Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Migraine Thoughts

I was recently asked for my advice about migraines and I was struggling unsuccessfully to give a few sentences. So, here’s a brief brain dump on my experience with migraines and my thoughts.


My experience

About twelve years ago I started having periods of nausea with headaches. For the first year, I assumed it was thyroid related and did a bunch of labs / trials involving thyroid hormones without any success. I then went to a neurologist who diagnosed migraines and prescribed Sumatripitan and Aleve with every headache.  She said that I should always take them together because one addresses the neurotransmitter issue and the other the inflammation (taking one without the other would leave one of the issues and likely lead to a rebound migraine). That medication combo has worked for me for over a decade. But, she had no idea what caused the migraines and no suggestions except to take the meds and work to identify my personal triggers. I discovered that gluten was either a cause or powerful trigger for me; my migraines went from several headaches a week to several headaches a month. I found heat, motion sickness, poor sleep, stress, menstruation, and synthetic fragrances were triggers for me. I work to minimize those issues as much as possible. Luckily, all the other common food triggers including red wine, cheese, and chocolate were not triggers for me.  I have not found whever cause(s) remain that make me susceptible to migraines.  Migraines are a symptom diagnosis. Like hypertention, a symptom is described but not its cause.


Difference between causes and triggers

Whatever has lowered the threshold in my brain so that I still experience 3-4 migraine headaches each month is the cause of me getting migraines. It is likely multifactorial, so I should say, those combined factors are the cause. I do not know what they are. Over the last decade I have eliminated or ruled out many of the typical causes, but I have not found anything that has cured my migraines.  I have identified many triggers that can start a particular migraine headache and minimizing those has definitely made a huge difference in lowering my frequency of ill days.


Complicating factor: Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

According to my labs, I have Mast Cell Acgtivation Syndrome (https://mastcell360.com/what-is-mcas/). I have not found following that path very useful because the end advice is to focus on eliminating the cause for the immune system’s mast cells being overactive. I am already looking for the cause of the migraines, so I haven’t found this path to useful, but others may.


Game Plan

I have a treatment (that medication combo) that patches my migraines and I am overwhelmingly greatful to pharmaceutical companies and conventional medicine for rescuing me from hundreds of days of pain, nausau, and misery over this last decade. I have worked with a functional medicine doctor to gradually explore a huge variety of potential causes. In my case, my migraines are not causes by heavy metals, SNPs (https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/genomicresearch/snp), mold toxicity, parasites, Lyme, Epsein-Bar, root cannal infection nor a host of other common issues that are found to be root causes. I will continue to search for root causes and work with my awesome functional medicine practitioner: https://kresserinstitute.com/meet-the-adapt180-health-team/  I will not puruse the more extreme treatment interventions that can have massive side effects, because I have a current treatment that has been working beautifully for me for a decade.


Advice

So, if you’re dealing with the agony of migraines. I would suggest seeing a neurologist and getting some kind of medication that can rescue you. I would suggest finding a functional medicine doctor that will help you work through the process of hopefully identifying a root cause. (May you have more luck than I have!) I would be deeply kind to yourself because this is a symptom diagnosis that can be tricky to pinpoint and so frustrating.  I would focus on your values and the wonderful things that bring you joy in life because tracking a symptom illness that can be patched with medication is only worth so much of your time.  Happy living!



Sunday, July 5, 2020

Beauty on our Twentieth Aniversary

Crested Butte was definitely a perfect place to celebrate our twenty years of marriage and cherish time together!

Andrew dubbed Soupçon the best meal he'd ever had in his life and what an overwhelmingly delightful experience to kick off our celebration!

(Also the most expensive meal, but what an experience! The sommelier and chef came and chatted with us between every course and ohhhhh the courses!)

This is the sommelier talking talking us through the pairings!

A few snuggly photos at the end of the evening (three plus hours later)


The menu (but we also have a hand written recipe for gruyere gratin potato and there were several items in addition to the official menu)

Morning wild flower hike








Ending up at Bush Creek

An afternoon of rest and an evening of delight at Django's!

Next morning wild flower hike













Aspen Forest

Forest Stream


Wildflower meadow

Hint of the Aspen shimmer

A Bit more wildflower beauty


Exploring some back roads... um, getting a wee bit dusty!



Sound of Music moment near the top of Washington Gulch


And today we moseyed home and found our sixteen year old had done an awesome job of keeping house and was thrilled to see us! But, maybe that was because we walked in with two, large, pepperoni pizzas!

Here's to delightful celebrating and delightful home-coming.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Feeling Super Stressed! What should I do now?

Feeling super stressed! What should I do now?

I’ve recently been asked this question by a friend who was going through a rough spot and found herself unable to relax, sleep, chill-out. I thought I’d share my quick thoughts here. There is so much research around the way the body adapts to chronic stress in a way that leads to physiologic anxiety and your body actually needs to get retrained.

Invest thirty minutes each day.

My first thought was, get five minutes of “meditation” three times a day. I put meditation in quotes because I mean whatever mindfulness practice works for you that is neurologically soothing. Some people love the Headspace app. Some people love a moving meditation (Qi Gong, mindful walking, Feldenkrais). Some people can just close their eyes and visit a favorite spot in their mind, gently coming back when their thoughts wander. Whatever it is that works for you, give yourself these three moments of peaceful soothing each day.

Second thought, fresh air and sunlight for at least ten minutes. Whether that’s a city courtyard or country road, get outside for a stroll and breathe that nature feeling. It’s powerful stuff. I’m not going to put a ton of references, but PubMed is easy to search.

Finally, do a brain dump of all the things you find soothing and spend at least five minutes on one of them each day.

There you have it. Thirty minutes each day invested on retraining your nervous system that is out of practice in soothing. If you spend 16 hours every day practicing neurological-high-rev and zero soothing, it’s no surprise that that’s what your system learns and it gets bad at doing the soothing path. 

Then, all those to-do items? They can be approached from your wise frontal cortex, not your freaked out amygdala... the human brain is awesome!


Photo of a favorite place to breathe that "nature feeling" a few years ago

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Spitting Sticks

I have a dear friend who told me that we were good cows; we were both good at spitting sticks. I love this idea, but she did need to explain.

We have both dealt with medical challenges where we needed to go beyond conventional medicine to look for root-causes. When exploring those realms, one often finds resources that have mixed value. There can be awesome gems of insight and... um, less delightful things mixed in.

So, the cow analogy. A good cow excels at eating the green grass (finding and cherishing the good bits) and spitting out the sticks.  I use this metaphor often!



One of my favorite examples of this experience is this tool which is one of many personality / temperament / tendencies tests: https://my.liveyourtruth.com/freecourse/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMItri3soSO5gIVQP7jBx0HFgHIEAAYASAAEgJTkPD_BwE

(Start 5min in to the 37min, just re-watched this half hour with my son again and we delighted in how powerfully our types predict our tendencies. But, ya, hefty dose of spitting sticks!)

I have been amazed at how well I find these four types cover the spectrum of people and how much insight there is for mining. I find it more useful than Hogwarts houses or Meyers-Briggs or a dozen other categorizing tests I've done.

Of course, there's always the caveat that no system eliminates individuality and everyone makes their own choices. But, I see this as another example of the unique, Aristotelean slate that we are all born with.

(I'm a solid type 2 (secondary 1) and my husband is a type 4 and my child a type 3. We've chatted about how much that explains for our tendencies and preferences.)

But, there are references in this system to which element is associated with the types and yin / yang energies and other things that didn't provide any value to us. So, this a fun one and a useful one and free-with-an-email-address... but, for us it required being good at spitting sticks.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Parenting Career

I was recently dismissed as uninteresting because I was “not a career woman”. I’m no longer surprised and I think, in my particular case, it happens more often because I have a gentle interpersonal approach. So, I couldn’t be intensely interesting; Im just another stay-at-home mom.

For what it’s worth in the metrics, I graduated at the top of my nursing class. I have handled over twenty patients at a time as a full-time, night nurse. I can calmly, kindly, and quickly handle life and death decisions. For my special needs son, I not only coordinate a team of about a dozen professionals, I have managed his rapidly varying educational needs over the last 15 years. And, about 18 months ago, when he started to need me less intensively, I started working at a cutting-edge learning center and teaching literature online

I have treated parenting as a career. There is no doubt that it is time limited in that the career of parenting ends when the child becomes independent (even though some aspects of the roll remain). It is also true that parenting can be done flippantly or poorly in any number of ways. Although, that is true of any career. Why else would parenting be dismissed? Perhaps because it is so common? So is business. Whatever the reasons, parenting can be treated as a career and it can be an intensely rewarding one.

Career:
An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
- Oxford online dictionary

I think we can check off that parenting is "undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life". What about opportunities for progress”? If a person approaches parenting with an eager mind and a focus on nurturing improvement, there are just as many opportunities to grow as in any other career. I didn’t know how to coordinate teams or evaluate schools or develop curricula when I became a new mom. I learned how to advocate for positions in meetings where I was one voice and an unpopular one at that. I learned from constant trial and error. There is no way to approach a complete list of all the things I have learned in this career. And, even better, I learned to often enjoy the process.  I have known many women who have treated parenting as a career. I admire them and their accomplishments too.

Yes, I definitely chose parenting and I chose it as a career. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote December 20th, 2009, the day I started this blog. It is still true today, on my son's sixteenth birthday. 

I have a passion for parenting. As my career choice, I find improving this skill and relishing the process with a twinkle in my eye is supremely rewarding...
Cameron is my six year old son. High Functioning Autism puts no dent in his vim and vigor. He is solid, exuberant thinking-in-motion. I adore parenting him, even when his "spirit" is making the air sizzle.



Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Dark Time of the Soul: The First Few Years After Diagnosis


I’ve only recently realized what a dark time this was. I’ve written before about how my son was diagnosed with Autism at age three. But, what happened after that? Why does my blog start at age six? In those three years, I was struggling. I was struggling with the overwhelming challenge of what to do to help my child and, more fundamentally, with the fear of not being up to the challenge.

It’s only recently that I’ve been able to name the fear. What if I’m not smart enough, persistent enough, good enough to help my child? What if he turns out miserable and incomplete and it’s all my fault because I didn’t make the right choice. There are thousands of therapies and tens of thousands of research papers and so many recommendations to pursue. What if I miss the right one? What if I fail my child?  The anguish at even writing this is still so real.

Every choice was monumental. I remember breaking down in sobs because I wasn’t sure if I was requesting the right services in his first IEP meeting, and what if I wasn’t requesting enough, and what if I was settling for too little, and what if I hurt him in a way that couldn’t be undone? It is so scary and painful and there isn’t a reassuring answer for any parent in that situation. At least for me, “I’m doing my best” rang hollow if it wasn’t enough.  Now, I am better at being kind to myself than I was then. 

Perhaps someday I'll go back and write about those years of intensive trial and error. I think I started writing the blog when he was six because I’d seen that whatever happened, he had a road to his own happily-ever-after. He was capable of choosing and on a path that he could eventually create the life he wanted. But, when he was so little, three years before, it was all my choice and all my responsibility and I was so scared that I wouldn’t be capable enough for him to reach that goal.

I still can’t talk about that fear and that time period without tears, but at least I’ve been able to name it finally and we grew past that point. My child grew into the six-year-old featured in this blog. He became bright, vivacious, and capable of communicating and growing with joy. I became able to share all the skills I’d learned in those three years with kindness. I loved writing hundreds of posts for the blog over those next few years. (Even now, when I write rarely, it has an impressive reach. ) 

Never have I been fully aware of the dark times when passing through. I’ve always been in coping-mode. Perhaps now I’ll be able to be more aware and more kind when dealing with those experiences and perhaps my experience will help others. Being kind to oneself is a cultivated skill that can be nurtured and made strong.

My child is now fifteen. I’m faced with the stress of teaching him how to drive and guiding him through college (because he chose to do that starting at age fourteen instead of high school). I have a brilliant kid who has his own set of challenges, but parenting this teen is not nearly the challenge of parenting my three-year-old, Autistic preschooler who didn’t know how to relate to the world and depended on me entirely. 

What if my teen is too cocky and fails a college class? He’ll lose a bunch of money and have different choices.

What if he makes a driving error? He has the same risks as any adult and we are being super-sure he is well prepared.

What if his tendency toward black or white thinking loses him friendships or dates and causes him pain? He’ll develop his social skills in his own time frame and live with the consequences.

What if he gets fired from a job because he’s so blasé about hygiene? He will learn.

There is nothing—nothing—in parenting my child as a teenager that compares to the stress and agony of parenting him as a preschooler.

For those who are facing what I faced then, my heart goes out to you. I wish you the greatest kindness that you can muster for yourself and a family / friend network of support. For those who are facing the typical battles of teen-ness and now is your hardest time, I wish you the same.

I will close with the status update that I just sent out to my son’s educational team. I coordinate about a dozen providers to help support him right now, but I doubt he’ll need that much longer.  Here’s to self-kindness through the dark times of the soul.

Status update:

Hello everyone,

Cameron is now two weeks into his second year of concurrent enrollment. Last year, he succeeded beautifully in both semesters; he obtained 23 college credits and made the college’s Dean’s List. We did face several challenges which the team was able to address; the issues were mostly around communication with teachers and accurate self-assessment.

This semester, he is enrolled in thirteen college credits and one class at the high school. He has not received any grades yet, but seems super motivated to stay ahead. He decided that he was too cocky last year and barely pulled his grades up from C’s after several failing grades in assignments. He is motivated to avoid that struggle again. 

He continues to struggle with adequately assessing the challenge of pre-planning for longer projects. However, he will get extra practice with that this semester since his literature class does not begin until October and will thus be conducted in an extra-concentrated time frame.

As usual, I ask that you contact me if you see anything failing. He has a very hard time admitting when something is going wrong. He has a tendency to go from denying a problem to rapidly spiraling into helplessness. As a team, we have consistently been able to help him grow and succeed.

Outside of school, he spent part of the summer being a Counselor In Training (CIT).  That was a huge stretch for him to transition from camper to staff, but he succeeded with some growing pains. He continues to volunteer as the vice-president of the Parker Chess Club and he recently topped several fourteeners with ease… he has quite the climbing abilities! As far as standardized testing, he got 1280 (99th percentile) on his first attempt at the PSAT this spring. Thanks for helping him overcome his challenges to soar! He really benefits from this caring team!

Rachel


















Yes, here's to self-kindness and to my beautiful child who will choose his own path.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Such A Year of Growth!

I send a status update to my son's team about three times a semester. It keeps us all aware of where the challenges are and supporting his growth. I just sent out the last one for this school year and I'm pondering what an amazing year of growth this has been. Not many kiddos start college at 14, but he did. And he succeeded. It took lots of caring and support and a ton of work on his part, but it happened.  I'm feeling a bit of a glow of a year with challenges well met.

Hello team,

Cameron has now completed his second semester of taking three courses at the Community College of Aurora (via concurrent enrollment) and one at Colorado Preparatory Academy. It’s been quite a dual freshman year in high school / college for him and he has learned a ton. The biggest challenge that I currently see him facing is an overconfidence in his ability to assess his own knowledge. He’s had the “I know this” self-evaluation result in anything from A’s to F’s throughout the semester, yet he is adamant in trusting that assessment without taking time to confirm it. I’d say that’s pretty typical for a fifteen year old and he’s learning in an atmosphere of warmth and caring with this team. Over the semester, there were several classes that he was in danger of failing, but you helped him figure out a successful path and grow. Multiple times I’ve heard him pondering and saying things like, “I was too cocky.” That he feels safe enough to eventually admit challenges and grow is a testament to your teaching.

Chemistry
He says, "When I was taking the chemistry exam, I really had a feeling that it was all connected like I hadn’t before the test. It was really nice. I’d gone over all the tests and quizzes right before and there were some things that I didn’t understand, but most things I managed to get pretty solid. During the exam, things weren’t in order. It was all over the place. It’s all connected. I considered things as a whole and got better at seeing the relationship between things.”
His course page says he got 79.78% in the class; I’m not sure if that rounds to a B. Either way, he has learned so much and has a solid start in understanding this science.

Math
He says, “I should have kept the reviews. I would have gotten an A on the final if I’d had those. I still got an A in the class. Note to self keep all the reviews. I felt I understood everything before each test and I feel ready to move on to the next level.”
Although he did get a C on the final, he spent the entire semester near the the top of the class. He thrived on the intensive amount of graded homework and quizzes. By the time he got to each test, he knew the material solidly. It sounds like he also learned about the need for reviewing earlier material before a final. He got 1050/1100 points, a solid A.

English
He says, “Read rubrics more carefully and write and outline before you do the real thing. Also, try to do it a bit ahead of time so I can run it by Dad. I think the learning process was figuring out how to do these different kinds of papers."
This was another course in which he was struggling. He thought he’d done a good job on early papers and wound up with a C and a D. It was awesome to see our team-work bring him out of a frustration / helplessness spiral. He barely squeaked an A in this course (90.13%), but what an accomplishment! 

PE
He says, “I liked taking my neighborhood walks and my martial arts counting as PE time.”
Although I seemed to need to remind him to submit his PE logs every week (when they popped up on my radar as overdue), he completed all the material in this course and I think the movement was highly beneficial.  He received over 100% in the class.

Thank you so much for helping Cameron succeed,

Rachel Miner

P.S. He was featured in a local newspaper for his work with the local chess club:
"Nearing 9 p.m. at Douglas County Libraries' Parker branch on April 18, some faint shouting could be heard coming from a conference room on the second floor. As the library announced it was closed, a group of kids, originally three that grew to a team of six, battled one teenager in the final game of chess for the evening. It ended in a draw as employees began to put away tables.
It's not uncommon to see this 15-year-old, Cameron Miner, take on an army of elementary-aged kids in chess just to bring him down. There's a sense of pride in defeating their mentor. It has to happen, just once, each week.
“It's one of the few games in which there's no luck,” Miner said. “You have to do it well, and it goes so far. There are so many levels of play and you can get so much better.”
Miner is the vice president of the Parker Chess Club, a group dedicated to teaching chess to anyone who walks in the door. He's just one of the club's members, who loves to compete and teach kids chess — and although sometimes he admits he underestimates his opponents, seeing his lessons pay off is special…"


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Self Care Gems

When I was setting out to write a blog post about self-care, I was surprised to realize that I already had! If you take this post on romantic "extras" and mostly just replace "romantic" with "self-care", it's perfect!

The points are the same with the tiniest of tweaks. Allow me to do some wee substitutions:
Wanting to do self-care actions isn't the challenge for most people thought, it's figuring out how to make that happen over a lifetime.
It's fun!
It's work!
It's worth it!
Happy people know it's fun to enjoy these self-care moments and they also know that it doesn't just happen, it takes work to make them happen. Finally, it's worth it. This person is the one you live with every day. If you want the best possible joy in your life, it's worth the investment in self-care practices.

(Feel free to read the original post if you think tips would be helpful to you; the tips are also the same with the tiniest tweaks: find out what makes you feel cared for, always be collecting, schedule.)

So, since I've already written about both the why's and how's of self-care in that round-about way, on to some of the gems of self-care that I've found!

Qi Gong
There are so many options and I've loved almost every one of them. Qi Gong is a soothing movement practice that feels wonderful! I've done classes, but my current practice is only about 30 seconds long because I do it when I let the dog out in the morning. I step onto the deck and and breath in as I sweep my hands up to my heart and then breath out as I flip them up and reach to the sky. Then I breath in bringing them back toward my heart and out as I sweep them down toward my feet again. I usually get in about two rounds and, when the dog comes running back for breakfast, I move them in a small circle at heart level and picture surrounding myself with my current word of the year (kindness). Then I look around and think or say, "Good morning, beautiful world." Ahhhhh, feels awesome and so nurturing. Youtube has tons of options if you want to play with Qi Gong.

Tapping
Whenever I have an emotion that is looping and I'm having a hard time thinking, this is my favorite technique. I just talk through the feelings while tapping and I find myself soothed and able to process more clearly. I do a tiny bit every day though because it just feels so good!

Feldenkrais
I loved doing Feldenkrais classes when I lived in Santa Cruz, but my new favorite way of enjoying this movement / awareness therapy is through audio recordings. I especially love the Embodied Learning series by Elizabeth Beringer. This is another one that you can find lots of Youtube videos available though to check out first. I never fail to feel the full-body cozies after taking time to do Feldenkrais.

And... lots more!
While those are the more unusual gems that I've found, I also adore:
Epsom salt baths with whatever oils hit the spot
Sauna glee (I've got this little, pocket one.)
Walking in nature (I miss the ocean and redwoods, but the Colorado pines have grown on me.)
Massages (Lowen or four-handed are my favorites, but I do something at least once a month.)
Poetry (I've got a half dozen memorized of my most deeply held favorites and cherish many others.)
Stretches / foam rolling  (wherever it feels good)
And sometimes my usual pleasure in singing, baking, or photo-booking can be solidly in the self-care category too.

If you have come across unusual self-care gems, I'd love to hear about them.

Paraphrasing my prior article again:
It's worth it! Nourishing your relationship with self-care "extras" is worth the investment. I get a bit enthusiastic about this topic because I have so much fun with these extras! A relationship with yourself nourished by these extras sparkles and gives you the full delight of a life that is fueled for your enjoyment of living. If that is the kind of life you want, self-care "extras" are not really extra.

(Disclaimer: There are practitioners that make extravagant claims about what Qi Gong, Feldenkrais, and Tapping do. I'm simply stating that they feel glorious to me and make me feel nurtured.)


Friday, January 11, 2019

Snow Day Plus Cinnamon

When outside looks like this...


















... and work calls a snow day and you've been curious about this...


















... this might happen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Teary Ponders

Andrew has been working late and so I had a chance to finish a YouTube series on poetry. I had multiple teary episodes as I experienced the beautiful poetry. As just a hint, imagine a friend dear to you and watch three minutes, time stamp 19:35 - 22:15 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUtv7K1Pzyw&feature=youtu.be&utm_source=bluehornet&amp=&utm_medium=impactweekly&amp=&utm_campaign=12062018

After pondering the beautiful poetry, I was feeling primed to complete something I'd saved to do. It was a New Year's exercise from a lady thriving for years with inoperable, stage four cancer ( https://kriscarr.com/ ). Since, I was already in a pondering mood and teary, I decided to answer the seven questions she suggested.

Year 2018

1. What’s something amazing you discovered about yourself?
I can grieve gently. I grieved for the friends and life I left in the Santa Cruz mountains, but I didn’t get depressed. I just let myself feel those feeling with compassion and without dwelling. I didn’t know I could do that.

2. What’s the most important thing you learned this year?
That I had a pattern of holding myself to unrealistic standards and judging myself not good enough. I wasn’t a good enough Jew, nurse, mom. I hadn’t realized that while having generally good self-talk, I’d been repeatedly cruel and unfair to myself in these big categories.  It’s been so liberating to realize and focus on both being just and practicing self-kindness.

3. What accomplishment or experience are you the most proud of?
That’s really hard to answer because there were many successes this year. I am proud of nurturing Cameron to thrive as a freshman starting dual high school / college at the age of 14. I’ve used my skills coordinating a team of therapists and teachers to help him gain the confidence to grow even more. He’s still a teen with lots of grumbly and prickly ways, but he is growing and he feels loved and cherished every day and that’s a serious accomplishment.

4. What’s one perspective shift you could make that would lead to more love in your life and in the lives of others?
In general, I’ve found that gentleness is a wonderful thing. Treating myself and others with gentleness is not a lack of drive, interest, or energy; it is a powerful, soft strength.

5. What are you ready to release in 2018?
As many teen-battles as I can figure out how to! This week, it was the folding-laundry battle from which I resigned waving the white flag.

6. What are you ready to experience in 2019?
Consistent self-kindness

7. How will you challenge yourself (push yourself out of your comfort zone) to achieve what you desire in the new year?
I would like to gain more confidence in my barbershop singing skills. I have a glorious time singing for hours around the house, but there’s so much detail and control and thoughtfulness in singing well with a chorus. I’ve been at it for three years and still feel like quite the novice. I’d like to make enough of the details automatic through practice that I can participate at a higher level with relaxation… and feel confident that that higher level will stick.


So, here's to teary ponders. It has been quite the evening for reflection. May your new year be filled with "love, laughter, and hugs".