Of Cats and Sewing

black and white cats in a basket

When I get out the camera, the sillies ham it up!

Cats and sewing don’t mix very well, but I’ve learned so much through trying to persevere in finishing this project I’m working on (a gingerbread costume) while trying to distract Lil’ Stinker (the white kitten in the photo) from wreaking havoc!

Over the course of this project, he’s spilled ALL my pins (but only once!). He’s attacked and chomped holes in my crackly paper patterns, which were fortunately designed by me out of butcher paper and not that flimsy shreddable stuff store-bought patterns are made of, so a few teeth and claw marks didn’t really matter.

He let me know that he very much likes the color red. He thought he also liked pins because they’re shiny, but he tried to grab one out of the cloth this evening and discovered they’re also sharp and pointy. (Ouch!) He didn’t much like that!

He also likes spools of thread because they’re round and have colorful thread on them, and he HATES the noise the sewing machine makes!

He also made me laugh when he kept trying to “hide” beside the sewing machine because it’s white and he’s white. He was trying to hide because he knows he isn’t allowed on the table!

I think we can safely say he isn’t color-blind and that he recognizes and differentiates colors!

Shelah (my tuxedo kitty) also informed me that she loves the color red, and was totally disgusted when I took the red fabric she appropriated away from her.

You may wonder along with my family why I didn’t just shut the kitten in another room to keep him out of the sewing. It’s a good question, but it’s got a fairly simple answer: this project isn’t a big one, and I’ll be done with it soon. If I upset either of my cats over it, then I get to spend weeks trying to calm them both down. Meanwhile, I won’t be able to get anything else much done!

It’s easier on all of us if the kitten learns to respect the house rules and discovers that there are things he’s allowed and encouraged to do to entertain himself during the hours I have to focus on other things.

I’ve found various ways to keep the cats out of the sewing: opening a window works for a while. So does wearing them out by playing with their favorite toys (I’m not ignoring them quite all the time). Lil’ Stinker’s favorite toy of the moment is this soft squishy red ball with iridescent ‘fur’ sticking out of it. He’s got a yellow one just like it, but will he play with the yellow one? Hah– But he’ll play with the red ball on his own for hours!

I’ve gotten the costume almost done. Tomorrow it needs another fitting, then I can finish off the neckline and add some peppermint felt ‘buttons.’ Then it’s back to the computer and writing to see if I can catch up my word count for NaNoWriMo, even though the month’s already half over.

How To Successfully Fight Muscle Pain

dscn3108In order to treat pain, it’s helpful to know that pain is our body’s warning system, letting us know that our bodies are taking damage, warning us to stop before the damage is irreversible.

However, there are circumstances under which it is very frustrating to have pain!

“Yeah, so I worked out and I’m not used to that, and now all my muscles are spasming and I hurt all over! I did something good for my body! Why is it complaining?”

AND there’s fibromyalgia and other mystery illnesses where excruciating pain develops for no discernible reason.

I do not have fibromyalgia, but I have a lot of friends suffering from it, and I am very sympathetic, because I can also sometimes have debilitating pain all over caused by chemical sensitivities.

Not knowing why you’re in pain can also be the very worst–because if we know why we’re in pain, then we’re halfway to fixing it. Not knowing why makes it almost impossible to fix.

Here’s what I’ve learned about successfully fighting pain from my naturopath (he’s one of the best in the nation) and from a massage therapist who I am very grateful to for teaching me so much!

  • There is never “no reason” that pain occurs. There is always at least one reason! To successfully treat muscle pain, it’s important to find out what is causing it. (more about this further down)
  • fibromyalgia is a “junk drawer” diagnosis. An MD can tell you that you have fibromyalgia, but will he get to the cause of it or give you an action plan for healing? Most likely not! (you’re going to need a naturopath to help you permanently stop that pain)
  • Best emergency pain relieving gel I’ve ever found: Boiron Arnica gel.
  • A great natural pain reliever: Quercetin
  • Pain can be caused by our bodies not getting the proper nutrients to repair tissues. Two of the most important nutrients our muscles need in order not to ache or cramp are:
    1. calcium
    2. potassium

We need to take the right calcium though, or it isn’t as effective. Calcium lactate is what muscle cells need in order to effect daily repairs.

After much trial (and misery), the calcium supplement I found I could take years ago is Calcium 6 plus, but I can’t find a place that sells it online. If you want the company’s info so you can source it locally, feel free to contact me.

What I like about it is that it’s one of the few calcium combinations that includes calcium lactate, and that it tastes halfway decent (if still a little chalky) when I chew it.

If I take enough calcium lactate, my muscles function better, my S/I joint pops out of joint far less often, and I’m in a lot less pain.

While you may end up taking something else, my advice is to make sure that it’s readily absorbable (chewables are best), and that it has some calcium lactate in it for your muscles.

Potassium is easy to get from bananas and potatoes. A banana a day keeps that ol’ Charlie Horse away! Organic is always better–

In order to properly absorb calcium, a supplement needs to have enough magnesium in it. But be careful: too much magnesium, and you’ll get the runs! Some people are more sensitized to it than others. I’m fine with the small amount in the Cal 6 plus, but you may find that you need more.

  • Did you know that Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils are also important for promoting muscle health and pain reduction? It’s true!

Hot Tip: they’re also very good for reducing menstrual cramping and other symptoms of PMS including crabbiness!

Omega 3 is obtained from fish oil. Anchovies and sardines are a high quality source for fish oil, krill oil is even better, but it’s gotten to be very expensive. I used to say salmon was good, too, but that was before Monsanto created the frankenfish cross between a salmon and an eel. Unless you eat a lot of quality, wild caught non-frankenfish salmon (because you’re living in Alaska), you’re probably going to want to take a supplement instead to get enough Omega 3 oil into your diet.

Here’s a high quality Omega 3 fish oil supplement that may be helpful.

Omega 6 oil is obtained from three specific plant sources, but they are not created equal: evening primrose oil is the best quality, then borage oil, then flaxseed oil–which is comparatively poor in quality.

I recommend Akin’s evening primrose oil, because it has worked long-term for me with no side effects and I’m confident of the consistent quality of the supplement. However, you’ll have to source it directly from Akin’s as it isn’t available for sale on Amazon.

Our bodies need both Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils. If we starve our bodies of either one, we can wind up hurting and in pain.

  • Eating dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and kale is beneficial for our muscles and overall health too.
  • If your body can’t break down and process nutrients, you aren’t going to derive any benefit from any amount of dietary supplementation–and–you will still be in pain. I recommend seeing a naturopath. If you don’t know a good one, I recommend mine!

If you contact me, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with him.

Naturopaths are far better at diagnosing and successfully addressing most issues that cause chronic pain than any MD or specialist. The big exception would be where surgery is necessary.

The best thing I like about how my naturopath taught me how to treat my pain is that most of the time, I don’t have any unpleasant side effects from the supplements and therapies he recommends. If I have a bad reaction to something, I can stop taking it and we can find something better that doesn’t cause trouble.

I can’t do this at all with pharmaceuticals. It’s very difficult to find pharmaceuticals that don’t cause side effects and don’t have bad drug interactions, even for “normal” people!

  • Therapies used to treat muscles aches and pains:
    • massage therapy
    • DIY hot rocks massage
    • DIY ice cube massage

Finding a massage therapist who makes your muscles feel good can be a huge help to stopping the pain. My massage therapist friend has what I like to call “healing hands.” She’d find just the right pressure points, and–suddenly–the pain would be gone, and it wouldn’t come back again for days, maybe even weeks!

While you may not know my massage therapist or be able to visit her (she lives a long way from me now), making a study of the pressure points to turn off pain may help you and your loved ones stop each other’s pain from progressing to unbearable levels and help speed healing.

Here’s a great chart to help you get started.

I also recommend buying one of these hand-held massagers. We really love ours and have replaced the batteries more than once since we bought it!

A great trick my massage therapist friend taught me was to heat up palm-sized smooth river rocks in a small crock pot on low to medium heat covered with just enough water. Putting a little olive oil on one of the warm rocks, rub it around in small gentle circles on knots and sore places on muscles: five minutes in each general area. This softens the knots, loosening the pinching around nerves. When the rock cools off, put it aside (not back in the crock pot) and get another. Repeat until all painful spots have been treated.

Wash the oil off the rocks before re-using.

To follow up a hot rock massage, rub an ice cube (or if there’s nerve damage, a cool wet rolled up washcloth) on the knots and sore spots for five minutes each. This stimulates the capillary system in the tissues to wick away the excess fluid from the irritated tissues, taking the knots down like magic!

There’s more I could say, like how soaking in a hot bath with 1 cup Epsom Salts and a few drops of lavender oil can really relax sore muscles, or how a therapist who practices accupuncture can help. And how regularly eating raw almonds, curry, ginger, and cinnamon (all natural anti-inflammatories) can  help with managing and healing pain–

The important thing, though, is to remember that no matter how much pain you’re in, there is always hope for relief! Never give up on looking for a solution! If you’re stumped and you don’t know where to look for relief next, it never hurts to ask. If you don’t want to ask me, then–ask your friends and family what they’ve done that works! Ask your co-workers, neighbors… Find someone to ask. Keep on asking until you get answers.

Never, ever give up.

And–last but not least: God is my great Healer. I ask Him for healing and strength, and He has continued to provide me that healing and strength, even when sometimes it’s only enough for one day at a time.

I’m happy to pray for your healing too if you want me to. Feel free to contact me any time!

How To Fight A Cold or Flu And Win

Under the weatherLast Wednesday night I went to bed feeling pretty good, but I woke up the next morning totally miserable with that peculiar, sore throat-referred pain I get when the source of the irritation is really sinus pressure causing inflammation in my middle/inner ear. Wow, that came on fast!

But I got dressed and took my daughter to school because it was early hours and I wasn’t sick enough yet to stay home. But–by the time she got home from school, she was starting to get sick too. We both knew we were really in for it! What was it going to take to get us better again?

We knew we had to take a few sick days to let the virus run its course, but we weren’t going to let it take any more time than we absolutely had to give it!

The best thing we found to fight back with this time:

Oscillococcinum: This is a homeopathic I’ve never used before, but it came in really handy! I’d take the dose and within minutes the sinus pressure would let up, the post-nasal drainage would cease, and I felt almost like a normal human being! I even managed to sleep through the night cough free! This was incredible.

I can’t remember the last time I had it so good when I caught a virus like this one! However, I didn’t get the feeling that the Oscillococcinum was helping to fight the actual illness as much as treating the symptoms, so–

Other good choices you can use to fight a fall or winter virus:

A good probiotic is invaluable at this time of year for promoting better health and immune system function, and if you can also find one that specifically promotes ear, nose, and throat health, I encourage you to get it and keep it on hand, especially for your kids’ sake. We have one we’ve ordered through Kohl’s Preventive Care in Omaha. We’re down to one box… time to get more? I’d share a link, but I can’t find it online…

L-Lysine: Usually at this time of year, we take L-Lysine as a preventative, but when the virus came on so hard and fast, I realized I hadn’t been taking it. I started taking double doses. Now that I’m doing better, I’ll go to taking one a day.

Garlic oil capsules (tasteless, odorless): garlic is great for fighting or preventing any kind of infection, and also can be very helpful in controlling cholesterol–unless you’re sensitized to it like I am, and it knocks your cholesterol down too far!

Quercetin also helped some for the headaches and muscle pains that the Oscillococcinum didn’t quite cover, but– that was pretty much it except for a few Ricola throat lozenges!

We stayed away from the cold meds: no decongestants or antihistamines, or cough syrups (which usually destroy my throat and make me cough harder). Cough syrups are also corrosive and will quickly damage children’s teeth, but somehow no one warns parents until it’s too late.

The Best Way To Prevent A Teen Pregnancy

Dear moms and dads of teens,

We all love our teens so much!

choose-life-teeBut, we also know that we’re raising our kids in a world that has some terribly ugly, dark, dangerous corners in it! We can’t be with our kids 24/7 to keep them out of those dark corners, and being a helicopter parent is bad for our kids and bad for us… but sometimes it’s pretty tempting to try, isn’t it?

One of those dark corners we like not to think about is teen pregnancy and abortions. I think most of us feel a certain horror when the topic of abortion comes up, especially in relation to teen pregnancy. “Oh, please God, not my teen!”

Abortions are dangerous! We’ve all seen the news articles about the abortionists with filthy, germ-infected facilities and the news items with women rushed to the hospital with serious complications after an abortion, even reports of women dying from abortions. And then there are the reports of women who can’t conceive because of scarring from abortions.

For the record: I’m pro-life.

I am also pro-safety for the lives of the women who might be tempted to visit an abortion facility. It is my prayer for them that God protects them and redirects them to good prenatal care and pregnancy support, and grants them clear consciences free of the guilt and pain of abortion, and love for the children growing inside them.

I found myself discussing all of this with some Facebook friends today.

How do we protect and redirect our kids away from these horrors? What kind of parenting does it require? What if we’re not perfect?

Oh, big newsflash: nobody’s perfect!

My kids have sometimes said that I am a wonderful mom, but I know–as only each person can know for themselves–that I am incapable of perfection. I’m not Super Mom. I can’t do it all, nor do I have to or need to. I have my flaws and imperfections, my own need for humility and grace. I am grateful for the forgiveness that my kids and family extend to me!

weird-awesomeness-colors-tee-2But there is one are I have put forth extraordinary effort in for my kids in spite of my own flaws and imperfections and my own challenging circumstances:

I have sought to stay emotionally connected. This has required time and effort, and lots of patience, often when I have felt poorly or exhausted, and felt I had no patience or time to give.

Sometimes, I have been aware of needing to give more than I was physically capable of, or even of disappointing my kids, and I am grateful that my kids have understood and forgiven me.

It is important not to live there, though. I want to connect with my kids! I want to have a good relationship with each of them!

Why is it important to stay emotionally connected and invested in your children’s lives?

Did you know that the very best way to keep your kids from experimenting with sex is to connect with them emotionally?

Lots of hugs and “I love you,” lots of talking about dreams and goals, lots of “I’m so proud of you for working so hard” and “doing the right thing feels good, doesn’t it?”

Staying involved, talking about who they’re interested in, the personality traits and character traits that make for “good husband material” and “good wife material,” how to know when someone’s “too good to be true,” meeting their friends, interacting with their friends, being hospitable to their friends…

right-and-wrong-teeEncouraging relationships with the kids whose parents share similar views on discipline and accountability is also helpful, too.

And encouraging spiritual, emotional, and psychological growth (and healing, where necessary).

Accountability, reminders about not wandering off alone with members of the opposite sex, waiting until marriage, even encouragement to engage mentally with other people, not just emotionally are also important!

Talking to your kids about ways to remain pure and to keep safe in a dangerous world shows your love and care for them, and helps them to look ahead and stay out of trouble that could scar them for life!

If you’re emotionally connected and involved in your children’s lives, it’s a lot less likely that they’ll go looking for love and attention in forms that are inappropriate or harmful.

But, nobody’s perfect, right?

Part of loving is also forgiving our children when they disappoint us, when they find themselves in trouble! And being granted forgiveness in our own turn.

If our kids know that we will be there for them no matter what, that we’ve got their backs, then–when they find trouble, they’re more likely to come running to us with their troubles, to talk them over and find a way to face them, than dig themselves in ever deeper. If our kids know we’re loyal to them, they’re also more likely to be loyal to us and stand by us even when we don’t quite it all right as parents.

Do we want our children to go through hard life lessons like teen pregnancy? No. But–I’d much rather deal with a teen pregnancy than the aftermath of an abortion.

Let’s pray for our kids, that God keeps them safe and healthy, and innocent and pure, and thank Him that He’s letting us be a part of that process! And let’s pray that God makes us the parents our kids need us to be.


Whose Strength Matters?

Whose strength matters?

Is it ours or is it God’s?

How many people does it take to change the course of history?

Can we do it in our own strength?

Can we do it by ourselves?

Even if we all banded together to make it happen–on our own–without God’s hand of blessing on it–can we do it?

Polar bear versus robin: who's bigger?

From my book, “A Day at the Zoo: coloring book for adults” Click through to purchase.

I love that old hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, especially the part of the second verse that reads,

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He…
…And He must win the battle!

You can read the words to the full hymn here, and watch it performed here (and even sing along if you like).

Do you remember the story of Gideon from Judges 6-8*? Gideon is one of my favorite heroes of all time! His story begins like this:

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years… 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

The details are horrific: the people of Israel are hiding out in caves, they’re at the mercy of this invading horde, their fields are being wrecked, their crops and herds keep getting stolen, and they are totally, utterly wretched!

Wickedness always leads, inevitably, to a withdrawal of God’s blessing. In its absence, misery and persecution swell to fill the void.

7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel.

And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. 9 And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

I.e., I did all these amazing, fantastic, totally miraculous things for you, and–what did YOU do? You’ve rebelled against ME while singing, “I did it MYYYYY way!” and daring me to stop you. What did you think would happen? Didn’t you know I would stop you?

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.

12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

<SNORT> He’s hiding in the wine press because he’s desperate and terrified!

13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Why are we always so amazed and upset to discover that God really means it when He says, “Be holy so I may bless you!”? Why do we refuse to embrace and understand that our sin has consequences?

14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”

Oooh–did you catch the sarcasm? “You strong man, you! You can do it yourself! You can fix it!” etc.

15 And he (Gideon) said to him (the angel of the Lord), “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

And here, finally, is an admission grounded in humility and a genuine knowledge of weakness and inability to handle the problem himself.

God gets down to business:

16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

How many people, again, does it take to change the course of history? Whose strength does it take?

Gideon builds an altar, and God sends fire down from heaven to consume the offering.

Gideon abases himself in fear and trembling, recognizing that God is VERY powerful, but he really hasn’t gotten the whole picture even yet.

Gideon’s progression from pitiful self-knowledge and terror of the Midianites to learning the fear of the Lord has dramatic results: he goes and tears down the local altar to Baal– but he’s still more afraid of men than he understands or is comforted by God’s protection on those He calls, so–he sneakily does it under cover of darkness!

But of course everyone soon knows who did it, and this leads to a confrontation…

30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.”

31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.

Oooh… If Baal is really a god, let HIM fight on his own behalf! Go, Joash!

(And of course, Baal, not being a real god, is impotent and nothing happens.)

Gideon is still having difficulty believing that God has it all in hand, so he messes around with a fleece, but God is patient with him…Fast forward to chapter 7!

Gideon puts out a call for men to fight the Midianites, and 32,000 men respond. God isn’t impressed:

Judges 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’

He tells Gideon to send home any that are fearful and trembling. 22,000 go home!

Gideon still has 10,000, but God says that is STILL too many, so–he makes them drink from a stream, and only those who drink in a certain way are allowed to remain.

Gideon is left with just 300 men against:

12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.

And God knows Gideon really, really well:

9 That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”

The end of the story is pretty exciting: Gideon and his pitiful 300 surround the Midianite camp (at night) and sound their trumpets and smash pots hiding torches. The Midianites thinks it’s this massive army, and panic and run, and in the darkness, confusion, and chaos they can’t tell who they’re fighting, and they slaughter each other! Gideon and his men chase after them.

All of Israel turns out to help, and the Midianites and their allies are utterly destroyed.

Gideon becomes a great leader in Israel, and as long as he lives, Baal worship stops.

It’s a great story, isn’t it?

Why does it matter? What’s the application here?

Well, let me ask you: if we embrace sin and wickedness as a nation, will God bless us any more than He blessed the Israelites?

It is God who turns the course of history, not us! It is God who chooses who He will lift up to lead us–not us–though we are always wise to follow!

Sheer numbers cannot overwhelm God’s choice of leadership. There is no human strength that can prevail. To be frightened of wicked people is natural, but this is what the Bible says about the fear of the Lord:

  • the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding. Job 28:28
  • the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Psalm 19:9
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. Psalm 110:10
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
  • The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. Proverbs 8:13
  • The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. Proverbs 10:27
  • In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26
  • The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27
  • Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Proverbs 15:16
  • The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33
  • By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6
  • The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. Proverbs 19:23
  • The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4

…There are lots of other passages that also describe or illustrate the fear of the Lord in other ways, but I think these are most instructive, don’t you?

God prizes our fear and awe of Him, not because He wishes to terrify us into good behavior, but because He is worthy of our respect and obedience, and when we place a proper value on God, we place a proper (humble) value on our own abilities and efforts, and those of others, and we learn to reject and refuse what is evil, and cling to that which is good, bringing God’s blessings into our lives and protecting ourselves from the harm that comes from associating with evil.

We cannot succeed in bringing our country back to God or in restoring righteousness, and a renewed understanding of good and evil, right and wrong, unless we, as a people, embrace the fear of the Lord, and stop winking at evil! We cannot overcome evil by trying to embrace a lesser evil. God will not honor that. He cannot honor that–

What will move God to intervene and save us is our humility and repentance. We have to turn from our sin, ask God’s forgiveness, ask the forgiveness of others, pay restitution wherever it is possible, and extend forgiveness to those who ask it of us. Only then will God save us from the consequences of godlessness now overtaking our nation.