Monday, January 30, 2012

White Stone, Burning Bowl




Unity is a bit unconventional and not especially ritualistic. We don't do communion and rarely conduct baptisms. And while the rest of Christendom prepares the Eucharist, we can be found meditating amid our Sunday services.

But there are two rituals we do each year that I eagerly anticipate: The Burning Bowl and White Stone Ceremonies. 

Burning Bowl

Burning Bowl is the first Sunday after New Year's Day. During a guided meditation we write on flash paper things from the previous year that we'd like to release. It could be anything from old hurts and regrets to finished relationships or job transitions. Letting go creates a vacuum that is filled with whatever we  invoke for the New Year during White Stone.   

I'm told the first year our church had this burning garbage can that got so out of control it had to be hosed down out back. These days we just incinerate our sorrows in a single, flickering flame. Poof! Gone. Just like that.

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Here is my son searing away the hardships of 2011. Our minister, who could seriously do stand up in her spare time, wondered what in the world these little ones could possibly be letting go? Then she told us a priest once said listening to children confess is like being stoned to death with popcorn.

White Stone

Within a few weeks of Burning Bowl is The White Stone Ceremony. That morning we are each given a white stone quarried from Israel.

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This ritual is inspired by Revelations 2:17, "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

When prisoners back in the day were released they were issued a white stone with a new name on it, symbolizing a fresh start. Our White Stone Ceremony reaches across time, anchoring this ancient metaphor in modern hearts when our new names, so to speak, are revealed in meditation. It could be a quality one wants to cultivate in the new year such as compassion, Christ-like, focus, forgiving. Or, maybe it reflects a dream held dear - motherhood, author, graduate. It could even be the same word from last year, no one would know anyhow since it is between ourselves and The Source. This rectangular white rock quarried from The Holy Land, then, becomes  a talisman, a physical reminder of what matters most to us.

This year I wrote five, count em', FIVE words on my white stone, because I could, but I'm not going to say what they are, because I'm just superstitious enough to think that I shouldn't.

Further Information:

White Stone and Burning Bowl by Rev. Carla Golden

Unity

Unity on Wikipedia



Tags: White Stone and Burning Bowl

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Introducing Louisville's First Med Mob

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Yesterday I did something waaaaay outside my comfort zone. Now get your minds out of the gutter, I'm talking about my participation in Louisville's first Med Mob

On January 21st, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. eastern standard time people in 250 cities around the globe joined in public flash mob meditations.

Our Med Mob gathered around a fountain at The Mall of St. Matthews. I'd say it was more gathering than mob. Okay, so maybe it was just myself and five other people! Well, seven of us actually, 


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because you can't meditate in public anywhere in Louisville without practically getting stampeded by the likeness of a horse.

I was so nervous. Would we be mistaken for protesters and get arrested? Would teenagers use our eyes for dart practice? And why was I doing this anyhow? 

But when we closed our eyes Tom Petty's song Learning to Fly came on the overhead stereo and I felt the whole group relax. We meditated peacefully for twenty minutes and then we heard it - the fuzzy garble of security guard walkie-talkies. I sat there, eyes closed, telling myself - don't go into fear, don't go into fear, which is just like telling yourself - don't think of an elephant, don't think of an elephant

Apparently some Vegas style cooler kabashed our vibe. This woman came over, snapped pictures of us, and started passing out fliers we had available for people to take (though we had no intention of passing them out unsolicited like that). When this attracted mall security the woman took off. We knew none of  this, what with our eyes closed and all, but the security guards thought she was with us. They were super nice but concerned that if she posted those pictures on the Internet with store-front logos in the background that would violate copyright. They kindly said we could continue but our momentum was gone.

This drove home to me how few truly public square type places remain in America today, and, that when you really think about it, so much of what we do these days, however innocent, risks some copyright.

So we are on the lookout for an indoor public space for the next several Med Mobs. Once the weather warms up though look out Louisville Metro parks system. We're here! We're quiet! Get used to it! :)  Stay tuned.

For more information:

Med Mob: Inquire Within (international site)

Med Mob Louisville on Facebook

Med Mob Louisville Blog

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sister Serpent on a Sunday Afternoon






My son is obsessed with me. Take this the wrong way if you must, but sometimes he reminds me of a puppy. When I take a shower he waits outside the door. If I leave the house he watches from the window. And when I return he jumps up and down ecstatically and follows me from room to room. I wonder if he even has that sixth sense and knows when my car turns the corner of our street?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking - Big deal, my kid did that. Right, when he was two. Mine is eight. Isn't he supposed to be ashamed of my very existence by now?

And God forbid he catches me baking without him. You see, baking is his "thing" (the autism dictionary defines "thing" as anything an autistic person likes to do to the exclusion of all else). If I try to sneak in a batch without little hands taking over he barrels into the room like a boy betrayed, as if he caught me cheating. Yes folks, in our house attempts to bake without him are generally referred to as cheating on him. If you're going to cheat, we say, make sure it is after he goes to bed....and be certain he's asleep because if he smells those muffins in the oven its over.

Sure, I affect exasperation but deep down I love this. While some of you lament that your five year old now has her own life I get to keep my baby longer. A lot longer.

It's fun. Until it isn't.


By golly, that boy even wants mommy when his nervous system gets overloaded beyond what most of us could even bear. Taking my hand he says, "mommy's going down the stairs" (the apraxia dictionary defines downstairs as upstairs). Then he kicks his arms and legs into the bed and makes weeeeing sounds. I don't have to say much, just watch him kick and "weeeeeee" overwhelm from his hyper-sensitive nerve endings - and smile at him. There has to be the smile. He wants a witness; that is all. Perhaps reassuring smiles from momma mirror unconditional acceptance, and convey that all is ultimately well, despite the neurological chaos that rages inside him.


I like being his witness. I like that he wants me to be his witness. However, if I'm required to lie on a bed long enough during the day I will fall asleep. And the only thing I want to witness at that point is my dreams.


At first he does usual kid things to rouse my attention: sits on me, pokes my eye, laughs directly into my ear. Nothing. If I pretend to be asleep, like I really just was a second ago, maybe he'll give up. Perhaps he'll even fall asleep eventually. Now that would be nice!


And then I hear it, "hmmmnnnlll, hmmmnnll, hmmmmnll". Oh my God he's whimpering. Like a dog! That's why we don't have a dog. I can't stand the whinning!


OK, if I ignore this, surely he'll quit. It's a lot of work to whine like that.


"hmmmmnnlll, hmmmnnnllll, hmmmnnnll".


I guess he thinks I didn't hear him the fifth time.

Then mommy guilt, that serpent, slithers her way around my heart, wrapping it in knots. "Well, well, well", Sister Serpent says, "How short is thy memory. You don't know your blessings when they stare you in the face. Why not so long ago you lamented how autism stole your baby. You cried that he wouldn't let you into his world and now all he wants is to be in yours. Tsk, tsk. And so what if this is all consuming. What did you think you were signing up for when you became a mother, auntie duty? Your friend Kathryn has four children and she doesn't complain. And why your own mother raised six, then took in foster children....."


I won't win this. I concede and mommy guilt relaxes her grip on my heart. Turning to my son, with eyes still closed and heart wide-open, I say, "what is it my baby?".


Who ever said guilt serves no purpose?





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This was originally posted on my former blog two years ago. It is the only post I've ever written that wrote itself. At almost ten, he mostly weeeeeees! by himself now but occasionally still needs his witness, thank goodness.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Homemade Compost Bins - Part Two

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In October I wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of my composting system.

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Though wonderful, alone it just didn't produce enough compost for my gardening needs.

I solved that problem by re-purposing a large stainless steel garbage can that was just being used to store junk anyway.

I drilled holes vertically around the four sides for circulation and drainage.

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Then I did the same on the bottom

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and on the lid.

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The decomposition of food into compost requires hot temperatures. And no container does decomposition better than stainless steel baking in the hot sun, which is good since I need my compost fast.

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So now I have the three cans going and that should be enough.

Cost of this one = $20.00 and 45 minutes to drill holes. 

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There are other ideas for homemade compost bins floating around cyberspace.



bctphotos @ Photobucket has a self-contained, raised open bin.




MagzDragon @ Photobucket uses a plastic garbage can. Seems like using a plastic garbage can with wheels might come in handy because you wouldn't require a wheel barrel to move the dirt.

What compost system do you use?

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Related Post: My Homemade Compost Bins: Part 1

This post is listed on:




and on





Tags: building a compost bin, making a compost bin

Saturday, January 7, 2012

In the Valley of Elah


This is Prednisone. A steroid. A tiny black widow of a pill that heals first and harms later.



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A drug so dangerous long term that son's Neurologist refuses to write a consecutive prescription. The good doctor knows that were my boy to remain on Prednisone indefinitely he would develop Adrenal disease, Osteoporosis, and Diabetes. It is a matter of when, not if.



This tiny white pill is the last of it, taken today. At high doses son loses all Autistic stereopathy: arm flapping, sound making, repetitive behaviors - gone. Speech explodes and he thrives in mainstream classroom settings. Most importantly, he is freed from the excruciating brain and gut pain that plagues his young life.



His neurologist will re-prescribe, but only after son's body has had a break. Trouble is a certain percentage of children with Landau Kleffner Spectrum brain inflammation do not respond again to steroids after going off them. The fires of inflammation return with a vengeance, triggering seizures that rob these children of speech and continence and the overall ability to function in public - this time with no recourse. And yet, some children do just fine with subsequent doses. You know which category I hope son falls into, but there is no way of knowing beforehand. I may be used to risk by now but it doesn't exactly fit like a comfy old shoe. It never will.


This week son bumps down to his lowest dose yet: 2.5 mg three days this week, then it is over. The regressions have started, it seems, or is this just a bad day? I don't know anymore. He tantrums for an hour straight.




"Come rock with mommy", I say, leading him to the same rocker I nursed him to sleep in as a healthy infant.






"Cat's Cradle. Cat's Cradle", he says, wanting me to sing that song to him. He is trying to self-sooth. Son might be the only person in the world who finds the lyrics of that song humorous.






"..........The cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon. When you coming home son, I don't know when...". I choke on tears, unable to finish. Damn it! You're not supposed to do that in front of the child! Can't you even give him the one thing he needs right now?






He angrily rocks us so hard that we almost tip over backward. I steady us, holding his gaze, "It's okay honey, it's okay." He softens.






"Get a tissue", says my barely verbal Autistic child as he wipes the tears from my cheek with his sleeve.






"When you coming home son I don't know when, but we'll be together then. You know we'll have a good time then...........", I finish. He smiles.






Mommy vs. Goliath


I am a human echo chamber, bombarded by son's past suffering. Those memories ricochet off my synapses, locking me into fight-or-fight. It is all I can do.






So we're headed into battle. Again.






In preparation I grab my gear - hour upon hour on Pub Med trying to identify gaps doctors miss. Test results have ruled out certain things, including autoimmunity. My research (and gut) tell me a Mast Cell problem might underlie son's haywire inflammatory processes. We are giving him Neuroprotek in attempt to level the enemy. It is basically a high quality flavanoid supplement, that's all. So even if this isn't ultimately a Mast Cell problem, flavanoids are super healthy anyhow. We could all use more flavanoids, you know.


And so I march into battle, armed only with my little Neuroprotek rock and a really good homeopath. I will sling these at that twin Goliath brain and GI inflammation. Will I emerge from battle, like David, with an unlikely victory? Will I wander into the sunset, healthy son on my shoulder? Or, like the older David after crucial mistakes, will I scream to the heavens, "How much longer! How much longer!"?

This is my testimony. I hope some day son is able to give you his.


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This post was written over a year ago on my old blog. I re-post it here because there is so little information available on Landau Kleffner Syndrome Variant and I want to be a resource to parents of the newly diagnosed. My son did regress, but not until two months after stopping Prednisone (kids typically last about ten days), so the Neuroprotek may have helped. After two months he returned to Prednisone and has been on a pulse dose ever since. Fortunately he did respond after having gone off that medication when he went back on it. Whew! In March he goes off again. Pray for us! 
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"Having children is like consenting to a wound that will never heal because you never stop worrying about them."
Unknown
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Resources:

"The role of quercetin, flavonols and flavones in modulating inflammatory cell function".Chirumbolo S.
Department of Pathology and Diagnostics, University of Verona, Strada Le Grazie 8 37135 Verona, Italy.

"Anti-inflammatory effects of dietary phenolic compounds in an in vitro model of inflamed human intestinal epithelium."
Sergent T, Piront N, Meurice J, Toussaint O, Schneider YJ.
Institut des Sciences de la Vie, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;92(6):1511-21. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

"Quercetin is equally or more effective than resveratrol in attenuating tumor necrosis factor-{alpha}-mediated inflammation and insulin resistance in primary human adipocytes."
Chuang CC, Martinez K, Xie G, Kennedy A, Bumrungpert A, Overman A, Jia W, McIntosh MK.
Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA.

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2009 Oct-Dec;22(4):859-65.
Autism spectrum disorders and mastocytosis.
Theoharides TC.

J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008 Oct;28(5):479-83.
Autism, gut-blood-brain barrier, and mast cells.
Theoharides TC, Doyle R.


J Autism Dev Disord. 2011 Jan 6. [Epub ahead of print]
Brief Report: "Allergic Symptoms" in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. More than Meets the Eye?
Angelidou A, Alysandratos KD, Asadi S, Zhang B, Francis K, Vasiadi M, Kalogeromitros D, Theoharides TC.
Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery Laboratory, Department of Molecular Physiology and Pharmacology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Suite M&V-208, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA, 02111, USA.

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009 Sep;10(13):2127-43.
"Autism: an emerging 'neuroimmune disorder' in search of therapy."
Theoharides TC, Kempuraj D, Redwood L.
Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery Laboratory, Tufts University School of Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, Department of Pharmacology, Boston, MA 02111, USA. theoharis.theoharides@tufts.edu


References regarding specific ingredients in Neuroprotek:

Middleton E Jr, Kandaswami C, Theoharides TC. The effects of plant flavonoids on mammalian cells: implications for inflammation, heart disease, and cancer. Pharmacol Rev. 2000 Dec;52(4):673-751.

Kempuraj D, Madhappan B, Christodoulou S, Boucher W, Cao J, Papadopoulou N, Cetrulo CL, Theoharides TC. Flavonols inhibit proinflammatory mediator release, intracellular calcium ion levels and protein kinase C theta phosphorylation in human mast cells. Br J Pharmacol. 2005 Aug;145(7):934-44.Kandere-Grzybowska K, Kempuraj D, Cao J, Cetrulo CL, The
oharides TC. Regulation of IL-1-induced selective IL-6 release from human mast cells and inhibition by quercetin. Br J Pharmacol. 2006May;148(2):208-15.

Kempuraj D, Tagen M, Iliopoulou BP, Clemons A, Vasiadi M, Boucher W, House M, Wolfberg A, Theoharides TC. Luteolin inhibits myelin basic protein-induced human mast cell activation and mast cell- dependent stimulation of Jurkat T cells. Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;155(7):1076-84

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cathedral in the Sky



In 1994 I volunteered with a Catholic social service organization and for three months I lived on the opposite side of a wall from some pretty cool nuns. No seriously, these nuns were super cool. So cool, in fact, that they took me to a Tony Bennett concert and swooned over the band, and when I gasped, "You're not supposed to do that", they shouted over the music: "We're nuns; not dead!"

In their order each woman renews her commitment annually. So, any given year a sister could choose to leave her original calling and start over. Though most finish out their lives in the order, I imagine they appreciate having choice built into the commitment process.

I like this idea of setting apart time to reconsider certain undertakings. Whether choice opens new doors or strengthens original commitments, either way we are in the driver's seat and not some sense obligation that may or may not still fit.

Inspired by the sisters, my first blog was formed with the intent that each year I'd choose whether or not it would continue. When that first blogiversary swung by in August 2010 I decided to take it into a second year. By November I regretted that decision.

That first year and a half of blogging found me in love with the entire process: the crafting of posts, the interest from family and friends, the supportive comments. Some people even asked me if I would write a book. Though I craved publication I just couldn't spare the time that would take. I wasn't someone who could write exceptional blog content every day. I strained. My process was slow. If I wrote every day nothing else would have gotten done around here, period.

But I wanted to get noticed oh so badly.
So I busted my butt with self-imposed deadlines, then spent hours scrubbing typos and disjointed sentences from posts rushed to publication, embarrassed and hoping nobody noticed. (And you know they did)

Then two extraordinary things happened that forever transformed my perspective on blogging.



Enter Carol Leigh Rice................





Around that time I met Carol Leigh Rice through the aptly named Shaman Portal . Carol is an Astrologer, Psychic, and author of the enchanted blog Silk Road Visions. We took  interest in each other's writing and I always enjoyed her comments. Moved by son's suffering, one day Carol was inspired to see what she might pick up intuitively about our situation. She left the following comment:


"Feeling the acute pain of AMR, I have been asking for something to pass along to you, and I am sure more is coming, but for now, this is what I have: If you are already doing it, then a confirmation, if not, perhaps something to try. It was to begin building a temple, a small cathedral perhaps, as beautiful as you can make it, however you would design it, for you and son, in the Sky. It seems
that you have the gifts, to be awakened, in the Temple, and son will
benefit...you and he apparently know "all about" the Temple, so it is almost a return..You can add all sorts of details, day by day, until it is possible to step inside, at will. But the Temple is yours to do whatever you want in it, not necessarily for 'work' and healing, though in time, you'll see.

Don't worry if son doesn't always come with you? He will most of the time, and there are things for you to do in the Temple on your own from time to time...Also, I was not given whether or not "Hubs" will come - maybe only on special occasions. This is more for you and son as your spirits are "kin" in a special way that
has to do also with genes, many lives together, down through the centuries."


I was captivated by this message, though I didn't fully understand it. And yet it made so much sense! You see, somehow Carol tapped into my passion for cathedrals. I walk into them and must resist the urge to fall to my knees in awe. It's baffling, especially since I'm not Catholic nor do I feel any pull in that direction.  Then why do I walk into a cathedral in Anywhere, U.S.A and respond as if I've just entered the Sistene Chapel?


It's weird.

So weird, in fact, that I've patterned my living room decor after cathedrals. Well, patterned my living room decor sounds a little too posh for what's happening here. It's more like the year upon year trolling of garage sales and thrift stores whereby I greedily grab up more and more fodder to feed the obsession. Remember in the movie Close Encounters when the Richard Dreyfuss character maniacally built that obelisk in his living room and the neighbors came in and were all, "Uhhhhh, What the..?"?

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Well step inside and I'll give you the tour of my very own obelisk.

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Okay, so this one is more Pagan than Catholic, but still spiritual.

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That's a fifty-five year old Catholic Bible on a hundred and seven year old radio box. I stuffed an antique door nob in where the missing dial should be, because it fit.

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Son's favorite part of the room.Photobucket

Whaaaaat? You mean you don't have a fifty pound Gothic arch mounted to your living room wall?? (In case you are wondering, yes those are real cobwebs).





There's plenty more, but you get the point.

Somehow I knew this wasn't just about Carol channeling my living room. Could this cathedral in the sky be the work of non-ordinary reality, something I'd build to the steady beat of the drum during meditation - an archetypal oasis in the continuing battle for son's health, perhaps? I decided to let the answer unfold with time. And it did.


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SON TOOK INTEREST IN THE BLOG.........


Shortly after Carol's insight son and I made some Thanksgiving dishes and I blogged about it. Suddenly he was all about the blog, sitting at my shoulder watching me crop pictures and delighting at the sight of himself on screen with the food we made. I told him if he liked we could bake and use food pictures on the website more often. He was ecstatic.


Son's enthusiasm invigorated that strained blog to new life. I was still trying to keep deadlines and this was still aggravating, but even that couldn't halt the sea shift in my attitude towards the blog. It wasn't just a place about me anymore - it was a point of connection with my Autistic son over a shared passion - cooking. He talked about wanting to be a gluten free chef when he grows up and said he wants to open a Mexican Restaurant, my minimally verbal son did. It's as if an inner world of dreams came tumbling out and and all I had to do was capture them. Whether he could ultimately grow up to be a baker or restaurant owner was not the question of the day. It was about connecting through a shared passion and we did that abundantly.


Shortly after the Thanksgiving post Carol left the following comment:


"I feel you have made a kind of temple here, of your
blog, with the writing, the pictures, and video all being sacred ritual, holding blessings and creating good "Life Feng Shui" (I made that up, but you know what I mean!) I really do feel this, that there is spiritual power in each thing you do here."




I finally got it! That blog was our Cathedral in the Sky. Son would come often, but sometimes I had things to do alone in the Temple - just as Carol saw. He was part of the cooking posts, but most were solitary entries. I didn't bring my husband often because he's a private person. It all tied together. And she's right, there was a ritualized aspect to my posts, from the pictures included and how I edited them, to my painstaking hunt for precise prose. That's why deadlines made me so cranky - if I needed two weeks to lovingly craft a post I wanted to be able to take two weeks.

We don't go to cathedral to be worshipped or gain followers. We go to connect with something beyond ourselves. In that cathedral I wanted to connect with my son. I wanted to watch him learn and grow into his love of cooking and see where it took him. I wanted to read the writings of my blogger friends and leave comments - lots of them. I wanted them to know that I treasured their words in the highest chambers of my heart. None of this could I do when constantly feeding deadlines.


And so I came to realize that what I wanted most was not what I thought I wanted at all. I didn't want to write a book. I didn't want to worry about getting a gazillion readers. I could care less about making the front pages of Blogher or SheWrites. I wanted my Cathedral in the Sky.


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We did a few more cooking posts and then that blog found its natural conclusion. We continue to bond in the kitchen, our shared sacred space. But my life had become only about struggling against Regressive Autism, and that blog, healing as it was in its time, seemed to feed that isolation. I needed a space to explore other aspects of myself, so Moonbeams and Eco-Dreams, my new Cathedral in the Sky, was born. I am building rooms for my son here too; and as I move some favorite posts from that blog over here, and create new ones, I have become somewhat of a mommy blogger again. Some stories are too important to tuck away.


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Special thanks to Carol Leigh Rice, Blogger, Astrologer, Intuitive, and phenomenal person, for helping me recognize what my heart knew but my brain couldn't translate.

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Exhale



Hubs is plotting the garden and I go outside to see how things are coming along. I am there for three minutes, maybe five. I return to find my nine year old Autistic son retching into a pool of vomit, surrounded by powdery white automatic dish detergent. I give silent thanks to the environmentalist in me who uses Seventh Generation and not Cascade with sheeting action.




Later I'm enjoying a bowl of blueberries alone in the living room when I hear, "want to hug momma", followed by the patter of feet. Son climbs into my lap and says, "a heart ". He takes my index finger and traces a heart on my forehead, then kisses it.

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