Love Religion

A dear friend travels every chance she gets and her home is adorned with wonderfully evocative paintings, carvings, and sculptures inspired by different faiths. But she thinks she shouldn’t be drawn to such artwork. She appreciated its beauty when she practiced the religion of her childhood, now that she is an agnostic she is drawn to it even more. She wonders if her intense interest is strange.

sacred art, beauty in religion,

Theotokos of Korsun

I don’t think it’s strange at all.

love common to all faiths,

6th century synagogue mosaic

We humans are wired to feel reverence. Many of us feel an extra current running through sacred art, music, dance, and ritual. We sense an inexpressible oneness through meditation, prayer, and communion with nature. Some understand it within a particular religion, some feel it across a spectrum. And some simply chalk it up to an overactive pineal gland. To me, reverence is part of who we are as a species. I am continually fascinated as I explore the way we express it across faiths, cultures, and time periods.

seeing sacred in all faiths, love common to all religion,

Goddess Saraswati

Sometimes I’m even paid to do so. A few years ago I wrote a weekly religion column for The Plain Dealer. Each piece included a description of a worship service and an interview with a member of that particular church, synagogue, mosque, temple, fellowship, or other gathering.

Illuminated parchment

I used a decidedly unjournalistic tactic. As I participated in the service, I waited to fall in love with it. Maybe love isn’t the right word. Maybe fall in awe. Then I wrote about whatever twanged my heart.

beauty in sacred art,

Christ and the Apostles - Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, c. 1890

I consider myself pretty grounded in my own beliefs. And I come equipped with a skepticism meter, the kind that lifts my eyebrows at televangelists promising salvation by donation and lifts them just as high at products like energy vortex water guaranteed to activate your chakras.

San Benito Retablo

But the love approach worked for me. One week I’d be standing with a crowd of worshippers in a century-old church, so moved by a gospel choir that I could no longer think about the music but only feel it. The next week I’d be sitting crossed-legged in an ornate Hindu temple as ancient prayers were chanted, sensing the deep pull of wisdom carried across thousands of years.

beauty in divine art,

Kalachakra thangka

A reverent approach made it easier to write the articles but rarely spared me from making bumbling mistakes. I thought I could take part in each service unobtrusively. Instead I managed to be glaringly obvious, sometimes offensive. I dressed conservatively for a Mormon temple only to attract quite a few quizzical looks. Only then did I notice that I was the only woman wearing a sweater and pants. Every other female over the age of two was wearing a skirt. I wore a skirt to the next assignment, a Coptic Orthodox church. As I sat absorbing the old world beauty of that sanctuary, a woman with hauntingly dark eyes looked at me pointedly and often. I tried to figure out what about my person was in violation. Headcovering, check. No visible cleavage, check. Then I realized that others had slipped off their shoes once they stepped into the pews, honoring the holy ground of their church. Only my blasphemous clogs remained on. My feet failed me again at a Hindu temple. I’d gotten there early and spent nearly three hours cross-legged on the floor. I noticed that other people sat very carefully but I couldn’t quite discern what rules they were using so I tucked my feet under my knees. After the first two hours my knees couldn’t take it and I stretched my legs out for a respite. I was later told that the soles of my feet were aimed at Lord Ganesha, a major slur.

Bhairava Mask

I approach with reverence even if I often end up as the fool (falling well short of a holy fool). It doesn’t matter because I also found something I didn’t expect: a remarkable oneness across faiths. Every person I interviewed about religion expressed the sort of tolerance and open-hearted interest in other religions that, not long ago, would have been considered heretical. I also witnessed sharing of traditions and methods that may not have been overtly ecumenical but seemed to be a steady movement toward acknowledging the core of all faith. Love. In fact that’s what many people said to me. “It’s all about love.”

The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence

Someday I may do some traveling with my friend to see the world of faith through art, as she does. I expect to see beautiful expressions of reverence. I also expect to find love as the defining characteristic of all faiths.

Engel Margret Hofheinz-Döring

The Love Religion

The inner space inside

that we call the heart

has become many different

living scenes and stories.

A pasture for sleek gazelles,

a monastery for Christian monks,

a temple with Shiva dancing,

a kaaba for pilgrimage.

The tablets of Moses are there,

the Qur’an, the Vedas,

the sutras, and the gospels.

Love is the religion in me.

Whichever way love’s camel goes,

that way becomes my faith,

the source of beauty, and a light

of sacredness over everything.

Ibn Arabi
Sufi philosopher   (1165 –1240)

Yes, Diet Can Affect A Child’s Behavior

research diet and behavior, food intolerance and mood, food intolerance and school problems,

USDA Commons

I’m one of those annoying people.  I grow enough organic produce to put up hundreds of jars of home canned goods each year. I grind grain to make fresh flour, use coconut oil instead of canola, even make my own herbal tinctures. I was probably a little nutty about nutrition before I had kids. I got a lot nuttier afterwards. All of my health-foodie ways didn’t ward off my third child’s problems. He was born with a hole in his heart. Even after that was resolved he rarely seemed fully healthy. He had asthma, chronic skin irritations, an ever-stuffy nose, and low resistance to any passing germ. He never complained and his disposition was so sunny that we believed the doctors who told us there was no reason to worry. I reassured myself that his life was full of good food, wonderful experiences, and plenty of nurturing from our close extended family. But that sunny disposition didn’t ease the way for him at school.

ADHD and diet,

Image mountainwaves’ Flickr photostream

His kindergarten teacher said he was cheerful but he preferred helping other kids to completing his own work.  The next year it got worse. His first grade teacher complained that he was distracted, didn’t get his work done, and tended to sit with his hands folded over his head in a posture that enraged her. At her insistence we took him to a psychologist. He was diagnosed with ADD.

I was sure we could find a solution, maybe by further perfecting his already healthy diet. So we took him to a pediatric allergist for a series of tests. The outcome shocked us. My little boy reacted strongly to nearly everything I’d been feeding him. Worse, the doctor warned us that our son’s breathing was dangerously impaired during food intolerances may surprise you,  and after the test, which indicated that his food allergies were serious. Final test results showed that my son was allergic to soy, to nearly a dozen fruits, and to every grain but rice. The foods I had long suspected, including chocolate and dairy, were not a problem at all.

The doctor was so concerned by my son’s asthma flare up that he advised the gold standard, an elimination test to uncover additional food intolerances. We went home with a long list of dietary and environmental allergens to avoid. My son’s dinner that night was a bowl of rice cereal. Ever the optimist, my son noted that he’d be happy to live on chocolate milk.

For decades experts have denounced any link between diet and behavior problems. They often poo poo’d a connection between common health problems and food as well. Back in the 1970’s, parents who insisted their children thrived on the Feingold Diet were told the evidence was entirely anecdotal. Studies that disproved diet and behavior links, despite questionable procedures, were widely publicized. One such study examined children’s reaction to food dyes. Both the experimental and control group of children were given beverages containing sweeteners and artificial flavoring, only the experimental group’s beverage also contained food dye. Both groups of children behaved similarly after the drink. Claims for a connection between diet and behavior were then denounced although press releases rarely mentioned how the tests were conducted But scientific evidence is accumulating to prove what parents have suspected all along.

research diet and child behavior, diet and mood, diet and ADHD,

Wikimedia Commons

Our children’s minds and bodies are built by what they eat. Some children (like mine) are much more sensitive than others. Previous studies have shown that even children who are not diagnosed with ADHD or other behavioral disorders react to drinks containing artificial color and sodium benzoate. Not just a mild reaction. They typically increase their activity levels by one-half to two-thirds, in league with their ADHD peers.

But everywhere our kids turn, marketers push processed and nutritionally devoid foods at them. In fact, more than a third of the calories U.S. children consume now come from junk food.  Is it worth fighting the battle against these overwhelming influences? Certainly seems that way. More and more data is piling up to prove the point. And it’s compelling. Research shows that a junk food diet is linked to a lower IQ and a greater likelihood of school failure. And it’s not just junk food. We might feed our kids the healthiest foods, but if they don’t tolerate these foods well chances are they will react.

One study took a close look at the way ADHD behavioral problems may be caused or accelerated by diet. One hundred children with ADHD symptoms, ages 4 to 8, took part. Fifty of the children and their parents were counseled about healthful diets. The other fifty children were put on diets limited to foods unlikely to cause reactions: rice, turkey, lamb, carrots, lettuce, pears, and other hypoallergenic items.

elimination diet, food intolerance,

Image from jimforest’s Flickr photostream

By the study’s end the majority of the children on the limited diet showed significant improvement on a variety of behavioral ratings. Before the diet their symptoms put them in the moderate to severe range of ADHD, but diet intervention reduced to symptoms to those classified as mild or non-clinical. That’s big news.

In my son’s case, changing his diet wasn’t easy. But we could see the difference in a week’s time. His stuffy nose cleared. The bumps on his skin smoothed out. And we discovered that he kept his arms folded over his head so often because it expanded his lungs and help him breathe, something he didn’t need to do as his asthma got better. My son didn’t stick with all the new dietary limitations all the time, especially as he got older. And a restricted diet wasn’t the whole answer.

Together we learned that school wasn’t the right place for his particular gifts to flourish. Once we started homeschooling we were free to explore more natural learning. Without the pressure of cafeteria lunches, classroom snacks, and school parties it was much easier to feed him the foods his body tolerated well. Including chocolate milk. Being the nut I am, I took even chocolate milk to the extreme. Now we have dairy cows.

Geeky Year

If you define a geek as tech informed and sci fi savvy, I’m no geek. But define geek as “a person so immersed in an interest that he or she is out of the mainstream,” and I’m in. According to my kids, I’m obsessed with topics even geeks find obscure. That includes but isn’t limited to subversive cooking, neuroscience, simple living, natural health, outsider art, foreign films, non-violence, and anthropology.

So I was thrilled last year when invited to write for a start-up called It’s associated with, which is some kind of media cousin to Wired. My first piece was published on September 1st, 2010. Since then I’ve written 125 posts and won’t be slowing down. I happen to adore clattering away about topics that fascinate, amuse, or infuriate me. If you’ve never moseyed over to the site, here are random samples of my clattering.


being strange, me versus world,

Image: Kirby Weldon

What it’s like to be strange

Confessions of a Bag Lady

Confused By The Socks With Sandals Thing

Not My Best Side

Extreme Product Testing


subversive cooking

Image: L. Weldon

Subversive Cooking Ideas

Why My Kid Is A Cooking Geek

Go Lick Your Veggies

What A Dip

Green-eyed Eggs



Why I’m expected to watch You Tube and what I find there

Don’t Take You Tube Literally

Animated Character Seizes Control

Rescued By Pudding

I Always Pick the Slowest Line

A Cure For Oregon Trail-itis

Hip Hop History


people to admire

Image: Page Hodel

People to admire

Mama, Let Your Girls Grow Up To Be Like Cowgirls

Monday Hearts For Madalene

Empowering People One Bike At A Time

A Small Act of Kindness



“The Art of Repurposed Rodents

You Deserve a Merit Badge

A More Perfectly Explained Union

Gentlemen Broncos Take On Geekdom


Flickr : Andy Carter's photostream

Book suggestions

How Childhood Books Make Us Who We Are

Infinite Sum of Possibilianism

Little Princes

Asperger Self-Help Author An Aspie Herself

Portal 2: Wikipedia


Sex & the Ditty

Fantasy Investing Preferred

Holiday Interlude

I’ve spared you a taste of long posts and ranting posts I regularly fling on GeekMom (you get enough of that right here). But I would like to ask something of you. Actually, two things.

I’m guessing you’re obsessed with a few topics yourself. Why not fess up? I’d love to hear what gives you that lovely serotonin and dopamine rush.

And I’m open for topic suggestions. What would you like to see covered on GeekMom? Or here on this site? Please pass along ideas and links, silly as well as serious.


Healing The Next Generation

reducing parental stress, epigenics, improving the future,

Image courtesy of

The science of epigenetics shows that the choices we make today will resonate in the minds and bodies of our grandchildren.

How? Each of us has biochemical markers that signal our genes in response to input such as nutrients, toxins, even behavior. As a result potential gene expression is switched on or off.

epigenic healing, epigenics and society, parental stress and children,

Nucleosome Wikipedia

These epigenetic changes persist well after the original stimulus for change is gone. Some of them pass on through generations like biologic memories of what our ancestors ate and breathed, as well has how they felt about their experiences. This also means that our personal choices today can become a living inheritance sent on to those we won’t live to see.

As Duke University genetics researcher Randy Jirtle, Ph. D recently commented,

We can no longer argue whether genes or environment has a greater impact on our health and development, because both are inextricably linked. Each nutrient, each interaction, each experience can manifest itself through biochemical changes that ultimately dictate gene expression, whether at birth or 40 years down the road.

epigenic changes, effects of parental nurturance,

Image courtesy of

Much of the research about epigenetics correlates to earlier studies showing that parental stress has a negative and long-lasting effect on their children, often well into adulthood. That’s true of the effect of prenatal stress, parental stress during early childhood,  parental depression, conflict in the home, unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Epigenetics may, in part, explain the strong correlation between these stressors and resulting poor mental and physical health in the next generation.

But there’s good news too. Studies have shown that early nurturance can flip “dimmer switches” on genes related to stress, permanently shaping offspring to be calmer and better able to handle new situations. Healthier too.

healing generational depression, healing generational anxiety,

Chances are good that I was born with genes predisposing me to anxiety or depression.  My sorrowful grandmother nurtured my own mother as best she could despite very stressful circumstances. In turn, I was lovingly nurtured and well attached to my parents. As a result, these predispositions were more likely to be dimmed or switched off in me. I hope to carry on this legacy of positive epigenetic changes by gently parenting my children. Epigenetics show us that grandparents and parents can bless children to come (including foster children and adopted children) even if they don’t live to see those children.

As a society, we’ve known for a long time that serious parental stress leaves a legacy of pain into the next generation. Maybe the science of epigenetics will be enough to convince us that parental support and nurturance doesn’t just benefit the child. It also benefits society as a whole.

healing future generations,

Image courtesy of

Additional resources

Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance by Richard C. Francis

The Genie in Your Genes by Dawson Church

The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ by David Shenk

Do YOU Have A Choice?

stay at home mothering choice,
Today’s guest post is by Karyn Van Der Zwet from New Zealand. Her parenting advice is brilliant, based on science and loving interaction, and I can’t wait until her e-book is ready.  

When Germaine Greer wrote  The Female Eunuch, at the height of The Feminist Revolution, she suggested that motherhood should not be considered a substitute to a career. By the time she wrote The Whole Woman in 1999, she had done a complete 180 degree turn and called for proper state-funding for Stay at Home Mums.

She realised full-time mothering is as valuable to many women as being in paid work. She also realised there were benefits to society as a whole.

Children who feel well attached to their mothers do better at life. They make better decisions; they chose more mature friends and partners, and their relationships are more likely to last; they have a work ethic which is balanced with a sense of play; they are physically healthier and they have a stronger sense of community. And becoming properly attached takes intense commitment from one main carer for a long time.

Of course, just being at home doesn’t automatically mean that we’re doing the job that our children need us to do. Likewise, being at home doesn’t have to mean being a house-slave or turning off our brains. Attachment Theory (the science) suggests that a great mother is one who understands (intellectually or not) what her children need, according to their biology, and does her best to provide it. When she can’t manage  the full-time commitment (or chooses not to make it), she is the one who finds nurturing care for her child and does what she can to connect when she is at home. Great attachment can happen, and often does, but it’s a much more emotionally demanding experience for mothers when they aren’t around 24/7 for the first few years.

Truly giving children the emotional support their biology demands, especially in the first three years, is tough going for many of us. What we can give emotionally and consistently is largely dependent on the amount and degree of positive emotional experiences we have received. It’s the difference between intellectually understanding that we are loved by our parents, and feeling/knowing/living that experience of love. Remembering that our mothers had their own burdens to carry, and as adults we can make sense of their stories and understand they did the best they could at the time.

It’s much easier to understand how difficult things may have been for our mothers, when we’ve been mothers ourselves. We’ve all lived it: the act of mothering can be overwhelming, intense and, at times, threatening to our sense of self.

It seems odd to our modern-day western lives that the biology of human babies is so intensely demanding of their mothers. Of us. For many women it seems unfair. But equally, human biology never expected that we would have to mother in isolation or that we would have to do everything. Alone. Or that we would have to make the unnatural choice between our children and social isolation, and paid work and social contact.

Modern women were told we could do anything.

Which evolved into – we should do everything.

And now many of us have no option: we have to do everything.

The point? Well, to me, the main tenents of feminism are: honouring and respect women’s bodies; equity; and choice. Western women did not have the choice to work or to be educated in the past. Now many of us do not have the choice to stay at home as full-time mothers for as long as we want to.

Ten years ago in New Zealand when I was pregnant with our eldest son, the average single income could service a mortgage or pay the rent and still feed and clothe a family. Because of this, we have a much smaller mortgage than most people, and I have been able to choose to stay at home. It’s been tough going at times and luxuries are definitely luxuries – but I am content with my decision. Since we bought, house prices have more than doubled. Most New Zealand women cannot be at home with their children beyond basic maternity-leave for financial reasons. I understand this means we have ‘caught up’ with the rest of the western world. I am not convinced it’s progress.

In light of all this, here’s my questions for you all:

Have we traded supression by men for suppression by economics?

Did you have the choice to stay at home with your children for as long as you wished?

time crazed moms, lack of choice for mothers,

This was originally posted to World Moms Blog by Karyn Van Der Zwet of Napier, New Zealand. Karyn can also be found on her blog, kloppenmum on twitter @kloppenmum and on facebook: Karyn At Kloppenmum. 

The Whole Woman, Germaine Greer, Anchor Books 1999
The Developing Mind, Daniel J Siegel, Guilford Press, 1999
Becoming Attached, Robert Karen, Oxford University Press, 1994