Tree Hugger

 

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I love trees.  My favorite tree–Harriet–lives on the golf course near our house.  She’s huge and beautiful.  A few limbs are missing and she even has a scar– a deep, deep line that stretches way, way up to as far as I can see. I have to sneak on the golf course just to visit her.  But–it’s well worth it — because with every visit — I  am transported.  And I feel renewed, free. Unlimited.

 

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My twin sister, Akwelle, is a serious tree hugger.  She says she only hugs the trees that call out to her.  But, on our daily walks with Kookaburra (our dog)–Akwelle can often be found cavorting with tree, after tree, after tree, after tree.

 

 

I am a lot more self conscious than Akwelle is.  I wish I could just go and hug a random tree–in public–without thinking too much about what some bicyclist might say or think. My favorite tree, Harriet, of course, is tucked far, far away from peeping eyes.  She is mine alone. So, no worries for me there… at least, so I thought.

 

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The other day–I saw this young man visiting Harriet–my tree.  He hugged her affectionately and said, “Bye Jacob–see you tomorrow!”  I was shocked.  Speechless even. I wanted to run up to him and say, “Her name is Harriet and she’s mine.  Go find your own tree!” But I stopped myself.

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How foolish of me to think Harriet (or “Jacob”) only belonged to me.  That’s the beauty of trees. They belong to no one.  Trees are gifts–portals that transport us all to quieter, more peaceful, elevated worlds.

 

How lucky we are to be near them.  How lucky we are to experience them.

 

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My advice–instead of watching t.v. — go out and hug a tree!

 

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

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When we were little, my dad signed us all up for a Transcendental Meditation (TM) class.

 

 

My mother thought TM was the craziest thing ever. At the end of the first class, there was a special ceremony where we were each given a unique mantra to repeat during our twice a day meditation practice. Special blessings were said and the instructors even threw rice at us to celebrate. My mother yawned throughout the ceremony. Needless to say, she did not return to the remaining classes. Looking back, I am not surprised.

 

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My mother does not see herself as an anxious, nervous or worrying type.

 

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My dad had a lot of friends who were constantly throwing parties. He always brought all of us with him. I remember how uncomfortable my mother was at these events. She would complain, saying she was uninterested in my dad’s friends. But looking back, I now know she was simply nervous, anxious.  And maybe even scared.

 

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There was this one– very memorable office Christmas party we went to — my mother was very uncomfortable the whole night. Normally, at a party, my mother would quickly calm down after having a drink or two— but this time, the alcohol did not even relax her. My mother decided to wear high heeled shoes instead of boots to the party. There was a lot of snow on the ground. Somehow upon entering the Christmas party, my mom slid across the floor and got one of her heels stuck— she then tripped and landed on top of the Christmas tree.  Both came crashing down. It was awful.

 

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I can understand why my dad signed us up for the mediation classes. I believe he was trying to help my mother find a way to calm her restless, anxious “monkey mind.”

 

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  • Monkey Mind:  a Buddhist term meaning unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.

 

Recently, my older sister had a friend come over to teach us about mindfulness. It was an attempt to help our mother find relief from her anxieties and worries.

 

 

During the meditation–my mother’s behavior was not unusual (for her). She kept fidgeting, interrupting and talking loudly.  She was incredibly resistant to just being quiet and calm.  I think this is why she has trouble sleeping at night.

 

 

I am beginning to see that this is a shared family trait– on my mother’s side.  My mother’s older sister, Ruth, visited us over weekend. She had not seen my mom since the stroke (more than 9 months ago).  Both my mom and my aunt Ruth were very nervous when they saw each other. My aunt Ruth normally brings gifts. This time she brought a whole lot of JUNK.  She said she did not have time to sort through what she wanted to bring prior to driving up from Florida. Of course, she meant well. But clearly she too has anxiety, nervous issues and she is a hoarder.

 

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The other night I thought maybe prayer would be the answer to my mother’s nerves and her restless mind. “How about we say our prayers out loud?” I said. She rolled her eyes.  “Oh God!,” she said.  I suggested we get on our hands and knees. “It will be good exercise for you,” I said.   She refused.  I did it anyway.

 

 

A big lesson for me is: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

 

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I realize now that acceptance of my mother’s choices and beliefs– is the best way to maintain my own balance.  As Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Meaning–things and people are what they are.

Confessions of a Wheat Belly

It has been 2 months, 1 day, 4 hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds since my last cupcake. I am now officially grain free.  I honestly never knew I had a problem until I changed my diet.

 

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My dog, Kookaburra, has been grain free since she was a puppy. Looking back– I can now understand (and relate to) the crazy behavioral issues she had during her transition from kibble to grain free.

 

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Initially, I found myself secretly, quietly perusing images of cupcakes and (yes) sandwiches on the internet.  Then my wheat addiction symptoms got more serious.  I bought food magazines and cut out pictures of bread and other grain filled gems and pasted them on my bathroom wall!  I was also light headed and a tiny bit cranky.

 

 

But, to support our mother’s path to wellness and her newly prescribed grain free diet, my sisters and I have decided to remain grain free too. As Dr. William Davis, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author states, “Once wheat-free, always wheat-free is the best policy.”

 

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Question:  

  • Is there a difference between Gluten-Free and Grain Free? 

Answer:  Yes

  • A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.  
  • Rice, corn, barley and oats are allowed.

 

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  • A Grain-Free diet is a diet that excludes all grains including wheat, rice, corn, barley and oats.  
  • According to Dr. William Davis, a Grain-Free Diet is the healthiest.

 

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In a recent interview from https://www.wellnessmama.com, Dr. William Davis  states:

  • Wheat, harboring its hidden gliadin protein, increases appetite.
  • Wheat is a weak opiate. Eat wheat, you want more wheat, you want more carbohydrates. 
  • When we eat more grains, we gain weight and acquire all the health consequences such as hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, acid reflux, and diabetes. 

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To celebrate our new grain free life–I have decided to reincarnate my favorite popcorn snack into a non-popcorn (grain-free) snack.  It really is just as delicious.  Enjoy!

 

 

Non-Popcorn Snack

1 cup marcona almonds, salted
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries, sweetened
3-4 ozs. dark chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 cup manchego cheese, cubed
3 cups popcorn (eliminate)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

 

 

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I used to trust reviews on the internet–100%.  I was easily swayed by comments and  perfectly photoshopped photos of pretty people in white coats with stethoscopes.

 

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After reading reviews for this one neurologist, I convinced my sister to schedule an appointment for our mother, Alberta.

 

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“This doctor must be really good,” I said. “Five stars and she’s interested in natural medicine,” I said.   I was wrong.  Those reviews were wrong.  It was a bad experience. But at least we got forms filled out to get a temporary handicap placard for the car. And at least I learned a lesson.

 

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My twin sister later told our mom’s acupuncturist all about  the horrible experience at the neurologist’s office. He then said, “My dad’s a doctor.  You should call him.  He’s not traditional at all.  You’ll like him.”

 

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Dr. Robert Bookman, a.k.a. Dr. Bob (https://www.a2hi.com)  is not your typical doctor.  We did not even have to leave the house for the appointment with him.  He called us on the phone. He then ordered extensive lab tests to figure out how to best proceed with our mother.

  • “I want to understand everything that is out of balance with my patients in order to return them to optimum health. I provide the support and guidance for you to achieve and maintain a healthy existence.”

Robert H. Brookman, D.O.
FCCP, FACOI, ABAARM

 

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When the testing was completed– Dr. Brookman  analyzed the results and called us again–this time  with a plan of action.

 

 

Dr. Bob’s 10 steps to achieve optimum health are:

  • Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
  • Exercise is Medicine
  • Stress Reduction
  • Gastrointestinal Health
  • Detoxification
  • Balance Vitamins, Minerals, Fatty Acids and Amino Acids
  • Hormone Balance
  • Immune Modulation
  • Enhance Mitochondrial Health
  • Longevity Enhancement

The Company of Dogs

According to https://www.medicalnewstoday.com  — looking at “puppy dog eyes” triggers a 300% increase in a person’s oxytocin levels – the “love hormone” involved in maternal bonding.

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According to https://www.Helpguide.org :

  • Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. 

 

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  • One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.

 

  • People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. 

 

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  • More than any other animal, dogs have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans and our behavior and emotions.

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  • While dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures.

 

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  • And like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling.

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  • Stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed or anxious.

 

 

  • Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.

 

 

  • One of the reasons for these therapeutic effects is that dogs (and cats) fulfill the basic human need to touch.

 

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  • Taking a dog for a walk, hike, or run are fun and rewarding ways to fit healthy daily exercise into your schedule.

 

 

  • Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements

 

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  • And exercising every day is great for the animal as well. It will deepen the connection between you, eradicate most behavior problems in dogs, and keep your pet fit and healthy.

 

 

 

Feldenkrais for Fitness

 

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Last January (just before my mom’s stroke) I bought Bruce Holmes’ cd called The Feldenkrais Lessons: Awareness Through Movement.  I was looking for something different from my regular exercise routine. Back then, I had no idea how crucial Feldenkrais would become– not only for me and my own well being–but also for my mother, Alberta, and her stroke recovery.

 

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The Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education (from https://www.feldenkrais.com):

  • The Feldenkrais Method® is a form of somatic education that uses gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and enhance human functioning. Through this Method, you can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement. These improvements will often generalize to enhance functioning in other aspects of your life.
  • The Feldenkrais Method is based on principles of physics, biomechanics and an empirical understanding of learning and human development. By expanding the self-image through movement sequences that bring attention to the parts of the self that are out of awareness, the Method enables you to include more of yourself in your functioning movements. 

 

 

Take a moment to participate in this short lesson to try Feldenkrais for yourself.

 

 

After I read Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’ book, Body Awareness as Healing Therapy: The Case of Nora, I knew for sure that my mom could also benefit from Feldenkrais.  In the book, Dr. Feldenkrais describes his work with Nora– a woman who suffered a massive stroke and lost her neuromuscular coordination, including the ability to read and write.

 

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Thanks to the internet, I found a Feldenkrais practitioner, Chrish Kresge (https://www.chrishkresge.com) to help my mom.

 

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Chrish teaches my mother crucial strategies for improved awareness.

 

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With Feldenkrais my mother is also learning how to overcome obstacles more effectively  with less strain on her body.

 

 

Chrish has been fundamental in helping my mother regain her balance and independence.

 

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Working Again (Repurposed)

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According to http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/purpose/life-purpose/why-life-purpose-important:

  • One of the common features among people who live with a purpose is that they are able to find meaning in the things that happen to them. Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience, describes these people as being able to “cog­ni­tively reap­praise sit­u­a­tions and reg­u­late emo­tions, turn­ing life’s prover­bial lemons into lemon­ade.”

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Back when my mother, Alberta, was in rehab, I arranged for her to have a phone consultation with Dr. Steven D. Farmer (http://www.earthmagic.net).  Dr. Farmer is a spiritual healer, psychotherapist (retired) and shaman.  My mother has no interest in anything esoteric, woo-woo or  otherworldly.  But as a former psychotherapist, I knew Dr. Farmer would know how to speak to my mother in a way that would be both  encouraging and therapeutic. I also knew that his shamanic abilities could reach those esoteric parts of my mother that needed healing and support.

Dr. Farmer talked to my mother about  her purpose– her role with her patients and her family.  It was a very helpful and much needed conversation.

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  Dr. Victor J. Stretcher, author of the book “On Purpose” states

  • When you see the data about the elderly who have little or no purpose in life, and how quickly they get sick and die, you realize how important it is for an elderly person to repurpose their life toward something bigger than themselves.

Although, I had referred most of my mom’s patients to other child psychiatrists or pediatricians–a handful of parents kept calling, sending cards –asking when they could  make an appointment.

I don’t think my mother anticipated how  going back to work would affect her.  Her patients have given her a huge gift.  Because of them–she has not only repurposed herself but she has also reclaimed her self esteem.

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