Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Green Hackerspace in Loveland, CO

On the evening of 12/13/12, my family attended the "Pre-Open House" hosted by the new Loveland Warehouse - the Green LaunchPad Hackerspace. They plan to have an Open House during the day sometime soon.

The partners in this project are Nourish the Planet, L3C and the Institute of Ecolonomics, LLC that are headed up by Dr. Wayne Dorband   It is an offshoot of the Mountain Sky Group, a green research and development company in Loveland. Their property partner is Mr. Stu Lichter who is one of the largest industrial real estate developers in the country.

Wayne describes himself as a "Serial Entrepreneur," having launched hundreds of companies over the last few decades. Stu Lichter owns the largest amount of industrial land in the U.S. Specifically, he purchases environmentally-contaminated sites and rehabilitates them. He invests in something he calls "space eaters."

Mountain Sky Group has an arrangement with the local Seventh-Day Adventist school in Campion, CO, because they have a very large greenhouse. They are constructing and operating one of the world's largest aquaponic installations on their property at 225 W. 42nd Street SW in Loveland, and their primary goal is education and entrepreneurship. They are trying to train 1 million people ("doer-teachers") to educate the world to feed itself over the next few years, through education ventures, aquaponics systems, and facilitating the distribution of aquaponics systems.

Mountain Sky Group has formed and L3C -- a new hybrid type of corporation, which is both for- and non-profit. So, they can take donations, but also make a profit.

They are converting their old business space, next to their new addition, into the first "Green Hackerspace" in the world. Quoting another individual, Wayne said that a perfect Hackerspace is "Not my job, not my house, not a bar, I can hang with people I want, and do whatever I want, legally." They want to facilitate curiosity and passion.

In the 5,000 foot space, they hope to provide whatever local Maker/Hackers need, for a membership fee (or perhaps a work trade). Their plans right now include a wood shop, a metal shop, and an art space. The first few members who want to participate in the greenhouse project (a 100 square foot "sub-membership") will have available to them some pre-made aquaponics systems to grow legal foods. They also talked about having a recording studio.

Members of the Denver Hackerspace came to the Pre-Open House, including a fellow who has owned several radio stations and started a podcasting company.

Jon Fye, of a local 3D printer company, Lulzbot, was also in attendance.

People have already donated a large loom and a kiln, to the project, and they are expecting to receive a C+C machine. Their aquaponics systems are dynamic closed systems mixing fish, shrimp, and plant growth.

Really, it seems like the sky is the limit there -- as long as enough participants come around. The only requirement with the Greenhouse space, since it is on the SDA property, is that the Saturday Sabbath will be observed (meaning no work there on Saturdays other than routine maintenance to keep animals and plants healthy.

For more information, please look at their websites: www.greenhackerspace.com and www.nourishtheplanet.com

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Critical Mass

So much for feeling better.

A friend from childhood posted this resource from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), on dealing with national tragedies.

I had to take a break from the computer for about a day. I haven't watched any of the video coverage, and I probably won't. Just seeing pictures of the young victims is about all I can handle. So much for staying calm.

I mentioned the effect of music on stress in my last post. That's how I get through the seemingly endless chauffeuring I do as a homeschooling mother. We jam out in the car! I listen to current popular music -- well, alternative. My daughter and I like to talk about our favorite artists and songs. She really likes Owl City, so I try to keep an eye out for new songs for her.

Anyway, yesterday involved driving to the next town for a haircut* with my son, and my favorite radio station, which came on the airwaves when I was in high school, doesn't usually talk news, so I turned on the radio. "A gunman killed 26..." CLICK!

I haven't spoken about this with my kids yet. They are pretty well-connected with other kids, so they're bound to find out pretty soon. I will need to discuss it with them tomorrow.

Today we attended a VEX Robotics tournament at a middle school in a town south of us. My son is on a small experimental community team, which meets twice a week, about 22 minutes away. Their robot had a catastrophic failure today, and they're not sure how to go about fixing it. They have a few weeks before the next event in January.

It was weird being in a school. As these tragedies have happened, I have often been thankful that we are rarely gathered in spaces with large numbers of people due to our homeschooling. It seems like putting all our societal eggs in one basket, to me. I totally get that because of the way communities are laid out that one room schoolhouses or neighborhood schools are thoroughly inequitable. But on the other hand, I see that sending kids across town to school with hundreds of other children serves to impair the building of a supportive bond within a community. Not to mention the promotion of ageism from a very young age, and dissolution of family spirit through the segregation of siblings.

My own mother worked from the time I was 10 years old until a few years ago in the school system as an attendance clerk. Yeah**, my mom was that lady with whom you would be in trouble if you were late or absent. So, I was that kid who was never absent. Things were a little weird when my son was a toddler. We would go visit grandma at work, and all the other office ladies would ogle him. My eighth grade English teacher, the one who assigned us Moby Dick and The Count of Monte Cristo, who really liked me, even though I didn't even *try* to read those books... she was the Vice-Principal at my mom's school. It is a middle school, one that some of my friends attended.

When the topic has come up, I think I have run across one person in my whole life who liked middle school. Or junior high. Or whatever it was when you were that age.

You know, that age when suddenly most of the things you're thinking about seem like things you shouldn't share with your parents. Yeah, that age.

Early on in my homeschooling journey, my homeschooling support group book club decided to read the book Hold On To Your Kids by Drs. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. I still haven't read the second half of the book, about adolescence, because, ohmygod, when I had a toddler, I did not want to even think about said toddler becoming an adolescent. But, uh, something happened, and now I have an adolescent. So, that book changed me forever, and here's why.

I've mentioned here before that I struggled with depression, and sometimes I have wondered why I didn't "top myself" (a British saying I learned today from a friend) when I thought about it. The book answered that question. I had a large support network of other adults besides my parents who made no bones about the fact they really liked me and cared about me when I was a child and teen. I would never be able to list them all -- that's how fortunate I was -- but I can give a few examples.

First, there was my art and piano teacher, who I met when I was five, and who continued to be an influence in my life until I was 14, and I decided I hated formal piano and art lessons. Through her, my mother and I were in a group called "The Ladies' Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society" (we even had t-shirts) where we did handwork like sewing, crocheting, knitting and embroidery. Some of those ladies, I considered my friends. One of them even paid me for a piece of my artwork, which I now own again.

Then, in maybe the fifth or sixth grade, I joined the quilting group at my church. We made many quilts for auction, which sometimes sold for as much as $1000. We met in a few of the members' houses, and at the church. I learned enough about quilting from these ladies that I went on to make several quilts of my own when I went to graduate school, and as a new mother. One of the organizers was a friend's mother; she passed away this year from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and I still get a little catch in my throat whenever I think about it, looking around my home, thinking about all the ways she personally influenced my life.

I served on the Library Committee at my church as a young child, helping catalog the books, typing up the cards for the card catalog. I counted the elderly women on the Library Committee as my friends.

Anyway, I know that I was never particularly sure how my peers would have responded had I done something terrible to myself. For all I knew, life would continue on for them, playing their soccer, kissing their boyfriends, and I would just be a distant memory. But having made good connections with these adults, creating things together, without any appraisal from them, I knew that if I left this Earth, that a piece of them would die, too. And I couldn't disappoint them like that.

So, I did what any book-loving (as long as I got to choose them) 16-going-on-40-year-old would have done. I bought myself a book of meditations, which I still find useful.

It's unfair to assess my friends like that. They would have been irreparably damaged if I had chosen self-harm. But I can say, having experienced something awful my sophomore year of high school, that teenagers are not ready to help each other when things get serious. At least they weren't in the 1990's. Maybe now that they lose so many peers to suicide, it's old hat.

And this, Dr. Neufeld explains, is how we manufacture adolescence. By making kids rely on other kids for emotional support, they fail to make mature decisions, or deal with tragedy in healthy ways.

So, when we would visit my mother at work, it was difficult. I liked the ladies there, but the institution itself reminded me of the loneliness of peer-dependence and adult-enforced compulsion. And I was the "A" student. I felt like I needed to leave to be able to breathe again.

My mother confided in me that she was embarrassed to tell her coworkers that I had chosen not to put my children in school. But as my children grew older, it turned out, most of her coworkers totally understood why a mother would choose to homeschool if she were able.

So, this is precisely why, when I hear that community members are not allowed to help in schools, and that after-school programs aren't happening because the school district, for some reason, can't afford to pay janitorial staff, it affects me physically. I feel like I want to vomit.

I am certain that people choose to become teachers because they want to make a difference in the life of a child. They wish to be that person students can trust, that person who cares unconditionally. But then, they are faced with the ugly reality that their job is to evaluate each and every one of these children -- to require them to read things which may make them never want to open a book ever again.

StartEmpathy.org, a part of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), has facilitated a new school model at the elementary level which allows teachers to spend the first two hours of each day getting to know each student. The students get to pursue interests in those first two hours in an unstructured manner. The teachers report that the students have become more independent, and attendance rates have gone up (without my mom barking at them!***).

So, this is why, when I'm driving my son and his friend to their robotics club twice a week, I try to chat with them about what matters to them. We talk about Minecraft, and we talk about the music on the radio. Earlier this week, the Imagine Dragons song 'Radioactive' was playing. When our friend got in the car, he said, "Cool. Imagine Dragons! Have you heard their song 'It's Time?'"

And I said, "Yeah! I have it on my phone. Do you want to play it? Hey, I heard on the radio the other day that 'Radioactive' is about reinventing ourselves. I think that's cool. I think we can reinvent ourselves at any time."

So, he took my phone and queued up "It's Time," and when it got to the part that said, "Now, don't you understand that I'm never changing who I am?" I giggled.

"What?" he said.

"Well, this song is about not changing." I mused.

I think we decided that if one wants to change, or doesn't, it should be up to that person.

And I think each child should have an adult in his life who will support him, whether he wants to change, or not.

Making this tragic event about anything else is simply a distraction, keeping us from turning this ship around.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

* I got bangs.

** I realized this week that I say "Yeah" a lot. After the BIF8 Conference, and specifically the talk given by Tom Yorton of the Second City Players about using "Yes, and..." I have been trying to consciously use that approach. But now I see, I was doing it already. My version just uses the more informal "Yeah, and..."

*** Sorry, Mom.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Never-Ending Summer

I feel so much better having written about that school stuff -- getting it out of my head was so cathartic!

I didn't get to post yesterday, because I've been pretty busy.

We have this basement space that was a big reason we purchased this house. It's no big deal, it's just that it was actually *finished* space. I've never lived in a house with a finished basement; in fact, when I was growing up, I slept in a partially-finished basement until my parents had a second story put on our house when I was ten. When the construction work was being done, we had a burglar. He probably thought the house was vacant, since it happened on the night before Christmas Eve, and there was no roof on the house!

Anyway, I woke to some noises at the end of my room, where the basement stairs ended, and my mom (still) keeps her sewing machine, and saw a flashlight. I was terrified, of course. Somehow I didn't pee the bed. I just lay there, pretending to sleep as best I could, until I heard the footsteps go back up the stairs, and then was able to breathe again. The only thing that was taken was some cash from my father's wallet.

So, anyway, I have a strange relationship with basements. I see them as opportunity spaces. In the unfinished room next to my bedroom we did (and my parents still do) their laundry. There is also a kiln in there, and a kick-wheel for doing pottery. We did a lot of pottery at our house when I was growing up!

As long as they're not touching me, spiders don't scare me.

I think, too, I've always been a tad envious of homes with a nice comfortable basement space -- with a pool table, or air hockey, or foosball, and a place to watch movies, and a place for guests. So, we got this house.

On the day after we moved in, the sewer backed up into said finished basement. (Hello, Mr. Insurance Man, if you are reading this blog, your comapny doesn't cover this lonely problem my house has, so you can go on your merry way). Crap. Literally.

It took me three years of living here to see the pattern. Every November or so, we would have The Backup. Well, that would happen as long as I called the regular sewer rooting company, which used an auger-like device, to clean the sewer line. It involved going in through the basement window and across the carpet (ewww), so after that, we had the special carpet-cleaning company come and sanitize everything. But then, after having the sewer line camera run, we realized we had bellies in our sewer line. Our house was built within the last 30 years, so that's an unexpected bummer.

The next company I called used a pressurized system to clean out the lines, and the second time they came, we realized they could use the sewer access for the RV parking we have, so they don't have to come in across the carpet anymore! Hooray!

And, we figured out the problem... fat. Yep, all those bacon drippings and coconut oil, even the tiniest amounts I was washing down the sink, were collecting in the bellies and occluding the poo exit for our house, such that one overzealous wiping session could leave the basement filled with...

Yeah! So, anyway... I have them come clean the lines every Fall, and I am careful to wipe out all my pans carefully with a paper towel before washing them, and, (fingers crossed, knocking on wood), no problems! Except that I forgot to call last Fall, and I haven't called yet this fall. And it got cold. They can't do it when it's below freezing.

So, anyway, the space is pretty nice, and I have tried several permutations for keeping our junk (there's so much of it -- mostly books and crafting stuff and board games) down there. But we never seem to make it down there. And people don't really stay with us anymore, now that Erick's parents live across town. Which means I've gotten really lazy about keeping things clean. Especially down there.

We were working on learning electronics on one side of our big project table, and doing claymation on the other side. It was nice because we could leave half-done projects down there and not worry about picking up. Except that my sister would really like to come visit, and it's totally not toddler-friendly down there. Nope. In fact, one time when my other nephew came to visit once, he and my daughter got into the craft cabinet and spread all the beads all over the carpet. Thank goodness for vacuums.

And, there have been dog issues down there. Grr. There's a door, and keeping it closed eliminates the dog problems, but folks don't always close the door.

So, anyway, I spent last weekend and the earlier part of this week doing some major stuff-shuffling, because I wanted to move all of our messy stuff into the guest bedroom and take the bed out of there, so I can lock that door when we have young guests. And we moved L's daybed down into the larger rec room area, so there's essentially a king-sized bed down there, which we can sit on to watch movies. Lucy got the queen-sized bed which we were using as a guest bed. And that left a lot of space open... for a sauna!

The sauna arrived yesterday, and I was mostly ready for it. We were instructed by E not to put it together without him. He loves assembling things, much like I did at that age.

I've been thinking about getting a sauna ever since I had organophosphate poisoning when we moved here seven years ago, and E had arsenic toxicity. It's probably a good thing I didn't get it then; I was in much too delicate a place for sauna therapy at that time.

But now, I've become aware of the health benefits of infrared light; especially the near infrared spectrum, at 660 and 880nm, which helps recycle the copper moeity in the mitochondrial enzyme cytochrome c oxidase. We've been using "chicken lamps" around our house for recovering from illness, and reducing stress and inflammation, and counteracting the negative effects of blue light (which turns off cytochrome c oxidase), for about a year now. For a while, I was traveling to a nearby tanning salon for red light therapy, but it was quite costly, and I figured out it would only take about a two years of doing that to pay off a red light therapy bed.

Our summer this year in Colorado made this seem all the more important. In June we had a huge fire nearby which left our air quality in such poor condition that our county and neighboring counties were advised to stay indoors. Then, it was over 90 degrees fahrenheit for a record number of days -- well into the end of August, if I recall correctly. So, our outdoor time was pretty much zilch.

I figured we would see the bad side of that pretty quickly, and we did. It's been a frequent illness fiasco here this fall. But the good news is that we are recovering from these illnesses very quickly with fat soluble vitamins and chicken lights, and our moods are good.

L even had all the symptoms of strep disappear in about a day, sitting under a chicken light.

This is the kind of crazy stuff I think people need to know, but that I worry about posting in a public place, but here I am, posting it.

I get a lot of questions about chicken lights, so I'll just go ahead and post here what I got at my local Home Depot.

1) 250W BR40 Halogen Flood Light
There are also 125W versions, which will use electricity, but that also means less of this luscious energy for your mitochondria. There are red ones, which would mean less of the blue spectra, but this is what I prefer to use at my work and reading spaces.

2) 300W Brooder Clamp Light
This is just one example, and this is the one from Home Depot. I got other ones at my local farm supply store.

Oh, and I am getting rid of all those terrible compact fluorescent bulbs in my house, one at a time. I still have some in areas where we don't use the lights very often, but in our living spaces, it's all halogen and halogen incandescent. The halogen incandescent bulbs are available even at the local grocery store, and use about 20-30% less electricity than a regular incandescent bulb.

From Wikipedia:

"According to the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) in 2008, CFLs may pose an added health risk due to the  ultraviolet  and blue light emitted. This radiation could aggravate symptoms in people who already suffer skin conditions that make them exceptionally sensitive to light. The light produced by some single-envelope CFLs at distances of less than 20 cm could lead to ultraviolet exposures approaching the current workplace limit set to protect workers from skin and retinal damage. Industry sources claim the UV radiation received from CFLs is too small to contribute to skin cancer and the use of double-envelope CFLs "largely or entirely" mitigates any other risks.[49]

"A 2012 study comparing cellular health effects of CFL light and incandescent light found statistically significant cell damage in cultures exposed to CFL light. Spectroscopic analysis confirmed the presence of significant UVA and UVC radiation, which the study's authors conjectured was attributable to damage in the bulbs' internal phosphor coatings. No cellular damage was observed following exposure to incandescent light of equivalent intensity. The study's authors suggest that the ultraviolet exposure could be limited by the use of "double-walled" bulbs manufactured with an additional glass covering surrounding the phosphor-coated layer.[50]"

And let me just say, the sauna is awesome. The winter is not only *dark,* but *cold,* which is a metabolic stressor. I have some local friends who saw the benefits of getting a regular hot tub a few years ago. I think it is just a regular hot tub, but the larger of the two lost a significant amount of body fat using it every night throughout the winter. We do tend to lose metabolic momentum over the winter. We usually blame that on overeating through the holidays, but living in Northern climates, we have the additional metabolic stressors of darkness and coldness. So, the sauna is my plan to combat that stress.

Meditation and music are also regularly touted as ways to combat stress. The sauna I got has a sound system in it, and it's nearly impossible not to melt into the music and let my mind go blank while sitting in there.

We're also interested in the possible effects on some skin problems we've experienced, so I am eager to see what becomes of those.

Today, we pushed the 500 pounds of sauna into the corner of the basement where it will reside. I guess that makes it official. We own a sauna. To celebrate, this afternoon, I shampooed the carpet.

If you don't have space or money for saunas or chicken lights, you can simply go for walks near dusk or dawn year-round and get the benefit of more red than blue light. But if you're on the blue-light-emitting computer screen reading about all this weird stuff, and seem to miss the appropriate windows, then maybe some chicken lights are in order.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

LEARN THIS!

This was a crazy, hopeful, and exhausting day.

I am so fortunate that my mom-in-law is here, so she could play with the kids today, and get them to their acting class. It was like cloning myself, except much better, because I got to spread the exhausting wealth.

(Really, Java? Update EVERY DAY? Is that really necessary?)

So, the day started out by meeting at the local coffee shop with Monika and my school board member. I was really nervous about it. People are usually confused as to why a homeschooling mother (or relaxed or eclectic or unschooling, or whatever I am at the moment) would have any business talking to people like the local school district superintendent, or the other administrators, or the school board members. They themselves are puzzled at first. If I have such a sweet deal on my end, why talk with them?

Well, because... I think more people can have this sweet deal. It's not out of reach.

Research shows that what standardized tests measure best is socioeconomic status. If that's true, then my kids were going to "be fine" (on the basis that doing well on a standardized test means "being fine") no matter what. And, no matter how much song and dance we do, are we going to raise the test scores of kids in the lower socioeconomic levels, if that's what is really being measured?

Judging from the information that a child's likelihood of staying in school through adolescence is directly related to whether or not he or she was talked and read to by an adult before age 3, it's my opinion that the school system, whether or not its true purpose these days is to make factory workers or not, is trying, the wrong way, to minimize this "achievement gap" which is really a resource gap from early childhood.

I think it's safe to say that most teachers become teachers because they have a passion for making a difference in the lives of children. Only now, because of legislation like No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, they are slaves to standards and bureaucracy, rather than serving the young souls for whom they care so much. So often, the finger is pointed at them.

There's a lot of finger pointing going on, because everyone is under so much pressure. We could try pointing fingers at the administration, but I can tell you that those folks are doing more than we know, too. These are also people who went into the field to serve young people, but instead, they too are slaves to standards and bureaucracy. They collect all the information given to them to report to the State so that the schools can get money, so the teachers can eat and clothe their families, and the school buildings have light and heat and cafeterias with food.

Every cent that goes into schools has to be justified by hours in a seat (that is the October Count, if you are in Colorado), and now test scores.

So, if we are incapable of changing the achievement gap through forced education, the schools with the lower test scores and attendance (from the lower socioeconomic strata) are going to continue to have less and less funding.

Rather than be a slave to the almighty dollar (which is easy for *me* to say), because we really can't get in a time machine (a TARDIS!) and go back and make sure that child was well-nourished in the womb, or that his or her parents only had to work one job a piece, so that they would have time to read and talk to that child, there are two major things we can do to remove barriers to success for these learners.

We can provide opportunities. We can provide resources.

Well, unless your school district is one that has decided that after-school programs will now pay rent. Then, the lower-income schools and families will automatically be locked out of using that *public space* after school. And, if your school district has decided in addition that after-school programs must be attended by a certified teacher employed by said school district, and said teachers are already overextended, then you might just see most of the after school programs disappear.

And, of course, if you have too much homework to participate in after school programs, or there is not adequate transportation to where they happen, because the school district cannot provide buses to take you where things are happening.

The school day, in general, entailed much boredom for me. Like everyone else, I lived for that last bell. That's when the fun began. So many opportunities for growth and learning were provided after that bell, like drama club, Odyssey of the Mind, Optimist Club, Mathletics, United Nations, dancing, art, gymnastics, piano... all the things that don't "count" in traditional schooling, but serve, rather, to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to college applications.

In our city, we have a fairly large pool of retired individuals, many of whom worked in engineering at the original Hewlett-Packard facility. We have many talented artists, too. But these folks aren't considered useful as mentors by our current school district policy. They have a system for background checks in place. Why not use it?

Liability. Nevermind that most of the big news-making stories of late, the ones that, when I hear about them, drain the blood from my body as fast as light leaves a room when I flick a switch, happened in schools, and were perpetrated by people who are part of the school system.* People who would have passed a background check. Before they cracked. Students, or teachers. The people whose performance we are watching so closely these days. The people under a great deal of pressure. (*Note that because so many of us are affiliated with the school system -- a third of the world's population is school aged -- the chances are pretty high already that tragedy will somehow be associated with schooling).

We have essentially put community and school in separate silos, not allowed to intermingle during the September through June, 7 am to 4 pm time periods. So, for most of a child's life, he or she is not allowed to interact with the whole of society; rather his greatest connections come from those he makes with other immature humans. Any connections he makes with adults are usually fleeting, and fraught with assessment. Every adult has an agenda when they meet a child. We're all consumed with worry about the future of the planet and these children, we can't help ourselves. "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" And then we give our stamp of approval, or we don't.

So, when I brought up this troubling situation of tweens entertaining the idea of suicide, I thought my school board member would be surprised, but he was not. He knew all too well of this phenomenon. And he also said that he hears over and over in his position with his church, the message that "Nobody knows me" from the youth.

Teen angst. Adolescence. What if these are manufactured, and not natural, phenomena? What if they are the natural outcome of an existence without relationships in which one can be authentic? What if they are the natural outcome when every adult in our life has some sort of agenda for us?

And that brings me to exactly why I am so passionate about this topic. I was working on a PhD in Neurobiology and Molecular Biology in the mid 1990's, having completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology. My specific interest was the biological basis of Learning and Memory, and our laboratory was interested in the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer's Disease. My specific research was on the relationship between estrogen and memory. In the background research I did to prepare my hypothesis and research design, the groundbreaking work had been done on one particular topic -- that stress hormones, particularly the glucocorticoid cortisol, block memory formation.

That's right. So increasing the pressure on every child to do better, and every teacher to *make* those children do better, may be accomplishing the opposite of what we intended. Instead, our "achievement" (since we like that word so much) yielded adolescence, teen angst, low test scores, and a population who has learned to be helpless. Because the harder the system tries -- the more stress is placed on achievement -- the harder it becomes to "achieve" or even remember what was "achieved." So, why try at all?

For this reason, whenever I sense stress in my children, during a learning situation, I encourage them to take a break. And, well, nothing is compulsory for them, so any learning they do is usually in the context of neurotransmitters of pleasure. It's amazing how much they remember.

+++

On the biological front, I've been studying a text written by Gerald Combs. The Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health was published earlier in 2012. I purchased it -- the first current textbook I have purchased since I left the educational system in 1999 -- because it looked like it had a good recent summary on the research done on Vitamin K2. I was not disappointed! I read that chapter back in April of this year, and after a busy summer, have finally picked it up again.

Related to the rest of my post today, and heavy on my mind, are the long-term effects of malnutrition in utero. See for yourself (from page 318):

"Animal studies of long-term potentiation, a synaptic model of learning and memory, have revealed that maternal deprivation of the vitamin during gestation and lactation specifically reduces the development of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subtype in the young. Although the metabolic basis is not understood, these effects appear to be related to the loss of dendritic arborization in vitamin B6 deficiency. These lesions are thought to underlie reported effects of impaired learning on the part of the progeny of vitamin B6-deficient animals and humans."

Considering how I was wasting B6 on a low-carb diet, I wonder about the potential effects on babies born to mothers in similar situations. More research for another day.


Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Complicated

I know, I said I was going to do this a long time ago, but I am going to write more. I am going to make a daily reflection here -- so the posts will be less "packaged" than they were, and instead will contain all the ramblings in my head. I suppose this will put the onus on me to label each post appropriately so if I put any useful information here, it can be found again!

Monika Hardy has been doing a daily "detox" on YouTube. I am not ready for that kind of self-putting, out there. But I do need a place to dump the stuff that is collecting in my head, for sure.

There's a great blog, by Kate Fridkis, an unschooler, called "Eat the Damn Cake." At the end of each post, she has an "unroast" of herself -- and says something she likes about herself. I should do that.

It touches this deep part of me. She talks about her encounters with other women and their subtle or even not-so-subtle self-judgement, and what she's thinking when she witnesses it. I usually find myself thinking, "Yes! That!!" But often I can't read it, because it makes me get back in touch with that part of me which, I fear, will always be sad. Sometimes it feels better to ignore it, or pretend it's better.

Maybe it's not a bad thing to have one finger on that pulse; today I realized again that I can use it to help others. Not for the first time today, I spoke with a woman who confided in me that her tween had mentioned suicide. Barely a decade on this planet, and already entertaining the idea of leaving it. Like the other mothers with whom I have spoken, much thought and effort had gone into the choice of school, but despite the best efforts, the child was not connecting -- not with the other children, not with the teacher, not with the learning material. This helplessness did not arise from parental lack of caring.

We all want so much from our children, we worry so much for them, for their futures, that we forget to take into account their wants and worries. We don't mean to do it. It just happens. We get so focused on outcomes, that we forget the Person.

We give the impression to these young souls that our love for them is conditional. It depends upon whether or not they remembered to feed the dog, or pick up their socks, or make their beds, or how well they performed on their exams. But actually, it doesn't depend on these things -- it just looks that way on the surface when that quick "I love you" transitions into a question of Checklists.

And it's so hard as a young soul, not to see the futility in this. The dogs continue to need food, the socks will still end up on the floor, the bed will become unmade again, and no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get an A on that exam.

If you had the choice of getting off the treadmill and taking the time to figure out what parts of it were helpful or meaningful, wouldn't you choose that over unplugging the treadmill altogether? What if that choice isn't yours, and you know it? Then unplugging the treadmill is the only readily apparent option.

If we focus too much on the outcome, we risk the possibility of having no outcome at all.

+++

A few weeks ago, I learned about this project that Google is doing where a phone app was asking what the user wanted to know over several points in the day.

I thought that would be a great thing for me. I'm often generating questions in my head, when I don't have the time to write them down. So, I decided to start making a list of some relationships I want to research, many of them stimulated by my participation in an online study forum. Maybe I'll write about what I find.

Here's the list:

Cortisol and histamine

K2 and angiogenesis

Total body polyunsaturate estimate

Oxalate and repiratory quotient (RQ)

Oxalate and K2

Autoimmunity (PQQ rabbit hole?) <-- I am not sure what I was thinking here. :)

PQQ and quinone metabolism

Hla genes

Melatonin and Serotonin

+++

After I wrote all these things, I spent a few nights looking into some Genova Diagnostics Organic Acids test results for a friend. That was one big huge rabbit hole! I ended up researching about three times as many of the things I have on that list above, just to make sense of the results.

So, here's me being transparent: I'm fried. I've been up late for the past few nights looking into some of these questions, and then my empathetic capacity was more than depleted this morning. I am a veritable sponge for pain, and I felt so strongly for this mother, this boy and their family. I see so much potential there! Such beautiful people, trapped by systemic expectations.

But I've seen these relationships change, so I know things can change for them, and that they can move on to something even better than what they expected.

I have a big day ahead tomorrow; when it rains it pours. I'm either putzing around in my pajamas, happily reading, or I am double- or triple-booked. I'm triple-booked tomorrow.