Thursday, September 30, 2010

Releasing Judgment--part 3

The final aspect of releasing judgment has to do with not judging ourselves.

As I said before, I'm not suggesting that we can ignore moral judgments, just the rest of them.
This is also not permission to be lazy or stop trying your best or seeking personal improvements.
What it IS is permission to release self-judgments about your appearance, your family, your likes and dislikes, your talents, your hobbies, your abilities, or what you 'should' be or do.

Don't feel guilty for telling someone that you're not available for a favor when your family needs you.
Don't feel obligated to like the same movies, books, foods, or activities as someone else, or to enjoy a particular thing just because it's 'normal' or 'everyone does.' Do be comfortable with who you are and what you like.

And DO be open to new experiences--do not judge something until you truly know what it is.
My kids know they are not allowed to have an opinion about a food until they have tried it. I hold myself to the same policy.
There are things that scare me--such as heights--but I try to release that fear--that judgment--so that I can still experience things such as standing on the top deck of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

And you know what is remarkable about releasing judgment? About learning to experience the world neutrally? It's not just the broadening of personal experience, it's the broadening of personal enjoyment.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Releasing Judgment--part 2

I wrote yesterday about releasing judgmentalism with others, particularly with our children. Today is a harder part: releasing it from ourselves.

There are two sides to this releasing: the first is to release the judgments that others put upon us (today), and the other is to release the ones we put upon ourselves (which I'll get to tomorrow).

Other people judge us all the time. They tell us that we're too fat or too thin. Too pious or too lax. Too conservative or too liberal. Overthinking or under-researching. Too uptight or too lazy. It's never possible to please everyone, and it's not worth trying to do so. The Apostle Paul taught that it was important to please God, and that trying to please our fellow men was counterproductive to that goal. So it's not just possible, it's actually important to "be like a duck" as they say, and just "let it roll off your back."
A friend of mine recently shared a story with me which I hope she won't mind my sharing with you. She and her husband have made some choices that have led them to move in a different spiritual direction from the rest of their family. One sister in particular was deeply concerned about their new path and spoke to them at length, assuring them that their choice was going to bring them condemnation. My friend's husband explained (again) that they felt like this was the right thing for them to do, and then told her that he released her judgments. In other words, she could feel or say what she liked, and he would even listen, but he would not absorb the anger, or the judgment.
There will always be someone out there to tell us that we are wrong or bad in some way, but we can release their judgments. The only Judge who matters is God, and so long as we keep ourselves square with Him, we will be fine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Releasing Judgment--part 1

I think it's normal to be judgmental, at least to a certain point. We are raised with judgments nearly from the day we are born, starting with "you did a good job!" and then moving into "that shirt doesn't go with those pants" and finally into complex moral situations such as "thou shalt not steal."

Now I'm not for a moment arguing the validity of moral judgment. BUT, I do think we over-judge on all the little things. Scripture says that we will be judged by God in the way that we judge others. I don't know about you, but I think that if God is going to be as nitpicky and micromanaging as some mothers I've seen, then I'm not sure if that's a heaven I want to go to, you know? So, especially with my children, I make a point of not making judgments about things unless I need to.

When my preschooler brings me a page full of crayon scribbles and says "look what I made!" I say "yep, I see!" rather than making a judgment by saying that it is "pretty" or that he is "good." I share excitement without casting judgment.
When one of my kids picks an outfit that most of us would deem outlandish, I let it go. He is dressed, isn't he? Why does it matter if he 'matches'? If he doesn't care, then why should I? I mostly just stick with being glad that he's not streaking.
When my children learn to use the potty, I avoid the phrase "good job" (um, everybody pees, there's nothing terribly spectacular about it). Instead I just comment on the facts "you peed in the potty, thank you, it makes a mess if you pee somewhere else so I appreciate when you do it in the potty." And if they pee on the floor, it is the same "oh look, you made pee-pee on the floor, we'd better clean that up. Do you think you can do it in the potty next time? Then we could just flush it away!"
The kiddo wants plain peanut butter for breakfast? Fine by me, it's protein. Oatmeal for lunch? Why not? I like oatmeal. Who says you can only have oatmeal for breakfast?!

Actually, releasing judgment toward our kids is pretty easy. The hard part is releasing the judgments that others cast upon us, or that ones that we put on ourselves. More on that coming tomorrow and the next day!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Love Your _______

Recently as I was driving home I saw a marquee out in front of a church that said "Love Your Enemy." That phrase got me to thinking of the other phrase we hear so often: "love your neighbor."

Firstly, who is my enemy? I actually can't personally think of any--I'm sure there are people out there who don't like me, but I figure that's their problem, not mine. I suspect that for most of us, in our day to day life, our 'enemies' are not close to home. They are distant and conceptual, and we have other things to worry about in our busy lives. So when the sermon on the mount tells us "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you," we smile and nod, say something cursory in our prayers, send a donation to somebody who does work in poor places (that's where terrorists come from, right?), and then pat ourselves on the back and go about our business.

Loving an unseen enemy can be easy. The depth of the love may be in question, but since we're not having any personal interactions with said enemies, it's not that big a deal...

But loving your neighbor?

You mean the neighbor who lets his dog poop in my yard?
How about the one who always drives on my grass?
Or the one who drives too fast down my little residential street where my kids play?
What about the son who never seems to pee quite in the toilet?
And the spouse who leaves his clothes on the floor?
The daughter who steals your makeup and then misses curfew? Frequently?
The child who talks back?
The family member who takes the last cookie?!

How easy is it to love these people?

Oh, sure, we 'love' them. We say we love them, we do nice things to and for them, we take care of them. But do we let ourselves get frustrated over things that don't really matter in the long run? Do we speak to them in anger? Why is it that we 'let our hair down' and act our worst when we are with the ones who matter most?

Yes, we certainly should make efforts to love our enemies. BUT, I think that the higher priority needs to be to love those who are all around us right here at home. After all, they have to live with us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frugal Friday: Old T-shirts

We all have them, the old t-shirts that are mostly good, but the neck or cuffs are splitting, or there's a little hole or a stain someplace (or all of the above!). The average t-shirt is made with good cotton, and if most of that fabric is still good, then you can do a lot with it!

Most of my ideas start out with cutting away all the seams. I just turn it inside out, then cut along next to each seam, so that I'm left with several large pieces of fabric. From there the possibilities are virtually endless.

  • Use the big pieces as they are for cleaning rags (or trim off the angled parts so they are nice rectangles and squares if you prefer, so they'll fold nicely or whatever...but it's a rag remember, and nobody really cares if it's pretty). One thing I love about using worn out clothing for rags is that if it gets really gross, I can throw it away without feeling guilty, because the fabric has already fulfilled it's purpose TWICE!
  • Cut out around cool logos or embroidery (be sure to allow at least a couple of inches of extra space on all sides), and save the designs. Once you have a few, combine them into a t-shirt quilt full of memories. (I am still collecting for mine, haven't made it yet.)
  • Use pieces to patch or decorate other t-shirts (see below)
  • Make a diaper
  • Make 'kitchen cloth' (aka reusable paper towels or napkins) or cloth kleenex or 'family cloth' (aka reusable toilet paper). For these I recommend using two layers, and either zigzag or serge the edges. The fabric will not fray, so you don't need to worry about finishing raw edges, however a single layer of fabric will roll like this --->

Here is my family cloth and 'nuggert wipers' (cloth nose tissues)--each with it's 'clean' basket and 'dirty' receptacle. (I sort by color--whites are all for noses, colored are not--so if you're ever at my house, you'll know which one to grab ☺) (And for anybody who wasn't sure about the family cloth notion, see the squirty bottle? Yeah, squirt clean and then use the cloth to pat dry...see, not really so gross is it. Or yes, we do still have paper TP too...)

And here are a couple of options that involve NOT cutting up the shirt as shown above:
  • Make a diaper! (even if you don't cloth diaper, seriously check out this link, it's so cool!!)
  • Carefully cut up the body of the shirt in a big spiral to make tarn. (Here is a video tutorial as well.) Then you can knit or crochet with it!
  • Make a tote bag.

A final option, if you are dealing with just one little hole in the middle of the shirt (but the collar and cuffs are fine) is to patch it. I'd vote for doing so artistically.

Choose a design of some sort to applique over the hole, and cut it out of other t-shirt/knit fabric. Cut out a piece of lightweight iron-on interfacing that is slightly larger than the applique, and iron it onto the inside of the shirt in the desired location.

Carefully pin the applique in the location, and then satin stitch all around. (A satin stitch is a wide zigzag with a very short stitch length.)


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Hold Me Tight & Tango Me Home" by Maria Finn

I frequently browse the "new arrivals" section at our library. It's next to the computers and DVDs, so I can look at books while my kids play on the computer or pick out movies. I also like that it's a little bit of every genre all there together, so I can get a bit of anything without wandering around the library. Probably half of what I have read in the last year has come from that one shelf...and this book was one of them...
When I saw Hold Me Tight & Tango Me Home I didn't look at what genre it was. I suspected it would be some kind of romantic comedy--that's what it looked like. Actually I think I was expecting something like Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair (which is a story of a woman who "learned to knit after he split" and is quite funny and geeky in a knitty fashion...). But it was not like that at all. It is a memoir, and begins when Maria finds out that her husband is cheating on her. First she packs all his things and throws them down the stairs. Then she calls her lawyer. Then she signs up for tango lessons.
With tango history and technique woven throughout, this is more than just a story of a woman sorting her life out again. As she learns tango, she begins to apply dancing techniques to her life: balance, leading, following, moving in synchronicity with someone, or moving in harmonious opposition. In short, this book put into words how I feel about dancing. Why I have--and still do--think of myself as a dancer.
I was part of a performing ballroom dance team for about a year (age 17-18), and all through college I took dance classes and attended social dances. My husband doesn't dance though, so I have had little opportunity to dance since getting married. He asked me once why I referred to myself as a dancer when I wasn't really dancing anymore. I can tell you--it's because I still feel it. Music moves my body, as it does for many people, but it's more than that. Dancing is a way of feeling, but also a way of expressing. It's a pure expression, uncluttered by imperfect words and without need of translation. I told my husband he should read this book--I think it might help him understand me a little better.

(Incidentally, there are two of my readers to whom I want to specifically recommend this book: Dad, and Mae. Just got get it already. You'll like it.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Gluten Experiment: Part 1

A couple of months ago I shared that I'd had a blood test reveal the presence of gliadin, which is the antibody to gluten. In other words, I tested positive for gluten intolerance. The standard procedure for that is to begin a gluten free "GF" diet.

I did not jump in immediately, partly because making the switch requires some effort, but mostly because I didn't have symptoms. (We had no reason to suspect an intolerance, the test was part of a standard battery we were doing because of something else, and the result was something of a surprise.) Many people experience bloating, gas, or irregularity. Many experience fatigue or joint pain. Some sources do suggest symptoms as differentiated as headaches, giddiness, loss or gain of weight, skin inflammation, nervousness, anger, impotency, irregular menstrual cycles, and miscarriage. That last one of course stood out to me, but it's one I did not find on most of the symptom lists, and I'm definitely a bit skeptical as to how a food allergy would be implicated in miscarriage.
My reading indicated that when dealing with a food allergy, an 'elimination diet' (ie, eliminating the offending food) is typically done for two weeks to observe whether or not there are any changes in symptoms. I spoke with several friends who have allergies to either wheat or gluten, and while a couple said that they needed to be GF for 3 or 6 weeks to see results, many also said that they noticed changes within just a few days. So two weeks seemed like a reasonable test to me. Also, several people told me that they did not notice anything particular when they went off gluten, but they did notice a change for the worse when they went back on it. So my experiment is really twofold: observing myself for two weeks off of gluten, and then continuuing to observe for the next two weeks as I go back on it.

Today's report is about my two weeks gluten-free. (Just so you know, there's a bit of "TMI" in consider yourself warned!)

The first couple of days were really hard, as I had known they would be. I was overwhelmed with constantly checking labels or looking things up ( is a great site for checking whether things have gluten in them). It seemed that most of what I wanted to snack on had gluten in it... I felt hungry, not because I wasn't eating, but because I had to be so discriminating about what I ate. I think the difficulty was mostly emotional, but it was certainly difficult. The second day was especially hard.
I did get a mix to make GF pancakes, and one to make a loaf of GF bread, and I did make a flour mix which I substituted into a couple of other things, so in those few instances I had my separate food from everyone elses...but otherwise I simply prepared GF foods for everyone. We ate several dishes over rice--Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Mexican foods. We ate several meat & potatoes type meals. I ate a lot of eggs for breakfasts and fruit or cheese for snacks. It was a little annoying, but I did get the hang of it, and it wasn't too hard.
On two of the days when I was eating every (GF) meal, I found that I felt weak, woozy, and even a little nauseous. One of these was day 2, and I credited it to the change...but the other day was more than halfway through the trial, and it caught me quite off guard. I was eating meals with the same frequency and of the same size as always have, and that ill feeling is not something that happens except occasionally when I am pregnant or if I have fasted a full 24 hours. (I actually did a partial fast one day during the trial--I don't do full fasts when I'm breastfeeding--but, I felt fine during that time.)
I'd heard that my often-poor sleep might improve. This is hard to gauge as I had a teething baby during part of the time and he was not sleeping well so of course I was not sleeping well either...however, I didn't notice any particular differences in that regard either.
I also observed was that there were a couple of days when I was quite gassy. I was keeping a food diary, and there doesn't seem to have been anything in common between those days that might have caused it. Also in regard to the gastro-intestinal situation, I have never gotten so backed up in my life. These two issues I suspect may have to do with the lower fiber content of my diet when I went off wheat--we do consume quite a bit of wheat in our household, but it is almost all whole wheat. I probably should have thought about that ahead of time and sought additional alternate sources of fiber...however, I felt that the most realistic way to do the trial was to simply get rid of gluten, without making any other dietary changes.

So, my conclusions at this stage are that going gluten free did not improve my quality of life at all, and may have actually decreased it a bit.
I did develop a fairly awesome cookie recipe though: Stardrops.
We shall see if I notice anything in the coming two weeks as I go gluten-full again (I'll let you know of course!)

One friend, upon hearing that I was trying gluten-free, mentioned that in her experience gluten-free is not usually as helpful as staying on gluten and simply adding digestive enzymes to the diet. I need to research this option more fully, but hope to try it out as part 3 of the experiment.
If I do notice adverse results as I go onto gluten again, then I will also add on a gluten-lite trial, and see how that goes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FOs of August

August was a month that mostly involved making food--or preserving it. Peaches, raspberries, fireweed jelly, salmon, halibut, clams, and so on. You've already heard about that I think.

It also seems that I've made (or begun to make) a mark on the world... which you have also been hearing about.

And I sewed up a special gift for a friend...but I didn't take any photos.

September has already begun to be fruitful...but you'll hear about that at the end of the month. ☺

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I wrote here some time ago about my little sister, Amethyst, who died in infancy. Her death precipitated my mother's subsequent miscarriage, and was my first real experience with grief. As the founders of our miscarriage support network started discussing potential names for our organization, Amethyst's name came up. "The Amethyst Network" had a nice ring, and the name resonated with several of the founders because several of us had had due dates and/or miscarriages in February (amethyst is the February birthstone). We also liked the connection to valentine's day with the love we feel for our angel children. Purple and hearts seemed appropriate to symbolize our love and losses.
It is only now, after the name has been chosen and we are moving on to other aspects of the organization, that I thought to look up more information about the actual stone.
Amethyst "is a meditative and calming stone. It works in the emotional, spiritual, and physical planes to provide calm, balance, patience, and peace." It has been traditionally used to "help heal personal losses and grief. Amethyst has a gently sedative energy that promotes peacefulness, happiness, and contentment. It also brings emotional stability and inner strength" [link].
It seems the choice of name is even more appropriate than I could have guessed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Stages of Grief in Miscarriage

My recent work on The Amethyst Network, as well as a series of conversations with other women have miscarried, has moved me to write about this. Many of us are familiar with the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle. Initially it was 5 stages of grief, but has now been expanded into 7 stages. (The graph and excerpt here are taken from the link above)

The initial state before the cycle is received is stable, at least in terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news. Compared with the ups and downs to come, even if there is some variation, this is indeed a stable state.

And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell bursts...

This model is extended slightly from the original Kubler-Ross model, which does not explicitly include the Shock and Testing stages. These stages however are often useful to understanding and facilitating change.

The most important thing to realize is that each of these stages is normal, and that so long as you are progressing through them (even slowly) then you will eventually reach acceptance, or healing. Sometimes people seem to get stuck in one stage, or to skip stages. If psychological theory is right though, you can't really skip a stage--you won't really heal and move on unless you have been through all of them.
One of the hardest things I experienced was that my husband and I often progressed through these stages at different rates, or in different ways. So he wanted to distract himself and avoid thinking about our baby at the time when I wanted to wallow in my grief and just talk about it... or he was angry at the world at a time when I was fixated on trying to just get pregnant again.

You should not feel pressured to grieve in a certain way, nor to be "all better" by a certain time. Each stage will manifest in different ways in different people, and in different kinds of circumstances, and things that are helpful for one person may not be helpful for another. However, here are some examples of how the various stages might manifest when grieving over miscarriage. (If you have something to add, please comment and I will add it here in the post.)

The news of fetal demise or the onset of physical miscarriage is overwhelming. It's common go to into an adrenaline-filled "fight or flight" mode, with moments of startling clarity (choosing whether or not to have a D&C, arranging babysitting for other children, or calling in sick to work). It's also common to completely freeze up and be unable to do or think anything. You may not be able to cry at this stage...or you may not be able to stop crying.
Trying to convince yourself that the baby didn't really die, or that you never were really pregnant. That something has been misdiagnosed. That you should get a second opinion, or a third. That if you just hurry and take the right herb or medication that everything will get better. This stage might also be called "Distraction," as some people (notably husbands) seek to avoid thinking about the loss. Sometimes this manifests in wanting to get pregnant again as soon as possible (as though you were always just pregnant). Sometimes it manifests in wanting to never get pregnant again.
Casting blame at anyone and anything that might possibly have contributed to the miscarriage. It's common to be angry at your spouse, with the rationale that they contributed the 'flaw' that caused the miscarriage, or that they are not supporting you in the way that you want them to. You might be angry at yourself, feeling that your body is broken because it did not keep the baby. You might be angry at the baby, or at God. You probably will be angry at anyone else in the world who has children, or babies, or is pregnant, or who takes those things for granted, or who has never lost a child. You will most likely be upset with anyone who is insensitive to you.
At this point it is normal to think about anything that you could change about the status quo, and to fixate on changing them. It's common to feel disgruntled about your marriage, to feel like if you had a different spouse things might be better (you might have more money or live in a nicer place or have more friends or better support or even, most literally, that procreating with a different partner might have avoided miscarriage). This stage may involve wanting to try to conceive again right away. You may try to 'make deals' with God (things like "I don't want to miscarry again so if I'm just going to miscarry then don't let me get pregnant again").
As the graph indicates, this is an inactive state. Many people feel lethargic when they are depressed. More than feeling 'sad' per se, they often simply feel nothing. It is common to withdraw from social activities--sometimes to avoid questions, possibly to avoid the possibility of feeling happy (many of us feel guilty over being happy about something, as though it indicates a lack of love for the child we are grieving).
Testing is the beginning of acceptance. I think it's something like learning to roller skate--with false starts and falling down. There are a few attempts to move into 'acceptance' and some of them will fail miserably, which will drop you back into depression or anger or some other stage, and then you'll have to push forward again. You may need some time to gather yourself before you feel ready to try again. Eventually however, with continued trying, you will reach the final stage of
This is what we refer to as 'healing.' As with any wound, there will be a scar. You will never return to being the way you were before the miscarriage, but you will find a new 'normal' and you will reach a point of being able to live life, get things done, and even be happy. You'll be able to hear pregnancy announcements, see pregnant women, or hold infants and not be depressed. You'll be able to look back at your loss without fixating on it, and you'll be able to look forward into the future, and to move into it. Sometimes people refer to this stage as 'closure' but it's broader than that. It's not closing the book on what happened, it is accepting and validating it, and moving forward with life anyway.
Sometimes things drop me back into grieving for my children (although the grief is not so intense nor does it last long). Perhaps it's seeing a child who is the age my angel would have been. Perhaps it's meeting someone whose due date is near when mine was. Sometimes it's being with someone who is going through a loss of her own. Sometimes it's looking at my own children, and wondering how our family dynamic would be different if those other babies had lived. Because, even though I am a whole and healthy person, my experiences of loss have made me into a different person than I would have been without them.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I know I've been quiet here. I probably will be pretty quiet for a while longer too. I have several things going on right now.

1--I have been busy with organizational work for The Amethyst Network, yeah, that miscarriage support nonprofit organization I mentioned that I was thinking about? We're doing it. We are still building our official webpage (scheduled launch in mid October to coincide with infant loss awareness month) however you can visit our facebook page at the link above.

2--I am doing my two-week trial of eating gluten free. This is pretty involving. I will report on it all when I finish. (For the record, at 6 days in, I remain skeptical.)

3--We are preparing to travel at the end of the month, and I am arranging not just logistics of packing, but also schedules of who to see/what to do, and figuring out Wolf's school work for what he'll be missing while we're gone.

4--Everybody is starting school--Wolf is in 5th grade (ohmygoodness) and of course Hubby is into his second term of grad school now. Plus Wolf is starting soccer this week and band next week (the boy wants to play french horn. Mommy is so proud).

5--Hubby is trying to get us a moose. It will go into the freezer/pantry alongside the salmon, halibut, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, rhubarb, clams, fireweed jelly and bear.

6--Because Hubby is home--and needing the computer for his school work--I don't have as much computer time. The upside of this is that I'm knitting more again. The downside (at least for you, gentle reader) is that I'm not blogging as much.

7--Eagle just started walking. I will now spend the next two years of my life trying to catch him. ☺

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Razor Clams

A couple of weeks ago we had a nice low tide, so we went clamming.

What the photos don't reveal is that this walk across the 'beach' is actually walking through an inch or two of water...the whole way...
Oh, wait, that doesn't give an idea of how far out it really was.
Let's try without the zoom:
(yes, they are out there, right in the can kinda see Wolf's red coat and that big rock they were next to...)

So I took the littles back off the beach and we played by the river mouth instead.

Bear threw rocks at the water (he didn't want to walk on the wet sand, preferring to stay on the dry rocks, so he wouldn't get close enough to the water to actually throw rocks IN the he just threw them AT the water).
Eagle chewed on rocks and got dirty.
I got my toes into the earth... Ahhhhhh... (Bear is a hardcore barefooter, and since my shoes were wet from crossing the beach I joined him.)

And Wolf and Hubby dug us a bunch of razor clams. (Which, if you want to eat razor clams, you boil then for 10 seconds then drop them in ice water--that opens them up and also kills them pretty humanely--it's better than trying to cut them up without boiling them!)

For the record, I didn't like clams before, and now that I've gutted and carved a few dozen clams, I have no intention of ever eating one again. (Did you know they poop through their foot?!) Hubby and Wolf can have them all. But I guess that's ok, because they caught them.

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