My five year old son wants to marry me ... he has told me many times.  He thinks I'm perfect.  He loves my hair when it's crazy curly before I've had the chance to "fix it"... he notices any time I wear something new and always tells me I look beautiful ... he likes to hold my hand and sit close to me on the couch.  He loves me.  He runs to get me a tissue when I cry at sappy movies ... he thinks I'm the prettiest singer ... I give the best hugs ... I am funny and the nicest Mommy ever.  He doesn't judge me on days when my autoimmune diseases leave me full of inflammation and mind-numbing fatigue.  He says I am the best cook in the world and nobody else makes poached eggs on toast the right way but me.  True love.

Everything I need to know about my own self-worth I should learn from my Kindergartner.

Is self-esteem something you are supposed to learn from osmosis when you meet someone with it?  Breathe deeply and it will become a part of you too?  Is it supposed to grow from experiences when you can look back and say, "wow, I really like me"?  I guess I missed that day in school where the teacher passed out the folders full of self esteem.

I contracted a wicked case of "people-pleaser-itis" when I was very young - and it stuck around.  I'm the girl that would bend over backwards to make sure you were happy.  I taught myself to be super watchful and to anticipate the needs of others.  I jump at the chance to say something nice to someone who seems to be having a down day.  I am the chick in the checkout line that will let anyone go ahead of me - always.  Now this doesn't sound bad - right?  It's part of the niceties that make checkout lines quicker and the world a kinder and more friendly place.

But when you wrap your whole self up in the fact that you're the nice girl and the queen of compromise - it's not a big leap to becoming the champion doormat.  Anyone can walk all over you if you are too "nice" to say "I'm worth more than that".  Not everyone is out to break you down or hurt you ... but knowing who you are and what you believe in is vital.

I'm learning who I am ... in my early 30's as a newly single mother ... I'm finding myself.  Not the me that I "lost" when I married young and stayed at home with my kids for 11 years.  I'm finding who I am now.  The real me - underneath all the "nice" expectations I'd put on myself as a wife or a daughter or a mom.  Underneath all the demands made by others that I'd accepted as truth for myself.

Whoo Are You?
My mom used to have a small collection of owls.  They never struck me as particularly cute or interesting
(I should apologize to the porcelain owl that spent decades dutifully holding our hall door open).  But I've decided I need to have an owl or two in my life now.  To remind me to ask "Whoo are you?".  So that I won't just move through my days doing all the things that need to be done and not spend any thought on who I am becoming.

It's such a blessing to realize that uncomfortable change can become a joyous awakening in your life.  To push you beyond what you knew yourself to be - and welcome the growth and transformation.
Learning to *Bloom*.

So my assignment is to start loving myself the way my 5 year old loves me.  Unconditionally and with sweet appreciation of my own uniqueness.  One of the lessons we all should learn in kindergarten.  : )

I'll leave you with a beautiful quote from an anonymous author ...

"I choose to live by choice, not by chance.  To make changes, not excuses.  To be motivated, not manipulated.  To be useful, not used.  To excel, not compete.  I choose self-esteem, not self pity.  
I choose to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinion of others."

We've had a round of colds at our house.  Both boys and mom have been "blessed with rest" and have practiced our sharing by exchanging cold germs.  Awwww ... Thanks guys.  : )   I thought I'd take time to share the natural remedies that I use with my kiddos and for myself when we've got a case of the ickies.

There is a wild array of "natural remedies" available to tempt the eager homeopathic Google user.  I've done a lot of searches over the years ... working to keep myself and the boys off of antibiotics that reek havoc on your digestive system and can weaken overall immunity.

-  Breathe easy with the Neti Pot ... 
One of the "weird remedies" that people are sometimes reluctant to try
(Hi Mom!)  I don't know of many people that have used a neti pot, especially during times of sinus colds or allergies, and said it was not helpful.  It can cut down the duration of a cold quite dramatically and make breathing during recovery much easier.  My youngest has been a neti pot fan since he was 2 1/2 and got red playdoh stuck (really stuck!) up his nose.  It's impossible to type that without remembering his sweet little face when he realized the magic neti pot "fixed it".  Since then he has asked to do the neti pot almost nightly - as part of his bedtime routine.  That little porcelain (or plastic) pot can be used daily as a way to flush out allergens and germs before they can take up residence in your body.  You do get used to that "I might be drowning a little" feeling ... and what a relief to breathe clear again.  Try it!   : )

-  Gargle a sore throat away...
Waking up with that scratchy, painfully sore throat ... aggravated by mouth-breathing and dehydration from being sick - not fun.  Gargling with warm water and sea salt helps soothe the ache.  My newest trial has been gargling with Turmeric powder (added to the salt and hot water).  I have grown to love Turmeric for it's anti-inflammatory properties in relation to autoimmune disease.  Now I can have a Turmeric party - in a mug - a la India - to relieve a sore throat.  I've only used it with this cold but I believe that it does more for pain relief then just the sea salt gargle.  Plus it is spicy and helps clear the sinuses a bit too.  : )

-  Ease that ache with Ear Oil ...
My boys have been pretty healthy (such a blessing) but they both had quite a few ear infections when they were little.  Especially the wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-crying-and-won't-stop kind of ear aches.  I found ear oil when my oldest son was an infant.  After doses of children's tylenol, standing and swaying back and forth for an hour, humming in a candle lit bathroom full of steam at 3 in the morning - a mom feels ready to try *anything* to bring relief to her little bundle of joy ... and sleep.  I've used it ever since for both boys.  I warm the bottle in a mug of hot water and test it before putting up to 5 drops into the ear and a little piece of cotton ball over the ear to keep the cold air out.  Works like a charm and we've avoided antibiotics many times in their past.  I've made my own garlic olive oil (with the same great results) and refilled the bottle because the cost seems silly when you have a big jug of olive oil - a true kitchen cabinet remedy.

-  Be a hydration specialist ... 
Refill that water glass over and over - and be annoying (or so my 11 year old says) ... "drink up"!  Mugs of hot tea (or just hot water) with lemon and honey - soothe a sore throat and boost your vitamin C intake.  I'm also a big fan of EmergenC drinks (Tropical is yummiest!) which I find at Trader Joe's.   (I LOVE Trader Joe's - just thought I'd share.)  The boys call it the "Special Drink" and sometimes drink it like it's a soda - a treat.  : )  Just keep that glass full to flush out those yuckies.

-  You want me to put Vicks where?
Okay ... you may think I'm looney (I'll risk it) ... but at bedtime I smear garlic oil (from capsules) and Vicks Vapor Rub on our feet and then put socks on.  It's bizarre and super effective for night time coughs and congestion.  Makes for stinky socks in the morning but my kids always ask for the "foot gunk" when they're not feeling well.  The garlic oil acts as an antibiotic and the Vicks Vapo Rub  is awesome - plus it makes the garlic less stinky.

Don't forget the good old fashioned remedies of chicken soup, hot showers to break up congestion, cool rags and ice chips to soothe fever, lots of rest ... and television.  It's good for what ails ya.  (*wink wink*)

Take care of yourself and love on your loved ones.

My Blog got a fabulous facelift!  I'm in LOVE with what the super talented April of A Mommy's Blog Design Studio came up with - all from her great questionnaire and my rambling emails describing my dream blog.  Her Designs are so fresh and sweet and all so unique - exactly what you would expect for a Custom Blog Design!  She has such kindness, patience and awesome customer service skills - which are extremely important when dealing with "artsy" people who "just need to tweak one more thing".  LoL.  Did I mention I'm one of those? - Hah.  I'm telling you, she's amazing.  : )  I'm shouting from the rooftops because she just ROCKS the Design world in my book!  (You can find her on Etsy too!)  *Thanks April!*

 All this fresh blog loveliness has had me thinking about transformations.  I've always been drawn to the caterpillar-to-butterfly story.  Something about that chubby, sweet looking caterpillar inching along - munching whatever bright green leaves she can get her hands on... limited by lack of speed on her very short legs.  She is completely focused on the leaf she's on.  Chomp chomp chomp.  Taking care of business.  Then she instinctively knows it's time to wrap herself up and get to work on the radical stuff of changing her whole self!

Cocooned and cozy (cramped) in that chrysalis she zones out from the world and lets all the magic happen.  Metamorphosis.  I love that word.  What do I want for Christmas?  I'd like metamorphosis, please.  Make a wish and blow out your candles!  Hmmm ... metamorphosis by my next birthday sounds perfect.   : )

Breaking out of that shell and spreading your wings for the first time.  Letting the breeze dry off the moisture left from all that hard work inside the cocoon.  Seeing your true colors as you are free to fly about and drink in those vibrant blooms!  What could possibly be wrong with that picture.?  Nothing in my book - except for the heartbreaking fact that butterflies live 2-6 weeks.  So I'd like my metamorphosis in human terms, please - with staying power.

Every New Year's I make that famous resolution - I'm pretty sure you've made it yourself.  "I will lose weight this year!  Get healthy!  Exercise!  Eat less Sugar!  Eat more salads!"  Or some variation on the theme.  We want, wish and hope for a trim body and vibrant health.   It's the "doing" that gets messy.

I can tell you that I've been in and out of my cocoon many times over the last 11 years.  I'll chomp chomp chomp on those green leaves ... waiting for - whatever - to happen so I'll know it's time to get to the real work of transformation.  Then I'll get wrapped up in the process of eating right, exercising, keeping a food journal - and any other requirements from whatever crazy diet I'm trying out.  All from the safety of my cocoon.

I've had many "break out and spread your wings moments" in my life ... they sometimes come in curious forms, but are always life changing.  What propels us on to bigger and better things is the stretching ... beyond what we had known and done.  Stick your neck out and see what's just beyond your reach and then - REACH for it!  That's scary sometimes.  But if we just hang out in that cozy cocoon and "work on it" - sometimes half heartedly ... then when do we get to test out our wings?

I'm cocooning a bit right now ... nourishing myself.  Eating only fresh whole foods, drinking lots of water, adding healthy fats to my diet etc.  But I'm envisioning my cozy cocoon has a giant picture window and a french door leading out into the garden.  I'm not hiding out - hoping "this time" will be transformation time.  I'm living!  Interacting with others, stretching my wings, and checking myself out a bit, so that I can get perspective on what to work on when I go back into my cocoon for the night.

Flexibility and a forgiving attitude towards myself will help me get through this journey.  There is no end or destination ... health and wellness are things I'll be picking up, to carry along with me, on my way.
Metamorphosis, anyone?

(photos by:  Lisa MacDonald, Christian Meyn, Tina Philips)
Christmas morning in the 80's ... I remember unwrapping a rough clay turtle.  With a glazed green head sporting a sweet smile, he just begged to be my new "pet".  Add the packet of tiny magic seeds to a little water, let it form a jelly goo, then spread on his back and watch that happy fellow grow lush green grass.  I loved that little smiling turtle.  (Not in the same category as the love for my Cabbage Patch Doll - but still great.)

Fast forward to a 30-ish single mother of two ... struggling with multiple autoimmune diseases and obesity.  Surfing the net for ways to help my symptoms and weight loss - chemical free and naturally, please!  I found Chia seeds.  Really?  I heard the song from the 80's commercial - Chi-chi-chi-chia and had a flashback to Christmas morning.  I'm supposed to eat those?  And eat them as a gel?  Weird.  They look like itty bitty dinosaur eggs!  

Originally cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayans, chia seeds were a super food that their warriors and messengers would eat to sustain their energy while away from camp.  These tiny black seeds are packed with healthy nutrition.  Rich in Omega 3's, antioxidants, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium - chia seeds absorb more than 9x their weight in water (or coconut milk!) and *bloom* into a hearty gel.  They are also full of protein and soluble fiber which helps you feel full. 

I love that they are pretty much flavorless - quite often SUPER healthy can equal super yucky - not so with these little seeds.  You can add them to smoothies, oatmeal, salads, or salad dressing, soups, and they can be an egg substitute in baked goods ... the list is endless.  I've even been known to sneak them into spaghetti sauce and chocolate pudding!  (shhh... don't tell my boys.)

They are a nutritious boost and great for a multitude of issues.  Inflammation, weight loss, energy, blood sugar, detoxification - even diverticulitis and colon health!  The web has lots of info on the scientific magic of chia seeds and their health benefits. They can be purchased at any health food store (often in bulk) and many sites online for around $6-$8 per pound - and a pound lasts a long time when you're using about 1 tablespoon per person daily.  

So not only am I eating them - and getting my sons on board the Chia Train - but I'd like to recommend those teeny dino eggs to you!  Have you had an experience with Chia in your food or on your windowsill?    : )  

Been there - done that - got the t-shirt. I can say I've tried it. I've been on a lot of the decent and more than a few flat-out crazy "diets" that are out there. The Grapefruit Diet, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Slim-Fast, Atkins, Fat Flush, Blood Type, Master Cleanse, Sugar Busters, etc, etc. Some have been bland, boring and rather nauseating. Some have been confusing. Some were expensive. Quite a few worked for the first 2-3 weeks and made me say, "Wow! This is finally IT". I would lose up to 12 pounds, making me question the need to purchase a smaller sized pair of jeans. Then it would all just stall out and I'd plateau ... or be so disgusted that I couldn't eat another "(fill in diet food here)" or I might scream!

What all the "diets" had in common is that they didn't really provide nourishment. I was counting calories and obsessed with grams of protein, fat, and carbs (macronutrients) - but I wasn't paying any attention to vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). I would eat *anything* if it was low fat or low carb. It could taste like cardboard, or chemicals, or shoe leather, as long as it didn't contain fat or carbs, then - measure it carefully - and plop it on my plate.

I would start these diets (always on a Monday!) and be fully committed to following the rules. I was a diet warrior. When each diet would fail then I'd go back to my stand-by setting. Don't eat. I was good at it. I ate one meal a day - only dinner
I had to feed the kids and I had a husband who would notice if I didn't eat, so I always ate dinner. My mind-set was "why on earth should I eat when I have all this fat hanging around? If I just don't put food in then it should eat away at my belly and thighs". It seemed remarkably logical to me. 500 or less calories a day? Who could stay obese on that? Logic turned into starvation. I was a starving fat woman. My body was holding on to every little calorie or fat gram that I rationed for it. I was not giving myself a chance to be healthy with such a severe lack of nutrients. When I think back on all of the faux "phood" substances that I've consumed in the name of dieting ... it is less than shocking that I ended up morbidly obese.

We are conditioned, as a society, to believe that thin is beautiful. Slender is lovely. That example is everywhere ... tv, movies, magazines. I have spent so much of my life wishing that I could look like so-and-so. She is so pretty and thin ... she can wear all those cute outfits ... she must feel happy all the time ... just give me a day in that skinny body and I'd be happy too.

But now I know that Health is beautiful. Vibrancy is lovely. Finally at 33 I have awakened from the dream of being like "her". I want to be me! But the healthiest and most alive version of me. I may not ever be a size 6 ... but I will be a beautiful, vibrant woman that clawed her way out of a sick mind and a sick body. And I will be qualified to share my story and learnings with others who, just like me, are desperately seeking wellness and health.

So adieu to dieting and starvation ... and hello to nourishment!

(Citrus photo by Suat Eman)
(Fork photo by Grant Cochran)

The only substance I have ever felt powerless to (no, not chocolate) Diet Coke. The sickly sweet smell ... the sting of that acidic liquid in your mouth ... the hiss of the carbonation ... Yes. Addiction. I have "quit" Diet Coke SO many times over the years. "THIS is my last one." "Maybe I should wean myself off and just have a few sips a day until this intense NEED dissipates." "It's just not good for me ...  I HAVE to stop - this time it's for real."          
You prioritize health in your life. You commit yourself to figuring out what your body really needs. You *know* that those toxins and chemicals are horrible for you - I know. But what is it that kept pulling me back under that wave? Addiction. Thankfully it wasn't crack or heroin but I sure got cranky when I couldn't get my "fix".

There is a huge amount of scary information about the dangers of Aspartame.  Also called Nutrasweet, it is in so many diet food products on the market.  Take out the calories - add in the poison.  It is potent faux sugar (and neurotoxin) that actually increases appetite and causes us to crave sugary foods.  

Aspartame makes us fat. "I'll have Diet Coke", we say after we've ordered the salad with grilled chicken - with the fat free vinaigrette - on the side. We're being so good. Avoiding all of that sugar that we know goes straight to our hips. But instead we are drinking gallons of poison monthly and expecting our bodies to lose weight?

Fat is protection. When our organs get overwhelmed by all the junk we eat and drink (and breathe and rub on our skin), all of the excess toxins that are floating around in our systems get corralled into our fat cells. In fact, our body is so strongly against these toxins being free to roam, that new fat cells will be created in order to store more of those chemicals! This happens to protect us from the toxins that can do damage to our organs over time. 

 This junk is not food. It is not recognizable in the small intestines ... there are no nutrients to extract to help the body function. So it travels to our liver and kidneys to be filtered out and excreted. But there is just too much and our poor organs get overwhelmed. So - more fat cells come to the rescue! If I didn't have all this chub - protecting me from toxic overload - I might be dead already. So thanks, fat cells, for buffering me from my own horrible food and drink choices. (Now, can you get off my hips?)

Fat acts as a buffer for our pH too. Junk is highly acidic. Sodas, processed foods and sugar are all acid forming when we ingest them. (There is such a wealth of info on balancing pH levels in our bodies - I'll have to give pH it's own post or two!) Our body craves balance. We will feel well when we are in balance and, if we're paying attention, then we will definitely feel unwell when we are out of balance.

Aspartame is poison.  My symptoms of brain fog are magnified by drinking - even a little Diet Coke. The aspartic acid speeds up the firing of neurotransmitters in the brain and upsets brain chemistry. That feeling of rapid fire in your brain is part of what makes us feel addicted. More then just a jolt of caffeine - we are addicted to that little buzz of brain activity. And then we come crashing down when that chemical rush wears off and we feel ourselves fizzle out. That's when we get a craving for the very thing that caused the upset to begin with. Vicious cycle anyone?

I am committing to ingesting only the things that my body will recognize as food. Nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, fats. Nourishment that helps my body run the way it was designed. No chemicals and toxins that make my poor organs flip out and add to my hips and belly out of shear panic that I'll be overloaded. So, Diet Coke ... it's been a long run, but - now you're dead. Better you than me. ; )

(cola photo by piyato)

Dis-ease. Yep. I am ill at ease with my body. In the midst of an autoimmune flare up with "angry inflammation" causing pain and tightness in my joints and muscles. I'm walking through mud with weights on my arms and legs. I feel my eyelids closing while watching tv, or typing, or driving (yipes). Brain fog is my constant unwelcome companion. I have to chuckle at myself when I hobble around in the morning. I thought I celebrated my 33rd birthday last April ... was I mistaken and it was actually my 83rd? Or was I hit by a truck and somehow forgot?

Disease and chronic health conditions can make you feel robbed of your youth and completely confused about what on earth you can DO to help yourself. Somebody - tell us what to do. We want some answers. When you google search and 47 results stare back at you, waiting to be clicked ... where do you start?

I think it has to start with questions. You need to become a student of your body. What symptoms am I feeling? When did this start? What foods did I eat prior to this flare up or set back? Did I miss taking one of my supplements? What stressors have I been faced with lately? How has my sleep and water intake been recently? You can't look for answers until you've asked the right questions.

Every body is unique. Some things that are "happy-makers" for one individual would set me back with 2 days of body aches or digestive upset. Food sensitivities, genetic makeup and personal preferences are all very important when laying out a healing plan. You can find a ridiculous amount of crazy ideas that someone has run with - and achieved success. That same cockamamie idea could work for 50+ others with glowing results. But then your BFF and you give it a try to break your frustrating weight loss plateau and you gain 7 pounds? Hmmm... now THAT wasn't in those amazing testimonials! Every Body is unique.

Get to know yourself. "Hey self , it's me. How are ya? And have you seen my youth around here anywhere?"

(pill photo by graur razan ionut)
After hearing a new diagnosis... guessing at the spelling while writing it down so that you can "google it" when you get home... sitting overwhelmed and crushed when you realize these diseases and conditions are life changing. What do you do now?

Endometriosis, Autoimmunity, Morbid Obesity, H.S., Low Blood Pressure, Hypoglycemia, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Systemic Lupus ... these are the words I have heard from my doctors.

I'm taking charge of my own illness with a lifetime of seeking wisdom - learning how to heal.

This is my journey to Health and Wellness - Rising from the mud to reach for the sky and bloom!

(photo by Lavoview)
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