Exercise disclaimer.

Have you ever read this? “Before doing this exercise or participating in any exercise program, please consult your physician.” They wrote it to cover their butts. Really, they should write “Don’t sue us if you hurt yourself doing this” because this is what they really mean.

People aren’t very good at thinking ahead and thinking for themselves. Remember we live in a time where you can win a lawsuit against a fast food company because you spilled hot coffee on yourself.

It doesn’t do you any good to consult about exercise with your doctor. Western doctors treat symptoms rather than cause. If you started exercising and eating well, you’d put them out of business.

Rather than encourage my father to stop smoking, his doctor gave him a pill to stop his coughing. Rather than connect patients with nutritionists and exercise coaches, doctors give out diabetes medications. There are ads telling us that we can “eat like a kid again” meanwhile the person is at a state fair eating corn dogs and funnel cakes. It may be fun to eat this, but it isn’t food. Doctors should not be enablers. Doctors should “Do no harm” like their oath says.

I went to an ENT this year because my throat and neck hurt. He put a tube down my nose to look at my throat and saw evidence of acid reflux. Rather than suggesting lifestyle or diet changes, he put me on an antibiotic and an antacid. My neck still hurt, and obviously the acid is still there. He didn’t even want to tell me what the problem was. He didn’t want to spell out my condition, which was a symptom, not a disease. He wanted me placid and docile. He wanted to be in charge.

It took a trip to my chiropractor (who is also a nutritionist) to find out that I have arthritis in my neck. I now use a special pillow for my neck. What a simple fix. A comment to him about my experience at the ENT resulted in his entirely different theory that the problem isn’t too much acid, but too little. He says that we produce less acid as we get older and we need to supplement it or our food does not properly digest. I did a simple vinegar test and now know how much acid I need. I feel a lot better, and I’m even losing weight.

I wonder if Crohn’s and IBS and many other digestion maladies can be solved in this simple way? I doubt that regular doctors will even entertain this idea.

More doctors need to engage their patients in their own health care. More doctors need to understand that they work for the patient, and stop treating us as if we are ignorant children.

And we need to wake up. We cannot be passive about our lives. We can’t keep on thinking that we can eat whatever we want and not exercise and we won’t get ill. We know what we have to do. It isn’t a surprise.

It isn’t easy to switch from drinking sodas to water. It isn’t easy to switch from all meat to mostly vegetables. It isn’t easy to go from fried to steamed or baked. But it is worth it. Food does indeed taste better when it isn’t salty, deep fried mush. It takes about a week for your taste buds to relearn this.

It isn’t easy to start exercising. It isn’t easy to stick with it. But it is worth it. You won’t see the benefits right away, but the payoff is better energy, better rest, and better strength. The payoff is a stronger heart and increased resistance to disease.

If we are concerned about changes in health insurance, then we need to do what we can to improve our health so that we don’t need it. We have to stop thinking that doctors have all the answers. We have to stop thinking that we can do whatever we want and then just take a pill or have surgery to counter our mistakes.

You know how Jesus said “Go forth and sin no more”? That. But with health. The “sin” is continuing to eat whatever we want and refusing to exercise and then thinking we will be rescued by modern medicine. It is far better to not need to be rescued at all. There is no diet. There is only what Michael Pollan suggests in his book “Food Rules”. His mantra? Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. For a further explanation, read the book. I suggest getting it from your local library.


At the retreat center I went to in September, there is a confessional in a separate room on the way to the chapel. The priest goes in first and sits behind the screen.

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The confessee goes in separately and sits in the front section.

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Here is the screen he sits in front of. It means that his identity is obscured. This is supposed to mean that he can speak freely, without fear of judgment.

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I was amazed at the difference in the two sections. The area for the priest is three-quarters the size of the confessee. The priest’s chair is large and comfortable. The other chair is small and hard. The priest’s area is filled with light. The other area is dark and depressing.

It seems like the person who needs the light the most would be the person who is confessing. It seems to me that jamming him into a tiny, dark, cramped area will only add to his distress. He is there to be made to feel better. He is there to have his sins forgiven.

Now, the point is that all of our sins are already forgiven. Priests don’t forgive sins. Jesus does that. Jesus did that on the cross. The priest just reminds you of that. Sometimes they get that part mixed up.

This is a painting that is visible to both people. I don’t know the story behind it.

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On tutoring ESL (and other) kindergartners.

Some of you may be wondering what I do when I tutor ESL kindergartners. I was wondering that myself when I started three years ago. I thought that I would just be reading to them. Boy was I wrong. Reading is the last thing I do.

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At first I was concerned how was I going to communicate with them. I’m not fluent in other languages. I know a smattering of several languages but not enough to really I interact for a long time. Plus, some of the kids start with languages that use different alphabets. I finally realized that I don’t have to know their language or alphabet. I have to know mine. And I know mine pretty well. I have clear handwriting, a clear voice, and a degree in English. I’ve tutored students with learning disabilities. This all helps. But mostly what helps is a desire to help them learn, and a willingness to try anything to get this information in. Half of my job is just showing up and trying whatever works.

There are children from the Congo, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, and Mexico. I was amazed when I first started how many people from all around the world make my little section of Nashville home. I’ve come to realize that is part of what makes Nashville so amazing.

I also tutor kids whose first language is English. I tutor whoever needs me. Often the English-speakers need me because they have other issues going on. Some are possibly dyslexic. Some get no attention at home because their parents are not really ready or able to be parents.

The teacher gives me lists of who to work with and what to work on. I use this as a guideline. Sometimes the child will see something else in my basket of “tools” and want to use that. Sometimes they will not want anything hard at all and they just want to have me read books to them or go over their ABCs. I have to be flexible, yet also aware when they are just trying to play and not work at all.

Here are some examples of the lists. WordPress might have turned these around. The uploader isn’t doing what I want today, but something, even turned sideways, is better than nothing.

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We have different games we use to teach them. I don’t invent these games. The teacher provides them to me on the day I arrive and I use them with the kids. I’m glad that she has all this figured out. Sometimes it takes a while for me to understand what I’m supposed to do with these games, but eventually it makes sense.

I started tutoring for one basic reason. I realized I was saying “How come they don’t learn our language?” way too much. I turned it around and said “How come I’m not teaching them our language?” There are a lot of immigrants here, and a lot of them don’t know English. They can’t speak it or read it. Sometimes they can’t read at all, even in their own language. It is common for people to expect government offices to accommodate them with their different languages. Rather than expecting each employee to have to learn each different language, it makes more sense for us to take the time to teach them English. Work on one language rather than thirty. It seemed easiest to start with children. I can’t teach everybody, but I’ll do what I can.

We use all sorts of tools, and they look like toys.
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Here’s something that helps with vocabulary. The items are in a brown paper bag.

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A child will put her hand in and I’ll ask her to find a specific item without looking. In this particular bag are a bat, a pig, and an egg.

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When she pulls out an item, we then match it up with the card and we use plastic letters to spell the word. They learn vocabulary, and that these letters represent this thing. They also get to practice fine motor skills.

We have a sight word slap game.

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There are words they should recognize by a certain part of the year, and this is a fun way to practice. They get a bug swatter and words on a sheet, in ladybugs. I call out a word and the child has to find it and swat it. It can get really exciting when there are two kids playing this together.

There is a neat plastic board with removable letters.

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The letters have little teeth on them that fit with the orange pieces. The orange pieces have pictures on them. We figure out what the word is and then try to match the sound of the word to the letters. The teeth in the orange piece fit the teeth in the letters, so it is self-correcting.

We always read books at the end. They are very simple books. I’m delighted when they get to the point that they can actually read the book to me and not just figure out the story from the pictures.

Towards the end of our time together I can tell they are getting tired. There is only so much one-on-one intense work they can handle. I’ll ask them if they want to go back to class or do something else like read another book. I always make sure they know that they have control. I am there for them, not the other way around.

After each child is through for the day I say “Thank you for working with me.” I realize that it is hard work for them. I’m grateful that they try so hard.

Here are some of them from the first year. They made “glasses” and were wearing them. I love the fact that I see some of them in the hallway when classes are changing and they still recognize me.

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A note on spelling –
Here’s the funny bit. Nobody seems to know what is the standard spelling for what to call kids in kindergarten. Sometimes the spelling is “kindergartener” and sometimes it is “kindergartner”. One spell-checker will challenge me on one, and another will challenge me on another. Whatever. So if I mix it up, it isn’t me.

Poem – pain

There is nothing about pain
that is easy.
There is everything about pain
that is beautiful.

When we are lost
and hurt
and angry
and tired

and just plain sick of it all

there we are, stuck again
with pain.

We might as well pull it up a chair
and make it some tea
and get to know it

Because it isn’t going away.

Pain lets us know we are alive.
Pain lets us know we are transforming into,
evolving into,

The be-ing that we are.

We are human be-ings.
Not human do-ings.

We are who we are.

And sometimes what we are
is a big old bundle of nerves
wrapped up in feelings
that cross over and under
our past and our present and our future
and it just hurts to be alive.
But this pain is our awakening, our beginning, our opening.

Pain is how the Light gets in.

Give thanks for pain.
It is the bell that calls you to yourself.
It lets you know it is time to pray.
It lets you know it is time to make a change.
It wakes you up.

Give thanks.

Hair philosophy.

I cut my own hair. I’ve cut my own hair since I was in college. My brother’s wife at the time was a hairdresser and she happened to mention that she cut her own hair. I’d never even considered such a thing. I always thought that was something that you had hire someone to do. How many other things are possible if we just hear that we can do it ourselves?

Fortunately when I first started cutting my own hair I was in college, where it didn’t really matter what my hair looked like. I had a job on campus to pay off my student loan, so it wasn’t like a real job. If my hair looked weird I wasn’t going to get fired. Plus, having strange hair is part of being in college. If it looked really strange I could wear a hat.

I cut my hair like I trim shrubbery. I whack at it until it doesn’t bother me. Just like shrubbery, it will grow back, so there really isn’t too much that can go wrong. Well, there was the time that I cut off way too much and had to trim up the rest to match… It turns out that I look good with a Mohawk. It is more about attitude than style. If you carry the “yeah, I meant this” attitude, you can get away with any style.

I have gotten my hair cut professionally before and it always seems to be done wrong. I have a weird random cowlick that starts about four inches down on my right side. I know where it is but the hairdressers never do. I’ve decided that it is just easier to cut my own hair. Why pay to get my hair cut, and have it done badly, when I can screw it up myself for free?

If you are a highly sensitive person, cutting your own hair is the way to go. Going to a hairdressing salon can be a very overwhelming experience if you have sensory processing disorder. No more dealing with a stranger touching your head. No more feeling trapped in that uncomfortable chair with a person standing behind you. No more smelling the strong chemicals in the salon.

After all these years I’ve gotten pretty good at cutting my own hair. It takes a bit of practice to get right, because I am working backwards in a mirror. The trick is to cut a little bit at a time and make small adjustments. Also – have a simple hairstyle.

I used to cut my hair as a study break in college. I studied a lot, and when the stress would get to me I’d cut my hair. I guess I got in more practice that way. It didn’t look that bad. In fact, a friend wanted her hair cut like mine and I cut her hair for free. She looked like me and also worked on campus. It was funny dealing with people in the bookstore where I worked who would stare at me and say “Weren’t you in the computer lab?” I’d assure them that I wasn’t. They wouldn’t believe me. I’d ask – was I really quiet and shy, or energetic like I am now? The quiet and shy one is Beth, not Betsy. Plus – her hairstyle wasn’t exactly like mine – it was the mirror of mine. It was a funny summer.