Monday, September 28, 2009

The Why behind the What

"What are you doing?" Facebook wants to know with immediacy.  Twitter wants to know in general.  People calling on the phone often open with that line.  "What do you do?" is another loaded question.  Both can seem obtrusive in certain settings.  "Why do you do what you do?" is more interesting.  Should we upgrade Facebook to Mindbook? 

Why are you a teacher?  What made you decide to study physics?  Why do you travel for your job?  Why stay home with children?  Why did you get married?  I like to ask these "why" questions, but I normally reserve them for just the right person or occasion.  I can always ask myself why I am doing something without fear of offense or intrusion; so I do. 

If we know the why behind the what, then we are lucky.  If we don't like the what, the why can be our jail key.  If we do like the what, the why is a nice bonus.  We each have different gifts...and also different needs.

In elementary school, my friend resolved to become a doctor when she was diagnosed with childhood diabetes.  Thirty years later, she is indeed a doctor. 

A law school friend told me that she chose her field to advocate for others because she felt oppressed throughout her childhood.  When she had needed a real advocate no one was there to fill that void.  Now she advocates for others, accepting that her own life experiences revealed her calling. 

A clinical psychologist once told me that part of her journey to heal from childhood sexual abuse and religious dysfunction was learning and practicing psychotherapy.  In the process, she was able to guide the healing of others. 

Certain professions have an obvious motivation--others less so.  Some professionals have an entirely different motivation than that which appears on the surface. 

Some people claim that life decisions are more the product of circumstance than of intention.  In the short term, this is believable.  What happens when the circumstances change and intention can guide daily pursuits?  What happens when we discover our intentions? 

For the very first time, I am open to the possibility that circumstances are perceived rather than imposed.  I am willing to act based on authentic intention.  Authentic intention is the marriage of purpose and desire.  So often there is a purpose without desire or a desire unguided by purpose.  I am allowing my authentic intention to unfold.  This is a new kind of freedom precluding statements of certainty.  I would rather be prohibited by freedom than propelled by false intention.

When the Why precedes the What, there is no dead end.  The path is wide open. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

H1N1 Vaccine: Some Good News

Guess what?  Those of us residing in the US can stop worrying about the adjuvants squalene and MF59 in the swine flu vaccine.  This is recent and pertinent news that may calm the nerves of borderline conspiracy theorists.  If you don't believe me, check out this New York Times article from September 21, 2009:

If you don't trust health articles from the New York Times, check out what Dr. Sears has to say about the four swine flu vaccines that have just been approved by the FDA:

If you don't trust the FDA and you are scared of a corporate and government conspiracy to inject you with poison, I can't help you. 

Vaccine technology is complicated.  Really, really complicated.  I have no background in immunology or medicine, thus I have nothing of original value to say on the topic.  I can only point to sources that I deem reliable.  In my humble opinion, conspiracy theorists are not only unreliable sources of scientific information--they are also delusional paranoids. 

Today I read one of the more insane articles I have ever encountered.  It was written by a somewhat well-known francophone conspiracy theorist by the name of Jean-Jacques Crèvecoeur.  This man holds a Master's degree in Physics from a Belgian university and he dropped out of his doctoral program.  He is now a self-proclaimed scientist, philosopher and alternative health specialist.  He lives in Canada.  Need I say more?  His full-time cause is campaigning against the new H1N1 vaccine.  He claims that international elites have seized the swine flu pandemic as an opportunity to declare martial law in countries across the globe.  He also advises everyone to avoid the vaccine since it is designed to cause harm and possibly death.  He warns that the US military has been running training operations to track down and imprison anyone who refuses the vaccine.  Last but not least, he claims that those receiving the vaccine will be given bracelets with embedded tracking devices so that the military will be able to constantly monitor the location of civilians.  Yikes.  I can't even believe I'm blogging about this. 

Patently crazy conspiracy theories aside, why is it that so many people are paranoid?  I get it that we need to do our own research and remain cognizant of Big Pharma's profit motives.  I understand some reluctance to trust a government agency with the oversight of our well-being, in any respect.  Government agencies are run by humans and humans are fallible.  Bureaucrats are arguably more fallible than the rest of us, but why all of the uproar over the creation of this new vaccine?  Yes, it's never been used before.  Yes, the current strain of swine flu produces only mild symptoms in most people.  Nonetheless, there is now demand for a new vaccine and pharmaceutical companies are filling it.  Other flu shots are given every year.  The only difference this time is a new virus and a pandemic.  There is concern over vaccine shortages, especially in less developed countries.  This is how adjuvants entered the picture.  Adjuvants make it possible for more vaccine to be fabricated.  Since there is sufficient supply of the new vaccine in the US, adjuvants will not be used here.  Vaccines with adjuvants have been sold to European countries.  These adjuvants are already being used in European vaccines.  They will become increasingly important as we attempt to provide better preventive care to larger numbers of people, in the US and worldwide.  This is a good thing.  More protection for more people, regardless of the illness, is generally better than nothing. 

Common sense does not equal ignorance or stupidity.   Paranoia equals psychosis.  End of story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rebel rebel? That one's mine!

Rebel rebel, how could they know?

Today was my son's first day of pre-school.  One parent or caregiver was asked to attend.  I was there.  I saw it all.  Events played out as I had expected.  Alec was sweet to the other kids and the teachers and he enjoyed himself, until...  dunt dunt dunnn!  All of the children were asked to sit nicely in a group to listen to story time.  Alec was the only child to resist.  He made a dramatic point of asserting his independence.  After wriggling out of several attempts by the adults to place him on a mat or chair, he stomped to the corner of the room and yelled, "No! It's not fair!"  Then he played by himself during story time. 

Was I embarrassed?  A tad.  Not much.  He's not quite three years old.  We don't say "it's not fair" in our house because my husband believes that "fairness" is a flawed concept.  I agree, although I am a lawyer.  Possibly he has heard this phrase from a playmate?  Dunno. 

From the age of six months I could tell that Alec had a rebel's spirit.  He's not an angry child.  He's not a malicious child.  He is a willful child.  He does know what he likes.  He is bold.  I can work with that.  I claim it.  I even enjoy it.  Alec never liked sitting in a circle at his gymtime classes.  He wandered off from the time he could crawl.  I tried "story time" at the library with Alec on several occasions and the reader shot me "the look" enough times for me to know that books at home, or that he reads to himself, are easier for us just now! 

Where did he get this rebel trait?  I will gladly excuse my husband and my inlaws by taking complete responsibility for this piece of DNA.  His grandfather liked to take my mother trick flying when she was a tiny girl.  My mother used to drag race her own car when she was in high school.  I used to ride the most angry horse in a battle of the wills until she ran me under a low tree limb several times in a row.  I'm pretty sure Alec will find his own example to add to this list.  None of us were ever incarcerated!  Good news.  We weren't even expelled from school.  I hope I'm not jinxing my kids here.  I do plan to encourage my boys to abide by common rules and sit nicely with the other kids.  I have no doubt that they will learn to temper their individual expression with kindness and respect. 

After a moment of reflection, today's outburst ceased to upset me.  I stopped briefly to appreciate my own independent streak.  I saw myself as a young child, and now as an adult, and I noticed that some of my best qualities have been nurtured by the rebel in me.  I acknowledged the possibility that Alec may leave similar footprints along the childhood trail.  If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Parenting: When Fear Motivates Practice

As a parent, I support all other parents in their endeavors to love and protect their children.  I also empathize with the parents of my generation attempting to raise their kids in ways that differ from what most of us experienced in the 70's and 80's.  Giving children more love and attention and forging an individual path with one's child should be commended.  That said, I have noticed a pervasive attitude of fear and distrust in many educated and culturally progressive parents.  I claim responsibility for that bold, provocative and somewhat judgmental comment you just read.  My support and admiration of progressive parenting does not preclude subjective critical analysis. 

Vaccination has been a hot topic of debate in recent years.  Vaccination of infants and young children has been blamed for autism and many other disorders.  Repeated scientific studies have debunked the vaccination myths.  This is a crucial parenting topic that needs to be handled with pragmatism and safety in mind.  Here is a link to a thorough article and slideshow explaining the reluctance to vaccinate and how it is not backed by solid scientific evidence:|09-07-2009

In a nutshell, vaccination has prevented severe illnesses and the resulting fatalities.  The myths that fueled the vaccination and autism link have been repeatedly debunked, with respect to both thimerosal and MMR.  The doctors and scientists employed by the CDC and the pediatricians associated with the AAP are probably not all drones with no capacity for independent thought.  The increase in the rate of autism detection since the 1980's can be explained by the use of better diagnostic tools and the inclusion of several disorders under the umbrella term of autism.  More diagnoses hopefully lead to more autistic children receiving the proper treatment, and that is progress.  The failure of parents to vaccinate their children causes us to lose "herd immunity", a concept engendered by epidemiology.  When we lose immunity as a group, more of our infants and small children are in real danger. 
(This is a good definition of herd immunity:

Parenting practices that are motivated by fear and distrust rather than pragmatism are certainly not limited to the avoidance of vaccination.  Again, I know this is a provocative and somewhat inflammatory stance.  Fear and distrust are strong words.  Even so, it is not inaccurate to point out that many parents homeschool their children out of fear and distrust of other educators, be it in the public or private school system.  A wish to assert a large degree of control often stems from fear.  Fear and control issues are often linked in a psychological sense.  Other parenting practices that CAN BE, but are not always motivated by fear and distrust are attachment parenting, co-sleeping and absolute insistence upon prolonged breastfeeding. 

Anthropological evidence that claims we are supposed to have our children attached to our bodies most of the time seems a bit off to me.  I do believe in evolution.  I do not, however, believe that we need to be taking lots of cues from our primate cousins and far-removed generations and cultures in order to understand and protect our own offspring.  These ideas seem highly contrived and somewhat irrational.  Irrational!  There's another inflammatory word.  In a culture of relativism, ideas such as pragmatism and rationalism should be banned! At least, that is the impression that some people will give you. 

Here is my take on attachment parenting: I completely agree with all eight of Dr. William Sears' founding principles.  However, I see that as in many other ideologies, some tenets of attachment parenting can become ridiculous when taken to extremes.  Home birth, co-sleeping, babywearing, homeschooling and naturism all originated as helpful concepts and alternatives, but can easily become dogma.  I don't like dogma.  I fear and distrust dogma.  Parents have to do what works for them, but I personally want my own children to believe that they are no better than the kids down the street who go to public school and drink Hi-C.  I don't want my kids to be "afraid" of the "norm".  I want to limit fear as a motivator for myself and for my children.  I want my children to be fully prepared to experience happiness and success within the predominate culture, while having their own set of values. 

Here is my take on co-sleeping: there are medical studies that encourage and discourage it.  Some say you will smash your kid in the middle of the night.  Some say the kid will become overly dependent and clingy to the detriment of his or her own confidence.  Some say your kid is more likely to die in the crib if you leave it alone in there, all cold and abandoned.  Some say the better quality of sleep that you get as a parent, the more able you are to harness and focus your energy on your child.  A tired parent can sometimes equal a cranky parent.  A cranky parent isn't always the most nurturing parent.  Food for thought. 

Here is my take on dogmatic insistence upon exclusive breastfeeding for at least one year:  I loved breastfeeding my two children.  I think breastfeeding is an amazing experience for both mother and child.  I also believe that it's fine to stop breastfeeding if it is not working.  If it is stressful, for any reason, for the baby or for the mother, it's not harmful to stop it.  Fathers can also nurture babies while feeding formula or expressed breastmilk.  Mothers can nurture and take cues during a feed while using a bottle and formula.  Eye contact, closeness, focus on the child... these can all be accomplished through means other than the breast.  Last but not least, asthma CAN be prevented to a certain degree by breastfeeding and breastmilk IS excellent for a child's immunity.  This is proven out by excellent clinical research.  This is the advice given to me by my AAP affiliated pediatrician.  However: I have known several asthmatic children that were exclusively breastfed for one year.  I have known children with very strong immunity who were never breastfed.  My own pediatrician admits that her children have had respiratory problems and use a nebulizer, even though she breastfed them for one year.  There is always the exception that disproves the rule.  There are also some rules that have so many exceptions, they may not even be rules in the first place. 

As parents, or supporters of parents, if we agree to disagree, so much the better.  All should feel free to follow their chosen parenting practices, so long as no children are harmed.  Do no harm.  I think someone spiritual said that once.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What first comes to mind when you think of the word “space”? Is it internal or external space that you imagine? Do you think of stars and solar systems? Do you think of time? Do you think about your toddler invading your privacy in the bathroom, or the foul smelling person squished up next to your body in the subway?

When I think of space, I imagine the place that I am in now, and all of the spaces in which I have lived. I also think of the space in my mind and in my heart where I can breathe, and where I can hear my own voice. I think about the kind of space I need to be able to hear God’s voice.

A space can be very deceiving when viewed only from the outside. It can look a lot bigger or smaller than it truly is. It can look dingy on the outside and beautiful from within, or vice versa. Perhaps there is a long line and a velvet rope on the outside, but once you enter the space you are unimpressed. The space contained within a camping tent can be more comfortable, in some ways, that all of the space contained within a multi-million dollar estate.

Sometimes I also think of space as the distance between two stages or major events in life. The space my husband and I shared as newlyweds without a child was nine months. I also experienced a nine month space between my two pregnancies. The space between high school graduation and law school graduation seemed very large, indeed. The space between my former professional life and my current domestic life seems gigantic.

Everyone experiences space in a unique way. I like the space where I am right now. I am on a break from hard study and hard paycheck work. I am on a break from spacepectations.

I exist in a rented, three bedroom, one bathroom space with a soon to be 32 year old man, a 1 year old boy and a 2 year old boy. The space needs a paint job on the outside, but it’s open, clean and bright on the inside. I can see the river and the sunsets through my windows. Unlike prior spaces where I have lived, I felt the loving energy of this space from the moment I first entered the door. I have had nightmares about the spaces I experienced during childhood, even though they may have looked nice on the outside.

My internal space is under constant renovation. I like it more and more. I am finding things inside that I had never known were there. When it is quiet in that space, I can hear my true thoughts. I can hear the voices of loving people in my life. I experience telepathy. I experience peace. I experience acceptance for the first time. I can feel God’s ever present love and the heartbeat of the Universe. I sense a growing power. I anticipate healing, and how it might feel.

Outside of my space, I can hear the cicadas. I think about how the space around us continues to change, and begin to welcome the autumn of the year.

May your space be blessed, and may you experience peace within it.