Category: sustainability

Let the Detox Begin

One of the realities of living in the world today is that our bodies are filled with toxins from before the time we are born. The air we breathe is polluted. The water we drink is polluted. Much of the food we eat is treated with chemicals or maybe isn’t really food at all, but simply a mix of chemicals politely called “processed food.”

There are benefits and there are downsides to this reality. We grow a lot more food then we’ve ever been able to in the past, but it’s generally less nutritious, or at least that’s true of the conventionally grown foods. We have tons more stuff than we’ve ever had before, but I’m not sure that we have as much, much less more happiness. We’ve also got a lot more medicines and health care tools to keep us going. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes the medicines can add to the disease. That’s what brought me here today.

As many of my readers know, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I think it’s about seven years ago now. Generally, it’s not a huge part of my life. It’s largely controlled by medication and I go about my day to day like anyone else. Over the past year or two though I had a couple small seizures which I suspect were caused, at least in part, by a stressful job situation. In any case, my doctor and I decided to try some changes to my medications. The changes didn’t work.

I had an allergic reaction which became something known as DRESS Syndrome (Drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms). I can be thankful to say that with a great team of physicians from the Mayo Clinic, mine was caught early and no major damage was done. Still, now and for the foreseeable future, the added toxins in my system mean periodic flares with exhaustion, weakness, rashes, and other symptoms.

So, instead of getting beaten down by this new challenge, I am trying to find the opportunity to learn and to renew. Yesterday, I sat down with my integrative medicine practitioner, Dr. Kelly Felmer, and we agreed on a plan. Over the next ten days I’ll be embarking on a detox diet; no dairy, meat, grains, artificial colors or flavors, and following a strict set of guidelines on what I can eat focusing on lots of healthy fruits and veggies. This morning is starting with a nice smoothie made with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, carrots, and spinach. After the ten days of detox I’ll start on the autoimmune protocol, another clearly defined diet to help me heal my gut, get rid of toxins, and determine what foods might causing me harm. That will take at least a few months probably longer.

It’s a journey, but one that I get to define and one that, I hope, will get to the root of the health challenges that I’ve faced and make my overall physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing better for the long run. My plan is to share that journey here. I hope that you will come along.

Taking Care of Self

It’s been a few weeks. It feels that I should write something, but I’m not sure what. Life continues to present its challenges, encouraging me to reframe and seek the gifts.

I am continuing to look for a new job. I’m thankful to still be working at UMM, but it’s not the place for me. Maybe I’ve spoiled in my life in grassroots nonprofits, but I’m not interested in the hierarchy or pettiness. There are a lot of good people and I will always be thankful for having had the chance to meet and get to know them. I am thankful too for the opportunity to get to see the university from the inside at this point of my life.

We all know it’s not a good time to be looking for work. I am thankful for all my experiences and for not being held in any one place. I feel confident that I will find a great new adventure where I will be able to take my skills to make people’s lives just a little bit better.

My body remains unimpressed with something. It’s continuing in what is now the 3rd week of a rash that seems to probably be a reaction to my medication. It reminds me how much my body has to work with, how much I need to care for myself. It is a good reminder of the importance of my meditation, time away from the screen, time to play music, to cook, to be outside, to eat good foods with plenty of vegetables, all these things to show myself love. The doctors will give me medication. They will do their roles in providing care. But, it is my role, it is each of our roles, to give our bodies the best care we can. They are the only bodies we’ll have after all.

We all have these times. All we can do sometimes is just take some time off. Today I baked bread and attempted to make dandelion jelly. The bread worked. They dandelion jelly turned out too thin to even be syrup. But, it was an afternoon in the kitchen, just relaxing, doing something different. It was good. How are you taking care of yourself today?

The Emotional Winter

This may just be a short post, but it is a thought that I wanted to share before it gets lost somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind.

I was talking with one of my students earlier today. We were just chatting a bit about school and life and just how things were going for them these days. They were feeling rather down. It seems right now that’s how a lot my students are feeling and how a lot of other people I know are feeling too.

The student told me something that I had heard before from several others. They said that they were just trying to keep things going, keep everything normal, and just push on through. I said to them that I respected that approach, but things aren’t normal right now, why would doing the same thing as we do in a normal situation work?

Then I suggested that it’s like the seasons. Right now we’re in a sort of midwestern winter of reality. We can’t walk out in it in only our summer of self-care and expect not to be frozen and in deep pain. We need to wrap ourselves up in caring and gentleness right now if we are to do our work and face our reality. Our reality is there and needs to be faced. There is work to be done. We just have to prepare ourselves for the weather and sometimes just sit by the fire to keep our beings warm.

Too Much For a Morning

Woke up this morning to the news that both John Prine and Charlotte Figi (the little girl who inspired the creation of Charlotte’s Web , the CBD oil that became world known for its effectiveness in treating a form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome) died yesterday from the COVID-19 virus.

Then I read a bit about the voting yesterday in my home state of Wisconsin. Like many, I wonder how many will die from voting this year. I followed that with a look at my email. There I read a message from the university president about the likelihood of budget cuts in the upcoming year. It’s now 8:09 a.m.

You know there are some days that we just need to take off a bit. So, with John Prine in the background I am taking a little time to just write. I’ve got a meeting in a couple hours that I’ll join in, but I’m taking my crocheting with me and my dog too and just taking the time to listen to other folks from around the state to hear how they are handling this situation. It’s good to come together even when we can’t do it in person.

I don’t know what else to do in this moment. I like to solve problems and it’s hard when I can’t. I suspect many of us have that problem with this situation we are in. All I can do is tell myself what I tell my students– be gentle on self.

There’s nothing really new or inspirational in this post, but I feel it needed to be written if only for my own comfort. Still, I hope that maybe, just maybe it could offer a little comfort to someone out there to know that you’re not the only one who is sometime having those days where the bad news just seems to pile up and all you can do is step back to take pause and let it pound its way through. I hope that you’ll take good care of yourself today and know that we will make it. Things will get better again.

Using Time Wisely

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the US as the most obese country in the world in 2019. The World Health Organization tells us that we are one of the most depressed countries in the world.

The US is among the highest CO2 producers in the world. We continually are dumping poisons everywhere. We are continually putting poisoning our own food and the water we drink. Why?

We have a fascinating opportunity right now. At other times people might pay thousands of dollars to go on retreats to step away from their regular day to day lives and step into something new. We’ve all been given the opportunity for free. Sure, maybe it doesn’t come with an exotic vacation spot or maybe we’re still doing a lot of our work from before and some new jobs too, but we’ve got something here. How can we use it?

I keep thinking of something a friend use to say. He’d be presenting to groups, talking about all sorts of important environmental issues of the day and he’d tell people. “Don’t worry about protecting the earth. The earth, she’ll be fine. It’s us that we need to that we need to be concerned about. We’re the ones who will no longer be able to drink the water. We’re the ones who will no longer be able to breathe the air. We’re the ones who will no longer have food to eat.”

He was right. I suspect that this virus is simply another warning. The warnings are getting bigger and more intense each one after the other. We need to figure this out. What can we do?

You are there in your personal retreat. How can you take this time to care for yourself body, mind, spirit, soul? How does your relationship to this place where we live, this earth change? How do we show her respect? How do we stop poisoning her and poisoning ourselves in the process? When we walk together again who will you be? Who will we all be?

Dreams

This morning my thoughts are of dreams. I’ve always been a dreamer. I believe our sleeping lives tell us a great deal about our waking time sometimes it’s just difficult to figure out what it all means and what to do with it. As we settle into this time of isolation and slowing of our society, I wonder how our dreams will be? I wonder if the spirits might be heard more clearly as we allow our brains to quiet from the daily noise? I wonder if we’ll understand and listen?

I don’t always remember my dreams, but there are few from these past two weeks that are still floating in my head. In the first I was pregnant. My belly was large and round. I felt its warmth and cradled my about to be born child with love. I woke as the child was being born. The child was a new world. It was a beautiful moment for a forty-eight year old post-menopausal woman who’s never had a biological child. It feels like some directions to me, that I am to give birth to something. I don’t know what but I trust in the beauty and the good.

The second dream made me thankful for being able to awaken. I was in an old house, but it was new to me. I was there with an old friend. We were just moving in. I’d laid on a bed when I felt a weight down on me and couldn’t move. I could hear that Queen song, Under Pressure playing and forcing me down into the mattress. Then I awoke and for just a moment I was stuck there unable to move until I realized again where I was. It wasn’t quite a nightmare. I was able to wake up before it became one. I was somewhere between the old and the new and stuck there.

How are we all now in this place between the old and the new? Are we ready to give birth to a new beginning? What is it that we seek of ourselves and what is it that we seek in the world when this time of isolation is done? How are we preparing?

Dreams well my friends. Our dreams hold a lot of questions and a lot of answers.

Learning When School Is Closed

So, the schools are closed. For some this is a challenge and it might even mean that learning is lost. For others I suspect it could the best thing that’s happened in 500 years.

I was just thinking this morning about some of my Native friends whose kids and grandkids aren’t in school right now, thinking about where those kids are instead. I realized they’re out at the sugarbush. They’re helping cook food for the family. They’re listening to their grandpa tell stories. Heck, some are even talking with their moms in their Native languages. It made me wonder what will happen to these children?

For over a hundred years Native children were stolen from their families and placed in boarding schools where their language, culture, and traditions were forcibly taken from them. When the boarding school era was winding down the federal government tried another tactic, taking funding from tribes and, in some cases, revoking the recognition of tribes making it impossible to maintain schools equal to that of predominately white areas. Yet, somehow the people survived. A great deal was lost, but much was retained.

If cultures can survive when children are torn away for generations and kept by their captors, what might happen if children can be held close and held with love and told the stories by their families? I can only hope that this illness that has struck the world might help us find the medicine we need.

I suspect the same is true regardless of who we are, Native or non-Native. Our children grow strong when they know their history, when they know who they are. Tell them the stories. Show them the way. The time out of school may be the best time to learn.

How Does This Change Us?

Okay, I took a break again and now it’s time to start writing. I don’t know what to say and can only hope that I find words that can provide help to someone somewhere. This COVID-19 thing is a strange beast. To me in some ways it only feels like a continuance and growth of my past few years here in Morris. While I have found some friends who have made all the difference, I haven’t found my home here. My main community has remained in different places separate from me. So, this is largely just a chance to learn about myself, to figure out some different ways to work, and to work on my own inner challenges in hopes of coming out a stronger and healthier person for whatever my next adventure may be.

The thing that keeps coming to my mind is something that my old friend Walt used to speak about when he was out talking with groups. Walt was a leader in the environmental and social justice movements in the Midwest and beyond. He used to tell people that we didn’t need to worry about saving the earth. The earth she will be okay. The earth she will heal herself. It is us that will die when we can’t breathe the air. It is us who will die when can’t drink the water anymore. It is us who will die when there are no trees, when there is no food to eat. It is us who will die.

Walt told the stories and gave the warnings. This COVID-19 thing seems to be giving the warnings too, giving them loudly and forcefully. I wonder how this changes who we each are individually and collectively? I’ve heard some tales that the shutdowns have already had positive impacts on the environment. I see stories each day of people slowing down and taking the time to take a walk and wave to people they pass, feeling the crushing weight of stress lighten as they stop running from meeting to meeting and task to task.

When this is over will we go back to who we were? Can we go back to who we were? Will we be someone new? Who do we want that someone to be?

How Do We Respond To All The Violence?

Some of my students and I were meeting today for our regular learning circle. It turned out not to be the circle I’d expected. I’d gone in with a list of questions and updates to make sure that everyone’s community projects were on task and ready to be done in just a few weeks.

Instead, we got into other conversations. One of the topics of conversation was the recent mass shootings. We discussed how violence has become the norm, the students spoke to how their response to the growing number of shootings in our country is to do their best to ignore it. They expressed how this is the only way that they feel they have to handle the immense fear, grief, and anger. They spoke of becoming hardened to feeling.

I suggested to them that this hardening seems to me much like that of depression or burnout and that maybe our society is burned out and that’s not okay. They agreed that this may be the case. Not surprisingly, they had no clear answers on what to do. But, I think the conversation was good and healthy and maybe part of what needs to be done. They talked with each other. We came together as community and acknowledged our fear face to face. That coming together and just talking is part of the healing I am sure of that. Community is essential. That’s not social media discussion or meetings to act or anything else other than just coming together as people and just letting the conversation flow.

I had another interesting conversation later in the day. A friend offered to me that part of the problem we may be facing today is inter-generational trauma. My friend spoke specifically to the trauma carried by white people from generation to generation from our role that we’ve played in so much destruction and enslavement of many kinds. Something there made sense to me, not just for the dominant group, but for all of us.

What is it that we do with our history? I’d always heard of the concept of multi-generational trauma associated with Native cultures. There is much to suggest that it is very much a reality. What if it is true of all of us? What if we carry the experiences and energies of past generations? What if we are deepening and speeding up the process with the intensity of the growth of violence in our lives?

Many Native peoples have found their way in life through a revitalization of cultural history, by learning their languages, practicing their spirituality, returning to traditional foods, and simply listening to their stories.

While I believe firmly in pressuring the government to take appropriate actions to address the growing violence and I think it’s important to partake in non-violent protest to make our voices heard, I think there is something more, something for the long term.

I think there is a knowledge in the work being done in Native communities to address inter-generational trauma that is part of addressing the growing issue of violence in our communities. We need to ask ourselves each day, “How can I treat myself and all my relations with respect and caring?”

This begins, I believe, with taking pause, breathing deep, and treating ourselves gently, feeding ourselves in healthy ways physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This gives us the energy to reach out.

We reach out to feed our relations whether those be fellow people or the earth and its other inhabitants. We take time to breathe together and get to know each other, to heal each other’s wounds.

That’s where we begin and that’s where we ultimately find the long term answers, in caring for ourselves and each other, in building our spiritual and emotional connections, in becoming a community.

It seems so simplistic and yet so challenging and so lost over so many generations. Yet, it is what we need. So, today, care for yourself, treat yourself with respect, and reach out with the same caring and respect for all those around.

Day 19 of the Fruit and Vegetable Challenge

Yesterday was the first day that I missed writing this blog since the challenge began. It was a long, hot day and I was wiped out by the end. My co-worker, Mary Jo and I took a small crew of undergrads on a trip to the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus to visit the organic and Native medicine gardens and then on to Dream of Wild Health. This meant spending a full day out in 90+ degree heat and high humidity. We were lucky to miss the storms though and to get the positive impacts of cool breezes coming with the thunder storms.

The garden tours were all excellent. It was beautiful to see the energies that the farmers carry with them. Courtney, our first guide, took us through the organic gardens at the UM. Her smile was fantastic and she spoke with such joy of her love of growing unusual foods. We got to try quite a few berries, lemon drop tomatoes, several different edible flowers, all delicious!

We hadn’t expected a tour at the Medicine Garden, but Frances was there so he spoke for a bit, sharing the history of the place and encouraging us all to let go of our consumerism and instead grasp on to living for future generations. He spoke to a treaty that wasn’t ratified. His comments left me with questions. I’ll have to do some digging to figure out what treaty he was referring to. There is no doubt that many of the Native signers of the treaties didn’t have a full understanding of what they were signing and signed only under duress, but given that congress ratified the treaties, I wasn’t aware of any that weren’t ratified that the US wanted.

We spent a bit more time at the Medicine Garden than we’d expected. So, had to grab a quick bite to eat. I had to kind of wonder as we went through the line at Subway. We’re all supporters of organic farming. We all garden. We’d just listened to Frances speak to anti-consumerism and living our values. Then we went to get some of the lowest quality fast food available to humankind. I will say that I skipped it. I went for the sausage and cheese with crackers and some grapes and currants that we had in the van instead.

The afternoon was at Dream of Wild Health where we learned how to pollinate corn and squash for seed saving. It was really quite interesting to watch. I found myself remembering back in the days when my brother Tom was in high school and he spent summers de-tasseling corn. It was a much larger scale of controlling pollination, but much the same. It is striking to really think about how plants like corn are pollinated and how, even when we try to eat clean, we are so easily impacted by GMOs and chemically treated plants.

Dream of Wild Health is really an amazing place. Their work is to restore health and well-being in Native communities. They do this through restoring traditional foods and medicines, educating, and building community. It struck me, as I am sure it has many others, how appropriate it is that they have staff named Faith and Hope. Those two concepts are at the core of their work and simply radiate from everyone and everything in the place.

After a warm, but educational day we headed home. We stopped along the way for dinner at a little place called the Lakeside Cafe. It was a reminder to me of how my diet has changed. They had a nice buffet for their Friday fish fry. I opted for it, but was amazed at the level of carbohydrates and the lack of fresh, well fresh anything. So, a simple house salad with that value-free iceberg lettuce, some pickled beets, and bean salad, along with a bit of canned pears. The main meal though was breaded cod, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, and a dinner roll. I tried the rice, but that was just not a good thing. I think that’s about the same amount of simple carbs as I normally eat in almost a week.

I’m not quite sure on my calorie count for the day, but I think it stayed under 2,000 and that’s good for a day like that. Plus, we did get a lot of walking in, not fast walking, but still we were moving about.

Now, the question is today. I had hoped for a trip to another county fair, but right now it’s raining. Maybe later if it clears up.