Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Maybe I Can Learn Some New Tricks...


"Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance." Brene Brown

Whoa.
Wow.
Oh.    Yeah.

We all want to belong. It is a basic human necessity to be part of something bigger than ourselves, even if it's just a social group. We are wired to seek out others with whom to collaborate and communicate and once we have done that, we want to contribute.  But it's hard to do that when we don't feel like we are worthy of being a part of that group, even if we are good at faking it, because on some level, we can never let go and fully participate in that fully-immersed way that comes from NOT worrying about our performance or how others see us.

I have always had a bit of a sticking point with this.  And while I've gotten exponentially (no, really, light years ahead of where I was) better at it, I still have a hard time inserting myself into a group or proposing my own group and inviting others. It feels skeevy to me somehow, the same way going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions did when I was a kid. Like I'm invading your space to convince you that you need something you probably really don't and that makes me a complete asshat for taking up your time and making you feel guilty with my little-kid face at the door (especially if I'm your neighbor and every time you see me after that you'll feel bad all over again).  Like that.

I had the enormous good fortune to be handed an epiphany yesterday that is helping me re-frame how I think about my way of engaging in the world.  Building on something that Carrie's amazing astrologer told me a few months ago, Kris told me that she believes I generally only feel comfortable participating in a group when I am invited in.  She helped me to understand that this is not something to be 'fixed' or changed about me, it is simply the way I am designed.  The more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me.

I have spectacular hearing; a real champion eavesdropper.  But I would never overhear something and then ask you about it. Never.  I would also never inquire about something in your life that I feel is personal or none of my business unless you indicate to me that you want to talk about it.  I have several close friends who think nothing of probing for information, not in a mean or overbearing way, but in a genuinely caring, inquisitive way and I don't think any less of them for it, it's simply not who I am.  I always assumed that was because of the way I was raised, namely to always err on the side of being seen and not heard and that politeness is the most endearing feminine trait.

But if I look at my publishing successes this past year I see that they all were instances in which I responded to a call for submissions rather than writing something and going out to 'sell' it.

I am often shocked when I am invited to be part of a group in some sort of leadership capacity, but am much more likely to do that than I am to create a group based on my own agenda and thoughts or (gasp!) ask to join an already established group.  It is proving challenging to fight my immediate instinct that this need to be invited doesn't represent a weakness, but I'm determined to do it because I can only imagine the possibilities if I can begin to accept this as a part of who I truly am and capitalize on it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Of Diets and Nonsense

I have written about food and food allergies off and on here over the years, but it's been a while, so I must be due for another post in that vein.

Over the years, I have had times where I felt like the bulk of my waking hours were spent engaging in activities related to food and cooking - shopping, meal-planning, meal prep and research. While I enjoy cooking a great deal, every once in a while I feel as though I have been treading water for a long time and I'm just so tired.  I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there about which foods are healthiest and which ones I ought to avoid.  A year or so ago when the information about arsenic in rice came out and even the FDA (who I generally don't put much stock in since I'm fairly convinced they are tucked neatly in to the pockets of many major food corporations) got on board, I was thrown. As a family of gluten-free folks, this was alarming. We eat rice a lot, especially brown rice, and brown rice is purported to contain more arsenic than white rice. Add that to the 'dirty dozen' list and the research coming out about what GMOs and livestock fed antibiotics do to us and I don't even feel like eating ever again.

As I have refined our gluten-free lifestyle, I have gradually moved from using things made with simple starches (white rice flour, potato flour, tapioca starch) to creating my own whole-grain flour blend thanks to a tip from Shauna Ahern, aka Gluten Free Girl. And last year, at the urging of my naturopath, I eliminated most of the grains from that flour and substituted seed flours such as quinoa and amaranth and nut flours instead.  Of course, the story truly begins with my naturopath who has repeatedly advised me to go on a Paleo diet. All of this came about when I started having some strange symptoms that we couldn't pinpoint. Severe PMS symptoms, aches in the muscles between my ribs, and trouble taking a deep enough breath. We finally tagged the latter symptoms (along with some left side chest pains that radiated into my armpit - SCARY!) to an excess of gas in my upper GI tract that seemed to be cyclical with my periods.  The doc did some research and discovered that there is some correlation of all of these symptoms with an imbalance of estrogen (too much) to progesterone (too little). We have known about, and treated, my progesterone deficiency for several years now, but these pains were making me nuts. I was fairly certain I was having a heart attack several times a week, despite the fact that physical exercise didn't exacerbate the symptoms and they literally disappeared for 10-14 days every month for no discernable reason.

My doctor believes that all of this is a response to my adrenal glands being stressed from food allergies and liver stress from years of food allergies and inability to process B vitamins.  She recommended I eliminate all grains, legumes, dairy and sugar from my diet.

She continues to recommend that every time I see her.

I can't do it haven't done it.

About two years ago I went off dairy for a month. It was doable, and other than losing about 10 pounds and discovering that every other kind of milk tastes nasty in my latte, nothing changed.  I was thrilled to head right back to the dairy aisle every week.

I keep hearing about the Paleo diet (and I have a few cookbooks based on it), and the TQI diet (also known as the anti-inflammation diet), and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I have heard the amazing stories of recovery and honestly believe them.  But there is this quiet voice in the back of my head (and a really loud one attached to Bubba) that says, "Nope." That voice also says, "everything in moderation."

That voice in my head also takes on a slightly petulant whine when it reminds me of how good I already eat. I cook 90% of our meals here at home with organic, non-GMO ingredients. I make my own flour blend and use very little sugar, instead substituting local honey. Every dinner that hits our table has a balance of protein and vegetables with a little starch in the form of rice or GF pasta or potatoes from time to time. We do not have cookies and ice cream stashed in the pantry and breakfast is generally yogurt or fruit and granola or toast with nut butter - not pastries. On the weekends, we eat more decadently, mostly because Bubba is in charge and he does love to grill or smoke red meat, but it's lean and grass-fed.  We drink lots of water, very little juice, no soda, and 2% milk with no hormones added. We love cheese in this house. Probably more than we should.  But we don't eat fast food and we don't have prepared snacks or meals with preservatives in them unless we are really in a pinch.  The kids have potato chips maybe once a month and I never do.  My biggest vice is the glass or two of red wine I have while cooking dinner several nights a week. Yup, I'm petulant. A whiny baby, "I eat better than most everyone I know, why do I have to give up dairy and beans and sugar wine, too?"

I know that comparisons are BS - everyone's body reacts differently to different things and what is good for me may not be good for someone else.  I know that I'm being a whiny baby. But I still can't bring myself to limit my diet so severely. I am worried that limiting myself to a diet that uses only nut flours to bake with or coconut oil to cook with might end up making me prone to problems with those items, simply because I have over used them.  I am also unsure whether the symptoms I am currently experiencing have more to do with the freight train called "Menopause" that is hurtling toward me than any food I might be eating.

The problem is that I can't find any answers that convince me one way or the other. My naturopath is urging me to try and see what happens, but turning my life upside-down like that for a "wait and see" outcome seems crazy right now.  The last few MDs I've seen have either told me flat out that the ND is nuts and I should just take Prilosec for the rest of my life to combat the gas symptoms and deal with the PMS because 'it's on the normal range of the spectrum' for someone my age or they have shaken their heads in confusion and ordered blood tests that show nothing.

Yesterday I ran into a friend who is embarking on the TQI diet because her doctor did it and had amazing results for her back pain.  It got me thinking again about where to go from here and I have to admit I just don't know.  I have my annual physical scheduled in three weeks with a new MD and I'm past the point of even entertaining the thought that she will find some smoking gun. I am simply hoping that she won't pooh-pooh the fact that I see a naturopath and maybe, just maybe, be willing to consult with her to see what they can come up with between the two of them. I just hope they don't add any more vitamins to the mix because the list of the ones I'm already taking is setting me back a pretty penny every month.

Is it supposed to be this hard?

Friday, November 08, 2013

Games Rich Companies Play

I was planning on writing a post today about yesterday's breakfast with Donna Brazile (and roughly 699 other people, but still...).  It was pretty amazing, especially given that I got to hang around with a few dozen other people afterwards for an hour or so to ask her questions.  Sadly, that post will have to wait because I have a little rant I'd like to go on.

As most everyone knows, Twitter went public yesterday. Now, I will be the first to admit that I know very little about the nuanced workings of an IPO or the stock market itself, and I will also tell you that I have no intention of learning the ins and outs of this convoluted financial game in this lifetime.  I will say that, although I am certain I have benefited from the knowledge of others and their investments on my behalf, I still think this game is the most ridiculously rigged American institution out there. To me, it seems like one of those high-stakes poker games that only the crazy-rich or wildly bold really profit from and the story I heard on NPR this morning only solidified that for me.

You see, even though the vernacular states that Twitter "went public" yesterday, the truth is, they went private the day before.  They sold initial shares to huge investors at $26/share on Wednesday and by the time of the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, the shares had shot up so much that most regular investors were shut out. Not to mention the fact that most regular investors couldn't even have gotten leverage to buy a share even if it were within their price range. Most of the trading yesterday benefitted the folks who were allowed to get in at the $26 price and those who hold massive influence on the floor of the stock exchange because they have enormous client lists and lots of money to burn.  NPR talked to one Texas stockbroker who was hoping to purchase some stock for his clients, but was unable to because of the skyrocketing price.

Now, think for a minute about what happened here.  A visionary company made a boatload of money for their efforts. That's kind of cool. But more salient is the fact that lots of rich investors made themselves richer while shutting out smaller investors whose profits would likely have gone more directly back into their communities.  Even if you still believe in trickle-down economics (don't get me started - I am no economic wizard, but I have read and witnessed enough in my short lifetime to think that was all a giant scam), what are the odds that the astronomical sums of money made by these large investors yesterday will find their way down to the middle class?

To paraphrase Donna Brazile (hey, I worked in a reference to yesterday after all), if you aren't part of the group when the rules are being written, the deck is likely stacked against you. If the rules are written to benefit one group of folks and you can't add your voice to the discussion, you're never going to win. What would happen if we made it easier for smaller groups of individuals to invest in the stock market and initial public offerings? What sense does it make to keep shuffling the deck to give the money out to the same folks over and over again? I know Twitter was handsomely compensated for their hard work and innovation and I appreciate that.  But offering pre-sales of popular stocks to those who already have money is like saying the families who can afford to pay for their kids to attend private pre-schools will get first right to enrollment in the Head Start program.  I know that engagement in the stock market is not an entitlement and I am not advocating priority for anyone. It just seems ludicrous to me that there is such an uneven playing field that virtually shuts most of middle-income folks out of the game when they could be benefitting and investing in their communities with the money they make by helping to support their own families. It is disgusting to watch the ever-increasing rolls of those living in poverty whose food-stamp benefits are being cut while others are literally making money hand over fist after being allowed early purchase of IPO stock. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Book Review of "I Am Troy Davis"

I love writing book reviews that end up prompting the author to contact me. I love it even more when it turns out the author lives in my same area.  Here is my latest book review for BookPleasures. Check it out if you are interested in nonfiction works about social justice.  Also, if anyone lives near Whidbey Island, the author, Jen Marlowe, will be speaking about the book tomorrow night. This is the link to information about that.


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