Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Smug. That’s what I felt when I climbed the stairs, listening to a woman catalog all the foods she couldn’t eat. Her trainer nodded sympathetically as I made my way to workout. See, I used to be like her.

I’ve shared I’m not a health expert: I’ve just been desperate enough to try desperate things on my quest to shuck pain. I don’t recommend pregnancy to cure your hiatal hernia, and a gallbladder cleanse might not cure your lactose intolerance, as it did mine. But bro-knowledge, especially at the gym, has taught me that talking to other people about the “crazy things” they’ve done to solve health issues can be enlightening. This post is about how raising back-yard chickens presented a cure for my digestive system, allowing me to eat greens after over a decade of my body rejecting them. At nineteen, doctors couldn’t figure out why I would suddenly get really sick whenever I ate greens. It was a mystery treated with medications and eliminating a lot of usually-healthy things from my diet.


For years, Kevin and I talked about getting hens. Once we moved to a property just less than a ½ acre, we started researching how we could make that happen in an urban landscape. We eventually found the right coop, the right set-up, the right chickens and got started. The hens settled into the backyard, and we continued to read and talk to people about care. As we figured out their winter diet, Kevin reread Patricia Foreman’s City Chicks. She talks about probiotics and the importance of including them in hens’ diets—it was then, Kevin made the leap. A Whiteacre hen.Maybe some of my digestive problems were at the bacterial level? Perhaps the hens and I weren’t so different?

This was a little before the big probiotic campaign in the food industry. Now, you can find lots of foods that advertise probiotics and their health benefits—just glance at the dairy section of your local market. When Kevin started to change our diets to include more probiotcs (he’s the chef in the family), we began with Kefir (a yogurt drink that retains many strains of bacteria in its processing). This helped immediately, and I found within 6 months of daily use, I was able to go off stomach medications that I’d been prescribed for years.

picklesWhat made the biggest difference (and has us out in the garden cutting spinach for smoothies every morning) was when I received the Perfect Pickler as a gift and we started pickling our own foods. We made homemade kimchi, salsa, pickles (you name it, we’ve probably pickled it—we went a little pickle-crazy), and as we integrated those fermented foods into our diet, we also started to add greens—both raw and cooked.

It’s been about three years, and I don’t have a list of can’t eats anymore. I stick to my probiotic regimen, and I’ve stayed off stomach medications too. Our family’s diet has evolved to include many more vegetables and whole grains, which helps improve everyone’s health.


Probiotic. Beneficial to life. It’s incredible such a small helper can make such a big difference in my life. Maybe your’s too. It’s my hope we keep talking, blogging, researching our body’s health quirks. Conversation connects us, gives us hope, offers, sometimes, unusual solutions.

The hens help by foraging in the garden for an afternoon.

The hens help by foraging in the garden one afternoon.


Yesterday in Introduction to Creative Nonfiction, we took time to celebrate the National Day on Writing (coming this Sunday, 10/20, which is Ball State University’s fall break, so we’re celebrating early). We took forty minutes to freewrite after coming up with writing prompts for each other. I leaped from the question, why are writing classes important?

I thought I’d share my freewrite here, and I hope that you’ll take some time to write and share this week. Check out the National Council of Teachers of English’s web site for more information about how people are celebrating the National Day on Writing.

Screen Shot of NCTE's Day on Writing

 On Sunday, you can also follow writers on Twitter (#write2connect, #dayonwriting, #bsuwrites).


What’s Age Got to Do with It?

by Liz Whiteacre

Sometimes, I forget I’m aging. I’ve spent the last nineteen years on college campuses, surrounded by perpetual youth. That’s what’s done it: a hundred young faces every term, then a new batch, then another. Each class is distinct. I get to know these people very well through their writing for a few months, but then they move on, grow, age (parts I don’t get to witness), and they eventually send me their siblings, then their children. The campus’ kinetic energy of discovery buoys me. I learn something new from composition and creative writing pieces every day. There’s nothing stagnant, nothing too repetitive. Though some days my mind feels dull, I can usually write that off to a cold, lack of sleep, worry about fitting all my tasks into a day.

When I wash my face and look hard in the mirror, I can see new lines, scars, freckles, maybe a white eyebrow hair (I’m blonde, so I can choose ignore it…sun bleached it is, if I’m in the mood). My hands look like my mother’s did when I was a child. I respect the ache in my lower back when I squat by a desk to offer guidance to a writer. But my mind, it’s easily distracted, so I might not pay attention to how old I am until I get an invitation to a reunion or notice my daughter’s cheek now touches my belly when she hugs me. I stopped paying attention at thirty, I think, when my daughter was born. Distracted by both the learning of parenthood and professorship, it’s easy to ignore the aging bit. My collective years’ experience isn’t tracked by birthdays anymore like it was when I was a kid; instead landmarks or events mark it. Oh, that was before or after the accident, or about the time when my daughter lost her first tooth, or the time the ball bearing went in the car’s back wheel, or that trip to Belize. It’s never, oh, when I was thirty-three such and such happened. The calendar’s good for keeping me early to appointments, not for marking things significant to me.

I celebrate my birthday now, I think, because my daughter so loves balloons and icing (the pageantry of it) and my husband loves that I’m (still) here. I’ve begun to wonder when “you’re as old as you feel” was first said and why, as folks barrel towards ninety, it echoes—a mantra to keep us focused on what’s in front of us, not how close we’ve crept towards death? And, when we get to mid-life, does it really matter what our number of years is? Does age determine our ability to spot significant things to write about? I’ve read lots of amazingly wise stories written by young people. I’m stumped. So, I stop paying attention. I’ve got things to do.

I treasure my profession. I get to work with writers on and off campus of all ages who are trying to figure out the best way to communicate something significant in life they’ve witnessed and understood. Sure, minutes tick and our time on task is limited to our work periods, but during these deliberate, focused moments where we talk about craft and product and dissemination, time seems to be shaped less linearly. It’s a precious thing to point to something that’s happened in our lives and say, I think that’s significant, and I think this is why. It’s even more precious to be able to take that moment and shape it and share it with others in such a way that they understand the significance too. I have no doubt I’ll soon be curious about recording the stories of that old lady in the mirror, but I’m pretty sure, my mind will still be oblivious to how old that face appears when it walks away from the mirror. It will be focused on the next story, the right here and now, ignoring the clock, trying to capture something important to share with you.