Sleeping with the Enemy

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No, the enemy I sleep with is not a dangerous husband.  My enemy is only doing what it was designed to do.  These enemy troops are likely the mold under my carpet in a senior housing apartment.  The management has agreed to replace the carpet with vinyl plank flooring.  Yeah!  (This was done quickly.  The picture above shows the new floor.)

Now here’s my story and a bit about allergies, the body’s immune system, and the national trend in flooring

Took me several years to see the pattern.  I’d go away and get over my symptoms.  Then I’d come home and they’d all start up again.  But I didn’t want to believe I was allergic to my home.  After all, I’m also allergic to tree pollen and weed pollen.  It wasn’t simple.

I’ll start when allergies first started to bother me.  I was in my sixties, had never had allergies.  Something had changed in my body and I didn’t know what.

First, though, I want to be fair to the pollen and mold and dust and mites.  They are only doing what they are supposed to do.  Along with bacteria and fungus and viruses, they are the cleanup crew nature sends to turn our used up bodies back into usable particles.  Life goes on.

Still, I wasn’t ready to have my body recycled.  I needed to know what had happened inside this body.  I didn’t want to die in mystery.

I found a doctor who put his finger on two problems that were now becoming severe.  One was that my birth only 14 months after my sister’s probably meant my mother’s body wasn’t ready to fully support the second pregnancy.  I was born skinny and screaming, she said, and only stopped when she gave me cow’s milk.  Her breast milk lacked the flora and fauna infants get from nursing.  The other source of my trouble was that my adrenals, stunted during an illness at age six, were becoming very tired and doing less and less of what adrenals do.  You need both digestive power and adrenal power for a powerful immune system.

When the flooring guy came to show me the samples and measure my apartment, he said that carpet sales are expected to drop 40% by the end of 2020.  He explained that the structure of the carpet prevents even the strongest vacuum from getting at all the dust and mold.  Looks like lots of people are finding themselves sleeping with the enemy.

Well, by the middle of this week, most of the enemy troops at my place will be carried out with the old carpet.  The new floor comes with a cushion that seals out moisture and dust and mold.  After that, I recover from my reactions, including a two-year chronic bronchial congestion.  I’ll feel well.  And you can, too.*

*Note:  I’m not a health professional.  Any statements I make here about health and the workings of the body are from a layman’s perspective.  But I have done a lot of research, something anyone can do now that we have resources at our fingertips.

 

 

 

 

Why Some Babies Fail to Thrive on Both Breast Milk and Formulas

1943 Winky and Trish

This is my big sister and me sometime after I stopped screaming.

I’m writing this post for those caught up in failure to thrive on milk or formulas and for those who have been told they were failure to thrive babies.

I don’t know much about babies who fail to thrive.  The reasons could be many, including living in a household in such turmoil that the baby couldn’t relax and take her bottle.  One young mother had to be taught to stop fighting with her boyfriend around the baby.

I have heard the story from time to time of a baby that didn’t do well on any formula and only gradually stopped crying and began to get some nourishment from whatever was tried last.  Sometimes there were months of pain and frustration for mother and baby.

My three boys each nursed for more than a year and smiled and grew.  I lived in a village in which most mothers breastfed and I watched a hundred or more children thrive with that good start.

Still, breastfeeding can fail if the mother is nervous or sick or malnourished.  Or if she had her children so close together that her body was not ready to support the second pregnancy and nursing baby.  That is apparently what happened to me.

My mother married and began her family at a time when much of the wisdom of women was abandoned for the guidance of medical doctors.  She didn’t know why I was born skinny and crying or why nursing didn’t help.  She only knew she had a screaming infant on her hands.  I can’t blame her for what she didn’t know.  Her generation lost the village needed to raise each child along with all the knowledge and support such a village  would provide.  She loved being pregnant and she loved caring for babies.  She almost never ran out of energy for family life.

None of what happened to me was her fault.  Nor were we alone.  Across our land many mothers and babies were having a hard time in a way that was traceable to over-civilization as compared to indigenous living.

Took a lot of years and and, at last, an excellent doctor for me to understand that I was skinny because my mother’s body wasn’t ready for another pregnancy and that I was screaming because her breast milk lacked the usual healthy biotics that help a baby digest.  Babies are not born with intestinal probiotics, my doctor told me.  They get the good bugs from the birth canal and from nursing.

After six weeks of frustration, Mom put me on raw cow’s milk with Karo syrup in it and I stopped screaming.  The raw cow’s milk would have had the probiotics I needed for digestion.  But for the first six weeks of my life I was my mother’s enemy.  That part of our story did not end with the cow’s milk.  We had by then been deprived of the early bonding that comes with successful breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  Let’s not let this keep happening to our families.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice.  In everything you do for your child, use your own best judgment.  I simply suggest retrieving the old wisdom that kept humankind on track for many generations.  If your infant has trouble with both breast milk and formula, you could supply the needed probiotics, or, you could try raw goat’s milk or cow’s milk, only making sure the farm is clean.  (I don’t recommend Karo syrup or any form of corn syrup, a story for another day.)

Here I am with Benjamin, who was breastfed and content.

At five days he is almost smiling in his sleep.

1972 with Benjamin

The Cave House Stories, a novel

 

The Cave House Stories, a novel, is available on amazon.  It begins,

When Ollie first saw the Cave House he wanted to move in, keeping its two shy occupants, a field mouse and a woman with waves of auburn hair falling down her back like the pelt of a red squirrel.  A streak of white flowed from her widow’s peak over her right shoulder, the squirrel’s tender belly.

He didn’t know what part of the house captivated him the most, the weathered vertical wood siding, the large front windows that looked out like kind eyes, or the way the house backed into the hillside as if there must be secret passageways deep within.  Maybe it was the simple beauty of a roof decorated with moss and ferns.

He saw the Cave House only after he’d won the shy woman’s trust in a most unusual way, by telling her a story he’d never dared tell anyone.  Even after that first story he knew, with a Zen-like acceptance, that neither the dwelling nor the woman would ever be his, any more than he could possess the wild mouse.

And then, winging acceptance back at whoever had decided Zen living meant passive living, he vowed they would all be his, the mouse that crept in from the meadow, the cardinal that sang in the lilacs, the squirrel that chattered from the trees above the Cave House, and the woman who wanted nothing to do with love.

 

https://www.amazon.com/House-Stories-Patricia-Mitchell-Lapidus/dp/1075036062/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Cave+House+Stories+by+Patricia+Lapidus&qid=1568399048&sr=8-1

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Bits and Pieces: for the writer in each of us

I have a folder where I used to collect bits and pieces of thought or a phrase I might use in some later poem or essay.  I have allowed the folder to grow stale, no recent additions.  The words in there are from more than twenty years ago.  And I can’t help wondering what I thought back then that could have been so compelling that I couldn’t let it get lost but not as important as what I was writing about then.  Time I pulled the folder out for a look.

It wouldn’t be possible even if constantly writing to put down all the thoughts that travel the mind.  And the years will change the mind.  So I expect that maybe I will enjoy an old turn of phrase, marveling that I could have been so smart when scarcely fifty years old.  I’ll be prompted to go brush my hair in case an admirer should knock on my door.  Then, at some of the scribbles I’ll think, Yikes!  Whoever wrote that nonsense had smoke in her eyes.

Now, I’m about to open the folder and see what I saved.  I’m reminded of a small child whose mother brought him to a meeting equipped with paper and crayons in a paper bag.  As we were getting started, he said, “I’m just going to reach in the bag and surprise myself.”  He got several smiles for that, and he was no trouble during the meeting.  I enjoyed knowing that according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a system of explanations about personality preferences, roughly half of all people enjoy surprises while the other half prefer knowing ahead of time what will happen.  This guy was in the surprise camp.

So am I.  Ready for surprises.  A little tingly with anticipation.

[Here there is a break while I look into the folder.]

I’m back.  I didn’t find any Yikes!  Nor any thing to set me brushing my hair for company.

I found a short poem about feeling as big as where the sight and mind can travel.  The poem is mediocre, hardly a poem at all, but the thought can be treasured.

I found a list of phrases ending in up: butter up, hold up, mess up, put up, buck up, cook up, and so on.  I may have thought the list useful.  More likely I was just having fun.

         

Some notes I puzzled over.  I think this one alludes to the burning of witches and the surrender of Christ to patriarchal Rome–with, however, the promise of a lifting of cruel social domination some day.  What I remember clearly is that when women were burned as witches it was likely that their children were fostered by parents who would teach them obedience to cruel power.  I’d try to capture this huge chapter of history in a few words.

Here’s another list of words.  Like many another writer, I have been in love with words–word sounds, word meanings, word histories, collections of similar words, words that rhyme and alliterate, words that carry a punch.

I also love color, though I can’t tell you now what the colors here signified.

Although most of my notes over time include doodles, I found only this curve in the bits and pieces folder.  (I had another folder for doodles.)  I like the last sentence here, one I seem to have addressed to all: you live by will and curious mind.

The book that Isobel Myers and Katherine Briggs wrote about personality preferences they called Gifts Differing.  The differences in our gifts is a core value and a wonderful perspective for accepting others.

I’m thankful for my interest in words and in writing.  I have a brown thumb, mostly because my attention is not on plants or anything down to earth.  I was once given a chance to learn to fly a small airplane and turned it down with a shiver.  I have little physical courage.  Writing is what I do best, or, at least, most happily.  I sometimes think there is a writer in all of us.  For whatever you care to do, I encourage your work–and play.

Tell me about your gifts.

Wild Berries Today and Long Ago

Picking berries that grow wild has obvious pleasures–and, these days, some hazards.  I’ll mention the hazards and then side with the pleasures for the rest of this blog.

The first and most obvious hazard to people in the northeast is disease-bearing ticks.  This is something new.  When I was a child we didn’t have in the woods ticks that worried us.

Another hazard could be bears and other wild creatures that browse berry patches or even live in them.  In Connecticut we have a surging population of bears, enough of a problem to prompt us to stop feeding birds in our backyards during bear season.

Once when our family hiked a mountain trail northwest of Large George in New York, we found a large blueberry patch and saw on the ground lots of bear scat.  I’m sure that when we left they came back to finish their long summer’s day meal. Those were shy bears and presented no threat.

Our berry patch is at the edge of a stretch of woods beside a parking lot.  The raspberries are almost done and the black raspberries are at their peak.  I limit myself to half a cup each day, letting others enjoy the patch.

Pictured here are black raspberries, smaller and rounder than blackberries.  If you mistake the red ones for raspberries you’ll find they don’t pull off easily as berries do when they are ripe.

Picking berries reminds me of growing up on our farm.  We went in pairs or as a family down into the woods to our favorite berry patches carrying half-gallon buckets with slender ropes through the bails and around our necks.  That left both hands free for picking.  We wore light shirts but often long-sleeved to keep the canes with their thorns from snagging our skin.  We allowed ourselves to eat some at first, but after a reasonable snack, we devoted our efforts to bringing home buckets full of raspberries to Mom to put up for the winter, saving apart some to put on our morning cereal.  We picked blueberries for eating and for pies and for preserving to make Thanksgiving pies.

When my boys were little I loved to take them picking berries.  They only had small tin cups and their tummies to fill and it was fine when they ate all they picked.  It was a meal on blueberry hill.  When we got home we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky.

There is something elemental about eating berries in the patch, reaching for a juicy one and popping it onto the tongue, pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth to squeeze out the juices.  I feel I can remember doing the same many eons ago when the only way to get berries was to go pick them, no money, no stores.  I like the way our little patch gives me something to eat for my own labor in that time-honored tradition we call gathering.  Berries have not changed.  And neither have we.

Tummy Story: a joyful life anyhow

When I was a child I wondered how old people could stand knowing that they would die soon.  I wondered whether they thought about death more than children do?  And there I was a child thinking about death.

I had my reasons.  I had a serious kidney infection at age six and lived only because of penicillin.  After that illness, I was tired a lot and my doctor and parents assumed my kidneys had never completely healed.  That wasn’t it.  My kidneys were fine.  But my adrenal glands had been so stressed they were never the same again.

My book Tummy Story is an account of the detective work it took to unravel a lifetime of poor adrenal function–as well as a history of hypoglycemia.  I hope my method will help others.  I did several things to understand this body’s history and current state of health.

1)  I made sure I knew as much as I could about what had happened in the past.

2)  I used internet resources as they became available, taking care which ones to trust.

3) I consulted the best allopathic practitioner I could find in my area.

4) I consulted the best alternative medicine doctor in my area.

5) I worked with a couple of herbalists.

Yes, research and trial treatments took time, but in the end I was able to extend my life significantly–my life as Tricia in this body.  I’m grateful.  Day after fine day  I’m surprised.  I’ll be 77 in less than a month.  When I think about that I see fireworks going off and my friends and family offering congratulations.  I wrote Tummy Story when I was 75.  What made me happy then was that I had lived long enough to find out what in tarnation had happened to me back in childhood and how it had played out through the years.

This life has been the most fun I can imagine, and the information about my health is the least of it.  So, sure, I think about dying, not with any dread but rather a deep satisfaction that I know what I know about bodies and how they work and how little they represent us.  But this one has provided me with an adventure into the ways our culture and habits both stress our bodies and offer remedies.

The update is this:  I’m still here.  I’m still using what I learned while I was writing the book:

1) You can get dizzy or lightheaded from low potassium levels and this may be caused by poor adrenal function.  I take daily electrolytes.

2) Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) causes a different sensation, including a frantic need to eat and a sense that every cell in the body is yelling “feed me or I will collapse.”  They would, too.  You can loose consciousness or have seizures from low glucose.  I carry food with me when I go out even for a brief errand.  The hypoglycemia was probably caused by corn syrup in the cow’s milk my mother gave me.  She was following doctor’s orders.  That’s what they did in the 1940s before today’s carefully made baby formulas, which still are not nearly as good as mother’s milk.

3) Corn syrup and the sugar habit that followed gave me trouble with digestion, something antibiotics made much worse.  Today my tummy struggles to digest food well enough to provide nutrients and energy–I give it all the help I can.  Inevitably some bad bacteria grow.  I take supplements to discourage those guys–and then there is the die-off, which can make me ill (toxic).  If I start feeling toxic–it’s the same feeling I remember from long ago when my kidneys quit but from a different cause–I take a supplement to rid my body of the toxicity.

4) When adrenal function is low it pays to take a supplement to supply missing hormones.  This helps with energy and whatever else the adrenals do.  Low adrenal function seems to make me more susceptible to metal and other toxins than most people so the supplement corrects that.

Today I do a juggling act, getting up each morning to the chores that must be done to feed and nourish this body.  My chores are closely timed to ensure none of the essential ingredients to the best health possible are left out.  That includes exercise, done not too strenuously so not to stress the adrenals.  And in between these motions I find time to write and do picture puzzles with friends in my elder housing building.  I take time to walk around and see the flowers and birds, to sit on my porch and read, and to visit family.  That includes six young grandchildren worth sticking around for.

Mine is a joyful life.

 

Writing a World

 

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I have been away from blogging for a few months, busy writing a novel and having that special kind of fun that comes when creating a world and filling it with characters who get up from the pages and move and talk.  No longer my puppets, the characters become my friends.  The writing took time and was absorbing.  (When I’m writing I tend to neglect chores, family, and friends.  And my blog.  I would neglect food and exercise if my body didn’t demand maintenance breaks.)

The book is at the printer now.  It will be available, after a final proof review, in late July or early August.

With the title The Cave House Stories and with an exact image in my mind of the Cave House and the surrounding meadows and forest, I decided I had to paint the cover myself.  I got more than half of the image from my mind onto the canvas.  But I’m not giving up writing to become a painter.  Chuckle.

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In short, this blog is about the writing process as nourishment for the writer and for the reader.  One writing friend said, “If you have writer’s block, you are writing the wrong story.”  I agree.  The right story will grab you and insist on being told.  It will tell you what to write.  The characters will make decisions on their own and show you a scene you hadn’t imagined for them but one that is needed and just the thing.

Meanwhile, you may pace your familiar home without noticing while you walk around inside that colorful world of the novel with its voices and gardens and special living spaces, with its conflicts and solutions (think chemical solutions, for the right approach dissolves trouble.)  You enjoy the drama even when characters make mistakes in how they treat one another, even when there is sorrow and loss.  These are real within the story and they have meaning recognizable in the many worlds or writer, novel, and reader.

In the end, a novel is a gift to the reader, a gift offered without thought of gain or fame.  A gift of that special truth that can only be spoken in story.