Posts filed under wellness

Homeschooling Through Chronic Illness {Discovering the Gift}

I have a secret and it's finally time to tell it. Okay, I have a few secrets...

I don't know much more about how to successfully homeschool today than I did at the beginning 15 years ago. I don't really go to homeschool conferences. I don't belong to a co-op. I know a lot about homeschooling and I've read all the books and purchased all the programs... but my days... they've been uncertain and long. And I've spent more than a few of them battling chronic illness

I guess that's not the most flattering picture to paint of myself but... that's not the secret that I came here to tell anyway.  

This post is really about the secret that I discovered while slogging uphill for this dream and for my family. It's about the real gift beyond the details of these days and what I want to be able to pass on to every homeschool mom I know...

Truly successful homeschooling is never about how much material we can stuff into a kids' brain. It's about lighting a fire in their very souls. And there is no one best way to do that. It is much more about trusting the process than about planning for perfection. 

The family is made to nurture body, mind, and soul. We were created to do this. We don't really look like a school. We often look like a first class mess. But that is the gift... 

That God allows us to become nothing so that the flame of His Love might rise and become a blaze in the heart of the family. 

One of the best lessons I ever learned about homeschooling was from a local mom who faced a life-threatening illness and was sick for an extended period of time. She told me that she spent many days resting in a hammock on their enclosed patio while the kids pressed on, more or less, with their homeschooling. Her kids told me how they used to pretend to work or study and they laughed and teased each other about what they really did when they were supposed to be working. She told me (with a smile) that she never doubted their decision to continue homeschooling even when she wasn't able to do a thing. Because it wasn't about her. She knew their decision was right and she trusted that God had a plan for her illness. 

Her kids are all grown now - successful, happy, smart, faithful, and all good friends - and I've never forgotten what she told me. She successfully homeschooled imperfectly from a hammock. And joy grew out of that. 

When I went through my own years of chronic pain, illness, and fatigue, I didn't call her. I didn't really know what was wrong with me and I thought I was just a loser homeschooler. I didn't think that anyone was as lousy at this as I was. I imposed a kind of isolation on myself, determined to figure it out on my own.

But I wish I would have called her. I wish I would have let her see the tears. 

Four years ago, God allowed me to set down my cross of illness. Since that time, I have been on a journey of healing; not just my body, but also my battered mind and soul. And while I have never doubted for a moment that homeschooling was a worthwhile journey and blessed by God, I have never stopped doubting my own role in that beautiful dream.

Why did He make these beautiful children and then give them this wildly inadequate mother? 

It's all about the secret:

The mess is part of the gift. It is the stripping down of ego until we can see nothing but the grace of God. 

That is the secret, the gift of chronic illness. That through all the pain and struggle, we are presented with the reality that we, in ourselves, are small.... and that it is God who stands in the gap and enables us to rise. Thanks be to God.

John 12:24–25
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.
Posted on April 14, 2016 and filed under homeschooling, wellness.

How to Love a Bum Knee {Practical Tips for Joint Care}

I'm pressing on with my commitment to wellness and healing this year; honoring the gift of my body as the primary tool of service in my vocation; recognizing the stumbling blocks of getting... um... older. A little nuts and bolts for body maintenance today...


When I was 15 years old, I blew out my knee in a freak hurdling accident. Complete tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), cartilage damage, blah, blah, blah. It required reconstructive surgery and extensive physical therapy. I went on to fully participate in life and sports but my knee has never really been the same. 

I'll never forget the words my doctor told me after surgery: "You'll have to keep those supporting muscles strong for the rest of your life. Good preventative care will save you much struggle"

Uh huh. Said the teenager. 

So here I am a couple decades older, wiser, and creakier, wishing I had heeded his advice. I have learned about body maintenance the hard way but here are a few ways I keep the swelling and pain down and increase my overall knee health...

NUTRITION

Okay... nutrition will always be number one for me no matter the topic. But that's because it does matter. My surgery knee is a classic example...

For 20 years, the swelling in my knee was a 24-hour given. In all that time, I was never able to sit back on my heels. Never had that kind of mobility even though I was fit enough. Then I started a radical elimination diet for other reasons. Ready for my miracle?

Within 3 days (THREE!), I was able to sit back on my heels like I was a toddler again. After TWENTY years. I had no idea that my joints were in a constant state of swelling from my poor diet. All the years of all-over body pain and so many injuries... it all started to make sense. 

Fix the diet... feed the knees.

STRENGTH

The doctor was right. Don't stop moving. Keep oiling the machine. Strengthen the muscles. Those joints need it even when they hurt! As we age, it is even more important to add some strength training. Your knees need you to help them bear the load. 

POSTURE

I've recommended this book before for helping with proper body alignment and posture and I do it again. Your knees have the necessary disadvantage of being attached to every other part of your body. If you are off a bit somewhere above or below, the knee is going to take a beating.

SQUAT PROPERLY

When exercising, stick the bootie out to do squats. No knees over the toes. Pretend you're sitting in a chair and put your weight on your heels. 

WEIGHT

I have noticed over the years that my knee pain is much more controllable if I fall within 5 pounds of what I know to be my ideal weight. It's a small margin but it does make a difference... and science backs up my experience. Researchers say that each one pound of weight lost reduces knee pressure by 48,000 pounds per mile! Fortunately, my clean diet is self-regulating. I generally don't have to scale watch. Pregnancy is an obvious exception and I am more careful.

DECREASE INFLAMMATION

I don't use commercial creams and only rarely use OTC medications, but I am loving this simple recipe for knee pain and swelling. The affect for me is quick and relieving. This is particularly helpful in pregnancy when my weight surpasses the weight load ideal for my knees. I use it prior to a workouts to help reduce swelling (and consequently prevent injury), and after workouts to relieve any soreness and stiffness. 

Every person's body is different, but this natural blend provides me with noticeable swelling relief directly after application. The natural plant compounds provide anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits. It often makes the difference between being able to fully straighten my knee or not. 

Directions {including affiliate links}...

I generally fill my roller ball bottles at a 1:10 ratio which breaks down to about 20 drops per 10 mL bottles. That dilutes enough to be safe but effective for all in the house. 

1) Add 20 drops of the following essential oils to a 10mL roller bottle:

  • 10 drops Soothing Blend (Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Blue Tansy, German Chamomile, Helichrysum, and Osmanthus) This is a proprietary blend that I LOVE from the company I purchase oils from. (You can purchase directly HERE. or contact me to learn more about essential oils and how to get 25% off.)
  • 5 drops Juniper Berry
  • 5 drops Frankincense

2) Fill the rest of the bottle with a carrier oil. I use fractionated coconut oil.

3) Put the roller and cap on, give a gentle shake, and label. ALWAYS label. 

4) Roll on as needed.


As old-ish as I feel sometimes, I know that these knees have probably only carried me for half of my life journey. I have a lot of living left to do... lots of little ones to carry... and big ones to keep up with. I'm not ready to decline yet! 

Thanks be to God for the gift of this body. I intend to do my best to take care of it. 

Do you have any tips for knee health? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Posted on February 29, 2016 and filed under DIY, fitness, nutrition, wellness.

Fitness Meets Faith {SoulCore Review}

There is so much in life that draws us away from our primary purpose. When I find a resource in any category that draws me straight to mine, I cling to it. As a Catholic, that primary purpose is always Jesus Christ... and if a thing doesn't draw me closer to Him, it probably doesn't belong in my life. 

This is where the meeting of the secular and the sacred often causes confusion... because it isn't always clear cut. Excellent homeschooling materials (for example) don't always have to explicitly mention the name of Our Lord in order to help a person develop in His service. But boy, when you stumble upon a really excellent and thoroughly Catholic resource... it's a lot like winning the lottery.

I have always been committed to fitness in my life (body, mind, soul) and yet this year is much bigger for me as I focus (like a laser beam) on what it is that I need to do to be well. Healing from chronic illness and immune dysfunction can be a long road. 2016 is my time to Rise to Joy in service of my God and my vocation. And I'm sharing all of it publicly as a way to stay accountable and help others. So...

I want to introduce you to a challenging and beautiful Catholic fitness series called SoulCore. It's not yoga but it uses some of the same principles of movement that people find so effective... "a combination of core-strengthening exercises and isometric exercises, stretching and overall strengthening of the entire body." The biggest difference is...

Jesus Christ. 

Overt, joyful, focused, prayerful, physical and mental movement toward the Savior of the World.  The SoulCore project is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That's really the core of who we are. Beautiful. 

The exercises are set to a full rosary so it's a two-for-one if you're crunched for time. But there are greater benefits to that method: 

1. The prayers are the counting method. You move and pray. As a Catholic, I know the Hail Mary so well that it's like breathing. In this workout, I find myself easily entering into that prayer... sometimes less focused if I'm struggling with an exercise (but I know the prayer well enough to keep it on my lips) and sometimes more focused as my body and soul are both oriented toward work and heaven. Ora et labora indeed.

2. This is not just work and prayer but work as prayer. Our bodies are designed to serve the Lord. And the real gift with taking care of them with right purpose is that the care becomes a service to Him as well. It is not just a way to strengthen us for vocation but is actually a part of our vocation. SoulCore draws the mind to this reality directly.

As I said before, the exercises can be challenging even for those who are accustomed to working out. But they are also easy to adapt; lighter weights, fewer reps, knee push ups. My pregnant belly forces me to make some of those modifications but the workout is still wholly accessible to me. 

The Sorrowful and Joyful Mystery DVD workouts are currently available and the Glorious Mysteries will be in the shop soon. Digital downloads for all are also available. The website is full of inspirational material, accessories, local class info, and the inspiring story of the mission of the founders.


GIVEAWAY

The SoulCore team very generously sent me a Sorrowful Mysteries DVD to review (I bought two more DVD's after loving my review copy!) ... 

...and also sent TWO copies to give away to my readers. 

Enter below through the Rafflecopter. I hope you win! If not, I hope you get the opportunity to experience this wonderful workout series another way! 

Posted on January 31, 2016 and filed under fitness, Giveaway, wellness, Womanhood.