journey to better understanding the cycles my body was experiencing, which is made ridiculously simple with the use and synchronization of the Daysyview app.

As described in my earlier post about Daysy, it takes a good three to four month period to get to know your body's unique cycle before it starts handing out green days like Oprah giving away free cars to underpaid teachers.  During this phase you'll be getting mostly yellow (caution) days, and red (no-go if you're trying to avoid pregnancy) days.  Many women (and couples) get antsy, or discouraged in the first month with so few changes, but just hang in there, keep recording your temperature first thing every morning before rising from bed, and before any type of activity - it must be your body's resting temperature for this to work, and be accurate.  It's also important to note that the main button on your brand new Daysy device will be super stiff, and difficult to press the first several times, especially upon first waking in the morning.  No need to get frazzled, this seems to have happened with nearly every user, and every device, and they do "break-in" and loosen up quickly so it's certainly not a long term issue that needs special attention.  Just know it going in that the first handful of times it's going to be a bit of a wrestling match, all the while trying not to engage in any sort of bustle that will remove you from your resting state-- easier said than done some days, but it passes.  The second point to keep in mind when reading review posts, or skimming through staged instagram photos is that you don't take your morning temperature with the device already plugged into your phone with its own handy-dandy cable (provided) - it doesn't work this way, and it also drains the Daysy's battery to have it constantly plugged into your mobile where it has to rest on it all night.  Before making my purchase, nearly every picture I'd seen online was of the device connected to the phone, and how women set their alarms on their phones and had the Daysy sitting right on it all night for the convenience of just waking up, hitting the alarm, and getting down to temping immediately.
You get a green day, and YOU get a green day...

Just, no.  This is not how it's done.  Keep your Daysy, and your phone separate until after you've taken your temperature, and connect them only when it's time to synchronize your device with the Daysyview app.

Moving right along ... By the second month my green days had already more than doubled.  Yay!  For those of you anxious to get busy au naturale a few more days a month with no chance of making it a party of three later on this is when the fun begins.

Everyone gets a greeeeen daaaaay!
Fast forward a little bit, and if you're on a nice, boring 28 day cycle it's not at all unusual to get 20 green days in a 31 day month.  And just as we were taught about traffic lights in Driver's Ed, green means go, yellow is proceed with caution, and red = slam on the brakes.  For couples in hot pursuit of the Stork, simply set your device to conceive, and it will mark all of your best days to get frisky, and no matter how you've programmed your settings, the app can share your personal schedule automatically with your partner, and let them know if tonight's the night (midday, morning, whenever you get up to whatever you do)!  I have to say, overall, I'm really pleased with the purchase so far.  It has helped me immensely in understanding what on earth my body has been going through, and has given me valuable information I can use in order to change up my lifestyle, diet, supplements, whatever in order to rein in wildly fluctuating hormones, which, to me, is virtually priceless.
P.S. You'll want to snag a hard shell eyeglass case for this little dude to ride in, this isn't really something you want bouncing around inside your purse especially during long-distance travel.  Also, sleeping with this under your pillow is a bad idea ... It's all fun and games until you snap off the stem of the thermometer, and the warranty doesn't cover it.  So, if you're ordering a Daysy, get ahead of the game and get something snug for it to live in. 

Affiliate Disclosure

Thursday, February 2, 2017

#GoldenHaiku

 
Camellias blush
at the warmth of our kisses
thawing winter hearts.


My submission for this year's contest.  It wasn't selected, but I still love it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fresh Start: Be Your Own Guru?

Part One:

Author, and Jack of all trades, Jonathan Fields shared a post on his website in 2010 beginning with these words:
I spent the better part of the first 40-years of my life looking for a guru, that person who would just blow me away with her or his prescience, kindness, compassion, vision and guidance.  The one who would give me the answers.  Who would tell me what to do to get to that place where I finally felt like I had “made it.”
So many others I knew had found one and their lives seemed so much better, more directed and purposeful for it, but that never happened to me. I would attend lectures, teachings, seminars, trainings and retreats and, inevitably, end up leaving early because some combination of information, integrity, pace or delivery did not resonate.  Why couldn’t I find that person?
It finally dawned upon me…
The person I was looking for was the one I would need to become.
I found his article a few years after its publication because of a search for a blurb by the same name posted on a page run by a little online magazine startup several acquaintances of mine began writing for around the same time.  Incidentally, this publication does not treat their contributors very well at all, so if you come across any magazine titles similar to pachyderm diaries I highly suggest avoiding becoming a contributing author, but I digress.  The gist of the blurb by, Rachel Brathen was to always trust your intuition, and know that your wisdom is much more vast, and valuable than you're probably aware.  And each time you read, or learn something new that resonates deeply within you it's really because it is reminding you of what you already know to be true.

That last line became a beacon guiding me back to myself at a time I needed it the most. It was Spring 2015, and I had already walked squarely through the center of downtown Hell by myself, and was eager to find my way home.  A time when I needed to trust that I was my own expert; the guru I had been hopeful to find.

Since my late twenties, I had been experiencing an annoyingly slow, yet steady decline in my health and vitality.  I say "annoyingly slow" because it just kept creeping up on me ... much like characters in The Blob, I had a very much run-don't-walk mentality, but no matter what I did (healthy-er eating, gym memberships, more sleep, alkaline water), I couldn't escape this constantly encroaching cloud of dis-ease.  There were, however, very few outward symptoms or signs of a problem.  I looked like a perfectly well 27 year old on the outside, causing me to show up in relationships as a total flake: the constantly cancelling creep who didn't value her friendships or family ... all the while everything on the inside felt totally, and utterly wrong.

My energy bottomed out - like, drag yourself out of bed, go grocery shopping, come home put groceries away, go back to bed - bottomed out, I felt as though the very cells in my body were dehydrated to such an extent they deserved their own dedicated chapter in a Steinbeck novel.  My body had all but lost its ability to maintain its temperature.  My joints snapped, and popped like break dancers on a bubble wrap dance floor, my body was in so much pain I couldn't stand to be touched.  When receiving change at a checkout counter at the store the cashier would have to put it on the counter and I'd scrape it off into my purse because having my hands engaged in any sort of jarring activity no matter how gentle, set off a sensation of being stabbed by thousands of needles all at once, and I couldn't bear the pain.  Then, the panic attacks set in.  At this point I had only experienced what I could describe as "anxiety" maybe three times in my life, and now my days had become a cascade of panic and distress.  But why?  And who on Earth was going to have the right answers for me, when every time I reached out for education, help, or support I was met with dismissal, thems-the-breaks attitudes, or push back from some of the closest people to me who thought it was all just a slimy excuse to get out of doing things I "secretly" didn't want to do?

During my frantic search for answers, desperate for relief I heard it all:
you don't really love me
you can't even be bothered to (fill in the blank)
you just don't want to see me
you could do (fill in the blank) yesterday
you look fine
it's all in your head
you just need to get out more
you're a liar / just tell me the truth
you're depressed
Well, yes.  Days turning into months turning into years of feeling like your very life force is being sucked out of your body while no one believes you, or helps you can, in fact, leave you feeling a touch "depressed," but through it all I was still the happiest, and most hopeful person I knew (minor gripes aside).  I don't know if that speaks to my positivism or paints a grim picture of the company I keep, but what I've come to know of the "black dog" depression is often referred to as, it wasn't anything remotely close to what I was feeling.  However, the moment you mention uncontrollable anxiety / panic attacks all people seem to want to talk about, and educate you on is anxiety AND depression, because apparently it's illegal to experience ONLY anxiety on its own.  You're clearly suffering from mental illness if you experience panic attacks, your overall outlook must be glum, and if you insist that you are, in fact, not held hostage in the clutches of depression, you're obviously in denial and not ready to face the truth of your condition OR (deserve to) get help for it.

NO.

Not all anxiety is created equal, and not all panic episodes are caused by the same triggers.  Anxiety, I've come to learn, is not a one-size-fits-all, take a pill and feel good, or just change your behaviors, mind over matter tidy psych 101 text book definition disorder.  It is often a symptom of a larger problem.  So how is it, if very few professionals treat it as such, that we can find out what our precise malfunction actually is?  I went from a bright, confident twenty-something to a sweaty, hyperventilating mess, bawling on my kitchen floor for what I could only discern as no reason at all.  It doesn't help that this is a common description of occurrences among those with panic disorder.  Every time I've talked with someone about panic episodes, I begin by telling them, "It's the strangest thing..." only to have my sentence finished by words from their mouths, "...They come completely out of the blue!"  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not so obtuse to actually believe every single panic episode experienced by humans of all time come with zero obvious warnings, social anxiety, and the gamut of postpartum difficulties are just a couple of possible exceptions.  What I am getting at, is there's a whole other group of weirdos out here like me who have had their entire lives turned upside down with little to no warning, and I'm finally able to share my personal experience with it in order to not only organize my thoughts and uncover previously unrecognized clues from my past that could've let me catch onto all of this sooner, but also to help anyone out there feeling like they're completely losing their minds at this very moment, and have no idea what to do next.

But wait, there's more!  As if all of this wasn't awesome enough, being Dust-Bowl Nervous Nelly, and all, everything finally came to a point in late 2012.  I had loaded up and moved house that summer, reduced stress, cut toxic relationships off, began (I thought) taking better care of myself, and yet, none of it mattered.

I gave up.

And that, above all else was my biggest downfall.  I began treating my body like a fast food alley dumpster, and by Christmas of the same year I had effectively lit the dumpster on fire, and rammed it into a brick wall that subsequently fell apart hitting me one brick at a time.  I had completely obliterated my immune system, was full of inflammation, and Santa topped me off with a double eye infection (thanks niece & nephew's preschool!).  If it's true that when you listen to your body as it whispers, you won't have to hear it scream, then let's just say mine was at full-on Ban Sidhe level, and by the February of the following year I was in trouble, without the luxury of putting it off any longer.

Except for one problem... 

I still couldn't get the help I needed.  In fact, it took nearly another full year to find the answers for myself.  I realized pretty quickly into 2013 as I lay wasting away in bed barely able to eat anything, wholly averse to outside stimulus (no reading, no writing, no computer, no television, no music, and no phone) that I was on my own here.  I had the energy for about one text, and thirty minutes of research a day.  So, I just followed the clues.  As you may know by now, I believe life flows in cycles, and leaves breadcrumb trails for us to follow in order to find the answers we need, and since nothing else was taking up my time, I went within and listened to the messages my body was giving me (as if 1/3 of my hair falling out, bleeding gums, and crumbling teeth weren't enough already), and paid attention to what information was trying to find me.  Incredibly enough, patterns (thankfully) began to emerge that spoke to me deeply, and I tumbled down the rabbit hole of forums like The Curezone, and started learning from the experiences of others.  Around this time it seemed everyone in popular culture and natural medicine was obsessed with intestinal parasites, and after engaging in a bentonite clay colon cleanse found in a chapter of The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity that claims to remove stringy sludge from your lower intestines (I'm proud to announce, the plumbing is squeaky clean), I was introduced to the company Humaworm, where one at a time, I completed each herbal cleanse, feeling marginally better during each round, but still crashing afterward, and having yet to feel the earth move under my feet, my final move in this first attempt at healing myself came from a full round of their herbal antibiotic supplements.  Trust me, the sketchiness of how it sounds to buy non-FDA approved, herbal, antibiotic capsules off the internet is NOT lost on me!  But more surprisingly than watching myself in my total desperation hit "pay now" for what could've turned out to be literally anything ... They worked!  I woke up the next morning (New Year's Day 2014) feeling like a completely different person.  The brain fog was lifting, the excruciating vertigo was dissipating, the tension in my abdomen was lessening, and my anger was rising.  The entire 2 year climax to the disaster that had become my personal health had been the result of an undetected gastrointestinal infection that had NONE of the typical symptoms or clues that most present with.  I was at once, devastated, and relieved.

My heart was broken over the fact that I had suffered for two years with something so simple.  I felt betrayed by those closest to me who were so keen to keep taking from me during a time when I had the very least to give, and others that refused to help me help myself, and made every step of this process more difficult than it needed to be.  I was shattered that so many years of my life had felt as though they'd been stolen from me.  So many opportunities I had to pass up, and circumstances that went unchanged because I just didn't have what it took to involve myself in anything outside of this nightmare that had become so much of my daily living existing.  It takes a lot of courage to say "no" to the things and life that you dreamt for yourself, and say "yes" to the things and life you need for yourself in order to not only stay alive, but eventually, and ultimately thrive.  Dreams, after all, are useless to a dead person, and I was circling that drain fast.  A coward is not someone who turns away from their wants and desires in order to honor the highest good.  That, in fact, is the ultimate act of bravery.

Through the sadness of this time, I was able to see a fuller picture.  I had found my answer.  I had something to build from.  And I was learning the biggest, and most important first lesson from this entire experience: The best and worst thing about all of this is knowing that I have made every choice and decision that have brought me to this place.  The worst is that I have essentially done this damage to myself.  I can see the choices I made in my youth that paved the way for exactly what ended up happening to me (no, I didn't go around licking unsanitary surfaces hoping to get an infection on purpose, but I may as well have).  The best part is, I can make new choices at any moment, and with a lot of determination, actually reverse the damage that has been done.  This should not be a problem for me - if there are two things I've got it's courage, and a will that has yet to be broken.

If you are struggling with illness (mysterious or not) and you feel alone, know that you're not.  You're probably a lot more courageous than you give yourself credit for, as well.  If you still feel that knowing some strange lady on the other side of the computer screen has walked a similarly terrifying path through Hell as you have isn't doing much for your determination or motivation, maybe the mantra that kept me going will serve you as well:

If Britney can get through 2007, you can survive this.


To be continued...

xoxo

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lucky Number 13

It seems only fitting with the Chinese New Year ushering us from sly, trickster Monkey to organized, and grounded Rooster that I find myself at the same time reflecting on moments from my past spent with my stubborn, and impulsive monkey-twin.
2001: Don't hug me. I tickle.  You won't escape.
I also came to the harsh realization during my January fresh-start-purge, where I tear through the house like a Tasmanian devil throwing out everything that is no longer serving me, that this is the only photograph I have with my dearest friend -- something I can only allow myself to be partially regretful about, because it means that we were always too busy in each other's company that we simply didn't have time to give a single thought to a camera let alone be bothered pulling one out to preen and pose in front of.  There is something, however, that gets me a little downhearted knowing that all of that time spent together, and all of those shared secrets over 2 A.M. long-distance gossip sessions is now condensed into a two-inch-by-three-inch creased, and fading memento.  I suppose that is the natural order of things; ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and all that, but I find myself unwilling to give up the ghost (pun very much intended) just yet. 

With that, I found myself reaching for the scanner to preserve the moment beginning to slip from its thin, glossy, 2D time capsule just a bit longer.  No need to pull out the Kansas records, and broom & dust pan just yet, especially now that the pain has finally subsided.  I can look back fondly at what was, and no longer with that dull ache enduringly in my heart, no longer willing myself to forget in order to ignore the cavernous void his absence left in my life. I can now carry in my heart - in the giant space where the pain once lived, the man who believed I was pure magic, and capable of unimaginable feats.

Life is a funny thing with its cycles, and signposts, and symbols.  Some people have numbers (13, 303, 429) lucky or otherwise guiding or following them, sometimes adding comfort in new situations.  I, however, am not so much a numbers girl, instead, I seem to have repeating Richards -- each one leading me to the next in ways that could only be described as cosmic.  I'm not exactly sure why this is the case (and I'm sure there's an obvious joke to be made here), but what I do know for sure is that individually they have all taught me something new about my strength, and resilience, and have afforded me the opportunity to see myself through different eyes, and challenge, or embrace what I find through this new point of view.  For that, I can't be anything but grateful, and appreciative.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Another Year Over, And a New One Just Begun





Word for 2017: Enchanted...

xoxo