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Inflammation

I have talked a little bit about Inflammation and anti-inflammatory stuff, but only briefly. So today I thought I would share a little bit more about what I have learned and how it has affected my body in hopes that it might help others understand a little bit more as well.

When my oldest daughter left for college, I decided to go with her to help her get settled in. She planned on living with my parents, so there was the added benefit of getting to visit family at the same time. Leaving for college is at a particularly stressful time of the year as I had our other 3 children starting school at the same time I would be gone, and I had just been asked to teach early morning Seminary, which I would start teaching the day after I returned, and for some reason, going places away from my normal routine makes me anxious. Once I’m going, I’m fine, it’s just the thoughts of getting there that make me more stressed. I started to develop a small itchy spot on my arm and couldn’t figure out what it was. By the time I got home it had spread. I went to the doctor to discover it was Eczema. I hadn’t ever had it before, so I started to do some research about it. The one common thing I kept coming back to was inflammation and how what we eat affects the inflammation level in our bodies.

Inflammation is not a bad thing. When we get hurt the area swells, as it should, bringing more blood flow to the area to help it heal faster. But excessive inflammation in our bodies has a very negative effect on almost every part of our bodies. Inflammation is one of the leading contributors to cancers, heart disease, skin problems, joint issues, gut issues, sleep problems, lung issues, gum and mouth issues, inability to lose weight and so on. But it’s hard to find out how to control that inflammation. As a result of not being able to find the kind of information that I was looking for, I used the steroid cream to clear up my skin and then went on my way, never really totally getting rid of the eczema for long, but kind of keeping it mostly gone for most of the time. I really didn’t work as hard as I should have.

Fast forward a year and a half later to just around Christmas 2021. I was sitting at the table eating dinner when I started to feel a dull throb in my shoulder. As the evening wore on the throb became much more intense to the point that I couldn’t lift or rotate my arm. Within a few days it had subsided enough to go back to my normal routine, and I chalked it up to a random bug or something. But 2 weeks later, the same throb started, only this time intensifying. I ended up at an orthopedic doctor thinking I had somehow dislocated my shoulder or something. It was actually an old injury that had flared up due to excessive inflammation. I have a blog post from that time that details what was wrong with my shoulder called Injury. But as I visited with the doctor, he mentioned in passing the importance of diet and how it relates to inflammation in the body. This time I was listening and decided I needed to do some serious research.

There are all sorts of lists of foods that are anti-inflammatory, and foods that are really inflammatory, and these are a great place to start, but I am a numbers person. I wanted to know exactly how inflammatory or anti-inflammatory any given food was. Fortunately, I have a Heavenly Father who helps me find things when I don’t know where else to look. I happened to be in a local bookstore and just wandering for a few minutes and found the book I needed. It’s called “The Inflammation Free Diet Plan” pictured below.

There is now an app that goes along with this book called “IF Tracker”. This book is set up with a point system for foods. This has been a huge help for me in my efforts to eat better and keep my inflammation under control. Foods in this book (and that app has way more than the book) are listed in a point system. Foods that are inflammatory are given a negative point, higher or lower depending on how inflammatory it is, and foods that are anti-inflammatory are given a positive number, again higher or lower depending on how anti-inflammatory it is. The goal being to stay on the positive side of things, meaning anti-inflammatory. This has been a life saver for me. It’s easy to follow and the app makes it easy for me to calculate even the things I make from scratch as you can add your own recipes and it calculates it all for you.

How has this affected me? I rarely have any eczema, and when I do start to get itchy, it’s usually because I haven’t been monitoring my diet very well. I rarely have to use the steroid cream anymore as I can now control it with my diet. One thing I have always had is excess gas and gut issues. My family has gall bladder issues and I had always assumed that it had something to do with that. But as I have been staying on the anti-inflammatory side of the range these issues have almost completely disappeared. I have had less problems with my joints as a whole and have had no more issues with my shoulder at all. I also found it interesting that the water that I had retained to some degree or another since having children, had all disappeared. Overall, I feel better and have more energy when I am following the plan. The thing I like most about it though, is the flexibility. I can eat inflammatory foods as long as I balance them out with anti-inflammatory foods because like I said above, inflammation has its purposes as well. There is no cutting out food groups. It’s about eating smarter and balancing what I eat. I am so grateful my Heavenly Father is mindful of me and how my mind works, and that He helped me find this book that taught be a ton about inflammation and helped me get back to feeling better. If you have inflammation issues, or any issue that you think might be affected by what you eat, this book and app are a great resource to help you get back on track and feel better.

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Potatoes

We have had an extremely busy Sabbath day, but it’s been fantastic and uplifting! We had a great Church meeting in our ward and then had the opportunity to go to a youth fireside about the help and healing that is available for pornography addiction. I know that doesn’t sound fun or uplifting, but change and healing are possible and the peace that comes is the sweetest thing you can ever experience. But that is a different subject.

Potatoes – On my YouTube channel a couple of days ago I shared a video about potatoes, how to pick and store them. I shared a tour of our root cellar and then shared a recipe my family loves that is super simple to make. I am going to share the recipe here in written form.

Smashed Potatoes

2-3 lbs small potatoes (about 2-3 inches in diameter, any variety)

Preheat oven to 375°. Wash potatoes, do not peel. Grease a large cookie sheet and place potatoes on sheet. Poke each potato once or twice. Place cookie sheet in oven and bake potatoes for 30-45 minutes. Check for done by gently squeezing. If they’re soft they’re ready. Mix the next set of ingredients in a small bowl and set aside while potatoes bake.

1/2 cup Butter, softened

3/4 tsp Salt (or to taste)

1/4 tsp Pepper (or to taste)

3/4 tsp Rosemary

1/4 tsp Thyme

When the potatoes are soft, remove the pan from the oven. Using the bottom of a glass cup, smash each potato to about 1/4-inch thickness. Top each potato with a small dollop of the herbed butter. Put the potatoes back in the oven for about 4-5 minutes to melt the butter and crisp the edges of the potatoes slightly. Don’t leave in too long or the butter will burn. Remove from oven and enjoy!

One other recipe I shared on the same video was for a really quick and easy vegetable dip that goes great with these potatoes, or any kind of potato for that matter, as well as carrots, celery, broccoli, etc.

1 – 16 oz carton Sour Cream

1 packet soup mix (I like onion soup mix the best, on the video it was beefy onion soup mix, you’ll have to experiment.)

Mix together thoroughly.

Our family loves potatoes and this is a really great way to use smaller potatoes if you have lots of those from your garden, or you love small red potatoes. You can use different herbs on the potatoes, Italian Seasoning, Oregano and Basil would be a great combination, as well as Cumin, Coriander and Cilatro with a dash of Cayenne Pepper. The options are endless, and this is a great recipe to make your own.

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Silver Linings

Life was never meant to be sailed through without trouble or trial. That is not how we learn best. But we can see the silver lining to any situation if we only look. Every night we say a prayer together as a family. We take turns saying this prayer, each night being someone else’s turn, and recently our youngest son, has thanked Heavenly Father for all the good that had happened that day. I think that’s a great thing to be thankful for. But one day I said to him, what if the bad thing that happened was supposed to happen and that God wanted to teach us something or help us trust in Him more? What if the hard things lead to greater happiness that we wouldn’t have had otherwise? He decided he needed to ponder more on those questions. I’m grateful he’s willing to think about it.

I think above all we need to be grateful to our Heavenly Father in all things, for all things, but I don’t think He is going to protect us from everything bad that happens in life. That is not the purpose of being here, but that doesn’t mean He leaves us on our own to fend for ourselves, at least not if we seek His help in all things, and I am grateful that over the years I have seen His hand in our lives, guiding us through hard times so that we can come out having learned and grown rather than being bitter or angry.

I was pondering on this a couple of days ago, thinking how our Heavenly Father has helped us. I was reflecting on a trip we made last spring to Fairbanks for a climbing competition. My car had been having some minor issues that we thought we had gotten fixed. That was the car we were going to drive. Fairbanks is 5 hours north, a lot of the area being without cell reception or people for that matter. I prayed before we left that if we were going to have car problems, please help it be where we could get help, or close enough to home that we could get home to fix it. We left in my car, and within 10 miles there were problems. We were able to return home however to switch cars. This time we got in my daughter’s car. I prayed the same prayer, and within 5 miles we were turning around a second time. We got in the smallest car we have and started again. Again, I prayed. This time we had no problems and made it to Fairbanks and home and had a great trip. Both of the cars that we had to turn around and take back had issues that eventually had to be fixed. My car needed to have the heads on the engine repaired which was semi costly, and time consuming for my husband who fixed it. But the silver lining, the tender mercy was that we broke down near our home and were able to return and not be stuck and my husband was able to fix both cars himself. I was so grateful for Heavenly Father’s help and watchful care over us that day. Life happens, cars break down, but we were safe through the process. It’s interesting that often those memories come just at the right time to help in a new situation.

This brings me to yesterday. My husband and I were asked to take a car in to the airport for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to take home when they arrived later that evening. I met my husband and our kids at his jobsite after work. The kids were riding together, running a few errands and then going home while we were in Anchorage. Not 5 minutes after we left the jobsite my daughter called to let me know they had been in an accident. My son, who was driving, called my husband to figure out what to do. He had rear ended a truck in front of him when traffic had suddenly stopped. This is never news you want to hear, but there were several silver linings that we identified at the time and several hours later. First, no one was injured in either vehicle. The accident was a slow speed accident as traffic hadn’t been going anywhere near the speed limit to begin with. Second, both vehicles were still drivable, and they were able to get off the main roadway quickly to a safe area to figure out what to do. Third, they were in our little economy car. I had suggested they take my husband’s truck home, and we take the small car for the better gas mileage. My husband had felt uncomfortable about that and decided against the idea. Had my son been in the truck, there would have been much more damage, possible injuries, and much more cost to fix everything because it is a heavier vehicle. This last one, I believe, was the tender mercy that made all the difference. My husband often drives the smaller car on the longer distance drives for the money savings, and I am grateful he listened to that feeling of discomfort that came. The last silver lining came hours later as the adrenaline wore off for my son and he was able to talk about what he learned and be humble enough to recognize that he needed to learn from the experience.

Life happens all the time. I could spend hours and pages relating instances in life where life happened, but God was there to help out, seeing the silver linings in so many situations. Maybe a book … I’ll have to think on that. But needless to say, it happens all the time, and for all of us. But we have to be willing to see and appreciate those silver linings, or as I like to call them, tender mercies from the Lord.

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Games

I love playing games with my siblings and my kids. When we were growing up my least favorite game to play was Monopoly, that is until Risk came out, and now I have two games that I hate playing. Mostly because the games seemed to take forever, especially with my older brother, who is an excellent strategist, not only to win the game, but make it last as long as possible!

Because of that love of playing games, I raised my kid’s playing games, and we love to do so. But my favorites are ones that don’t take very long. That way we can play for a long time or quit after just 2 or 3 rounds depending on time. The other nice thing about short games is that more people have the opportunity to win, which, when you have 4 kids, it makes a huge difference in feelings by the time you’re done. I have 2 children who are strategists and love long, never ending games. They get that from their dad, who will on occasion play Risk or Monopoly with them. Then I have one that just loves playing, whatever, and rarely cares whether she wins or loses, it’s about the time spent together. The last one loves to play but has little time for strategy, but he wants to win and the games on occasion ended up like the one in the picture above, at least when they were younger. Now he just walks away when he gets frustrated, thank goodness!

Over the years we have had a number of favorite family games though, so I thought I would share here some of our favorites and I would love to hear in the comments some of your family’s favorites as well!

First and all-time favorite, not only with my kids, but when I was growing up as well: UNO. This has been a staple of our family game nights. I like this game because it can be done in under 10 minutes, or you can play for 2 hours if you choose. I also really like that this game is easy to play at almost any age. Little kids just learning numbers and colors as well as adults. UNO has had a number of different spins put on it the last 20 years, but we like the classic. Cover Your Assets is another fun card game. This one doesn’t take a super long time, and the swings from one person winning to another can happen at any point in the game, even up to the last few cards. This is one of those “it’s not over till it’s over” type of games, and we have enjoyed playing it. This one however does take more than 2 people, I believe 3 would be the minimum, but it’s more enjoyable with at least 4 or more players. This also requires a little more strategy, so I wouldn’t recommend it for really young kids.

Sometimes only one child wants to play a game, so I have a couple of favorite 2 person games. Mastermind is the first. There is a new online game called Wordle that is similar in concept. Mastermind is colored pegs. I like playing this game because it involves more deduction and less strategy. I also like Mancala. This one involves a lot of strategy, but it is really simple to teach to younger kids. It involves rocks (ours has rocks, some may have different items like beads) that you move around a wooden board with cups in it, trying to collect more rocks in your end of the board than your opponent.

I am not as big a fan of board games, but I do have a few favorites. Life is probably my most favorite board game. It’s a pretty quick game to play, and I enjoy the funny “real life” situations that it presents and that everyone can reach a million dollars by the end. I also enjoy Catan. This one is more recent in our house. We played it with family while visiting Utah a few years ago and really enjoyed it. That Christmas we got the game and my kids have enjoyed playing it ever since. This game takes a little bit longer and requires a lot more strategy so I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, but it’s not hard to understand or play.

Those are some of our family favorites. Game nights are a great way to spend time together with family, teach strategy and especially patience with each other, and most important, build family relationships. What are your favorite games?

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Seasons

I find it interesting that the changing of the leaves to the beautiful fall colors always makes me think about change and season of life in general. I don’t know why I don’t think this way through the changing of other seasons, but maybe it’s the drastic change from green to the brilliant yellows, oranges and reds that makes it so much more noticeable than the other seasons. Today as I thought about this, I thought about the different seasons of our lives and how they change kind of like the seasons of the year.

Thus, today’s post might be somewhat reminiscent for me, hopefully not super boring for you to read. My house is empty today, other than myself. My husband is at work. My oldest daughter is away on a mission for our church but will be home in November after 18 months of service. My second daughter is working with my husband today, she is still searching for her direction somewhat in life, so she gets to work with her dad in the meantime. My third child, the oldest son is at school. He is dually enrolled in high school and college, getting credit in both arenas as he completes college courses. My youngest, and second son is enrolled in a similar high school where he is taking college classes, getting high school credit as well. Same idea through different programs at the same place. It’s interesting.

When our kids were little and we were at home most of the time, I was able to teach and play with my kids all the time. We spent hours outside playing as well as hours inside reading, building, playing and learning. Then they started to go to school, we were so very busy with school, after school activities and events, programs and sports, field trips, all the fun stuff that takes what I thought was a lot of time. The elementary school they attended was just 8/10 of a mile from our house so everything was so convenient and quick. I homeschooled my kids through middle school, so we continued on with the convenient, at home or close to home lifestyle. One thing my kids have always let me know was how far out of town and away from friends we live, and those years of homeschooling didn’t help their attitudes improve.

Then we started kids in high school. Boy did I learn a little bit better what busy really was. The high schools that my kids attended and are currently attending, are not close to home as they are not our home area schools. A friend once asked me how many miles I drove a week. I said I would have to do the math, but I drove about 145 miles a day. 2 1/2 hours in the car just getting kids to seminary, school, and sports. It was a crazy amount of driving, but I loved having the kids in the car and the talks we had because there wasn’t anything else to do but talk. The kids loved being out away from home and with their friends so much more.

Then our oldest got her license. That was a huge relief on my time, at least I thought so. Then I started to miss the time, the huge amount of time I got to spend with my kids in the car. Since then, we have always had a teen driver to get themselves, and often their siblings wherever it is they need to go. It’s nice to have the help, but I have missed the time in the car. I have learned however, that the broken dishwasher has been a blessing, and that I probably won’t fix it any time soon. This has been a great uninterrupted time to talk with my kids one on one, as no one wants to risk having to help by standing in the kitchen visiting if they don’t have a chore to do already. I wash and they dry, and we talk about the day.

As time has passed however, and the kids have grown, and my time is more my own, I have thought and wondered what the next season of my life will look like. I have enjoyed learning to paint, and love sharing my art, and have recently enjoyed making YouTube videos and sharing more of what I love with the bigger world around me. I have a friend who had children quite a bit older than mine. I remember when her youngest left for college. I asked her what she was going to do with all her extra time. She asked me what extra time I was talking about, she never had extra time. Now as my kids get older and leave home, I am finding her words more and more true. I have plenty to do and lots of things I still want to do, and I look forward to the next season of my life. I also look forward to my kids coming home. My oldest daughter, who never wanted to live in rural Alaska ever again, has commented on several occasions as we have driven home from picking her up at the airport, that she can feel the stress of the world leave as she leaves the cities and people behind. She now loves coming home. Whether she, or any of our kids, will live close by or far away, I hope they know they can always come home. I may be busy doing my own thing, but I will always stop and make time for them.