Michele Minehart

words & yoga

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5 Things for Your (Immune) Flusher

I’ve been home with a sick kiddo the past few days and I’m hearing from those around me that they’re feeling under the weather as well. Because I find myself repeating myself with advice, here’s my family’s protocol for this time of year. Reminder, this is written by a crunchy mama and a yoga teacher with a little bit of study of the body, but not a doctor. These are basic boosters, not a replacement for practiced medicine. There’s a need in the world for a good Z-pac for a sinus infection (and for everything good and holy, utilize a probiotic when you take it), and a balanced life makes space for all types of treatment.

  1. Stay home. Seriously. The world will not stop without you at work and your child will still learn how to multiply. An added bonus: the entire class won’t end up with the same gunk. I really feel like we’re fighting stuff off more often than we need to because of circulation. It’s totally inconvenient to stay home and watch The Price is Right, but you or your kiddo will recover more quickly and fully than trying to shoulder through.
  2. Supplement. What we put into our bodies changes the interior landscape. If it’s true the morning after a trip to BW3’s, it’s true when you’re trying to fight off a bug. My herbalist hippie sister, my Ayurvedic-influenced yoga teachers and the cyber-world of natural remedies agree on a few staples:
    • Echinacea. Most popular by the tea form, get as much in you as you can. My sister makes a tincture of this, preserving it for the winter and making it possible to take it by the teaspoonful instead of by the gallon, but you have to have this soaking for 6-8 in advance. (Talk to Angie if you want to put in an order or ask about dosing.)
    • Elderberry. This can also be made into a tincture, but I (and my children) prefer the syrup form. It includes lots of other natural immune boosters and the honey used to preserve it is soothing on the throat. I use the recipe by Wellness Mama. I stumbled upon a store bought version at Kroger yesterday, so it’s available to those who don’t want another DIY project.
    • Fresh ginger root. This is a naturally anti-everything (virus, bacteria, fungus… this is why you traditionally finish your sushi with ginger: it kills anything still alive that could make you sick). We’ve regularly added about an inch of ginger root, sliced open, to a teapot full of simmering water so it infuses into whatever tea we drink. (Note, this is not tasty for some teas, but it’s trial, error and preference). But a simple “tea” of infused fresh ginger, lemon, and honey make the kiddos pretty happy. Note: if you bring the water to a boil with the ginger, the water is more “spicy” and the heat of the ginger is really alive. But if you only take it to a simmer, it’s less assulting to the tastebuds. I actually prefer the boiled ginger, I think it’s more effective, but that’s probably psychosomatic.
  3. Eat wise. Listen to what your body is naturally craving, and find the best form of it. Often, when I’m under the weather I crave french fries (which might be a conditioned response, as my mother is the same way!) – but after an unscientific FB poll, it seems likely that my body is craving salt, which makes total sense, especially after a stomach bug that tends toward dehydration. The key here is to listen to your body like you would a child: it knows what it needs, but perhaps it’s not craving the best form of that need. Around here, we eliminate foods that cause inflammation, and specifically to our bodies, these are foods with white flour and sugar. We push the soups made with a homemade bone broth (let’s be honest, that boxed kind is mostly water and salt – not exactly helpful), and for upset tummies in the morning, a banana or a cooked apple tends to go over well. Some traditional sick-foods have pure roots; the red jello your mother forced upon you, before Kraft made a business of it, came from the practice of including gelatinous bone broth. I know, cherry sounds like it tastes better, but it really doesn’t serve to do anything but add sugar and little bit of water into the system.
    In the recovery stage, I prefer kitchari, understood in Ayurvedic wisdom to be the easiest thing to digest and full of medicinal qualities. I like Dr. Claudia Welch’s recipe.  And water, water, water. Tea, tea, tea. (Decaf, herbal, with a spot of honey for those sore throats.)
  4. Sleep. When my children ridicule me, they say, with scrunched faces and high-pitched mocking voices, When does a body heal itself? While you’re sleeping, because I’m reminding them all. the. time. I say it because it’s true! When awake, body has to engage in so many other activities – moving the eyes to focus on TV, walking to the bathroom, talking (or, whining, in my household’s experience). Even your brain has to work harder to process things. Imagine your brain as the commander of a small army, and staying awake and doing things is like asking that commander to also move around the furniture while plotting the next siege. Totally unnecessary. Give your entire being a chance to recoup and focus on the task at hand: getting you back to 100%.
  5. Heat it up. Real quick: a fever can be your friend. It’s your body’s natural way of killing off what isn’t supposed to be there. Kind of like the reason we cook our meat to certain temperatures. So a low grade fever is actually telling you of the status of your immune system. (Sometimes things get dicey and we need to help the body bring that down with meds, and that point of discomfort is between you and your medical professional.) Alls I’m sayin’ is, don’t make the fever the bad guy. Instead, learn from what your body is doing. I find a good hot bath (with some epsom salts) at the early stages helps my body naturally get out some of these toxins in the form of a good sweat.
    Some people, when they’re not quite to the place of illness, like to run or have a good, hard workout for the same reason.  If you’re not feeling up to a jog, don’t rule out movement all together. Your body’s system for removing pathogens is the lymphatic system. It’s like your personal sewer system. Here’s the thing: the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own flusher. This gunk gets transported out only through secondary pumps, the heart and the lungs. So when you feel those early signs of your immune system going on alert, get the heart pumping – even if it’s a brisk walk or a simple yoga flow – and get the breath moving. Put some emphasis on moving at your lymph nodes (at the neck, under the arms, in the hips. Twists are excellent.)

So there you go. There are million other natural remedies to fighting off the pathogens we encounter, and probably a thousand reasons why any one of these might or might not be helpful to you. There are homeopathic remedies, essential oils, and varied other things to add to the mix, but these are my non-brand specific ways of naturally trying to restore and maintain our health.

Halfway to Launch

Nine.

Not four or five, the way he is forever etched into my memory (as my early parenting years seem to be sticking like  a case of PTSD and I’m perpetually believing that my children are 4, 3, 2, and newborn). Now my biggest is nine.

In case you’ve not done that math before, the average age of a student at graduation from high school is 18. This means I’m at the halfway mark. Half over; gone. Half to go. We’ve accomplished so much, come so far, and yet we have that distance again – and this next half will be even tougher. We have the exhaustion of this first leg coupled with brand new terrain. For the oldest kid, that’s always the toughest part – learning to roll with the new conditions. Figuring out how to navigate new things; social relationships change, what he believes to be true about himself changes.

It’s in this second leg that he will begin to unwrap what it means to love someone outside his familial tribe. He will switch gears, not just learning how to learn, but absorbing the ways of the world and synthesizing it into his own unique viewpoint as the basis of his operating mode. He will press into the boundaries of independence, and it’s his job to begin to explore. The expanding nature of the universe requires that he will go places and take steps that I never did. I can translate my wisdom and experiences, but they will not be the same.

In many ways, it would be easier if he would just do the same as me. I could tell him exactly how to step; his feet could fall into stride with my own footprints. I could ensure his safety this way, falling into any holes first. My head says this is the safest way to go about getting through this second half of childhood. But I know this isn’t the existence I want for him.

My heart says to teach him how to spot a hole, how to step mindfully, and send him in his own direction. I love my life, but do I really think that repeating it is the best thing this world has to offer him? I’ll welcome him to trail along, if that’s what he wants; a life of small-town living and tending to home-things is on the menu from which he can order. But if he’s feeling like a big city dream, then I want to give him the tools to take that route. If he yearns to be an adventurer, literally sailing or exploring, then I want to teach him the baseline skills to make it happen.

My job isn’t to pull him along on a leash. Of course, that’s the easiest way. And a little bit of the first half of childhood is exactly that; keeping them close so they can learn the ropes. They get familiar with the routes and explore from a governed distance.  Then we remove the leash but bring it along, giving a bit more distance. Our voice is always near and they circle back often. Finally, someday, we open the door and send them out; they return when they want a break or are hungry or tired or lonely. They know how to return home.

launchThis second half of childhood will be a lot less leash, yet still taking the trek with him. Honestly, this is harder on me than him, feeling the weight of this useless leash in my pocket, watching with worry, wondering how far is too far? can he hear me from here? does he have his eyes out for this turn?  

The analogy isn’t perfect; I’m raising a human, not training a puppy. The ultimate goal of training a puppy is to have an obedient dog, one that stays with you forever. That’s not the description of a grown man, able to contribute to society both in meaningful work and in living a life that radiates peace, joy, and love to his family, community and greater world. This will take far more nuance than running familiar routes and giving firm commands.

We were intentional about the methods we engaged for parenting our children for the first half. Now that he’s able to tie his shoes and pack his lunch and do his laundry and walk to the park by himself, I find myself having to think critically again about how to engage this second half.

This half has much more to do with trust: trusting myself (and JJ), that we’ve laid a good foundation of love and acceptance. Trusting him, that he’s in tune with the goodness of his birthright and living from that place more often than not. Trusting the world, that we can gracefully allow others to make mistakes when it’s safe to fail. Trusting my community to love him and accept him, even when he’s not perfect.

So here we go. Staying close, walking free, in this year of nine.

The Community Act of Getting to School On Time

Today, in the mundane act of getting my children delivered to school, I was overwhelmed by the amount of care that our community provides to our little ones.

Normally a little fairy named JJ takes care of this act of dispensing children; my major responsibility is feeding and making sure they are dressed in a seasonally-appropriate manner. (Let’s remember, 75% is a passing grade.) And then, at the end of the day, they are magically returned to me, typically in a state of hunger. This week, with the fairy tending to other people’s children in DC, I had the privilege/responsibility of this delivery duty.

As I pulled into my assigned drop-off lane, the principal – under coat and umbrella – greeted the children with a smile and helped usher them on their way. Normally when I consider the role and responsibility of a building leaders, I think of mentoring teachers and providing instructional feedback. I think of managing budgets and dealing with student discipline. There are state meetings and building meetings and administrative district meetings and forms, forms, forms. Also, there is the follow up with parents about action for student needs, times 500. This seems, to me, to be the work of school administration, to keep things moving ahead. But here, if not in all buildings, part of the work of leading is standing under an umbrella for an hour to get kids in the door. I have to wonder if, at times, it seems that we could make better use of this leader’s time by hiring out the task. Then again, perhaps opening car doors helps keep us grounded in the why we go to those administration meetings and balance building budgets. I’m not sure how or why the principal became the one who has to be patient with my fancy automatic doors that won’t open unless I’m in park, but I was grateful that someone cares enough to greet my kids on arrival. Without words, my kids know they’re welcomed here.

In leaving the drop-off, on previous days I turned right toward St. Pete’s and thought maybe that was a poor decision. Today I made the mistake of trying to turn left onto Warpole from Finley Street, so I had a solid 5 minutes of reflection on the art of child transportation (before I gave up, turned right and went around the block.)

While waiting, I encountered several buses finishing their work of fetching and delivering children. Now, make no mistake: on my list of Top 5 Jobs I Don’t Want is bus driver (along with kindergarten teacher). I watched these buses complete their given task of safely shuttling kids so they can have a day full of learning, no matter the transportational situation of their parents, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. The drivers, and the school system, are providing for us. Perhaps normal people don’t see driving a diesel as a radical act of care and nurture, but to me this morning, it most certainly was. What a message this act can send to a child: you mean so much, and your education is of such value, that we will come and get you, and then take you home.

On my little around-the-block detour, I drove by the city police making his rounds. We can choose to think, “goodness, in this traffic? Now?” to his patrol route. But this morning, I thought, “Wow, our children are safe.” Beyond the district, the community is protecting our children, keeping drivers accountable to going slow, reminding us to proceed with caution, because these little feet and legs that might sprint across the street, they matter to us all.

Driving out of town, I see the lights on in the many homes of families doing what we do every day. Getting kids ready, reminding them to eat, finding the lost library book, arguing over appropriate footwear, just trying to get out the door. There is a oneness behind these common acts of care. We’re all the same, trying to love and live the best or maybe only way we know.

A community is much more than a town you live in or the people you repeatedly see on your path. It’s the fabric that holds the patterns you see, even when you see them so often that the patterns appear invisible. A community interweaves our roles, blending people and institutions,  keeping the world moving forward. It’s the way the city police support the school, and the way the school supports the family. A community is in busing patterns and patrols as much as it is in the librarian’s face as she helps you find the free-to-you materials you want to borrow.

I’ve been appreciative of my community, especially when we fall into times of distress.  But this morning wasn’t stressful. It was the regularity of it all that made my eyes water. These people opening doors, driving buses, and patrolling side streets do it every day, whether I recognize the need for it or not. They see what needs to happen to support learning and thriving in our community, so they make it happen, even when I don’t understand or acknowledge it. So much happens behind the scenes to make my rights realized, my privileges a part of my routine.

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