Saturday, November 30, 2013

Help for Extreme Eczema

I have been suffering from ever-worsening eczema for 11 years. Finally, after consulting the University of Iowa's top specialists and hearing that they cannot test for allergies on an adult beyond the normal panels (already done) and the patch panels for topical sensitivities (that done too), and that sometimes skin just reacts to something undetectable, I followed the last recommendation. This one came after cortisone creams, allergy pills, glove-wearing and prednisone...oh, and bleach baths. Being super-sensitive to bleach, I did not think this was the best idea ever, but they were the specialists, right? Ouch.

I have also been on every supplement ever tried, some helped for awhile, had acupuncture, chiropractic care and many cleanses, some of those helped too.  Here it is, the last-ditch, MIRACULOUS treatment (it is also prohibitively expensive without health insurance, I am sorry to say.)

Light therapy; wherein you stick your oil-coated hands into a little box, sporting sunglasses and a little patience, and wait for 20 seconds while you toast. You can read about it here: I am up to a 3-minute slot, and if you wish, you may click on a link that will take you to my before pictures. They are rather graphic and I do not want to be reminded of how bad it was just a few months ago, so I am not including them here, see below. I will put in an "after" photo.  If you live around here, Dr.Kumar at: Eastern Iowa Dermatology has the machines and knows how to use them. He has carefully calibrated the therapy from very mild to increasing doses and the results have been life-changing. Thanks go out to him and his lovely staff, especially Heather and Wendy who take care of me 3 days a week.

Here is the inoffensive, little machine in Dr.Kumar's office:

And, here is my "after" photo:
Before photos can be viewed here:

Bennedicto; "Café" An Ant's Eye View of the Coffee Harvest


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Poodles, by Poodles in Provence

In the World of Art/ and Art in my World

Put a thought out there and the universe will answer...and it did! I've been longing for ways to experience more art in my life. I wanted to spend time with paintings, pottery, tapestry and the people who created them. The answer came in real life time this weekend; painting it would be; twice!

Saturday, I spent a lovely evening with a talented painter of two of my great loves; France and poodles. This artist,  Maureen Broussalian, does whimsical portraits of your dog in Provence and Paris. Her aim: "send your dog on vacation." She has had recent requests to send chickens and husbands to France as well. Delightful work, fun colors and images that remind me of Toulouse Lautrec. The above link will take you to her Facebook page and a photo gallery of her work and her beautiful poodle, Benji.

Speaking of art with Maureen is to speak of vision as well as of personal growth, and a thirst to learn. It is also about making space in one's life for what you as a person, a little independent of your children and husband, love to do. I get that, as writing and knitting fill that creative space for me. She makes the world more beautiful through the art she makes and the art she chooses to collect. Her family is really pretty too.

I fell asleep Saturday night with thoughts of adding beauty to our living space. A new sofa will be making its debut soon; the first one we have ever actually purchased, quite the event. It was the occasion to give some thought to my environment beyond picking up and cleaning. I did not want a simple vase or poster from the hobby shop down the road, no, I wanted  an object or work by an artist. It might take months, and I always do end up missing art shows for various tend to run amok in the middle of these events, when they do not have something they need to be driven to. I was prepared to wait. However, Sunday morning I walked into our church social hall and saw color everywhere. I recognized the work immediately; it was Bennedicto, an artist from Guatemala with ties to our church.  We were introduced and then he gave me the most fascinating intro to his work over the following hour, in Spanish.

This one is the first that caught my eye. A fish-eye's view of the crabbers hauling in their catch on ropes. If you go to Bennedicto's  blog you can find at least four more sorts of painting, from naive to bird's eye to cubist.  I brought home a wonder of a painting; an ant's view of the coffee harvesting...I am thrilled. He talked and explained and wove stories of his home land and people; those who turned into birds and watch over the town yet today, brothers who turned to fish to save the world. His mother taught him, as a child,  to cultivate the flowers for the dyes she used for weaving. Colors are his world. He is a Mayan artist. His eyes sparkled as he showed me his vision for the future; creating the first cultural periodism in art, a concept that does not yet exist. He wants to initiate conversations about art and cultures from around the globe. He is full of life and the joy that comes from loving what he does. 


Tomorrow I will post a photo of Maureen's work and also of Bennedicto's painting hanging in my house today. (Maybe I'll even shoot the new couch too.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beyond Doubts: Homeschooling After 10 Years

So, after my last philosophical post about not offering opinions or predictions about your family's homeschooling aside, there are a few things I can say about allowing children to follow their own paths learning at home. It has been over ten years since we first put a big toe into the pond of home education, jumping right out of school and into life. Was it scary? Yes! Did I make many mistakes? Probably as many as can be made, and then some. After all, I do have five kids, all those chances to goof up. 

Did my children turn out to be, as in the words of a slightly inebriated young man at a brewery the other day, "anti-social, nerdy loosers?" Ha! Not likely. Or as he also asked me a few times, "but, um, are they cool"? Yes, they are cool, and warm and lovely people. This, we owe to the community of people who have helped me raise them, from neighbors, friends and relatives (wonderful grandparents, aunties and uncles on both sides of the ocean), to the great librarians, teachers of dance, archery, art and kung-fu and our incredible church family who see and welcome them each week.

Questions like the above might have given me pause ten years ago. After all, the children were very young and I had no idea if education out of school would be the right choice for us. Would I have the patience and fortitude? Would they learn what they needed to learn? Would they be...socialized?

The fact of the matter is, the questions will continue to be asked, sometimes by professionals who may be in a position to make you feel that you are making the wrong choice concerning your child. You will ask yourself more questions than anyone else ever will as well. Most of the time now, the questions take a back seat to the doing and learning and cleaning and cooking. But the questioning is good, it keeps you on your toes and allows your mind to explore the possibility of change, of improvement. Just don't lose sight of reality for the cloud of doubt.

What is the reality? It is this; no matter where you choose to send or keep a child for schooling, there will be good points and bad. There will be conflict and harmony, moments of genius, enlightenment and creativity. For some children, school is a great place to be; they thrive on lots of activity and the interaction or the discipline of a classroom setting. For others, home is the place where they feel safe being themselves or have the time to delve into their passion for music, art, math or reading. When someone outside of the world of homeschooling assumes that your child would be better off in school, you may take their point of view into consideration, but don't forget to weigh it against the truth of all the factors. If conflict at home is cause for angst, should they not learn to deal with stress first at home, where they are loved, before heading out the door to try it out at school? If needing more space seems to be the problem, is a classroom with 30 other children in it the place to find that space? How about a child not feeling motivated to get up in the morning for homeschooling? After the initial honeymoon of school has worn off, I could tell you, from experience, that the lack of motivation will be even harder to deal with. Now, you will need either to answer to school officials for a perpetually tardy student or engage in a daily battle that starts off everyone's day in an ugly way. And the day will most likely be interrupted another time or two for a forgotten item to be brought to school or a ride home from a kido who missed the bus...again.

I am at ease today in the choice we made to homeschool all those years ago. There is nothing I would trade for this accumulation of moments spent together, neither all the free time nor all the gold in the world. I am also ready to let go and send an older one to school when the moment comes, after all, our home is based on freedom to learn as best suits each of us. Find your family's happy place and live there...until it comes time to move on. Then rearrange the furniture and settle back into harmony. Peace.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Martinmas Celebration

It was a perfect evening for our annual Martinmas pilgrimage around the dark neighborhood. It was cool, but not cold and it was neither windy nor raining, for the first time in our history of celebrating the feast day of St.Martin. Dinner was improve upon pasta and veggies (see below).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Angelique in America (DONATE to Make it Happen)

There are a few stories that grip you and haunt your days and dreams alike. The story of the family of Angelique is not mine to tell, but this is what I can share with you. When she was quite young, she and her three siblings were caught up in one of the worst wars of our time; the one between the two tribes of a country known as Rwanda, and its neighbors; the Congo and Burundi. This war destroyed life as they knew it for this corner of Africa. The waves of rebel bands would attack and run out entire villages, leaving in their wake the dead, the violated, and the mutilated children (for future reference), as the rest of the population fled into the surrounding jungle. They were left to fend for themselves as best they could, thousands upon thousands of people, for months at a time.

Her father, separated from the rest of his family in the war, made his way to the United States a few years ago, and he is trying his hardest to help her get here to study. The Donate button I just added is to raise money for her plane ticket. She has obtained the necessary student visa, but that procedure completely drained any resources her family had to offer. I have pledged to find the money for her ticket and her first semester of college here. I need your help. Absolutely every cent contributed will be used for those two objectives.

How do I know this for sure? I have known the family member who lives in my community for years. We have worked closely together on many projects and become good friends. Angelique will be like part of the family when she finally gets here. This is not a random volunteer thing-y I decided to take on in my spare time. This is a plea to help change the world, one child, on 19-year-old hopeful student at a time. 

Thank you, from the very bottom of my heart.

Angela...on behalf of Angelique