This year, like I mentioned in this post I'm choosing two colors to represent the essence of each season. The calendar says spring so I've switched from my winter theme of icy blue and golden orange to lime/celery green and lilac purple.
April 2011, My garden, Maine
I've started using my new green and purple gel pens to highlight in my bullet journal.
When I bought my bouquet this week at the market (still using the gift money my mom gave me when I was sick, those flower dollars sure stretch at the market) I asked specifically for a green and purple inspired arrangement and I was thrilled to find ranunculus also.
This is the only spring color in my world right now. Yesterday's weather was snow and freezing rain.
I chose my spring colors not because these are the colors of mid-March in Montreal, they are the colors of hope in my heart.
Color is really important to me. I express my creativity in photographing color, decorating with color, and even wearing bright colors. Choosing colors for each season is something I'm playing around this year with as a creative exercise.
Late last week I went through my photo archives to find photos of green and purple from past spring seasons to brighten this post and to celebrate the arrival of spring, and look what I found in my search. Photos of the kids on a hike, wearing purple and green, taken on the first day of spring six years ago.
Where do I begin? The perfect pre-adolescent skin, Celine's middle part, the scowl on Brienne's face, Laurent's adult teeth in a child's mouth. These children are my heart.
These photos capture the essence of the woods in spring. Very bright, no leaf cover yet. Snow still on the ground, melting to reveal the dead leaves from last autumn. There are no pretty colors in the woods in early spring/late winter, but they are coming. The angle of the sun, the length of the day, years of experiences assures us it is so.
I know the woods in all seasons but something I am not familiar with is long bouts of winter sickness.
The kids are still sick from the flu they all got last month. This is the worst winter sickness season we've experienced as a family.
Sickness has moved through our family like waves, first the flu, starting with one person and moving to another. Then as the kids seemed to be getting better and started to resume their normal activities, as teenagers are very wont to do, another wave of sickness hit each child, a secondary infection or illness affecting eyes, ears, and upper respiratory (different for each child).
April 2010, the woods, Maine
Last year a friend asked me what we did when our kids were sick, we were having a discussion about alternative medicine and holistic health. I said we didn't do much because we didn't get sick that often. Fluids and rest were the main strategies, and herbal tinctures, garlic, and oregano oil if necessary.
I haven't had to use my herbal tinctures for years and through our successive moves I tossed some of the sketchier bottles and old dried herbs. I don't remember when the elderberry syrup ran dry, but I didn't replace it. That section of the cupboard dwindled in size over the last few years.
April 2010, Bates College Campus, Maine
My education in essential oils has been slow and mostly limited to good blends for soapmaking and body care products, which is an entirely different game than healing illness.
I know nothing about homeopathy and many other alternative medicines. I don't have experience with bone broth and all the "traditional diet" nutritional recommendations. I haven't needed to acquire that knowledge.
It's been a sea of sickness for eight weeks, unprecedented.
May 2011, Bates College Campus, Maine
There are many possible reasons for this, including a change in our diet last year in which I've allowed more animal products and processed foods (granola bars, crackers, bread, some ready-made meals) into our house.
The traditional diet folks will not make a link between animal products and illness, but when those foods start to replace immune-system supporting and disease-reducing plant foods, something our family has eaten a lot of in previous years, a case can be made for a possible link. And no one thinks processed foods are healthy. And the same principle applies, if eating them reduces your consumption of health-supporting foods you compromise your immune system.
Is it possible that our plant-based, almost all homemade foods diet really did protect us so well all those years from flu and winter illness?
May 2015, Quebec
I don't think it's that simple though I do feel I've compromised our health with some of the changes to our diet.
We live in a new city, and we're in much closer contact than we've experienced before with a lot of germs. And the flu hit our social circle hard this year. Many people we know have struggled this winter through virulent illness.
Kind of creepy but also somewhat reassuring, we're not the only ones.
Once I got over my own illness, and thank God I didn't catch a secondary one, I was able to re-educate and newly educate myself on remedies and solutions, source the herbs I needed to start re-stocking our cupboards, make bone broth, do more research on essential oils and be introduced, albeit very reluctantly and skeptically, to homeopathy.
This is the part of the story where you might expect a "the successful protocol has been...", "how I've healed my family with herbs", or maybe even a sales pitch for a particular essential oil. None of that is forthcoming because it's not clear to me what, if anything, helped.
I am not convinced of anything at this point, except this: I didn't understand the possible implications of "getting the flu".
There has been no miracle cure in our family this winter. Some people swear by essential oils, other people say to use with extreme caution. My friends are convinced about homeopathy, I'm not. I am probably most familiar with herbs but I'm not used to treating long illnesses with herbal remedies.
May 2015, Quebec
This week we took two kids to the doctor. Our first sick doctor's visit in over a decade. In one child it was "just" congestion (which we're actively treating with all manner of remedies), not an ear infection, though I'm still holding onto the just-in-case prescription the doctor gave me.
In the other child it was acute bronchitis and sinusitis, and we are using the antibiotics prescribed, and we are so thankful for them.
I've been a parent for nearly seventeen years and I've never experienced anything like this, the flu followed by a secondary illness. Sickness that requires more vigilance, more remedies, more preventative measures than I am familiar with.
I can't go back but I wish I had been more prepared, more knowledgable.
This bout of illness shook my confidence but it also gave me experience, and showed me I definitely need to re-educate, re-stock, and learn new things.
I've had success in the past treating simple illnesses with basic herbs, healing foods (garlic, ginger, etc.) and topical essential oil applications. I have so much more to learn but I can't learn it all, it's overwhelming. We have to pick and choose what we invest our energies into. "Alternative" medicine and holistic healing is not my passion, though it is my preference.
May 2015, Quebec
Ultimately, I need to find my own mother-wisdom in these matters. But I can't gain that without the experience, and who wants the experience of being sick!
I hope with some meds and probiotics; and other foods, strategies and remedies to support healing, the recovery journey will continue, without new infections. God help us.
I would love simple recommendations in the comments, if you have any, for foods or herbs to support the healing process.
My goal is that by next winter I'll have a straightforward "at first sign of sniffles do this" protocol. Something along these lines. (Though I tried many of these things this year. I think I just didn't catch it soon enough.)
It's hard not to feel like a mother-failure when something like this happens. I felt that way, coming out of my own sickness, when I was mentally and emotionally drained.
But that kind of thinking does me and my family no good whatsoever.
June 2015, Quebec
Instead I am choosing to recognize that I have the resources I need: a healthy mind to make sound decisions and access to medicine and remedies. I can educate myself for the future. I can, and will, be better prepared next time. And I can be grateful for so many blessings, right now.
I am grateful that I am physically, mentally and emotionally well enough to take care of my family. This is no small feat for this time of the year. I am grateful Damien is well and we can tag-team parent our kids through this season. I am grateful our teenagers still seek the comfort of our bed in the middle of the night when they are unwell and needing comfort. (Of course one of us has to leave in that scenario, there is not room for three adult-sized people in our queen bed!) I am grateful for a car to drive to walk-in clinics nowhere near our neighborhood.
I am grateful for mother-wisdom and intuition. I am grateful for medicine of all sorts, knowledgeable doctors who say "let's wait and see", knowledgeable doctors who say "let's treat this", and caring friends who offer the remedies that worked for them.
I am grateful that though the kids are suffering through sickness right now the situation could be so much worse. We have a safe home. We have access to clean water, good food, health food stores, and medicine. And we have time. Time to recover and rest.
Spring is coming, there are flowers on my table and hope in my heart.