Monday, September 22

"Sleepy Dust" and Other Miracle Cures

I love Pinterest. It was practically made for visual learners like me, and has been a God-send in terms of reducing clutter and organizing ideas, materials, recipes, and inspirations.

Still, I sometimes find myself wishing that there was a way to stamp warnings on other people's pins. I'd slap "Caution: Does Not Work" signs on that stupid pin that suggests you can use Parmesan cheese container caps on canning jars (I have yet to find a brand for which this is actually true). "Requires Artistic Talent" should go on about half of the DIY wreaths, furniture painting tutorials, and party food posts. Most importantly, however, the nutritionist in me is convinced that there needs to be a "Not Necessarily/Highly Conditional" warning tag on so many of the DIY "miracle cure" style posts that circulate among the nutrition, holistic health, and herbalism themed boards. (Actually, it might be really fun to have a "Danger, Will Robinson!" sign to stick onto things that are really, truly ludicrous, too...)

My sister is a nurse, and recently sent me a pin for something called "Sleepy Dust." She wanted to know if it jived with what my (holistic/whole foods) nutrition books say, since it definitely didn't match up with what her medical books and experience tell her.

According to the pin (and blog post it's linked to), "Sleepy Dust" is a combination of sugar and salt that you can keep beside your bed and stick on your tongue before bed or when you wake up in the middle of the night to help you get to sleep (or back to sleep). The author of the post explains why she thinks this works, and raves about how awesomely it has worked for her.

Unfortunately, if you actually read the post, red flags start popping up almost immediately. The post blames stress hormones for creating insomnia, despite the fact that there are dozens of potential causes. Too much sugar before bed (causing blood sugar issues), eating too heavy a meal too late (causing your body to be funneling energy into digestion instead of the restorative processes it is supposed to be focused on during sleep), disturbed sleep cycles (a huge issue in the modern era), and conflicting signals (such as light, particularly from electronics) are all documented to disrupt sleep. Obviously, you can't implement an effective solution unless you look at and address the source(s) of individual insomnia cases!

Then there's the reality that historically, people didn't necessarily sleep through the night. In pre- industrial eras, it was common for people to wake up in the middle of the night for an hour or two. Records demonstrate that people were accustomed to using the time to meditate, pray, or snuggle with their spouse, and then consistently fell asleep again until morning. So what looks like insomnia to modern eyes, so indoctrinated by corporate schedules, is not necessarily an unnatural or inappropriate sleep cycle.

Finally, the human body technically never needs straight sugar (beyond what you would get in a primal-style high fat, lean protein, and fibrous veggie diet). You also can't just "get rid of" or "turn off" stress hormones - they have to be physically processed and released/removed from your system. 

Although I am eternally grateful to live in an era in which so much wisdom and so many creative solutions are available to us with only the clicking of computer keys and the magic of Google, it is critical to remember that humans are biochemically and environmentally unique. Your body and your environment are not necessarily the same as the those of the person/expert/resource first to pop up on your screen. This is particularly true when pursuing secondary sites like Pinterest, where you can't really gauge the quality of information until you've gone to the source and done some digging. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and just because it worked for someone else doesn't mean it's right for you. Look, experiment, and enjoy, but remember that on the interwebs, as in ancient Rome, Caveat Emptor applies -  it's your responsibility to be aware and do the fact checking necessary to make sure the solutions, tips, and tricks you find are actually safe and scientifically sound!!


Saturday, September 20

The "Tyranny" of Family Dinners



I occasionally wonder if Slate writers are genuinely clueless as to how to the world actually works, or if they are just exceptionally good at intentionally twisting bits of reality into presentations that allow them to further politically correct ideas - however ludicrous or unreasonable.


Let's set aside, for the moment, the uncompromising (if apparently inconvenient) reality that research consistently demonstrates that consistently sitting down to a meal with your family in your home has powerful and positive impacts on family relationships and the likelihood that children will be successful in school and avoid drug use/criminal behavior. Instead, let's consider what the author thinks to be the primary arguments against this long-standing tradition:

  • Inability to afford fresh produce or kitchen essentials such as pots and pans 
  • Whiny, un-supportive husbands
  • Ungrateful children 
  • Too-busy wives

Am I the only one to think that none of these problems are actually the result of the "tyrranical" tradition of making and serving of homemade meals, and everything to do with unhealthy lifestyle decisions?

The inability to afford fresh produce is clearly a “straw man” argument - a tremendous variety of quick, easy, and inexpensive family dinners can be made without having any fresh produce on hand. 
Considering what you can do with a single electric hot pot, sauce pan, or tea kettle – any of which you can get from a thrift store for under $3 pretty much any day of the week - I don't find the lack of kitchen essentials to hold water, either. 

If you married a man who whines, disrespects you in front of your children, and with whom you’re at odds about family and lifestyle priorities, you have much bigger issues than dinner.  Family dinners may clearly shine a light on those issues, but they aren't the source. Cancelling family dinner so you can continue to ignore those issues only makes everything worse.

As far as kids being unappreciative or difficult, not to sound unsympathetic, but it’s called parenting. Children do not come as perfect little angels – they have to be raised and trained up. It’s why they have parents, and why being a homemaker was considered a full time profession for nearly the entirety of history. Taking the raw material that is a child and raising them to be a responsible, courteous, and wise human being is a lot of work. It’s work that happens in the mundane, every day moments over the better part of two decades. (Though most parents I know would say that you don’t stop parenting when your kid turns 18… the logistics just look a little different.) 

Before you argue that I am a militantly anachronistic and oppressive traditionalist, let me point out that many of best friends and I were all raised in households in which our mothers worked full time. 
An objective review shows that they were no less busy than modern women. They had real, demanding jobs and still somehow managed to get meals on the table every night so that we could eat as a family. We learned to eat what we were served (politely, I might add), or to go without (equally politely). Our fathers, whether directly involved in the preparation of dinner of not, modeled and enforced appreciation and respect. None of our mothers had breakdowns over this practice, and we all grew up to be courteous, well-adjusted adults who think it’s perfectly normal to continue those healthy traditions ourselves. 

I fully respect how hard the fight to protect our families, our homes, and our sanity is in this day and age. It can be incredibly challenging to balance the need for a second income against the home-based demands of maintaining a strong marriage, being a parent, and healthy living choices. It's a battle that must be fought on multiple fronts every day, and it can be exhausting.


But let’s not pretend that sitting down together and having a meal as a family is part of the problem when it is, in fact, part of the solution. You cannot face down and overcome your challenges if you don't first name them for what they are. Vanquishing straw men is a waste of time and energy, and only allows the real enemies - poor decisions, denial of reality, and self-pity - to continue ravaging our lives behind closed doors.

So throw a pot of spaghetti on the stove, dump a jar of sauce into a pan, and toss some plates on the table. Fight back against politically correct propaganda by choosing to engage in simple act of a shared meal. History and science give us iron-clad evidence of the power of this single choice, available for us to make anew every day. You don't have to sacrifice your health or your relationships to the chaos of the world and its broken perspectives. 

Thursday, September 18

The Money Myth



No ranting or philosophizing today - just an interesting TED talk to share: The Money Myth. It isn't long, and is well worth a watch when you've got a few minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16

How To Stop the Crazy Before It Starts

Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy had an excellent post recently on Trigger Points. She descibes trigger points as "metaphorical buttons" that, when pushed, consistently cause us to pretty much lose it.

Although technically geared toward a homeschool audience, I highly recommend checking out her post, because the core message applies to us all. Given that we are well on our way into Fall, with the holidays close behind, it seems particularly timely. 

Although I wouldn't have been able to articulate it nearly as well as she did, I spent a lot of time over the summer thinking about what I want life to look like and where it is not conforming. I returned to work after my few weeks off with refreshed boundaries and redefined priorities.  I've done a little revising of my strategies to help me avoid hitting my "trigger points,"  and a lot of de-cluttering, physically and mentally.

Before the holidays are upon us and we find ourselves hurtling into a new year with the same chaos, frustration, and sugar-withrawl induced depression that typically categorize that season, take a minute to read the post, and think about your trigger points. The world will never be perfect, but there's a lot we can (and should!) do to limit our craziness.

What makes you crazy?


those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf
those metaphorical buttons that may or may not cause us to flip out when they’re pushed too hard. - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2014/09/trigger-points/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ModernMrsDarcy+%28modern+Mrs.+Darcy%29#sthash.DA5vLYXG.dpuf

Sunday, September 14

We’ve Been Adopted By a Cat

One evening several weeks ago, a neighbor unexpectedly stopped by to ask if we were in the market for a cat. We weren’t, technically speaking. We tried the cat thing once before. Adorable as he was, Archimedes was dumber than dirt, and frankly dumb cats just don’t survive long as barn cats. Nor can you just go to a shelter and explain that you need a “barn cat,” capable of ruthless mouse hunting and coyote evasion. Just mention you have coyotes and expect a working cat rather than an indoor companion animal, and it’s over.   

Cat. (A.k.a. Kitty Kitty)
Still, mice are never not an issue when you live “in the country,” so we went down to check out the stray who had wandered into our neighbor’s yard from a logging trail in the woods. Our neighbors are cat people, with two territorial kitties already, and couldn’t keep her, but estimated she was about eight months old. She obviously was very socialized, because she likes people and will allow herself to be picked up. Best guess is that she was part of a litter of kittens dropped along the side of the road out here weeks ago.

We seriously doubted she would stay with us, but decided to give it a try since there really wasn’t anything to lose. Much to our surprise, Cat has adopted us. After initial brief terror, she’s taken to the dogs (who are very gentle with her), and claimed the garage as her domain. She’s proven to be quite the hunter and has the common sense to stay out of the road and away from loud/dangerous things like the lawnmower. She’s still a bit on the scrawny side, but between kitty food and all the free range mice she can eat, we’re hoping to have her fattened up soon.

Time will tell how things work out, but I can’t help but wonder if we shall find ourselves much the same way with cats that the Murphys in Wrinkle in Time were with dogs – their dogs always found them, wandering in with unknown providence and simply staying. For now, we’re happy to have a mouser on hand, and Cat seems quite content with her new domain.

Friday, September 12

The Order of the Good Death

I had the opportunity to check out an advanced reader's copy of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, and loved it.

Ms. Doughty (now a mortician) tells the story of her first job working in a crematory - and all the bizarre, unexpected, and thought-provoking realities it brought her face-to-face with. In the process, she takes a good hard look at traditions and misconceptions surrounding death, modern American experiences as shaped by the entire industry built around death, and how our current unhealthy relationship with death is damaging to us individually and as a culture. It was fascinating, and absolutely something I think everyone should read. Ms. Doughty has an excellent writing voice and, although it may not be the lightest book you read this year, it will certainly open your eyes (as it did mine) to some important considerations you probably never considered (but will be glad you do).

As part of her campaign to improve Americans' relationship with and handling of the natural part of the human life cycle that is death, Ms. Doughty founded the Order of the Good Death. In addition to fascinating death-related blog posts on topics ranging from medieval "corpse toilets" to modern laws and best practices to consider when someone you love dies, the website features Ms. Doughty's "Ask a Mortician" video series. Not the least bit squeamish, she readily delves into entirely practical questions like "what happens to titanium hips and breast implants when you cremate a corpse?" and "can caskets really explode?".

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to browse this fascinating site, and picking up her book if you can.

Tuesday, September 9

The Lessons We’re Not Teaching



Not long ago, I ran across a New York Times article that deeply frustrated me. It was intended to be a human interest piece about the scheduling software many companies (particularly fast food and other service industry employers) are using to manage their labor forces, and the havoc the resulting schedules can cause in individual lives. The story was framed around the life of a young single mother with no support network who’d been forced to put her educational dreams on hold and battle every day just to function around her unpredictable and uneven schedule. The writer focused on the myriad of ways her situation was damaging to the girl’s life, her son’s life, and the lives of the aunt and uncle who were her only support.

Two things aggravated me about this article. The first, which I won’t deal with here, was that it focused on an incredibly narrow slice of reality without giving the slightest nod to the other factors and realities at play. There was no mention of why companies are motivated use such software (the precarious balancing of operating costs, taxes, and limits on what customers will pay creating razor thin margins ), or acknowledgement that most jobs such as the one being profiled (a Starbucks barista) were almost never intended by employers to be the sole supporting income of a family. It is misleading and unproductive to suggest that something like scheduling software is the root cause of so much anguish, when there’s so much more involved.

The thing the truly frustrated me, though, was the fact that there was a very stark lesson played out in the story that no one will touch: having kids before you’re relationally, physically, and financially ready is disastrous and damaging for everyone involved.

This young woman, if she had not had her son by an absent father while she was still a teenager, could have been living safely and affordably, going to school, and building a strong support network. She could have been creating the kind of stable life she didn’t have, and welcomed her son into a happily family and safe home ten years later.

We do our sisters and our daughters (and their future children!) a grave disservice when we pretend that there aren’t very real physical, emotional, financial, and relational long term costs to having children out of wedlock and before you are able to care for them.  


I have spent the last year watching a very smart young woman I know sink every spare dime into lawyers, trying to protect the daughter she had by an idiot she left years ago. They were never married, and he had no interest in the child until he found out the mother was getting remarried. Now, in what should be a wonderful time in her life, she is spending every day and every penny she has embroiled in emotional drama, court time, worry about her daughter’s safety, and the resulting devastation to her formerly happy relationship with her fiancĂ© and her job.

These stories are not the exception – they are the rule. Playing up happy stories of when someone does beat the odds and championing women’s “right” to have children out of wedlock without judgment make cruel mockeries  of the lives shattered and battered by the harsh realities of most single parents and the children they weren’t – and often still aren’t – prepared to care for.

The world is not perfect; we cannot control everything. But we can and should teach girls not to sabotage their lives, or the lives of the future children, by believing pretty PC lies or brushing the bleak consequences of bad choices off as the fault of random, incidental influences like scheduling programs. The plain, unvarnished truth is harsh, but girls deserve to know the truth while there’s still time to make good choices and change their world.