Massage for Good Health

Getting Real With Lisa Van De Graaff, LMT

For many of us, massage is a decadent indulgence we afford ourselves only when on vacation. As over-worked mothers, we fantasize about a spa getaway vacation with our girlfriends. However, massage can also be a great way to maintain good health and a vital component of a healthy lifestyle.

Massage – more generally referred to as bodywork – supports good health in a number of ways.

The state of relaxation achieved by many recipients of massage is a parasympathetic state for the body. It is the place of rest (versus the sympathetic fight or flight state most of us live in when we face the everyday stresses of life). In the parasympathetic state, the body heals itself. This also happens with a good night’s sleep or a deep meditation.

A massage therapist manipulates our body for us, or assists our movements, to move blood and lymph through the body. This process, like regular exercise, maximizes both the delivery of nutrients throughout our body as well as the processing of waste. Massage stirs things up, and with the help of good hydration, flushes toxins from the body.

Massage can also alleviate pain. The hands of a trained therapist can release adhesions in muscle and connective tissue (also known as that knot in your shoulder). Bodyworkers can help lengthen muscles with assisted stretches and reflex responses (thereby lessening your back pain). I’ve even had “Boom! It’s gone” moments with clients that suddenly regained full range of motion in a joint after a bodywork session.

These physiotherapeutic  reasons alone are enough to seek out a massage therapist for regular treatment, but the reason that I personally feel the greatest benefit from  bodywork is compassion. The practioners that are drawn to bodywork as a profession are immensely intuitive and empathetic. Even the most scientific of us, the ones that study anatomy for fun, have a tremendous capacity for love. So when a client chooses bodywork as a way to nurture their bodies, they are treated to an unconditional acceptance by the therapist that also nurtures the soul.

Where else do we receive validation that we are who we are and that is absolutely all right in every way?

One of my teachers once told me that massage is two parasympathetic nervous systems working together for mutual healing. I believe this to be absolutely true, and I know that massage is one way that we can support both our bodies and our hearts.

When Holidays and Birthdays Compete

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

When your birthday falls close to a major holiday often times your birthday theme seems pre-selected for life, and there is no guarantee that you’ll ever have more than family around to celebrate with you. From what I’ve heard from friends, no one knows this better than a December baby whether they were born on the first, thirty-first, or anywhere in between. I can sort of relate, though some would like to brush my comparison aside.

I was born on July 3, just five minutes shy of being a bicentennial baby. Red, white, and blue with American flags all over does not excite me, though I do love the fireworks. Sadly, most of my birthdays were spent with just my family as most people vacation at that time. I never had one of those big parties with a mountain of gifts. Either my friends were away on vacation with their families or I was on vacation with mine. I got used to the family birthday, even while secretly dreaming of those friend filled parties. I did get a few, but mostly my birthday was spent with family.

Now that I am a mother I try to make sure my kids have fun birthdays, even though most of them are family celebrations. My son is another July baby, but he’s still too young to really care.  My daughter, however, is a December baby who has already gotten to that age where she’s been to a few big birthday parties, and has realized that her birthday is nothing like them.

When I was pregnant all I heard was how her birthdays would be overshadowed by Christmas forever, and how she’d always get shafted on gifts. I really didn’t like hearing that jaded, patronizing comment because celebrating happy events isn’t about the gifts. Having my birthday overshadowed by the Fourth of July taught me a few things, and I made a promise to my little girl before she even came into this world that her birthday would never be Christmas themed unless she requested it. I have made a concerted effort every year to make her birthday distinct and special, while emphasizing the importance of celebration over gifts.

At first I tried not putting up the Christmas tree until after her birthday, but that didn’t work well for us. Now our solution is to put up the tree in the library, and decorate the living room for her birthday. We decorate the Sunday before her birthday and leave the decorations up until the following Sunday so she has a whole week of seeing the theme of her choice. We make a special breakfast and have cake. Whenever possible we have her party the weekend before, but that can be difficult to coordinate with others because many of the people we know have family gatherings all throughout the month.

So my daughter is growing up with her birthday seemingly competing with a major holiday–the major-ist, one could argue. For her red and green are everywhere, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a celebration that is about her arrival into our family. That is what we think about birthdays, and that is how we celebrate them. Maybe it is all about family, but we still make a great big fuss with decorations and cake.

 

Overcome Mom Guilt by Connecting with Your Kids

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

The guilt weighs on me sometimes…

I’m a good mom and I love my kids, but the economy has created a situation where I am the primary bread winner. My husband does much of the homework help, all of the cooking, and the laundry. Oh, I try to do laundry, but the first load is often enough forgotten in the washing machine that Dave actually prefers it if I don’t help.

Dinner time used to be when I bonded with my mom. I would sit on a stool at the counter and watch her cook. The kids do that with Dave, not me. To be sure, it’s better for all of us. The food he prepares is delicious and nutritious. When I cook, we would most likely be ordering pizza after whatever I was preparing was rendered inedible with my talent.

But I still want my kids to know I care, that I am there for them, and that I want to know everything that has happened with their days – even when I’m worried about picking up a new contract or making a client happy. I’m lucky that I work from home, so I’m here, and that’s half  the battle. At least they are no longer playing tug of war for my attention with my atrocious corporate boss.

Lately, we’ve been bonding a different way – a way that soothes my guilt and helps my kids understand how much I love them. We’ve been watching our family videos. We were pretty consumed with videotaping the kids, our family, and family events when the kids were younger, and we’ve had a blast going back in time to when the kids were babies and letting them see what life was like before they could remember.

It’s a fun way to connect and the kids get to see how much I’ve been involved in their lives, so that if I can’t take the time to work on spelling words, they understand.

 

Blessings in the Wrinkles – The Tale of a Recovering Perfectionist

Getting Real With Lisa Van De Graaff

The other night, in one of those 3am fits to find the perfect sleeping position (and to resume my fanciful dream that was interrupted by fireworks outside), I rolled over in bed and stuck my foot right through my favorite, oh-so-soft, threadbare cotton top sheet. It had already been mended more than once, and the fabric just didn’t seem sturdy enough to hold a seam anymore, so off to the rag bag it went.

Sigh.

I decided to replace it with something that would make me feel like I was doing my part for the Earth and splurged on some organic cotton sheets. To my great pleasure, they were very soft right out of the packaging, so I promptly threw them in the wash. The were even softer as they emerged from the Earth-friendly wash with phosphate-free laundry detergent and a no-fabric-softener air dry, but they were more wrinkled than any item of cotton clothing I’ve ever owned.

Sigh.

I pulled out the ironing board to press them and make my Grandmother proud, and then I realized if I took the time to press the sheets, I wouldn’t have time to make dessert for our family’s celebration of a recently achieved goal (we now own one third of our home – Hooray!) My sweet tooth prevailed, and the wrinkled, but soft, sheets went on the bed. I could feel my Grandmother shaking her head.

SIGH.

That last, deep sigh brought with it some perspective (or some justification) – I will never achieve my mother-in-law’s hospital corners, my grandmother’s sparkling silver, my aunt’s parallel diagonal vacuum lines in the living room carpet, or my mother’s crisp creases in cotton shirts, but I am every bit as capable of making a loving home with very comfortable beds… and dessert after dinner.

In the words of the much esteemed Flylady: “Housework done imperfectly still blesses my family.”

Summer is the Time of Fire

Getting Real With Lisa Van De Graaff

In Five-Element Theory, summer is the time of fire. Fire organs include the heart, small intestine, pericardium, and the triple warmer. The heart is our source of passion and compassion, and it integrates our senses. The small intestine discerns what is right and not right for us in our lives – As in Western understanding, the small intestine digests/assimilates what we need and releases what we do not need. The pericardium (also known as the heart constrictor) protects the exceptionally vulnerable heart and governs circulation and distribution of nutrients throughout the body. The triple warmer (also known as the triple heater) is a health concept foreign to those of us in Western society, but it is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to provide a support function to the small intestine, to protect the lymphatic system, and to provide the heat necessary in the upper chest, mid chest, and abdomen for the body’s organs to function properly.

A fire element that is out-of-balance will often present itself in a manic way with surges of joy followed by apathy. One may also experience sensitivity to heat and cold, health issues with the tongue and/or cardiovascular system, and an inability to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family.

A balanced fire element will reap the rewards of spring’s labors with long summer days spent enjoying the companionship of loved ones. There will be laughter, listening, and an appreciation of all that is in bloom around us.

Nurture the fire element this summer by allowing yourself to spend time with people who are of like mind – surround yourself with the people that support your passions and feed your soul. Once the weather warms, it is time to enjoy more raw foods. A salad with bitter greens (such as escarole, arugula, and dandelion) would be especially beneficial to the heart. However, avoid excessively cold drinks that will extinguish the digestive fire, especially when eating raw foods.

Live your passion!

The End?

By Tiana Green

Well, here it is Sunday, May 22, 2011. The world did not end as predicted.

Seriously??

The same guy that made this ridiculous prediction also made the prediction that the world would end all the way back in 1994. I don’t think that people were any more worried in 2011 than they were in 1994. It really is just craziness! I am probably the farthest thing from an expert on the bible, but from the little that I do know, this man’s crazy prediction had no effect on how I spent my Saturday.

What was really interesting to me, however, was how all of this talk of the world coming to an end affected our children. Two of our children were at friend’s houses on Friday and we got calls from them both asking if everything was going to be ok. With a little reassurance we set their worried minds at ease, but it made me realize how much our kids really pay attention to what is going on in the news.

It also made me realize how important it is to instill a sense of faith in our children. Having grown up myself with no spiritual direction in my life, I have begun to realize how much I want to give that gift to my children. Regardless of your religious beliefs or what you choose to teach your children, the importance of having some sort of base or belief system continues to show an importance in my life. This could be as simple as moral and ethical standards that you teach your children to uphold, or it could be sharing a specific religion with your children. For us, it has meant exploring faith and spirituality as a family. It is a new journey for us but one that I am thankful to be on together with my husband and children.

You Shouldn’t Use the TV as a Babysitter, Right?

by Shadra Bruce

Let’s face it, whether you’re a single parent or just home alone with the kids, there are times when you simply need to take a break. When the kids were younger and Dave was still part of the corporate world, there were times when he was traveling or away from home for long hours. As a stay at home mom, my job was to take care of my babies, something I did with ultimate joy. But there were days when I had a migraine, or the flu, or  needed to get something done – or just didn’t feel like actively parenting. And you know what? Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues helped me out.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom; it makes me human. And my kids, now 8 and 11 and totally embarrassed that they ever watched Dora and Blue’s Clues are not impaired by the experience. If anything, watching Dora sparked Parker’s desire to be multilingual.

As with anything we do, it’s a matter of balance. If I sat my kids in front of the TV every day for four hours, it would be irresponsible. But I’m not at all opposed to catching a half an hour break here and there when needed (or, a whole day of laying in bed together watching movies when I have a migraine). It was age appropriate and educational.

Now that the kids are older and Dave and I both work from home, TV is rarely an issue. We only have basic cable – enough to pull in basic news stations. However, we still rely on the TV to give us a much-needed break. The kids aren’t old enough to be left alone, and when Kira is away at school, we don’t have a sitter. Are we bad parents for wanting to have a break? Nope. We monitor what our kids watch and engage them in conversations about what they see. We balance their TV watching with other things, like going outside to play, playing board games, reading books, and being creative.  Turning the kids loose with a favorite movie gives us a couple of hours to talk, share a French film (thank you, Netflix!) or take a break from active parenting, and that makes us better parents when we are engaged with the kids.

Monday Night Are For Making Friends

by Shadra Bruce

My first girlfriend. We still keep in touch.

I grew up for the most part in Boise, Idaho. Not the biggest city in the world, but big enough that there was always plenty to do, and plenty of people I knew. Most importantly, it was where my mom and my sister lived, which meant I had a built in support system and social group that fulfilled me.

When we moved to Bath, New York in 2001, I was a stay-at-home mom with three school age kids and an 18-month old. Dave worked, the kids left for school, and Parker and I spent the days together. There’s only so much of Barney and Dora a person can take, though. I knew only my mother-in-law and my husband’s best friend’s wife (who today is as close to me as family). I was lonely, though, and desperately missed my friends and family out West.

Making new friends was really tough. I mean, how do you make friends when you only leave the house to go grocery shopping? The person I talked to most was the checker at Wal-Mart in line number 5 who was always working when I was there. Pathetic, I know.

Then, Kira got interested in cheerleading. I started taking her to practices on Monday nights and met the other moms who were there. Before long, I’d made a few new friends. When we moved back West to care for my mom while she was ill, we were only gone for a few years, but everything had changed in that time. I was closer than ever to my husband’s best friend’s wife, and we bought the house across the street from theirs, but the other friends I’d made had moved, divorced, disappeared…and Kira was grown and doing her own thing.

Then last year, Anika started taking dance classes. Every Monday night, she gets dolled up in her ballerina outfit and can hardly wait to head out the door to dance class. The truth is, I look forward to it as much as she does, if not more. Monday nights are MY nights. Anika heads into the dance studio for her practice, and I sit in the lobby and visit with my new group of friends.

I’m not a stay-at-home mom with a baby anymore. Now, I’m a work-at-home mom with no kids at home. I find myself talking to the birds – or to myself – because a lot of the work I do is quite solitary. So Monday nights are my solace, my escape, my night out. I worry that the moms I meet up with those nights are just bracing themselves for me because I save up a whole week of girl talk for that one night, but it is wonderful.

I spend far too much time far away from the people who mean the most to me, and while Facebook and texting and email allows us to stay in touch, I miss face time – sitting across from the women in my life and talking. Women need friends, and we need to cherish them and treasure them and make time for them.

The Importance of Trusting Others with my Kids

Getting Real With Veronica Monique Ibarra

I am not a high-strung type-A person.  Most of my friends would say I am easy going and relaxed.  However, when it comes to my children I transform into Mega Mom or the Mommy Overlord.  I’m that mom at the park that has the eyes of a hawk trained on her young.  I find it very difficult to stand around and talk with others while my kids are running wild.  Now, they don’t actually run wild.  They play, and get along well with other kids.  I just don’t feel like I can take my eyes off of them.  Isn’t that usually when disaster strikes?

One of the things I struggle with most as a mother is relinquishing control and trusting others with my children.  Yes, this sometimes includes their father.  I get stuck in Mommy Mode, thinking that no one knows my kids better than me, and no one can keep them safe the way I can.  I forget that I’m not in it alone, and I don’t have to be.

With my first child I had to work, but any time off due to holidays, teacher workdays, or vacations my daughter was with me.  I paid for weeks of daycare that my daughter never attended (because to hold her spot I had to); I never utilized those times to do anything for myself.  I never left my husband alone with our daughter for more than the time it took me to shower or go to the bathroom.  It wore me down.

Finally, my best friends talked me into a weekend girls’ getaway for my 30th birthday.  We were all mothers with all our daughters around the same age.  It was a liberating experience and a healing one, because guess what?  My husband took very good care of our daughter, and I actually learned the value of taking some time for myself.

Sometimes, especially as first time mothers, we forget that we are also women with wants and needs separate from our children.  It doesn’t make us selfish or uncaring.  In fact, I learned that taking sometime every now and again makes me a better mother.  Whether it be a girls’ night out with my friends, or a trip to the grocery store by myself, I am better at attending to my children in a loving, caring manner when I take the time to care for myself.

I still struggle with leaving my kids with the occasional babysitter, but at least I’ve learned to trust my husband.  He doesn’t do things the way I do, but he does love our children.  That means he will keep them alive and safe while I’m having my time.  They may be living off of hot dogs and soda, but they will live, which is really all I need to know in order to relax.

It’s NOT McDonald’s Fault!

Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

It seems to me, that lately there’s been a huge backlash against various food products.  The cases I’ve heard a lot about lately are: McDonald’s being sued by a woman who claims that eating there made her children fat and Ferrero is being sued by another woman because their Nutella hazelnut spread isn’t as healthy as the commercials claim.  When I hear about these kinds of lawsuits, the first thing I think of is that someone is looking for their 15 minutes of fame and a huge pay off.

I’ve read several articles, blogs and debates on this topic and people are really divided on it.  There’s a group of people that are all for banning any form of advertising for these products because they’re targeted to children who then in turn beg their parents to buy them.  This group doesn’t think advertisers should be allowed to advertise to children.  The second group, and I firmly belong to this group, believe that it’s up to the parents to say ‘no’ to their children when they beg for things that we don’t want them to have.  We’re the ones with the money, it’s up to us how we spend it.

What happened to being responsible for your own actions?  It’s not my fault I’m fat, it’s McDonald’s fault.  Really?  Did the McDonald’s employees drag you inside the restaurant and stove Big Macs down your throat with a broom handle?  No?  Then guess what, it’s not McDonald’s fault.  Same rules apply to Nutella.  Unless the Nutella staff are sneaking around grocery stores and forcing you at gunpoint to buy Nutella, then you have no case.  As consumers of these products and others like it, it’s up to us to be aware of what we are buying.  It’s up to us to read the labels and use common sense to decide what’s the best for us and our families.

I have nothing against McDonald’s or Nutella.  I occasionally eat at McDonald’s and there’s always a jar of Nutella in the cupboard.  I know that these choices probably aren’t the best for my family but I also believe that indulging now and then isn’t going to kill me or them.  And that is the key – indulging now and then- if you made these choices a habit in your life then there is no one to blame but yourself.