Wise Woman Way

Through the Looking Glass

So here’s what happened…

Every once in a while, I would have to pee so badly that I totally wet my pants.  Gross.  But, hey, who doesn’t misjudge that every once in a while, right?  And then sometimes when I’d cough, I’d shoot a little pee into my britches.  Dang it, I must be really sick.  And then, I started a new thing where I was leaking a few drops of pee right after I’d just finished peeing.  Wait a minute.  Wait just one fucking minute.  That’s a lot of pants wetting.  Holy shit, I’m incontinent at 40.

Oh, hell no.

I panicked for a minute.  Then I did nothing.  I went to bed.  I breathed.  I cried a little, and I let that be okay.  I napped.

When I was finished doing nothing, I started gathering information.  My herbal mentor Susun Weed has a new book, “Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way.”  I have all her other books (autographed of course, thankyouverymuch), but I hadn’t bought this one yet.  Pissing myself was a clear indication that I needed help “down there.”  I ordered the book.  I looked up some basic information on incontinence and bladder problems.

Gathering information also meant examining my lifestyle.  Here’s what it boiled down to, kids:

I began every day with 4-5 cups of strong coffee on an empty stomach.  Of course I never ate breakfast, because for some reason (sarcasm!) I wasn’t hungry.  When I finally ate something, even though it might be nutritious, I’d have to wash it down with tea or diet soda.  And then have lots more tea and/or diet soda throughout the afternoon.  By late afternoon, I was always tired and wired.  Clearly I needed a glass of wine.  Of course, what started out as a glass or two a night quickly escalated into an entire bottle.  Every night.  After which I would pass out until 2 or 3 am.  At which time I would wake up SO thirsty and have to go make myself a glass of ice water.

Every day.  And every night.  I don’t have to be a doctor to understand how unhealthy this is.  The Herban Cowboy, bless his heart, kept trying to find a reason for my incontinence besides me.

“I’ve heard that it can be triggered by a virus!”
“Seriously dude?  You think it’s a virus instead of the copious amounts of kidney poison I ingest on a daily basis?”
“Fine.”

So now I was a little better organized, mentally.  I knew what I needed to stop putting into my body, and I knew what I needed to give my body to nourish it.  Now it was time to put it into practice.

At the beginning of October, I stopped drinking wine, coffee, soda, and tea.  Instead I drank strong herbal infusions of nettle, linden, and comfrey leaf.  I’d gotten into terrible habits of buying pre-packaged convenience food, fast food or other restaurant food.  So I stopped eating at restaurants, and made food at home, eliminated snack food, and stopped eating after 9pm.  I also started doing pelvic clenches (kegels) several times a day to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles.

Yay for me!  Oh wait no.  First there was withdrawal.  Horrible, horrible withdrawal.  Keep in mind, I have been a hardcore caffeine addict since 1987. Mountain Dew was my gateway drug, that evil temptress, and I have been chasing buzzes ever since.  So this was a BIG DEAL.  I tried to taper off gradually, but I still got slammed by headaches that seemed to SOAK my brain in pain.  For days.  Extreme fatigue, confusion, cloudy thoughts, nausea, shaking, sweating, anxiety, and never-before-seen levels of irritability.  The only thing that kept me from backsliding was knowing that it would only be a matter of time before I’d have to face this AGAIN.  No thank you.  As Winston Churchill once said, “When you’re going through hell, KEEP GOING.”

I worked through a lot of feelings.  Anger at myself for allowing my health to deteriorate to this level.  Shame at being caught in a preventable state of health.  Humiliated at having to face myself.  Grief at having to stop a lifestyle that felt so GOOD.  Jealous because others get to enjoy things that I have to STOP enjoying.  Facing selfish feelings of “It’s not fair!”  Wanting to scream and cry and hit things.

I didn’t feel “right” again for almost two weeks.  I thought I’d never make it.  But I did.  I have the Herban Cowboy to thank for most of it.  He made me my “witch’s brew” herbal infusions every night.  He did mountains of dishes and took out loads of trash.  He did laundry and made dinners and played with Little Boy.

Goofing off at the Piggly Wiggly. No more restaurant food. We get our food from grocery stores, farmers markets and backyard gardens.

Since the withdrawal has ended, I’ve found it easier to cope with the loss of habits that were destructive, but nevertheless I enjoyed immensely.  And even though it’s only been a month, I’m already starting to see HUGE differences.  I’m sleeping better than I have in years.  The pants wetting incidents have stopped altogether.  My family is eating better foods, and we’re eating more meals together.  We are saving incredible amounts of money on NOT buying wine, coffee, soda, tea, and restaurant food.  And I no longer have to take ibuprofen daily for lower back pain.

Olive oil, onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, kale, and sausage. Behind my “Haiti” mortar and pestle is the homemade bread we ate with it. I’m getting spoiled on homemade food.

I still have a long way to go in building optimal health.  I have to make my new habits as hard to break as my old habits.  I have to get more exercise, even though I bike and walk everywhere.  I have to wait for my goldenrod tincture (5 weeks until I can strain and use it) to support urinary health.  And I have to be patient with myself, and remember that healing is an action verb.

Wild goldenrod flowers chopped up in a mason jar. Add 100 proof vodka, let sit 6 weeks, then strain into a dropper bottle. Goldenrod tincture, taken by the dropperful.

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Categories: Telling Stories, Wise Woman Way | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going Viral

Rawr Mommy! I'm a vampire! Mommy? Why are you moving so slowly Mommy?

Little Boy picked up a virus a few days ago.  A day of being whiny and watching DVDs in bed, a little runny nose, humidifier in his room, lots of snuggles.  No big deal.

Until it hit my big body.  Now my throat, nose and sinuses hurt, I’m achy all over, swollen glands in my neck, skin hot and cold, coughing and sneezing.  I hate everything.  And of course Little Boy is fine today.  Will the virus run its course in 3 days for me, too?  I doubt it.

As crappy as I feel, I am grateful for my possum living lifestyle on days like today.  I don’t have to dose myself with OTC drugs that mask symptoms, but seem to lengthen the duration of illness.  I don’t have to get dressed up and go to a job, pretending to function all day long.  I don’t have high pressure deadlines to reach.  I always hated that about the world of work.  Even if you’re sick, you have to show up, since the office/store/restaurant only scheduled the bare minimum of people to cover all the work that needs to be done.  If you take a sick day, every one of your co-workers has a shittier day picking up your slack.  And even when you own your own business, you’ve got to show up, since everything grinds to a halt or explodes if you look away for five minutes.

So I’m taking a real sick day.  The kind every person should be entitled to in order to nourish their health.

The view from the glider bench in my Green Goddess Garden.

First of all, I’ve made a little nest in my bed.  Laptop, tissues, linden infusion (yum!), cell phone, book.  Little Boy is watching Dino Dan and drawing.  In a little while, he’ll bring a stack of books and workbooks to do some school while snuggling in bed with Mommy in our jammies.  Whenever I can drag my butt into the kitchen, I’ll start a pot of chicken soup with an organic chicken I got for free because it was freezer burned.  Maybe we’ll sit outside later for some fresh air and sunshine.  Lots of strong herbal infusions, lots of rest, lots of responsibility shirking.

I feel very fortunate today.  My only regret is that I can’t take ibuprofen for my body aches, because it will get rid of my low grade fever, which I’m using to burn the viruses out of my miserable body.

 

Categories: Possum Living, Unschooling, Wise Woman Way | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Coffee Confessions

I love coffee.  Most of my friends love coffee.  A few of them even post coffee love poems and jokes about it on Facebook.  Coffee is full of anti-oxidants, and studies have suggested that moderate amounts can help with everything from diabetes to suicide prevention.  It’s a magic potion that bestows energy and life upon its consumer.  Ambrosia of the gods, if you will.

One of my friends loves coffee so much, she made this her profile picture.

I have romanticized coffee in my mind.  And I still think it’s ambrosia of the gods.  But the key phrase in that last paragraph was “moderate amounts.”  If you know anything about me, it’s that “moderation” is just not my thing.  Here’s how I have allowed coffee to take over my life like an abusive boyfriend….

First thing in the morning, make a pot of coffee.  Three cups at least.  I tell myself I need this much because of all the chores I have to do around the Homestead.  Make food, do laundry, water the garden, rake the chicken yard, sweep/clean the carport, transplant seedlings, wash dishes.  I’m going to need that coffee buzz to get all that done.

Sad, but true.

But before I get started, I’ll just have one cup of that coffee.  Ooo, I can check my email while I’m having my coffee.  Good idea.  Then I’ll get going on the chores.   After my first cup, I’m not quite buzzed enough, so I decide to get a second cup and troll Facebook.  For just a little while.  I should eat something, but the coffee has killed my appetite and even made me slightly nauseous.  Hm.  Well, I’m not going to eat while I feel like this, so I’ll have that third cup of coffee.  And maybe work on one of my writing projects.  In between trips to the bathroom of course.  We’ll leave that detail at that, shall we?

But first I will run to the bathroom.

This is how my morning falls down the rabbit hole of coffee and computer.  By the time I look up, it’s almost lunchtime and I’ve been sitting on the couch for hours, drinking four cups of poop potion and not eating anything nourishing.  Then I feel overwhelmed, the To-Do List only gets half done, I’m tired and nauseated and I feel guilty and stupid for blowing my entire morning.

This scenario happens EVERY MORNING, and is one of my dirty little secrets.

Find the man's face in the beans!

I’ve given up coffee here and there over the years, but I always come back.  It’s so easy to tell myself that I’ll just have the coffee maker at home in case guests come over.  That even if I do make some coffee, I’ll only have one cup.  That I won’t use it as an excuse to sit and waste time.

The bottom line is, drinking coffee is stressing my kidneys & adrenals, wrecking my digestion, wreaking havoc on my hormones, encouraging wastefulness, draining my bank account, and supporting an unsustainable industry.  I’m starting to get the message that maybe I should probably someday kinda sorta …stop drinking coffee.

There I said it.

Put the mug down and back away slowly.

 

Categories: Possum Living, Wise Woman Way | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Journeywoman

I cannot complain about my childhood.  I had a close nuclear family, an extended family with deep roots, I was well educated, and my parents went to great lengths to fill the years with vacations, museums, theatre, Sunday school, music lessons and sports teams.  Because my dad was in the Air Force, I even got to travel all over the US, Europe and the Middle East.  I’m grateful for every bit of it, and I wouldn’t change a thing (even the poopy bits).

True story.

Even so, the childhood I was gifted with was not the life I would have made for myself.  I appreciated the trappings of modern life, such as running water, electricity and toilet paper, but I dreamed of a wilder life.  Why did everyone drive cars?  Horses are so much nicer, and they go slow enough for you to see what’s blooming on the side of the road.  Why do I have to go to school?  Can’t we have a tribe where the children learn to do what the adults do?  Why are buildings so big and ugly and smelling of chemicals?  Couldn’t we just sleep in tents outside?  Why can’t we live with dogs and cats and rabbits and birds and horses?

My mother told me the things I wanted to do cost lots of money.  My father told me I wouldn’t be happy without toilet paper and running water.  I didn’t quite believe my parents.  Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t have any money and she seemed pretty happy without toilet paper and running water.  But what did I know?  I figured once I wasn’t a kid anymore I’d know what I wanted to do.

But then 17 happened, and suddenly everyone wanted to know where I was going to college, what I was going to major in, what career field had I chosen?  Shit.  I’m supposed to be a grownup now, but when someone would ask me, “What do you want to DO?” all I could think of were green forests, swimming in rivers, riding horses, sleeping in hammocks, wearing almost nothing, foraging, hiking, and finding a partner to do it all with.

Yep.

I wanted to be a cowgirl.  An adventurer.  A witch.  A pirate.

But these were not offered as majors at any colleges (that I knew of).  I tried to get a degree, have a career, get married, have a car and a house and babies.  Turns out I suck at that kind of a life.  It took me 7 years and 3 colleges to get a BFA, my first marriage crashed and burned like a moth in a bugzapper, and I chose a career as an actor (guess how that went!).  Plus it turns out that I hate cars and houses and babies.

In college, learning mad life skillz.

It’s been about 12 years since my old life exploded.  I’ve spent most of that time as a beginner.  A student.  An apprentice.  I let go of the things that weren’t truly me, like the first husband, the car, the career, and lots of beliefs that I was holding onto for no good reason.  I read as much as I could about the topics I was interested in, like feminism, horses, gardening, frugal living, simplicity, minimalism, biology, mythology, cooking and food.  I took jobs that offered me experience and benefits and education while paying me:  a carriage tour company, a riding stable, an organic grocery store, landscaping with a master gardener.  I took opportunities to learn in new ways:  I went to massage school, I attended alternative healing conferences and lectures, I apprenticed with herbalist Susun Weed at her Wise Woman Center in upstate New York.

It’s only in the last few years that I’ve stopped feeling like a beginner.  The books are all repeating themselves, I’ve been to all the lectures, I don’t need more classes or degrees.

But I’m not an expert either.  I don’t have enough experience as a wild witch pirate cowgirl.  The living hasn’t quite caught up to the believing, as Peace Pilgrim would say.  I’m not yet living in my horse drawn gypsy caravan, cooking over a fire, fishing for my dinner and pooping on the compost pile.  I’m working on it, but these kinds of skills don’t come from library books — I have to practice them.  Practice the crafts until I master them.

Fishing!

I’m not sure how long it will take me to become a Master Herban Cowgirl.  Thank goodness the practice is so much fun.

Categories: Possum Living, Telling Stories, Wise Woman Way | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Magic of Boredom

Bored.

I get bored easily.  When I was a little girl, my constant complaint was, “I’m bored.”  To which my mother would reply brightly, “Well, then go find something to do!”  This response always irritated me.  Geez Mom, thanks.  Find Something To Do.  That’s brilliant.  As if I haven’t already been scouring my room, my yard, my books, my brain for SOMETHING that inspires me to play.  Cue dramatic eye roll.

Clearly it’s my superior intellect (from my amazing giant brain) that keeps me so bored and restless.  Or it’s because I’ve watched too many movies and TV shows in my life, creating a false set-point for my expectations of my life’s experiences, dooming me to an existence of perpetual dissatisfaction.  I blame Saturday morning cartoons in the 70s.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know how to deal with my boredom and it drove me crazy sometimes.  As an adult I started to ask questions of my boredom, to follow it and listen to it.  Why am I bored?  Do I want something?  Do I expect something?  The answers are different every time, but it was learning to question my boredom, following where the answers went, that I was able to crack the code of myself.  I learned what I like, what I want in my life, what works, what doesn’t.

Bored, bored, bored.

This is where the magic of boredom meets the glory of naps.  Napping when I’m bored gives me some time in that in-between consciousness place, where I can worry about my boredom while letting go of the frustration about it.  Go to my bed.  Breathe.  Stretch.  Relax.  Sleep.  Even if I’ve only got 5 minutes for a nap, if I’m bored enough I go there.  It’s like meditation for lazy people.

Listening to my boredom has led me to activities that offer endless possibilities and challenges:  gardening, horses, theatre, puppetry, writing, unschooling, wildcrafting, keeping chickens, fishing, and on and on and on.  Boredom has led me to learn about and try new things.  Some things have been dead ends (hello massage school!), but even the stuff I tried and pooped out on I had fun trying and learned a LOT.

I now see boredom as the calm before the storm of creative inspiration.  It’s what happens right before I learn something amazing, do something fun, experience something thrilling, make something happen.  It’s almost a relief to experience it now.

Wolverine says, "Find something to do, Bub!"

So when my 4 year old Little Boy drapes his body heavily across my lap, sighs dramatically and announces, “I’m BORED, Mommy.”  I smile at him, hug him and say cheerfully, “Well, then find something to do!”

And just like that I’ve turned into my mother.

Categories: Do Nothing, Telling Stories, Unschooling, Wise Woman Way | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Glory of Naps

Just give me, like, 20 minutes...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was busy this morning.  I’ll be busy this evening.  Also I’m tired and hormonal and my feet hurt.  SO… I’m forgetting the dishes, moving the clean laundry pile from the bed to the vanity (oh yes I did) and carving about 20 minutes out of the day for a nap.

Naps are glorious and necessary for mental and physical health.  I take them every chance I get.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a brief date with semi-consciousness.

Good nap is good.

Categories: Do Nothing, Wise Woman Way | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Lazy Dinner

Since I hate cooking, when I get busy or tired (or both), I don’t feel like making dinner, okay?  Preparing food is the last thing I want to do.  I don’t want to wash things.  I don’t want to chop things.  I don’t want to stir and sweat and stand.  It’s late in the afternoon, and I just want to sit with my feet up.  Either on the couch, knitting to a funny, brainless video, or out in the garden, with the chickens pecking around my feet.  Also there would be wine.

I want someone to make ME dinner.  I want food to magically appear in front of me, with no dishes to wash afterward.  Is that really too much to ask?

So a couple nights a week we have Lazy Dinner.  Sometimes it’s boxed mac & cheese with frozen peas stirred in.  Sometimes it’s a frozen pizza from the gas station across the street (don’t judge me).  Tonight it’s organic frozen fish sticks and steamed green beans.  Dipped in ranch dressing.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to bring myself to cook again.  (*dramatic hand to back of forehead*)

Categories: Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, Wise Woman Way | Leave a comment

Me, me, me, me, meeeeee!

Drank that cheap wine GURL!

I should be making dinner.  But the crazy lady I sometimes work for took Little Boy to dance class with her granddaughter (his best friend “O”), and Herban Cowboy won’t be home from work for another 45 minutes.  I have a sudden, silent hour.  So I’m drinking cheap wine and knitting up a kerchief thingy for my hair.  My old cat Mojo is curled up beside me on the couch.

Once my buzz kicks in (it’s a big glass), I’ll head into the kitchen, turn on the iPod, and sing Duran Duran songs while I fry up some country steak, bake some french fries, and steam a little broccoli.

And who cares if dinner is 20 minutes late when Mommy is so, so happy?

 

Categories: Just For Fun, Kitchen Witchery, Stitchin' Bitchin', Wise Woman Way | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Lazy (Crazy) Sunday Morning

Savannah is quiet on Sunday mornings.  I don’t sleep in, because The Boy gets up at the crack of dawn.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  And he must come snuggle with me, which means singing little songs and pretending to be various animals and superheroes and aliens while somehow managing to kick me in the stomach and smash my boobs.  Every.  Single.  Morning.

I’m pretty fucking cranky this morning.  It rained all night long (I mean ALL NIGHT LONG) and now it’s cold.  The kitchen was left a mess, which seemed okay last night, but now is incredibly wrong.  Everything The Husband says this morning is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.  Every noise my child makes gives me the urge to scream.  I just want to be left alone.  And there are tiny red pimples on my forehead like I’m 13.  According to my internal calendar, I should start some time tomorrow.

Fortunately, my Herban Cowboy is not an actual idiot, no matter what my hormones are telling me today.  He leapt into action quickly, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash and recycling, and making a giant pot of coffee.  THEN he made scrambled eggs and toast.

He has now escaped back to the Boy’s room, where they are watching something with Wolverine and drawing pictures of robots.

I feel like some sort of volcano goddess, who has spent the morning with the natives tossing virgins at me to appease my angry fire.  But now I’m left alone with a full belly and a fresh cup of coffee.  I am so, so spoiled.

Now that I have my brain for a minute I’m working out a plan for the day.  The yard is wet from last night’s rains, and it will be chilly today, but the clouds are already clearing up and it should be beautiful by afternoon.  There are some chores to catch up on:  laundry & dishes, sweep & vacuum.  Other than that it’s all fun stuff.  Plant seeds.  Pull weeds to feed to the chickens.  Rake pine straw for mulch and the chicken yard.  Pick chickweed to add to salad for lunch.

The thunderstorms started yesterday after we’d finished mulching all the veggie beds.  I took a few pics…

Pine straw raked from the roof of our house. We use it to mulch our veggie beds. Old mulch gets thrown into the chicken yard for them to scratch around in and compost for us.

Sprouting pea plant. The "container" is a square cinder block I found at the dump. The stake is an old curtain rod. Plant marker is a craft stick from the dollar store.

Freshly mulched veggie beds. Little Boy is making mud pie soup in a bucket. Such a helper.

It's too cool to plant tomatoes yet, but when we do, they'll go in these tire beds. Tomato cages were second hand from my mom.

Where we have our picnic lunches.

The first early bearing strawberries. We better put netting over that bed before the birds beat us to them.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, Telling Stories, The Homestead, Wise Woman Way | Leave a comment

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