The Formerly Vegetarian, some Acrobats, and some Thoughts on Cancer

March 16, 2011

Dear Family,

“Even if fifty million people say a foolish thing,
It is still a foolish thing.”
--Anatole France



We recently and belatedly removed the “child lock” on the under-sink cabinet in the bathroom. Jem watched, asked some questions to determine its function, and then said, “Why did we have that hook on the door for a LONG time? You shouldn't, 'cause I'm growing up fast.”

Running and sliding on the icy ground: “It's called SKIDDING!”

Out at night: “I'm really tall in my shadow.”

“How do the baby ones come out of eagles, without falling on the ground?”

Jem was worried after his bloody nose stopped, because he felt like sneezing: “But if I bless-you, I'll make blood come out!”

Looking out the window that was dripping with rain: “It's blurry out!”

A truly ironic statement if one has ever been uttered, because there is literally and absolutely no space at all between the kids' and the adults' beds (picture one enormous sleeping area): “I really don't want to sleep over _there_ all by myself!” Also, Jem added to Jeff, it wasn't fair: “I don't want _you_ to be able to sleep next to Mama, 'cause I want to!”

Contemplatively: “Why do my toenails grow?”

Last week, out of exasperation, I told the boys that I _really_ wanted them to get into bed _right_ now, because it was super late, and that it would also be nice if they stopped whining and started acting _cute_ while they were falling asleep, too. A few moments after the lights went out, I tried to figure out why Jem was patting me. He explained: “I'm rubbin' your arm, 'cause you said you need I to be cute!”



Ben told me, after a walk in the woods with Papa, that he and Jem had walked through “pondles.” (These are “not really puddles and not really ponds.”)

After bruising his finger with a heavy rock, Ben was distraught. “Mama,” he said, “why did it do so much damage?!”

Today: “It SMELLS like spring!”


Did you know that Excellus BlueCross BlueShield WeTake YourMoney AndKeep ItHealthy InOurPockets now employs “Customer Satisfaction Advocates” to answer your phone calls?


Other News:

--We finished Laura Ingalls Wilder's “The Long Winter”! This was a marathon, and it was exciting to read about their winter blizzards while holed up in our own warm house on lots of snowy afternoons. I continue to censor certain bigoted statements that Ma Ingalls utters--my children are too gullible, and are ready to believe Ma rather than me, and so me reading the racist lines from the books (when combined with the fictitious drawings of “scary Indians”) serve only to assure Jem--and Ben too, a little--that Indians Are Bad. No matter what I say. So, I shall provide explanatory theories on why Ma might have said such unkind things, plus plenty of maternal and educational words on the topic of Human Oppression and Cruelty, etc., when my boys are a little further beyond this stage of development.

--Graham and Otto hosted us for morning of candle making, which inspired Ben to make a menagerie of wax statues (tyrannosaurus rexes, dolphins, dragons, rhinoceroses, etc.). We ended up getting a small crockpot ($6.99) at the Salvation Army so that we can melt and drip beeswax ALL over the back, I mean, so that our children can play with a beautifully nontoxic crafts material whenever their hearts desire and my stamina can stand strong.

--I had a super surreal conversation with a lovely young woman standing in front of the food co-op's meat case. She was picking out the stew beef, and kind of talking to herself, and saying, "Gosh, maybe I should try this?" And I said, Well, actually, I can't figure out why, but it's ALWAYS dry--so I wouldn't recommend it! And then I found myself saying, You really should try those short ribs, because they're really fatty and good, and easy to roast in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker... And we had this whole long chat, because it turns out that only three weeks ago, she began eating meat after 13 years of vegetarianism that culminated in severe chronic fatigue issues and insomnia, etc. (She says she feels amazing now--better than she has in years...) I felt so bizarrely knowledgeable, advising someone else on their meat choices! I can't believe I've been a carnivore for nearly an entire year now.

--Due to their dangerous level of dullness, I took our chef's knives to the store on the Commons for sharpening. Unfortunately, while I can now chop onions without coming as close to severing several fingers, the sharpening in no way compares to the service I received from a place back in Boston (I think it was here:… ) where the president of the company came out and sharpened our mediocre chef's knives to razor-sharp perfection. The edge lasted two years, with regular honing... He did such an incredible job that I want to bring the knives back to Boston as soon as possible, and get rid of our home-sharpener, which doesn't appear to do anything besides make fingernail-shattering sounds and scrape off steel dust. (Anyone know of a super-trustworthy mailorder option?)

--After I read about the Swiss children in Weston Price's book who ran around barefoot in snow, Ben and Jem were inspired to try it themselves. They definitely didn't stay out long, but they convinced me to test it out. And my goodness, I absolutely am a total wimp... If the Swiss kids could do this all day, I just can't even imagine the adults they grew up to be... Why on earth did we give up native nutrition?? Who cares about “technology” and “education” and “progress” and “world economies” if you are hardy enough to run up and down the Alps, barefoot??

--After 2.5 years, we actually got a batch of photos printed!! Yes, thank you, I know, we should get a medal. But it gets even better: All The Photos Have Been Inserted Into Albums. I am going to bask in the satisfaction of this job well done for at least another year.

--Jeff and I have decided that whenever we have money leftover after mortgage, insurance, taxes, and Really Healthy Food, we will use it to attend family-friendly theatrical performances. Unfortunately, it will be hard to top last Saturday's show (stressy GAPS inconveniences notwithstanding): The Peking Acrobats. The performance consisted of people with practically no backbones (but supernatural musculature), leaping and flipping around in buoyant air, balancing things and people on their heads and elbows and chins and toes, and hanging from curtains, and juggling, and there was this guy who I really could barely watch because he stacked seven chairs on top of four glass wine bottles on top of a high table...and then he climbed up to the top, barely clearing the stage lights on the ceiling (they had to lift the curtain up entirely). And he did a whole series of both sideways and traditional HANDSTANDS on the topmost chair--and then did it all over again, after he'd tilted the top chair to one side. Jem spoke maybe three times during the entire performance. First, about forty-five minutes in: "My toes are tingling [from sitting so much]!" Then, later, "This is _crazy_!" And then, at the culmination of the chair-balancing guy: "I don't want to see this! He's going to do something even dangerouser!"


I'm thinking maybe there needs to be a 12-Step program for recovering vegetarians. I know it's probably a crazy experience for _anyone_ to radically alter his/her diet, but since vegetarianism was my religion, I'm particularly empathetic toward others who have also left this faith. Lately, I've counted up anecdotal reports from about two dozen folks I know who have recently switched to eating meat after a Really Long Time of not eating it at all. (Additionally, I know two people who have reported health improvements--not counting short term ones--after switching from a Standard American Diet to a vegetarian/vegan one.)

I'm aware that statistically, my list of two dozen ex-veggies means nothing, and that drawing any conclusions based on such a sample may lead me to find patterns where none exist. But I can't help being interested: why do folks change their diets in general? What does a lifetime or a near-lifetime of vegetarianism do to people? What happens when they begin to incorporate animal products into their diets? (This particular non-scientifically-standardized group of my friends reported that the symptoms that drove them to begin eating meat were: worsening soft tissue injuries (tendonitis, sprains, ligament damage, etc.), hormonal abnormalities, gastrointestinal problems, and depression/anxiety/behavioral issues. Not all people displayed all of these symptoms.)

Trying to parse unknowable data like this continues to fascinate me. Lately, I'm interested not only in super healthy diets, but also in successful protocols that specifically attempt to heal serious (as in potentially terminal) illnesses. This shadowy realm is inhabited by MANY of salesmen/doctors/healers hawking their various treatment methods, and a lot of scared people who are suddenly coming to terms with the existence of illnesses like cancer. Desperation often prompts people to consider radical options. But it doesn't generally allow for measured decisions or objectivity--I know this from personal experience, although not specifically involving terminal illness. So I'm coming up with some questions to which I'll continue to try to find answers, preferably before a moment arises that includes any further desperation...

--How many other clinically successful protocols contain elements that agree with the one I might consider? (My very wise friend puts it this way, concerning her healing journey: “I set out to see what different people said to do and what their track record seemed to be, but above all, I began to look for overlaps in protocols. I found that if many were saying to drink kefir and eat kraut, then there must be something important to that...”)

--If a person changes their diet and feels better, does it mean that the new diet is _ideal_, or simply _better enough_ than the poor diet they consumed before? This probably sounds very semantical, but I think it's worth considering. If a person switches to, say, a vegetable-rich, low-sugar vegetarian diet after having consumed a standard-American, high-in-processed-foods diet for many years, they might notice an improvement in their health. But here's when the tricky questions really begin:

--When a change in diet causes improvements in a person's health, how does one decide to which factors the improvements can be attributed? In the case just mentioned, of a person eating a SAD (Standard American Diet) who then switches to vegetarianism and feels better, one could theorize that, possibly:

1. It's because of the lack of meat;
2. It's because of the lack of the processed foods;
3. It's because of the lack of sugar;
4. It's because of eating more vegetables;
5. It's because of eating less animal fat and/or protein; and/or
6. It's merely because it is _better enough_ to get that particular person's body functioning better than it was before.

There are many other possible reasons for a dietary switch to cause improvements in a person's health, but a question that simply can't be answered by examining most subjective individual anecdotes concerning nutrition in our Industrialized world, is whether a given dietary theory is _optimal_.

You might argue that these impossible-to-know questions don't need answers--and in the case of someone feeling better than they did before, maybe it's true. But I think it's worth looking deeper because 1. A diet that is okay now, might not be sufficient in the future; 2. Nutritional deficiencies can take years to develop, and then rear their heads abruptly right about the time when a person wants to reproduce and pass along DNA to some offspring; or 3. God Forbid, but what if I or someone I love gets cancer, or some other serious illness? What choices could be made differently in that case to increase the odds of living? What prophylactic measures can be employed NOW, to increase the odds of staving off the onset of disease in the first place?

The existence of these questions is why I can't stop trying to figure out more and more and more theories, and even some potential answers...

I would love to know your thoughts on this, as well as any interesting information concerning dietary treatments for cancer, and cancer-prevention.


Here at GAPS central, I am attempting to stay peaceful when things happen Not Like I Wanted. Damn, it takes a lot sometimes, to trust that all that I do all day will be worthwhile later, and to accept that all that I do all day is actually what I want to be doing right now. (That's the secret, right? To happiness? Liking what you do, instead of doing what you like...) So funny, the little self-help lessons that life throws in for free.

Two to three years is how long a hypothetically “average” child might take to heal up their gut/body/brains with GAPS. I get so wrapped up in the moment, in spoon-feeding and kid-wrangling, and second-guessing, that those years ahead are somewhat unfathomable. And it's SUPER hard not to fear the future entirely, for brief nanoseconds, because: what does a healed-up-Ben look like? How does his non-shell-shocked Mama behave? How crazy is it to work so hard with no guarantees?? I mean, these are rhetorical questions, and the truth is, that while Ben started me on this journey, there's no turning back now.

And so lately I actually do laugh more than I cry. My wise friend Millie offered this funny and apropos parable:

You've probably heard that old joke about the man falling to his death off a cliff? He finds a branch and clings to it for dear life, and calls out to God to save him. God answers, "Let go of the branch." And the man asks, "Is there anyone else up there?"


Hope you're having a great week, with all your personal letting-go of branches and all the faith that entails.