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KCAT Exclusive Story! Lotus rebounds: Expects to make full recovery!

April 18th, 2015

(Des Moines, IA) In an unplanned press conference this morning, KCAT reporters photolearned that Lotus Clark, the eight-month old Maine Coon kitten being parented by Sheree Clark, actually chased a ping-pong ball on Saturday.

Though ordinarily not a newsworthy event, the ping-pong occasion is evidence of Lotus’ recovery from an illness that had lasted for several weeks. The cause of the illness remains unknown, but was marked by a gradual—and then rapid—decline in the mobility of the kitten. While at first simply showing a tendency to tire more easily, a pivotal downturn came on a weekend evening in mid-March, when the young cat became unable to walk more than a few steps. An emergency trip to the veterinarian ultimately led to a referral to veterinary specialists at Iowa State University, as well as a consultation with Michigan State University, as experts sought to find the cause of the mystery ailment.

At the lowest point in his illness, Lotus became unable to successfully navigate the litter box by himself, relying on Sheree for assistance. (At Lotus’ request, additional details about this facet of his condition are not available.)

In a tearful statement to KCAT, Sheree recounts, “I was beside myself not knowing where to turn. Lotus is ordinarily so congenial and to see him being lethargic and disinterested was just torture…it was like having a pet turtle or something.”

This mornings’ breakthrough came after weeks of at-home care by Clark, guidance by the veterinary team and support from friends of the Clark family. Diet modifications, supplements, physical therapy, rest and sunshine, as well as weekly acupuncture treatments combined to restore the kitten to what Sheree estimates is “about an 85% recovery.” She has confidence in full restoration of the prowess of the male cat. “Well,” she adds, I mean he is neutered, so…let’s say substantial restoration of his abilities.”

Asked what his plans are now that he is once again agile, Lotus responded by kicking the vent cover off the duct in Clark’s kitchen. “Be careful what you wish for,” murmured his Mom.
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Although written tongue-in-cheek, the above is actually a true story (including the part about the vent cover!). If you follow me on social media you might have noticed that my posts about Lotus had decreased. I was in such a funk and so desperate trying to figure out what was wrong with him, I couldn’t even talk about it, except to a very few close friends.

With a lot of luck, patience, prayer and support, I am confident enough to now say I think we are on the other side of the challenge. I wanted to share this news as a means of celebration and also to be able to acknowledge a few of the cadre of professionals who showed such huge hearts and compassion as Lotus and I maneuvered through the medical and informational maze. Thank you from both of us to Dr. Kim Wilke (+ team), Iowa Veterinary Wellness; Dr. Jennifer Loewen, Iowa State University; Dr. John Fyfe, Michigan State University; April Lawrence, Boneapatreat, as well as my friends who let me cancel plans so I could be at home more, and who listened while I lamented and worried.

In addition to gratitude to those who’ve supported me, I want to document what I have learned through this process. I do this as much for me as for anyone reading this, because I have an uncanny ability to “forget” my epiphanies. As a result of this heartache experience I have learned, or perhaps re-learned:

The absolute importance of being present. I am a recovering multi-tasker. I check emails at stoplights, read while on the treadmill, listen to audio books while I prepare dinner. But when I was with Lotus or his care team, I was all in. I had the razor focus to ask questions that led to better decisions about the protocol we ultimately developed for him. I even turned the radio off when the two of us traveled to our appointment at Iowa State, and I talked to him quietly as I drove. Similarly, I avoided the alluring temptations of distraction. I didn’t over-exercise or indulge in fantasy escape. No mind-numbing wine or food-induced comas. And I deliberately did not post about it on Facebook because I knew it would create drama and take me away from the real focus. Through these strategies, I felt connected and oddly capable, which gave me peace and a presence of mind I’ve not enjoyed for a while.

Care giving is tough work. I have never had children. I have not had to attend to aging relatives. I always thought taking care of others was a tough mission, but until I had a first hand look at what it means to anticipate needs and be on call (and on high alert) 24/7, I had no clue. I know I had it easy compared to some. My assignment was a brief one. My ward was/is a cheerful and uncomplaining kitten and I work from my home. Yet, I saw very clearly that the act of compassionate care giving requires time, selflessness and love. I have new (and high) regard for those who provide such service in long-term situations.

Progress is incremental, and sometimes slow. The ping-pong ball moment was not the first indicator that Lotus was making headway, but for me it was the first real sign that he was (dare I say it?) out of the woods. Before that he was able to almost sit up in the litter box, and before that he walked three full steps before he needed to rest. I clung to each little glimpse of increased strength and stamina and to every new accomplishment. I hope to remember that lesson in weeks to come as I become impatient with myself and how long it takes for me to achieve, complete, master and sometimes even get around to certain things. Sometimes, the schedule that happens is not the one that I drew up.

It’s horrible to feel helpless when someone you love is not well. When all you care about is getting “normal” back. You want answers, solutions…you want the pain to stop—for everyone. If you are in such a place right now, my heart truly goes out to you. I am sending you a prayer to find a place of stillness and peace and surrender in your heart, so that you can be present when your presence is needed. I hope you’ll be a compassionate caregiver who also knows you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. And I hope you will see and celebrate progress in whatever timeframe it decides to present itself.

I didn’t set out for this post to be so long, and since it is a celebration, I would like to end on a happy note, which, for me means a recipe. This one is anti-inflammatory, in commemoration of the lessening of the pain both Lotus and I have experienced. Cheers and gratitude!

TURMERIC SMOOTHIE
Yield: 1 serving

Equipment
Blender

INGREDIENTS
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 frozen banana, peeled
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 leaves romaine lettuce OR 1 cup spinach

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

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An outlet. For energy.

March 17th, 2015

outletI don’t remember exactly when it happened, but sometime before Christmas (yes, that long ago), the outlet in my upstairs bathroom let out a puff of smoke and then simply ceased to function. I wasn’t alarmed or worried about safety; I just felt annoyed and a little inconvenienced. But I found a workaround pretty quickly: I got an extension cord and plugged it into an outlet in the next room.

The problem is, my workaround worked so well that there was no real urgency to actually get the outlet fixed. My “temporary” remedy created only a bit of an eyesore, but not a genuine nuisance. Well, I guess on Fridays when the cleaning lady came I did have to unplug stuff get the cord out of her way. And, I suppose I also needed to jostle the bathroom door for it to close around the cord. But, in my mind anyway, compared to finding an electrician—and having to be there when he came—the outlet didn’t seem to be a big deal.

I admit I thought about it every time I was in the bathroom. I’d see the extension cord and I’d think, “I need to deal with that.” Or my kitten Lotus would tug at the cord on the floor and I’d distract him with a toy. Now that I think about it, I guess I did spend a lot of energy on the broken outlet. I lost time thinking about it and feeling guilty for not dealing with it. I kept promising myself I’d make a call tomorrow. Or the next day, for sure. And all the while, in the back of my mind, I was hoping it wouldn’t end up being a major hassle. My house was built in 1939. Some of the wiring is new, but some is still the original. I didn’t want to hear that I needed to upgrade my electrical. I didn’t want to make decisions, and I sure didn’t care to spend money on something as unglamorous as electrical supplies.

Then, one day last week, I met a friend for a drink after work. The outlet must’ve been top of mind for me, because it actually came up in the conversation. While I was lamenting, my friend picked up his cell phone and—before I knew what he was actually doing—was talking to an electrician friend of his on the phone (he’s in the construction business). And I had an appointment for a service call the very next morning.

Sure enough, and right on time, Mr. electrician arrived. It turns out the outlet simply needed replacing. Not the wiring. Not the whole house. Just that one outlet.

And then the funniest thing happened. In addition to having power in the bathroom—from a source that was actually in the bathroom—I found that I too, had more…energy. I woke up earlier the next day, and I actually felt a little lighter. I didn’t have a sense of shame or guilt every time I was in the bathroom. I didn’t need to shoo Lotus away from an extension cord any more. I could close the door to the bathroom effortlessly. And all of this made me think about some of the other “energy leaks” in my world, and about the slow drip, drip, drip of vitality that happens with procrastination. Last year I experienced it during tax season (I eventually applied for an extension which made that whole energy drain even worse). I’ve done it with all kinds of things from dentist appointments to touch up paint, from tire rotation to oven cleaning. And I know that every time I put something off, I am costing myself. Sometimes the price of procrastinating is money, but there is another, more insidious cost: the loss of precious and unrecoverable energy.

So, after this outlet incident, I am committed to taking my power back. I am not going to merely think about writing a blog about what I’ve learned, I’m going to write it. And then…I am going to post it.

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Detox…and Re-tox?

January 19th, 2015

!The January 2015 session of Unplug & Recharge—a 10-day juice fast/detox that I lead each year—recently came to an end. It was a great group of folks and, as always, I learned many things myself. The group had insightful questions and also had many good answers for each other throughout the session.

As part of the detox, participants receive daily modules or lessons about topics related to health. One topic that garnered a lot of interest was the section on toxins, most notably this passage:

“We live in a very toxic and somewhat unnatural world, and our bodies were not designed for the challenges we face at every turn from our contaminated food, air and water. Add to that the chemical soup in our clothing, household items and cars, and then toss in the virtually inescapable electromagnetic fields we endure everyday…well, you can see why we need to seek every break we possibly can from this toxic overload we call modern life!

“According to the World Resources Institute, there are 17,000 chemicals appearing in common household products, yet far less than half of them have been adequately tested for their negative effects on our health. If you take into account all the chemicals that you might come into contact with during a single morning, you’ll understand how critical this topic is to your long-term health. Just to get you thinking, consider a “typical weekday” in the average American’s life:

“You wake up after sleeping on bed sheets washed with detergents containing alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), shut off your electromagnetic-field (EMF) emitting alarm clock and stumble into the bathroom. You use toilet paper containing residues from the manufacturing process including bleach and select xenobiotic endocrine active compounds (EACs). Reaching for your toothbrush, you soap up your teeth with a concoction of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which is used to clean oil spills, and a dab of triclosan, which is a pesticide. If it’s your time of the month, you insert a chlorine-bleached tampon laced with synthetic ingredients, pesticide residue, and traces of dioxin. Being health conscious, you take your synthetic multivitamin, which potentially contains binders, fillers and other manufacturing additives, and is then coated with shellac. Awake now, you’re ready for a cup of coffee. Over 1000 chemicals have been reported in roasted coffee; more than half of those tested are carcinogens. You brew yours using tap water, which contains chlorine, fluoride (a by-product from aluminum production) and other chemical additives. Unknowingly, you pour your brew into a cup that was made using lead-based paints before you flavor it with a chemically laden “low carb” artificial sweetener.

And you haven’t even hit the shower yet!”

To me, this sums up entirely why I participate in detox classes throughout the year. There is so much “out there” that we cannot avoid and it truly seems to get worse each day. During each session of Unplug & Recharge, I try and do one small thing that will be sustainable after the detox is over. Switch to a DIY toothpaste, find unbleached toilet paper, go back to air-drying clothes outside…whatever I can manage that helps. And then, I try not to freak out about all the toxic stuff around me that I cannot control, or sometimes even influence.

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