Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Confessional

Determined Duckling hasn't been feeling well. Whether it's a mild virus or severe teething (or both), we can't tell yet. He's had a low grade fever (which broke last night). He wants to be held (by Mommy) non-stop and the only thing he'll eat is breast milk. So as long as Mommy is holding him (Grandma will sometimes do, and maybe Daddy), he's perfectly happy and cuddly. It's when I have to put him down that the tears start.

I think the worst thing is the way he's been resisting sleep. Now, Duckling has a history of sleep resistance. He's the type of kid who will go until he drops and we have a saying around here that "The Wild Duckling never sleeps- he just rests with his eyes closed sometimes." But for the past few days he has refused to take naps. You can tell he's exhausted; he keeps rubbing his eyes, staring into space and yawning, he'll doze off for a few minutes, but then he'll wake up again. Because he's been such a little ray of sunshine, Malamute asked Grandma to watch him during the photo shoot we had scheduled. Grandma says he sat with her for a long time and even started nodding off- until he heard Malamute's voice from downstairs and then he woke up and started saying "Daddy! Daddy!" Last night he would only sleep when he was draped all over me, so I didn't sleep very soundly. And I had dreams of driving alone on a very dark road through some sort of government property. Yeah, it was a strange night.

So my confession is that I feel like I've been run over by a bus (especially with the intense hiking we've been doing too) and I'm a little neurotic today. However, when I give Duckling a chiro-touch adjustment, he seems to feel better. And I'll try having some chamomile tea and giving him some. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Population Dynamics and the Ocampa from Star Trek: Voyager

Based on the oversights of the Star Trek: Voyager writers, the Ocampa shouldn't even exist.

Remember the Ocampa from Star Trek Voyager? Episode 4 of season 2 establishes that Ocampa women are only fertile once (the Elogium) and all instances of Ocampa women bearing children all show them having only one.

Totally illogical.

If each woman has only one child, the population will decrease. In order for a population to sustain its current numbers, each woman must have two children, thus replacing her and the father for the next generation. So for a moment let's assume that the first Ocampas evolved millions of years ago and only had one child for each couple. If you have a group of ten Ocampas (five men and five women), they will produce five children in the next generation. The generation after that would then have between two and three children, depending on whether there were more males than females. Pretty soon, you're left with one Ocampa and nowhere to go. Totally illogical.

Now a more logical way of designing the Ocampa's reproductive system would be for the Elogium to occur two or three or even four times between the ages of three and six years. Or if the writers were especially set on the "one and only chance" approach, they could have written it so that every Ocampa woman has two or even three babies at a time. Armadillos of the genus Dasypus give birth to monozygotic quadruplets every time. That could be an interesting idea for the Ocampans.

The writers have been great at accounting for details of how the ship works, but every once in a while, they need to brush up on their study of population dynamics.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vegan Recipes and Where to Find Them

I've often found it difficult to figure out what to make for meals and snacks over the years as our diet has changed. Where do you go to find recipes? Especially ones that don't contain tofu or buckets of raw nuts as the main ingredient? Most vegans and raw foodists basically eat a standard American diet but substitute soy or nuts for meat and cheese. I believe neither of these to be the best option. So, for any of you out there who might be interested in having a few vegan meals and don't know where to go, here are my treasure hunting secrets:

Buy one (or two) of Robyn Openshaw's cookbooks- This is seriously one of the best investments I have made in my cooking. They are about $15 each and well worth it. She has recipes for green smoothies, delicious salads, breakfast foods, snacks, lunches, dinners, and desserts and they are very good. I'm going to be making Chocolate Beet Cake cupcakes for Duckling's birthday and her black bean brownies are one of my all time favorite desserts. Even my dad, the brownie connoisseur, loves them.

Blogs- Start following some healthy eating blogs. Robyn Openshaw shares some recipes on her blog. I have found a couple of other really great blogs on whole foods vegan eating too. Whole Foods Vegan Momma has some really good recipes. I don't entirely agree with the no oil and fats thing from Dr. John McDougall, but certainly cutting back is good and it doesn't hurt to have a few low-fat recipes around. (She is Mormon too! So if you are like me and feel like you are the only person in the entire church who doesn't get into Jell-o, know you are not alone!) Eating Bird Food is a fantastic blog with delightful recipes. I have already tried her no-bake cookies and the Crock Pot Black Bean Soup (which we LOVED).

Mothering.com- I am not a huge Mothering.com fan. Despite the fact that I am a homebirthing, extended breastfeeding, whole foods eating, herb using mom, and agree with a number of other things they advocate, I have a hard time with some of the articles (why does everything, including getting your belly button pierced have to be a "rite of passage"?) and especially the politics. I'm more Libertarian than Democrat, and I'm not dogmatically into Dr. Sears, so there's a bit of a divide there. All of that could be another post, but I digress. I have found a number of wonderful recipes from Mothering.com- especially cookies and soups and a whole bunch of other things I still want to try out. I highly recommend checking them out. Also, if you are looking for gluten free and healthier meat or dairy dishes, they have recipes for those too. =)

Google- This is a long shot, but sometimes, it has worked and I have found exactly what I need, as was the case of asparagus and chickpeas over rice and raw chocolate birthday cake (which I am going to be making for my birthday.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Worry Wednesday: Protein

I don't worry about getting enough protein. I know we've all been conditioned to think that the only place we can get protein are from meat and dairy products, but there are lots of plant foods that have protein- and I'm not talking about tofu; I never eat tofu or soy milk. Besides nuts and legumes, greens and grains have lots of protein too. Most vegetables are 9-10% protein, but some, like broccoli and spinach are 40%. Take a look at a box of oats or a bag of whole wheat flour next time you're at the grocery store and you'll find that whole grains have quite a bit of protein. The other bonus to eat plant sources of protein is that it's easier for your body to digest and assimilate the plant protein than animal protein.

In fact there have been a few vegetarian and vegan bodybuilders. Stephen Arlin is a vegan raw-foodist and a bodybuilder. Four-time Mr. Universe Bill Pearl (famous for tearing license plates in half) is a lacto-ovo vegetarian (meaning he eats eggs and dairy but not meat).

I actually feel better than ever since going mostly vegan. I haven't had issues with hypoglycemia for years. Malamute and I eat lots of protein rich plant foods, so I don't worry about our protein levels.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To Love

I'm going out on a limb today and getting personal. I've made a resolution to be more open and honest about my thoughts and opinions-even if others disagree with me. This seems especially risky since this post deals with people's dearly held thoughts and beliefs. So here goes.

I've been following a blog written by a mom who is a Christian. It's always very sweet and funny. Yesterday, she wrote a post about the rising number of bullying-related suicides. (But this post isn't about that.) She noted that according to statistics, kids who are overweight, Muslim, or gay are most likely to be bullied and wrote a heartfelt letter to her son about how she would love him if he ever came to her and said he was gay. She said that she would embrace and celebrate it and also that being a Christian would not diminish that since she and her husband have taken a pick-and-choose approach to the Bible and simply don't believe that there is anything sinful about a gay lifestyle. A number of commenters agreed with this idea. It was a very personal post for a lot of people. (But this post isn't about whether or not a homosexual lifestyle is sinful or about how people interpret the Bible.)

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. For me, whether or not I think my child's behavior is sinful should never enter into the equation of loving him. If I say, "I will still love you if you are gay because I don't believe that a homosexual lifestyle is sinful", I feel like I'm heading down a slippery slope. What if my kid beats his spouse/gay partner? Or what if he decides to convert to another religion? Maybe a very different religion like being an Orthodox Jew, or Amish, or Muslim? Or becomes an atheist? What if my kid is arrested for drunk driving? Or worse, hits someone while he is drunk driving? What if Duckling gets his girlfriend pregnant 15 years down the road? Or what if he simply tells a lie? The bottom line is that Duckling will never be perfect in this life (neither will I) and that at some point he will screw up. He will sin. He will make mistakes. Can I only love him when he doesn't make mistakes? I have been a perfectionist my whole life, so this is pretty personal to me. I've always been seeking for a love that lasts through disapproval and disagreement. One that says, "It's not the end of the world if you make a mistake; just try again."

I personally think that love and approval are two entirely separate things. To me, loving my child means that I will never stop wanting what is best for him and caring about him. If he has really screwed up (like I have to visit him in the state penitentiary), I would certainly feel angry, disappointed, and shamed. But the challenge would be to still care about him without excusing his behavior. There are some things that simply can't be excused. And this is the way that God (the Perfect Parent) loves us- sins and imperfections and everything. We don't have to have His approval for him to love us. He loves us because we are His children. (Recognizing your intrinsic worth despite your misdeeds is a big part of CBT.)

And if anyone wants my personal opinion, I think kids need to hear "I love you even though I don't approve of what you have done," even more than they need to hear "I love you because I agree with what you're doing." What I think or believe or feel is irrelevant. My responsibility is letting Duckling know that he has my love simply because he is my little boy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Monday Confessional: Attempting to Fix Cars Makes Me Feel Weak

I've always wanted to learn how to fix cars. Not anything crazy, but at least little maintenance things. So this past Saturday, I embarked on an adventure that ended up turning into the Donner Pass of car maintenance (meaning that we started too late, the weather got bad, and everything that could possibly go wrong did; not that there was any cannibalism involved, which is the first thing people think of when they think of Donner Pass.) I attempted to change the oil, air filter and oil filter in our truck.

I was really excited and my dad was going to help. It was supposed to be a quick job. In fact, Malamute changed the air filter in 2 minutes on Friday as we were heading out for our hike. "Maybe cars aren't so big and scary!" I thought. But on Saturday I got going later and the weather, which was beautiful on Friday and Sunday, was awful. It was snowing, wet, and COLD. We managed to change the oil (and make a big mess in the process), but couldn't get the oil filter off since we couldn't jack up the car. So I'm going to be calling around to the auto shops today and seeing what I can make happen there.

It was pretty demoralizing and I feel pretty defeated about it all. I felt really bad that my poor dad went out in the cold wetness just to help me. Maybe rabbits just aren't meant to go burrowing underneath cars. I did manage to tighten the bolt to the oil tank with a socket wrench though and I didn't beat myself up over it for too long like I used to. So I suppose I can count those things as successes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Inexpensive and Natural Personal Care Products

If I were you and I stumbled across my blog, I would probably be thinking, "OK, Practical Rabbit, you claim that you are both broke and in love natural living, so how do you reconcile those two facts when most natural products are ridiculously expensive?"

I have always felt that natural living should be simple and inexpensive. And here's what I've found from searching for natural products while having very little money- that's totally the case. Most of the most natural products I use now are actually in the same price range as the dollar store stuff and the results are far better than the more expensive so-called natural products.

So, if you've ever looked at organic or natural shampoos, soaps, deodorants, etc. and wondered how you can possibly shell out that much money, be assured there are other options. Here is what I do:

Soap/Body Wash/Shampoo/Liquid Hand Soap- Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap is pretty much the most versatile and amazing soap in the world, in my opinion. I have yet to find any other soap that is this natural. It is completely biodegradable and vegetable-based. I generally get the largest size at the store (32 oz.), but you can get smaller sizes at the store and 1/2 gallon and gallon sizes online. We use this stuff for everything! Malamute and I have found the eucalyptus scented soap to be the best shampoo ever. That's right; it works for both our hair so we don't buy separate shampoos. Malamute also doesn't need a de-tangler any more since he started washing his curly hair with Dr. Bronner's soap. We use it as body wash and mixed with a little witch hazel (available at your local Target or Wal-Mart) for liquid hand soap. (Witch hazel has disinfectant properties.)

Toothpaste- Baking soda. Yeah, supposedly it's too abrasive, but we haven't had any problems, especially because we use just a tiny amount. In fact, Malamute's family dentist brushed his teeth with baking soda. We love how it whitens our teeth.

Deodorant- Malamute and I have both found that since we switched to a plant-based, whole foods diet we don't sweat or smell as much. I do like to have a little bit of freshness under my arms though, so I dab on some liquid soap (Dr. Bronner's + witch hazel) and then put some unrefined coconut oil on over that. Unrefined coconut oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Refined coconut oil has all kinds of icky properties.

Baby Shampoo- Duckling has a nice, full head of hair, but not as much as Malamute and I, so I like to use something lighter on his hair. I put on just a little bit of Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar and then scrub with a little baking soda. This gives Duckling's hair a nice, sweet smell and prevents cradle cap.

Lotion/Body Butter- Unrefined coconut oil. Seriously, this stuff is fantastic! I also cook with it. If my hands are especially dry, I scrub with salt first and then put some unrefined coconut oil on. softest hands ever!

Baby Wipes- I have cloth wipes for Duckling's cloth-diaper bottom. I put a few squirts of my liquid soap in a small spray bottle and fill it up with water. Voila! Instant diaper wipe spray. Now if I could just get Duckling to hold still long enough to use it...

Face Wash/Moisturizer- In the shower, I use Dr. Bronner's soap (no witch hazel added), so I just put a little on a wash cloth and wash my face with that. After I get out of the shower, I put on a little bit of unrefined coconut oil. Malamute and I have both found that since cutting dairy out of our diet we haven't had much of a problem with acne. On the rare occasion that I do have a break out, I scrub very gently with a little baking soda (no soap) and then rub on a light layer of coconut oil.

Lip Balm- I used to be a chapstick addict, but then I discovered lanolin, the Lansinoh brand for a nursing moms. It is the best thing to have ever touched my lips! (Except for Malamute's kiss, of course.) Lanolin is actually in most lip balms, so why not go straight to the source? I've found the moisturizing effect lasts longer than any lip balm I've tried and it's a great protectant for cold weather. One tube lasts me several months.

Hairspray- A couple of tablespoons of sugar in a spray bottle full of water. It gives my hair a nice shine too.

All of this stuff can be found at Whole Foods, or Harmons and Good Earth if you live in Utah.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Markting Advice for Peace Activists

The other day I was talking to my dad and he told me that after my brother was admitted to the Naval Academy, my parents began receiving letters from peace activists attempting to persuade my brother to drop out of the Academy. Phrases such as, "If we just disarm, everything will be alright" and "our government has lied to us" abounded in each of these pacifist epistles.

Malamute and I have been reading a lot of books about how to market without being obscenely obnoxious and I think the advice of marketing pros like Seth Godin and Ramit Sethi could help these activists get their point across without being so... creepy.

So. I am going to put my libertarian politics aside and dedicate this post to helping all those peace activists out there trying to get people to drop out of the Naval Academy. If you want to be effective, consider the following:

Presentation: When people get a letter in the mail from someone they don't know telling them to drop out of the Naval Academy, they don't think, "Gosh, this concerned citizen makes some really good points about peace. Maybe I should drop out." They think, "Who is this nut job and how did she find my address?!" Ambushing people via the postal system makes you (and your ideas) look deranged.

Interruption: This is the old way of advertising that attempts to make you drop everything you were doing and focus on something else. When you're watching TV and there's a commercial break, that's interruption advertising. When you hop onto a web page and a square zooms across the screen requesting that you take a survey, that's interruption advertising. When you're eating dinner and you get a call from a credit card company, magazine subscription service, or university asking for your money, that's interruption advertising. When you go through your mail and get unasked for offers for sweepstakes, refrigerator repair work, and pizza, that's interruption advertising. Sending creepy peace letters in the mail goes under this heading too. Interruption advertising was kind of cute when TV and home phones were new and exciting, but now that they've become standard and everyone has been inundated with interruption advertising, people have stopped paying attention. Your letter might end up in the circulatory file after a only a few sentences.

The "Me" Syndrome: What's in it for the cadet? Sure, you can say "World Peace" (and sound like a beauty pageant contestant), but the cadet is going to say that that's exactly what he's setting out to accomplish. After all, because of people like him, Afghani women can now appear outside (and on Afghanistan's version of American Idol) without a bourqa and not be beaten within an inch of their lives; isn't that something worth risking your life for? So while dropping out of the Naval Academy would go a long ways towards justifying your worldview (and boosting your ego), to a cadet it probably mean giving up a lifelong dream, losing a career, and allowing terrorists to run rampant in the world. If you want to persuade people to your way of thinking, find out what motivates them. Take Ramit Sethi's advice from I Will Teach You To Be Rich: go find a Naval Academy cadet, ask her to go to lunch and talk about why she enrolled in the Academy, then shut the heck up and listen. Then try your letter writing campaign again.

No Worry Wednesday: Taxes

Malamute always takes care of the taxes. He took care of the taxes for himself and his business before he met me. It really seems kinda silly to worry about this. I don't have to be such a control freak.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Monday Confessional: I'm Afraid of Money

We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

If you had told me this yesterday, I would not have believed it. Not having money was my problem. Not having money has led to my great fears of poverty and helplessness. But if I respond to the question of "What's your greatest fear?" without thinking, the answer is "money". And I think I know why now.

What I am really afraid of at the deepest part of my being, is disappointment. And I have felt like money, like people sometimes do, has let me down. And if you never expect much from people or let them in your life too much, they can't disappoint you. I have this pattern of bailing on things or shooting myself in the foot so I can't be successful, because if I get successful, then the inevitable low will come and I will be disappointed, and I see it the most with money.

When I was a kid, there were good times when we went out to eat with every paycheck and then there were bad times when the only thing to eat in the house was Bisquick and white sugar and I would have given any possession I had for a bite of a brown banana. Obviously, this money character was very suspect and could not be trusted. So, I decided to steer clear of him. Sure, I would miss out on some good times, but, I reasoned, I would miss out on the bad as well and be none the worse off. But it hasn't worked out that way. Being terrified of money has brought me nothing but anxiety, worry, misery, depression, and sheer panic.

Financial writer Suze Orman has talked about making money your friend and thinking of it like a person and I'm starting to see why that works. Humans tend to think of things in personified terms. Some women are terrified of men, or sex, or relationships because they're afraid of being hurt. In my desperation to feel loved, I've never had a problem with finding someone to become enamored with, but for most of my life I have been running like hell from money. But I think I can finally start to deal with my fear because I've named it. I'm hoping that money and I can start to become good friends.

The "Secret" Crunchy History of the Mormon Church

Sometimes I walk into Whole Foods and feel like I'm the only (active) Mormon there. I look around at the couples consisting of two gentlemen and the women with interesting piercings strolling around, and the clerk tells me about the homebirth she and her boyfriend are planning for their baby, and I must admit I feel somewhat out of place. Then I go to a ward social and everyone is eating lots of meat, dairy and sugar and all the women are talking about their hospital births. And I feel like I don't quite fit in there either.

For whatever reasons, "natural" living has become the exact opposite of what the Mormons are associated with. But I don't think Mormonism has ever really been about fitting in. If anything, I think Mormonism is about standing out. And there were a lot of things about the early Church that were downright granola- even for the 19th century:

Midwives- In the early Church, being a midwife was a highly respected calling that came from priesthood leaders. Sometimes midwives even gave health blessings.

Vegetarianism- A number of early Church leaders (including John A. Widtsoe, Brigham Young and Hyrum Smith) advocated a diet low in meat. In many ways this isn't surprising since the first thing the Word of Wisdom mentions that we should eat is herbs (leafy green plants). D and C 89 even inspired John R. Christopher, the legendary herbalist, to eat a plant-based diet. George Q. Cannon was probably the most vocal supporter of the vegetarian diet though. In an 1867 discourse in the Journal of Discourses 12:44-45, he states:

There should be a well settled conviction in the mind of every person belonging to this church that it would be a real benefit for him or her to observe the Word of Wisdom, and carry into effect the counsel God has given on any point. If I do not see the evils that result from…eating meats to excess, and the benefits that would result from abstaining, what anybody else may see would only have a temporary effect upon me. I must feel in my own heart that it is injurious to me to indulge in these things; there must be a well settled conviction within me that this is the case.

And also in 1868 in the Journal of Discourses 12:221-224
In conversation with one of the brethren the other day, the brother remarked “the diet of the poor is principally bread and meat, and if they dispense with meat, they will be reduced to very hard fare.” I reasoned with him…that other articles of food could be raised more cheaply and in greater variety than the flesh of animals… We as a people should turn our attention to the multiplication of varieties of food in our midst. We should not confine ourselves to a few articles of diet…

Herbal Medicine- The early Saints sometimes used herbs to treat ailments (see D and C 42:43), though on the whole their knowledge was not on the level that some practitioners possess today. However, Alma 46:40 makes this interesting observation:
And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—

Personally, I've always liked the idea that ancient peoples weren't screwed for healthcare because they lacked modern technology and that God had prepared a way for them to be healthy too.
So I consider myself in good company. I don't expect everyone to live the same way I do and I don't think ill of anyone for having a hospital birth or eating meat frequently. But I do like knowing that I'm not the only Mormon who thinks this way. The great thing about Mormonism is that while there are certain cultural norms, doctrinally there is a lot of room for different ways of doing things.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Setting Goals and Achieving Dreams

A while back when Malamute was struggling to figure out what vocation he should pursue, our bishop (who has a moderately profitable business) gave us this bit of advice: "My dream as a kid was to be a professional baseball player, and I played all through high school and college and then I realized I wasn't good enough to play professionally. So I gave up on that and got a job laying floors and eventually started my own flooring business."

I wonder if the problem was that he wasn't good enough, or that he hadn't planned how to achieve his dream. Most of us have grand dreams when we're kids, but adults tell us that those dreams are impossible and to focus on something more "realistic". The result is that many of us (like me) float aimlessly through our childhoods and never learn how to set and achieve goals. This inability to set and achieve goals continues to haunt us and prove our downfall until we figure out how to take steps to make our dreams into realities. (Again, like me.)

So, Malamute and I have resolved that even if Duckling comes to us at four years old after his first tee-ball practice and says that he wants to be a pro baseball player, we'll help him map out a strategy to reach that goal and carry it out. And you know what? That goal will probably change. And that's OK! We want him to explore a lot of things so he'll be able to decide on the activities that he really wants, and ultimately decide on a vocation. But what we would really want him to learn from a young age is that he can make his dreams come true- but he has to plan for it and work for it. Good things don't just land in your lap. Goal setting is something Malamute and I have been working on with our photography business. We've found a number of great books about how to set and achieve goals and it's been exhilarating! (This blog is one of my goals.)

I guess some people would say that if we encourage kids to pursue any grandiose dream, all they'll want to do is chase glamor. I beg to differ. I once stumbled across a discussion on an airline pilot's forum about flying military cargo transports vs. flying fighter planes. One poster who joined the Navy in the late '80's said that after Top Gun came out, many of his pilot buddies had dreams of catapulting off an aircraft carrier in a fighter jet and screaming through the wild, blue yonder. But flying (or rather landing) Navy fighters is notoriously demanding with little margin for error. That big aircraft carrier is about the size of a postage stamp when you begin your final descent and is surrounded by ocean. And if the weather conditions are less than ideal and/or you're flying at night, it's even more difficult. And don't cause any irreparable damage to the plane or yourself either, because both are property of the US government and represent an investment of millions of taxpayer dollars.

After finding out that flying Navy fighter jets wasn't all Kenny Loggins and volleyball games, a lot of pilots were quite happy to fly transports. Others preferred flying transports because it allowed them to see the world. It's the same reason that no one reading this blog is a famous pro athlete, model, or movie star. (Unless someone out there has a secret life he or she is hiding really well.) There will always be a few people who aren't going to be happy unless they are working to land their plane on that postage stamp in the middle of the ocean at night with high winds. But for most of us, being a "fighter jock" isn't what we ultimately want out of life. And we should pursue whatever does make us happy wholeheartedly and excel at it.

So I guess where I'm going with all this is that if Duckling is in the same spot as the bishop 50 years from now, I would hope his advice would go something like this: "My dream as a kid was to play professional baseball, so I set a goal to practice every chance I could. I went to lots of games and studied the best players. I even got up at 6:00 am every morning to go running and lift weights. But in college I started looking at what I really wanted from a career- flexibility, lots of time with my family, and the ability to set my own hours- and professional baseball couldn't give me that. That's when I decided to focus my efforts on building my own business and make baseball a hobby." I don't think it's the outcome that matters as much as the how and the why of getting there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No Worry Wednesday: Shopping Cart Handles

I think I was in college when I saw those disinfectant wipes start showing up by the shopping carts in grocery stores. I considered whether I should, in fact, disinfect the handle of my shopping cart before I began wheeling it around. Granted, it certainly wasn't the cleanest surface in the world, but was it really a big public health hazard? And would those disinfectant wipes really reduce the transmission of diseases that much?

I thought back to my childhood and all the trips I took to the grocery store with my parents. The times I seemed to get sick the most were around Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine's Day. And it wasn't that I went to the grocery store more often around those holidays, but I did eat a whole lot more candy. Maybe there was a correlation. After all, God knew that we wouldn't live in a perfectly sanitized world, so He gave us immune systems. Of course, those immune systems probably wouldn't work as well when they were running on junk food. Hhhhmmm... probably better to cut back on the candy and up the orange juice than to head for the disinfectant wipes. Besides, I wash my hands frequently.

I've never sanitized a shopping cart handle to this day and especially since switching to a mostly raw, plant-based diet, Malamute, Duckling and I hardly ever get sick. And even when we do, we recover very quickly. Determined Duckling is almost two and has been sick only once when he had a 24 hour flu a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving- no ear infections, no colds. And in spite several non-disinfectant wipe grocery store trips this winter, none of us have had so much as a cold since then. Heck, my mother-in-law says that when she was a kid, she used to put her mouth on the handles of shopping carts. Gross, but, hey, she never got sick from it either.

I guess the real punchline to all this is that I found out that hand sanitizers aren't that effective in the real world. Turns out that they only kill 99.99% of germs in a sterile lab setting. In the real world, it's more like 40-60%- maybe less if your hands are really dirty. That kinda makes me cringe thinking about this one year I went to rough camp and there was no running water. The leaders brought hand sanitizer and we all used that- even after using the outhouse and when preparing food. Our hands were probably so grimy that the hand sanitizer was more like 20-30% effective. However, none of us contracted any strange infections and died. Actually, we had a lot of fun. But I have to admit, rough camp with only hand sanitizer makes those shopping cart handles seem next godliness. Thank goodness for the immune system.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Natural Alternatives to Fertility Treatments, 2 of 2

Traditional Chinese Medicine- This is the original "old school" approach to treating infertility- we're talking thousands of years old. Traditional Chinese Medicine combines many of the aspects of a whole foods diet and philosophies similar to chiropractic to treat imbalances and structural problems resulting in infertility. A TCM practitioner will prescribe specific dietary changes, herbs, and acupuncture based on your symptoms to help balance your hormones. For those of you who might be squeamish about acupuncture, let me speak from personal experience and say that it's not nearly as scary as it seems. I've had ear acupuncture done and it was the most relaxing experience of my life. Seriously. I don't think I could have been more relaxed if I were on valium. MRI's have shown that acupuncture does indeed work to relieve pain and there is more research being done on its effects. One of my favorite books on infertility is about TCM and is called The Infertility Cure. It is by Dr. Randine Lewis, Ph. D.

Other Cool Stuff- Reiki works very much like chiropractic care and has been known to help pregnant women and even help with infertility. Mayan womb massage is another non-traditional option that has helped many women conceive.

Now someone out there might see this and wonder, "Why hasn't my doctor told me about all of these other options?" Well, to put it quite simply, it's not part of their course of study. Often times we assume that medical doctors are like the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager- programmed with an extensive knowledge of a variety of different approaches to medical problems. The reality is that medical doctors are very good at a certain type of medicine; one that utilizes methods such as prescription drugs and surgery. Their education doesn't cover chiropractic care, herbs, or Traditional Chinese Medicine. Just like you wouldn't go to an acupuncturist for intra-uterine insemination, you wouldn't go to a medical doctor for acupuncture.

Some of the upsides to these approaches are that they are less invasive, often less expensive, and sometimes even work faster than assisted reproductive technology. However, one thing to consider is that pursuing natural treatments while trying to undergo ART procedures can be complicated. For example, in The Infertility Cure, Randine Lewis talks about a couple she was seeing who were doing TCM with her while attempting to undergo ART. The doctors told them they needed to stop taking any herbs or other supplements in preparation for a round of artificial insemination. Unfortunately, this made the TCM ineffective and the artificial insemination didn't result in a pregnancy. Other measures such as chiropractic and diet changes can work well in conjunction with ART procedures. So, now you know!

Natural Alternatives to Fertility Treatments, 1 of 2

I was kind of reluctant to write this post because I know most people aren't really interested in natural alternatives to fertility treatments. Nor can I speak from experience on this subject since Determined Duckling was an accident. (But a delightful one.) However, natural medicine and enhancing fertility have always fascinated me, so it's a subject I've done some reading on. And since this blog is ultimately for me, I'm going to write about subjects that I'm interested in, and in this case, that's going to be natural alternatives to fertility treatments.

Nutrition: Eat your way to getting pregnant? It has been done. Robyn Openshaw (a.k.a. Green Smoothie Girl) has written a couple of great blog posts about recovering from infertility with a whole foods, plant-based diet (here and here). Robyn's first son was a twin conceived on a fourth whack at artificial insemination. She miscarried his twin in the first trimester. After he was born, she and her husband tried to get pregnant again and she suffered an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in internal hemorrhaging and the loss of one of her ovaries. Then, she switched to a whole foods, plant -based diet and and never had any trouble getting or staying pregnant again- even with only one ovary. Today, she is the mother of four teenagers. Her blog is extremely well-researched and chock full of great, useful information about health and nutrition that is not mainstream. If you haven't read the Green Smoothie Girl blog, drop everything you are doing right now and go check it out. Malamute and I have found a lot of good information from Robyn's site and blog that have changed our lives.

Fertility Awareness- The only information most of us learned about our monthly cycles in health class was that a hot water bottle will help with cramps and that you can go swimming if you use tampons. Suffice it to say that most of us our woefully under-educated about our own anatomy. One of the best books I have read about fertility awareness is Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This book will teach you how to identify the days you are most fertile to maximize your chances of getting pregnant and also help you identify problems with your cycle that may be preventing you from getting or staying pregnant. Even if you have no trouble getting pregnant, this book is invaluable in understanding how the female reproductive system really works.

Chiropractic- Most people who know me know that I'm crazy for chiropractic because it gave Determined Duckling the use of his legs and feet. But it can also help with certain fertility problems. For many chiropractors, this is their reason for being- literally. Their biographies describe how their parents tried for years to get pregnant with no success. The doctors could offer no answer as to why they were having so many troubles getting pregnant, and so the unfortunate couple went to a chiropractor who began adjusting the mother and BAM!- the babies began showing up en masse, and one or more of them grows up to be a chiropractor. The idea behind chiropractic is this: the nervous system tells the body what to do and how to do it. The spine is at the center of the nervous system, so if we can correct minor misalignments of the vertebrae, we can help the nervous system to send and receive directions properly, and thus get the body working in optimal condition.

One infertility problem that chiropractic is especially good at helping is failure of the fallopian tubes to propel the egg through the tubes to rendezvous with the sperm and result in pregnancy. I have often wondered how many couples have this problem and are labelled as "unexplained" infertility cases because tests don't show abnormal levels of hormones or a lack of ovulation. Here is an excellent article on chiropractic care for infertility.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Monday Confessional: I Probably Would Have Eloped If I Could Have

If Malamute and I could have eloped to the temple, we probably would have. Since having a nice wedding didn't seem like it was going to happen, I really wanted to elope instead. It would have been the Las Vegas Temple. If I were going to elope, I'd want to really go all the way. However, neither Malamute nor I were endowed, so it would have been pretty difficult. Between the weekly interviews and temple prep classes, getting a recommend to be endowed felt only slightly less complicated than clearing TSA to board a flight.

So that meant my wedding would involve our families, which I knew would be awkward and overwhelming. Awkward since the bride's family had recently taken out bankruptcy and the groom's family didn't want to spend much, and overwhelming because my schizophrenic mom can't keep track of her car keys, let alone plan a wedding and my MIL was too afraid of messing things up to get heavily involved in planning. And all I wanted to do was hang out with Malamute and get ready to go through the temple. So we ended up scraping the whole shebang together on about $500. As much as I wanted to elope, it was more important to Malamute and me to be married in the temple- no matter what the budget.

To be perfectly honest, not having a nice wedding has bothered me sometimes. The times it has bothered me most, though, were when I felt like Malamute and I were failures at being a married couple. I looked at other couples with their own houses or apartments, who had their job situation figured out, who weren't relying on others for money and then I looked at how these competent marriages started out with fairytale weddings (glamorous bridal portraits, expensive gown, fancy cultural hall decor, flawlessly iced cakes) and I felt humiliated about my life. "Can't you do anything right?" I would tell myself in disgust. The first four years since saying "I do" felt more like playing house.

I can count two things as successes, though. (And one is not the fact that we are still together. I don't believe that success in a marriage is determined by how long you are together. Some perfectly miserable and abusive marriages last until death.) One success is that we have helped each other build into better people- which has in turn helped us stay together. The other, of course, is Determined Duckling. I think what I really wanted out of a nice wedding was to feel special and that I could do something right. But I'm finding that I feel those things from building our photography business and working with CBT and helping Malamute and Duckling build themselves into good men. And blogging. Not many people read this blog, but I really enjoy writing, and I think that's the most important thing. The wedding just doesn't seem like as a big a deal anymore. It's important and a special day, but after all is said and done, it's still just that- an event and a day. Marriage and children are eternal.

But I also would have liked to have had one of those simple and elegant weddings with lots of family support. You know, the ones where your dad has put aside a little extra money to cover some of the expenses and your mom helps out with planning and coordinating everything but doesn't get overbearing either. And while that wedding wasn't possible for me, some day I do hope to have a daughter and be able to provide that kind of wedding for her. And you know what? I think it will be even more fun to help plan a wedding where I'm not the bride!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sourdough Bread

As usual, when confronted with two obvious choices, it's the third choice that pays.- Seth Godin

Store-bought bread makes me crazy. Seriously. The last time Malamute and I went on a store-bought artisan bread binge, I felt like I was losing my mind. I got more depressed and my panic attacks worsened. We were discouraged and drowning our sorrows in artisan bread and hummus, but it ended up making things worse.

I've had problems with wheat for a long time. My mood becomes dismal (as I've mentioned) and my skin breaks out in rashes and acne. I've tried going gluten-free, and that certainly helped some, but there were downsides to it as well. For one thing, bread making became more difficult. Gluten is what holds bread together and makes it have that delicious, crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside consistency. That was a lot harder to come by without using wheat flour, which was very sad because I LOVE artisan bread. (Especially the heel of the loaf.) Another problem was that most gluten free bread recipes required the use of commercial yeast, which gave Malamute problems. Also, gluten free breads and flours are more expensive.

So after a wild ride on the crazy train, we were faced with two choices: buy wheat bread from the store, or cough up the money to go gluten free and sacrifice that delicious bready quality of a good wheat loaf. But we were starting to get smart, and as Seth Godin recommends, we chose the third option and thus began my adventures in sourdough bread making.

The first thing we did (since we had a little money) was to get a grain grinder. Turns out that a lot of what made me so crazy with wheat bread wasn't so much the gluten as the fact that whole wheat flour goes bad when it sits for very long (i.e. in a bag on a store shelf). The oils go rancid very soon after being ground. That's why most whole wheat flour tastes so weird. So we coughed up the money for a Blendtec Kitchen Mill and it has been one of the BEST investments we have ever made. My problems with wheat have disappeared and the flour tastes better. Freshly ground wheat has a sweet taste. In fact, the first time my dad tried a piece of my whole wheat sourdough bread, he asked if there was honey in it. (There wasn't. The ingredients for sourdough are amazingly simple; just starter, flour, water, and a little salt.)

Making authentic sourdough is an entirely different process than making your usual loaf of bread with commercial yeast. Sourdough uses wild yeast in a starter culture for leavening. A starter culture is basically water and flour that has fermented for a few days. Also, when you make sourdough bread, it is a multi-day process. The conditions also have to be just right. If you add too much water to your starter or your bread dough sits at too cool a temperature, it will die like a Giga Pet. (Remember those?) Some people make a proofing box, but I haven't wanted to take the time to figure it out, so I've gotten creative. In the summer I proofed (let sit) my dough and starter in the garage because it got to be 80 degrees or more in there, as opposed to the house which was kept cooler, especially overnight.

My summer loaves were some of my best. During the summer Malamute (who is a Bay Area native) told me over and over that my bread tasted just like the sourdough loaves he had had in San Francisco. Now that it's winter and the garage is freezing, I've taken to putting my dough in a cooler and packing it in with blankets and then putting the cooler upstairs where it gets warmer. My idea was that if you can put an ice pack in a cooler and have it keep stuff cool, you could put a warming agent in and have it keep things warm. And time and again, it has worked. =)

If making your own sourdough sounds like an arduous process, don't be too intimidated. There is a learning curve and you will probably be pulling your hair out at first. Learning to make your own sourdough bread is very much like having sex: you can read books about the mechanics of it, people can give you advice and tell you about their experiences, but the only way to learn is by actually doing it. The good news is that if you just keep trying and being creative, it can be done. If you're interested in making your own sourdough, I highly suggest hopping on to Sourdoughs International's website and getting some info. They also sell a variety of sourdough starters from all over the world, most for about $15. Some have milder or stronger sour flavors, so you can get one that suits your taste. Or you can find a friend who makes sourdough and ask her for some of her starter. Sourdough starter is the gift that keeps on giving- as long as you make sure to keep feeding it flour and water and don't let it get too hot. (Like a Giga Pet.) I have the South African culture starter; it is supposed to be especially good for freshly ground flour.

Making sourdough bread is totally worth it. (And you have not lived until you have had pizza with a sourdough crust!) But I have to sign off now since I need to feed a batch of bread dough for the last time before letting it rise and then baking it into delicious sourdough bread loaves.

My (Mental) Vacation to Carmel-by-the-Sea

Yesterday we got some good news that also brought back some bad memories and old feelings. It was a relief, but nonetheless it was a reminder of old baggage previously dealt with. I ended up having a bad dream last night and was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. So I used a technique of my own that I've been using to relax during the day: I took a mental vacation.

Now this is something that has only started working for me recently as I have only just started to believe that I will in reality one day visit the places I am visiting in my mind- one way or another. I've had a hard time with most meditation techniques. I find my mind tends to wander. But this has been working for me lately. I've read about some quantum theorists who talk about how other versions of reality may exist on the other side of a black hole or elsewhere on the space-time continuum, so I'd like to think that in some other reality we made different choices and that I'm actually vacationing in these places on the other side of a black hole or something.

Some of the happiest times in my life have been when Malamute and I have been visiting California. So last night I took a mental vacation to my favorite place in the world: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. So join me for a minutes if you would like and we'll all vacation together.

I'm in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California in the morning. In fact, Malamute, Duckling, myself, and the dogs are all on Carmel Beach, an off-leash dog beach which is like a hundred times better than going to a dog park. The dogs frolic and play and bark and wrestle. Duckling laughs at them; he has such a musical laugh. He is walking now and he is hand-in-hand with Malamute and me. I can hear the waves crashing on the sand and then retreating. I pick up Duckling and we chase the waves. I let the water rush over my shoes just because I love to feel the ocean. Then Malamute takes him and I climb a rock to feel the ocean spray in my face. We walk up and down along the beach. When we started, the sky was still gray because the sun hadn't been up long enough. But as we continue walk up and down the beach, it gets lighter and the sky becomes a lovely, sunny blue. If I look off into the ocean, I can even see the heads of the seals bobbing merrily in the surf.

After we're done with our walk on the beach, we take the dogs back to our trailer (because we have a trailer for traveling in my fantasy vacation) and then go back into town. We are going to walk through downtown Carmel and see some of the shops. Walking through downtown Carmel is like being transported to a cute little fairytale village. There are cottages with wood trim, thatched looking roofs, covered with ivy and with lush, dark green gardens. There are quaint shops and older buildings with woodworking on the outside. The pavement is often uneven in Carmel, and in fact it is technically illegal to wear high-heeled shoes there because it is a trip hazard. Malamute, Duckling and I meander in and out of the shops and galleries. We find one shop with toys and buy Duckling a big pinwheel and cute plate set just for him (because he is such a big boy and eats from his own plate now). But there's so much more we want to try out that we haven't done before.

So, the next day, we take Duckling for his very first horseback ride. (He loves horses!) The day after that, we take him to a pottery studio and where he makes his very own little clay pot. And then we go to the Carmel Children's library. And after all that, it's time to head to Monterey for a few days. We do the 17-mile scenic drive the evening we arrive. And the next day we go to the Monterey Aquarium to see the whales and seals. And the day after that, we head to the Monterey County Youth Museum so Determined Duckling (and Mommy and Daddy) can play with all the fun things there. And we get falafel at the Monterey Whole Foods before we leave. All in all, I'd say we've had a delightful trip, and I feel better even if I only went in my mind.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No Worry Wednesday: Why I'm Not Afraid of Superintelligent Killer Robots/Computers

So it turns out that defeating the Cylons was a lot easier than we were thinking. We just waited for a server error and then blew them to smithereens. Don't know why we didn't think of that before.

Battlestar Galactica had the Cylons, Star Trek: The Next Generation had the Borg Collective, The Matrix had Agent Smith and his ilk. From Japan, we have the anime series Bubblegum Crisis and its cyberdroids called boomers. It seems like someone is always putting out some movie or TV show or comic book/manga telling us that a hostile takeover by robots or commuters is somewhere in our future. And while I enjoy watching the 1978 Battlestar Galactica on youtube while I'm cooking, I have to say that I disagree with the reality of its core plot element. I'm not worried about superintelligent machines taking over and destroying all human life for the following reasons:

1) We created them- To wax scriptural, Isaiah 29:16: "...for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?" Philosophically, I don't think it's possible for us to create something more intelligent than ourselves.

2) Hackers- And because we can't create something more intelligent than ourselves, that means we can always find a solution. Like hacking. I remember the first time I saw the Borg on TNG, I turned to Malamute and said, "Why don't they just hack into the Borg system and send over a virus?" When I started watching Battlestar Galactica, I had the same question about humanity's epic struggle against the Cylons. Now Malamute and my dad pointed out that when TNG and Battlestar were made, the concept of sitting down at your personal computer and hacking into a system were pretty much unheard of, so it makes sense that computers seemed a lot scarier since most people didn't know you could take them down with a few well-placed key strokes and a virus. The Matrix came out well into the age of the personal computer, but it is one of my favorite movies, so I can excuse its ignoring of the hacking concept. (There's just no excuse for the train wreck the Wachowski brothers made of the sequels. And, yes, Paul from Honors Physics junior year, they were both train wrecks.) But beyond that, having someone sit at a computer and type the robots into submission isn't nearly as dramatic as voyaging valiantly across the galaxy in search of a haven for humanity, catching bullets in a flowing trench coat, or even being chased by a giant cube.

3) Computer errors- Furthermore, we're talking about the same machines that malfunction and sometimes won't recognize bar codes in line at the grocery store, or read your library card, and take forever to load a webpage during a storm. Just yesterday, Google wouldn't let me load an image to my post the first time around. And today auto-save has been malfunctioning, which means every few minutes I get a big message about it and have to reload the page. My confidence in their ability to outsmart us and take over the world is severely lacking. Seriously, if superintelligent killer robots take over the world, we may not even have to hack them with a virus, we could wait for some technology glitch and blast them to kingdom come.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How Google Docs Saved My Marriage, Or Mind Meld With Me

Actually, that's a bit of an exaggeration because my marriage wasn't in serious trouble before, but Google Docs has certainly greased the wheels of communication.

Hhhhmmm... Now I understand why you become so upset when I leave my socks on the floor. The logical thing to do would be to pick them up and put them in the hamper on laundry day.

See, Malamute and I don't always communicate the best about feelings. A typical "conversation" about feelings will often go like this:

PR: I feel hurt by what you just said.
AM: But that's not how I meant it to come out!
PR: I didn't say that's how you meant it to come out, I'm just saying that I perceived it as hurtful.
AM: But I didn't mean for it to hurt you. I'm feeling a lot of negativity from you, can't we talk about something else?
PR: I know I'm not supposed to feel hurt, but I do. And I don't want to talk about something else, I want to beat this issue to pieces until you submit to my way of thinking! (Well, I don't say that last part out loud, but I'm thinking it at this point...)
AM: Well I don't understand what you're feeling!
PR: Fine. You can be right and I'll be wrong then.
AM: I don't want you to just say you're wrong to please me! But I don't understand why you're feeling the way you're feeling!

And on and on... (Without much resolution.)

I never really learned how to control my emotions and deal with them in a healthy way. In my teen years I tried stuffing them down, but that only made my emotional outbursts further between and more severe. I wished I could just stop feeling. After we got married, I told this to Malamute and he mentioned the Vulcans from Star Trek. Boy, that sounded great. Cut emotion out of your existence entirely and just go on logic. But that's not exactly how it works, even for the Vulcans.

I found out that in the Star Trek mythology, the Vulcans were once a society ruled by emotion so much that it almost became their destruction. They decided to become a people of logic to save themselves. But they didn't just cut off their emotions like amputating a limb. They used meditative techniques to deal with their strong and erratic emotions, which allowed them to be able to approach life with logic. Well, that sounded like a better idea, but this isn't Vulcan, so how do I "purge" and control my emotions in a healthy way, especially since talking with Malamute often didn't work well?

Enter CBT. One of the great pieces of advice I found was to write about how you're feeling and the circumstances when you feel something negative. But I've taken it a step further and used Google Docs. As I said yesterday, I've started writing about what I'm feeling when I feel negatively, but I save into a document that I share with Malamute and that he can comment on. Lo and behold, we've started communicating effectively! I write down what I'm upset about (which allows me to get it out there in an uninterrupted stream; I've always expressed myself better in writing), Malamute goes and reads it, adds his thoughts by commenting, and then I can comment back if I want. For whatever reasons, (maybe we're just very geeky...), it's been working great. I understand where he's coming from, he understands where I'm coming from, we get the whole thing out in Google Docs and not on our daily hikes when we just want to enjoy being together. Most of the time, neither of us feel a need to bring up something from Google Docs. We fight better when we do it in writing. It's like having a virtual Vulcan mind meld. And for us, it has helped a lot.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Monday Confessional

I have a really severe problem with stress, anxiety and depression. It's like an addiction. Even if I know I have nothing to be worried about, I have often felt like I need to be worried about something. Being calm is not something I'm used to. It feels completely foreign to me. When I was growing up, everything, even small problems were crises. I lived in a constant state of panic and to feel normal, I have to find something to panic about.

One day I decided I needed to get some real help. Artistic Malamute and I had been reading marketing expert Seth Godin's books and he seemed to have so many great ideas about not only marketing, but life in general and positive thinking, that I decided to email him and find out what he would recommend for a stress addict. And... he emailed me back right away. (I felt like I had had a brush with fame! The Seth Godin had taken time from his busy schedule to listen to this basket case homemaker spill her guts about her inability to be happy and calm! Wow!!!)

Anyway, What Mr. Godin suggested was something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on the ways people think and act to help them change their emotional and behavioral problems. It has been shown to be highly effective with a number of problems including addictions, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders. In short: If you can change the way you think, you change the way you feel and act. This made sense to me. I've tried antidepressants and herbs, I've read my scriptures and gone to the temple and prayed, but none of those things have ever totally gotten to the root of the problem. All the medicine and scripture study in the world can't help when I think that I'm supposed to be miserable and there is nothing but desolation ahead. That can only change when my way of thinking changes. This has been especially important as we get Malamute's photography business going, because I have always been really afraid of starting a business and that feeds into my biggest fear of inescapable poverty. I have to be able to think positively if I'm going to be happy in life.

Mr. Godin recommended finding a therapist in my area, but obviously I don't have money for that kind of thing, so I am DIY-ing it with one of those "For Dummies" books from the library. (Which is actually a really good book on the subject.) It's not easy. It's not an overnight change. But I have felt better and coped better. And I've been able to open myself up to positive thinking enough that I've had some days where I feel amazing. I would love to have a therapist I can talk things through with, but I can't wait for that right now, so I'm going to do it on my own. One thing I've been finding is that it's helping me a lot to write about what I'm feeling. Sometimes, (like today) I get up and write about what I'm feeling first thing. (Well, I do go to the bathroom first.) It's amazing the insights I uncover into what I'm feeling, thinking, and doing when I just start writing without censoring myself.

I'm not feeling amazing today, but I'm feeling OK. On a scale of 1-10, I'd say I'm about a 5 or 6, but that's a whole lot better than feeling like a 1 or 2.