happiness

What the Frack is this SIBO stuff?

This year I decided to make a commitment to my physical health. I’ve been dedicated to improving both my mental and spiritual health for a good 10 years now, and had been feeling pretty disappointed because I hadn’t been seeing the improvements I’d been hoping for. Don’t get me wrong, I am a much better version of the person I was 10 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how my brains works. I’ve been studying for my masters degree in counselling psychology and have had the opportunity to understand my brain, my personality, and my traumas in a completely different way. I’ve been studying spirituality and developing a completely new relationship – a healthier and more secure one – with the Divine. And yet I still felt like shit almost all of the time.

By feeling like shit I mean that no matter how hard I worked through therapy, or on my own, my anxiety was still out of control. My depression would come creeping in for no particular reason except to let itself be known. The bloating, omg the bloating. My whole body ached, I had a fuzzy head to the point where it was difficult to think some days. I was exhausted but not sleeping. I felt like a failure because I was working so hard and not seeing any improvements. Worst of all, when the anxiety would come rushing out of nowhere it gave me all of the same trauma type feelings that I felt from my marriage and that made it pretty much impossible to move beyond the feelings of being stuck in an abusive relationship.

So early this year I went to see my family doctor to see if she could refer me to an allergist. In the previous 6 months or so, I had discovered that certain foods were triggering my moods and my joint pain – particularly gluten (giving up gluten was quite the learning process- that shit is in everything). I told her that while giving up gluten had helped me I still wasn’t feeling good.

I am blessed to have an absolutely fantastic doctor who has taken the time to get to know both me and my children, she listens and doesn’t fix problems with medication alone. She told me that she also had been having some food issues and her recommendation was to go see a naturopath. That recommendation changed everything for me.

I booked myself in with a naturopath in town and really had no idea what to expect. I went in with my list of symptoms expecting to be told that I was making horrible diet choices and that would be about it. Instead he listened to me describe how I was feeling and then asked me if I’d ever heard of SIBO.

No, I had not heard of SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – what in the world is that? So apparently bacteria is not supposed to grow in our small intestines, but sometimes it can creep up in there and cause problems. It can be caused by many things, including antibiotics, unresolved trauma and long term stress. (Hellooooo stress and trauma my old friends). He said that food wise it was particularly triggered by onion and garlic – two of my favourite things to put in my mouth – but that there were many other foods that feed this bacteria.

He gave me a SIBO breath test to take home and use. You have to follow a very restricted diet for a couple of days to prepare, then you drink a nasty lactulose drink and breathe into vials at 20 minute intervals over the next couple of hours. I tested positive for both types of SIBO and my numbers were quite high.

Bingo

I’m about 3 months into my treatment now. I’ve got a long ways to go, but already I feel better than I have in decades. My physical health has improved – I’m slowly getting more energy, I’m sleeping better. My mental health has improved – my anxiety and depression have decreased to mostly manageable levels. My spiritual connection has completely changed and I am developing a much closer connection to Source.

I’ve decided to chronicle my progress – both the challenges and successes – because it seems that SIBO is a new addition to the IBS game and one that there is very little known about and is often misdiagnosed.

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happiness

Old pictures, old friends, old houses

A few years ago a dear old friend of mine (in years not age haha) gifted me a picture she’d found of the “old house” here. The “old house” is the one by the barn that my great grandparents built, and the house that we moved into when we returned home.

It’s cool because not only does this picture look exactly like the “old house”, it actually IS the old house.

I wasn’t sure where to hang it and have tried a few different spots in different rooms. Then today I was looking at the Braeside house where my Grandpa Ramsay lived (you may remember the story my Grandpa Ramsay told, you can find it Here) and realized that these two pictures belong together.

The house where my great-grandparents Copithorne lived, where my grandpa was raised, and the house where my grandpa, and great grandma Ramsay lived with my great-great grandparents in Ontario. And they should be hanging here in the house my grandparents built – our home.

I feel so much gratitude towards this friend who found this picture for me, made a special trip to meet me to give it to me, and who generally has just been a great person to have in my life. We met 21 years ago when we were expecting our now adult sons and have stayed in touch throughout the years.

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happiness

Thinking of Grandma

It was 18 years ago today that Grandma left us here and returned home to God and to be reunited with all of those who had left before her. I will forever remember her last weeks as some of the most difficult, but also some of the most beautiful moments I’ve had in my life.

It was important to Grandma that she return to the ranch and that she not die in a hospital where nobody knew her. My parents and uncles and aunts arranged for her to come home to her house, and they set up a hospital bed in the living room for her.

Probably what I remember most is how the family gathered. It seemed like the house was full of her children and grandchildren – all of us eating, drinking tea, and sharing stories. I’ve always felt Grandma’s heart in this house, but never more than I did during that time.

There was even a moment – one that I call the “I’ll love you forever moment” where she wanted to join us all in the kitchen but was unable to walk from her bed. My loving cousin Ryan picked her up the same way I’m sure she had picked him up countless times when he was small, and carried her into the kitchen, gently placing her in a chair, so that she could be part of the fun. When I would read “I love you forever” to my kids I always burst into tears when the son carried his mother because of this moment. It was so simple and beautiful.

Dad called me at work when she died. Somehow they let the call go into my classroom so I got the news while standing in front of my students. At the time I was teaching mostly kids who had been labeled with behaviours so extreme they were not allowed into regular classrooms. I can’t think of a better bunch of people to hear the news with – most of these kids knew sorrow. They were so good and kind and all of them said something nice to me as a I grabbed my things and left for the ranch.

When the boy and I got out there (he was almost 3 at the time – I’d grabbed him from his dayhome) the house was much quieter. My uncles and aunts were there, grandma was still there although her soul was already dancing in heaven. My aunt headed out to the field for a quiet moment and returned with crocuses – it’s very early to have them here on April 5th and we don’t really get them here at all anymore. I remember we all just sat there, sharing stores and supporting each other. My other aunt knew Grandma well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to go out with her hair all a mess so she sat down in the living room at the bed and redid that fabulous updo that Grandma sported for as long as I could remember. Another beautiful act of kindness and love.

I have learned a lot about how to love and how to grieve from my family. And a lot about how important it is to have faith. I have faith that Grandma is in a better place that is filled with love and joy. I hope she looks down on us living here in her home and knows how grateful we are for the space, and for the memories that live within these walls.

From Grandma’s Kitchen has been a series of stories and photos that was created here in the kitchen she loved so much, but really it is has been a way for me to honour one of the greatest, fiercest, most loving and faith filled people I have ever known. This home was a place of refuge for me when I was younger, not because of the building but became of the home that Grandma created within these walls. She taught us all the importance of family, of loving each other, and of loving God (and also of cows and to always dress and act like a lady).

Grandma I am so grateful for all the gifts you gave me- I carry that wisdom deep in my soul. You are missed and you are loved.

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happiness

Memories of Grandma’s 80th (4) (FGK 205)

My Grandma is a very special person, but more than just a person whom I love very much, she is also someone I greatly admire. The building of the Copithorne family and their ranch would not have been as successful without her. She worked so hard for so many years and yet has always kept a beautiful grace and style.

My husband Keith and I are very proud to be her granddaughter and grandson in law

Keith and Betty Godkin

Dear Grandma Copithorne

I want to give you this poem:

I like my Grandma, she is nice, she’ll always love ya, more than twice

I like my Grandma, she is special and great, and for my Grandma, I’ll open my heart’s gate

Love Jim

My most memorable time with Grandma was when I stayed at her place before I left for England. I really enjoyed our long talks. Grandma has always beeen very encouraging and supportive of me in the ministries God has led me into. I really appreciate her many prayers, encouragement, and letters. Thank you so very much Grandma!

Love, Lynn

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happiness

A History in Photos 12 (FGK 169)

Today marks 4 years since mom passed. I started sharing these stories last year in the hopes that I would get to understand her better, to know who she really was. I’m not sure I found what I was originally looking for, but this process has helped me in ways I never could have imagined. I was still feeling pretty broken in my own life from the challenges of recent years and I was seeking guidance and support, although I didn’t know that at the time. I think I have a better understanding of the strength and courage the entire family had to get through what they were faced with . Polio didn’t just impact mom, but her entire family. And the faith Grandma carried, the grace and humility she showed in her letters and memories have left me with gratitude for the incredibly strong line of women that I come from. The letters helped me see how Grandma was held steady by her faith in God during what must have been an unbelievably challenging time. It’s one thing reading the letters on this side of history – knowing that mom survived and knowing how things turned out. But at the time…. There would have been no way to know, no guarantees, and everything was just blind faith. As someone who really struggles with trusting that God has my back even when I can’t see it – this has been very comforting.

Look at how dressed up Grandma and Grandpa got to go visit mom at the hospital! And the garden in the background!! I remember as a kid playing with the snapdragons in this flower garden. It’s gone now, and there’s a deck near here – but I really miss the flowers growing along the side of the house. Grandma really had a green thumb.

Percy and Edna going to visit Margie who was in hospital
Margie and Len Carrol on the horse (I think this is “Slim”??)
Sheila, Margi, and Mother (Grandma/Edna)
Aileen, Sheila, Margie 1949
Sheila and Mother (Edna Copithorne)
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happiness

Chew the Dog’s Ear Off (FGK 117)

I wish mom had written about her time in the hospital, but I think the whole thing was so traumatic for her that she didn’t even want to talk about her experiences. It certainly was a taboo subject in our house, so much so that it took 70 years – including 3 after mom passed away before these experiences could be discussed. I’m assuming Aunt Annie baked mom dog shaped cookies, not that she had some poor pup whose ears she would chomp on during challenging emotional times, but one never knows haha…

DeWinton, Alta

6th Nov. 1952

My dear Margie,

I do hope you’ll feel like eating these cookies and that it is all right for you to have them. I thought you could at least chew the dog’s ear off when you feel a little blue and let down. It might give you great satisfaction. I am sure the pup won’t mind.

I hear you have Mrs. Brown for a nurse. I think she would be very lovely to have around when a fellow isn’t just up to scratch. Please give her my kindest regards. We used to bowl in the same league but she could bowl just about twice as good as I could.

Wee Clarence David is creeping all over the place. You’ll see a big change in him from the time you saw him last spring. He likes getting into my cupboards and he just loves tearing up the papers and magazines around the place.

You’ll be able to write a book about your experience in the hospital when you get home. I am sure you’ll be having lots of different experiences and meeting new people. Nobody will be able to tell you anything you don’t know about the hospital. I am looking forward to hearing all about it.

I guess I had better close for now.

With love and good eating, Aunt Annie

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France -2 (FGK 93)

I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.

We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.

Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.

Ahoy there:

I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.

I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.

There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.

The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.

Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.

They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.

This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.

Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.

Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.

I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.

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happiness

Holding hands

The other day the girl and I had quite a disturbing experience as we were nearly mowed down crossing a small road in a parking lot in Cochrane. We were halfway across the street in front of Pet Valu heading towards Save On, walking in the cross walk, when a lady came flying down that road that cuts between the stores. It took me a second or so to realize that she wasn’t stopping or slowing down and was heading right towards us. Worse, the girl was the one who was going to be the “buffer” between me and the car when it hit us.

I screamed the girl’s name and grabbed her arm while we both looked towards the car with horrified expressions on our faces. Both our bodies tensed up like we were going to run, and at the same instant realized that we wouldn’t have time to make it.

As I was accepting that this would be how we would die, suddenly I felt the girl’s hand slip into mine. One small movement that in regular times wouldn’t perhaps mean much (although it’s been years since she’s wanted to hold my hand), but in this moment it meant the world. If that was when I was going to die, somehow the thought of holding her hand felt quite comforting.

At the last second the woman veered around us (didn’t slow down though) and threw her car in the parking spot that clearly had captured her attention making her unable to see anything besides that coveted spot.

Scary as crap, but what has stuck with me was that feeling of that little hand in mine as we stood there terrified. It was both her grown up hand, and the hand of the little girl who used to want to hold onto me every second of every day.

I remember when dad was dying, all he wanted was to spend time with us, his family, his loved ones. Nothing that he had accomplished or accumulated seemed to matter, all that did was the love he had in his life. That hand in mine reminded me how important it is to treasure and cherish my loved ones (well and to make sure that people in cars see us when we are crossing the road).

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happiness

Indra’s Net

I woke up at 3am today. Lately I’ve been doing lots of waking up at 3am which means I must be hella stressed. Usually though when I wake up in the middle of the night I lie there and stress about the problems of the world, while lately I just lie there and think about God and where I fit in the universe. Much lighter thinking haha.

This morning (is 3am morning? I feel like it’s still deep night time, or when I was younger it was time to come home) I woke up to a vision of Indra’s Net. Perhaps I’ve been feeling very disconnected lately. I think Covid has a lot of us feeling disconnected and confused. Alberta in particular seems to be filled with anger, confusion, and chaos as we are being divided between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. While I am one of the vaccinated, and strongly believe in it, I don’t like how we are fighting with each other when we would do better to work together.

So anyway, with that I’m feeling a bit separated and confused and waking up to the image of Indra’s Net was kind of perfect.

Indra’s Net is a spider like net that spreads infinitely in all directions. In each “eye” of the net, or where the threads join together, there is a beautiful jewel. Each brilliant jewel reflects every other jewel, which are infinite in number, and every reflected image holds the image of all the other jewels. Infinity to infinity, whatever affects one jewel affects them all. Everything contains everything else, but at the same time every individual jewel is not hindered or confused by the other jewels.

I love this idea because I often get hindered or confused by the other jewels.

In his book Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977), Francis Dojun Cook wrote,

“Thus each individual is at once the cause for the whole and is caused by the whole, and what is called existence is a vast body made up of an infinity of individuals all sustaining each other and defining each other. The cosmos is, in short, a self-creating, self-maintaining, and self-defining organism.” (Source here)

Instead of thinking that everything is part of a larger, collective whole, the idea is that everyone is the larger, collective whole, but also simply themselves at the same time.

I find this idea so completely abstract that it actually makes perfect sense to me. And I love the way it allows me to see how we are all connected. What affects one of us affects all of us. We are one being working together, but we are also our individual selves with the freedom to choose who and how we are. Some people I find it easy, and a beautiful privilege to think of being connected with, and some make me want to cut their jewel out of my beautiful web. The challenging ones are probably the most important ones as they probably reflect some unhealed aspect of myself. If their behaviours didn’t trigger something in me, who they are and what they do wouldn’t bother me and so I know there is more internal work for me to do in those areas.

Hopefully the 3am wake up time comes to an end soon, but until it does I find gratitude in the comforting thoughts that are coming to me during this time.

Namaste.

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