Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review of Dr. Gregg Korbon's Book Beyond Reason: Lessons from the Loss of a Gifted Child

In May I began having reoccurring nightmares that my son was mangled in horrific accidents, then he got up and walked away, as if nothing happened. Once he drove a truck off a cliff and emerged without a scratch. Another time I watched in horror as he fell off a several story balcony onto concrete. He lay motionless and contorted for a while, then stood up and walked off.

Okay, so we all know goofy, out of sequence things happen in dreams that seem normal until we wake up and say, "What the...?". One second you're cleaning the kitchen sink and the next you're partying in Paris. Not this time. Even in the dream state I knew I'd witnessed a miracle - when he rose I actually put my hand on my heart and breathlessly whispered, "wow".

Since my reoccurring dreams occasionally foreshadow future events, I was seized by a vague terror I could neither name or shake. Continual cross-currents of denial and knowing rendered me a river of uncontrollable sobs, running in both directions yet getting nowhere. Would something unfortunate befall my son? Nah. They're just nightmares. Forget it. But I knew. In my heart I knew something was imminent. And that was the problem.

During my darkest hour I heard Dr. Gregg Korbon's interview with George Noory on Coast to Coast AM. Gregg spoke of his healthy son, Brian, who knew he would not "make it to double digits". Brian told his parents he did not want a birthday party because it would bring him closer to his death. And he did die, after scoring the first run of his little league career, just before his tenth birthday. Upon returning home later that day Brain's parents found a note on his bedroom door that read, "Brian's on a trip. Do not worry about me."

The perpetual pummel of my emotional cross-currents hit full crest when I sobbed uncontrollably during most of the interview. And yet, here was this guy who suffered every parent's worst nightmare and he seemed okay. Genuinely okay.  Brian's death left Gregg with profound emptiness, to be sure, but trying to avoid or fill that emptiness just drained his ability to cope. Only in entering that emptiness could Gregg find strength, and eventually, peace. This moved me profoundly, for I too feared the well of emptiness, yet fear stalked me anyhow. What did I have to lose? So I collapsed into emptiness then rose decisive - come what may; we'd get through it.

A week later a tumor was found on my son's hip.

The x-ray suggested the tumor was benign but an MRI was scheduled to be sure. I knew in my heart it was benign but what explained his odd limp? This wasn't over. I knew it wasn't over. The dreams foretold serious spinal impact and complete recovery. The cross-currents wanted to whip me into a frenzy again. Oh forget that. They're just nightmares. Who do you think you are, Sylvia Browne?  No, enter the emptiness and hold on. Yes - THAT. So I held on, sensing something larger at play.

The MRI revealed my son's spinal cord was significantly tethered.

Without surgery the cord would stretch as he grew, to terrible result. Episodes of worry overcame me but for the most part, no panic. Instead I held the emptiness and a vision of my son rising, like in those dreams. Had Dr. Korbon not inspired me to enter my fears I'm not sure how I would have coped. I had to read this guy's book!

Gregg wrote Beyond Reason to honor Brian's bravery and the mystical strands that his life and death continue to weave in the hearts of those he left behind. Yes, it is amazing that Brian knew when he would die. It is uncanny that two days before his death Brian told his mother it was time for his trip and that he must not be wimp. And it is beyond reason that Brian lived his last day joyously despite knowing his time had come. This child was a clinic in how to face the inevitable fate that awaits us all.

But I find Gregg's journey through the grief process equally compelling. He could have stalled in sorrow for the rest of his life and that would have been totally understandable. Yet, from day one Gregg had flashes of deeper meaning that he gave a seat at the table, right alongside his grief.

After being driven by a friend back to the little league field to get his car a few hours after Brian's death Gregg was stopped in his tracks.

"I reached up to wipe a tear from my eye, and the sour smell of Brian's vomit on my hands blended with the sweet smell of honeysuckle. At that moment, my vision became clear and the colors, sounds, and smells became stronger and brighter than I had ever experienced - and I knew I was at the center of life. The worst thing that I could imagine had just happened, and yet, I felt peace. Everything was as it should be. Brian had died a happy boy. He conquered his fears, which is more than most of us do. In my heart, I knew that if I could bring him back, it would be for me - not for him. Brian finished his work here."

When I read that paragraph on page fifteen I knew this man would be fine, that his life would be full,  because he has the ability to pierce through the dense fog of sorrow and perceive that which it obscures.

Before Brian's death it seemed to me Gregg had a well choreographed life. He was an Anesthesiologist, had the wife, two children. The American Dream really. Yet he describes the pre-grief-stricken Gregg as "The Tin Man" - an accomplished and cleaver guy who avoided vulnerability. After living his own loss, though, Gregg found that giving grief support, even to strangers, came naturally to him. Holding that space with others opened his heart to vulnerability. The book goes on like this; page after page witnesses a man becoming. To me, it reads more like a sacred text than an autobiography.

As for my own son, he had tethered cord surgery on October 13th. When he rose from that bed and walked two days later my heart whispered a breathless "wow", just like in the dreams. Those dreams, I now see, were a gift from my subconscious, who somehow saw into the future to assure me everything would be alright, just as Brain's mystical experiences were a gift from his.

I recommend Beyond Reason to anyone who has ever grieved anything, not just the loss of a child. Though my son is with me, I have lost some of him over the years. He was a healthy baby who developed a particularly regressive form of Autism and intractable Petite Mal Epilepsy. So high functioning was he at three that his therapists said he was a genius. By six he was severely Autistic, functionally non-verbal, and struggled with basic academics. The worst part is his continuous suffering. Beyond Reason has inspired me to find ways to let even this make me a better person.  Thank you, Dr. Korbon, for sharing your story.

Further Reading

A Son's Premonition and a Final Baseball Game - NPR

Dr. Korbon's Website

Dr. Gregg Korbon's interview on Coast to Coast AM

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Urban Farming 101 Weekly Wrap Up: Square Foot Gardening


This year I kept my first garden and it was a lot of guesswork. Now that I'm gearing up for Spring again I've checked out a stack of Urban Homesteading books from the library. I'm determined to have a more efficient garden this time.The Weekly Wrap Up Series shares what I am learning. 


I planted my first garden in neat little rows, just like they say to, intentionally sowing five times more seeds than ultimately needed, most of which were destroyed in the thinning process. That seemed inefficient and wasteful. Plus, the pathways between plants were easily over-run with weeds. So much work for a small suburban garden. There must be a better way.

And I think I have found it.

This week I delved into Mel Bartholomew's book Square Foot Gardening.  The square foot grid is the product of an engineer's mind coupled with a gardener's passion. The man is a genius!   

(photo by aekeel @ Photobucket)

Each square foot contains precisely the number of plants that ordinarily fit into that sized space, at the appropriate distance apart. Pepper plants require one foot's distance between one another, so each square fits one plant. Since lettuce requires only six inches apart its squares hold four heads. No thinning process necessary. And this method requires 80% less space than conventional gardens because it eliminates walkways. Without walkways to weed maintenance time is significantly reduced. Just weed a few squares a day and you are done in minutes.

(photo by ronh2k@ Photobucket)

This winter I will make some 4 x4 boxes out of some scrap wood from a torn down fence. I know they won't look as pretty as these. 

Take it away Mel:

What I Learned This Week on the Blog Hops:

I've often heard that egg shells benefit soil. One year I tried to compost some but they didn't break down.  Graceful Little Honey Bee has a great post about how to get egg shells to break down. Now why didn't I think of that?

The Humbled Homemaker has a great recipe for a foaming hand soap. If you regularly use those expensive, natural, biodegradable pump soaps this will definitely save you money. I tested the recipe. It really does foam!

Whenever my shower head starts spraying all haywire I usually buy a new one. This week I learned from Frugally Sustainable that this is completely unnecessary. She has a fun recipe that  removes those hard water stains. Your kids will love this one!

Special thanks to


for helping me learn new homesteading skills.


Square Foot Gardening (Mel's site)

Mel Bartholomew (his other site, includes blog)

*This is not a sponsored post.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Business Saturday - November 26th - Boosting Our Local Economies


You know about Black Friday but have you heard about Small Business Saturday? Across America people are pledging to do some of their holiday shopping at locally owned businesses on November 26th.

Why shop local? Recent research reveals how buying local benefits our regional economies. David Boyle of The New Economic Foundation told Time Magazine, "Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going". He added that when money is spent at non-locally owned giants or online: "it flows out, like a wound."   And, locally owned businesses create two out of every three new jobs, they contribute more to charities and local fundraisers than national chains, and, as we say in Louisville - small businesses keep local communities "weird" (aka unique). Simply put, buying local revives ghost towns and spares us that Any Town, USA quality of life.

Every Christmas my church collects toys for needy children. On Small Business Saturday I will purchase our contribution at Amazing Green Planet, a locally owned  store that sells environmentally friendly goods, including toys. American Express will give us cash back for every $25.00 we spend at such participating small businesses.   To learn more visit The Small Business Saturday website.

*This is not a sponsored post. It is inspired by my passion for local self-reliance.

Further Reading:

Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy - Time Magazine

Why Buy Local? An Assessment of the Economic Advantage of Shopping at Locally Owned Businesses -  Michigan State University

Small Business Saturday on Facebook

Small Business Saturday main website

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kiva Changes the World, One Person at a Time

Kiva - loans that change lives

Do you ever dream about all the good you would do if you were rich? Perhaps you'd travel the world making a difference? Or maybe, like Bill Gates, you'd start a foundation that funds your favorite causes? Well that's soooo 20th century. The Internet changed everything. Now you can be that foundation and you don't have to be rich. You just need twenty-five bucks.

Here's the story of how my family became a mini global financier. We loaned twenty-five dollars through Kiva to Chum Vuthy of  Phnom Penh City, Cambodia , who needed a motor bike to expand her cake delivery business. Our loan was bundled with twenty-five dollar loans from dozens of people around the world and Mrs. Vuthy was a step closer to her dream - to shore up the family home against deadly monsoons. Instead of withdrawing the money once she made repayment, we lent it to a Pakistani family looking to add variety to their fruit vending cart. The cycle of lending continues, as our two $25 dollar donations have morphed into $200 and counting. We've lent to a food co-op in The Congo, a taxi driver in Bolivia, an electronics saleswoman in The Sudana wood products manufacturer in Viet Nam, and to a family in Afghanistan. And I am pleased to report that every one of our borrowers has repaid his or her loan. In fact, Kiva borrowers have an excellent track record for repayment -98.36%.

Kiva provides a unique opportunity for families to lift themselves out of poverty, since typical banks dismiss these folks for lack of collateral. Many families have been able to send their children to school for the first time and make additions to their one room homes. Now there is hope where once there was only struggle and grinding poverty.

Kiva - loans that change lives

There are so many would be entrepreneurs listed with Kiva that choosing among them is difficult. To narrow it down I typically lend to people from recently traumatized regions. When beloved former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated I attempted to issue a loan in Pakistan, only to find something remarkable had happened. There wasn't anyone to loan to in the entire world. Every Kiva loan had been filled! That doesn't happen often, if at all. Could thousands of souls around the world have shared the same yearning - to spread hope during a time of tragedy? I cried that day. Twice.

Our most recent loan thrills me. It is to Abisunganye, a group of shoe saleswomen in Rwanda. Since the genocide there killed 800,000 people, mostly men, women of Rwanda were left to rebuild their country. And rebuild they have! They picked up the mantel in government and the economy, leaving those who follow their story in awe.

I also like how Kiva lets lenders link up in affinity teams. And I have no compunction to pitting rival groups against each other if it means more money for Kiva. Hey Christians, the Atheists are the top lending team and you are number three. Go get 'em! While I'm at it, Norway, Canada is really cleaning your clock over there.

With the holidays coming up check out my content related store and affiliate links. 100% of my profits will be donated to Kiva. Even if you're not an environmentalist or some over-the-top New Ager there are gift cards and gadgets listed too.

Or, better yet, direct loans can be made to Kiva borrowers by visiting the site.

Kiva - loans that change lives

Further Reading:

Women Rise in Rwanda's Economic Revival - The Washington Post

Clinton Launches Micro-Lending Drive (Kiva in the US) - The Wall Street Journal

List of Articles Written About Kiva in Newspapers and Periodicals World-Wide

Moving video where a journalist meets his Kiva borrower:

*This is not a sponsored post.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Med Mobs: Evolving Consciousness, One Flash Mob at a Time

I never thought I'd use the words meditation and flash mob in the same sentence but it is happening. In cities across the world bands of peaceful meditators are sitting together at Occupy events, capital domes, and even on the Washington Mall. Their purpose is not protest, but the elevation of consciousness.

This might sound to some like hippie-dippy woo, but is it really? Dozens of controlled studies find that areas occupied by trained meditators have significant reductions in violent crime. Reports have even been published in peer reviewed journals such as Yale's Journal of Conflict Resolution and The Journal of Crime and Justice. The Med Mobsters might be onto something after all.

There is a map on the Med Mob website identifying current flash mob active cities and contact information for those interested in organizing in their own areas. 

Med Mob in Austin Capital Dome:

Med Mob Meditation on the Mall Easter Sunday - The Washington Times

Update: Louisville, Kentucky Med Mob now has its own Facebook Page

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Tour of Eco-Friendly Louisville: The Mighty Kindness Harvest Hootenanny


If you look past its putrid air quality and polluted water you'll notice that Louisville really paints the town green. Take The Mighty Kindness Harvest Hootenanny. Where else in the Midwest (okay, the South) can you find so many farmers, advocacy groups, sustainability providers, and regular folk gathered in common purpose?  

So cool is this boho bazaar that our local weekly voted it the number  two festival in the city. That's nifty considering Louisville hosts this little horse race every first week in May. Maybe you've heard of it?

Where else can local cattle farmers keep a booth next to


 vegetarians who remind us that flesh is for zombies?


There were new, handmade clothes you could buy


and old, recycled clothes you could take.


While most vendors had tables


had a tent. Nearby, costume clad kids hoola hooped to live Celtic music while adults did Tai Chi and Yoga.  

My family's big find of the day was Grasshoppers.


They deliver locally grown produce to distribution sites around the city. We are signing up this week.

I only photographed a fraction of the day's activities because I wanted to feel the festivities and not just think about what to write later. Besides, the crystal portal was calling my name......................... 


When I ran into some friends from church near the walking trail we gravitated to the crystal portal.


My friend and I entered the portal and immediately dropped into deep conversation. Someone on the outside said it was like we were in our own little world. I'm not sure we weren't.  The Hoot does that to you.

Other takes on The Hoot: 

Mighty Harvest Hoot Brings Unity to Community  -

Mighty Kindness Harvest Hootenanny Supports Things Local - The Louisville Courier Journal

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 11-1-11 Next Leap in Evolutionary Consciousness Worldwide Meditation


The morning of September 11, 2001 random numbers generators from sixty-five locations around the world started acting peculiar. Instead of recording the usual chain of random sequences, the computational hub at Princeton University's Global Consciousness Project registered major coherence spikes that began fifteen minutes before the first plane made impact.


Since the generators measured fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field these spikes had researchers scratching their heads in amazement. They suspected that changes in the earth's magnetic field can impact humans but could the reverse also happen? These data seemed to suggest that wide-spread, cohesive emotional responses from humans might impact the earth's magnetic field.

This outcome sparked renewed interest in mind-over-matter research. Suddenly researchers and lay folk wondered what we might accomplish with collective intention. When journalist Lynne McTaggart organized collective intention research designed by scientists from Princeton University, University of Arizona and other prestigious research institutions we joined them by the thousands. And when the Global Coherence Initiative set up twelve sensors around the world to scientifically observe a potential symbiotic relationship between collective human emotions, earth changes, and the planet's magnetic field many of us wanted in. Now is our chance.


At 11:11 a.m. Pacific Time on 11-1-11 the Global Coherence Initiative and Evolutionary Leaders will co-sponsor a world-wide meditation for planetary healing and conscious awareness. Thousands of us across the world will collectively hold the following intention:

"Our intention is to transcend superficial differences that divide us – race, religion, politics, beliefs, culture – to acknowledge, experience and honor the essential bond that unites us all as one interdependent organism. We also intend to evolve in both consciousness and action so that each of us learns to perceive the whole, relate to others in wholeness, widen our definition of ‘we’ to be all inclusive and become evolutionary leaders for a peaceful, holistic, sustainable world."

Those interested can register at the Evolutionary Leaders website. Use The Time Zone converter to adjust Pacific Time to where you live. If you can't participate at the appointed time here is what I am doing:  Since I am unavailable at 11:11 a.m Pacific Time I will do the meditation that evening and project the intention back to 11:11. If Einstein is correct that past, present, and future are just stubbornly held illusions it shouldn't matter, right?

More Information:

Tags: Global Coherence Initiative, Evolutionary Leaders, Institute of Heartmath,  11-1-11 Worldwide Meditation, The Next Evolutionary Leap in Consciousness, meditation for peace, heart coherence meditation

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fair Trade IS A Market Force

Once I landed on a website whose author bashed those who deliberately seek Certified Fair Trade products. This person sees inherent wisdom in the free market and thinks Fair Trade Certification implies there is something wrong with the market. Ten years later that article still sticks in my brain like a splinter because I think it sorely misses the point.

Fair Trade consumers are not rejecting the market - we are using it. We have decided that living wages, no forced or child labor, environmental sustainability, and transparency are market forces worthy of our consumer spending. Why are price, quality, and brand considered valid market forces but a guarantee that goods were not produced in sweatshops is something that starts with a c and ends with Gorbachev? Think about it.

And I would argue that Fair Trade participation in the market is pure because vendors do not rely on government subsidies, which is more than we can say for some too big to fail industries. Yes, living wages are set in the Fair Trade system, but consumers turn that into a market force, not governments.

Has our culture become so divided that we'd rather trade -isms than consider the substance behind another's values when they differ from our own?


October is Fair Trade Month

App Source: Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade certification and membership organizations all agree on these basic Fair Trade principles:

-Long-term direct trading relationships
-Prompt payment of fair prices and wages
-No child, forced or otherwise exploited labor
-Workplace non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association
-Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours
-Investment in community development projects
-Environmental sustainability
-Traceability and transparency

* Source  Fair World Project

reduce the the solution

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Green Giveaway: Stainless Steel Drinking Straws


A few years ago I started feeling guilty about all the non-recyclable straws that my family used once then discarded. I imagined them piled atop each other in the landfill for eternity. That charming visual made me ask Google if anyone makes reuseable stainless steel straws. Ten bucks and two days later these cool silver straws arrived in our mailbox. They even had the serrated bend in the neck like the plastic ones. Our glasses haven't seen the old landfill fodder since. Now I just need to ratchet up my green commitment and bring these like a dork when we eat in restaurants.

Since I like these so much I'm giving away a set of four stainless steel drinking straws (Endurance brand). I hope the winner enjoys these as much as we have. I have to warn you though parents: you will only know where two of these are at any given time and this will frustrate you. But alas, just lift your couch cushions and there you will find the others.

To enter this giveaway please leave an email address or a link to your website below. Winner will be chosen by random drawing on September 27th, 2011.


*This is not a sponsored post. I funded this giveaway.

*This giveaway was originally posted on my Wordpress Blog. Congratulations to Hazel Harker of The Witch Next Door for winning the straws.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Son's New Environmentally Friendly, Fair Trade "Ethletic" Sneakers


The decision to purchase all of mine and my son's outerwear and shoes used was among my earliest green lifestyle commitments. It's inexpensive and he doesn't seem to notice. Yet.

Shoes are easy. Since kids outgrow them in like a week I usually find decent ones at thrift stores and garage sales. But I missed the yard sales this year and it's been slim pickings at the thrift stores. So this fall I found myself in novel territory - I had to buy the kid brand new sneakers. I was at a loss, completely unschooled in locating new eco friendly sneakers for kids.

Google helped me find this pair from The Autonomie Project.


These sneakers are made from organic cotton and naturally sourced rubber that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. All materials are sourced locally to each supplier, reducing carbon and pollution footprints.

Another reason I buy used clothing and shoes is concern over sweatshops and child slave labor. I hate not knowing if my purchases fund human misery and it's not like companies stamp that information on their products. This is why I love that these sneakers are Fair Trade Certified.  Autonomie Project works directly with independent cooperatives in the developing world. This enables workers to lift out of poverty and send their children to school. A portion of profits also goes to initiatives that benefit the communities, such as health care clinics and clean water initiatives. That's why these are called Ethletic sneakers. Eth-letic. Get it?


The price was a pleasant surprise. These were $60.00 including shipping. While that's more than I usually spend it's a bargain considering $150.00 sneakers are all the rage with kids these days. (Children's sizes run small and must be sized up).



Gap Admits to Possible Child Labor Problem - ABC News

Slavery in the Garment Industry - CNN

Shopping for Sweat: The Human Cost of a Two Dollar Shirt - Harper's Magazine

The Human Cost of Chocolate - CNN (Human Trafficking in the Cocoa Industry)


Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade Federation

Ten Thousand Villages

Equal Exchange

The National Green Pages Directory (also Fair Trade)


AP - Fair Trade Fashion and Footwear


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post but after ordering my son's shoes I decided to make this blog an Autonomie Project Affiliate. I earn 10% on anything sold via an AP link badge on this site. All profits will be donated to Kiva. To learn more visit my giving back page.

Tags: Fair Trade Sneakers, Shoes Fair Trade, Vegan Fair Trade Shoes, Ethletic Sneakers, Earth Friendly Shoes, Eco Friendly Fair Trade Tennis Shoes

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Homemade Compost Bins: Part 1

I was not going to buy a pre-made compost bin. Those are expensive and plastic. And since I'm all-crazy-like about chemicals my dirt couldn't bake in a BPA-laden tumbler, even though my garden routinely gets drenched in toxic Louisville tap water (Don't judge). An open compost pit was out of the question too what with critters and the stench, so we made our own. Problems solved. Or are they? You tell me.

We took two stainless steel garbage cans, drilled holes in the bottom and sides for drainage and worm entry, then buried them in a remote corner of the backyard.


While one decomposes


the other is ready for use.



1.) No decomposition stench or critter infestations.

2.) No need to add worms; they find their way in.

3.) Cheap. Cost $40.00. And the sweat of my husband's brow.

4.) Must stir manually. It works the arms.


1.) Must stir manually. It works the arms.

2.) You must dig the holes. This is a lot of work. Just ask my husband.

3.)  I have garbage can lids sticking out of my backyard that can probably be detected by Google Earth.

4.) System doesn't meet entire compost needs of my average sized vegetable and flower gardens.

This post is listed on:

and on

Related post: My Homemade Compost Bins: Part 2

Tags: Building a Compost Bin, Making a Compost Bin
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