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National Eating Disorder Awareness Month

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** This subject may be triggering to some, so please exercise caution before reading. **

What Are Eating Disorders?

According to the American Psychiatric Association eating disorders are defined as behavioral conditions that are expressed by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behaviors and associated with distressing thoughts and emotion.

Some types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorder, pica and rumination disorder.

Altogether, eating disorders affect roughly 5% of the population. In many cases signs and symptoms begin in adolescence and young adulthood. Some are more common in women, as with anorexia nervosa and bulimia; however, they can all occur at any time and any age. [i]

A Brief Glimpse of Eating Disorder Definitions

Anorexia nervosa: A condition characterised by deliberate efforts to severely restrict food intake (despite low body weight), often to the point of clinical starvation.

Bulimia nervosa: A condition in which someone eats large quantities of food and then purges it via vomiting, exercising excessively just after a binge, or using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

Binge-eating disorder: A condition in which someone eats large quantities of food, often in a very short period of time, to the point of discomfort; they may feel that they “lose control” while this occurs.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

There are many reasons someone might develop an eating disorder, but rarely is it about trying to look thin. Many with eating disorders have low self-esteem, and they struggle with past trauma, lack of control over their lives, and feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, or depression.

Things to be Aware of

If you are worried a loved one may be struggling with this, here are a few things too look for. It can often be difficult to know if someone may actually have an eating disorder or is simply concerned about their weight in a culture that is obsessed with dieting. But you can start with the following:

  • Starving themselves or restricting their food intake, like eating significantly below normal daily requirements of calories per day
  • Acting extremely controlling around food and/or wanting to eat in private
  • Exercising excessively
  • Purging, including self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas
  • Spending long, unexplained amounts of time in the bathroom, or needing to run to the bathroom right after each meal
  • Consuming a large amount of food very quickly and being unable to stop
  • Exhibiting limited spontaneity around food and/or heightened stress around meal time
  • Preoccupation with being thin
  • Belief they are fat no matter how thin they are
  • Hiding their very thin body with big, bulky clothing
  • Negative body image and frequent negative comments about their body
  • Rigid rules and beliefs about what foods can be eaten and how they should be eaten
  • Setting high standards for how successful they are at controlling their weight
  • Exhibiting depression or anxiety
  • Becoming defensive or irritable when approached about their eating habits
  • Acting controlling about letting others see their emotions, or being very restrained in their emotions
  • Feeling guilt, helplessness, or low self-esteem
  • Rapid or excessive weight loss
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Dry, yellowish skin
  • Fine hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Mouth lesions, chronic sore throat, or “chipmunk cheeks” (when the glands on the sides of the jaw enlarge) caused by frequent purging
  • Girls with very low weight may not get their periods

[ii]

The Stats:

Something important to remember is that this is not “girl only” disorder. It is estimated that 20-25% of the total number of people with eating disorders are male.

[iii]

LGBTQ Stats:

  • Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating and twelve times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men.6
  • Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to fast, vomit, or take laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.6
  • Transgender college students report experiencing disordered eating at approximately four times the rate of their cisgender classmates.7
  • 32% of transgender people report using their eating disorder to modify their body without hormones.8
  • 56% of transgender people with eating disorders believe their disorder is not related to their physical body.8
  • Gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction in transgender people is often cited as a key link to eating disorders.7
  • Non-binary people may restrict their eating to appear thin, consistent with the common stereotype of androgynous people in popular culture.7

[iv]

BIPOC Stats:

* BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

  • BIPOC are significantly less likely than white people to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms.3
  • BIPOC with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.2
  • Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer period of time.4
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging.3
  • Hispanic people are significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.3
  • Asian American college students report higher rates of restriction compared with their white peers and higher rates of purging, muscle building, and cognitive restraint than their white or non-Asian, BIPOC peers.5
  • Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes toward obesity than their non-Asian, BIPOC peers.5

[v]

You Are Not Alone

 Having an eating disorder is a struggle and one that lasts a lifetime. I struggled with anorexia/bulimia when I was a teenager and I still struggle now, as an overweight adult. But having people I can talk to, even if those people are on social media platforms, has made it much more manageable. Knowing you are not alone in what seems to be an insurmountable obstacle can make all the difference. You may continue to struggle with it after the initial healing, but it won’t be as bad. Have faith, think positive and remember that your body is beautiful and treat it kindly.


[i] Guarda, M.D., A., 2022. What Are Eating Disorders?. [online] Psychiatry.org. Available at: <https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[ii] The Jed Foundation. 2022. Understanding Eating Disorders | JED. [online] Available at: <https://jedfoundation.org/resource/understanding-eating-disorders/?gclid=CjwKCAiAvOeQBhBkEiwAxutUVGRj1AG-XIjCBhBSC2UZgA6b5ZW3NNMOXZBisKzu3nvbclKqsfBTsRoCl48QAvD_BwE&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[iii] Muhlheim, PsyD, CEDS, L., 2020. Understanding Male Eating Disorders. www.verywellmind.com.

[iv] National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. 2022. Eating Disorder Statistics | General & Diversity Stats | ANAD. [online] Available at: <https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[Eating Disorders in LGBTQ+ Populations. (2018, February 21). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/lgbtq

Lauren Muhlheim, L., PsyD, CEDS. (2020, June 20). Eating Disorders in Transgender People. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/eating-disorders-in-transgender-people-4582520

Duffy, M. E., Henkel, K. E., &amp; Earnshaw, V. A. (2016). Transgender Clients’ Experiences of Eating Disorder Treatment. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 10(3), 136-149. https://doi.org/10.1080/15538605.2016.1177806]

[v] National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. 2022. Eating Disorder Statistics | General & Diversity Stats | ANAD. [online] Available at: <https://anad.org/eating-disorders-statistics/&gt; [Accessed 26 February 2022].

[Deloitte Access Economics. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America: A Report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders. June 2020. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/.

Becker, A. E., Franko, D. L., Speck, A., & Herzog, D. B. (2003). Ethnicity and differential access to care for eating disorder symptoms. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 205-212. doi:10.1002/eat.10129

Sala, M., Reyes-Rodríguez, M. L., Bulik, C. M., & Bardone-Cone, A. (2013). Race, ethnicity, and eating disorder recognition by peers. Eating disorders21(5), 423–436. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2013.827540

Uri, R. C., Wu, Y., Baker, J. H., & Munn-Chernoff, M. A. (2021). Eating disorder symptoms in Asian American college students. Eating Behaviors, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101458]

February is Heart Awareness Month

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What is a Heart Attack?

“A heart attack happens when your heart muscle cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.” [Heart Facts]

Why Do They Happen?

There can be many reasons that increase your risk for a heart attack including your age and any medical conditions. However, there can be other factors that put you at higher risk, such as: a diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, being overweight/obesity, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough sleep and tobacco use. Less common causes of CHD are: Drug misuse and lack of oxygen in blood (hypoxia). [Risk Factors, NHS]

Heart Disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. CHD is a condition in which the coronary arteries (major vessels that supply the heart with blood) become clogged with deposits of cholesterol. These deposits are called plaque. Before a heart attack one of the plaques ruptures causing a blood clot to form at the site of the rupture. The clot may block the supply of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack.

Gender Differences in a Heart Attack

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Women

If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs that may be indicative of a heart attack include breaking out into a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Men

If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

  • Chest pain is the most common symptom in men (and women.) Most often it starts slowly with mild pain or discomfort.
  • Chest discomfort or pressure and the pain can be severe but many times it can be a feeling of “fullness,” squeezing or pressure. It can also be mistaken for heartburn.
  • Pain can show up in other parts of your body unrelated to the heart. typically it’s a part of the body above the waist- including part of your stomach, upper part of your arm (probably the left) or both; your back, neck or jaw and even teeth.

Men and Women

  • The most common symptom between men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

More on Gender Differences in Cardiovascular Disease

A recent study based on data from 2 million patients, suggests that women were less likely to be prescribed aspirin, statins and certain blood pressure medicine compared to men.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

As mentioned above this is a group of diseases involving the heart or blood vessels. This includes high blood pressure (hypertension), coronary artery disease, heart attacks, heart failure, heart valve problems and abnormal heart rhythms. It can also present differently in men and women. For example, while the frequency of CVD tends to be lower in women before menopause than in men, the frequency dramatically increases after menopause accounting for approximately 1 out of 3 deaths in women. Also, and probably not surprisingly many of the classic signs and symptoms of CVD are based on research largely performed in men.

How Do You Ensure You Ensure You Are Receiving the Best Cardiovascular Preventative Care?

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Routine doctor visits.  Everyone should routinely visit their primary care doctor, regardless of age, sex or medical history. It’s important to get routine screenings of cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure. You should discuss any risks you have and if your screenings show issues, you should discuss with your doctor your risk for CVD and also the risk and benefits of medication.

Please Visit the CDC for information about your risks.   

10 Ways to Get Calm, Cool and Collected in Five Minutes

Everyone struggles with stress. In fact, “nearly half of all U.S. adults say stress has negatively affected their behavior.” (Team, 2022)There really isn’t a way to escape stress in our lives. 8 out of 10 Americans report being stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. adults are stressed over the future of the nation. Two-thirds of professionals are more stressed on the job than they were five years ago. (Korn Ferry, 2019) Health problems are a huge source of stress. Women often express they are stressed more than men (women place their stress levels at an average of 5.1 out of 10, while men report 4.4 out of 10.) (American Psychological Association, 2016) It’s not only the adults who are stressed either. Teens and younger children are feeling the weight of stress on their small shoulders. Why on earth are kids stressed, you might ask? Let’s see: mass shootings, climate change and global warming, widespread sexual harassment and assault reports and a rise in suicide rates, to name a few. So, since we can’t evade the stress that comes with life, the next best thing is having some tools to help us though the stress. Especially easy ones that can help us reach Calm, Cool and Collected in Five Minutes! Sign me up please!

Please enjoy this piece by Laura Newcomer

10 Strategies to Feel Calmer Fast

  • Listen to music

If you don’t already have a calm-down playlist, don’t let that be another stress! You can easily find calming music by searching Spotify or YouTube. Try searching general terms such as “calming music” or more specific queries such as “calm piano music” or “meditation music.” Research confirms that listening to relaxing tunes can help the nervous system recover from a stressful stimulus. 

  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation

This easy, equipment-free activity can help relieve both physical tension and psychological stress. The practice requires you to tense and then relax all of your body’s major muscles one at a time, starting near your head and working toward your feet. 

  • Watch an ASMR video

Though research into Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is still in the early stages, some evidence suggests watching an ASMR video could promote a feeling of calm and overall well-being. If you’re not familiar with ASMR, it’s a pleasurable tingling sensation in the scalp or spine. Some people experience it when they watch others do mundane sensory activities such as whispering, turning pages, or eating. Experiment with different videos to see if a particular type works for you.  

  • Give journaling a try

You’ve probably heard this one before, but writing down your thoughts can be a powerful way to manage anxiety and spark a more positive mindset. Research suggests you can benefit from journaling in two ways: Free write about what makes you anxious or list things you’re grateful for.

  • Do acupressure

Even if you don’t have time for an hour-long massage, you can give yourself the gift of calming touch with acupressure. The practice may help relieve anxiety and reduce pain, and it’s simple. Learn some easy-to-reach pressure points, then apply some gentle pressure and feel your body unwind. 

  • Go for a short walk outside

Physical activity — including low-impact activities such as walking — helps release pent-up energy and is a proven tool for managing stress. Up the ante by taking your movement break outside. Research shows time spent in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety. 

  • Try a breathing technique

Focus on your breath for just a few minutes to help you find some space from stressful thoughts. If you’ve tried one style of breathwork and it didn’t work for you, try another! You have plenty of styles to choose from, including belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, three-part breathing, box breathing, and roll breathing. Experiment with different techniques until you find one that helps you feel calmer. 

  • Practice EFT tapping

Emotional freedom technique (EFT) sometimes goes by the nickname “tapping.” Whatever you call it, the practice has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative approach for managing everything from stress to physical pain. Research indicates it can be helpful for anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD. The process is a little involved, but with a little practice, it becomes easy. Check out a step-by-step guide to get started

  • Listen to a 5-minute guided meditation

Meditation has become go-to health advice for good reason. It’s been shown to ease anxiety, depression, and even physical pain. If the thought of sitting with your own thoughts for five minutes makes you more anxious, consider a short, guided meditation to make the process less daunting. 

  • Repeat a mantra

Sometimes, the best way out of a spiral of anxious thoughts is to distract yourself with another thought. Mantras (which are sometimes called repetitive prayers) come in handy. The technique is simple: Just repeat a short prayer or affirming phrase such as “With every breath, I feel myself relax” either out loud or in your mind while breathing slowly and deeply. Continue until you feel calmer. 

Conclusion

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take five. Then deploy any of the techniques above. Within just a few minutes, you may find yourself feeling calmer and more equipped to tackle whatever challenges life throws at you. 

Employers Can Offer These Benefits for Maximum Impact

Offering benefits to your employees is one of the best ways to retain them while showing them you care about their wellbeing, and these days there are several options for business owners who want to set themselves apart from their competitors. Getting creative can help you make the most of all your business has to offer prospective workers and show longtime employees how valued they are, so you’ll want to prepare a strategy for your benefits plan.

It can also help to get to know your workers and the challenges they face, especially those who are living with a chronic illness or are taking care of ill family members; LoveKarmaFood is a great resource for learning more about these challenges and how you can help your employees face and overcome them. Keep in mind that focusing on overall wellness–including mental health–can help your employees feel appreciated and can alleviate barriers that keep them from taking care of themselves.

Give them the time they need

Whether your employees are currently dealing with health issues or not, it’s important for their wellbeing to have the flexibility to access care providers when they need them. Allowing for paid time off, sick days, vacation time, and personal time can be extremely beneficial to your workers because it alleviates the pressure to work when they’re sick or taking care of a loved one. You might also consider offering unpaid leave, which can come in handy for those who have an unexpected life event and are unsure of how long it will be before they can return to work.

Give them access to care

Allowing your employees to take all the time they need to get well or take care of family responsibilities is one important step, but you can also help them get access to the care they need. Providing healthcare benefits is a wonderful start, but not all health plans are made the same, so it’s crucial to take a careful look at your company’s plan to ensure your employees’ needs are met. If they’re not, it might be wise to look for supplemental plans for dental and vision care or life insurance. You can also provide resources for those who need access to mental health services.

Offer support

When it comes to the mental health of your employees, you can also offer support in the form of an experienced HR representative who can help mitigate stress within the company and prevent small issues from becoming big problems. Once stress has been spotted, talk to the affected employee and offer a few solutions, such as having them team up with a coworker to lighten their load or offering remote work options, which can be beneficial for both of you. You can also look for ways to change up the work environment to make it a more calm, comfortable space for everyone.

Make your business the place to be

The culture and environment of your company should be as inclusive and well-rounded as possible, not only to attract the best possible employees for your needs but also to ensure that they feel valued and want to stick around. You can achieve this by setting clear expectations of your workers and living up to your word, asking for and acting on feedback, and prioritizing communication and creativity.

Giving your employees as many advantages as possible will encourage them to participate in an active relationship with your company, and it will also allow you to attract the best talent for your business’s needs. Think about which benefits are most desired in your field, and try to remain as flexible as possible as you make the necessary changes to your workplace.

Reach out to LoveKarmaFood today with questions or comments.

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Cervical Health Awareness Month

It’s cervical health awareness month, so gather ‘round girls and guys, to learn about why your cervix is important and why you need to keep it healthy.

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The cervix is: The lower, narrow end of the uterus that forms a canal between the uterus and vagina.

Photo: wikimedia.org

What it does: Part of the lining of the cervix contains glands that make and release mucus. For most of the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy, the mucus is thick and stops sperm from entering the uterus. The thick mucus also helps to protect the uterus and the upper female reproductive organs from harmful bacteria.

During pregnancy: During childbirth, the cervix widens (dilates), allowing the baby to pass through the birth canal.

Now, there’s a lot more regarding the cervix that involves endocervix, ectocervix, glandular and squamous cells, but you can open up Google and discover the biology on your own. (I never liked biology.) I want to talk about why it’s important to keep your cervix healthy and why. Let’s start with HPV.

HPV: Human Papillomavirus

Photo: http://www.jpost.com

HPV is an infection that causes warts in various parts of the body depending on the strain. It’s an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) and one of the most common. You can be symptom free but still infect others through sexual contact and there is no cure. The warts may go away misleading you to believe you are cured when you aren’t. Treatment may include removing the warts by your healthcare professional or with prescription medication. In most cases (9 out of 10), HPV goes away on its own within two years without any additional problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause problems like genital warts and cancer. HPV can cause cervical cancer and cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer) and this can include the base of the tongue and tonsils. It can take years and even decades for cancer to develop in people infected with HPV. Genital warts and cancers result from different types of HPV.

Cervical Cancer

According to the National Cancer Society statistics for 2022, about 4,280 women will die from cervical cancer and about 14,100 new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed. It used to be much worse; cervical cancer was at one time the leading cancer killer of women. Pretty self-explanatory, cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. It starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. It can be caused by certain types of HPV which is spread through sexual contact. The main types of cervical cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. But you can prevent cervical cancer by getting screened before you show symptoms. Screenings can help find abnormal cells or signs of HPV before they turn into cancer.

When to Get a Pap Smear:

Many women are unclear about when they should get a pap smear. According to most doctors, most young women should start at age 21. However, is you are younger than 21 and sexually active or experiencing any reproductive health concerns, you should speak to an experienced gynecologist sooner. In part, the reason for the confusion in women is that pap smears are thought to be only for those who are sexually active, when the pap smear is to collect cells from the cervix and screen for abnormal cells. Sexual intercourse does increase a woman’s risk of exposure to HPV, which is the cause of nearly all cervical cancer and why women who are sexually active should be vigilant about getting tested. The Pap smear can also help protect sexually inactive women who have a family history of it.

Tips for a Happy Cervix:

  • Condoms: Use them. They protect your cervix and body from STD’s including HPV.
  • Get a Pap Smear: And follow up!
  • If you are able to: Get the HPV vaccine.

Message to Leave Here with:

Don’t be scared, be proactive. Take initiative with your health and make sure your girlfriends are taking care of their bodies. Cancer is vicious and this is one of those cancers that can be preventable if you maintain your health.

References:

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-types/cervical/what-is-cervical-cancer/the-cervix

Hello January!

So, how’s your New Year kicking off? Everyone happy and as healthy as they can be? It’s been a slow start for me in the writing and writing goals department, but you know what they say about slow and steady? And I’m very familiar with being slow! My cane and I were never accused of being fast.

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Let’s see, to start off with I had a mammogram in/around October and the results were meh. I have to have another mammogram done with ultrasound of the left side. Fun times! By the way…every time I see or hear mammogram it just sounds like someone dressed as a boob should be dancing around and singing Happy Birthday to someone. I know, weird, but that’s me. Anyways, I’m not too worried about it yet- about 10-12% of women are called back after a mammogram for more tests and fewer than 1 in 10 women are actually found to have cancer after that second appointment (www.ngrmc.org). But breast cancer, however remote the possibility is still scary. I lost two friends/coworkers to it, after they both fought very long battles with it. But worrying before there’s any hard evidence seems counterproductive. Of course, when it’s 1 a.m. and I can’t sleep, try explaining that to my over active brain and anxiety.

Less stressful but more annoying has been the fierce pain in my left shoulder that makes it impossible to sleep in any other position than on my back. Also, heel pain in my left foot which has been going on for months but I’m sure y’all are familiar with self-triage. If you’re not, my definition is: when there’s so much crap going wrong with your body that you have to decide what is most important and/or life threatening and you take care of that first. I did purchase a U-pillow from Amazon that has made sleeping better. I kid you not, we have like 12 pillows on our king size bed, not including my Squishmallows and every night has been this epic game of “where do I stick this pillow, so I don’t hurt.” Not a very good game title, but you get the idea. I also play that game with ice packs.

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I am still having gut/Crohns issues. While I have a great functional gastroenterologist, who I believe really listens and wants to help, the tests she wants me to do are not covered by my insurance and at roughly $400 a pop, I can’t rationalise the expense. I mean seriously, the question becomes pay bills or take these tests. I don’t have $800 bucks lying around for tests that may or may not tell me what is going on. So, I do what many of my Spoonie brethren out there do, I ignore it until I can’t anymore and try alternative ways to alleviate symptoms or hope that there might be a different test to take. It’s really a no-win situation but I haven’t found a better alternative.

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Okay, now that I have complained, let’s look at the positives. I’m writing in my blog. Yay! Woohoo! Pats myself on the back. Seriously, it can be difficult when you have a busy life and also the weight of being chronically ill and/or in pain. Additionally, there’s always this mini-dialogue going on in my head wondering if what I am writing about is meaningful/important. Besides this, I’m steadily working on my reading challenge this month. I haven’t gotten as far along as I’d like to, but I think trying to read at night is not a good time. I’ll have to make some time in the morning or early afternoon when I am not so tired. Even if tired doesn’t mean sleepy, it means my body and mind just want to zone out and not focus on words. Not to mention my RLS is sometimes so bad I can barely watch television at times. Good times, right?

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Other good things…the fam is happy and healthy. That is definitely something to be cheery about, especially in the age of COVID. The kids are doing great. Going to school and working. Oh! I have a list of topics I’m gearing up to right about. I am hoping having a list will help keep me organised and on track. That’s about it. Thank you for having patience with me and cheers to a new, and happy year!

See you in a week or two for my post on: Cervical Health Awareness Month

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Happy New Year

I always have this idea, maybe a goal, that I will have all these great blog posts out for the holidays. Then, the holidays come around and between the preparation of all the gifts, of which many are hand-made, and just the hustle and bustle of the time, I don’t do it. I admit, it’s probably about 45%-time management and needing a more thorough plan of what my blog posts will be from post to post, and 55% my health. In the past I’ve put up a hiatus notice, letting every one know I was taking a break, anticipating that this would happen, but this time it escaped me. I apologize for that.

I have found that it is much easier to write about tricks and ways to balance your life with chronic illness/pain, then it is to practice it. There are so many variables in one’s life that it can make things challenging, but I have resolved to make this a priority in the upcoming year. I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions, I prefer lifestyle changes, and I will be working on small changes here and there to help myself be more prepared in the future so this doesn’t happen next year. I do make allowances for my health and for things getting out of hand, and I know some would say I am being too hard on myself, but I’m really not. The only way to succeed, is by me setting parameters, for planning each week or each month in advance and by allotting time specifically for my blog/work, even though I am home and making it clear to those around me that I need this time for me.

My biggest New Year’s Change are challenges I have already planned throughout the year for each month. So, each month I will be devoting a full month to something I think needs more attention, or something new I want to try. I got this idea a while back and decided I would like to give it a go. I seem to do better when approaching something in a small chunk rather than the whole bite, so doing something like this allows me to focus 28-31 days on something that is important to me and be mindful of what I want to accomplish. After the month has passed and before I move on to the next thing, I will think about how I want to continue and if there should be any changes. This new year is all about changes and improvements one step at a time.

Yule is Coming!

Thanksgiving is over, and while I always enjoy that holiday, there is always something magical about Yule. It can be hectic, overwhelming and downright exhausting, but the pleasure I receive is from gift-giving and seeing the reaction of my family. It’s worth all the crazy time spent in a nearly all-consuming hunt for the perfect gift. Still, what is most important to me is spending time with family, cooking and eating and having a fun and meaningful time with those I love. Although this is a little off my typical blog post, I hope that you will enjoy our dive into the Norse traditions and learning about how Vikings celebrated Yule and perhaps it won’t surprise you that in many ways, it wasn’t much different than us.

Source: Viking Beard Club Argentina

Yule celebrations and traditions at the Winter Solstice pre-date Christianity by thousands of years. Many who identified as European, celebrated the light during the darkest of days of winter. It was often referred to as Mid-Winter Celebration and would include brewing beer, the preparation of food, visiting with family and yes, gift giving. Numerous references to the Yule in the Icelandic sagas, and in other ancient mythicism, testifying how Yule was actually celebrated. It was a time of feasting, giving gifts, drinking and dancing. Although the commencement of the Yuletide celebration has no specific date, it is traditionally 12 days long with the start of the festivities beginning at sunset on the Winter Solstice (which in the northern hemisphere is usually around December 20th). Even this was stolen forcibly by early Christian missionaries and became known the “12 Days of Christmas.”

Source: wyrddesigns.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/twelfthnight.jpg?w=640

Many of the traditions that are associated with the Christian holiday of Christmas are known to have originated within the Pagan/Viking culture. For instance, it is known that Scandinavians marked Yule (“Jul”), or the Winter Solstice, long before the Christians made their way within any of the Nordic territories. Yule is in fact derived from the Old Norse “HJOL,” which roughly means, ‘wheel,’ to identity the moment when the Wheel of the Year is at its lowest point, ready to rise again. Hjol has been inherited by Germanic and Scandinavian languages from pre—Indo-European language level and is a direct reference to the return of the Sun as represented by a fiery wheel rolling across the heavenly sky. Sun Wheels are sometimes burned as part of the folk festivities.

Source: Ms. Elly 2018 Viking Blog Post BaviPower.com

Winter was long and difficult for the Vikings. The celebration of Yuletide was the most important and most popular of all the native Germanic spiritual celebrations. Yule also marks the return of the God Baldur from the realm of Hel and the loosening grip of winter on the frozen Earth. It was a time of celebration welcoming the reborn Sun goddess, Sól, who was pursued and devoured by the Wolf of winter each year; a reflection of the Fenris wolf of Ragnarök. This is a fragile period and these rituals of fire and light dominate life to ensure the return of the Sun goddess and that the warmth of her light will bring the bounty of crops and animals come Spring. Although these rituals were an integral part in the lives of these Germanic peoples, Yule was also a time for dancing, feasting and family. But similarities stop there.

As we know, Vikings worshiped many Gods and Goddesses, and therefore made sacrifices and offered up both goods and animals to appease them, to ensure that spring would return. This was also the time of the Wild Hunt, when the King and Queen of the Underworld would ride through the night sky across the land with a band of spirits and beings from the spirit realm. Yule is also the season in which the gods and goddesses are closest to Midgard. Our deities were called ‘Yule-Beings’ by the Norse and Odin himself is called Jólnir, the “Yule One” and it is from here where the image of Santa Claus is derived from. Most of the symbols associated with the modern holiday of Christmas (such as the Yule-log, Santa Claus and his Elves, Christmas trees, Wreath, eating of ham, Holly and Mistletoe and the Star) are derived from traditional European Heathen Yule celebrations. When the first Christian missionaries began trying to force the Germanic people to Christianity, they found it easier to invent a Christian version for popular feasts such as Yule, and allow the celebrations to go largely unchanged, rather than trying to suppress them.

Source: Norsemythology.org

The 12 Days of Yule, is without question devoted to cookies, breads, cakes and pastries that we are able to indulge upon during the season. Many Heathen families have enjoyed creating beautiful decorations for their homes, including wooden toys, Straw Goats and Wild Boards to hand on the Yule tree. Each of the days and nights can be viewed as a microcosm of the months of the year. The first night of Yule is called Mothernight, when Frigga and the Disir (female ancestral spirits) are especially honoured. This day is aptly named as it represents the rebirth of the world from the darkness of winder. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year. There are vigils from dusk till dawn to ensure that the sun will rise again and to welcome her when it does. On Mothernight one can recount the past January and plan for the next January. On the Second day of Yule, remember the last February and so on and so forth until ending with December on the Twelfth Night.

Source: WyrdDesigns.Wordpress.com

It was the practice in these Germanic Heathen times to swear oaths on a Hallowed boar; while also particularly meaningful oaths were sworn on the horn of a cup while drinking at the Yule feast. This survived in Swedish folk-custom; a large boar-shaped bread or block of wood covered with pig skin was brought forth at Yule for this purpose. The ‘New Year’s Resolution’ is a lesser form of this holy Yule Oath. You could also sacrifice the boar after the Oath was made to Frey. Unlike our New Year’s Resolution, these paths are meant and expected to be kept.

The tree (Christmas tree) is Heathen in origin and represents Yggdrasil. Those who kept the old customs in places where they were surrounded by Christians, hid the tree inside so church authorities wouldn’t notice, but in England and Scandinavia, the trees and various spirits received their gifts outside. In the stead of a tree that would have outed them as Heathen, a candlelit and ribbons wreath, the ring which may have reflected the Oath-ring or the Yule Sun-Wheel, was brought inside to decorate the home. Many cultures integrate the mythos of trees that symbolise life into their beliefs, from the Tree of Judaism and Christianity to the great World Tree of Norse and Germania mythology, Yggdrasil.

Source: A Very Viking Christmas Slumberingalligator.com

In honour of Thor, a person was to take the largest oak log they could find (or handle) and kindle it either in an indoor fireplace or outdoor one. The Yule-log’s intent and purpose was to burn all night during the longest night of the year to symbolise life lasting, even during the time of great darkness; its fire rekindling the sun in the morning and the ashes or pieces remaining were used as protective amulets during the rest of the year. Besides this, you could use some of the saved, charred remains for lightening the next years log.

Source: premierlogcompany.com

The Julebuuk or Yule Goat are an established symbol of Yule. Thor, the protective God of thunder was known to have two goats that he would slaughter and eat every night, resurrecting them the next day. Originally these goats would have been sacrificed to the god Thor to protect the people until Spring. Their meat was either preserved or eaten right away (boiled, pit-roasted or spit-roasted). This goat tradition remained but changed over time, connecting to the Krampus tradition. A man would dress as the Yule Goat and go house to house receiving offerings for the spirits, later giving treats to the well-behaved children. This was the harbinger of the Santa Claus and his reindeer delivering present. This Santa Claus was oft-times depicted riding a goat in early imagery. A job that in Northern traditions was performed by the gnome-like tomten. These small, magical men would be accompanied by Yule Goats. The Yule Goat tradition remains a popular custom in Scandinavia and straw goats of all sizes can be seen displayed as ornaments in people’s yards and left on neighbours doorstep.

Source: Pinterest Yule Goat Christmas Art

 In one way or another, there are many traditions of the Viking people that we continue on to this day, even if the original meaning has been lost to the ages. If you want to have a more, Viking inspired holiday but don’t want to sacrifice a boar, roast some pork and make or buy some mead. You can play Viking games as they were also a big part of the feast and festivities. Hnefatafl is a tabletop strategy game that you can play with friends and family. Theres also many drinking games you can play. Part of Viking festivities was all about boasting, oath making, poetry, dance and song.

Source: partner.sciencenorway.no/archaeology-history-university-of-southeast-norway/video-see-the-board-games-vikings-used-to-keep-their-minds-sharp/1757904

Yule is also a time to honour Thor for driving back the frost etins, Frey to give us prosperity in the coming year, Odin as leader of the Wild Hunt and our ancestors. During the Yule we are closest to the Dead. Death is all around us in the dead flowers and plants that were vibrant with life only months ago. The trees all appear dead except for the evergreens. We decorate an evergreen with lively decorations as the Vikings decorated with sin wheels, runes and items of food such as cranberries and popped corn and other bright, pretty things to remind us of the eternity of Yggdrasil, the world Tree, as it lasts throughout the Winter- Ever Green.

As you gather with your family across the globe, take a moment to honour your ancestors. They walked before you, paving the way for you. You might never have met your ancestors, but even so, many of their choices influenced your life just as your choices influence those who may come after you. It is an easy thing to do, that costs nothing, to say thank you to the people who you are in some way, connected to. As someone who is adopted, I do not know any of my blood relatives, but some of their choices directly influenced me and if they hadn’t made those choices I might not be here living this life or I may not have ended up with the family I have today. I am grateful to them and I honour their memories.

Source: Nightmares Vengeance Tumblr

I know this was not my usual post, but I have been in a writing drought recently because of my chronic illness and pain. I hope you enjoyed this, perhaps learned something that you might want to try. Please enjoy the holiday season; eat, drink, be merry and watch your spoons!

Skål!

Sources:

https://www.theasatrucommunity.org/yule

http://www.jereme-zimmerman.com/news/2015/12/22/rs5ccw8y43hyl8go3ws0h3scwda949

Making Halloween Spooktacular

For the kids and you when are struggling with chronic illness

What do I mean by less spooky? No, not supernatural. Less exhausting. Less plagued by anxiety. Less painful, because being in pain can really take the fun out of Halloween and give a different  meaning to Boo. And for your teens or little ones who struggle with having a chronic illness or autoimmune disorder this can be particularly challenging.

My children and I escaped the knowledge of our having chronic illness/autoimmune disorders until we were well into adulthood. I do not envy the very difficult task of keeping little ones away from the tempting sweets and artificial colours and high fructose that can often be found in candies. Children are bombarded with the talk of Halloween several weeks before hand and there’s chattering amongst them about what costumes they will wear and what they will be doing and who is going to what house for a party. I can’t fathom the stress of a parent who wants to make the day fun, special, spooky but safe for them. This difficulty increases by ten-fold when you are dealing with children.

However, it’s not just children who want to have fun on Halloween, it’s the teens and adults. Don’t worry, I have tips for everyone to make this Halloween Spook-tacular!

  • Find a Trunk-or-Treat: During trunk or treat events adults decorate the back of their cars for Halloween, load up on candy, and come sit in a parking lot for kids to “trick or treat” from car-to-car. It’s like a tail-gate with candy and costumes and the kids have an absolute blast. I’ve heard of trunk-or-treat events where kids show up by the hundreds. Parents typically have to reserve a parking lot or at least make sure they can use it for the event if it’s private property and you just hand out treats to the kids. This great for parents who struggle with chronic illness and kids who are fighting it too. For example, if your child is food sensitive, or you are doing your best to keep them from candies and store bought sweet treats, get a group of friends together with the same problems and have a trunk-or-treat with them. You know your child is safe then. This is also an easy and wise choice if your child can’t keep up with going around the neighbourhood but they still want to go out.https://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/6287-how-to-organize-a-trunk-or-treat
  • Pace yourself: This is for both of you. Don’t leave things for the last minute, however you decide to celebrate Halloween. Even giving yourself a week is better than leaving it until the last minute. Your body will thank you. This goes for your child too. And remember that goes for Christmas and putting up the tree on Christmas Eve. Decorating the night before might seem like a nostalgic tradition, but your body will think it’s torture and scream at you.https://www.yahoo.com/now/taking-holidays-day-day-spoonie-232047353.html
  • Stay home: If this is an option for you, make it an event. Like-wise, if this is an option for your teen or even your little one, don’t let it go by just being another day. Halloween is about the magic as well as the spookiness. Dress up in costumes, pass out candy to the kids, watch scary movies and have tasty snacks.
  • No Pressure: The best thing to do with an older child is to do your best to help them not feel pressured into doing something everyone else is doing. I know, I could feel the eye-rolling from here. But it’s easier than it sounds with Halloween than other things. Give them options. Fun options and they will be more willing to take it easy. But if they don’t, comfort them and help them use it as a learning moment.

Remembrance

The remains of the World trade Center stand amid other debris Sept. 11, 2001 following the terrorist attack on the buildings in New York. Alexandre Fuchs/AP

Today is September 11, 2021. It’s been 20 years since the wicked terrorist attacks that took down the beautiful and iconic World Trade Center. It is a day that encompasses even more tragedy with the attack on the Pentagon and though we may never know its actual target, the lives that were lost in a heroic effort to detour their hijacked plane which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania the same day. Like many of you reading this, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the day in all began to unfold. I can remember that day in all its stark and vivid detail and I imagine like my parents and their memories of President Kennedy’s assassination, I always will. My purpose in this retelling is to honor the memories of those who were lost that day. I truly believe that it is our collective memory and shared experiences and pain that can help prevent history repeating itself. When we become removed from a traumatic event like this one, and push it into a space of the past, we no longer view it as something that has the potential to happen again. It is a part of history, and might as well be some dusty tome, with weathered parchment and fading ink.

It was a normal day like any other in our house. My husband had gone to work and my older two daughters had gone to elementary school. I was home with my youngest two daughters (barely 2 and 1 years old). Our routine started early and once I had my 2-year-old fed, I sat down to feed my other daughter while I attempted to have coffee and watch GMA. It’s a routine I still have today. As the news and images started filtering in about the World Trade Center, I remember feeling frightened. At first it seemed like some horrible accident and because I have deep connections to New York with most of my family having lived there and family that still live there, I was concerned. When it became clear that this was a purposeful act, dread washed over me in a way that I cannot say I have ever felt before or since. I remember clutching my youngest close and her older sister coming over and asking, “Mama cry?” Her big, beautiful, hazel eyes looking up at me full of concern. I pulled her close and just held them both against me, enveloping myself in their love as I bore witness to this inexplicable thing unfolding, of which we only knew in those moments was the World Trade Center, and instinctively knew that everything had just changed. That day I went and collected our two other children from school, uncertain if there would be any more attacks and I simply wanted them close to me. I wanted to protect them while I still could from all the ugliness in the world.

Our world changed that day. In the blink of an eye we became closer as a nation as we grieved this indescribable loss together. We honored the heroes who ran charging into danger to try and save lives while losing their own. We honored those that made the impossible decision to fight back and protect people who had no name, even though they had loved ones who they would not see again, because they refused to allow terror to win. My remembrance begins and ends with those who were lost, celebrating their unique lives. My remembrance continues with the families who were left behind, praying that despite their loss, they’ve managed to find peace and even a little happiness in the years afterwards. We cannot change the past as much as we’d like to, but I believe that we can change the future and we can make certain that those lives lost, were not in vain. Remembering this day, the lives that were lost and the legacies left behind in each of those that survived will continue the healing without the forgetting.

*Featured image: by Jin S Lee featured in the 9/11 Memorial Museum.