Monday, April 23, 2012

Blog Management & Comment Policy

Just like with any other endeavor, learning how to best manage a blog is a matter of trial and error. There are plenty of etiquette tips out there, and one good suggestion I came across is to establish a comment policy. Negative comments are, unfortunately, a likelihood, so setting down how you will deal with them is important. First of all, the general consensus is to allow dissenting views. I agree with this, but I also think boundaries are necessary to maintain a professional quality blog. Personal attacks do not belong on either the blog page or in its comments. Regardless of how carefully you try to word the views you are expressing via your blog, you cannot control what may offend another person.

I recommend regularly editing your blog content to best reflect your theme in a nonconfrontational manner, without watering down your posts and thus interfering with the integrity of your writing. Say what you have to say clearly and succinctly. Specific examples are more effective than generalized comments, so complete anonymity is not possible, nor should your readers expect it, if you are writing about your own life. It is a delicate balance, and only the continued experience of writing will achieve the desired results. Be as careful as you can with the tone of your blog, while understanding that the tone you intend and how a reader takes it may not be the same. The tone of the comments you allow should also be respectful and polite. So here is my policy:

1. My blog is my space, and I have the right to moderate all comments before choosing to post or not to post. All comments have been placed on the moderation setting, to be previewed before potential posting.
2. Polite, respectful differences of opinion will be allowed, but no personal attacks or attacks against any group of people, foul language, or comments of a nature that I deem inappropriate for whatever reason will be published. 
3. The comments option is currently open to anyone, but this status may change.
4. While I post blog links to Facebook to extend readership, I prefer comments to be made at the blog website itself, where they can be moderated. My feeling is that negativity and comments of a personal nature, as well as extended conversations and arguments, creates an unprofessional atmosphere.
5. I reserve the right to delete any comments from my Facebook wall, with no explanation.
6. Comments most likely to be published are those in reflection of the specific content of the post, rather than judgments upon me personally. I welcome opinions on the work itself.
7. My blog falls in the literary genre of the personal essay, and therefore is a work of creative nonfiction, not to be expected to be entirely factual like a newspaper article. My posts are opinion pieces from my personal perspective on a particular theme, reflecting my own experiences and supported at times by professional or factual information. A balanced approach to possible sides of any issue is not to be expected. Comments should reflect an understanding of this nature of the blog.


What a fun topic! I have taken to calling perimenopause, simply, The Peri. This is a misunderstood phase in a woman's life, and the symptoms develop gradually, so often a woman does not realize she has arrived to this place. Some symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes, are thought to be associated with menopause. Nope, that's "The Peri"! Menopause is defined as the phase when a woman has not had a menstrual period for the past 12 months. Wish I were there right now, seriously. Instead, I am in the stage containing one of the first symptoms of perimenopause--heavy bleeding. This usually starts in the late 30s/early 40s. Perimenopause is marked by hormonal fluctuations, and the heavy bleeding is one of the results. Most of my friends around my age (43) are experiencing this as well. This means that Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts are also probably perimenopausal, so we are in beautiful company!

Around age 40 I asked my doctor about the fatigue I was experiencing. Because of a family history of diabetes, I was concerned I might be pre-diabetic. No, blood sugar levels all good! But putting two and two together, it is logical that if one loses large quantities of blood every month, one is going to feel a bit droopy. My doctor suggested a type of surgery in which the lining of the uterus in burned away, and hence no more periods. No thanks!

The Peri is like the flip side of puberty. Along with the heavy blood flow and fatigue, night sweats, and hot flashes, you may experience low sex drive, irritability, mood swings, and insomnia. My PMS is not nearly as severe as when I was young. It's pretty mild now. And I don't have the intense cramping and lower back pain I experienced as a teenager. I was fatigued back then too, usually missing at least one to three days of school each month due to my periods. I credit belly dance for the absence of the pain now. But still, the quality of my life is affected every month, and short of burning the uterus lining (cringe), what can be done?

I take a Gentle Iron supplement, which also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin C. I also take a multi-vitamin. I'm a vegetarian, so red meat is not an option, but spinach, beans, dark chocolate (hurray!), dried fruit, and fortified cereals are good sources of iron as well. Black Cohosh is an herb that can help with heavy bleeding and hormonal imbalance. Try a daily smoothie also with fruits and vegetables such as kale, dandelion, spinach, parsley, celery, mangoes, bananas, peaches, and pears. I will update readers on whether the black cohosh and smoothies make a difference once I have implemented them for several weeks. I visit my chiropractor monthly, which I find indispensable for overall wellness, and his treatments have helped regulate my periods. Massage therapy, yoga, reiki, cranial sacral therapy, accupuncture, and other holistic forms of healing can also be effective for balancing hormones and energy and releasing blockages and toxins.

Reducing stress aids hormonal fluctuations, so taking good care of yourself in general is mandatory during this stage of life. Get more exercise, eat healthier, and use stress management tools such as yoga, breathing exercises, prayer and meditation. See my Vitality Challenge for more specifics! An American Indian friend of mine once told me the most amazing thing about her culture. It's called the Moon Lodge. During a woman's menstrual period, she goes into the moon lodge and has no responsibilities. Other women bring her food, care for her children, and do her chores! The Native American culture is matriarchal. Perhaps you could start your own moon lodge group of women willing to help each other out in this way. At the very least, rest as much as possible during your heavy flow days. Have older children and your husband do your chores and the cooking. Make a big pot of hearty soup ahead of time, so you have something healthy you can just warm up for those few hard days. Let kids be as self-sufficient as is reasonable. Take a day or two off your job outside the home each month if you have one. Your doctor may even be able to write an excuse for you so your boss understands that you have a medical condition and are not just being lazy.

When I was in college, an older girl told me to drink water constantly to "flush out" the blood during periods. Seems like good advice to me. You may crave sugar and caffeine, but too much will ultimately deplete you further, so make sure you are getting proper nutrition and plenty of hydration.

The Peri is a natural stage in a woman's life, and we can find balance. We don't want to hear that we are in this stage, coming to the end of our fertility, and therefore, our youth. The combination of physical and emotional factors can be overwhelming, and depression could be one of the symptoms. St. John's Wort is an herb known to be effective for treating mild to moderate depression.

If any of you have other good advice about how to weather The Peri storm of life, please share your experiences! Let's transform this to the time of roses, the summer of our lives...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Vitality Progress Report

How are we doing with our plan toward greater energy, health, and fitness? My new belly dance session started yesterday, so I am lucky to have the additional motivation of preparing to teach others. In fact, last week I had set my troupe a challenge to keep a practice log and do a belly dance workout 6 days a week. After only a few days, I did have more energy. But then Easter came, and the bunny brought me my own basket, and I got lazy. This can easily happen! So I want to encourage you right now to get immediately back on the bike if you fall off. You can always start over. After all, Scarlet O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day!"

So after I posted the vitality challenge here, I got my shimmy on again, even putting in a whole hour on Wednesday. I have still been eating Easter candy, but I took it out of the basket and put in in the cupboard so it wasn't in plain sight every time I walked through the dining room. I drank extra water after my morning coffee, and indeed it took care of the usual dehydration. Last night at class I could swear I already looked thinner! That is the power of the mind. Once you start on a program to improve your quality of life, you will instantly feel better and have an enhanced image of what you see in the mirror.

For the program to be effective, you have to do something you enjoy for exercise! If it is boring and you have to force yourself, it's the wrong thing. For instance, I do not like to run. I have no desire to run. So I would be crazy to make running my choice. This may seem obvious, but so many people have a gym membership they never use or a treadmill or elliptical machine sitting in their spare bedroom gathering dust. You know who you are...

Also, make sure you will not injure yourself. Personally, I don't think running is a good idea, especially on concrete, as so many people I know have suffered injuries. You can get the same benefits from walking, but you have to walk a greater distance. Get some help from a personal trainer so you are using equipment correctly. Wear the proper shoes. Warm up first, and don't forget your cooling down stretches. If you have been sedentary, don't overdo it. Increase the intensity of your workout gradually. Set yourself up for success! A yoga, pilates, belly dance or other class will also give you the opportunity to get out of the house and meet people. Zumba is popular, but again, if you are very out of shape, an hour long, high impact aerobic class will be too strenuous to start with.

And finally, I have decided not to weigh myself, and I encourage you not to either. Focusing on one's weight may have the result of adding more weight! My scale is not accurate, anyway. You will know by how your clothes fit if you are losing inches. But if you do want to weigh yourself, do so no more than once a week, and make sure it is on the same scale, first thing in the morning, each time, as weight can fluctuate throughout the day.

So is anyone with me? Take a moment to comment here on the blog or on Facebook and keep me posted!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vitality Challenge

 Model and Yogi, Christy Turlington

Are you tired almost every day, even after a full night's sleep? Do you struggle to have enough energy to perform your every day tasks?  Fatigue is not an unusual problem for women, especially those of us nearing middle age (cringe). Hormonal changes, raising children, caring for aging parents, and careers are all challenges we face, and in today's world, we are juggling it all at a faster and faster pace. Ladies, we are depleted, let's face it. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We are on a merry-go-round that, if we ever get off it, we do so by careening through the air and crashing into a tree. We wouldn't know the simple life from a Mexican fruit bat.

Yesterday I received the May issue of  Whole Living magazine in the mail, and a caption on the cover says, "Spring-Clean Your Life."  So I think a challenge is in order. My sister is getting married Memorial weekend, and I have been meaning to lose 10 pounds. But let's not diet.  Diet is a 4-letter word, and we know diets don't work long-term. And we are not interested in counting calories or deprivation of any kind. In fact, eat whatever you want. Just keep a few tips in mind and implement these steps religiously:

1. Sugar will give you a boost of energy, but then you will crash. Sugar is aging and causes all manner of health problems in excessive amounts. If you want a treat, eat a good meal or substantial snack first, then have a small dessert.

2. No caffeine after 2:00 p.m.  It will interfere with your sleep.

3. Less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night results in serious sleep deprivation. Get your beauty rest!

4. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day but Sunday, which should be your complete day of rest. You can cook a nice Sunday dinner, but really, your husband can do that if you cook the rest of the week. Otherwise, no house work. Do something relaxing that you enjoy. Or do nothing. Just be.

5. Begin your fitness program with 5 minutes of moving warm ups, rather than static stretches. For 20 minutes, take a brisk walk, dance, do aerobics, use free weights, etc... Then cool down with yoga stretches for 5 minutes. I guarantee you will have more energy! And regular exercise translates to a better quality of sleep.

6. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up. You will have more energy and less cravings all through the day. Make sure you are getting the recommended protein, whole grains, some dairy, and fruits and vegetables, eating as much organic and locally grown food as possible. Think whole foods rather than packaged and processed.  Do not skip meals. Four to six smaller meals is recommended over 3 large ones.

7. Coffee dehydrates, which is another energy zapper, so drink an extra glass or two of water for each cup of java. You can also get water from things you eat, such as juicy fruits and vegetables. Aim for the rule of 8 to 10 glasses of water daily!

8. Manage your stress. All of the above will help you do so, but add prayer and meditation to the start of each day. Light a candle, say a prayer, and read a page from a devotional booklet. Journaling is also a great outlet for get whatever is obsessively circling your head.

9. Spend time in nature every day. This is a proven stress reducer, and we are hard-wired to be calmed by the sights and sounds of God's creation. Try keeping a nature journal. Even if you are no artist, drawing is also therapeutic. Any hand craft, in fact, will keep you centered. And of course, gardening is a moving meditation. Get your hands in the dirt!

10. Spend more time with the people who are important to you and less time plugged in. Get off the internet, shut off the TV, get off the phone. Get the television out of your bedroom, and no screen time within an hour of going to bed!

There is our 10 step plan to increased vitality, contentment, and fitness! And hopefully, in the process, we will look and feel better, whether or not the pounds melt away. (It goes without saying, but if you smoke, it's time to quit!) Please let me know if you will take the challenge with me! Any wellness plan has a greater chance of success if one has a partner. So sign up for email notification of new posts, and I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Belly Dance in Bryan, OH

Belly dance classes with Rita Helena will begin on Thursday, April 12.  This session will run for 4 weeks, and the cost is $32.  Please register ASAP with Cindy at Parks and Recreation, 419-633-6030 if you intend to take the class. All classes are held at the Community Center on Buffalo Rd. in Bryan, upstairs.

Basic Belly Dance is for new beginners through intermediate level.  Learn the foundations of Egyptian style and the Baladi, focusing on posture, basic steps, combinations, and a mini choreography.
5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Advanced/Troupe is open to current dancers at this level only.  Classes will double as rehearsals for performance opportunities, as well as focus on solo technique and personal styling.
6:45 to 7:45 p.m.

Call Rita Helena at 419-485-0524 with any questions, or to schedule private lessons. You can also email at  Happy Spring!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dick and Jane Readers

Do you remember Dick and Jane? And their sister, Sally, and dog Spot? A few years ago my mother-in-law gave Beezy a new, 12 volume set of these books. I was initially discouraged from using them for homeschooling, because they contain a lot of sight words, and I was focusing on the Montessori method of teaching the phonetic letter sounds first, then putting them together into three- and four-letter words. A homeschooling friend of mine suggested the BOB books from Scholastic, and at first I thought these were great, as most words could be sounded out, with only a few sight words gradually being added. The art work for these books is, quite frankly, terrible. I think I could do better illustrations, which is a sad statement indeed. It is actually okay for a child to pick up words from the context of pictures in a book. This is a relational skill, so there is no reason for bad drawings.

After awhile I noticed that Beezy would yawn profusely whenever she read the BOB books, but she would not yawn during any other lessons! She always commented on the bad art, and as it turns out, she really does not enjoy sounding out words. I was relieved to read in Charlotte Mason's manual that sight reading should begin once the basics of phonics are learned, as this is where real progress in the art of reading happens. I have found that this is indeed an effective method, simply putting a finger under each word and having the child repeat it. Mason would not have liked the "twaddle" of either the BOB readers or the Dick and Jane series. So we use Beatrix Potter's wonderful books of high quality literature, interesting stories, excellent vocabulary words, and extremely fine illustrations.

Still, I did not want to completely give up on sounding words out, which one should be able to do in the event that one comes across an unfamiliar word, or in case one wishes to look a word up in the dictionary. So out of curiosity, I looked at Dick and Jane again, which at least has good art work. To my surprise, Beezy has progressed quite well in her reading as a result! The repetition of the sight words gets them into her head, and she doesn't have to stop so often to sound something out. She doesn't seem to mind the simplicity of the language and lack of intriguing plot. The feeling of success in developing reading skills without such laboriousness as we found with the BOB books is evidently enough reward to compensate for the lack of literary value.

Once again, the point is well made that you do what works best with your children. Don't be afraid to trust your instincts and try something different when progress is not being well made. And after all, I learned to read with Dick and Jane, and I am an avid bookworm of exceptional reading abilities! The worst thing to do is to force a skill that your child is not ready for, or to allow lessons to be so boring and tedious that they kill the natural joy in learning that we want our children to possess. Go, Sally, go!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In the Right Place

How do you know you are in the right place at the right time? This morning I woke up earlier than usual. Because of that, I found a wonderfully inspiring blog to read to begin my day. Also, I was sitting here when the phone rang, so my aunt was able to ask me to babysit my 6-year-old cousin today. My aunt said that my being here is such a blessing! I know I am in the right place because I am able to serve others when they need me. God put me here, in this house, in this town, in this time in history, with my particular family. I could have moved somewhere else, but I was called here, to my hometown village, and I answered the call.

Three years ago we adopted a dog that the Humane Society rescued from being chained up in a field, starving to death, pregnant, and full of heart worms. Three of her five puppies lived, and Daisy survived the heart worm treatment. She also survived mammary cancer. Now she has survived another close call, as her heart has become enlarged and a chain reaction of problems resulted in her breathing almost being completely cut off. While she was at the vet, I noticed all the dog hair that is always covering my hard wood floors, and I knew I would rather have the dog than cleaner floors. The extra work is worth it for the privilege of caring for this loving creature who has been through so much.

We are called in so many ways to mother. Neglected neighbor children have sat at my table for dinner. I took over a club task for my grandmother who is so relieved to no longer carry the responsibility. I have the space to hold many joyous family gatherings at my home. If I had never become a mother, I wonder if I would ever have realized that it's not all about me, my needs, my wants, my convenience. Mothers are put out of their way every single day. That's why we are here, in this place, in this time, and today I choose to be grateful.