Campaign to Change Direction

La Crosse is in a very unique position to be the first community in the nation to officially launch the Campaign to Change Direction. It was officially launched in Washington just over two weeks ago and this past Monday night I was fortunate to be at the La Crosse launch at the Weber Center. Take a listen to Michelle Obama:

How do you Change Direction? Know the five signs: Personality Change, Agitation, Withdrawal, Poor Self Care, Hopelessness. What next? If you notice that someone is showing one or more of these signs all you have to do is reach out. Ask them how they are doing. Let them know you care. The intention is to stop ignoring mental illness and to start acknowledging that most every single person is touched by it in some way.

Learn more at www.changedirection.org

Spring

Welcome Spring!
Spring mandala. Don’t think, just do. Paper, circle, paint/color/draw:

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I like to think of spring as our reward after the long, cold winter. It’s my favorite season. I love the geese, the first cardinal, hanging clothes on the line, hands in the dirt, crocus shoots.

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Speaking of hands in the dirt. Do you garden?

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Check this out:
Researchers from Bristol University and University College London discovered using laboratory mice, that a “friendly” bacteria commonly found in soil activated brain cells to produce the brain chemical serotonin and altered the mice’s behavior in a similar way to antidepressants.
Yes, you heard that right. This bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, gets into our bodies while we dig into the earth and causes our brain to release seratonin. Mother Earth is handing out anti-depressants and all you have to do is go outside. In fact, studies show that cancer patients receiving M. vaccae as part of their treatment reported “increases in things like vitality and cognitive function and decreases in pain.”
Digging in the dirt also counts as exercise. You sweat, you feel good, you smile…Happy Spring!

Sources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306452207001510

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/08/01/gardening.aspx

http://permaculture.com.au/why-gardening-makes-you-happy-and-cures-depression/

Birthday

I just had a birthday. It was on the first warm day of March. It was lovely. I made myself a pair of earrings and that wasn’t even the best part. Today, though, I want to talk about Liam’s birthday. Today Liam would have been ten. Ten years old.

I don’t even know.

He’s been on my mind a lot since we moved back to La Crosse. Back to the town in which he was born. Back to the midwife that knew him so well. Back to the people that held my hand through the very hard and very long part. I try to put my finger on what it is I’m feeling about him. It’s as if I keep the feelings underneath a heavy blanket. They are there, I can feel them, but the blanket…it’s too heavy. It’s too heavy to feel anything else but that weight.

I’ve realized I can feel the emotions when I’m with my other kids. Like yesterday I was putting drops into the six-month-old’s eyes (pink eye (!)) and he was crying, because it burns, and then immediately got sleepy, because he was exhausted, and I had a few minutes of panic that maybe I had somehow just caused him to go blind. Like what if I had squeezed more than one drop–because it was hard to tell–and what if more than one drop can cause blindness. Because that’s rational. And I got really scared and helpless feeling. Until he opened his eyes, blinked at me, and smiled. When I have those kinds of emotional reactions, I know that there is a little more going on and a lot to do with Liam.

liam I painted this painting a few years ago around the time of his birthday, I think. It’s meant to be him, sitting at his grave, on dia de los muertos (the day of the dead), making paper flowers and getting help from the crows. It’s unfinished, dirty, and beat up, but I have a lot of love for this dark imagery. And I kind of wonder if he would look anything like this. liam1 Six months ago when I went into labor with the now six-month-old, I dreamt that Liam, as an adult, was walking toward me arm-in-arm with my grandma. It was as if they were coming–from where ever it is they hang out these days–to be with me. My team. It was an effective dream; it gave me a great deal of confidence that day. liam3 I look back on his life and remember the joy I felt in his existence. The love that I could never have imagined. I remember washing dishes in the morning while he sat on the floor in the little bouncy chair, smiling and talking and playing. I remember walking all over town with him, in the stroller or in the carrier, he was always easy, calm, steady. I remember that with him life was better. I remember the day he died—–I feel it in my chest now as I type this. It’s that hollow, scraped out feeling. Fog, pain, emptiness. I remember. liam4 But dude. This kid was awesome! For all of you who didn’t know him, you must know. And for all of you who did know him, wasn’t he awesome? I am honored to have been a part of his life. On days like today, when that heavy blanket gets pulled back and I feel everything, I know that because of you, Liam, I am a better person. Happy Earth Birthday, kid.

Altered Book

altered book The altered book directive. What you need: one (1) book, art supplies, your imagination. altered bookI love altering a book. I find it entirely relaxing to cut out a bunch of pictures in order to make new pictures. altered bookIt can also work as a journal, a sketchbook, an art journal, a cookbook, a pop-up book, a children’s book, an erotic book, a comic book. You get it. Lots of things.altered book I find that I like to doodle in mine when I’m working out my thoughts on something else. It sort of helps me clear out. altered book It could just as easily be made with a specific intention, though. Like what? Like, well, what’s up with you right now? Personally, I could create a book around food and health–healthy food, healthy babies, feeling crazy because I’m trying to be healthy, feeling judgmental about health, feeling exhausted by it…that’s a good start. altered book I might have to create that book. What is on your mind? A lot? Make an altered book about it.

the Flu

cow2It’s weird to come in here and see that my last post was on February 1st. Man. We got sick. Everyone in the house. It takes a while to fully come through all of that grossness. What does getting sick do for you? I find it to be a really bizarre head space, especially when my kids get sick. When Liam died he had had a normal kid cold. I don’t think that’s what killed him, ultimately, but it was there. I remember. And that’s hard to not think about when I see my kids sick now. There’s this helplessness. So much–not always rational– questioning (why do I let them eat sugar? why did we go to the Y? blah, blah, blah, why?). So we get the flu, I hear on the radio that Wisconsin is only second to Texas in pediatric deaths due to the flu this season, and I try to take care of everyone (just like every other parent does).cow1And we’re fine! We’re all fine. It wasn’t even that bad now that I’m on the other side of it. But while it was on, man, it was on. I wasn’t well enough to go anywhere, I cancelled a lot of stuff, and my house began to look like it had the flu as well. In the middle of feeling bad I got an overpowering urge to knit a hat. That’s usually how it works for me; it’s almost as if I become fixated on the creation of an item and I can’t do anything else until it is complete. So I stayed up late a couple nights with a head cold and an orange cat and knit myself a hat. I love knitting. It’s no wonder that I decided I needed to do it when I was feeling so perfectly bad for myself.cat4We do eat sugar. I’ve been trying to limit the intake, but it’s not gone or anything. I find that when I set extreme limits the limit itself causes way to much anxiety or stress or guilt. If I’m feeling those things because I’m trying to be healthier then I’m not getting healthier. Let’s talk about that for a minute. There are a lot of different belief systems around food. Like, is sugar poison? Is gluten making you ill? Should you go Paleo? I don’t know. I think that each person has their own unique body that functions best when fed in its own unique way. I try to pay attention to how I feel after eating some grub. The more I realize I feel not-so-good after eating certain items, the more I know I don’t want to feel that way, therefore it’s easier to not eat said item. It’s not so much about rightness and wrongness, it’s about finding what works best for you. If eating only organic food helps you feel your best then eat organic food. But if it stresses you out because it’s expensive and you can’t afford other things…if it stresses you out because you are super hungry and you can’t get to the co-op…if it stresses you out and you can’t think about anything else…well then, I don’t know, what do you think? What is your balance?cat1So, speaking of sugar, my two-year-old turned two over the weekend and I made him a cake. I call it the Catty-cat Cake, because that’s what he calls it and because it’s fun. I really enjoy baking and cake construction. I made this one when the three-year-old turned two. I like the challenge. I like that it’s edible. I like that it’s a cat. And even though it’s made of sugar and white flour it brings me a the little people a great deal of joy and that is not stressful, that, I think, is healthy.cat2

Lotion

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I have heard this a few times: I would go to therapy, but I feel like it’s selfish (?). And I’m here to tell you that it is.

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It is 100% indulgent, all about you, don’t-look-at-anyone-else time. For a lot of people that can sound kind of scary. It can lead to thoughts of, “what about the children?” or “what about the dogs?” or “what about my book that I should be writing?”…what about all of these things that I should be doing instead of going to therapy, right?

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As it turns out, the more we take care of ourselves, the more space we free up for the other people/animals/interests in our lives. You gotta take care of your brain, dude, there’s no getting away from it. No matter where you go, there it is, still inside of that big ol’ dome.

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Taking time to do things for yourself feeds your brain, body, and soul. It declutters and reorganizes which then, for me especially, gives me greater energy to direct at other things, like my kids. So instead of deflecting them I am able to engage and read a book for the seventh time, without wanting to scream. Or maybe I still want to scream (let’s be real), but it’s without resentment. I find I have time for homemade lotion. Freeing up this space makes room for other things you care about. 

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This lotion is kind of indulgent. I have to take time out of my day to make it. But it makes me so happy when I smear it on my hands. I love to grease up my kids after the bath and know that I’m not putting chemicals on their bodies. And it’s not complicated. You don’t have to make lotion, but when you start taking time for yourself (therapy, exercise, good food), you might just want to make your own lotion.

Homemade Lotion
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup olive oil
  2. 3/4 cup beeswax
  3. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  4. 20-30 drops essential oil (optional)
Instructions
  1. Fill a sauce pan about half way full with water and place it on the stove.
  2. Put the heat or flame around medium.
  3. In a glass jar (I use an old peanut butter jar), add olive oil, beeswax, coconut oil and essential oil.
  4. Place lid lightly on jar.
  5. As everything melts, pick up the jar (careful of the loose lid!) and swirl it around.
  6. When everything has melted pour it into your vessels of choice (I like the half pint Ball or Mason jars).
  7. Allow to cool, then dig in! Food for your skin.
Notes
  1. My favorite smell at the moment is 20 drops of lavender, three of patchouli and three of vetiver.
Adapted from Wellness Mama
Adapted from Wellness Mama
Melissa Fannin http://melissafannin.com/

Mindfulness :: Scribble Directive

The Scribble Directive. I used paper, a pen, and water colors.

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Okay, I can’t take credit for the actual scribble, that was done by the little person that snuck into some of the pictures. The Scribble Directive is great for practicing mindfulness. It’s great if your working on living in the here and now. It’s great if you want to paint something. Here’s how this went for me this morning:

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Find scribble (you can make your own).

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Practice breathing while child joins in on the action (take notes on how child stays in the moment).

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Add paint.
As you can see this is simple stuff. Paper and paint. Some inspiration from the bluff I can see out of my window. This is about movement, clearing out the brain, and simply allowing whatever wants to happen happen.

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As ever, check out what’s happening through the process. Be an observer of your thoughts. See if you can stay in the present. When thoughts creep in you can acknowledge them and then simply ask them to leave. Practice being here now.