Healthy Living

On a whim, I just unscrewed the shower drain.

December 27, 2017

On a whim, I just unscrewed the shower drain.

I was actually enjoying an opportunity only a mom is likely to relish – being able to take my time cleaning the bathroom during the holiday break. It’s a rare window of time when a mom can start to take a shower, then notice again those grungy corners not often gotten by teen chores, and THEN – “By gum, I’ll do that RIGHT now!”

For the record, I don’t actually say “By gum!” But I’m pretty sure that Bert the Chimney sweep would, whom I love, and that’s exactly how it felt.

And so I did. It was marvelous to clean the tile, and rinse dust from the plants, and polish the fixtures. The metaphor for the New Year was growing…. Rinsing away the dust from the year before, even washing out the little, plastic, bathroom trashcan!   Let us welcome in the New Year – RELEASED from the past, or at least, from our old trash!

Then… I polished the chrome tub drain cover. The tub drains really slowly.   How long had it been? Ok, let’s go for the whole enchilada – let’s clean that drain! Metaphors galore!   The GUNK that clogs our lives, our attitudes, our finances, our relationships – heck, even our guts!

It took a while to find the right Phillips screwdriver, PLENTY of metaphors there! How often are we impatient as we seek ‘the right tool for the job,’ or the most effective way to get the kids to sleep, or how to lose weight?

The screw moved smoothly, and then jammed, then utterly froze.   Had to screw it back out a bit, “Oh dear, I want to go FORWARD! I do NOT want to go BACKWARDS!”   I work it in, and out; this is the slow work that busy, everyday lives cannot, or do not, accommodate. It took minutes; the slimy wad of hair wasn’t the biggest or most disgusting I’ve plucked from a drain, but it was by far the tightest. In the end, I had to relent to getting yucky to pull it loose, with germy soap slime under my nails, and then gnaw at it with scissors.   Slow work. Had to not get impatient. “It’s just the steady work of unclogging the drain,” I kept telling myself. It was wonderful to see it reassembled and working, flowing, sparkling.

We live with all sorts of drains – in our showers, and also in our minds, hearts, and bodies.  I’m convinced that so very much of moving along in our lives requires the same sorts of elements. For us to be willing to get slimed up to get the job done, to be willing to take a few extra minutes to do the job right, to be willing to back up and go back at it.

As a midwife, I see this all the time. In labor, mama & baby sometimes get stuck for a while.   Often the best way to get unstuck is to get her on her hands and knees, with her bottom in the air. This makes mamas anxious, “What do you mean we want gravity to move the baby back out of my pelvis, I’ve worked so hard to get it to come this far?!?!”   And we explain, “But it seems like the baby needs to come down through you in a little different way, it will actually go FASTER if give him a chance to reposition himself.” And then it does.

I am past birthing my own babies, and I’m now parenting teens.  The exact same challenge is right there in my face, “Am I willing to reconsider, back up, reposition, & try again?”    Do you have a ‘drain’ in your life that needs to flow a little better in the coming year? A place where you might want to clear away some gunk, or reposition and try again?  Is there an element of your life in which you’ve been unwilling to take a few minutes with the right tool, or get messy, to get the job done?  What could you ‘unclog’, literally or figuratively, to help you fulfill more of you who long to be?

I challenge you to start with one messy drawer or one medicine cabinet, because that half hour is symbolic and energizing, from the outside in. And if your drawers are already tidy, you amazing person, what habit or relationship would benefit by 30 minutes of undivided attention? Because we all have gunked-up hair balls somewhere.

Let’s be brave together, and tackle one big little thing that stands in for how we’ve shied away from unclogging our lives. I look forward to hearing in the comments below what you unclog or tidy up, and maybe what metaphor it holds for you…


Are you S.A.D.?

December 15, 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder is very common during the colder months, especially here in Michigan where we have very little winter sunlight. This disorder is characterized as a depression affecting many people due to the lack of exposure to natural sunlight. It’s common for those who experience S.A.D. to feel very tired and want to sleep a lot more than usual, even though it doesn’t give them relief. Along with the lethargic feeling, many sufferers tend to have difficulty in concentrating, a decrease in their sex drive, unwelcome weight gain, unrestful sleep and intense cravings for carbohydrates and sweets.

What do people develop S.A.D.?   Natural sunlight affects the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland when there is a decrease in light. Being deprived of sunlight, as we are in the winter months, our melatonin levels are not kept in check, causing us to feel tired and drained of the energy needed to get up and get moving. Not only does the lack of sunlight affect our melatonin production, but it may also contribute to increased levels of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone. This hormone, when out of balance, contributes to weight gain (especially in people with an A blood type), decreased immunity, depression, and fatigue. The neurotransmitter, serotonin, is also directly supported by natural light. When this light source is lacking, our serotonin levels are decreased, leading to depression as well.

During the summer months in Michigan, we experience as much as 15 hours of sunlight in a day, as opposed to the winter months where we experience less than nine hours of daily sunlight. Natural sunlight helps our bodies to be able to use Vitamin D3. Used to maintain bone and teeth health, Vitamin D3 is also anti-cancerous, protects the brain from aging, decreases asthma symptoms, and even helps aid the body in losing excess fat! Along with providing our bodies with the ability to use D3, natural sunlight is known to build the immune system, help oxygenate our blood, cleanse our blood and blood vessels, help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, kill the bad bacteria, and help to heal the skin from issues such as eczema and psoriasis.

What to do if you’re feeling S.A.D.?    Get outside! Even when clouds cover the sun, the rays are still there for us to soak them up. Spend at least 15 minutes out side every day to get some of the benefits from the rays.   The best time to be outside in the winter is around noon, but anytime during the day is better than nothing at all. If it is not possible to spend time outside, consider getting a “Happy Light,” or check in with Indigo Forest about our access to healthy lights. These lamps are also known as bright light therapy. They produce a full spectrum of light, similar to what we get from the sun. Another way to alleviate symptoms is regular exercise. Exercise increases levels of endorphins within the body that help to reduce the likelihood of developing depression. Eating regular small meals or snacks with organic vegetables and lean protein will help balance blood sugar levels and ward off the urge to eat breads or sweets that could contribute to the lack of energy and saddened feelings. Some Nature Sunshine supplements to consider helping with S.A.D. are St. John’s wort, SAM-e, 5-HTP, fish oil, Ginkgo biloba, vitamin D-3,  or a high quality multi-vitamin. If you are unsure what route you should take when dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, set up an appointment with your local naturopath for guidance.


Adapted by Beth Barbeau from article by Denise Denman, N.H.E.

Used by permission from the quarterly publication of the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies & Education, Mt. Pleasant MI.

Featured, Healthy Living

Warm Kids?!

May 13, 2015

Are your kids warm enough? It’s kind of a nutty question in May, right? Well, maybe not. There seems to be some lively weather happening these days!

In Michigan we tend to have a big, “Whew!” as June draws near, pulling out the summer gear for at least a few months. Yet here at Indigo Forest we’re still getting a steady stream of customers with sore throats, coughs & colds as the weather rapidly shifts between the low 40’s & mid-80’s F in just the last week alone.

Old midwives from England once shared that if you kept your neck warm, it almost didn’t matter about wearing a hat.   Spring in Michigan is exactly what they were talking about! How about a cool bandana, a favorite scarf, the ‘turtle’ cut off an old turtleneck for the hard-playing kiddos, or even thin wool balacalva’s that cover those sensitive lymph nodes, ears & necks?

The last couple of years have brought extreme weather throughout the country and around the world; locally we’ve had extended power outages right at the coldest part of the year. Summer is EXACTLY the time of year to creatively outfit your family with warm layers for all season!   Look for thin base first layers to the heavier warmer outer layers at your local church sales, rummage sales, garage sales and mom-to-mom sales.  Mix silk, wool, fleece & synthetic.  Cotton is great for summer, but can be dangerous in the winter when it doesn’t insulate if damp and takes too long to dry.   ALWAYS pick up the soft European wool/silk long johns if you’re lucky enough to find them anywhere, anytime! We sell it new, and it’s worth the $30-50 a piece, but we never pass up the chance to also keep kids cozy with used versions these priceless items too. We’ve found that warm hats on infants seem to cure the hiccups, warm bellies seem to have less constipation, and warm bodies bring pink healthy cheeks. It’s hard to have too many mittens, wool socks or rain gear!

And for the creative among you – WHAT about the bunny soft cashmere sweater for $5 at the Salvation Army, a weird cowl neck in that crazy peach color? Cut off the arms, run it through the hot cycle of your washer to mildly felt it up just a bit, and you have the basis of a fabulous sleep bag for your infant or toddler! Or a man’s old wool sweater with elbow patches, could those long arms become the base of your preschooler’s wool trousers over tights?

Word all over is that climate change is going to bringing us ever more extreme weather in coming years. Now’s the time to stock up for great outdoor fun year round (1000hoursoutside) and family safety regardless of what the weather might throw at us!

Featured, Healthy Living, Playful Families

An Authentic Gift Giving Season

December 12, 2014

What does an ‘Authentic Gift Giving’ season look like?   Indigo Forest recently found the words for our vision – “The Learning Center for Authentic Living,”, and sustainable gift-giving was our topic last week at our “Natural Health Club Class.”  When we recently started feeling bullied (and financially stressed) by our usually-thoughtful kids’ expectations, here are some of the ideas we started exploring:

Give experiences over stuff.  One year we received a family gift of tickets to the traveling Broadway “Mary Poppins” play, allowing us to dress-up, snack in the city, and text pictures of ourselves next to the fancy gold gilt of the Theatre.  A lifetime memory!   Experiences could range from taking them out to eat, the elderly might especially appreciate time with you as much as the meal, to a ‘movie date night.’  I took my theater-enchanted teen to a Les Miserable showing at 10 pm on Christmas Day – it was immediate, personal, and felt ‘Very Important.’

Family adventures that bring year-long pleasures – Depending on your budget, giving a day or annual family pass to the local Children’s Museum can be a treat for cash-strapped families, especially as many museums have reciprocal admittance to other museums all over the country,stretching summer vacation fun.   Our kids think that going swimming in the winter is a hoot (since it has to be indoors here in Michigan), so in the past they’ve loved presents of swimming lessons, Rec center passes, and an overnight at the near-by indoor water-park.

Family Gifts – make family gifts of larger items such as wood block sets, hammocks and board games .  One Easter an Indigo Forest customer made a Basket for her entire family consisting of seeds, little shovels, and spring oriented items.

Minimize electronics & short-lived plastic toys and give toys that encourage exploring and learning –  wooden toys (especially for the younger set) can become family heirlooms, and look for items that can share their value over years or lifetimes.   Things like quality books, pocket knives, puzzles, craft sets, or handheld looms might hold their place longer.   How about a scavenger hunt poem – one that takes the kids all over the house or property, maybe takes them to a relative with a historical family question, makes them find a gift from last year, an item to share and give, or a photo of someone they love?  The list is endless – just think – “What memory do I want to create?  What gift of history or love or interaction do I want them to have?   Or how much time do I want them to be busy?  Just kidding.

Make gifts – scented lotions, essential oil sprays, handmade items that are knit or sewn, or simple home-made food like granola in a mason jar with a bow. It’s easy to adapt Resale Shop finds for the kids’ dress-up trunk!  Our boys (yes boys) gave knitted book marks years ago that are still being used, but most popular with Grandma were the felt hearts sewn by preschoolers with bright embroidery floss & stuffed with wool.

Coupons –   One of THE most popular traditions at our house for years!  Our coupons have included a ‘No thank you chore’, a massage for back, feet, etc (usually for bedtime), parent date, “I’ll do your dishes”, one piece of chocolate at the downtown chocolate shop,  ‘have your friends over’,  ‘I’ll play whatever game you want all afternoon’, laser tag with friends, movie night, house-cleaning, the stay up all night New Year’s Eve date (10 yr olds), and once I gave the 9 year enamored with avocado sushi a home ‘sushi night’ every Tuesday for 3 months!  Don’t be afraid to add in rules, at our house they have to be in ‘good standing’ to go get chocolates, and give a half hour notice so we can fit in the bedtime back rubs.

One year we gave their auntie a ‘Date-a-Month’ for the coming year, which included bowling, swimming, games & chili, sledding fest, summer hike & picnic, monopoly Saturday, and downtown explore with ice cream.

Something to wear, something to read, something to play with, something they need.  This just about covers it, doesn’t it?  I’m trying to get up the nerve to scale back to this simple approach.

Don’t be afraid to buck the ‘Amazon List’ trend with your kids and the relatives- the swimming lessons worked because we got the relatives to each contribute the value of one lesson instead buying a ‘thing’, so the kids got a full series of classes (& we then used free Family passes each Friday), stretching the whole experience throughout the winter.  Kids had fun, got safer from their gained skills, and there was nothing to store!

How do you celebrate your family, or your religious expression, in this season, and is your spirit of giving reflecting your spiritual intent, whatever that might be?