Where’s the Outrage?

A rare moment alone in the car yesterday gave way for me to listen to Talk Radio–a habit that my husband got me hooked on during the Clinton years when he always had the latest news and insight, and my News at 5pm left me wanting and wondering. Anyway, the topic yesterday on Rush Limbaugh covered the controversial lyrics of a Beyoncé song wherein she crudely describes a sexual encounter in her limo and uses the term “Monica Lewinskyed” in reference to such encounter. We can debate the appropriateness of the lyrics, but I choose to just avoid such music and other “art” forms that take a degrading path. I cannot, however, in good conscience walk away from the degradation of people–an individual person in this case: Ms. Monica Lewinsky.

Where is the outrage? Why is it okay to use her personal name as a verb in such a crude context? Where are the feminists, the civil rights leaders, the prolifers, and the politicians? Why is it that 16 years later Ms. Lewinsky is still drug through the mud, laughed at and mocked, while the perpetrator, the other person involved in the act that made her infamous is given millions of dollars in donations, invited to speak at galas and women’s rights events, and given prestige and honor? I for one am appalled. This is just wrong and unjust. Ms. Lewinsky was 22 at the time and Mr. Clinton, err President Clinton was 52–30 years her senior and President of the United States!! I’m just wondering why she has to wear the scarlet letter while Mr. Clinton suffers no lasting consequences and in fact seems to have only gained power and affluence. I’m just wondering why so-called feminists and our current President scream for gender equality while ignoring such blatant inequality.

We don’t need more laws and regulations that count how many women hold certain jobs and compare apples to oranges in the job market. We don’t need more regulation, talk and empty promises. We don’t need free contraception and access to abortion. We need respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Individual dignity. To be treated like the uniquely valuable beings that we are.

And, Beyoncé, if you feel like you need to write that crap, you live in a free country and are free to do so; but, allow me to suggest that you use the phrase “Bill Clintoned all over my dress” as it would be more accurately termed. In all honesty you could use your talents to lift the dignity of women instead of turning us into sexual objects to be used and discarded. We deserve better. You deserve better. And Ms. Lewinsky has suffered enough.

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Holistic Healing

My road from traditional western medicine to a homeopathic or holistic approach has stretched over the past twenty years. It started when I began to practice Natural Family Planning and I began to pay attention to my body’s rhythm and cues. When I was confronted with secondary infertility and the loss of two babies, I searched for answers.  Traditional medicine responded with “the pill” or “fertility meds”, neither of which would heal me, but only attempted to treat my symptoms. The main turn of event took place two years ago when an excellent medical doctor diagnosed me with Severe Adrenal Fatigue and Hypothyroidism. I’ve shared some of my struggles with this illness already, but now I would like to share the healing aspect of my journey.

As I was sitting in Dr. H’s office being tested for food allergies I stared down at the line of red bumps on my upper arm indicating my allergies. I was overwhelmed at the list: wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, rice and beef. I was allergic to every tree and grass that was tested as well. How in the world would I eat? What is even left to eat? Thoughts of panic raced through my brain and I did the only thing that was left to do. I prayed. “God,” I said, “if I have all these food allergies you have to send me a nutritionist. There is no way I can feed myself, let alone my family with what is left from that list. You’ve brought me this far, please don’t desert me now.” Within three minutes of that prayer an old friend walked through the door at the doctor’s office. “Diane!” I exclaimed and jumped up to embrace her. The last time I had seen her had been over ten years when our children graduated from middle school together. She said she had seen my Suburban

Dad, Mom + Nine Kids

Dad, Mom + Nine Kids

in the parking lot and knew from the sticker on the back that it had to be me, so she came looking for me. Looking. For. Me. When I asked what she had been up to she told me that she was a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I am not joking! I explained why I was there and was in shock at the whole prospect of what I had just witnessed. I live in a big city of 350,000 people smack in the middle of Dallas and Ft. Worth. Do you know how many doctors practice here? What are the chances of any NTP being there when I uttered my prayerful petition let alone someone with whom I already had a history of trust and friendship. Diane handed me her card and within a week we sat down for our first consultation.

One of the biggest factors in switching from traditional medicine to natural and homeopathic medicine is the cost. Insurance covers the former but not the latter. Most people will give up the game right there because they cannot justify spending hundreds to thousands of dollars out-of-pocket when they are already paying a hefty sum for insurance premiums. With our own premiums creeping upwards of $2,000 each month and deductibles of $9000 we had already begun looking at alternatives and found Christian Medishare. Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, but it has already paid for itself after a broken arm, an injured foot, a swallowed penny and hernia surgery in the past two years. At $350 a month for a family of 10, it has been a real answer to our health insurance dilemma (BTW, if you check them out and sign up, please put me down as a referral because my family will receive $100). So, with our health insurance expenses down, the difference in traditional and natural medicine is a wash for us.  When the playing field is evened out, it makes comparing the two routes much easier.

The next big hurdle was learning a whole new approach to treating illness. Instead of reaching for Tylenol and antibiotics, I have learned about probiotics, clean nutritional foods and taking a truly preventative approach to my family’s health vs. responding to each illness.  In the beginning, Diane taught me how to cook new recipes and provided instruction on choosing quality ingredients and offered a list of places where I could purchase them. The food we choose to eat is very emotionally integrated into our psyche. My taste buds had been formed to enjoy sugar, carbs and more of the sweet side of the palette. By changing things a little at a time, I have been able to change what appeals to me, even what I crave. A Dr. Pepper fix was a daily event two years ago, now I have absolutely no desire for one. In fact, if I drank a whole Dr. Pepper I would get physically ill—I’ll spare you the details. Good, clean food is expensive too. I went from $2 a gallon for milk to $7 a gallon. Eggs, meat, cheese and organic fruits and veggies are not any cheaper, but in the long run we are healthier and it costs less on the medical side.

Some people may question how well it is really working for me since I am still so ill. This is a legitimate question. On the one hand I am still healing, but on the other hand I have been asthma free for five years now. No inhaled steroids, no inhalers, no irritating barking coughs ever since I stopped eating and drinking pasteurized milk products. I have not taken any medications for allergies in over two years and recently was able to wean off hydrocortisone as my adrenals have healed. I have also avoided the need for antibiotics for over a year, where previously it was an every 6-8 week occurrence . Please, do not stop taking your medications without professional supervision. I was able to do all the above with the oversight of my doctor. A natural approach takes time as our body heals from previous illnesses and injuries and overcomes years of temporary fixes.

I know the holistic approach is highly debated and I won’t begin to claim that it is the right way for everyone, but I will say that I think it makes sense to start with the natural remedies and then move to traditional medicine for acute emergencies or when illnesses do not improve with treatment. It seems like common sense to me. Most people, including myself pre 2012, don’t even know natural remedies exist. Our nutrition has become so poor in our country it is embarrassing. We are a country full of obesity and yet we are starving from lack of real nutritional value in the food we consume. Our doctors are not even taught the basics of nutrition in medical school. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy either. I truly believe, and this is just Jill’s theory here, that once upon a time 50 years or so ago, people treated themselves for the basic illnesses. They knew the old wives’ theories of treating this or that ailment and they ate food that they largely grew and raised themselves with little or no pesticides (I have a family story that I’ll share with you later). They drank milk straight from the cow which was rich in good fats and natural probiotics. As modern medicine emerged and health insurance evolved from patient-payed visits to insurance company-payed visits, people became detached from making decisions based on their medical needs to cost-based decisions. Meanwhile doctors went from treating patients who had tried without success to heal themselves to seeing patients upon the first symptom of a disease who had not even attempted to treat themselves. Added to this is the fact that the drug companies are constantly educating doctors about treating illness with the latest developments in the pharmecutical industry and there is no continuing education on natural remedies apart from the doctor’s own personal research. So, here we are. And please don’t get me wrong. I love doctors and nurses and the amazing hospitals and technology we have to save and improve our lives. There is definitely a need for all aspects. I’m simply saying that I’m trying to get back to basics. Eat right, exercise, know my own body and its cues, and empower and encourage my children to do the same.

It has not been an easy journey and I often slip back into my old eating patterns, but little steps in the right direction will eventually get me to where I’m going. It is exciting to have a new world open up before you. My latest development is learning about essential oils. It is a new frontier for me, so when I get a little more knowledge under my belt I’ll be sure to share it with you. Yes, I still have a long way to go towards healing, but look how far I have already come and how much I’m learning in the process!

Homeschool vs. Other

A friend recently emailed me to ask my opinion about switching from homeschooling her children to placing them in a charter school. Her specific question was if I had ever considered any other options. In the thirteen years that we have homeschooled I can honestly say that I have never thought of doing anything differently than homeschooling my children. Well, at least not any serious thoughts. Like all homeschooling mothers who have had a particularly hard day or week, I have had my moments of wishing I could just send them off to school where all problems magically disappear. But when reality is figured into the equation, the pro’s far outweigh the con’s and we look for new solutions to our struggles and difficulties and continue down the path of home education. This is MY family’s reality though. Just because homeschooling works best for us doesn’t mean it is the best answer for other families. It would do us all a bit of good to remember that God calls us to different tasks and we need to support one another in answering that call.  I should probably put that last line on my mirror as a reminder.

I think it is a very natural response for parents who have switched from traditional schools to home schooling to have very strong convictions about what they are doing. In the transition phase, we are often quick to self-doubt and the psychological response to those doubts is to make it the one, only and best option in our mind. I think it is a survival technique, actually. I see it over and over again with “new” homeschooling families. A key indicator is when we have strong feelings of “oh, I could never. . .” or ” we will always . . .”  I have to admit that I did this as well and continue to have a tendency to have all-or-nothing thoughts with any major shift in life style changes. After all, if it’s good for me it must be good for you too.

The short answer to my friend’s question and to anyone who is trying to make educational decisions for their children is to pray. God has a plan for each of us. The more we seek out what His plan is for us and for our children, the more peace and joy we will find in our lives. Fourteen years ago I swore to a friend that I would never homeschool (See, there’s that “never” word).  Less than a year later I heard the distinctive call to homeschool. I won’t say we do not question our decision.  We review it at least on an annual basis and we have had plenty of moments of self-doubt. We spent thousands of dollars in family court seeking the right to homeschool our oldest child only to lose in court to ignorance and prejudice. Our families questioned our decision in the beginning.  We even got into a few heated discussions with close family members.  I am fairly certain there is still some doubt on the part of others, but mostly we hear praise and encouragement.  We felt called to homeschool and have continued to hear that call in every year since. God gave us the grace and faith to move forward and the blessings of following that call are too numerous to count. Whether God is calling you to homeschool or to any other form of education for your children, He will equip you to follow Him. The very fact that you are humbly seeking the best for your children shows that God has already blessed you with wisdom and humility.

Amazing Grace (Part 3)

“’Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.” –Amazing Grace by John Newton (1725-1807)

Patrick got me to the airport without a minute to spare due to the icy roads. If he wasn’t so versed on the roads of the DFW metroplex (he is my personal GPS) I would have never made it. The highways were bumper-to-bumper with cars all over the place, so he went though the city streets and got me there under an hour. My flight to Kansas City left right on time without a single empty seat thanks to Icemageddon. After he dropped me off, Patrick continued to Dallas to pick up the boys. I landed in Kansas City before he and the boys had made it back to our house.

Sr. Connie met me at the airport and we walked out to the car in bone-chilling cold Kansas City. Even with three layers, this Texas girl cannot tolerate cold weather. I went along for the ride with Sr. Connie to run a few errands and pick up Sr. Gracelea from her work at the Bishop’s residence. I arrived at the Convent to warm, smiling faces and great big welcoming hugs. We had arrived just in time for Mass followed by dinner.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

My cozy room at the Sisters.

My days at the convent were peace-filled and stress-free. Since it was Advent, it was only the Sisters and me; and my job was to rest and recover. I was able to stay in the main building and simply walk down the hallway to the chapel where Jesus was waiting for me to meet him in Adoration. My daily routine was simple: eat breakfast, spend an hour in Adoration, rest, read, eat lunch, visit with the Sisters or one of the workers, rest, read, pray, Mass, and Skype with my husband and kids before an early bedtime. A few times I was able to get out for a walk, but most days—especially the first few—I just needed rest. By the end of the retreat I had accomplished two goals: I was somewhat rested and I had been able to completely wean myself off hydrocortisone, which meant my body was starting to make it on its own again. I knew that I wouldn’t be fully healed and that the hard part was yet to come. My husband and I and our family of ten would have to make major changes in our home life to keep the momentum going.

Adoration in the morning and Skyping with my husband each evening were bookends of my days at the convent. I tried to give my will over to God each morning and allow him to direct my path and inspire my thoughts. Through prayer, scripture and spiritual reading I gained much insight on my life. My husband and I could talk about what I learned about myself each day and how our daily life and marriage intertwined with that new-found knowledge. I soon realized that most of what I was learning, I had really known all along. For instance, in times of complete exhaustion I would dream—not literally since sleeping was elusive–of leaving the house to go out into our Travel Trailer or to a Hotel just to sleep. I would quickly brush the thought from my mind thinking that I was a terrible mother to want to run away. During the retreat I realized that I was not wanting to run away, I was just wanting and needing to sleep! My mind and body were constantly telling me what I needed, but I kept ignoring the messages because of preconceived notions about myself.

After Day 6, I met with a priest to help clear my thoughts and put them in perspective. I was actually surprised by what he told me. He said that I wasn’t loving myself. He said that over the years of marriage and family I had given myself away and loved others to the exclusion of myself. I had to let this sink in. Our world sends a constant message of “everything is about you,” and “please yourself,” “do what makes you feel good”, etc. In an effort to keep from falling into this selfish trap, I had gone to the other extreme and that wasn’t any better in the long run. By not loving myself and meeting my basic needs, I was actually taking away from the potential wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend that I was made to be. I was expecting way more from myself than I would ever even consider asking of another person. I wasn’t even allowing myself a day off or breaks for rest or to use the bathroom. And I know I am not alone in this trap. I think many mothers make the same mistakes. We don’t listen to ourselves and our bodies and the messages they are sometimes screaming at us. My biggest lesson is to learn how to trust myself with the knowledge of myself and to make the proper changes.

When I left the Convent to return home I learned a lesson that all business men and women who fly out of Kansas City already know. Don’t take the last flight out on a Friday night. My plane was coming from DFW and had trouble part way through the flight with the landing gear. It was safer for them to return to Dallas than to try to land in Kansas City. My fellow travelers kept me posted on the flight delays and latest information as they received email updates. Our flight that was supposed to leave at 8pm did not take off until 12:30 am. This was not a good thing for a person with Adrenal Fatigue to whom sleep is critical and who has a Christmas celebration with her in-laws in less than twelve hours. I had to take the flight out that night because a storm was coming through and they were calling for flight cancellations across the Midwest and northeast. My nephew, his family and our other two children had left Nebraska early in the evening just missing the storms as they drove through the night to reach Ft. Worth by morning. My flight touched down at 2:30 am and I texted my husbanded. His response back was not edifying. To my text: on the runway, his reply was: in KC or DFW? Due to the lack of updates he was not aware that my flight had actually taken off. I would have to wait another 40 minutes for him to drive through torrential downpours to pick me up. We crawled into bed at 4:30 am and my incredible, self-sacrificing, loving husband got up at 6am to meet and pick up the kids when they arrived in Fort Worth. By 7am the house was stirring and we sent the kids ahead of us to Grandma’s house to begin Christmas with the promise that we would follow within the next couple of hours.

Our oldest daughter called from the road. They were stranded on the side of the Interstate with a flat tire and a flat spare. Lauren stopped on her way through and picked up one of the grandkids, but the other four were still in the car and the tow truck driver could not tow the car with anyone inside. No other vehicles of ours or her mom’s (she’s my daughter by marriage) would fit five more people. The tow driver was merciful and took Johnny (my son-in-law) to get a new tire and then came back to change the tire and to give the battery a jump when the car wouldn’t start. All of this in the pouring rain. I felt like I had left the safety of the Convent and the devil had been unleashed on my family! Fear not, it all went well from that point on. We made it to Grandma’s and had a wonderful celebration with our whole family present. The sun came out and my cortisol held up long enough to make it through the day until I grabbed a full night’s sleep.

Since arriving home, we are making those major changes in small ways, one day at a time. My family seems happier already just to have me home and, in time, God willing, I will have recovered my energy to be able to run and play and frolic with them again. For now I am thankful to be able to be at the table and in the living room enjoying their company and my new perspective (mostly from the couch) which has allowed me to appreciate them as the incredible individuals that they are instead of busily rushing from one task to the next. We have hired outside help with the kids from 9am – 2pm during the week and this has proved to be the most beneficial decision we could have made. But, that’s a whole blog post in itself. God’s grace suffices and I am thankful for the whole of this journey: the ups and the downs. I have learned so much about life, about myself, but I am most thankful because I have experienced the loving mercy of God.