Miss Compassionality

Miss Idaho’s visible insulin pump undeniably promotes diabetes awareness and acceptance as illustrated in NPR’s article, “Hey, Miss Idaho, Is That An Insulin Pump On Your Bikini?” Good for Sierra Sandison (Miss Idaho) and the minds she will open and the others she will encourage by her act of courage to show her medical device, her difference in this world, her challenge to champion. We need awareness and acceptance because we belong to each other.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa

My first children’s book, Moby’s First Day of Kindergarten, is about autism acceptance and awareness. Sharing a hand-flapping, headphone-wearing, eye-contact avoiding cute furry marmot named Moby with children and adults is easy. Awareness and acceptance is easily accepted and applauded.

“When the first day of kindergarten was finished, Sunny said, “Goodbye, Moby.”
Moby quickly tucked his head down and did not say goodbye. Sunny knew nothing was wrong with Moby. She knew it was okay for him not to say goodbye. She knew he was a marmot just like her. She knew she had a treasured friend.” – Aileen Swenson, illustration by Christian Marie McGowan

I love the message of my first book inspired by the heartbreaking and isolating all-too-real events of being “kicked out” of a library storytime, a health food store, and a church and my son being severely bullied, all by unaware and unaccepting hearts and minds of people that did not understand autism.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – J.K. Rowling

My first book fulfills the first step criteria of understanding and acceptance. What’s the next step according to the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling? Recovery, or to use my preferred word, healing.

Healing autism through delicious nutrient dense broths, ferments, and juicing is the message of my second children’s book, Moby’s First Day of Summer Vacation, and the topics of my gut healing cooking classes.

“That summer Moby’s mom prepared delicious meats and fats served with soups, yogurt, and cultured vegetables that Moby grew to enjoy. Moby loved happy shakes the most, because they made him feel better.” – Aileen Swenson, illustration by Cassandra Joy Swenson

I love even more the healing message of my second book that connects food with feelings and health, but I confess it is a bit more challenging to read. To encourage people to heal themselves with food counters the modern medicine mode of pharmaceutically managing (not healing) illness, not to mention it holds them accountable for their health. After all, what a sense of relief to go to the doctor and be told that diabetes type 1 (and autism) are genetic diseases. The genetic card is the “get off the hook” free card requiring no further responsibility than to diligently take the prescribed medications. While being diligent in your self-care and well-being is important, including taking necessary medications, I recommend that you consider what you eat as well.

Ten years ago when I started dietarily treating my son’s autism, I had a conversation with another mom of a child also with autism. She knew that food could not and would not help her son because she had the brain scans to prove that her son’s brain was and will always be genetically wired differently. She was “off the hook” for playing any nourishing role in her son’s recovery.

The NPR article clearly mentions that Miss Sandison has type 1 diabetes four times, maybe to make her appear blameless, because fault mostly seems to lie with people who allegedly eat their way to type 2 diabetes, one donut at a time. It seems we lose our compassion for people when we blame them for their illnesses. Even emphysema received, what seems to be, a public relations make-over by changing its name to COPD to distance itself from the emphysema/smoker blame game.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Blaming others and blaming ourselves is counterproductive to healing. People with diabetes type 1 are not better people than those with diabetes type 2. In both types, the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin to lower blood sugar levels. Both types 1 and 2 should be value-free, judgment-free conditions, even though they are somewhat different. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, a GAPS™ (Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome) condition, that can be successfully treated with broths, ferments, and juicing along with a grain-free, sugar-free diet, just like Moby, the marmot, consumes to recover from autism in my second book. Type 2 diabetes, often attributed to lifestyle choices, likewise responds well to this protocol due to the removal of the major contributors of glucose – grains and sugar. Healing the gut leads to healing many mental and physical illnesses, which may lead to a reduction or discontinuation of medication as deemed appropriate by your physician.

My hope is that Miss Idaho continues to champion the diabetes awareness and acceptance cause and that sometime in the near future we have a pageant platform, or better yet a societal movement, that promotes what Hippocrates knew long ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”


Now that we have understanding and acceptance, let’s take the next step to recovery and healing and let’s do it with great compassion! You matter! What you eat matters!

“Compassion is a verb.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

P.S. My oldest son, no longer on the autism spectrum, healed with the GAPS™ protocol, often encourages me to write a third children’s book in which Moby takes a field trip to Monsanto headquarters and hears the CEO of Monsanto say, “No, Moby, I am your father!” Ha!



Gasping for fortitude, grasping at illusionary straws … fears to grapple;
Purging of preset conformity, pursing of determined lips … truth to pledge;
Accepting the light, accelerating the messy mend … peace to affix;
Meditating for clarity, magnifying the aesthetic soul … creativity to motion;
Loving the moment, lavishing unabashed compassion … life to live.



Three Times A Lady

Four times a lady’s phone rang in a packed yoga class. (That’s one more time than Lionel Richie’s lady.) Most amazing experience! No one says anything, especially not our Zen peaceful yoga instructor. Everyone maintains their poses. A few, including myself, glance at the lady holding conversations on her mat after answering the old-timey telephone “ring-ring” ring tone. After Shavasana and our Namaste bow signaling the close of class, someone kindly suggests vibrate mode to the offender. Others comment amongst themselves on the rudeness and disbelief of the disruptions.

I noticed the yoga etiquette impaired cell phone culprit seemed without remorse, perhaps even clueless. Upon the gentle admonition, she replied, “I didn’t expect them to keep calling,” a thought no doubt shared by everyone in the mirrored room. Her response provided an epiphany: her reaction is irrelevant to mine. What a revelation!

So many times I expect another’s response to be the way I want it, regretful, committed to change, even somewhat embarrassed, in order for them to be worthy of forgiveness. I judge their intentions before offering or withholding my mercy. My thoughts and emotions during this oft-interrupted class morphed from annoyance to forced sympathy. My thoughts waffled from maybe this person is new to yoga, unaware of our inward peaceful journey, to maybe she has limited mental capacity. If the reason for her behavior was justified, then so too would be my false compassion. False compassion seems to be pity based on judgment. Yet true compassion and forgiveness are judgment free, based on love, free of the actions and intentions of others. Elizabeth Gilbert’s mosquito clad meditation experience in Eat, Pray, Love reminds us that inner peace is not contingent on outer annoyances. Her mosquito bites are our cell phone rings.

What’s more amazing is that “ring-ring” lesson lady arrived late to class filling the exact space of “doing the best I can” lesson lady that left early. “Doing the best I can” lesson lady brought her four or five year old daughter with her to yoga class. Because I arrived later than others, I established my mat in the back next to the child. The child was well behaved, but I was annoyed at her presence. I felt self conscious of her gaze in my direction when she wasn’t loudly leafing through her coloring book. My negative feelings caught me off guard, for I often grant support and prayers to moms with crying babies in public. Actually, even though my six babies are older now, I still secretly and selfishly experience a wave of relief that it’s not my baby causing the cascade of disapproving glances, reminiscent of Bono’s Feed the World “me” generation line, “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” I shuffled through all the possible scenarios why this mom had to bring her child to yoga class to ease my annoyance, when really sending prayers and love were all that were necessary to occupy my mind and heart. I know how hard it is to make time for your health and wellbeing while being a mom.

Prior to hastily setting up yoga camp next to the well behaved, but perceived nuisance nevertheless, child, I was verbally abrupt with my family. I huffed and I puffed my ever so familiar “nobody’s listening to me” monologue. Though it was different this time. This time I listened to my futile verbiage. This time, in mid-complaint, my mind scanned a bird’s eye assessment of the situation that I no longer wished to perpetuate. Be it ever so small, it’s progress. My recognition of my shortcoming allowed me to readily apologize. Feeling the Lionel Richie groove, three times this lady (that’s me) was graciously given opportunities to examine, grow, and practice forgiveness of myself and others. I am grateful for the examined life worth living!

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

“And no one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.” – Marianne Williamson

I listened to myself, heard judgment, criticism, and complaints, and found insight, compassion, and love. These lessons, brought to you in rewound love infused hyper-vision, transformed my heart in a Grinch-like way, growing “three sizes that day,” three times a lady for three lessons and four cell phone rings.