Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bryson City Tales

My library recently put the inter library loan feature online, which has prompted me to remember all the books I've wanted to read, but could never remember when I was corralling four children at the library. Oh happy day!

The first book on my list was Bryson City Tales by Dr. Walt Larimore. Glen and I had the privilege of getting to know Walt & Barb when we lived in Florida. We attended the same church, and Barb was the one who first invited me to Bible Study Fellowship (for which I am eternally grateful!). When I heard about Walt's Bryson City books, I knew I wanted to read them.

Bryson City Tales does not disappoint. In this book, Walt takes us on his own journey from the end of his medical residency to finding a community in which to settle (Bryson City) and the process of settling in. He honestly relates his mistakes, his passions (for football? I didn't know!), and his attempts to make connections in a very small, rather closed, community.

And there's plenty of drama too. From a very difficult home delivery in the next county to almost losing his medical privileges at the hospital, with a few veterinary calls thrown in, I found it difficult to put the book down. I'm looking forward to reading the next two books Bryson City Seasons and Bryson City Secrets.

The only thing I wonder about - and perhaps because I know them - is how did Barb find herself connecting to the community? This is Dr. Walt's story, so while his wife is mentioned many times, he focuses on his own experiences. But, I do wonder...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remembering Walt Martin

This is how I best remember Walt Martin: dressed in a brown tux, standing in front of a huge group of teenagers/young adults, grinning from ear-to-ear.

I've known Walt for as long as I could remember. We attended the same church since I was a child. When I was in junior high or so, he started a choir, open to anyone in the community as long as they were in high school, or older. Tell the World was its name, and they sang in the area malls (at Christmas) and in churches on Sunday evenings in the spring, always ending their 'tour' with a final concert at my home church.

Oh, I was so excited when I was finally old enough to be in Tell the World! I so enjoyed the Sunday night rehearsals in the Martin's basement - 30 or so of us, crowded into a room, singing our hearts out. I learned to really sing alto in Tell the World. I made some great friends there, and had a lot of fun.

Walt died last week. A man with his energy and personality leaves a huge hole in his family - a huge hole in this world. I, unfortunately, was out of town over the weekend, and so couldn't attend his funeral. I hear there was a Tell the World reunion - oh I wish I could have been there!

Mom says that the singers circled his casket and sang the song with which Tell the World ended every concert - Walt inviting anyone who had ever sang in the choir to come join the rest of the singers for the finale. Anyone who knew him knows, he's in heaven now, organizing a barbershop quartet, gathering together people for a big sing-a-long, and probably teaching them the song none of us will ever forget:

Now we can love, now we can love
Freely, wholly and fully
With strength from above

Go for Real Green, Not Just a Green Coat

photograph courtesy of Karen Hanrahan

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the ‘green’ speak around me – do you? Earth Day was yesterday, and it seems everywhere I turned I saw an ad promoting a company’s commitment to being green and caring for our environment.

Forgive my skepticism, but honestly, selling microfiber clothes and soy candles does not make a company green. What about those harmful chemicals in the cleaning aisle? What other efforts are they taking to reduce their impact on our environment? An ad encouraging people to switch to compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) is nice, but seems more like putting a green coat on to hide a hideous dress.

Shaklee is different. As my friend Harriet Gushue says, “Lots of companies are jumping on the green bandwagon, but Shaklee was BORN GREEN.”

I could go into all sorts of details – but Shaklee details their environmental heritage and commitment nicely for me right here, so I’ll let you read it. The bottom line: Shaklee walks their talk. They say they’re committed to the environment – and their actions show that commitment.

OK, I have to mention that Shaklee planted their millionth tree in their Million Trees, Million Dreams campaign yesterday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger & Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Wangari Maathai were there. Now THAT’S cool. You can see the video here.

What about you and me? Here are five very simple things you can do today to be a bit greener today than you were yesterday – and save you money.

  1. When a light bulb burns out, replace it with a CFL. They cost more to purchase, but last longer & use lots less electricity.
  2. Turn off the lights when you leave a room; turn down the heat a few degrees, open the windows, and turn up the air conditioning a few degrees (depending upon the weather). Again, uses less electricity & saves you money.
  3. Carry reusable bags with you to the store. Yes, I forget them too, but they hold lots more groceries than paper or plastic bags, plus you don’t have to worry about recycling the grocery sacks. Shaklee has wonderful ones you can add to your next order.
  4. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it from home with Best Water. Bottled water is expensive and all those empty bottles cost money to recycle or end up in landfills.
  5. Use microfiber cloths to clean instead of disposable clothes or paper towels. Microfiber cloths hold a lot of dirt or spills, plus they’re washable & reusable.
Bonus! A sixth simple thing you can do to help our earth:

6. Switch brands to Shaklee. When you do, you use high-quality products that work, which saves you time & money, and you’re supporting a company highly committed to caring for our world.

I’m all for taking good care of our environment. I just want to make sure I’m supporting companies that are actually green, not just wearing a green coat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Posion-laced supplements?

Would you like some arsenic with your kelp supplements?

If a waiter in a restaurant asked you a question like that, you would think that he was crazy. Yet a report in Environmental Health Perspectives last April indicated that most kelp supplements on the market are contaminated with arsenic.

The story starts with a 54-year-old California woman using kelp supplements who reported a two year history of hair loss, fatigue and memory loss.

Her primary care doctor couldn't find anything wrong with her and told her that her symptoms were probably related to menopause.

Since conventional medicine had not given her a diagnosis or treatment, she increased her intake of kelp supplements hoping that would help.

Over the next several months the woman's short- and long-term memory became so impaired that she could no longer remember her home address. She also reported having a rash, nausea and vomiting, which made it very difficult to work and forced her to leave a full-time job.

At that point her doctors became suspicious of arsenic poisoning. Tests revealed high levels of arsenic in her blood and urine. The doctors told her to discontinue the kelp supplements and in a few weeks her symptoms disappeared.

The doctors then purchased 9 different kelp supplements from local health food stores and sent them to a lab to be analyzed.

8 of the 9 were contaminated with arsenic and 7 had arsenic levels that exceeded the tolerance levels for arsenic in food products set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

So why am I telling you this? Most of you probably aren't using kelp supplements. In fact, I can't think of any good reason to take kelp supplements.

I'm telling you this to remind you that "nobody's minding the store". The FDA does not current test food supplements for safety and efficacy and there is no requirement that the manufacturers test their products either.

That's why you should trust your health to a company that runs over 300 quality control tests on a single product and over 80,000 quality control tests a year.

That's why you should put your trust in a company that will not market a product unless they have proven it to be both safe and effective.

That company is Shaklee!

Thanks to Dr. Steve Chaney for this post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Exodus 1947

I picked up this book at my local library because it looked interesting, and I remember reading about a ship of WWII refugees in an historical fiction book by one of my favorite authors. I thought perhaps this was the real story.

It's not the ship that was told about in the book I read earlier (I forget the title, but the authors are Bodie & Brock Thoene). But it is the real story of real World War II displaced persons (DPs) from Europe, as told by an eye witness.

Ruth Gruber, the author, was not a DP. She was a correspondent for the New York Post, sent to cover the "Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine" created in 1945 to deal with the DP & Palestine problem. She has an impressive resume - including being the world's youngest Ph.D., at twenty.

Exodus 1947 is not a new book, but a republished book. It was first published in 1948 under the title Exodus 1947, Destination Palestine. But, no matter when it was published, it is a powerful and moving story. In the Acknowledgments, Gruber thanks several people who helped her with the book, "[Naomi] and Helene often had to put the photos down because they were crying;... [Adriana]... often had to stop reading because her eyes were clouded with tears..." (pg 193-194).

I know the feeling. I felt the same thing.

Honestly, after seeing the pictures and reading the stories, I was so grateful for my shower, my clean clothes. I wondered if I would have the same determination of the DPs on Exodus 1947 (the name of the ship on which they sailed) to endure the heat, crowded conditions, and boredom in order to get to a land I had never been before.

These people, these children, had survived Hitler's Europe. They felt they could not remain there - they had lost everything, their homes, their professions, their possessions, their families. They were desperate - determined - to get to Palestine, British or no British. They walked across Europe to the ports where the blockade-running ships would carry them to Palestine illegally, putting their lives on the line.

Ruth Gruber had a front-row seat. In Exodus 1947 she takes inside the overcrowded DP camps in Europe, where you can see the sorrow, the emotion, the hollowness, in the eyes of the adults and the children. She is on the dock in Haifa, when "the broken ship Exodus 1947 limp[s] into harbor", carrying 4,500 DPs on a ship originally designed for 400.

She spends time on Cyprus, where the world expects the British to send the DPs from Exodus 1947. She takes us inside the DP camps on Cyprus and shows us how the people maintain their hope, their lives, through art and Hebrew school, as the thousands there wait for their turn for one of 750 legal visas allowed per month to enter Palestine.

But the DPs from Exodus 1947 never arrive. Soon, the British ships that now house them show up in France, in the port of Port-de-Bouc. The French doctor and feed the DPs, now basically held prisoner on the British ships. France extends a welcome to them - "Come down off the ship! We welcome you in France!" But to a person, the answer is "No! We will go to Palestine and Palestine alone! We cannot return to Europe."

After a month in France, the ships pull out and head back to Germany. The French are horrified. The world is aghast. The British force the people off at Hamburg, force them into a DP camp there.

Words cannot express the horror I felt as I looked at the pictures Gruber took in her journeys as she followed the fate of these Jews. Horror at the way these poor people were treated - especially after surviving the death camps. Horror at the conditions they put up with to pursue their dream of living in Palestine. Horror at my own attitude of irritation when my comfort is disturbed. Horror at the thought that some people today say it never happened.

I picked up the book because I wanted to look at the pictures in this book. The pictures are moving. Gruber's writing grabbed me. The combination of the two took me to a time and a place I will not forget.

Kara's Story

I got a phone call from a friend and customer that warmed my heart. I have known Kara for several years – and have always enjoyed her cheerful company and her love for her family. As we’ve gotten to know each other, I discovered that underneath her beautiful smile and happy demeanor, Kara was dealing with some troubling health issues.

She’s in constant pain, and if she eats fruits or vegetables, she swells up and her pain increases significantly. She’s also on medication for seizures. When I met her, she had a cupboard full of supplements from a myriad of companies, none of which provided any relief and some which made things worse.

I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, but somehow I asked her to give Shaklee a try. She did, and she’s been taking Vitalizer for the past couple of years. This morning, she called to tell me ‘thank you.’

“Thank you so much,” Kara told me, “for getting me to try your vitamins. I decided I’d ask my doctor again for help in dealing with this mysterious pain, and he took a bunch of tests. I told him I eat so much meat that I will probably die of a heart attack before I’m 40! But, would you believe it? All my tests came back and I’m healthy. Extremely healthy. Where the numbers should have been high, they were high. Where the numbers should have been low, they were low. I am so glad I am taking those vitamins!”

Good news! Yet, bad news too. Good news she’s so healthy, but it puts back at square one as to answering the question as to why she’s feeling so much pain. I recommended she try Pain Relief Complex, with a reminder that if she doesn’t notice a difference in the next two weeks or so, then she will get her money back.

Maybe you’ve tried all sorts of different brands from all sorts of different companies. I would encourage you to give Shaklee a try – with their money-back guarantee you really have nothing to lose. You can use the entire box of Vitalizer, and if you don’t notice a difference, Shaklee will give you your money back. And they’re nice about it too!

Maybe you’ve had an experience similar to Kara’s – Shaklee’s products have made all the difference. If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Resurrection Day, aka Easter

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Lydia, Nathaniel, Anna, Isaac - at church Easter morning

The Leichtys - Easter afternoon

"Who's happy this is the last picture?" Lydia is!

Of course, I forgot to take pictures of our family gathering at Mom & Dad's. We had Natalie, Tim & Lindsay, Ryan, Aunt Carrie, my family and Mom & Dad. Natalie made homemade rolls, Lindsay made homemade cheesecake. Carrie brought Terrapins from Margie's Candies in the city. Yum! We even got to take some rolls home.

At lunch today, Lydia insisted that we ask Kelsey for the recipe for the rolls. I corrected her, "Natalie."

"Wait, Mom. Isn't Natalie gone?"

"No, that's Kesley. She's in Australia right now."

"Oh. Then who made these rolls?"


"Well, we need to ask Natalie for the recipe. These are good!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Spring Allergies are Gone!

It’s chilly here today, but the Silver Maple in my front yard is already sprouting buds – a sure sign of spring. I’m so ready for warmer weather, aren’t you?

But with the warmer weather comes the dreaded ~allergy season~ (insert scary music here). If allergies don’t affect you or your loved one, you can stop reading here. If they do, there is hope! And it doesn’t involve pricey trips to the allergist or prescriptions with awful side effects.

I’ve dealt with allergies most of my life. I carried a tissue box (literally!) with me to classes in high school. I just dealt with it, and when I felt really bad, I’d take an over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication.

Then my husband and I moved to Florida. Ah! Warm weather year round, sunshine nearly every day and orange trees everywhere. Turns out – I’m allergic to orange blossoms. All of a sudden, Florida wasn’t so fun.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was pregnant with my third baby and it was orange blossom time. I remember talking with my neighbor one day:

“You look absolutely miserable!” she said, with sympathy.
“Oh, I feel awful! I can hardly stand it. I don’t remember being so miserable ever before in my life!”
“Michelle,” she told me, “you say that EVERY year.”

I did?! Yikes! I guess I’d better really do something about that. I remembered getting relief at a friend’s house in Iowa during fall allergy season – they had had an air purifier. But the price! We were missionaries with two small children and a 3rd on the way. Money was definitely an issue.

So, I started with something cheaper. I tried OTC nasal sprays (I avoided oral medications because I was pregnant and nursing). They worked, but my throat was raw and I could never be consistent. Orange blossoms died, I felt a HUGE relief, and vowed to do something before the next year.

Then Shaklee introduced the AirSource 3000. I had known Shaklee since childhood, so I knew it was a company I could trust. I knew that there was a warranty, and a guarantee. I knew that nasal sprays or medications weren’t for me, and I was willing to try anything to keep from repeating the year before. My husband was too (bless his heart). So, we pooled our gift money from Christmas and scrimped on groceries for a couple of months and bought an AirSource 3000.

At first, I noticed no difference. I privately agonized that I had made a mistake and we had spent all this money for nothing. Then the orange trees bloomed.

I was at church by myself that Sunday morning – I think because we had sick kids at home. As I sat through the service, my eyes itched more and more, my nose ran and ran until by the end of the service, I could barely see to find my car. I somehow made it home and dashed inside. I stripped off my clothes (get rid of any pollen), brushed out my hair and washed my face.

Normally, I would have spent the afternoon in bed with a cool washcloth on my face to ease my eyes, counting down the days until those blossoms would fall off the trees. This afternoon was different.

Within an hour, my eyes quit itching and my nose quit running. No headache, no washcloth needed. I was astounded. My husband was astounded. I didn’t quite believe that our AirSource 3000 could make such a difference.

The next day, I took the kids for a walk and back came the itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. After we were back inside, my symptoms were gone within an hour. You can believe I tried not to venture outside until those orange blossoms were gone!

I like to say that the AirSource 3000 allowed me to live allergy-free in my own home. Shaklee nutrition, including NutriFeron, has allowed me to live allergy-free both inside and outside.

Oh, and my neighbor was so impressed that her family purchased two AirSource 3000's a few years later – one for home and one for her clinic.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Why Choose Green?

This past February, I had a booth at my local business expo. You can see that I featured Shaklee’s Get Clean line.

I have to give credit to my ten-year-old, Nathaniel, who was a huge help to me at the expo. Who knew that he knows so much about Shaklee and their cleaning products? He had a great time, talking to people who stopped by and inviting them to sign up for the drawing. He even took time on Sunday to take my business cards around to people working the other booths (his idea, not mine!). My husband shook his head and said, “Is he destined for a job in sales?” Time will tell.

The importance of choosing non-toxic cleaners really hit home last month when I received an e-mail with this story:

“At the local Sam’s Club, my wife purchased a 4-pack, shrink-wrapped, of ‘The Works’ toilet bowl cleaner. On the way home, in the back of our van, it tipped over, and some leaked out (about half a bottle) on the seat and the carpet because of a hole in the top of one of the bottles. The seat, the carpet and the underlying steel were all damaged. The final resolution: our insurance company totaled the van, because of the spill!

According to the insurance company and poison control, the fumes from the toilet bowl cleaner made the interior environment of the van permanently unsafe for anyone, especially young children, so we wouldn’t be able to drive the van any more. The fumes also corroded any exposed metal in the van and poison control warned over time would ruin most, if not all, electrical connections. After the van was cleaned and repaired to the fullest extent possible, it was still determined that eventually, the residual fumes would continue to have a chemical reaction and deteriorate anything left in the van, leaving the van completely useless and unsafe, hence the insurance company’s decision to total the vehicle was made.” ~Matthew L. Rzepka, CPA, CFP, Michigan

Wow. That’s why household cleaners are considered hazardous waste.

A safer alternative is Shaklee’s Get Clean line. Basic-H2, about a tablespoon in the toilet, is quite effective at cleaning the toilet – without the nasty fumes. If you feel you need something stronger, Basic-G is another option – again about a tablespoon in the toilet bowl. Let either one sit for about 10 minutes, then scrub & flush. Voila! So safe, my kids clean the bathrooms (which was one of Nathaniel’s selling points at the expo: “I use these cleaners to clean the bathroom.”).

The best part? Shaklee has a money-back guarantee. Try them out - if you don't like them, let me know and Shaklee will refund your money.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Don't Waste Your Money!

This is my cabinet. Yes – lots of bottles of lots of vitamins. And if I am to believe a bunch of recent studies, I am wasting my money because these don’t help fight diseases or cancers. Honestly, I don’t have the patience to read all these different studies, but my friend, Dr. Walt, summarizes them quite nicely in his blog entry here (look for “Are multivitamins helpful or harmful…?).

I may not be a scientist and I may not be a mathematician, but I have taken a couple of probability and statistics classes. What I remember from those classes is that studies can be easily skewed – intentionally or unintentionally. It depends upon what questions you ask, how long the study lasts, if it is double-blind, placebo-controlled, how the participants were chosen… the list goes on. Plus, there’s also the question of who funded the study, who controlled the publication of the results, and who was in charge of writing up the study.

Have I lost you yet? These are all questions that most reporters don’t ask – mainly because they either don’t know to ask them, don’t have time to ask them, or don’t have the opportunity to ask them. As a former news producer, I know I was looking for information to fill my 30 minutes that grabbed people’s attention. That left little time for asking questions.

Headlines like “Multivitamins Don’t Help and Could Hurt” grab that attention. When I see that headline, my first question is, “What vitamins were the participants taking?” Most vitamins don’t help and could hurt (since companies don’t test them for purity or potency before they’re sold. It’s not required by FDA).

The great thing about Shaklee is that their products are backed by scientific studies – published in peer-reviewed journals, checked by independent laboratories. (Shaklee wants to protect against unintentional bias of its own researchers.) The biggest study conducted on Shaklee products and their users is called the Landmark Study. You can read about it here. Shaklee paid for the study, because Roger Barnett (the owner) wanted to study long-time Shaklee users. However, Dr. Gladys Block from UC Berkley’s School of Public Health retained control of the results. If the results showed Shaklee in a bad light, Dr. Block would still publish them. Instead, the results knocked Dr. Block’s socks off.

Basically, long-time Shaklee users had significantly lower incidences of diabetes, heart disease, heart attacks, etc and lower cholesterol levels, c-reactive protein levels, etc. (All the details are spelled out in the Landmark Study flyer, available for download at

Bottom line: The most expensive vitamin you’ll ever take is the one that doesn’t work. Shaklee vitamins work – and have the science to back it up.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Close To Home

I may be the only Protestant who writes about Molly Sabourin's book Close to Home: An Orthodox Mother's Quest for Patience, Peace, and Perseverance. You may be wondering why I would read it, since I'm not Orthodox. Molly is my beloved sister-in-law - married to my brother.

I am also so glad Molly wrote this book. She bared her soul in this book, detailing her journey as a wife and new mother. In the prologue she provides charming introductions to her family, which my older children loved and laughed and marveled over. (Did Benji really fall out of a two-story window? And caught his clothes on fire? And bump his head on the radiator? Yes, he did.) Molly ends the introductions with this comment, "And while the stories are distinctly mine, I pray the underlying fears, frustration, bliss and hope are universal."

Those underlying issues are universal. I found myself nodding in agreement many times throughout Molly's book, thinking, "Oh, I remember that... Oh I felt that same way! You are absolutely right!" Yet, also found myself nearly equally puzzled, wondering at these Orthodox traditions she holds so dear.

I have to say again, I am glad, glad, glad that Molly wrote this book - because I feel like I understand her, and perhaps in some way, my brother and sister a bit better through Molly's honest struggles in her faith. I have some inkling as to why the liturgy of the Orthodox church would appeal to them, why Molly would somewhat regret not getting married in the Orthodox church (although I am relieved that they didn't), and maybe, in a very, very small way, why they venerate the virgin Mary.

I especially identified with this quote from page 61, "There are many days you will feel totally and utterly incapable, and you will look around the room for backup, for someone else to step in and let you take the break you so desperately need. When you realize there is no such person and your kids are still hungry, or sick, or tired, you will dig deep and pull up a tiny reserve of strength you didn't know you had. This, my dear friends, is growth. No other job in the world is more effective at chiseling you into a stronger and more competent person." (emphasis mine)

That expresses my experience of motherhood, for the first six years especially - when I had four babies in five years, all a thousand miles from my family. Yet, I could never express it in just the way Molly did.

As I've thought about it, I realized that as a new wife and mother, being stretched beyond my limits, I searched for something outside myself and my circumstances to provide meaning and purpose to my life. It wasn't work, because I kept doing the same things everyday - wiping noses & changing diapers and if I was lucky getting laundry done and my family fed. I had my faith, went to church every Sunday, but longed for something... something more.

Molly found that meaning and discipline within the Orthodox church. I found it at Bible Study Fellowship - a nine-month, in-depth study of the Bible. I was accountable to read and study the Bible every week. I talked (uninterrupted!) with other mothers who knew me as a woman, not a mom or a wife, about deep spiritual issues. And I learned that the Bible is relevant today, to my life. I learned that just as Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he can calm me in the midst of the storms of four children all crying for lunch NOW, four children down with the stomach flu at the same time, or whatever similarly mundane circumstance that feels out of control at that moment in time. The awesome thing is that God cares about the little things, Jesus knows how I feel, and the Holy Spirit reminds me of all that when I feel like I might just go crazy if I hear one more fight over Legos.

Molly, thanks for putting into words emotions I hardly knew I felt, and reminding me of the things I've learned over the past eleven (gasp!) years of parenting my God-given blessings. I love you!

Let us pray for the wisdom to cease trying by our own strength, and start crawling out of our same old tired ruts by surrendering our weak and fragile wills into the hands of God. Amen, and amen!
(pg 129)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Happy Birthday Haircuts


the girls

the boys

the craziness begins

and continues

the 7yo

the 5yo

birthday boy

the tools

Nathaniel didn't want to call our friend Daisy to cut hair until after his birthday. Alas, today, his birthday, was the only day that our schedules coincided, and so the hairs were cut. And cut, And cut. The vacuum was FULL of hair when it was finally over.

Nathaniel requested a "Leichty cut" - I didn't force it! (Nathaniel's good friend, Robbie, had requested a "Leichty cut" from Daisy when he went to see her last year). I'm not complaining. And YIKES! does he look so much older? I realized today I can no longer put my chin on his head. Pretty soon, he'll be taller than me - our chiropractor thinks within two years. Am I really ready for this??

I also had to share Nathaniel's excitement over his gift from Glen and me. Yes, its locking pliers and he was absolutely thrilled. It's nice to hand over the gift shopping to Dad.

Happy Birthday Nathaniel - Daddy and I love you so much!