Owen Detoxes

 

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You haven’t heard from us for a while. We have been submerged. Health protocols of Dr. Mark Hyman. Owen has been dragged along with his mother and father into a new world of vegetable and fruit smoothies, serious water consumption, and relaxing Epsom salts and baking soda baths.

Generally speaking, over the years anything that one member of the Simons family has explored has impacted the rest of us.  Things I tried out for Owen’s health always tended to trickle over into the way I cared for the other kids, to Bronwyn and Freya’s annoyance. Wellness initiatives I began for Oskar or Edward have ended up changing how I eat, and helping me. The positive thinking philosophy The Secret that Scotty brought home with him was usefully deployed for parental sanity. And when Daric left Rich Dad Poor Dad by financial guru Robert Kiyosaki lying around the house, it resulted in our garage apartment and a new revenue stream. We are just those kind of people — not as skeptical as some – willing to go boldly into new protocols. And drag everyone else along for the ride. 

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Owen is happy to have PGX packets added to his ever expanding collection, and he has taken to salads with great interest. Smoothies and hot baths are always fun. But detoxing isn’t always easy.  And it isn’t always pretty. 

Detoxing Owen is uphill work.  Just for starters, remember his love of plastic and tubbing. Turns out that not only is a nice hot bath filled with plastic not a brilliant idea for detoxing a body (since the warm wet very likely accelerates the release of chemical substances by one, and their absorption by the other), but turns out the tub itself could be releasing lead. Yes, lead. I assumed a porcelain tub was dah bomb for chemical stability — I had been worried about our acrylic tub! For whatever reason, some makers of cast iron porcelain tubs incorporate lead into their manufacturing process. Madness. Idiocy! So now you know. Aren’t you glad? Another thing to worry about. There are kits that can test your tub for it. Maybe I will buy a lead testing kit.  Maybe I don’t want to know.

It turns out that the real uphill work of detoxing may not be physical. Even getting a sluggish bowel functioning is easier than decreasing STRESS.  Or, to be more accurate, moving of bowels seems to be Owen’s particular detoxing challenge, but removal of toxic levels of psychic stress and worry from my life/mind is my own. How much does a breast cancer survivor want to know about the possibilities for toxicity in the environment? Or how many more wonderful plant products should be consumed to boost the body’s ability to fight cancer?  Whether the concern is improving mental function (and that means bowel function, they are deeply connected), or fending off diabetes, or beating cancer’s recurrence, a person can only eat so many kale salads and veggie smoothies, or swallow so many supplements. My research and reflection over the past weeks shows me one thing:  the most toxic thing really has to be anxiety — that is to say stress, and its buddies fear, tension, and anger.

Well, Owen has me beat for coping with stress. He does not do stress, as far as I know.  Maybe I cause him stress. But at stressful moments, his natural reaction is to laugh. And aggravating as it is for me in that moment, laughter has to be a far healthier reaction to the poop of life than anger and frustration.

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Last week I caught Owen listening to French President Emmanuel Macron. I had been busy finishing dinner and getting it to the table when I looked up to see Owen on pause, all movement stopped. He was listening. His whole face lit up into a grin. Of course I stopped everything too, to try to hear what he was hearing.  President Macron was speaking English with a heavy French accent on the National Public Radio news. As far as I could tell this cracked Owen up. His eyes twinkled, his face grew bright, his laugh was infectious. Owen has always loved accents. And here was this guy, sounding like Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, right in the middle of Mom’s radio news! What a hoot! 

I don’t think Owen is Nationalistic, but his uses as a diplomat for peace could be limited to his capacity for infectious laughter. Maybe that would be enough. It is very healing.  And it is when I sit down to write about my life with Owen that I most benefit from the laughing, able then in reflection to see what is delightful or life-giving in what was just maddening or aggravating before. So maybe the best detoxing for me is here, at the keyboard, searching out the words to describe the essence of my life with Owen for you.

Namaste, dear readers. Here’s to your health.

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Egg Hunt – Raw Version

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The weather in Maryland has been playing like it’s April Fools in February. Will we have summer today — or winter?  –or spring? Anybody’s guess. And maybe Owen is playing along, kind of restless and antic.

During the February week that Owen’s mom (alias me) spent sick with a relentless cold virus, things got a little more chaotic in a world always teetering on the edge of the abyss.

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Plastic piles in drifts accumulated around the furniture, an in corners of all rooms. Kale mounds spontaneously erupted on the bathroom floor.

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Or so it seemed to mom, as she dragged herself from the chair at the breakfast table to her bed again, feeling buried in detritus but just not really caring that much. Owen’s dad took wonderful care of him, as always, and waited patiently for things to normalize. Instead he got the virus. So maybe it’s understandable that Owen is a little more squirrely than usual. Or blame it on these radically changing temperatures. Owen likes predictable. So do I.

Thankfully Owen is kind of predictable, in a chaotic sort of way. Which is why, when things did begin to normalize (?) and I came into the kitchen to clean up one night, after a speedy post-grocery-shopping-with-Owen supper of omelettes, and couldn’t locate the box of eggs – the brand new bulk box of Pete and Gerry’s – I was worried. I saw that I should have known better. In a moment of foolish practicality, I had purchased those 18 eggs in the plastic box. In another moment of wooziness, I had gone to the toilet without putting the eggs away, tying up the fridge, and locking up the kitchen. Drat. And drat Pete and Gerry anyway for using a plastic box. Gone AWAL.

The beauty of being sick for a week, however, is that you get lots of time to sleep. Although end-of-day weary, my sense of humor was intact. Feeling calm, I communicated the problem to my son.

“Owen,” I said, “Where are the eggs?

Owen presented a shuttered expression.

Owen. We really, really need to find the eggs!”

No eggs in the fridge veggie drawers where I have found eggs rolling before in similar situations. No eggs in Owen’s collection-of-stuff drawer in the family room. But in the green basket beside the drawer I unearthed hunks of plastic egg crate with a telltale label chopped and mixed into the melange.

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I took Owen’s hands. “Owen, where did you put the eggs that were in the box?” I peered into his face, trying to keep my mind off of leaking albumen soaking into upholstery. “I need to find those eggs.”

He looked off away, into space, brow furrowed, mouth slack. For Owen, the shop closes down about 9pm, and after that the processing of language will be even harder than it always is.  He looked as though deep thinking were required – Eggs? hmmm. Eggs. Do I know Eggs? It seemed as though he would have liked to help me…on the other hand, he could have been really worried about what was on his horizon, when I found those eggs. What do I know. Either way, the circuits were clogged.

I took his hand, and modeled “search for” as we moved through the house. No eggs on the couch, good — and upstairs no eggs on Owen’s bed. Glory Days kale that had the misfortune to be packaged in a glamorous sunrise orange and purple bag wound up in a huge heap on Owen’s bed not too long ago.

That was my last best guess. “Owen! —–!

But oh – wait — one more idea.  Ahhhhh!

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Found. How appropriate to end an egg hunt in a basket.

I required O to help lift the leaking shells into a convenient bucket, although he wasn’t happy about those goopy egg whites

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The bucket had to be pretty clean I figured, since I usually use it for bathtime dousing. From there into a pot of hot water for the eggs, and into a newly made bed for Owen.

Edward returned from his evening meeting to find a kitchen full of groceries and a pot of hardboiled eggs — already cracked.

Making Limeade

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I promise this is not an attempt to rip off Beyonce.  If she knew Owen, she I think she would understand. She looks like that kind of woman. Owen REALLY loves lemons, as you may or may not know. ALL kinds of lemons —

But he’ll take a lime ANY TIME–

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–even if it zaps him back!

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I have the flu this week, which makes everything harder especially cooking. No, maybe especially running after an Owen who keeps running out the front door is harder.  Particularly when I can’t find him at the recycling bin – and then he emerges from our renters’ door carrying a stolen soda bottle!!  Ooooh noooo Owen! Very embarrassing. Yep, that’s definitely more stressful…

Best to share the limes.

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Post Script:

Happy Day-After Valentines to all my readers!   Please take the time this month to love me a little: drop me a message about what YOU like best in the embracingchaos.net posts. What would you like to see more of?

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Owen’s Valentines Carrot Cake

 

Send your comments THIS FEBRUARY to wystansimons@gmail.com, and in thanks I will email to you my brand new, just invented RECIPE for this delicious Carrot Cake made for Owen and his dad (oh yeah – and me). Yep, it’s “paleo” and yep it’s very moist and very good. (Ok, true, the icing is a cheat. Owen can’t eat much of that.)

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Oh oh! left the cake at home with mom all day…

Goal: once I get blog readership up to 2,000 followers, I will be positioned to go for book publication. Embracing Chaos, the book, predates this blog – it’s all written and ready to go, full of the hilarious and heartbreaking and outrageous stories that are part of life with Owen. Just need a little thing like an agent and a publisher to spread the joy.  And agents and publishers want to see readership to know that they can sell this thing. (Of course they can! everyone will love it.) The best way to know that real people are reading me is to have an email list of real readers. (since the WordPress system is full of “ghost followers” – fakes) Know that I will certainly not publicize anyone’s emails.

Every time you share this blog, you help to bring the publication of Embracing Chaos to pass, and the message of embracing and loving difference to a wider and wider audience. Which, I think, is a really great idea.

 

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Golden

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What do you see?

When you see this photo do you think “Wow! Cool! Golden plastic!’ or do you think “Eww, raw meat bacteria!”

I realized, as Owen darted off with the gold wrapper in his hand, that I have known two people who feel excitement about trash. One of course is Owen. But perhaps Owen comes by it honestly – his great granny, Mary Scalbom Nicholson might very well have seen that golden meat wrapper the same way.

Grama Nick (as I called her) had a real eye for possibilities – and re-using refuse. She made dolls with hour glass figures using dish soap bottles. She stuffed some of her dollies with plastic bags. She sewed old panty hose or stockings onto the tops of her dollies heads (their bodies were made of recycled nylon slip) to create brown curly hair. Admittedly Owen is not so creative with his finds. But as he escaped with the meat package from the sink, I suddenly thought of Grama and smiled. And laughed. I could see her holding up that wrapper to study it, and hear her musing, “Oh look at this! Now it seems like you should be able to do something wonderful with this…”  

I witnessed her doing just that, with an old plastic box or a wrapper. She had a way of seeing things.

The Brazilian-American artist Vik Muniz is such a visionary. His approach to the world’s largest garbage dump in Rio de Janerio, for example, was transformative – for the trash pickers, for himself, and for the viewers too, I’d say. If you haven’t seen the documentary Wasteland, that describes his work there with garbage, with the workers themselves, I recommend getting it from Netflix.

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I like to imagine Vik Muniz meeting Grama. I think they would have shared a lot of mutual respect.

Today I would like to take this idea of re-seeing things one step further. In a way this is the ongoing theme of this blog, re-seeing – the difficult – the tragic – the painful as something transformative instead. In the draft for my book Embracing Chaos I write about a family in my church community who had a baby girl with Downs syndrome. Apparently the young couple did not have a negative reaction to their baby’s disability – they  embraced it, felt it was meant to be. She is perfect, the father wrote in a special needs support newsletter, he wouldn’t even want to change her, if he could. This was hard for me. It irritated me. I felt he was weird, and an extremist, and young, and wrong. His point of view challenged the anger I felt at being the mom of a boy with an intellectual disability. I loved my boy – but not what came with him.

First you have to be angry when trash falls on your life.

But after a while – a long while – of breathing – and coping – and breathing – and coping – you may find yourself staring at the same old piece of trash (it recycles for a while just as trash, have you noticed? before any transforming happens at all) in the sink. And on this day it is possible that you may find yourself asking, “Hmm. Ok. What can I do with this?”

And when you are standing at the kitchen sink of life, and the bacteria laden meat wrapper, now washed out with warm soap suds, looks like something golden – when that happens, you are looking with Owen’s eyes. And Grama Nick’s.

 

 

The Strength of Ten Grinches – Plus Two

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My sister already asked me way back at the beginning of the month what I am going to do about Owen this Christmas. She means, what am I going to do to stop Owen’s trying to stop Christmas from coming. From sneaking downstairs like he did last year, devouring every bit of Christmas stocking candy in the wee small hours of the morning, leaving a pile of papers a foot high and “a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.” His siblings were not amused. (Read about last Christmas Naughty – or – Nice -?)

Of course longtime readers know what we tried to do. We built a wonderful, beautiful, aesthetically elegant gate on the stairs!  And then Owen learned to scale the darn banister in no time flat, skipping that gate entirely. (“Once More Into the Breach—!”)

We have to stop Grinchy from coming — BUT HOW?

We rallied of course. Like the Whos. We joined hands and remembered – after a dark despairing little walk in the woods to cool down and warm up – that Christmas happiness didn’t require a thoughtfully arranged, candy-laden Christmas stocking.

Still, even a carefree Who doesn’t want to go through that every holiday.

I have considered floor to ceiling cargo netting along the banister – but cargo netting in a foyer isn’t really my look. And stapling Owen to his bed, or locking him in his room would not be approved of, by me or anyone else (except in a few dark moments maybe). Meanwhile, Owen was busy as ever last night, shredding holiday cards, searching baskets, swiping food off the counter, chopping his sister’s ID card. Much as he loves brothers and sisters coming home, this doesn’t seem to calm him. The time-out chair was kept warm. Must be a lot of stress trying “be nice.” Apparently he can’t take it. How can we both love our Owen and protect our property? How to foil our marauding Christmas bandit?

I know that the best bet will probably always be distraction  – in the spirit of the family I heard of  who used motion activated water (fountain and sprinklers) to distract their runner. If their child bolted out the front door, that moving water captured him, and redirected his attention to the front yard, buying mom and dad a few more minutes to locate him. If I create a barrier, I know that Owen will focus his energies on how to thwart my efforts to control him, displaying strength or agility we didn’t know he had.

This in itself is pretty cool, and I wish I weren’t so tired from getting up every morning with him at 6am that my brain cells are compromised. I’d like to figure out how to employ this phenomenon usefully to make his life richer and more interesting. It’s good to have a reason to fight! Imagine how interesting life would be if we all had to climb down a cargo net to breakfast each morning.

I must stop Owen from descending – But how?

Perhaps hang his stocking at the end of his bed for him to pilfer and explore? Or is that too obvious. Hmm. Maybe it should be dangling casually from the top of the bathroom medicine cabinet?… Or not quite out of reach, on the floor? Just through the bars of the temporary pressure gate in the hall – because there’s no doubt a temporary gate is going to be required across the hallway outside his door. This temporary barrier in place, he still could access the hall bathroom, and check up on his siblings, but not make it to the stairs. Nor incidentally could he reach his dad’s and my room. That does sound good. Usually I want Owen to be able to come and get me when he needs me at night. But maybe not for the short number of sleeping hours on Christmas eve.

And maybe the distraction method does not just apply to Owen – last week we celebrated Edward’s birthday with an evening out. Dinner with mulled wine, and a play – a wonderful theatricalization in words, sing, and dance of Melville’s Moby Dick. It transported us to a different dimension. We came home relaxed. Light. Strengthened.

Respite for long term caregivers is distraction.  Caregivers will still have to face their challenges again tomorrow, but strengthened by a break we can face with humor and patience what we might otherwise grit our teeth and “get through.” Our loved ones don’t just need our hands – they need our hearts. They need our attention. And giving attention is by far the hardest thing.

And so I find that this post is really an acknowledgement: Thank you. Thank you Emma, for an evening out. Thank you Kathie, for walking and talking with Owen twice a week, week after week! And thank you folks at New Horizons, Stephen and Damian, James the van driver, and director Ron Vaughn – for the gift of your attention to some special people, including our Owen.  What a Christmas present, every day.

“And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light! –“

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 How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss 

 

Bad King John

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King John was not a good man –  

He had his little ways.  

And sometimes no one spoke to him

For days and days and days…                                  A.A.Milne,  Now We Are Six

Owen has been sending me messages. He might not have a lot of language accessible, but he has his little ways. Which is probably why I found myself reciting this poem in meaningful tones. I am hunting for the toothpaste and find it, chopped. Photos of his siblings lie in a pile of cut pieces.

A few days ago Owen wouldn’t come down for dinner when called. I had to go upstairs, into his room, where he was bending over  his collection of plastics in the big rolling drawer under his bed, chopping away.  After a peaceful dinner together, when he seemed finished eating, I cleared the food away, and sunk down exhausted to watch a movie. I invited him to join me. But Owen didn’t go for The Fisher King with Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams. While I was absorbing the bizarre plot, he stood outside the kitchen reaching across the counter eating more and more of the green beans and green peppers than any reasonable person should even want to contain. So there went tomorrow’s lunch.

“Seems a little excessive, Owen,” I said as I harumphed up from my movie. “Been on my feet this whole time,” I sulked to him, scooping what was left of supper into plastic boxes for lunch. “How many green beans can one person hold?” I asked rhetorically. There’s stress-eating, and there’s eating from loneliness, and then there’s eating to tick your mother off. To show that you can, perhaps. To assert independence

King John was not a good man,  

  He lived his life aloof;  

Alone he thought his message out      

  While climbing up the roof.

He wrote it down and propped it up

  Against the chimney stack–

Since Owen didn’t want to watch a movie with me, I figured it was bedtime. But once upstairs Owen didn’t want to get undressed. He didn’t want to come into his bedroom either, but stood out in the hall in an abstract attitude.

“You ignore me, I ignore you.” It couldn’t be plainer if he had written it out.

Amazing that you could spend hours, days, years even, caring for someone’s body needs and remain oblivious of his social, psychological, emotional, or spiritual needs. Shocking to recognize it – and annoying! – but yeah, it’s true. Knowing Owen as well a I do, I can still easily miss cues. I can find myself tuning him out mentally while I am busily caring for his physical needs. When I realize that a set of behaviors are a message, it’s a relief – but some part of my mind still feels manipulated, still asks “Why didn’t you just say so?”

King John was not a good man –

  He wrote his message out,

And gat him to his room again

  Descending by the spout.

Communication is just good. Any old kind. That’s the thing. And I am so glad that Owen persists stubbornly on, trying to tell me stuff when I am too tuned out to notice or listen or see what life looks like from his perspective. Dinner at home with just dad and mom is pretty dull compared to what he grew up with; dinner with only mom who is tired and plunks down in front of a boring movie is even worse. It’s really lonely to be tuned out or ignored – much worse than actually being alone, in your bedroom.

I was reminded this weekend how much Owen likes to have his tribe around him when half of the family came over for a Redskins game Sunday afternoon. Owen had been SO BUSY looking everywhere for hiding Christmas packages I think, hunting through the packets in my closet and my studio, pulling out a package of candles, throwing half of them into the trash…aaarrggghhh. I took him and the dogs for a walk to give his dad some peaceful visiting time, and when we came home there was a fire in fireplace, and family gathered around the television, roaring appropriately, and Owen became very calm.

I want some crackers,  

  And I want some candy.   

I think a box of chocolates

  Would come in handy.  

I don’t mind oranges,

  I do like nuts    

And I SHOULD like a pocket knife – that really cuts.  

  And, oh!  Father Christmas if you love me at all—

King John had his own dreams for Christmas (link below to read more about him), and Owen seems to share many of them. But I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn (if he were able to tell me) that for Owen, the biggest thing on his wish list is to be surrounded by his family — with lots of oranges, nuts and chocolates thrown in for good measure.file_001

 

 

 

 

Not familiar?  To read all of A. A. Milne’s whimsical poem about Bad King John and Father Christmas, click on this link. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Fetishes

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It is early Thanksgiving morning and Owen is celebtating. He has his plastic pieces, and is sitting warm in bed between his dad and mom in a rental home in the snowy Poconos mountains. Lucky guy. Pretty cozy. Even more cozy if he would lie down, so the comforter and blankets would cover his dad’s left shoulder and his mom’s back. However, Owen cannot be convinced. He does not like going back to sleep after his customary 6am, regardless of holiday. It may be that his empty tummy rumbles right up throat-ward. Or it may be that Owen doesn’t like being prone when awake. Logical.

The three of them are pretty content with their compromise, worked out over years. Those who prefer to be horizontal on a dark cold holiday morning are grateful to be lying down. And those who dont prefer it, are resigned to be slouched forward, partially covered. Owen should be grateful to be warm between two heat-producing mammals, crackling his plastic, instead of prowling the icy hallways partially clad – but this may in fact have been his first choice, if consultd. But if he isn’t grateful, well, you cant always get what you want but if you try sometimes you might find you get what ya need.

Snap. Crack.

Crackle. Snap.

Owen is lucky enough to be a member of a very large extended family. This year he joins the tolerant Simons clan, who come together across hundreds of miles every two years celebrate this holiday and have Owen appreciate and rifle through their possessions, and love him anyway. Hopefully all Owen’s admirers are similarly blessed.

Owen’s aunts, uncles, and cousins are used to him and his ways, so when he swipes Uncle Hil’s drink bottle a universal shout of “Owen! You crapster!” will go up and that’s that. They knew him as a fussy little crapster, and as a middle sized crapster, and so the shift to plastic-obssessed young adult crapster isn’t too much of a shock. Those infant episodes, such as when Aunt Alicia startled to feel a small appreciative hand pat-patting its way around her shapely, velveteen clad posterior, have an endearing impact on a relationship otherwise strained by trying to recreate while guarding one’s ginger ale from a relative with an “I came, I saw, I conquered” approach to all plastic products.

Just last week Owen’s mom discovered a dozen eggs rolling about in the refrigerstor bin, with some once-bitten apples, the clear plastic egg crate that held them disappeared. New lows in thievery.

As this Thanksgiving unfolds, there will be much to be grateful for in Owen’s world (mashed rutabega and pecan crunch pumpkin pie!) and there will be things to avoid (even if mom bought all cardboard egg crates). This will be true across this huge and diverse nation of ours – as we come together to celebrate and try not to talk about inflamatory political subjects. Resist the plastic egg crate – or better yet don’t buy one! Do not covet your neighbor’s plastic bottle. And relax and warm yourself between the other heat-radiating mamals. You and Owen are blessed.