Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Page 2 of 14

insomnia

Tried everything but you still can’t sleep? It might be adrenal fatigue.

A few years ago I had a serious emotional breakdown from severe insomnia.  

At one point it got so bad I started feeling microscopic “bugs” crawling all over my skin at night.  I’d spend an hour scanning my arms with a magnifying glass trying to find invisible insects (this is a condition called formication). Formication is the perception of bugs crawling on the skin and is caused by a number of conditions including anxiety which if you’re chronically sleep deprived — is a given. 

I thought I was going crazy. 

Most people think getting “good” sleep is simply about getting enough (6 to 8 hours). But quality matters too, that is, cycling through all five stages throughout the night. Sleep is not only restorative it’s an essential part of disease prevention. Research has found that sleep helps cleans out our daily brain garbage (beta amyloids associated with Alzheimer’s).

Without adequate zzz’s it’s nearly impossible to function at full potential the next day. We feel “weirded out,” foggy, drowsy, anxious, unfocused, cranky, quick to anger, clumsy, slow and often times depressed. And at it’s worst, sleep deprivation can be dangerous, e.g. falling asleep at the wheel.

When I started having sleep problems I obsessively poured through online articles and read numerous research studies. I spent countless hours and dollars on sleep supplements and even got tested for sleep apnea. I posted desperate questions on dozens of online forums. Nothing worked.

What I tried for my insomnia (everything) 

Google “insomnia” and you’ll see pages of articles that recommend your first line of defense should be to “practice good sleep hygiene.” 

  • Keep regular bedtime hours (irregular sleep patterns disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm).
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet at night.
  • Avoid screens an hour or more before bedtime (disrupts melatonin production).
  • Quiet the mind and body with a warm bath and soothing sounds.

Please. It should be so easy. 

Okay for some it is. But for the hardcore insomniac these just don’t cut it. Of course good sleep hygiene is important and without it, will only make matters worse. 

Here’s what many experts suggest to combat insomnia. I tried every single one. 

  • Cut out caffeine 
  • If you can’t fall asleep go read in another room. The idea is to avoid associating your bedroom with sleep problems, thus adding to “sleep anxiety.”
  • Meditate 
  • Listen to calming music. Certain music is actually designed to move your brain into an alpha (calm) state.
  • Avoid reading or watching scary or overstimulating books and movies right before bed. 
  • Wear eye plugs and an eye mask (I still do this every night).
  • Try hypnosis with a professional or self-hypnotize yourself to sleep.  Imagine slowly walking down steps while you silently count backwards. 
  • Try EFT, emotional freedom technique (tapping)
  • Try reflexology 
  • Address peri or full menopause. Bioidentical progesterone is a  calming hormone and it may help. In some instances bioidentical estrogen may be beneficial. (Bioidentical HRT is safe when monitored by a health care practitioner). 
  • Quiet your mind by replacing racing/ruminating thoughts with soothing images (the beach, waterfalls, basically your happy place).
  • Take a warm shower.
  • Try melatonin. 1-3 mg. Melatonin by itself makes my sleep worse.  It’s a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland and is only secreted at night. It’s not a sedative. Melatonin works with your body’s natural circadian rhythm (internal body clock). As we age we produce less. I’m testing it right now by adding it to my current supplements. 
  • For a short period, try an anti-histamine (these made me more awake, also known as a paradoxical effect).
  • Try calming herbs (Valerian, Hops, Lemon Balm, Kava Kava, etc). 
  • Try sleeping pills (*for a brief period).
  • Get tested for sleep apnea. According to my sleep clinic doctor I move in and out of each sleep stage “perfectly,” with no breathing disruption. 

*You probably already know but sleep meds are bad news long term.  First, they don’t address the underlying problem. Moreover they disrupt natural sleep patterns, are addictive and often have nasty side effects. My Ambien hangover was mean moody and nasty. And for some people Ambien can be dangerous (sleep-walking activities like driving, etc).

Chronic insomnia made me take a few swigs at 4am

There were times when after I tried for hours to fall back asleep I just gave up and chugged a couple vodka shots. But here’s the thing, alcohol disrupts REM (dream) sleep, which in turn makes you anxious the next day. Drinking is obviously not the answer but at 3am, 4am, 5am I’d have done virtually anything to go back to sleep, legal or otherwise. 

I remember once saying to my husband something like “I wish I had a small dose of that ‘milk’ that Michael Jackson took to sleep at night.” In the most desperate and sad way I understood why he begged his doctor to shoot him up with it. MJ’s “milk” was a powerful anesthetic drug and tragically it killed him.

After months of trying everything and spending hundreds of dollars, all I had left was to pray and sob. Night after night I sat alone on my back porch staring at the sky, begging for answers.

Every morning when my daughter got ready for school I stumbled around the kitchen, forced a smile and pretended I was okay. My husband was incredibly supportive but there was nothing he could do except listen every time I broke down. During the day I tried to nap but I was either too busy with my writing work or too wired to fall asleep (the latter is a classic sign of adrenal fatigue, “tired but wired”). 

Most of my life I never had any trouble falling asleep. Within 10 minutes of reading a book I’d zonk out. Every so often I’d wake up in the middle of the night and not fall back to sleep for a couple hours.

Of course this happens to everyone.

Racing thoughts, stress, an exciting day, hot flashes, depression, chronic pain or sometimes for no apparent reason, you’re just wide awake.

I didn’t think much about it until it started to happen more frequently and then eventually I started having trouble falling asleep.

Pretty soon bedtime became my enemy.

By 8 or 9pm I could feel my anxiety and panic creep in. This stressed me out which in turn, made it even harder to fall asleep.

Here’s the thing, insomnia creates a vicious cycle.

Poor sleep = higher cortisol (the “stress” hormone). Higher cortisol = poor sleep. And round and round the nightmare goes. 

Adrenal fatigue and insomnia

After months of research I finally figured out my sleep issues were likely caused by adrenal fatigue (AF).

“Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level,” writes Dr. James Wilson. “Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.”

See: Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue

I had nearly all the symptoms.  

I should stop right here and mention that the conventional medical community doesn’t recognize AF.  

It only recognizes adrenal insufficiency in the form of Addison’s and Cushing’s disease both which are not related to AF.

I should also point out that I have a pituitary disorder called Empty Sella Syndrome that affects my Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Axis (HPA). I was diagnosed at 19 and until a few years ago was under endocrinologists’ care. HPA issues can correlate to adrenal problems. 

But here’s the thing, when I spoke to my endocrinologist about my sleep issues, she was zero help.  Why? Because my standard endocrine bloodwork was within normal limits for my pituitary condition.  Because the doc didn’t test my DHEA level which later turned out to be rock bottom (DHEA is an adrenal hormone). Because the endocrinology community thinks AF is total bunk. 

So I left my endocrinologist and went to a highly respected holistic MD., Dr. Sangeeta Pati who specializes in restorative medicine. Dr. Pati confirmed that I did indeed have AF, but that it wasn’t mild as I suspected; it was severe. 

She treated my AF by suggesting immediate lifestyle changes (naps when possible etc.). She started me on bioidentical DHEA (and other bioidentical hormones), magnesium and a daily dash of Premier pink Himalayan salt in a glass of water. I also continued to take adrenal-supportive supplements I found through Dr. James Wilson’s website and Kavinace Ultra PM for sleep (more about both below). 

If you suspect you have AF (take this online questionnare) you have two options: 

    1. Listen to your doctor who will inevitably tell you, “There’s no such diagnosis. The Endocrinology Society doesn’t recognize it. It’s a made-up condition that preys on the unsuspecting in order to make money.”

      OR…..

       

    2. Find a health care practitioner who understands AF and takes it seriously.

       

But here’s the thing, adrenal fatigue treatment finally got me to sleep — my primary doctor and endocrinologist did not.

Sadly many people who suffer with AF are told there’s nothing clinically wrong with them, that like most Americans they’re simply overworked, tired, burnt out and stressed.

“Get some rest, stop burning the candle at both ends,” is the often the extent of insomnia medical advice. Or the doctor writes a prescription for sleeping pills, anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety meds. All fine short term, but these won’t get to the root of your insomnia. 

Your insomnia may in fact be due to a condition that has nothing to do with AF. Menopause. Chronic pain. REM disorder. Your primary care doctor may order tests and refer you to a specialist to rule out certain conditions. But alternatively, your symptoms may point directly to AF. 

Just don’t rule it out even if your doctors automatically do. 

It’s real. Ask Dr Wilson. Dr. Lam. Dr. Northrup.

And, please please please don’t fall for the myth that “as we age we need less sleep.” Or what your friends tell you, that “as we age we don’t sleep as well and that’s just the way it is” No. As we age we still need 6-8 hours of quality sleep.  

What I did once when I realized I had adrenal fatigue

I found a website called Integrative Psychiatry that specializes in neuro-cognitive tests and sells supplements that addresses such issues. I immediately ordered the Adrenal Stress Index test.

Almost all my results were abnormal.

For a small fee I consulted with the company’s physician’s assistant over the phone. From my results she suspected I had adrenal fatigue so she told me I needed to address a number of issues that were most likely causing my insomnia.

First, gluten sensitivity.

Food sensitivities can contribute to insomnia as a result of gut inflammation and histamine. Inflammation in the body alerts the adrenals, “warning, warning something is wrong!” and bam, cortisol increases. 

And of course — stress.

Stress of any kind (good or bad) raises cortisol. But cortisol is not the enemy. We need it. It reduces inflammation.  Cortisol levels naturally go up and down with our circadian rhythm. Cortisol is also the famous fight or flight hormone we’ve relied on in our evolution to stay alert to danger, and so, to survive. “Run a tiger is coming!”

Of course we’re no longer running from tigers.

Today our “tiger” is the challenge of day to day living. “It’s time for bed but I have a business report to finish, kids to pick up, dishes to clean, emails to answer, texts to respond to, bills to juggle, persistent pain, aging parents who need me, social media to attend to (e.g. fear of missing out)…”

When something stressful happens (say a car cuts you off) your body immediately produces adrenaline. Afterward cortisol rises. As I mentioned cortisol naturally ebbs and flows.  But if you’re chronically stressed your cortisol level may never come down. So while you should be getting drowsy around 9 or 10pm you’re wide awake staring at the ceiling. Or you fall asleep but wake up because your cortisol spikes.

Eventually your adrenal glands simply can’t keep up with the demand for cortisol and your levels begin to drop. You move from “wired but tired” (high cortisol) to so exhausted (low cortisol) you can barely get out of bed in the morning.

How you feel depends on where you are within the four phases of adrenal fatigue.  Low or high cortisol disrupts sleep. 

Important: You can’t recover from adrenal fatigue without regular quality sleep. And you can’t sleep when you have adrenal fatigue. Insomnia and adrenal fatigue are intertwined. 

The physician’s assistant with NeuroScience suggested I take three products.  Kavinace and Ultra Kavinace PM for sleep  (no longer available, see below) and Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder

Both Kavinace supplements contain phenibut (listed on the label as  4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid).

Phenibut works with the brain’s GABA receptors. GABA and other neurotransmitters play a key role to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Phenibut unlike straight GABA,  effectively crosses the challenge of the blood-brain-barrier.

GABA is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. Its main role is to calm the central nervous system by neutralizing the effects of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. 

Every night before bed I took:

Not only did this work, but I had zero “hangover” (drowsy) effect the next day. When I woke up in the middle of the night I took one or two Kavinace and one Adrenal Rebuilder. Fifteen to 30 minutes later I was fast asleep until the next morning. 

*It’s recommended people limit phenibut use to two to three times a week and take a “vacation” (come off it for a period of time). 

FDA issues warning letter. Kavinace and Ultra Kavinace are no longer available. 

The FDA recently issued a warning letter to companies who sell supplements that contain phenibut. The warning is regarding labeling phenibut or phenibut formulation as a “dietary supplement” vs. what it actually is, a nootropic.

Last week I called NeuroScience, the company that makes Kavinace supplements. The representative told me they’re reformulating all Kavinace products for release in July 2019.

Update: 7/23/19. I spoke to a rep from the company. The Kavinace reformulation will be released within a week or so after undergoing internal quality control. It will be an emulsion (thick liquid) and will not contain phenibut. It will however, work with the GABA (calming) pathways in the brain.

The replacements will not however, contain phenibut (labeled as 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid). This is a major disappointment because unlike many GABA agonists, phenibut effectively crosses the challenging blood-brain-barrier. 

Alternatives to Kavinace and Kavinace Ultra PM. This is what I tested.

I seriously panicked when I found out Kavinace products were pulled from the market. So I did some research and found this article by Dr. Davidson. She recommends two supplements called Cerevive and PharmaGaba. 

I contacted Dr. Davidson and she suggested people who have severe sleep issues  “layer” (take both) supplements at the same time.  

Please bear in mind that every-body and brain and sleep challenge is unique. If something doesn’t work for me, it might work for you.

Be sure to read both positive and negative Amazon product reviews.  

So, as I mentioned except for a few years ago, I generally don’t have problems falling asleep. My issue is waking up too early or falling back to sleep (sleep maintenance due to adrenal fatigue). 

Regardless of which sleep supplement I decide to test, I always take the following before bed:

~ One capsule of prescribed bioidentical progesterone (compounded by a verified compounding pharmacist).

~ One tablet of Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder 

~ Two 500mg capsules of Pure Encapsulations tryptophan (Pure Encapsulations is a stellar brand).

~ Three sprays Ancient Minerals magnesium applied topically to my arms or legs (and/or 2 capsules of Pure Encapsulations magnesium glycinate).

This is what I’ve tried so far (as of 6/18/19):

X CereVive – 2 capsules. Didn’t work. I was already a bit skeptical because this product while impressive with a number of sleep-promoting ingredients, has tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid involved in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved with drive and motivation (daytime behaviors). When I contacted Dr. Davidson she told me CereVive works well as a sleep-aid for many of her patients.  She suggested if I can tolerate it to gradually increase to 4 capsules before bedtime. No thank you! Maybe it’s a phenomenal daytime mood-booster but it’s not right for me as a sleep aid.

X Thorne Pharma Gaba – 1 capsule 250 mg. Didn’t work. I woke up after a few hours and even after I added two 100mg of Natural Factors chewable Pharma Gaba I couldn’t fall back to sleep.  I like that Natural Factors is chewable (works faster) and comes in 100mg which allows you to start low and add more in the middle of the night. 

Both CereVive and Pharma Gaba. Didn’t work. This combo has a boatload of sleep-promoting ingredients.  GABA, L-theanine, 5-HTP, as well as a number of vitamins and minerals to improve the synthesis of the neurotransmitters. This goes to show you, more is necessarily better. Getting to the root cause of your insomnia is.  In case you’re interested: “What is Gaba vs l-theanine?”

NeuroScience Alpha Gaba PM (AGPM) –  2 capsules. Pretty good. This is NeuroScience’s current replacement for Kavinace products. The first time I took it I woke up a few hours later. But, I tried this before I got back on my adrenal fatigue protocol. After I started taking Dr. Wilson’s adrenal fatigue vitamins three times a day for several days, I found that AGPM worked better.  Not as well as Kavinace Ultra PM (oh how I miss you) but pretty good.

(I recently called NeuroScience and told the (very helpful) rep that their new sleep formula Alpha Gaba PM didn’t (initially) work very well. She told me, “Most people have found it takes about 2 weeks to work.”)

AGPM is an impressive formula. It contains 400 mg of l-theanine (a pretty hefty dosage), 3 mg of melatonin, and a proprietary blend of the herbs valerian, lemon balm and 5-HTP.  5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, a sleep/mood neurotransmitter. 

So why didn’t these sleep supplements work as well as I hoped?

  1. Not enough of the active ingredient (GABA, l-theanine) is penetrating the blood-brain-barrier and/or they’re missing critical co-factors that increase bioavailability. 
  2. These sleep supplements don’t directly address my underlying issue, adrenal fatigue. 

*If you have adrenal fatigue it’s essential you support your adrenal glands all day long, every day. You can’t simply take herbs or supplements that boost the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin at night and hope to avoid a 3am cortisol spike (or nighttime hypogylcemia which will wake you up. Hypoglycemia and AF are related). 

When I started testing these new supplements first night I woke up in the middle of the night. I took more supplements and read a book for about two hours. Nothing.

The more anxious I got, the more awake I felt (cortisol!). Frustrated I just sat on my porch with my head in my hands with flashbacks of my horrible insomnia days.  I finally fell asleep after taking 1mg of Klonipin prescribed by my holistic MD to use strictly for sleep emergencies (benzodiazepine drugs such as Klonipin are highly addictive and build tolerance quickly). 

So what did work? 

Addressing my adrenal fatigue. I was so disappointed the new supplements didn’t work. I sat down and thought about what was probably going on, what I’ve learned after five years of researching sleep. Adrenal fatigue.

I was already extremely anxious because my perfect Kavinace Ultra PM was pulled off the market. Then when I tried new sleep supplements and none of them worked, I got more anxious.  You know the deal by now, more anxious = higher cortisol = crappy sleep.

What I did to get back to sleep:   

  1. On day one I followed Dr. Wilson’s mild adrenal fatigue recovery protocol, although I adapted it a bit: 
    ~ 1 tablet Adrenal Rebuilder. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime.
    ~ 1 tablet Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Vitamin C. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.  
    ~ 1 tablet Dr. Wilson’s Super Adrenal Stress Formula. Breakfast, lunch.      dinner. 
    ~ 10 drops in water of Dr. Wilson’s Herbal HPA breakfast and dinner. 
  2. At bedtime I took one 200mg soft gel of Sports Research L-Theanine  (I only use Suntheanine™ l-theanine). 
  3. As always I took my usual biodentical progesterone, tryptophan and topical magnesium.

The results?

I went to bed at 10:30pm. I woke up at briefly at 5:30am, took one Adrenal Rebuilder, rolled over and went back to sleep until 7:30am. I couldn’t believe it, I almost cried! 

So supporting my adrenal glands throughout the day stopped the middle-of-night cortisol spike. 

Gaba Complex  Worked. Recently someone responded to this post that  Gaba Complex works very well for her sleep issues. But Gaba Complex has phenibut (pulled by the FDA but still available on Amazon as of this writing). I ordered a bottle and tried it. I slept well but was drowsy the next day.  So the next time I took one capsule instead of the recommended two. I woke up in the middle of the night and took one more capsule along with one Adrenal Rebuilder. I slept okay, not fully awake, but not fast asleep either. 

When I called the company that makes Gaba Complex, Natural Creations, I asked a very informative gentleman named Bill how much phenibut Gaba Complex contains (I want to be careful). 

He told me 400mg which surprised me. I expected higher. Kavinace Ultra PM contains 625mg with zero hangover effect the next day. Bill explained that it’s not just how much GABA agonist a supplement contains, it’s also the combination of co-factors that help GABA work (penetrate the blood-brain-barrier). 

(Natural Creations, like NeuroScience, is in the process of reformulating their GABA Complex.) 

So that’s my journey. Treating adrenal fatigue to cure my insomnia. It’s a process. 

And truth be told, as someone who works out rigorously, stays up too late on the weekends and loves her wine (all of the above are taboo during adrenal fatigue treatment), some of my sleep issues are a direct result of my own behaviors, over and beyond my pituitary disorder. 

I’m still in the process of testing various sleep supplements that will keep me asleep for at least 7 hours.  But most importantly I’m back to treating my adrenal fatigue. 

Please let me know what’s working for you. 

Wishing you betters zzz’s, more restful days and great joy. 

Laura

Resources: 

Integrative Psychiatry  Provides at home testing, consultation by a nurse practitioner and products. 

ZRT Labs Offers home test kits (I strongly recommend working with a health practitioner to interpret results and design a treatment plan). 

NeuroScience NeuroScience offers proprietary blends of amino acids designed specifically to provide precursors for nervous system molecules called neurotransmitters.  7/23/19. I spoke to a rep from the company. Their Kavinace reformulation will be released within a week or so after undergoing internal quality control. It will not contain phenibut, but it will work with the GABA (calming) pathways in the brain.

Find a health practitioner who understands and treats adrenal fatigue

Supplements I mentioned:

Adrenal:

Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder 

Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Vitamin C 

Dr. Wilson’s Super Adrenal Stress Formula  Dr. Wilson’s Herbal HPA

Pure Encapsulations tryptophan

Pure Encapsulations magnesium glycinate

Ancient Minerals magnesium

Premier pink Himalayan salt

Sleep:

Alpha Gaba PM 

Gaba Complex 

CereVive

Thorne Pharma Gaba

Natural Factors chewable Pharma Gaba

L-Theanine(Suntheanine™) 

Sleep Time 

Phenibut by LiftMode

More: New York Times: Insomnia Can Kill You 

                                           Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Without Drugs

 

Disclaimer: Please note I don’t recommend any products or service I haven’t  personally tried or that receive positive reviews from Amazon. Laura-Owens.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com or whatever).

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

postpartum depression

The split mind of postpartum depression

Originally published on Motherwell 

In a quiet, distant voice I tell my husband Mark that I want to die. Not exactly dead, I clarify, but not this. I tell him not to worry. I tell him love, guilt, duty will always matter more. I promise. But he has to understand, he has to reconcile what I’m saying with the fact that I love him, that I love our life together and our beautiful daughter. “Mark, do you know what I’m saying?”

Before breakfast I sing our daughter to sleep, rhyming her name with nonsensical Seuss-y words. I smile. The real kind, reflexive, above the sadness… Read full essay

 

Resources for help and healing: 

 

The Postpartum Stress Center

Postpartum Support International 

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trump vs hillary

HuffPo: Trump nation. Yes we’re divided, but you and I are fine.

Originally published on Huffington Post February 15th, 2017.

Image result for trump vs hillary

I wish it weren’t true. But we’re forever a divided nation. Still, you and I are fine.

What I mean is I still love my family and friends who voted for him. Our relationship is bigger than any President. Even this President.

Of course I’ll still chat with the dry cleaner or cashier or neighbor next door who voted for Trump, but we will not talk of him, ever. And if you bring him up and try to convince me why I’m wrong, I will politely ask you to change the subject.

Saying “Trump” has become our new “abortion.” His name is a trigger that when uttered can only end badly for both parties.

You will not change my view of him. I won’t change yours.

So instead I’ll do my activist work outside the dinner table or parties or lunch with friends. I’ll post my views on Facebook because it’s my page and my personal statement, and I’ll join the Resistance.

But I promise as a thinking engaged voting citizen I will do my best to listen to Trump on every issue. And when I agree, I’ll go public on social media.

This is the best I can do to “give him a chance.” Because for a long list of reasons that divide us, he is not and will never be, my President.

I’m sorry but we cannot “come together” about Trump. Because really, what does that look like?

I won’t suddenly agree with the Muslim ban or “alternative facts,” or his claim about voter fraud or his inauguration crowd size or Steve Bannon or EPA Scott Pruitt or Betsy DeVos or pussy grabs or his “so-called judge” or tweeting about his daughter’s treatment by Nordstrom

I will, however, consider the merits of a wall and read more about the pros and cons of sanctuary cities and tariffs on businesses who ship jobs overseas. I will listen to each Trump official and thoughtfully consider where we agree. Read full post here.

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The day I realized I pushed my college daughter too far

Related image

Originally published on Grown and Flown

One of the few demands I gave Taylor when she started college (besides work hard, be safe and guard your Solo cup at parties) was that she graduate on time. No child of mine was going to be a professional college student, someone who never quite figures out what she wants. Except that Taylor’s never given me reason to believe she’s that person. Never.

Once when she was three and still solidly attached to the pacifier, her front teeth pushing out, I bribed her for the umpteenth time with a toy if she gave it up forever. “Honey I’ll let you spend up to $20 if you give it up.” Instead of our usual futile tug of war, she looked up at me with steady blues eyes, smiled sweetly and handed it right over. “I don’t need it anymore, Mommy, and you don’t have to buy me an expensive toy, “ she said. Fully ready and proud…  Read full essay on Grown and Flown

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Full-frontal breastfeeding in public. There’s room for middle-ground.

A breastfeeding mom told to cover up took a creative approach to her response.

Mom told to cover-up takes different approach. (Facebook/Carol Lockwood)

This won’t win me any friends but I agree with Orlando Sentinel’s David Whitley‘s view on women breastfeeding without covering up (at all). He gently thinks out loud about his own discomfort.

“Breastfeeding is normal, nurturing and nobody should be shamed for doing it. On top of that, it’s a legal right in all 50 states.

To breastfeeding moms and their supporters:

Feed your babies whenever and wherever the need arises. I just have one small request, and I don’t think I’m alone.

Please do it discreetly if possible. Or is that asking too much?

I fear it is, though for the male chauvinist life of me I can’t understand why.”

Of course breastfeeding is natural.

Of course no one should shame a woman for breastfeeding anywhere, anytime. But if full frontal breastfeeding makes someone a little uncomfortable, I get it.

We can berate our culture because we lose our minds when we see full-frontal breastfeeding on a plane, in a coffee shop, at Disney, at church. Plenty of cultures don’t think twice about mothers openly baring their breasts to feed their babes.

But our culture isn’t that culture, yet.

In all honesty I’d prefer, when possible, moms breastfeed with a teensy bit of modesty. Does that make a bad person? Or am I the product of our nation’s uptight (yet hypocritical) mores?  (We sure love to see naked breasts in this country).

The message I’m hearing from full frontal nursing mothers and their advocates is:

Breasts are for feeding!  Get over it!

Yes breasts are for feeding babies. But they’re also sexual. That I can say both in the same breath isn’t perverse. It’s factual.

Perhaps our culture will shift in time. And it should. But until then I’d suggest a bit of discretion when possible and comfortable. If not. No problem. At least for me.

Babies are unpredictable little buggers. A nursing mother might be caught unprepared. Or maybe it’s stinking hot and she doesn’t want to feed her baby under a sweat tent. Maybe she’s not interested in the clothing acrobatics it takes to be discreet. Or maybe she’s making a “I dare you to judge me”  statement by baring all.

No matter her reasons for not covering up, I’d urge anyone who sees a full-frontal breastfeeding mom to just leave her alone.

Don’t glare.

Don’t tell her to cover up.

Don’t tell her to find a more discreet place or to leave.

Don’t complain to management and so, embarrass the poor woman. Now you’ve got management and other people staring.

Look away if you’re uncomfortable. Problem solved.

Nothing in your life will change if you see a breastfeeding breast. Oh, and your kids will be ok too.

But if your gawking toddler yells, “Look Mommy she’s naked!” explain that breastfeeding is natural. Tell her it’s one of the many ways mommies feed their babies. If your school-age child stares, tell him or her the same thing. Then remind your kids that staring under any circumstances is rude.

This brewing culture war could be diffused if people would realize tolerance is a two-way street says David Whitley.

Yes. But in a head-to-head debate, the people against full frontal breastfeeding need to ease up more than full-frontals need to cover up. Sorry, Mom and baby win.

P.s. I breast fed for 6 weeks. I preferred to do it only at home and only in front of my husband. But hey, that’s my issue. 

Supreme Court rules for baker in same-sex wedding cake case. Not a clear win for either side.

Marry who you love.

Marry who you love.

This is an interesting yet ambiguous Supreme Court ruling. It’s not a clear win for social conservatives or the LGBTQ community.

A baker in Colorado refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding citing religious objections.

He says he has no problem selling a gay customer baked goods. But he refuses to bake a wedding cake due to his beliefs.

The Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was intolerant and hostile towards religious beliefs based on comments the CCRC made while they reviewed the case.

They did not however, rule that refusing service to a gay person was Constitutional. Same-sex marriage is legal in all states.

This leaves room for future lawsuits by LGBTQ citizens refused service, but it also demands a tone of respect and religious tolerance by lower courts and commissions.

“These disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” Justice Kennedy.

Okay I’m all for religious tolerance. Believe what you want. Until your belief stomps on Constitutional rights.

Because in no world is it okay to deny service to a gay couple who want to purchase items for their marriage. That’s not a religious belief without consequence. It’s discrimination. Period.

So let’s for a moment pretend I’m a baker.

My faith tradition happens to include doctrine that says HETEROSEXUAL marriage is sinful. Why? Because my God/god said so, as recorded in my faith’s sacred text.

Feels wrong, doesn’t it?

But forget that for a minute. Let’s look at religious objections to gay marriage. What’s the core belief?

Because God through sacred text, the Bible, commands that sex is for marital procreation. To make babies. Same-sex couples can’t make babies, therefore same-sex — sex, is against God’s will, against “natural” law.

Fine.

Then anyone who has religious objections to same-sex marriage for the *above reason (see footnote) should stop using birth control or stop having sex.

Right? Sex as commanded by God is to make babies.

Seems reasonable (note sarcasm).

Come on.

Younger generations are laughing, not out of disrespect for religion or lack of faith, out of disgust over an archaic belief that views a LGBTQ person as less inherently (and Constitutionally) deserving of marital rights.

Younger generations (and people who believe as I do) are saying, who cares if gay people get married, it’s not affecting your connection to God, or your marriage, or tax rate, or income or health or…..

My deep thanks to clergy across all denominations who always have, or eventually, embraced same-sex marriage. You get it. Or you eventually got it. Either way. THAT is Godly.

 

*It’s noteworthy that some socially conservative Christians believe homosexuality on its own is a sin.

And that’s loving, how? I’m born this way but it’s a sin? Hmm. Seems the anti-thesis to a Jesus message.

Is that like if my sacred text (for argument sake), says that blue-eyed babies are Godly, but brown-eyed babies are not? Or blond hair vs. blue?

From Focus on the Family website: “Further, we are convinced that the Bible leaves no room whatsoever for confusion or ambiguity where homosexual behavior is concerned. The Scripture both explicitly and implicitly regards it as falling outside of God’s intention in creating man and woman as sexual beings who bear His image as male and female.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/06/04/supreme-court-rules-against-gay-wedding-exemptions/1052989001/

 

‘I’m still waiting for an answer, Senator Rubio’

From Miami Herald Columnist, Leonard Pitts:

(Senator Rubio) I specifically asked you three questions: “What do you stand for?” “What could Trump do to make you say, ‘Enough?’ ” and “What’s the functional difference between being a bigot and just voting for one?”

You gave me cricket arias in response. So let me offer some thoughts. Because space is limited, I’ll leave the first two questions aside. But the third deserves exploration, speaking as it does to issues larger than your slipperiness.

Trump’s bigotry is, of course, a given. Between his housing-discrimination suits, his contention that black people are naturally lazy, his birther nonsense, his assertion that an Indiana-born jurist of Mexican descent was unfit to judge him and his support for neo-Nazis, any argument to the contrary must be regarded as asinine.

And despite your claim that people voted for him “despite” all this, a mounting body of research says just the opposite.

Trump’s bigotry was a big part of his appeal for white Americans scared spitless by the notion of a nation where Muslims, people of color and LGBTQ people play ever larger and more visible roles.

In an analysis based on data from the 2016 American National Election Study and published in the current issue of Critical Sociology, University of Kansas professors David N. Smith and Eric Hanley put it as follows: “The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …”

Read the full piece here….

 

Getting into college

4 parent myths about college admissions

Originally published on Mother.ly

If you have a college-bound kid, I know you’re feeling it. The anxiety. The competition. The intensity. The bombardment of well-meaning but sometimes conflicting advice from other parents. I almost lost my mind trying to keep up with the list of do’s and don’ts of college admissions.

The fact is, requirements vary radically across campuses. Some schools focus on the SAT, some on the ACT, some on both. Some want stellar essays, some really don’t care.

But there’s a few general parent misperceptions swirling about that are worth correcting.

Want the full article?

I know it’s annoying that I’m re-directing you, but I have to send you where the article was originally published. 

More: How to Choose a Major: A Complete Guide [25+ Expert Tips & Advice]

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HuffPo: 6 ways to cope with Trump’s win (or how to avoid nasty conflict with your Trump loved ones)

Image result for 2016 election

 

Posted November 19th, 2016 on Huffington Post.

My husband was worried about me as the election returns came in. “Why are you so damn calm? She’s losing in some important states and you seem fine. It’s scary.”

“Because she’s going to win. I know it.”

I knew it the day she announced her run.

I knew it because despite well-funded, anti-Clinton machines that told us a million times across dozens of media outlets why we shouldn’t the trust facts, I counted on enough people to dig through the lies and add up the truth.

I knew past any red hot issue, jobs, immigration, that voter conscience would shove aside party, fear and Hillary-hate. America has self-respect. We know when enough is enough.

Grabbing crotches, fat-shaming, mocking a disabled journalist, inciting violence, feeding alt-right nationalism, disrespecting a war hero.

I knew our nation wouldn’t hire racism, sexism, misogyny, and bullying.

Voters felt long before they ever decided, that can’t be our President.

When Trump appeared millions of angry voters said this guy will turn the establishment on its cozy head, shake hard and man, oh, man, my life will be better than it is now.

Soon shocking numbers of people habituated to Trump’s horrible and pretended the vile he said never happened or was taken out of context or he “didn’t mean it.”

But I knew a tipping point of undecided and Republican voters would eventually say, “You’re not a good enough person to be my President. My kids are watching for God’s sake.”

And the fact is most voter voters did, because Hillary won the popular vote.

So when I hear “the people have spoken,” I think yes they have, but the electoral process told them to shut the hell up.

At about 3:30 am on election night, I moved out of denial and into the bargaining stage of grief. I sat on my bathroom floor and pleaded “Please, pleeease, God, no. Do you know what this means? My daughter just voted for the first time.”

About 4am, my husband came into the family room and saw me still watching the election returns and sobbing on the couch. Blurry after too much wine, shock and despair, I almost couldn’t get the words out, “This can’t be happening.”

The last stage of grappling with grief is acceptance. Acceptance is the place where you don’t agree with the outcome but you make peace so you stop feeling so shitty.

But I’ll never accept that *61,336,159 Americans decided racism, sexism and misogyny weren’t deal-breakers. I shouldn’t have to explain why in 2016.

Now all I can do is ask what’s next? What do we do? Where do we start?

My suggestion is to start by not making things worse.

1. Remember why you love your friends and family.

People you loved on Monday, November 7th are still those people. Your cousin Frank is still smart, a damn good storyteller and funny. Your best friend Lisa is still warm, a beautiful friend and generous. Good doesn’t disappear overnight. Forget their politics. Separate them, from him.

2. Stop mentally dividing people into Hillary vs. Trump.

This election viciously divided our nation into two mutually exclusive people piles. Now all we feel about our Trump friends is shock, disappointment and anger. Now we see our Trump neighbor as one word, Trump, and the antithesis to all we hold sacred. Now we wonder if the guy at the gas station or gym is one of them. Our deep tribal division is sad, dangerous and regressive.

We think we know everything we need to know about Trump supporters from disgusting chants by pockets of devolved people. We don’t. Trump pulled votes from almost every demographic, including a disappointing number of women. I heard a man tell Michael Moore, Prince of the Progressives, that he voted for Obama, loved Michael’s movies, but that Trump was his guy. This election isn’t about good people vs. bad. Trump won for a long list of complex reasons that have nothing to do (for plenty of voters) with the hate that came out of his mouth.

3. Don’t knee-jerk piss people off or excommunicate anyone.

If your anger is in danger of glaring at some poor unsuspecting Trump tee-shirt-wearing guy minding his own business, by all that is right in the world, stop yourself. Look away or give him the half smile you’d give any stranger in your path.

But if the Trump tee-shirt-wearing guy says something stupid when he sees the safety pin on your collar, breathe, then walk away. Yeah, go high. You’ll wonder how the hell you did it.

Don’t unfriend or boycott anyone unless he or she insists on being an a-hole. Sometimes you have no choice but to shield yourself from toxic people or nice people who won’t back off. If you hate your friend’s political rants on Facebook ignore her posts or hide her feed. If someone brings up the election, tell her “I love you but let’s not go there.” If she goes there, say it again and shut down the conversation. There’s thousands of other topics in the universe. Kids. Football. Dogs. Career. Dating. Movies. Books. Food. Travel. Her cool boots. Anything that won’t divide you into two angry piles.

4. Learn to actively listen.

Okay for some masochistic reason you want to confront the roaring stomping elephant in the room with friends and family. Your anger is who you are right now and you want people to understand why you can’t just “get over it.”

Fine, but set the stage to learn something from a Trump supporter. Ask friends and family to explain without bashing Hillary, why they chose Trump. Then explain without bashing Trump, why you chose Hillary. Stay off the controversial and personal. Focus on issues. Let them speak without interrupting. Don’t debate. Debate time is over. You might want to slam your head against the wall or you might learn something. This act of bravery will be damn near impossible which is why I don’t suggest you try it right now. Emotions are too high.

Post-election town halls are cropping up all over the nation so a better idea is to vent your anger in a moderated setting instead of railing against your loved ones. Your precious relationships matter far more than this election.

5. Focus on your election wins.

I lost a lot this election, so much that if I focus on the meaning and impact, I’ll go fetal and become a useless citizen. So I’m trying to focus on some state and local wins. Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy beat John Mica. Mica wasn’t my choice for Congress but he has an impressive record on mass transportation. Tapped for a possible Whitehouse position, maybe he’ll keep Florida’s transportation needs on the front burner. Medical pot finally won in Florida and a solar amendment designed by the utility companies to confuse consumers lost. My town of Orlando picked Hillary. It’s only a symbolic win, but I’ll take it.

6. Stop reading and watching political news for a while 

If you’re a seething mass of negative, go under for a while. Turn off all news. Get off Facebook and Twitter. Go the movies. Watch sitcoms. Head to the pet store and pet puppies. I promise you, puppies help. Personally I don’t have the willpower to get off the grid, but you might. Get away from the slow drip-drip-drip of 16 months of soul-sucking election stress. It’s hurting you more than you think. And for a while, you might pretend the impossible never happened.

And when you’re ready to come out from under the madness, depression and anger, activate.

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*running total

The anti-anxiety chemical phenibut. Benefits and dangers.

smiling good-bad

Excerpted from Corpina’s article, “Phenibut’s INSANE Benefits and Brutally Awful Side Effects” 

Phenibut is commonly used as a nootropic, an anti-anxiety medication, and sleep aid. Everyone’s always asking me how much they should take.

Here’s my answer…

 

Everyone’s phenibut experience is unique, but in general, men should take about 2 – 2.5 grams and women 1 – 1.2 grams of Phenibut in a day.

Yet even if you take the proper dose, the phenibut hangover can rear its ugly head the following day.

Positive Effects: The Benefits of Using Phenibut

First time users often pose the question, “what does phenibut feel like?”

Before I dive in, it should be noted that I only take pure phenibut crystals, which I buy here.

Sensations on Phenibut – How Does it Feel?

The effects of phenibut simultaneously combine mild-to-moderate sedation with mild-to-moderate stimulation, allowing one to feel physically relaxed and mentally focused at the same time.

This increases sociability, lowering stress and inhibition levels, without impairing judgment.

While some people have compared the primary effects of phenibut to that of a light dose of GHB or MDMA, it’s really just an effective anti-anxiety, antidepressant medication, with few side-effects and remarkable health benefits.

Phenibut gives some users the sensation of mild euphoria, tantamount to a mild “high”. As such, it can be abused if not used correct. Yet, the euphoric phenibut high is not intense, and taking more of it doesn’t intensify the high.

After consuming a dose of phenibut–usually between 250 milligrams and 1000 milligrams—how long it takes to feel the effects varies considerably from person to person.

Personally, I’ve found that phenibut works most consistently when taken on an empty stomach, and I feel it’s effects in around 15 or 20 minutes.

However, it takes longer for most people to feel the effects.

People generally report that the effects start to kick in around 1 or 2 hours after oral ingestion, and then the primary effects usually last for around 4 or 5 hours, although pleasant lingering effects can last for another 24 hours.

Read full article

 

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