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I just got home from the most epic-wonderful, non-stop, loud, proud, can’t-get-enough graduation weekend!  Oldest son Ben graduated from the University of Colorado last weekend.  He may have been the last of the 4 to graduate, but he did it in fine style!

All of the kids have humored their parents and grandparents and have participated in the graduation ceremonies.  Since they all attended large universities, the graduations were similar – hundreds graduating, thousands attending, prestigious speakers, interminable list of names called, the pomp and circumstance of it all.  Ben’s main graduation ceremony was no different, but because he was in an honors program, we were treated to a few more festivities.

But first:  getting there.

Ben and his SO Kirsten live in Loveland, CO.  They have a darling little house with a garden and a guest room and 2 precious dogs.  She drives north to Fort Collins where she works as an architect, and he drives south to Boulder for school.

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River and Susie
River and Susie

Our family lives…everywhere.  Graduation was to begin on Thursday.  Travel started on Sunday.

SUNDAY:

My parents headed out in their SUV from Peachtree City, Georgia

MONDAY:

I left my sweetheart in Austin, Texas to travel to Eugene, Oregon, where #4 has been.

TUESDAY:

#2 and his SO left Salida, Colorado heading for Loveland.  Amy and I made it from Eugene to Salt Lake City.  Parents made it to Loveland.

WEDNESDAY:

Jesse, Anna Leigh, and Aden left Murfreesboro to fly to Denver to rent a car to drive to Loveland.  Amy and I made it to Loveland.  #3 and her SO left Las Vegas at 5am, right after she got off work at the casino, flew through Salt Lake City to Denver to Loveland.

We have a couple of folks yet to arrive, but off we go to dinner.

Grandma Glenda, me, Amy, Little Glenda
Grandma Glenda, me, Amy, Little Glenda
The man of the moment and his very loving, very patient, very supportive girlfriend
The man of the moment and his very loving, very patient, very supportive girlfriend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam and Little Jess
Sam and Little Jess
Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday morning brought the first of the official ceremonies:

 

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Ben’s Honors Thesis was entitled:  A Dangerous Conflation of Ideologies: The Nexus of Christianity and Neoliberalism.  I know, everyone’s dying to read it, but he wants to get it peer-reviewed and published, so he’s not quite making it public yet.  You can trust his mother – it’s brilliant.  His plan is to go to law school (University of Washington?) after a year off for LSAT study and travel.

Then the obligatory cheese and fruit reception

 

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Thursday night was our cooking extravaganza, and I don’t have many pictures of that because I was…cooking.  What a feast we had!  Everyone pitched in – all of us in the kitchen at once, cooking, mixing drinks, dancing, and I know it will surprise everyone, but we are a little loud when we are all together, so I remember a lot of shouting.

Late Thursday night brought in Amy’s squeeze, Alex, from Eugene, Oregon, after a little tense pass travel experience going through Salt Lake City.  Then Friday was the big show!

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And then there he was!
And then there he was!

Next was a reception for his department, with a quick stop in the bookstore on the way

Aden and Ralphie
Aden and Ralphie

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We grabbed this moment for the group shot:

 

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This one I call My Honeys with Their Honeys
This one I call My Honeys with Their Honeys

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And whattyaknow, we have time for a quick drink before the final event of the day!

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Then, the last event – his graduation with his Political Science Department

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BBQ and friends, my honey got in late, food and drink for everyone (and a little storytelling…), and then back together again for breakfast before everyone had to hit the road for that traveling in reverse.

Breakfast bunch
Breakfast bunch

Ben, we are profoundly proud of you.  Not only did you get it done, you got it done magnificently!

Thanks for reading!

 

Vaughn and Lucy

I loved Edwin Kagin.

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Edwin died on March 27.  I loved him.  I loved his big, fat, beautiful, juicy brain, I loved his irreverent, dry, southern sense of humor, and I loved his unrelenting compassion, desire for justice, and concern for children.

Edwin was the legal director for American Atheists from 2006 until his death.  He and his wife Helen were the originators of Camp Quest, a secular summer camp for children.  It had grown from a brilliant idea in 1996, to overnight and week-long camps located in many states, and UK and Switzerland.  Camp Quest offers children the summer camp experience including educational activities that promote critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, and philosophy.   Edwin was the brilliant legal mind behind many civil rights and religious freedom lawsuits over the years, but I believe it was Camp Quest of which he was most proud.

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I met Edwin in Des Moines at the American Atheist convention and was captivated by his charm.  He was lovely and encouraging to me as a first-year law student.   Edwin could be funny and serious and blasphemous, all in one sentence.  He was the quintessential cantankerous and curmudgeonly crank whose eyes twinkled behind his glasses under the brim of his leather hat.

Edwin was also an author and bloggerHere is a post he wrote about the death of his lovely wife Helen.  Not long after I met Edwin, he sent me a copy of his book Baubles of Blasphemy.  I rationed the readings of his writings because they usually had a profound effect on me as a new freethinker just coming out of the daze of religion, and I needed the extra moments to digest the profundity.  We corresponded through email and even in this cold, impersonal digital format, his warm, witty personality peeked through.

Edwin and I saw one another at various freethinkers conventions, and always stole a moment or two to catch up.  He never failed to ask me about law school and how I was doing and what my plans were.  I saw him last in Austin, Texas, and was looking forward to seeing him again in Salt Lake City in April.  Edwin died on March 27.

But my sweet Edwin left behind not only a legacy of epic proportions in the way of Camp Quest, but also his two canine loves, Vaughn and Lucy.  Edwin’s family put out the word that these two honeys needed a home, and they needed to stay together, if possible.  It took me about 10 seconds of reflection before I knew I wanted to provide a home for these babies.

So I introduce to you:  Vaughn and Lucy.

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Big Vaughn
Meeting Elvis the steer
Meeting Elvis the steer
Hot mess of Freethought canines
Hot mess of Freethought canines
The sweetness that is Lucy.
The sweetness that is Lucy.
Precious Vaughn
Precious Vaughn

We’re getting to know one another.  When they learn to trust me, I plan to solicit any legal genius that Edwin shared with them, but I can be patient.  Right now we’re working on positioning in my office while I’m studying, and smelling everything that can be smelled on a farm.

What a delight these two furries are.

And what a joy and an honor and a privilege to have known this man.

Thanks for reading.

edwin-of-the-andes

Before you return to wherever you were before you were born, it might be a good idea to so live that people remember you fondly. This is not a dress rehearsal. Life ends / Tao flows.
Don’t take life too seriously; you won’t get out of it alive anyway.

Edwin Kagin

 

 

Get busy livin or get busy dyin

I know I haven’t blogged enough when I am tempted to title the post as “An Update”, but there could be no more boring a post title than that, and I refuse.

I’m in my fourth and final year of law school.  This year’s subjects are Wills and Trusts, Remedies, and California Community Property.  Our schedule is a little different this year: these 3 classes finish in September, and Sept-Dec we have Capstone, which is a course intended to prepare us for the Performance Test, which is a portion of the Bar Exam.  Then in December I begin my Bar Review course, and take the Bar in February.

Exactly one year from today will be the Sunday evening before Bar Exam week.  The test is 3 days, Tues/Wed/Thurs consisting of 6 essays, 200 multiple choice questions, and 2 Performance Tests.  Just describing it is enough stimulation for now, and I’ll post more about it in the future, but after this week’s applicants take it, my countdown begins.

That’s enough about school, except to say that I still love everything about it.  I say with no disclaimer that I am going to miss it.  I’ve loved gaining the knowledge, studying the cases, and sharing with my classmates.  Here’s my post of when I announced I was attending – see if you detect any less excitement now than when I began.

And in other news, last year, darling son Sam, who is also an endurance athlete said to me ever-so-sweetly:  “Mom, I want to do an Ironman with you before you are too old.”  Without even the faintest tinge of humor.

In what turned out to be a much, much bigger commitment that I imagined in my wildest dreams, I once made a promise to my children that whatever they would ask or allow me to do with them, I would do.  It was based on my belief that you meet your children where they are if you want to be close to them.  This promise has taken me to the top of black diamond ski runs, down rapids in a kayak, to art museums in New York City, to road trips across America.

So, on September 7, 2014, Sam and I will be competing in the Rev 3 Cedarpoint Triathlon in Sandusky, Ohio.  Just to refresh:  It’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.  I started training in January in Tennessee; Sam’s doing his training in Colorado.

Distance training involves a progressive program of adding longer/more often/more intense workouts over time.  Over the months leading to September I plan to do several shorter triathlons.  There’s one in Tullahoma in June, a great race in Chattanooga in July, and I’m looking for a half-Iron for August.  I’ve done a couple of half-marathons since the new year, with a couple more coming up.  I’ve got some 5, 10, and 15ks mixed in as well, and then triathlon season starts this spring.

Watch for race previews, race debriefs, and pics of the adventure.  Suggest a race if you know of a good one.  And you’re welcome to come to Ohio in September – the race is held at Cedar Point Amusement park, which is where my team support will be as Sammy and I are out on the course!

Thanks for reading!

 

Hawaii Wrap-up

Traveling, putting away Christmas, starting back to school — are any of those good enough reasons for having taken so long to write this post?!

Picking up where we left off…Sam, Ben, and I are in Maui.  Sam was completing a housesitting gig for his boss.  We were anticipating Eliott joining us for a few days, but on the way out he had an unexpected episode of claustrophobia on the first flight and wasn’t able to make it.  It left the three of us to our own devices on arrangements, and we are nothing if not resilient and flexible.

The Maui Bird Recovery Project was very accommodating and allowed us to bunk with the interns in the staff housing.  If you’ve ever priced accommodations on the island of Maui, you can imagine how grateful we were!

Our days were spent in a variety of Hawaiian activities – snorkeling, surfing, kite-surfing – and by we, I mean the boys.  I was a little puny for most of the time we were there, and opted out of the big stuff.  Ben got to try every sport he wanted to, and Sam was a patient, if novice, teacher.

We cooked at the cabin in the evenings, and that was a delight.  With Ben’s experience in the restaurant, and my interest in cooking, we had some fabulous dinners, accompanied by local avocados, bananas, lilikoi, and coconut.  Sam had to work one day and Ben and I drove the famed Road to Hana.

Whatever.  So we're tourists.  It was yummy.
Whatever. So we’re tourists. It was yummy.
Bounty from the roadside honor stands -- all delicious!
Bounty from the roadside honor stands — all delicious!
This is what it looks like - a random poinsettia bush in full bloom.
This is what it looks like – a random poinsettia bush in full bloom.
Cliche double rainbow on Maui!
Cliche double rainbow on Maui!
Another lovely shot
Another lovely shot
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
This is the area where Sam has been planting trees
This is the area where Sam has been planting trees
Became obsessed with this little sweet/sour fruit - lilikoi
Became obsessed with this little sweet/sour fruit – lilikoi
One more shot
One more shot
At a little Friday night street festival, this vendor offered, in the upper right corner, a bacon cookie.  No, I didn't.
At a little Friday night street festival, this vendor offered, in the upper right corner, a bacon cookie. No, I didn’t.
Punctuation problems everywhere.
Punctuation problems everywhere.

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I had to leave ahead of the boys, and as I described in an earlier post, the pass travel back home was hideous.  I couldn’t get out of LA to anywhere but Minneapolis, and then I couldn’t get out of there.

And after all that lovely sunshine...
And after all that lovely sunshine…

This was during the first pass of the Polar Vortex, and flights were cancelled everywhere.  My honey was back at home on the internet, looking for any flight I could get on.  He finally found one late that evening to Birmingham, Alabama.  I flew, he drove, and I landed back home in my snuggly little cottage with memories of the white, warm, sandy beaches of Maui, and a few delicious days with my boys.

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Life is good.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one with all the pretty pictures

In the last post I wrote about getting out here, but I don’t think I wrote enough about what Sam is doing.

He’s had an internship since September with the Maui Bird Recovery Project, which I linked to in the last post.  Here’s their Facebook page – give them a like, and a donation if you’re so inclined.  Sam has spent a lot of time in the field planting trees that support the bird recovery.  He and his crew are helicoptered in to remote areas and plant seedlings of the trees.  His internship is almost at an end, and in late January he’ll go to Crested Butte Colorado where he’ll work until the spring and he goes back to Salida, CO, as a river ranger.

He’s had housing as a part of his internship, but for the 2 weeks of Christmas and New Years he’s had a housesitting gig in a charming place just outside of Paia, HI, which is near Kahului.  It is in a beautiful setting, and today’s post is simply my afternoon walk around the house.  If I had the mad camera skills (and the mad camera) of my girl Suzy Q. Steen I could do a better job of capturing all the beauty, but you’ll have to settle for my iPhone wannabes.

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The house is situated by this beautiful ravine
The house is situated by this beautiful ravine

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See the little guy pretending to be a bean pod??
See the little guy pretending to be a bean pod??

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Don't think I didn't want to.  They're the landlord's.
Don’t think I didn’t want to. They’re the landlord’s.

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sunset across the ravine
sunset across the ravine
These boys.
These boys.

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Happy, happy, happy New Calendar!

Thanks for reading!

The Glamour of Pass Travel

I’m in Hawaii!!  I’ll post about the adventures we’re having in the days to come, but I wanted to get a quick post out about how I got out here.  Literally, not philosophically.

One of the employment benefits of working for an airline is what is known as Pass Travel.  This little post is about what that stand-by experience can be like.  Good and bad.

Son #2 is at the conclusion of an internship on the island of Maui.  He’s doing a bird recovery/reforestation project.   Son #1 and I, both students, found ourselves with a window of opportunity to visit Sam over the holidays.  Both girlies are working, Glenda in Vegas and Amy in Utah, so Ben and I are the lucky ones who get to do the trip.

There in an internal employee website that gives information about the “loads” on any particular flight, so that we nonrevs (non-revenue) fliers can make choices about the best time for travel.  This site lists the flights, how many seats are on the airplane, how many of those seats have been sold, and how many remain for us freeloaders to use.  (Technically, pass travel is not free – there are minimal charges that are attached to each flight, based on mileage.)

The holidays are never a good time to attempt pass travel, but if you are strategic, choose your flights well, and are flexible, sometimes it works.

Ben lives in Denver and it was his plan to fly from Denver to Salt Lake City to LA, and then on to Maui.  I would start from Nashville, fly to Atlanta, then LA, then meet up with Ben for the flight into Maui.  The flights online looked tight, but doable.

From years of pass travel, we’ve learned to check your main bag (with items you won’t grieve losing), put some overnight stuff in your small carry-on (toothbrush, clean undies), dress comfortably and in layers (Denver in Dec vs Maui in Dec), and prepare your attitude.  When the children were little, we developed a family motto specifically around pass travel:  Life Is An Adventure.  If you’ve ever tried to keep 4 preschoolers happy in the Memphis terminal for 36 hours, you will understand.

Off we go.  I leave my home in Murfreesboro at 11am on Saturday, Ben leaves his home in Fort Collins at 3pm.  Getting from Nashville to Atlanta didn’t present a problem.  It was in Atlanta that the plan began to deteriorate.  My honey was at home with the employee website pulled up, guiding me on the phone.  LA had become out of the question.  The first 3 flights I watched push back were oversold and 35 standbys were left standing at the gate.  I began to seek other options (keep in mind it’s December 28th) it was clear that Atlanta (Delta’s main hub) was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t find a way ANYWHERE.  Every flight out of Atlanta to any city was overbooked.  I saw a sliver of opportunity in a flight to Seattle (by now it’s about 9pm), and sure enough, I got the last standby seat.

Last seat, last row
Last seat, last row

In the meantime, Ben was having the same experience in Salt Lake City.   He hadn’t had a problem leaving Denver, but SLC (another Delta hub) was a clusterf*&k.  His squeeze was doing the same as mine, and guided him to grabbing the last seat on the last flight to San Francisco.

So instead of meeting in LA on Saturday night, I’m in Seattle, and Ben’s in San Fran.  We had good chances in the morning for both of us to get to LA, and that was the plan.  In true pass travel fashion, we both find a nice, comfy, slice of carpeted floor in our respective terminals.  Here’s a pic of mine from my viewpoint:

backpack as a pillow, and scarf as a blanket
backpack as a pillow, and scarf as a blanket

And in a turn of fortune typical to pass travel, I got a first-class seat on the early flight from Seattle to LA.  This is the breakfast they wanted me to eat:

another post for another time, and I'm an ungrateful brat
another post for another time, and I’m an ungrateful brat

Ben was having the same experience on his flight out of San Francisco to LA, and he got there a few minutes before I did.  After our joyful reunion (around 9:30am), we decided to spend the 8 hours waiting for our flight somewhere besides the LA terminal.  In true Jordan-adventure fashion, Sam had previously scoped out the terminal-proximity-food-and-shade scene, and he was able to tell us the direction to head out.

I'm never happier than this.
I’m never happier than times like this.

We ended up grabbing a six-pack from the grocery, 2 animal-style, protein-style double doubles from In N Out, sitting in a park under the glide path.

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One more trip to the grocery for the remaining 2 hours’ entertainment:

If you're stuck in LA, call me for the down low.
If you’re stuck in LA, call me for the down low.

Then, finally, at the gate in LA, waiting for those elusive seats, listening, listening for:  “Passengers, Jordan, party of 2” to be called over that loudspeaker.

YESSSSSS!!!!
YESSSSSS!!!!

Sweet Sammy met us at the airport with leis, fresh pineapple, chocolate-covered macadamias, and Hawaiian beer.  Stay tuned for more blogging about the Maui adventures.

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So, pass travel.  Is it worth it?  Yes, absolutely, 100% no doubt.  Among my children’s friends, I often encourage them, if they are unsure of what direction to go in life, to consider working for an airline purely because of the benefit of pass travel.  But pass travel requires a mentality, a combination of a sense of adventure, flexibility, patience, a letting go of control, patience and flexibility on the part of your eventual host, and maybe even a little diplomacy thrown in for gate agents and fellow pass riders/passengers.

Life Is An Adventure!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Paleo Post, part 1

I’m still in Vegas with my girlio, helping her apartment and job hunt.  The mini-update is:  it looks as if we have found her an apartment.  It’s about 5 miles from the strip, is gated and secure, and we should get her moved in tomorrow or Tuesday.  She’s begun the job application process by getting her Alcohol Card and Health Card, and all of the online applications filled out.  She’s optimistic about getting work, and is really excited about getting settled into her little Vegas home!

However, I want to post today about nutrition.  I’ve gotten a lot of response from folks since I posted about our experience with the Ancestral Health Symposium.  A lot of the response has been from my friends in the skeptic community.  I’m going to try to explain my position on this a little better, but it makes me so proud to be part of this group of skeptics who don’t accept information without evidence.

First, let’s work on the word.  The issue over the word “Paleo” reminds me of the flame wars the secular community has over the word “atheist” versus “any-self-identification-word-other-than-atheist” (agnostic, freethinker, humanist).  So many arguments against “Paleo” nutrition focus on this one word.  These arguments make a valid point.  I have a Portuguese friend who says that rules are divided into Theory and Practice (with his lovely accent those words are Teeory and Prrrractice).

In Theory, Paleo nutrition is a way of eating (and movement, and other things but we’ll focus first on nutrition) that is based on what we know about  human evolution.  There’s even an effort within the community to switch to the term Evolutionary Nutrition.  The theory is that we base our eating on the way of eating that allowed our ancestors to have survived to reproduce and thrive.  Paleo refers to the era when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, before the Neolithic era of agriculture (Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, is an awesome book (and Pulitzer Prize winner) that explains the history of human societies).

However, in Practice, almost nothing we eat modernly is the same food our ancestors ate.  Not the bananas, not the brazil nuts, not the beasts.  Unless you are harvesting wild mushrooms, or fishing pristine rivers, or hunting wildebeests, you are eating modern versions of all of those ancient foods.  So I will agree with the “Paleo-busters” who assert that there can be no true Paleo diet because there is not true Paleo food.

There is a large part of this movement (and I don’t speak for anyone but myself) which is attempting to shift the focus from selecting our diet based solely on our ancestral heritage and more on what the food actually does when it enters your body.  In studying the effects these different nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) have on our bodies, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of human physiology and anatomy, and how our systems function separately and in harmony.

You remember from high school biology that we have cells –> organs –> systems.  Remember that we have 10 systems:  respiratory, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, gastrointestinal, integumentary, urinary, immune, endocrine, and circulatory.  Each system is dependent upon the others, and the general health of the person is an accumulation of the health of each of the systems.  The things we do with and put into our body affect the systems, and therefore the whole body.

The process of figuring out what different foods do in the body is a challenging task, because of the interconnectedness of all the systems and the unique physiology of each person.  I have no scientific background, but even as a layperson I have found sufficient research to show that certain foods have a MORE healthy effect on the systems and certain foods have a LESS healthy effect.

So now here’s the rub.  What is healthy and what is unhealthy?  This is where the strength of skepticism comes in.  Conventional wisdom has always been a big red flag for me, and never more so than in what is considered a healthy diet.  Leaving aside for a moment that the government that provided us with the food guide pyramid is the same government that subsidizes corn, sugar, and soybeans to the tune of billions of dollars a year, let’s first look at the standard American diet with a critical eye:  assuming that the average grocery store reflects what the average American eats, 75% of the items in a grocery store contain corn or a corn product.  Even the beef, pork, and chicken from the grocery store are ultimately corn, as they are fed corn for all or most of their lives.  In his pivotal book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes the history of the plant we know as corn, and how our industrial food supply is so dependent upon it, and how very unhealthy it is for humans, and the animals we eat, and humans again when we eat those animals.

Additionally, there is enough evidence to convince me that grains are inflammatory.  Inflammation, in turn, is very damaging to our body (also here) (and here).  There is a also syndrome known as leaky gut syndrome that results in increased intestinal permeability, and it is thought that grains contribute to this, which in turn leads to bad stuff getting into one’s bloodstream.  Finally, there’s some research that suggests that processed carbohydrates can light up pleasure centers in our brain so strongly that it mimics an addiction for some people.

This post is going far longer than I intended, so I’m going to have to break it into several posts.  I’m going to do it this way.  In summary of what I’ve said so far, there are several components of what the Ancestral Health movement endorses.  Over the next few posts, I’m going to personalize those factors according to what I think are the most important.  In the movement we call this N=1, and there is huge focus in the movement on self-experimenting.  This is because each of us has in our past a heritage based on climate and geography and the food that would have been available to our ancestors, and the digestive enzymes we would have evolved to accommodate that supply.

Here’s Gayle’s short version of How To Eat:

1.  Eliminate grains, whole or processed.

2.  Eliminate sugar.

3.  Eat lots and lots of a variety of vegetables, particularly the green leafy kind, and a limited amount of low-sugar fruit.

4.  Eliminate dairy.

5.  Eat meat from grass-fed cows, pastured pigs, free range chickens and eggs, and wild-caught fish.

6.  Eat healthy fat in the form of avocados, nuts, coconut, and olive oil.

 

While I’m working through all this, I may decide to change the sequence, or add to, the above list.  Also, this is only the NUTRITIONAL arena of the Paleo movement, which is only a portion of what contributes to our overall health.  So much more to come!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

800 miles in a car with a cat.

This will be a quick recap, since it’s after midnight, and we’ve got another long day tomorrow.

Today’s states were Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.  I think it was about 800 miles!

Here are the highlight pics:

How NOT to smuggle in a kitty
How NOT to smuggle in a kitty
This is a real restaurant in Arkansas
This is a real restaurant in Arkansas
...and in the parking lot of the Chair Crushers restaurant was the Feed The Children trailer.
…and in the parking lot of the Chair Crushers restaurant was the Feed The Children trailer.
Our feline passenger today
Our feline passenger today

A better recap tomorrow, I promise!  Looks like about 575 more miles to Sin City.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Kid swag.

I know, I know, I know.  I know I just posted a whole series of posts about hanging out with my kids.  But sometimes you have a day like today, and you just have to get it down on paper.  Or gigabytes.  Or whatever.

I talked to all 4 children today.  That’s not completely unusual, since I chat with  each of them several days a week, and sometimes it all falls on the same day.  What I want to post about is the content of those 4 little chats.

#1.

Ben is in Loveland, Colorado, where he lives with his girlfriend, Kirsten, and their 2 lovely dogs River and Suzie.

IMG_0468Ben is a senior at CU Boulder, a political science major.  He’s a 4.0 student (which eats away at his 3.5 gpa mother), and is beginning his search for law school.  He is an adventure junkie:  skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, bouldering, ice-climbing.

IMG_0528Here’s his Facebook status for today:

Switching to an entirely local and organic diet this month as a project for school. I’m so excited to be not eating corporately produced food. The current food system we have in this country is not safe or secure. It is contributing to anthropogenic climate change and the unnecessary suffering of millions of animals. We support this terrible system with every dollar that we spend for every single meal, three times a day. I challenge everyone to have at least ONE MEAL in which everything you eat is local, sustainable, and raised without pesticides, antibiotics, or petroleum based fertilizers. If you are serious about being thankful for your food, you should really think about the global implications of what it is you are eating. Cheers to a healthy diet and a healthier planet!

So our phone conversation today was all about this 30-day experiment.  It’s for his environmental law class, and the students have to lessen their carbon impact.  Ben and Kirsten have a little garden, they recycle, ride their bikes around town and school, and are very conscious of their activity.  The professor wanted them to develop a new action, not one they are currently engaged in, so this is what Ben came up with.  He first suggested a blog to publicize and explain what he does on a daily basis, but then came up with this idea, and I just love it.

 

#2.

Sam is in Salida, Colorado, where he is a River Ranger on the Arkansas River.

IMG_0463When we chatted today, it was about his schedule and the possibility of his getting the time off to go to Ragbrai, the family bike trip to Iowa.  When I asked how he was liking his job, he uses the answer he’s used every time I’ve asked him that this summer:  “Livin the dream, mom.  Livin the dream.”  He works on the river most every day, and on his day off…he goes to the river.

IMG_0532Sam told me about the river clean-up he worked on, the quirkiness of his little town, the upcoming river festival on the Arkansas, and how much fun we all had when the fam gathered in Salida last week.

 

#3.

Glenda is in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she is finishing the last studio hours to graduate with her BFA from the University of Tennessee.  She’s loved the work she’s done there, but she’s definitely ready to move on.

972126_10201188328056857_1441961092_nShe has plans to move to Vegas in August and hit the nightclub circuit with her hula-hooping performances.  Visit her Youtube channel for a video performance – she performs under the stage name Calliope.  We’re making our annual trip to TAM in Las Vegas in July to go apartment hunting.  She’s scared and excited and nervous and happy.  (Her words).

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#4.

Amy, tonight, is at Mt. Rainier National Park, on her trip cross-country to Orcas Island, Washington for her summer job as a sea kayak instructor.

IMG_0552Amy graduated from ETSU with a degree in Outdoor Recreation in December, and starts her new job this week.  I got to travel with her from Murfreesboro to Salt Lake City last week.  We had a great time, and did a lot of sightseeing, but she was content and excited to do the second half of her trip alone.  She enjoys her solitude and is comfortable in her own skin.  She’s not sure of what lies ahead, and that’s ok with her.

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Today’s chat was about everything she had seen in the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park.  She was remembering trips with the grandparents as a child, and enjoying every view and campground and buffalo and elk baby she had seen.  She is car-camping, and hosteling, and just wanted to tell me what a good time she was having.

 

That’s my family.  I am so proud of those children, I can’t find the words to express it.  And the fact that they are so happy and so healthy, and are living the lives they love in the manner they choose…a mother cannot ask for more.

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As for me, I live in my little cottage on my little farm, with my dogs, and my cows, and my chickens, and my donkeys.  I have wonderful friends, I love my law school, and I have a very special person in my life, who lights me up.  More about him in the posts to come.

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In a little bit of a morbid twist, I’ve been working on my will, and my letters to my loved ones in the event of my death.  This blog in general, and this post in particular, will be part of the package that I’ll leave for my kids, to remind them all of this day, this time, and what their happiness means to me.

Thanks for reading.

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