On the Ground with the Counterculture

Dear Family,

“You gotta be extra forgiving, and you gotta be super strong.” --Indigo Girls

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I've spent this weekend in varying states of awe and confusion and elatedness and emotional overload. I celebrated my 31st birthday with my favorite sister in the whole wide world, and an adorable video from my Boys at home, and getting to see my dear friend Krissy for the first time in five years. I spent 6 hours listening to Natasha Campbell-McBride speak http://gaps.me/ , and when she spoke about anorexia in her clinical practice, I just couldn't stop bawling. I was also moved to tears by a fundamentalist libertarian Christian grass farmer, definitely for the first time in my life. I appreciate my favorite husband in the whole wide world (and his favorite mom) more than I can possibly say, for making it possible for me to be one of 1500 people attending the the Weston A. Price annual convention. I have been born again as a person who worships at the alter of good food.

I haven't had a networking experience quite like this since I first attended Not Back to School Camp. I am (incredibly lucky to be) sharing a hotel room with the head chef for this event, Amanda Love http://thebarefootcook.com/ , and her friend Tressa Yellig http://saltfireandtime.com/ . These women are fantastic, traditional-foods cooks, and I am intending to learn from them and then someday, do a lot of what they're doing with my own cooking career.

A crazy element to this weekend is that I am surrounded by real live parents who not only understand GAPS, but are doing it for their children. I've had moms come up to me spontaneously to hug me and congratulate me on how Ben is eating, because they know Goddamn well how hard and rewarding and impossible it's been, because they've got GAPS kids, too. I watched a grown man start to cry as he gave me a few tiny details of his son's emergence from profound autism. I talked with a mom who, along with her husband, wants to start a GAPS retreat center, where families can go to get support in their first weeks while making the major, sometimes challenging lifestyle switch that GAPS can require.

I also spent twelve hours helping to make cheesecake for 1200, and triming 9 bushels of brussels sprouts with the otherwise-unseen kitchen staff of the Radisson hotel. I've lately been rubbing shoulders with Amish farmers and Staunch Republicans and A Few Progressives, and have also found a small tribe of young women who are self-actualized housewives and mothers and partners and farmers and absolutely committed to the kind of security that Jeff and I are working toward: raising a healthy family. (One woman I met, who runs a farm and fermented vegetable business with her husband, told me: “We've got no money, but we can eat bacon whenever we want!)

There are vendors here selling grass-fed meat, and sourdough starter, and fermented beets, and counterculture books, and face cream made from things you can both pronounce and eat. There are people hawking organic, soy-free animal feed. There's a place called “Artisan Beef Genetics,” with this tagline: “The premium Semen for Gourmet Beef.”

Everywhere I look, I see tee shirts that say things like: “Friends don't let friends eat hydrogenated vegetable oil.” “Mine is the Best Cod Liver Oil in the world!” “Got (raw) milk?” “We've got your farmer's back.”

I've been writing things down, wherever I go. I'll soon be posting my transcription of Natasha Campbell-McBride's lectures, and Joel Salatin's speech, on my website www.lifeisapalindrome.com .

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For now, a quick update regarding Pennsylvania driving. As far as my admittedly brief experience goes, I've noticed:

--Exits have names like, “MiningCenterFieldTown, Route 37 (OreMineCoalPitChasm Road).”
--Roads are super narrow, and mountainous, and bumpy--even the freeways--and they're angled so when the sun is setting you get it right in the eyes. And then vaguely, through the glare as you shield your eyes and navigate a hard left swerve, you see a sign: “Falling Rock.”
--You wonder what you'd actually do if you came across this falling rock, when all of a sudden you hit your fourth, randomly-situated toll booth. You find that so far, for the privilege of driving on these roads, you are being billed a grand total of $8.60, meaning that you now must shut off the car and go around back, to get your backpack in the trunk, so you can procure more money.

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I have a birthday goal. This year, I want to lose some of my expectations of perfection and start finding it, instead.

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For instance: leaving my home on Wednesday. I was so sad, to leave my boys. And this was absolutely _thrilling_, because this means that our family is getting healthier. I was actually sad to be able to go, to get to miss so many days of Ben's and Jem's development. And then Jeff gave me the most amazingly romantic hug, that gave me shivers to last all weekend, and I thought: I Have Such Gifts.

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The first time I got my first photo I.D./license, I had to wait in line for hours at the New Jersey DMV. I was about to begin riding my bike across the country, and I was still a teenager.

Next, I got my photo taken for the license renewal when Jeff and I were living in Boston, and I had Ben in a sling so that the tip of his head just barely made it into the picture.

Next photo was taken in Bath, NY, and it wasn't good because I was extremely anxious that Ben might start screaming during the several seconds during which I'd told him I couldn't carry him.

Then last Monday, it was renewal time again (can't quite figure out why so soon again, but they said so and so I renewed). I was very grateful to get rid of the previous photo, and get a new one taken, this time with Ben and Jem happily playing down by my knees, not in the photo but thinking they would be.

Next time I get my driver's license photo taken, Ben will be 14!!

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I can't speak to life at home over the past three+ days, but I do know that before I left, Ben was continuing to ascend the progress trajectory.

Here's a quick illustration:

On Tuesday, Ben insisted on bringing his just-completed origami kangaroo to the Sciencenter. I told him, I don't think it's a good idea, you might lose it, I do _not_ want you to hand it to me and expect me to be responsible, how do you think you'd feel if you lost it? ...etc.

In general, I can talk till I'm blue in the face, and Ben doesn't hear stuff like this at all. "But I WON'T lose it! But I just WON'T!" and on and on... Tuesday was no exception, and he brought the model.

Anyway, here's the miracle: as I predicted, he lost it. Misplaced the kangaroo somewhere in the earthquake exhibit, and it was gone when we went back to look. He started to fall apart, and then yell at me, and get increasingly frenzied and no-eye-contact and loud, saying "I NEED it! But I NEED to find it!..." etc. etc.

Then I, ever the rational mother, reminded him, Hey! I totally sympathize that you're upset, but I TOLD YOU NOT TO BRING IT! I don't want to be yelled at!

The miracle was: _he stopped losing it._ He did the thing that many kids start to do when they mature (but Ben never did): he listened to what I was saying, determined that it made sense, and realized that he'd made a mistake. He sniffled, and snuffled, and wanted a hug (!!). He asked if I could ask at the front desk, so that if anyone found it and brought it to the desk, they could call us.

And then we went home. No screaming in the car. No horrible, tense, 2-hour-awfulness. And no refusing to eat for hours afterward.

(Athena said very nicely, when I told her this story, that I really need to appreciate the role that Jeff's and my good parenting plays into all this, and not just give all the credit to GAPS. I totally get what she's saying, and appreciate the kudos, but my point is: I have such hope that maybe, for the first time, if Ben's progress continues, Jeff and I can start reaping the rewards of being such great parents. If Ben starts being easier on a regular, consistent basis, I might actually start consistently _feeling_ like a great parent without such a necessary amount of Personal Growth.

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Jemmerisms:

Watching the clouds: “Look at the sky moving!”

Noting the crescent moon: “The moon is almost gone...”

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Bennerisms:

Before I left, what was struck me about Ben was the way that his interests have started to become less obsessive. Focused, yes. But in the course of a single day, he's been doing LOTS of things, not only one, single unswerving activity. One days might contain scale-making, dinosaur drawing and research, origami, making boats, expending physical energy outdoors, saying words that he hasn't said before... May this, Please, God, continue...

“But it can't be called a day, cause part of it's dark.”

“If someone drew these pictures (in a book called “Jack's Garden), they are _great._

Whirling around the living room: “I'm getting dizzy and going places!”

“When did I first try hamburger and like it?” Oh, just about exactly two weeks and five days ago. “But no! I know it wasn't then, because it was a long time ago!” (Maybe to you, kiddo...)

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Goodnight!
Love,
Sarabeth