Dying My Hair Pink

Time to dye it?

Well, maybe. I haven’t seen anyone with pink hair in our small town, passing through or otherwise. But I’m contemplating it. Action may be necessary after what happened the other day.

I was out on the town engaging in a not-so-fascinating adventure: shopping for canning jar lids. I heard someone call out behind me from a distance. It was a stranger’s voice.

Using the logic bestowed on most members of our species, I assumed she was hailing some other person in the store so I ignored her. A moment later that stranger zoomed up behind me and said,

“Oh, I thought you were my mom.”

I’m a warm and motherly person, true. But I was not that stranger’s mother. Worse, she was in my approximate age group. Which means her own mother either looks like someone who gave birth as a kindergartener OR I look really old. (Particularly from behind.)

The stranger muttered something like, “Sorry, she has blonde hair too.”

Raised to be polite at all costs, I simply smiled at her (fist shake at Nice Girl upbringing). I’m not sure what an appropriate response might have been. Snort-enhanced laughter perhaps.

Wait, it gets worse.

I saw her join a woman one aisle over. I witnessed her call this woman “Mom.” Her mother was clearly 15 to 20 years old than I. And wearing tan stretch pants. With tennis shoes. And a quilted handbag.

Alas, I see I’ve fallen right into the basement of People Who Make Superficial Comments despite my regular attempts to be my Better Self.

I’m not mocking my elders, heck, I’m looking forward to being a rowdy old lady myself (which is how I’ll finally outgrow that Nice Girl upbringing). And I’m in no position to judge this woman’s appearance, especially after outing myself as a beauty flunky. As I tell my kids, everyone has a lovely gleaming soul. (Boy do they ever like to hit me back with that one when I get snarky.) But I’m finding the chronological escalator a bit too relentless.

When I was younger I took a constantly functional body and seemingly unlimited time ahead for granted. Now various parts creak and I realize I may not be able to fit all my enthusiasm into an ordinary lifespan. Sometimes I walk by the library windows, noticing a stumpy little woman in the reflection. Who is that woman, I wonder? Why is she carrying my purse? It takes a moment to sink in. That’s me. I may feel like a fourteen-year-old sneaking out of the house in a halter top, but instead I’m some lady wearing a scarf.

I was raised to use everything up. To smack the bottle till it was empty, then add a little water and shake it to get out the last lingering drops. I fully intend to do that with my life too. I’ll be using up every single bit. But if I get any more reminders about being old before my time, you may see me with pink hair. Or at least pink streaks. My quietly rebellious fourteen-year-old self would be proud. And the rowdy old lady I hope to become will understand.

Alzheimer’s and Autism: Can We Lower The Incidence?

When we come across a new truth we can see how it connects to larger truths. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, strange, or paradigm-shifting. Sometimes it’s so logical we wonder how it’s not part of our everyday conversation. 

Lately I’ve been reading new research findings. What I’m seeing amplifies what we can see on a larger scale—that we need to work with nature rather than try to control it. In terms of our health that means we must look very carefully at how tactics we’ve used to subvert nature’s designs (relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, feeding grains to ruminants, overprocessing foods, genetically modifying foods, super obsessive hygiene, and so on) come back to affect us (and our planet) in ways we hadn’t anticipated. Let’s talk a little about Alzheimer’s research. It’s good news!

I got my first real job when I was 13. It was at a nursing home, where I fed residents who were unable to feed themselves. It was a heart-wrenching experience. There were a few people who suffered from cognitive decline, mostly due to stroke or hardening of the arteries. But most people were there because they couldn’t manage living alone after developing heart disease or emphysema, breaking a hip, going blind, or other overwhelming physical problem. Their frailty frightened me but I also learned a great deal from people 70 and 80 years older than me. In that 100 bed unit, back in the 1970’s, there wasn’t a single patient with Alzheimer’s disease.

Sure, the life-disintegrating disease was first identified in 1901. And yes, detection and diagnosis may very well change the way we track those numbers. Still it’s clear there’s an massive increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s. It’s seen most often in the developed world, while in rural areas of India and China the risk is very slight. This devastating disease robs of us of our loved ones. It deprives our culture of the elder wisdom we so desperately need. I know of several people who developed it in their late 50’s and early 60’s. I know people suffering with it now. It’s not the new normal.

Recently, some amazing studies have emerged. They aren’t particularly useful to the pharmaceutical industry, where research is geared to big profits in prescription drugs. They aren’t easily applied by the medical establishment which leans toward medications, treatment, and surgeries. Instead they have much more to do with what we eat and the way we live. The clues lead not only to breakthroughs in understanding Alzheimer’s disease but also the rise in autism. Please read the linked information, as I’m only giving a brief overview.

We’ve been advised by experts for decades that dietary cholesterol causes heart disease (it doesn’t, no matter how exhaustively you look at the research). We’ve been prescribed a lifetime of statins when our cholesterol levels are deemed “too high” even though cholesterol is essential for brain function. We’ve been told to eat low fat diets, particularly to avoid foods that we humans have been eating for eons. We’re even told our friend the sun, which fuels all life on this planet, is an enemy best defeated with sunscreen.

Yet we are substantially fatter, developing autoimmune disorders at epidemic rates, with a terrifying surge in autism and Alzheimer’s disease. A report in the New England Journal of  Medicine forecasts a decline in life expectancy in the US.  Clearly we’re on the wrong path.

Blood sugar surges, infection, and inflammation are a few of the many interrelated ways that our brains suffer from an unnatural diet. I urge you to read the technical but entirely worthwhile article by MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff, titled “APOE-4.” To me it reads like a detective work starting with how our brains function, then following clues the brain gives us. She explains how cholesterol contributes to healthy brain function, which is why she urges daily intake of natural fats along with high levels of protein. She also points to the importance of maintaining normal vitamin D and calcium levels while avoiding the rush of elevated blood sugar that comes from eating much of today’s processed foods.  Following her recommendations helps to steer the body away from inflammation and infection which can seriously impair brain health. She also has nothing nice to say about statin drugs.

Her report is in keeping with more recent research (building on studies done over the last few years) that Alzheimer’s disease is related to damage caused by years of blood sugar spikes, which are the side effect of the average western diet. It’s being called diabetes of the brain or type 3 diabetes. This has been all over the news that last few weeks with headlines like “Junk food destroys the brain.” It’s quite a bit more complicated than that (for example, mindfulness practices like meditation reduces inflammation too) but those headlines aren’t lying.

This research also ties in to the increased incidence of autism. A low fat diet plus low vitamin D levels can cause changes to a fetus’ developing brain (please read all the way through this linked article for details). This sets off a cascade of issues, including poor calcium uptake and inflammation. Other promising research links a pregnant woman’s inflammatory response to higher rates of autism in her child. There are other underlying factors, including immune systems that are insufficiently challenged due to overly hygenic lifestyles and even the absence of parasites. And again, it’s much more complicated. It can be related to the father’s age, to gut bacteria, even to one’s ethnic group. Some say autism is the next step in human development, opening us to wider neurodiversity. Neuratypical individuals have unique skills and perspectives that offer society new avenues for progress.

There’s no fault implied in any of these studies. We do the best we can with what we know. But maybe today’s brains are struggling to tell us that well-meaning attempts to make our lives better with sterile environments, processed food, and indoor lives simply takes us too far from our roots in nature. Maybe they’re telling us pollution, particularly ultrafine particle pollution, can cause degenerative brain diseases. More research needs to be done, but there’s plenty we can do right now.

eat anti-inflammatory foods 

eat healthy fats 

get enough vitamin D

exercise

For more information check out:

Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body

Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today

Engage The Window Box Effect

beauty heals, finding the positive, reversing urban decay, building a neighborhood,

CC 2.0 by ahisgett

When I was in college my professors enjoyed crushing what was left of our youthful optimism with miserable statistics about how bad everything was and how rapidly it was getting worse. (Even their cynicism was too small to envision our current issues.) I remember a semester-long course that had to do with reversing urban blight. After being taught about this dire and growing problem we were introduced to the standard remedies. Our professor scornfully dismissed every effort to reverse urban blight. The worst thing that could be done? Coming in from outside the community to impose a do-gooder solution. The only right thing to do was a vast overhaul of our economic structures. (Those structures are even shakier today.) I wrote sufficiently miserable papers to get an A but was left with quiet despair in my ever-hopeful heart.

Soon after that class I read about one woman’s experience of urban blight. She’d lived in the same house for decades, watching her neighborhood decline. There were few jobs and the ones available paid poorly, with no benefits or job security. She sadly listed the local businesses that had left, leaving her area with no grocery, beauty shop, or movie theater. The only places that remained were bars and corner stores selling little in the way of real food. People lost their homes and landlords took over, rarely keeping up the property. The city lost revenue, doing little to keep up with residents’ complaints. It seemed to her that young people were lost too. They swore in front of tiny children and their elders, hung out all hours on street corners, got into public fights, abused drugs. She was quoted as saying that people complained they got no respect from young people, when really the young people had no respect for themselves.

The reason she was being interviewed? She was credited with beginning a tiny urban renaissance that was evident on her street and slowly spreading through the neighborhood.

Here’s how it happened. She’d been in poor health and adjusting to widowhood. Her home had been well maintained over the years but like many wood-sided homes, it began to look shabby when too much time went by without new paint. After her husband died she didn’t do well keeping up with yard work and because the street had changed she rarely sat on the porch as she used to do in years past, chatting with neighbors and greeting young people by name as they went by. It wasn’t just friendliness. When everyone knows everyone, word of misdeeds travels home quicker than an unruly child can get in the door. And when a child really knows the elders on his or her street, they have many more potential role models to benefit them as they grow up. That’s the proverbial “village” it takes to raise a child.

This woman wanted to do something. All she could afford was a few packets of flower seeds. She got out on a spring day to plant the seeds in her long-unused window boxes. She started sitting on her porch every afternoon after watering them, greeting those who went by even though she didn’t know them. Renters in houses where her friends once lived began talking to her. By the time the flowers were in bloom she noticed a difference on the street. She said that people were sweeping their porches and planting flowers of their own. Because they were trying, she got out there to do her part, attempting to take better care of her lawn, telling people who passed by that it was a good way to get exercise she needed. Every time she couldn’t get her mower to start she’d ask a teenager walking down the street to help her. Then before starting to mow, she’d ask for his or her name, shake hands, and thank that youth for doing a good deed by helping her. She made sure to greet those young people by name every time she saw them afterwards.

That summer one family painted their front door. Someone else cleaned up an empty lot that had been a dumping place for trash. People started sitting on their porches, waving to each other, stopping for conversation. It began to feel like a neighborhood again. Building on what’s positive is powerful indeed.

There are plenty of ways people are revitalizing their communities these days. They’re reclaiming empty lots as gardens or play places for their kids, running micro-businesses out of their homes, starting up tool-shares and neighborhood work groups. They’re using social media to connect and collaborate with each other. They’re mentoring kids in the neighborhood and finding ways to get kids more involved in the larger community.  Studies show that urban gardens and other revitalizing efforts make a difference, reducing the crime rate and fostering all sorts of positive relationships. An old theory, kind of the flip side of what I’m calling the Window Box Effect, was called Broken Windows Theory. It posited that minor examples of breakdown (like a few broken windows) leads to greater disorder, dragging down not only the appearance of an area but also leading to crime and property damage. This has largely been disproven because crime is actually deterred when people know they have the power to affect their communities and benefit from strong networks within those communities.

Sure, we have a lot to work to do rebuilding our sorry infrastructure and easing the ever-widening income gap. But it doesn’t hurt to remember that noticing a little beauty can amplify the greater beauty that’s everywhere, waiting to bloom.

There are plenty of ways to apply the Window Box Effect.

Tell me how the Window Box Effect works in your life.

ADHD Meds Provide No Long-Term Benefits

no benefit to Ritalin, ADD drugs no long-term benefit, should I medicate my child's behavior,

Want to cause a ruckus? Criticize attention-deficit meds.

Over three million U.S. kids take these drugs. Parents may not be thrilled to dose their children but they are following expert advice.  They typically see results. And they don’t need to be judged.

But it helps to pay attention to what works for parents who don’t put or keep their kids on meds. My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was in first grade.  There was a great deal of pressure from his teacher to put him on medication. As many parents do, I struggled to find ways to alleviate the problem without drugs. We found significant improvement when we changed his diet but that wasn’t enough to make the school setting truly work for him. The way he learned best and the way he flourished simply didn’t fit in the strictures of the school environment. He wasn’t wired to sit still and pay attention for hours. Once we began homeschooling we discovered that without classroom and homework pressure, what appeared to be ADD symptoms largely disappeared.

The newest studies of attention-deficit disorder medications now indicate that the calming effect of these drugs don’t necessarily indicate that those who take them have any sort of “brain deficit.”  As L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of psychology at the Universityof Minnesota’s Instituteof Child Development explains, such medications have a similar effect on all children as well as adults. “They enhance the ability to concentrate, especially on tasks that are not inherently interesting or when one is fatigued or bored, but they don’t improve broader learning abilities.”

Research shows the effect wanes in a few years without conferring any lasting benefit. Dr. Sroufe writes,

To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve.

While Dr. Sroute looks for a mental health answer, psychologist Bruce Levine looks to society. In a recent article he notes that rational responses to larger social conditions (depression due to economic crisis, for example) are being suppressed by medication rather than addressing underlying circumstances. In particular, he asserts that non-compliance with authority is labeled a mental health problem rather than a useful response. He writes,

Do we really want to diagnose and medicate everyone with “deficits in rule-governed behavior”?

Albert Einstein, as a youth, would have likely received an ADHD diagnosis, and maybe an ODD one as well.  Albert didn’t pay attention to his teachers, failed his college entrance examinations twice, and had difficulty holding jobs. However Einstein biographer Ronald Clark (Einstein: The Life and Times) asserts that Albert’s problems did not stem from attention deficits but rather from his hatred of authoritarian, Prussian discipline in his schools. Einstein said, “The teachers in the elementary school appeared to me like sergeants and in the Gymnasium the teachers were like lieutenants.” At age 13, Einstein read Kant’s difficult  Critique of Pure Reason— because he was interested in it Clark also tells us Einstein refused to prepare himself for his college admissions as a rebellion against his father’s “unbearable” path of a “practical profession.” After he did enter college, one professor told Einstein, “You have one fault; one can’t tell you anything.” The very characteristics of Einstein that upset authorities so much were exactly the ones that allowed him to excel.

This is a big issue. I am lucky I eluded being put on meds to treat the problems I had as a child. I wouldn’t give up those years of painful churning for anything. That’s exactly what formed me into a person with my particularly intense focus and purpose.

I think we need to widen our focus. The issue asks us to look at how today’s children are restricted in movement, have less time for free play, and are exposed to unnecessarily early academics.  It asks us to look at the quality of the air, water, food, and products in the lives of today’s children. It asks us to support all families as they are, recognizing that one-size-fits-all guidelines don’t embrace diverse ways of being. To me, particular hope lies in research showing that free time spent playing in natural settings significantly improved the behavior and focus of ADHD children. The more natural and wilderness-like the area, the greater the improvement.

Our wonderfully distractible, messy, impulsive children may be trying to tell us something.

For more answers beyond the prescription bottle, check out:

Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness

The Gift of ADHD: How to Transform Your Child’s Problems into Strengths

Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School (Formerly Titled ‘The Edison Trait’)

ADHD Without Drugs – A Guide to the Natural Care of Children with ADHD ~ By One of America’s Leading Integrative Pediatrician

Is This Your Child?

Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD