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Avatar_SusanVernon It was the end of June and I still had butterflies on my mind. Even after a spring in the field doing Island Marble surveys and, in the process, encountering several other butterflies including azures, anglewings, elfins, ringlets, and admirals, I still felt I might have lost the opportunity to see a long-time favorite due to the rapid arrival of the summer solstice. Time does hurtle by.

Your Nerve System and You

Your nerve system is your body's master communication system. Your brain - your body's central processing unit - receives information from every other system. Information on sight, sound, touch, taste and smell is constantly bombarding your brain. Information on muscle activity, placement of your arms and legs, fingers and toes, and the positioning of your joints reaches the brain nanosecond by nanosecond. Feedback is constantly being supplied on how many new red blood cells are being manufactured, how much acid has been secreted into the stomach to help digest your breakfast, and how much insulin, epinephrine and other hormones is need for healthy functioning.

Your brain processes information faster than the world's fastest computer, and you get to have one for free! Remarkably, man-made computers are exactly like the human brain. How information is received, how it is processed, and how instructions are sent back out again - these activities are quite identical in both the artificial machine and the living organ.

How is all the information transferred back and forth? Messages coming to the brain from the body and messages going from the brain to the body are transmitted via the spinal cord, the tail-like direct extension of the brain itself. The spinal cord - delicate nervous tissue - is encased in the bony structures of the spinal canal, housed within the spinal column.

Of course, all systems in the body are related. Interestingly, problems with spinal mechanics may interfere with normal activities taking place in the spinal cord. If spinal muscles are irritated and spinal ligaments are tight, pain signals from these structures will affect normal signals flowing through the local spinal nerve. Ramped-up pain signals impact levels of other signals, enhancing some and depressing others. The ultimate result is that of "wires being crossed". Systems then begin to break down and the person's health may be affected.

So, mechanical problems in the spine can lead to many other physical ailments. Tight neck muscles, headaches, painful lower backs, even arm or leg pains suggest altered spinal mechanics. How may these health issues be addressed?

Chiropractic health care is specifically designed to diagnose and treat spine-related complaints. Treatment is gentle and directed toward restoring mobility, reducing pain and irritation of spinal muscles and ligaments. As these painful conditions resolve, more normal functioning within the nerve system is made possible. The result is greater health and improved well-being across the range of your body's systems.

Of course, spinal adjustments alone do not always completely address your pain. Sometimes there are other factors involved in keeping your spine healthy. As we have stated before there are six interferences that can cause spinal imbalance and ill-health. They are:

  1. structural imbalance 
  2. electromagnetic interference 
  3. nutritional imbalance 
  4. allergies and sensitivities 
  5. emotional issues (past or present) 
  6. toxicity

For more information on these interferences and how they affect your health, go to our website at sanjuanholistichealthcare.com or come in to our office and pick up a free CD on the six interferences to health. Both of these have an enormous amount of information. As always, if you have any questions, you can also call us at 378-5660.

Yours in Health,
Mark W. Earnhart, D.C.


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Basic Supplementation

We have talked in the past about the problems with getting good nutrients in you body. Some of these issues include: high fructose corn syrup, gluten, pesticides in vegetables, hydrogenated oils, loss of vitamins in our vegetables due to planting over and over again in depleted soils and the list could go on. This article is about what are the basic nutrient supplementation we recommend in our office if you are basically healthy and have no symptoms yet.

These are the FOUR basic things people should take every day:

1) A good multiple vitamin that contains vitamins and minerals to support the basic cell function in the body. This needs to be natural and not synthetic.

2) Adrenal support - research is clear - over 80% of Americans suffer from chronic stress which leads to adrenal stress. Adrenal fatigue causes an increase in cortisol ( which helps keep us a little chubby), a decrease in DHEA (DHEA helps keep us young), an increase in insulin resistance which leads to diabetes and other sugar handling disorders, a breakdown in muscle and general loss of energy.

3) Omega - 3 oils. Yes, fish oil. Our diet is over saturated with pro-inflammatory oils such as corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil to name a few. Inflammation is the number one cause of all chronic diseases so we recommend you reduce you intake of hydrogenated oils and increase Omega-3 oils including fish, flax and olive oils. Omega-3 oils are anti-inflammatory and have been shown to also improve heart function and brain function as well. In England it is almost considered malpractice if a doctor does not recommend Omega-3 oils to heart patients.

4) Vitamin D - most of have heard about vitamin D recently. It has been in the news as research has found out how important it is to all the functions in our body. Especially in the northwest where the sun is in such limited supply (And especially this year).

There are of course other things most of us should take as well but this is a basic start to good health.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 378-5660 or go to our website at sanjuanholistichealthcare.com.

Yours in Health,
Mark W. Earnhart, D.C.



0Avatar_SusanVernon Until a week or so ago, it had not been a good spring for butterflies. Unseasonably cold temperatures and above average rainfall are not a good combination for the ethereal insects that require ample sunshine to survive and to thrive in our rainshadow world.

A Good Day for a Sandwich

"...enjoy every sandwich." - Warren Zevon

It's my friend, Steve's 50th birthday today. Being 51, I have some prior experience with turning fifty and I can't say I was graceful about it. I spent the day whimpering under a blanket with many pints of pistachio ice cream.

I crawled out briefly for dinner, but couldn't sustain so much exposure to light or sound I tried to reflect on my good fortune at being able to enjoy five decades in great health with hardly any problems that weren't of my own design, but I couldn't quite haul myself up and over the edge of the abyss.

I could not quite get past the feeling that I had enjoyed plenty of time to accomplish something (five decades, in fact) but that I had just gotten sidetracked. If I'd started studying Italian thirty years ago, I'd be fluent and running an olive empire in Liguria by now.

I could have been a ballroom dancer or a hot air balloonist or an octopods expert. I could have established my own quack religion, become a wealthy tele-evangelist, developed a wicked barbiturate habit along with an inappropriate fondness for my young backup singers, crashed my empire and suffered public scorn and humiliation. I could have bought low and sold high.

I longed to stop wondering if I'd ever become a successful person and just already BE a successful person. Instead, I turned out like myself. I should have seen that coming.

Even though a fiftieth birthday is just a flash in a lifetime of days, just another scenic lookout on a long journey, I seemed to have less capacity for hope at fifty than I did at forty. Forty seemed like I was just maturing into something fabulous - like a peach when it ripens to its full fragrant, shapely peachiness. Fifty was more like a peach that has fallen to the bottom of the crate - soft and a spotted brown in places with no shelf-life left to it. Deflated and mushy.

I'm glad to report that it was worthwhile to stay on the Blue Bus just to see what happens on the day AFTER turning 50. I got some perspective - maybe for no other reason than self-preservation (those brown spots aren't going anywhere) or I started to appreciate that while I may be one of small percentage of people for whom 50 is actually midlife, the actuarial tables are not in my favor. I have less time to squander on dissatisfaction or unhappiness, and fewer people who have the patience to hear about it.

This is what I said to myself after I got to the other side of flipping the decade:

There never was anything wrong with you or your life. Life is just very unruly and refuses to lie down quietly or behave predictably. It's just one dragon after another.

If you were only psychic, you could have predicted all the consequences of any action you have ever taken. Your life, then, could have unfolded according to the chosen script. This happens to no one - not even people who believe themselves to be psychic.

Alas, your inability to read the future has resulted in fifty years of imperfect choices, which have resulted in some monster regrets. This is counter-intuitive, because...

Everything we love and treasure right now is the result of a series of proximate causes that winds backward through our lives - some of it was great and some of it wasn't, but we landed where we are whether we think the causes were positive or negative. Disastrous love affairs produce beloved children; failures morph into unexpected opportunities; old dreams die and new dreams find a place to root.

We get another do-over at fifty if we're willing to live lightly, I think. It's a crossroads where you can decide if you're too disappointed or just too apathetic to reinvent yourself, or if you have enough of a sense of humor left to say, "This is absurd, but, what the hell..."

I wrote all this down and thought, "Well, I wonder what Steve thinks about this on his 50th birthday."So, I sent it to him, and this is what he wrote back:

"At 37, Tom Lehrer noted that "when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years." So by the time we hit fifty, shouldn't it be all the more likely that we would feel that overwhelming urge to look backwards? Like Lot's wife turning to glance over her shoulder at Sodom and Gomorrah, what fifty-year-old can resist the impulse to look back and survey the flaming ruins of his or her own past?

Check that - it seems to me to be compulsive rather than impulsive. It's almost as though there's no choice. During the final weeks of the run-up to my birthday, an evil voice in my head kept viciously spitting out the term "half-century." It really is an undeniable checkpoint. And as Ingrid points out, the math is soberingly clear.

By fifty, there doesn't seem to be much time left in which to pull the ideal life (never mind how vague that notion may be) out of the magic hat. So if there's not much ahead to look at, where can we look but back?

My "long and winding road" story sounds much like Ingrid's. I'd had no real problem with previous decade "flips." They actually provided me with ample reasons to look toward the future.

Maybe I simply didn't want to reflect on my perceived lack of accomplishments, but at thirty, I didn't mourn the passing of my foolish twenties. For me, the thirties held the promise of a resilient physical and intellectual vigor seasoned with experience.

When my thirties didn't quite pan out, the forties were still promising. They were obviously (to echo the fruit metaphor) about ripening into a creative maturity. I was never the eternal optimist, but there always seemed to be plenty of time left. I was going to be the classic late bloomer.

But by forty-nine, the ticking of the clock had gotten louder and louder. I'd had no solid career to speak of, much less a current job. My twenty-fifth high school reunion (I didn't go) had long since come and gone. Graduate school, which had seemed interminable, was now a fading memory.

And two weeks before my birthday, I was in a department store fitting room trying on some pants and caught a shocking glimpse of the back of my head in the double mirrors. It was like witnessing the rapid deforestation of the Brazilian jungles. If you have thinning hair, avoid rooms with double mirrors - fitting rooms, traditional barber shops and the like. As my friend James said the other night, "There's no reason to look back there."

But you know, something happened when my birthday finally arrived. I woke up and somehow the day just felt good. At noon I had lunch with my wife and kids at our favorite hamburger joint. My 13-year-old outplayed me at pool, which I actually found quite gratifying. My daughter was all hugs and kisses.

They gave me an iPhone, a wonderful surprise which I'll still be learning to use on my 60th birthday, I'm sure. I even had one of those perfect crosstown driving trips, where every light is green and all the drivers are courteous. That night I had Mexican food and margaritas with my wife and a few close friends, and it was a truly great time.

It was just a day filled with good, simple things. I wasn't looking forward or backward, and everything was all right. The Buddhist in me was proud that I somehow spent most of the day being aware and in the moment.

Not only was the past, past - but hey, to hell with the future as well. Like Jesus said: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Had He been more of an optimist, He might have said "good" instead of "evil." That's how I'd like to think of it, anyway.

I'd also like to second Ingrid's observation about unexpected rich results of a "series of proximate causes." In one of my favorite poems, Bad People, Robert Bly points out that "Bad handwriting sometimes leads to new ideas." The good things in our lives can come about both because of and in spite of our failures and mistakes.

We aspire, and we screw up. Over and over. But on any given day - even a fiftieth birthday - the place where you happen to find yourself might just be a good one."

Smart guy, that Steve.

It's a good day for a birthday. It's a good day to enjoy a sandwich.

© 2011 Ingrid Gabriel


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German Story

"That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate." - Carl Jung

People often used to ask me if I was writing down what I called the "German Story." They were fascinated by memories of an era that despite its unprecedented significance in modern times, was fast evaporating from world consciousness. They suggested I document/ film/ record/ interview her before the vividness of her recollections faded.

They said I should not let the lion cub and the Laconia, Kenya, Captain Salmon, Grandpa Julius and Oma Adolphina just vanish even though the characters and the props in my mother's drama had almost all exited the stage before I was born.

Despite the well-intentioned encouragement, I did not make that documentary no matter how many folklorists, anthropology majors, history enthusiasts and kindly listeners tried to make me into a chronicler. The prime reason being is that we daughters spend the better part of a lifetime unwinding from our mothers and purging their voices from our heads. It's a daunting enough task to undock from the mothership without entangling ourselves further by writing their memoirs.

While I recognized that Elsa had developed a great monologue, I had been cringing from hearing it performed ever since I learned my first word in either German or English. My mother couldn't stop giving a dramatic reading of her life as a refugee from Nazi Germany (a period that spanned about 20 years in at least seven countries) and I couldn't stop hearing about it, day in, day out, year in, year out.

The German Story was the center around which all other events and aspects of life revolved and were measured, no matter how disconnected from present experience they might be. If someone mentioned that the cheese on the buffet was delicious, Elsa would remind the group that cheese wasn't available during the war.

If the telephone rang, she would shriek, and then remark that her tendency to startle easily at any sudden noise was a result of the bombs.

Someone even standing in a residential doorway caused her no end alarm and a lecture would follow outlining the dangers of blocking an exit. In the event of a domestic explosion, we would not be able to escape our house/shelter and be burned to a crisp. Arguing that houses don't blow apart without some kind of explosive material involved (dynamite, a leaking gas line, an air attack, some form of accelerant) was futile.

Elsa's default cause for what seemed like melodramatic idiosyncrasies was unassailable. There isn't much that can really trump a war experience in terms of human suffering. That she had also been a child in Berlin during the first World War gave her further standing. During the Great War, her family couldn't buy so much as a pickled herring and had to be satisfied with the backwash of brine left at the bottom of the barrel. This would be poured over a few moldering potatoes to give them ersatz herring flavor.

Trying to squeeze a few dollars for cheerleading camp out of a mother who spent years eating herring brine and dreaming of one day eating a whole herring was impossible.

While Elsa was determined to stand out and draw attention to her life and experience, I was struggling to blend in...unobtrusively. Without a lot of shrieking and fuss.

I resented how nothing could ever just be what it was - the cheese or the telephone - without looping back to scarcity and war and fear. The German Story seemed permanently fixed in my family life and there wasn't going to ever be an American story to supplant it - a story in which coffee was plentiful and we bought our clothes at Penney's instead of cutting apart old garments to sew new garments from the salvaged fabric.

A story where the events and people of the present were allowed to capture our attention and that a story from twenty to sixty years past would begin to mellow and fade.

But I was wrong about that. Time ended the telling after all.

Dementia began to erode Elsa's recall at 93. She stopped telling the German Story and began reliving it. At 95, she was lost in a frightening Gestapo scene where her identification papers were missing and she was being questioned by the polizei.

At 96, her room was on fire and there was a Dutch refugee couple with a little boy living under her bed.

At almost 98, she is looking for her own mother everywhere. She cries out "Meine mutter, meine mutter. Ist sie tot?" My mother, my mother. Is she dead?

She is. Since 1968. We tell Elsa that her mother is fine and visiting her family in Pomerania. It doesn't help. She is inconsolable and I know that I won't be hearing the German Story from her ever again.

But now, against all expectations, I have enough years behind me that I'm starting to look back myself and the course that brought me from beginning to here. And I'm startled to discover that my mothers' journey is not separate from my own no matter how I tried to distance or disentangle. No matter how determined I was to shake the Old World off and live in the here and now, the German Story is symbiotically part of my story as well.

I'm looking more and more like a German frau; I bake apple cakes and was recently pleased when someone offered me a red cabbage from their garden (those were hard to find during the war). The other day I said to myself that I had a "schnupfen" and wished I had a Kleenex in my pocket to catch the drip. I'd like to have a "geschpusi", but it's hard to imagine how that will come about, exactly, and I know that my mother was far more artful in such matters than I. Coming of age in the café and cabaret scene of 1920s Berlin, photographs show her as a thin university student with huge eyes surrounded by beautiful men groomed to Prussian precision. She knew something about getting a geschpusi going.

Yet the biggest surprise has been that in a convoluted way, the German Story has morphed into an ongoing parable about attention and appreciation. Even though I'm not consumed by the sense of deprivation that caused Elsa to send parcels of toilet paper and packages of coffee to relatives in East Germany (where both were hard to come by) AND to family living in Los Angeles (where, I believe, they have always been widely available), I find that I notice these things anyway. Every time I use the roll of 3-ply Cottonelle that I buy by the bale, it seems, I marvel at all that snowy excess. I haven't made a pot of organic French Roast for years without pausing to be grateful for this luxury that is so commonplace I can choose to take it for granted, or not.

My legacy from Elsa is the knowledge that the world doesn't owe me my Cottonelle or my Seattle's Best. "It's in my very cells to recognize PLENTY and I know that's a rare gift. Gratitude is the breeding ground for happiness.

So, maybe there are other treasures to be mined from the German Story. Some are charming - Grandma Adolphina had been a stage actress before marrying and was, like Narcissus, besotted with her own beauty. Even into her 80s, she still liked to describe her breasts as being "like bowls of cream with a pink raspberry floating in the middle."

Some are horrifying - gentle and Jewish Grandpa Julius, who is remembered as pouring his tea into his saucer to cool so that the children could sip from it. Julius died in a concentration camp, but not before he was able to smuggle a note to his Christian wife, telling her how much he had always loved her.

Maybe the German Story was always a very good story and maybe I will start telling it myself. Elsa would be pleased.

© 2011 Ingrid Gabriel


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The gray days of winterflower-125 were almost gone. Or so I thought. The third week in February, I was almost sorry, in some ways, to see them end. My favorite trails had taken on an added dimension as tiny green shoots began sprouting from shrubs along the way. Green promise became the reality of blooming red-flowering currant and Indian plum. At English Camp, patches of salmonberry had been in bloom for two weeks. While the magenta petals of Rubus spectabilis were a joyful sight, still I felt a twinge of sadness at the waning of this austere season. It was almost time to bid adieu to the many birds that arrived here last fall seeking winter refuge among the evergreens, on freshwater lakes and tall grass prairies, and along the shorelines of the archipelago. Soon enough the visitors would head back to their nesting grounds to the north and east. I would be sorry to see them go.

Hands to Clasp

Avatar_IngridGabriel"Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp." 

- lyrics to Welcome Christmasfrom The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

Timing and careful scheduling for viewing holiday television specials are vital. If you tune in too early, the momentum of December starts to bog down and you lose the titter of anticipation before the holidays ever reach their zenith. If you wait too long, you might very well miss the window of viewing opportunity and find yourself with nothing to watch but Elf, or some other weird attempt to create meaningful memories by casting overbearing comedians and trashy blondes opposite a North-Pole-ian, non-represented, small-statured workforce.

It is, likewise, a mistake to own or rent the DVD of your favorite holiday movie/show. When you have access to It's a Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas 24 hours a day in every season, the show's magical, almost hypnotic power to lure you back through the decades virtually disappears from repetition.

In the 1960s, holiday specials were only televised once a year and it was a highly anticipated event. The tension was ratcheted up even higher because there was no guarantee that our parents would organize their lives around our viewing pleasure. Some years you were lucky enough to see It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - the antennae was turned just right, your father wasn't engrossed in the Huntley-Brinkley Report, you weren't at your weekly accordion lesson, the Andy Williams Family Christmas Special wasn't competing for air-time on one of the three channels and you remembered it was on. Other years, you missed your favorite and had to accept that a year would pass before you had any hope of seeing it again.

The counterpoint to the disappointment was that special shows remained special. I missed The Wizard of Oz more often than I saw it and I never saw the Yellow Brick Road in color until I was in college. It remained a special movie for me right up until the very day I could watch it any time I liked.

These days I have cable, video streaming, play instantly, download DVD from Amazon and a Netflix account. I am the alpha female in my household, so, theoretically, I rule the remote. I can practically guarantee that I can watch anything I want, anytime and I, thereby, jeopardize my enjoyment of every special show from The Incredible Mr. Limpet to A Muppet Christmas Carol.

So, I have been very, very careful with Dr. Suess's The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I don't own it. I don't watch it out of season. And even though it's aired many times in December, I neither wait too late in Christmas week in case I get tangled up somewhere and can't get home in time, and I don't watch before I'm ready to emotionally commit to all the peace and joy. Its specialness needs to be preserved and I am not careless. I plan for the perfect night, and some years it just all comes together (this year included).

We all have our favorites. My daughter is devoted to the old animated Santa Klaus is Coming to Town. But while I really like the Winter Warlock and the Burgermeister Meisterburger and Burl Ives, it doesn't touch any deep places in my psyche.

Charlie Brown is sweet. We all love Snoopy's light display and the woebegone tree, and Linus' recitation from the Gospel of Luke is beautiful. I'm a great fan of the Muppets, but they weren't around in my childhood so I don't have quite the same connection. Frosty and Rudolph don't do anything for me either way.

But Grinch is the perfect story of redemption and it never fails to make me believe all over again. As you recall, some say the Grinch loathes Christmas because his heart was two-sizes too small. Others say that his heart is full of unwashed socks and his soul is full of gunk. Be that as it may, living up in a mountain cave and having his perpetual negativity interrupted every year by the merry-making Whos down in Whoville has driven him to desperate action.

He presses his reluctant and timid dog, Max, into reindeer duty by strapping an antler to his head. With Max dragging a sled, the Grinch rides into Whoville on Christmas Eve night to steal everything from the Who's pontufullers to the roast beast. He even takes the last crumb from the Whos' houses. Crumbs so small that they are too small for the Whos' mouses.

His Grinchy scheme is to stop Christmas from coming by taking all the gifts, food and decorations, leaving the Whos nothing to celebrate. But just before he's about to dump the whole sled off of the side of...where?...that's right!...Mt. Crumpet!...gold star for you...the village bells begin to ring announcing that Christmas Day has arrived.

When the entire village of Whos clasp hands in a circle and begin singing joyously, the Grinch is stunned to discover that he didn't stop Christmas from coming. It came. It came just the same. And the Grinch begins to reassess his premise. Maybe Christmas is more.

It's a powerful message I have to hear fresh each and every year, because each and every year I forget and get pulled into the undertow of anxiety - that despondent feeling of not doing enough, not being enough or planning enough, and facing the certainty that my inadequacies will cause the holidays to not be merry enough for everyone I have ever met.

The Grinch reminds me every year that the time of the winter solstice, however celebrated, is about having hands to clasp and welcoming back the light.

And it's always in our grasp.


© 2011 Ingrid Gabriel


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