Tuesday, June 1, 2010

good morning, let's freak out for a minute

I'm pretty sure it's appropriate, although pointless, of course.

I think the gulf oil spill is such a cataclysmic event that there is either denial or outright obfuscation, because if people really understood how bad this is, we would all be freaking out. I think this is the event we will look back at a hundred years from now and say "and that was when it happened."  We're living in an economy that can't take on many more blows. There isn't much left to absorb the damage, and there are going to be enormous blows coming out of this - entire industries, coastal economies, tourist economies, not to mention what is going to happen next to the oil industry as a result of this and the expense that will be passed on from that - all of that is hitting an economy that is already down for the count. We're way past being able to contain the problem, save habitats, save the fishing economy for that entire part of our country (not to mention other countries this will affect), we're past finding a happy solution. If it were capped right this second it would already be too late. All the backpedaling on BP's part ("there is no plume of oil below the surface..." - really???? Great!), their concerns over how much this is going to cost them, how they can do damage control and put a better spin on it - it's too late. This is the event that will change everything.

Of course, I could be wrong. Hey, lets book a cruise. Does driving a Prius count as a carbon offset?

Monday, May 24, 2010

a brief public service announcement

I get really exhausted with people who have some crazy new diet or food obsession or who want me to subscribe to becoming macroneurotic or only eating foraged food or whatever. So it's with a gigantic grain of  hand harvested fleur de sel that I am going to say this. If you are bothering to read this, please consider trying to go without wheat or dairy for a month. Really, you can do anything for a month. When you reintroduce these foods (one at a time), you will know immediately if you have a good reason not to consume them. And there are very good reasons to want to know this.

There's a very high likelihood that none of us digest wheat glutens very well. On the evolutionary timeline, although we think of bread as an ancient food, wheat is on the teeny tiniest little end bit of the timeline. Wheat and corn are the earliest engineered crops. Our bodies don't really know what to do with that. But there's more to it than just some digestive problems.

Even in people who have zero digestive symptoms, gluten intolerance causes increased gut permeability, which means that on a molecular level the foods you eat start leaving the appropriate place and roaming about in your abdominal cavity and sensibly enough, your body starts producing antibodies. As a result, other food sensitivities, intolerances, allergies result. It takes time. You won't know this is happening straight away.

Your doctor will likely be no help at all. Celiac disease/gluten intolerance is one of the most misdiagnosed and overlooked problems ever, primarily because there is no drug treatment and therefore no incentive to do research, testing, continuing education or in any way to pay attention to it. In fact, it's far more profitable to misdiagnose with conditions for which there are drugs.

One of the most common presenting symptoms of this problem is panic or anxiety disorders. In populations chosen for the diagnosis of schizophrenia or autism, the incidence of gluten intolerance is around 90%. There are obvious neurological associations then, also an increased risk of T cell lymphoma, colon cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, organ failure and loads of other charming things - all even if you have no symptoms at all. And even if physicians could be persuaded to look for this problem, the tests are fairly lame. A positive result does tell you something but a negative is not conclusive. And the only truly conclusive test is a surgical biopsy of the small intestine and when all that's done, the only treatment is to not eat foods with gluten.

So what I'm saying is, give yourself a month. Really, you will know when you reintroduce foods if they are causing you a problem. You will save yourself years of accumulating health problems which will only become apparent later on. You will save money on therapy for problems which are actually physical in origin, your skin will clear up, you'll stop having headaches and you will be a pain in the ass at restaurants. It's okay, it's well worth it. Just give it a shot.

I was lucky in the sense that I had digestive symptoms - which were consistently misdiagnosed, including by several gastroenterologists. I took medications which had no useful effect, went to therapy for panic disorder, took xanax, tried ssri's, had every typical presenting symptom of gluten intolerance. And if I hadn't done an elimination diet on my own I never would have figured it out. If I could go back twenty years, the only thing I would be intent on changing is to do that much sooner.

And I want to say again, it's very likely that this affects almost all of us on a continuum. So really, give it 30 days. I wish someone would've said that to me, but I'm grateful to have figured this stuff out. Even if I'm a pain in the ass at restaurants and miss eating lovely chewy bread.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This is something I wrote in a notebook I carry with me so that when I'm twenty minutes early to everything, I have something to do.

I am thinking about kindness as a practice - kind driving, kind shopping, kind house cleaning, kind gardening, kind work with my clients, kind relationships. Kindness isn't always what it seems; it isn't ever just playing nicey-nice and smiling and metaphorically patting everyone on the head. Sometimes it's kindest to say no. Sometimes there are complicated choices. Most of the time true kindness requires looking both closely and deeply and not stopping with the obvious. The impulse toward kindness can be - or become - reflexive and instinctive, but the practice requires thought, which is maybe the reason that "kindness" and "thoughtfulness" are often interchangeable words.

Kind driving is a great example of this. Most of the people I know would probably consider themselves to be kind drivers, and in lots of ways they are (although I know a surprising number of otherwise kind and gentle people who have an alter ego that drives their car!). Most of the people I know don't cut others off in traffic, make obscene gestures, lay on their horns, tailgate because they're in more of a hurry than the person in front of them - you know, all the obvious rude stuff. But now make it a real practice, and make the picture both wider and more detailed. Assume you are responsible for the best possible experience for EVERYONE around you on the road. You are the ambassador of vehicular kindness. So you have to consider the person behind you, the person behind them, the person behind that person, the car in front of you, the one hoping to enter traffic from a sidestreet, and it isn't simple. If you let the person on the sidestreet in, do half a dozen people behind you miss making the next traffic signal? If you are able-bodied, do you voluntarily choose the farthest away parking spots? Even if it's raining? Is your car the kindest car you can afford, one that uses as few resources as possible, and do you drive only when it's really necessary and combine errands as carefully as you would if you had to walk? Do you leave early enough for work or appointments that you don't need to hurry, and you don't need to harbor resentment and impatience and steam at the tiny old person who can barely see over the steering wheel and who is driving 20mph below the speed limit? Because the point isn't just that you refrain from tailgating or gesturing wildly to hurry them along; as a practice, the point is the effect on your own thoughts and feelings. What matters is that you use the amazing power of your conscious mind to create more kindness in yourself.

So it isn't a simple thing, but the gift of any practice is that with time and repetition and persistence, new patterns are constructed, pathways where the practice begins to flow more smoothly. And of course, when that happens, we can use our attention to notice finer and finer details, farther and farther reaching consequences, because that's the thing about a practice - it isn't ever "finished."

Monday, April 5, 2010

typing out loud

I'm one of the most talkative people I know, but lately I've been mostly speechless, at least as far as the internet goes, which is pretty far.
It's odd how much I've counted on the secluded little Gaia community as a place where I could say pretty much anything, feel like I was talking amongst friends and that I would be forgiven if I was silly or dumb or worse. I am a little bit adrift. This makes me think that maybe I should write a book, you know, just to talk on purpose to people I don't know and also of course because I am attracted to endeavors that will never ever make any money at all. (What, did you think I was going to open a bank, or a bookie business, or start selling...well, anything? I would be the world's worst salesperson, no matter what the product was - "Really, you probably don't need this. I mean, you don't have it now, and you're fine, right?") So, yeah, me, adrift. A bit.

I'm putting on my big girl panties now and dealing with it.

Tomorrow morning one of our fabulous poodle pups goes to get his nads snip-snipped - they are brother and sister and we of course don't want crazy mutant poodle puppies to ensue, so he goes first. She goes as soon as the freaking IRS gives us our tax refund for buying this falling down house, which they apparently think will break the bank because they are stalling and foot dragging and being all governmental and stuff (read as "being stupid and annoying"). I think she's going to freak out at being away from him tomorrow for an entire day, whereas he won't even notice what's happened, what with the anesthesia and all. Maybe I'll rearrange all the furniture while he's gone, just to surprise him.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

potato pancakes, cabbage and computer malfunctions

I started this blog a long time ago with all kinds of good intentions, but I kept blogging on Gaia and faded out here. On Gaia, people commented, conversations started, it wasn't just me blabbing. But Gaia is going to be no more, and knowing myself, I can't stop talking. So I'm hoping people will talk back, and I won't just be floating out here talking to myself. Yes?

I am having fits with Picassa, which is where I download and store all my photos. I suppose I need to uninstall and reinstall, but since the issue is that I can't transfer any photos it will mean losing everything I've put in before I realized I couldn't get the photos back out again. Can't email, can't post to a web album, any attempt crashes my computer and I have to restart. It is quite happy to download, it just won't regurgitate in any form. Anyone have any thoughts? Frustrating.

Last night Krissy brought home Dropkick Murphys and today I'm eating lovely leftover cabbage and potato pancake. I'd post a pic, but you just heard my sad sad story, so forget that. I could go use the lappy but stubbornness has set in now and that would just feel like surrender to the forces of cyber evil if I give in. So just imagine really cute wedges of cabbage with coarse black pepper and lovely little potato cakes with onions, all nicely browned and adorable and yummy. Whatever you imagine, it's even better, I swear.