What A Plate Of Spaghetti Taught Me

by holli on November 10, 2016

I have ben tiptoeing around, fighting the urge to chime in and share my thoughts on the election.

The reason I haven’t been blunt and open is because I truly believe that social media, or just text isn’t the way to fully convey the meaning of my thoughts and opinions. No quote or meme or info graphic can express what I want to say. And, in truth I have no more wisdom or answers than haven’t already been offered on either side of the political spectrum. What I can share is this: words matter. What you say matters. My experiences have shaped my perspective and values. And, all I can really share are those through the stories that make up my life.

I believe we can see what we're looking to find.

I believe we can see what we’re looking to find.

To share what I mean, I want to tell you about a time in my life when I truly believed that eating meat was bad. It was horrible. I think I was 8-years-old at the time. As a child who grew up with PBS as my main channel for TV, I saw documentaries and shows that highlighted the cruelty and horrible conditions of factory farming. And, I decided that eating meat meant killing baby cows and making grown cows live in horrible conditions. It meant supporting a place where cows never had a happy life.

This was before documentaries were sexy and shown in regular theaters.  It was before anyone knew who Michael Moore was. I’m sure the editing was crude and the filming was raw.

You should also note that I grew up a McDonald’s kid. I had a collection of Happy Meal Toys. So, being a vegetarian was a new thing for me. My parents were such polar opposites, that I learned I could pick and choose who I wanted to be and what choices I could make. They gave me space to be myself (even if they didn’t agree). And, even if I would only order French Fries at McDonalds.

My mind started to change one fateful meal among new friends…

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my Aunt Thomasine’s house. She babysat me and my siblings for a large portion of my childhood. And, one fateful week she was hosting a family from Eastern Oregon in her Seattle area home. The family had children my age and several younger. I enjoyed becoming friends with them and playing together.

When it came time to share a meal, I had a hard time. We were served Spaghetti. I could barely eat it. I didn’t want to eat the ground beef in the delicious tomato sauce. I felt like eating meat would be equivalent to killing baby cows and supporting a system where cows lived in horrible indoor conditions. Being the eager, earnest child that I was, I explained in a spirit of conviction to my new friends how eating meat was so awful. That’s why I was a vegetarian.

My Aunt Thomasine quietly heard me speak up.  She calmly explained that this beef we were eating was a gift. It came from the family sitting at the table with us. It came from cows who were pasture fed, who breathed fresh air and led lives filled with country sunshine. She shifted my perspective.

I felt both embarrassed and more aware. As a child, my mind opened up to the fact that I had only known part of the picture.

I still avoided meat, but I was happy when I had the opportunity to eat it from a real farm, from a real family, from a place where the animals had space to live outdoors.

And, I “outgrew” being a vegetarian when I was 14-years-old, just in time for my High School friends to decide for the very same reasons to try it for a week. You know what I did, when they shared the decision among themselves?

I said nothing.

I didn’t know how to share what I knew. You have to understand the food system, and then act in ways to make a difference. But, again, this was before pasture-raised beef was sold in the grocery stores at higher prices. There wasn’t a way to truly make those choices.

At 18-years-old, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture farm) to get fresh produce for my family. I “volunteered” every month to pull weeds in order to get a discount, because that produce was more expensive than what we could get at the grocery store. As I grew older, the ways I could engage and act on my convictions became clearer.

And today, I eat meat. Not every day. And not always from a pasture-raised family farm.

p.s. If you’d like to talk politics, ask me in person sometime.

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When I learned I had the MTHFR gene mutation C677T, I was so happy, because I thought that meant I could take a pill to solve my odd health symptoms. It has been about 3 years since I got my test results. Since then, testing has become more affordable, more research has been done, and popular articles have been published.

Articles like, “Why Some Moms Should Skip Prenatal Vitamins.” Or “How a vitamin cured my anxiety: Elisa Black’s story of lifelong struggle and new hope for the future.” are hard for me to read, because while they do a good job of bringing MTHFR to light, but they don’t dive into the reality that this knowledge and vitamins are not the perfect cure.

The most comments I’ve gotten on my older MTHFR blog posts are asking for specific dosage.  I can share what I’ve been taking, but I want to make it really clear that what works for me may not work for anyone else. This is what I think is key: listen to your body and adjust as needed.

For example, my symptoms of MTHFR haven’t been with depression or miscarriage or birth defects. Mine are very physical with muscle spasms that you could see happening! Once I started to learn more, however, I could see that other health issues like Endometriosis and lack of energy were also related. I had to ask several times to get tested because my body didn’t present quite as clearly as it could have. I’m happy to see more testing becoming available and more health care providers talking about it.

. . . BUT . . .

What I learned is that my body isn’t that simple. I’ve had more blood tests than I’d like in the past 3 years since I was diagnosed with the MTHFR gene mutation. Turns out, I have a lot more mutations, and each one comes with one or more markers that if any one or combo are mutated, means I have more or less likelihood of experiencing certain health problems or symptoms.

I was given a list of those mutation I have one marker for up to the ones I have two of and their associated symptoms (having two means more likelihood of experiencing those health issues). It’s like a menu for my current or future health problems. When I first looked at it, I was filled with dread. I have 10 health problems to look forward to experiencing in my lifetime, I thought.

But, I’m only suffering from 2 of those 10. Gene expression is how our genes actually show up in day to day life, and that applies to mutations too. Science hasn’t caught up to help us understand why yet. We can have a gene mutation with corresponding health issues, but it may not express itself for a while or at all.

So, for example, I should have seasonal allergies. But, I do not suffer from them. And, I should have crippling anxiety. But, I do not. Both may show up any day in the future, though. Having my gene mutation list means that I’ll have specific areas to keep an eye on my health, and know that there’s help if I do start experiencing those.

This is why I keep reading and feel passionate about sharing. The truth is that gene mutations are a wonderful discovery. Unfortunately, some doctors are either dismissing their affects on our lives or they’re claiming to know the solutions, often benefitting from selling “their” supplements. The truth lies somewhere in between, because you can have gene mutations but not experience them. Frankly, science is only able to show us part of the picture.

While this is exciting to know about MTHFR and hear success stories shared far and wide, I feel a sense of responsibility to point out that one vitamin does not cure all.

Case in point: I had been taking Methylated B-vitamins for almost 2 years feeling better overall health until I started getting awful headaches. They weren’t migraines but pretty bad, enough to make me stay home sometimes. Turns out, I had to much good stuff in my system, especially during my monthly cycle. I started taking a week off every month to get rid of the headaches. Now, I take them sparingly depending on how I’m doing. If I take too much, I feel like I’ve had 5 shots of espresso and that isn’t fun.

Let’s keep sharing, and remember the most important thing is to listen to your body.

To good health,


p.s. To read more about my MTHFR journey and my family here you go, in chronological order:

I Am Not SuperMan, I Have A Gene Mutation – yay, more energy!

What I Learned From 23 And Me – helpful, mostly a review from 2014, and I’m sure they’ve made some changes to their tests since then.

Learning about Arsenic In My Son’s Body – turns out that having the MTHFR mutation reduced my son’s body from eliminating those, but after getting the right vitamins in his system, they cleared out!

MTHFR and the Light Bulb Lesson: Poison? At the time, we didn’t yet know that the right vitamins would help our son’s body eliminate Mercury and Lead, but it did with some natural chelating support as well.

The Danger of Just Enough Information: MTHFR Gaining Attention – my most recent blog post saying mainly what I say in this post again.

And, yes, I want to share about about how the genes have been passed down to my kids. More to come.




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I Was Wrong

January 27, 2016

Tonight my eyes burn from exhaustion. It’s one of my longest days of the week where I’ve had to be “on” all day – you know, presentable to adults at a meeting at 7:45am, then chauffeuring my Girl Scout, then rushing home to cook a dinner from scratch and put them to bed almost on […]

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Mommy, You Should Write A Book!

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At dinner this evening, my daughter said I should write a book called “The Mother’s Story,” so I could share the ways I’ve learned to be a mother for her when she grows up. She is seven, and doesn’t really understand that Motherhood feels like an evolving series of tests. Or that I don’t have […]

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