Archive for the 'Health' Category


so tell me, did you, did you do, did you do all you could?

Nothing changes because we want it to, but only when we act.

But when you’re in the middle of a pandemic, and you’re not a scientist, what actions are available to you? I can wear my mask and avoid gatherings (oh how I miss people!) and take my temperature and check my pulse oxygen and take my D3 and my kelp supplements and paint my house and water my tomatoes. But those all just seem like waiting “things,” not doing “things.”

And what can I possibly add to everything that’s been said already? We have more time to notice things, we spend less money on gas and restaurants, less time driving around to this place or that. I actually was thinking it might be a good time to get and train a puppy for when our older dog is gone to keep our younger dog company, but how do you socialize a puppy when you can’t get within 6 feet of anyone? And while I’m grateful I don’t have young or school age children at home that I have to try to educate, entertain, and appease, what happens to all of those young and school age children out there who are missing out on these important socializations of school and play dates and learning how to share a sandbox or take turns on a swing at the playground?

Only Daughter lost almost half of her freshman year in college and will lose at least half of her sophomore year (still “going,” but it’s all remote/online) – the best time of your life in some really important ways. Every new class filled with new people to meet from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds, friendships to be made over textbooks and index cards and endless cups of coffee in the cafeteria. If I drive onto campus for something, it’s like a dystopian novel – abandoned, eerie.

I’ve heard it said that it’s like we’re living through the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, the race riots of the 1960s, and the Depression simultaneously. It’s not wrong. I would add the landscapes of Divergent, the disconnect between government and the people in The Hunger Games,and I Am Legend, without the zombies.


And while I know how lucky I am – I had MORE work this summer because of Covid, Husband’s job is secure unless one of the largest universities in our state closes down (not an impossibility I guess given the CANCELLATION OF FALL FOOTBALL [don’t get me started on the ludicrous dependence of a university budget on football ticket sales]), we have enough tomatoes in our garden to feed an army for at least a month, our children so far are healthy and housed and fed – I can’t help but instinctively pair that with grief for all the people who aren’t so lucky.

Now I recognize that a sign of mental health and stability is the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time. And I find myself consistently split 50/50 between gratitude and grief.

Why does this have to be so horrible? Why are so many people so angry? Why can’t we come together and recognize that, for what will hopefully be the only time in our history or future, we are all

In. this. together.

The divisiveness with which we in the U.S. are facing this is no surprise, really, given the baby man/menace who is in office and all of the spineless twits who care more about their hold on power than their duty to the Constitution and people they swore to protect. (And if you ask me, I’ll tell you what I really think.) But are we really so hopeless as a species that we need one leader to tell us what to do? (I’m asking this rhetorically, since the answer is Obviously Yes.)

We used to learn about our responsibilities as members of a society; I remember even in my children’s school days posters in hallways about civility and decency and sympathy and gratitude. And I’m old, but not THAT old, so it wasn’t THAT long ago. What’s happened to that? The end of everyone basically watching and reading the same news sources

the internet ruined everything

The availability of niche information markets that allows us to seek out and believe only whatever fringe theories–and I facetiously include mine in that distinction, as many others might, since I get my news from such liberal “dishrags” as the New York Times and the Washington Post–we are predisposed to believe? But it seems like so much more than that; willful ignorance, so precious to so many, so cultivated.

fox news

We’ve all been taught not to talk about money, religion, or politics. Is that maybe not such a good idea? I mean, we are told it’s vulgar to talk about money, which just allows our colleagues to be paid less, or more, for equal work; we don’t talk about religion because it’s “sacred” somehow (pun 100% intended), but the result of that is just that we don’t understand other’s beliefs or lack thereof, and just become even more firmly entrenched in whatever brainwashing we were subject to as children.

And politics. Ah, politics. I don’t bring it up right now because if I have a friend or family member who might still, for some completely incomprehensible reason, support our “President” Chump, I will lose all love and respect for them, so it’s better off if I just stick my fingers in my ears and sing really loudly.


But what about in normal times? (Since these are decidedly not normal) Why not then? Because I do actually believe that most of us want the same things: healthy food, air, water; good schools; un-potholed roads; access to health care. Is it really so impossible to talk about our different theories about how we might have those things? And how we might make sure that everyone else does as well?

And while we’re on the topic of “everyone else,” It never ceases to amaze me that there are people out in the world, people who are clean and well dressed and even polite in grocery store lines, who aren’t wearing a mask. What’s so difficult about this? We all wear shoes, and if you have AIDS and don’t tell your sexual partners and give it to them I’m pretty sure you can be charged with attempted manslaughter, or at least reckless endangerment. Hopefully you stop at stop signs and drive on your side of the road and don’t drink and drive – all things that could be argued inconvenience you in one way or the other, but are good for society, and we all recognize that, so we comply, or are ticketed or even arrested. You don’t go out with the flu or typhoid and cough on people; at least I hope you don’t. (Although I’ve had my share of parents bringing their sick children to my house for their piano lessons; one of the reasons I’m barely teaching anymore.) Wearing a mask means you recognize that you MIGHT be sick and that it would actually be infringing on everyone else’s rights to expose them, even unwittingly. Seems like a no-brainer to me. And if it’s the law, and a local sheriff declares he won’t enforce it, how does he or she still have a job? Are we that much cowards? (And while I’m speaking of cowards, how is it possible that it’s legal to carry a semi-automatic weapon into a state capitol? That just makes no sense.)

People argue that they “can’t breathe” while wearing a mask. I imagine that a mask is a lot less uncomfortable than a ventilator. I actually had someone on facebook arguing with me that it was his right to do whatever he wanted, and if he got sick, it was the medical worker’s jobs to take care of him. Zero concern about their health, their families; It. Was. Their. Job. People. Die. Every. Day. End of story. Such a lack of empathy is pathological, and not uncommon.


People argue that at first they were told they didn’t need to wear one, and now that they do. So therefore no one knows what they’re talking about, so they won’t. That means they’re listening to the first thing, and not the second, which is ridiculous in and of itself. And this is how science works. We learn new things, and change our behaviors accordingly. People also used to think you got malaria from eating watermelons, that lightning meant that god was angry. Doctors also didn’t wash their hands before performing surgery, and when some doctors started arguing for it they were ignored, belittled, challenged.

The long-term consequences of this virus for many are certainly an argument for persistent care and consideration. Young, healthy athletes are debilitated with lung damage or myocarditis; people on ventilators for a long time suffer from all kinds of long-term physical effects of the ventilator and the drug-induced paralysis needed to have them on it. Is this really worth risking? For yourself? Your loved ones? ANYBODY ELSE ANYWHERE YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER? If you have it and don’t know it, and someone behind you in line at the hardware store contracts it, are you going to pay their medical bills? Support their families if they die? Because if you’re not, and you’re not wearing a mask, How Dare You?

And while we’re talking about healthcare (I was, really), let’s talk about healthcare. Here’s an argument I wish someone would make: what would it save employers if we had universal healthcare? From tens of thousands to millions of dollars a year, amiright? This would free up money for better salaries, to hire more people and give them full time work. This in and of itself would seem ro make up whatever extra we would have to pay in taxes to have it. And wouldn’t it be a nice thing to know that if you or a loved one needed long-term care during a long illness, or at the end of their lives, that you wouldn’t have to choose between not providing it and bankruptcy? I realize that people have a real aversion to “give” anything away


part of the same argument against free college tuition [“I had to pay for it, so do you”] or food stamps, but if it’s universal, and everyone’s helping pay for it, according to their own resources, it’s not actually a giveaway. Just think how much less of your income you’d have to save for your child’s education, along with the insurance costs? It seems to me like a win-win.

Now I recognize the benefits of capitalism, and that the motivation for money often drives ingenuity and many of the things for which we are grateful. Nobody’s saying we shouldn’t make sure that this ingenuity isn’t to be rewarded. But do CEOs of health insurance companies fall into that category? Do they really need to be paid millions and millions of dollars? “Insurance” as a profit-making enterprise is, in fact, an endeavor rife with inherent conflict of interest. The point is we pay into a pool so that when people need it it’s there. If part of that pool is going towards crazy salaries and big fancy buildings THAT’S NOT WHAT WE’RE POOLING IT FOR.

And while we’re here, let’s talk about racism. In this case I’m probably not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, but I’ll say it anyway. Slavery aside, which is obviously a horrible injustice, alongside Russian serfdom, sexual trafficking and exploitation, what we as a nation did to the American Indian and what the Canadian government did to their First Nations people , the continued misogyny to varying degrees in almost every culture against women, the confiscation of passports of immigrant workers in Saudi Arabia, all belong to the same category. (The fact that black slaves were considered 3/5 of a person for census purposes, and then black MEN were granted the right to vote* long before WOMEN were [so what does that make us, 2/5? 1/5?] never ceases to get my goat, so to speak, but I digress. Again.) The treatment of people, humans, as anything less than human, is abhorrent, should be recognized as such, and every step necessary to alleviate it should be taken at once and in perpetuity.

People argue that crimes are committed by a higher percentage of blacks than whites, so therefore things like racial profiling and discrimination in sentencing and the inherent fear that drives much of police brutality is warranted. But discrimination and brutality are never warranted, never okay, and isn’t racial profiling just a form of discrimination?

Post 9/11 I was traveling with First Husband and our Three Children and we were flagged to have all of our luggage inspected, by hand, at every gate in the airport. While I thought it was ludicrous that a family a five would be considered viable candidates to possibly perpetrate terrorism on airplanes, I also recognized that I couldn’t argue that only people who looked Arabic were. And if we want to get to the root of the problem, and talk about what it would COST to alleviate racism – social support for drug addicts and single mothers, truly equal schools, proper training for police officers – wouldn’t all of this cost less than what it costs to imprison tens of thousands of people a year? I guess the problem is at this point we would have to pay for both. But what about releasing people who were non-violent? Imprisoned for selling marijuana, since it’s mostly legal now anyway? And spending the money that would cost to imprison them on job training and education instead?

bleeding heart

So many of these problems predate Chump. And I can’t really be angry at him – he’s one man, and only ever been exactly who he is. There have been no surprises here; he has behaved exactly as any thinking person would have expected him to. What really concerns me is all the people who voted for him, and continue to think he’s doing a great job so will vote for him again. What is he providing that might be found comforting? Reassurance that your own racism and misogyny are okay? That greed is good? That we should all just take what we can get and the devil can take the rest?

I guess I could take some comfort in the fact that only 19% of eligible voters voted for him in the last election. How many this time? As far as I’m concerned, 5 votes is too many, although I imagine he and his equally narcissistic spawn

trump and his spawn

could be counted on for at least that many. I would be very curious as to who Melania voted for.

I felt sorry for her at the inauguration,

I don’t any more. I think she’s not any better than the rest of them

I really don't care

So all of these thoughts are going through my mind as I go about my business – listening to piano exams, teaching my small handful of students, writing my book, painting my house, watering my tomatoes. Grief and gratitude, gratitude and grief. My Sangha holds me together on weeks I can face two more hours on Zoom; I miss my pottery class, some new friendships that were forming there. I miss the world. I’m healthy, my recent mammogram was normal, my broken ankle has healed, I have enough to eat. So many don’t. So many things to hope for, so many to mourn. All we can do is our best.


Wear your mask. Be kind to your neighbors. Share your tomatoes.

And Vote.



No Matter Who.



* I do wish more people took their right to vote more seriously. Not just the actual voting, which would be great, but only if they’ve also taken the time to educate themselves about the issues and the relative stances thereon. The fact that Chump LOST the popular vote (a topic for another time I guess), and won with ~ 19% of Eligible Votes, is shame on us big time.



the world gone mad

Or maybe not.

empty streets

The problem is we have no way of knowing except in retrospect.

So the best advice is probably to stay home unless you can’t, keep 6′ away from people, bow [Namaste] instead of shaking hands, use your sleeve to open doors, wash your hands. And don’t be an asshole. You don’t need 6 24-roll packages of toilet paper and 7 large bottles of hand sanitizer. Leave some for everyone else.

Here are some helpful recipes:


Peel and chop 8 ozs. of ginger root (½-1″ pieces is fine)
Scrub and juice two lemons — put juice aside.

In food processor, process the ginger and lemon peel until it’s a coarse paste. Add 6 cups of water to a large saucepan and add the paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half (30-40 minutes)

Strain the juice off the pulp, mix in the lemon juice and ⅓ c. agave syrup, maple syrup, or honey if desired. Let cool. Store in glass bottles (if possible) and chill.

Add ¼ c. to hibiscus tea and/or 16 ozs. of fizzy water and drink throughout the day.

NATURAL COLD REMEDY (have ingredients on hand, and make and start drinking at the first sign of illness — throat tingles, scratchy eyes, etc.)

In 4 c. of water in a medium saucepan, add:
1 lemon, cut into thin slices
2″ piece of ginger root, cut into thin slices
5 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
10 whole cloves
1 T. whole coriander seed

Bring to boil and then simmer on very low (it would just barely be bubbling — we’re not trying to reduce this one) for ~15 minutes. Drain. Drink ½ c. hot with honey every 2 hours.

You can also easily make your own HAND SANITIZER:

70% rubbing alcohol
30% aloe vera gel

Shake together in one of those little travel bottles. Voilá.


Seems like a good time to start the next weaving project do my taxes make monkey bread read. Feeling very lucky that I do most of my work from home anyway and can hunker down, although there will still be substantial financial losses from a series of workshops I was supposed to be doing in California in a couple of weeks.

What this country really needs is

  • affordable medical care, so people who need to be tested can afford it
  • a social net that gives you a month mortgage relief and/or a couple weeks disaster pay so people can stay home
  • a president who isn’t a narcissistic, blithering idiot






tick tick tick tick

As those of you who follow this blog regularly already know, I have recently been diagnosed, and am in the midst of treating, breast cancer.

Since my tumor was on my left side, they like to have you do what they call breath-hold radiation, so that your breast is as far from your heart as possible when they zap it with their cancer-killing laser rays. (I might be paraphrasing.) for what is probably obvious reasons, they actually want you in the same position every time they do this, so you have to be put into position, have a system for repeating it, and learn how to hold your breath just so.

My radiation setup appointment was last Friday. First I had to lie on what they called a bean bag (hardest bean bag I ever laid on) on a sliding table that looks a lot like it’s going into a very small MRI machine, with my arms above my head. Then they let the air out so that you end up being encased in a kind of mold (as in “cast” not as in “green fuzzy stuff that grows on old food in your refrigerator”).

Next you put on some nose pincers (piercing, ouch), put your mouth onto this scuba-like breathing contraption (have I mentioned my overly reactive gag reflex?), and a pair of goggles while they teach you how to hold your breath at 75% capacity for 30 seconds. This is actually really difficult to do. Especially around 22 seconds, when every cell in your body is yelling


At first they want you to breathe normally though, which I thought was kind of funny. Because it’s every day that I’m lying on a hard “beanbag” in a cold hospital room, with a hospital gown untied and folded down around my middle, three random people standing around watching, while wearing a pair of virtual reality goggles, scuba mask, and nose pincers.


Like this, but she didn’t get the cool goggles.

See? Totally normal.

I do have tattoos now, albeit three tiny little dots I can barely find, and I know where they are.

It’s interesting/funny/odd/strange. The nurse who called with my biopsy results told me I had the “best possible bad news” and that “this would not be the source of [my] demise.” Except there is still an 11% chance of recurrence. And breast cancer has a funny way of coming back elsewhere and causing more problems. So even with radiation, and tamoxifen (of which I read all kinds of horror stories about side effects, which worry me greatly, especially the arthritis ones in which it doesn’t go away even after stopping the medicine — not what a pianist wants to hear!), it could still come back.

I know I’ve said this before, that it wasn’t like I thought before that I would never die and now I know I will. But now I also feel like I might be carrying around the thing that kills me, and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.

This is very difficult.

Like there’s a teeny tiny time bomb lurking somewhere in your body, too small to see, but when it’s really quiet, you can hear it…. tick……tick……tick…..

Let’s hope I’m wrong.


cancer, depression, and (looking for) the light at the end of the tunnel

So according to the National Cancer Institute, depression is “a comorbid disabling syndrome that affects approximately 15-25% of cancer patients.”

Also, apparently, women are more likely to experience depression than men, especially in the transitional period between pre- and post-menopause.

I can’t help but wonder what the percentages are of menopausal women with cancer. Sounds like a lot of really sad women.

I did just get my blood work back from the medical oncologist visit on Monday. At which I cried, more on that in a minute. Apparently I am post-menopausal. Who knew?

Does probably explain the subsiding of the hot flashes even though I’ve stopped HRT, the weight gain over the past couple of years, the moodiness, the lack of interest in….well, just about anything. (Phew! That was close!)

So here I sit, with a breast cancer diagnosis and the best possible prognosis. These details include:

  • Estrogen and progesterone positive—100% and 70%, respectively—which means that my good friend The Tumor, (whom I have named Bobba Fett), had every available surface covered with little seats in which estrogen could rest its weary head and on which the tumor could feed; 70% of it was also receptive to progesterone. This characteristic makes it very vulnerable to blocking those hormones in the body. And apparently it would seem that I’m almost out of them anyway, but not so much so that I won’t have to take Tamoxifen or, more likely given my hormone status, Aromatase Inhibitors, for 5-10 years. And AIs sound like a lot of fun, with side effects like joint pain, loss of bone density, weight gain (yeah, I really need that), vaginal dryness, carpal tunnel syndrome (great for a pianist), increased blood pressure, and mood swings (cuz I’m not having enough of those already).
  • HER2 negative. HER2 is a protein in some breast cancer tumors that seems to make the tumor more aggressive, both faster growing and more likely to spread. HER2 negative means no chemo.
  • Lymph nodes negative—no indication that Bobba Fett has tried to set up little colonies elsewhere in my body, although that is always held out to be possible.
  • Negative genetics for any kind of cancer that is currently identifiable through genetic testing
  • OncoDX score of 17 (out of 100)-–which means it is in the “low-risk” category for spreading, albeit still an 11% chance. Husband likes to point out that that indicates an 89% chance that it won’t spread, but somehow that’s not really where the mind goes. At least not mine.

Apprently once cancer is detected it has been in the body for many, many years; little sneaky sleeper cells lurking around with tiny little time bombs strapped to their  backs.


And most people think that this “best possible prognosis” would mean that I was walking on cloud 9, surround by sunshine, chirping birds, and harp music.

But I’m not.

When I posited the theory that maybe I should be to my medical oncologist earlier this week (right before the tears started) she scoffed, and said, “Pah! It’s still a prognosis, and nobody wants one of those.” The recognition of that, and a prescription for a teeny-tiny bit of Lexapro, has made a big difference.
My bullshit tolerance meter is set to zero. But maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing (equivocation, anyone?)

But I do apologize if I’ve “yelled” at you in anyway in the past few weeks — verbally, via email, or even in my head. I sincerely hope, at some point in the not-too-distant future, that the

sign stops blinking in my head and leaves room for other things. Until then, be well, be safe, get your mammogram, and if somebody snaps at you for no apparent reason, remember, they might have something really shitty going on in their lives right now, and they’re probably really really sorry.


down the rabbit hole

So I have breast cancer.


I know, right? Like I could have led in so much more gracefully, cushioned the blow a little for all of you.

But that’s not how it feels when you find out. Hits you more like a sucker punch in the gut.

So there it is.

I found out 9 days ago, with the whole process starting 7 days before that with a screening mammogram. The first one in 6 years, which now kind of seems like a mistake, but the surgeon actually told me it kind of worked out well, because it’s small enough and my breast tissue is dense enough it might not have shown up a year ago, in which case I might have decided every 5 years was often enough, and 4 years from now we’d be having a completely different conversation.

Please know that I’m not recommending going 6 years between mammograms. Two might be reasonable, unless there’s a family history. If I’d gone every two, we’d still have caught it when we caught it.


We’ve all had those moments when we realize that life will never be the same. My 5 would be:

  • the Challenger explosion (senior year in college, my best friend came and interrupted my piano practicing to tell me, I didn’t believe her at first and couldn’t believe she would make such a cruel joke);
  • 9/11 — working on a doctoral project, my now 17-year old daughter an infant in her little bouncy seat, watching the television footage of the first tower while the commentators speculated on how such an accident could happen when the 2nd plane hit;
  • the day I realized that I couldn’t stay married to my first husband and father-of-my-three-children anymore;
  • finding out my daughter, then 13, had thyroid cancer, with a tumor the size of a sweet potato; and
  • this.

I won’t bore you with the details, as they are much the same for everyone going down this road: mammogram, follow-up mammogram, 3-D mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, and you find your life has been hijacked. A barrage of phone calls and pre-ops and appointments and blood work. They measured my head for crying out loud! (apparently there’s a link between large head size and cancer; sorry kids!)

My mind is full of platitudes, and mutually contradicting thoughts that I find myself forced to hold in my head at the same time. Principally: gratitude (it could be so much worse) + anger  (I have four sisters, and I’m the youngest of the five; why do I have to be the one to get cancer [first]?)(sorry sisters, it’s not that I’m wishing this on anyone, but it does seem to be a little unfair)(I know, I know, life’s not fair) + fear (whatifthey’rewrong, whatiftherearepositivelymphnodes, whatifitcomesback, whatifthegeneticstestmakes-mysurgeonthinkIneedtohaveadoublemastectomy, whatifwhatifwhat???). Along with those, which are probably obvious to most of you, are a whole lot more: I love my job, my job exhausts me and often involves shitty hours; my husband is the best person in the world, why does my husband chew like that; my daughter is precious and dear and what would she do if I died when she wasn’t yet in her 20s, my daughter is making me crazy with her selfishness and moodiness and shallow concerns; I want another dog, one small enough to carry around in my purse who I can take everywhere as my “comfort object,” the dog I have not peeing in the morning even after a 30 minute walk is making me crazy [Idon’thavetimeforthis]; I will eat nothing but fresh fruits and vegetables and drink green tea, I want to go to bed every night just a little bit drunk from the half bottle of wine I (used to) have with dinner.

I actually feel a little bit like, maybe for everyone else’s sake, I should just go live in a cave until it’s all over. Maybe a cave on a beach in Fiji.


It could actually be much worse. It’s hormone receptor positive, so very responsive to hormone blocking therapy. Which of course means I’ll be pushed into full menopause immediately, at which point I picture myself a dried up old woman who has gained another 40 pounds and lost all of her teeth. There is, of course, a chance that this scenario is a little alarmist. It’s also HER2 negative, which means I probably don’t need chemo, unless the lymph nodes are positive, which we won’t know until after surgery. It seems to be slow growing, non-aggressive (Ha! Is it just me, or does cancer in general seem kind of aggressive? I mean, what else shows up where it’s not wanted and makes you fight like hell to kick it out of your house?Lucy_Ninja


Does it matter that I don’t want it?

As if anyone does.

I had a dream the night after I got the call with the diagnosis. Glowing angels came with golden bowls and scooped the cancer away.


I liked that.

I’ve found a couple of new friends already. Well, not really found. They were friends already. But I would call them better friends now, and I am very grateful.

One just finished her chemo, and had some wise ideas to offer. The most helpful of these was not to get too ahead of myself. Just to focus on what I need to do next, and then I can worry about what to do after that. I expressed to her at one point that I was trying really hard to stay grateful, given how much worse the news could have been, and she texted back that gratitude was overrated. I snorted with laughter. Maybe it would be clearer to say that it’s important, but probably insufficient to the task at hand. At least some of the time.

They gave me a form to fill out the day of my meeting with the surgeon and oncologists. It asked you to rate your anxiety, from 0 to 10. I bracketed the whole thing and wrote along the side “depends on the moment.”


The thing that feels the worst to me is that I fear I will never feel completely carefree again. I know that I’m 53 years old, and the time for never believing I’m actually going to die is long past. But there is a line now, before which I never COMPLETELY believed I would actually die, and now I know I will. Even though it won’t be from this*. This kind of pisses me off.

And yet.

What I’m not grateful for:

  • the nurse scheduling my biopsy pushing kleenex on me and telling me and my husband how awful this is, that we’ll get through it together, what a “terrible diagnosis” (this was BEFORE my biopsy, note)
  • calling my primary care physician to set up my pre-op appointment for my lumpectomy and the scheduling woman at the desk telling me that there were no appointments available and that they usually get calls for pre-ops more than two weeks in advance (I’m so sorry my cancer didn’t give you all more notice, are you f*ing kidding me?)

What I am grateful for:

  • *that this won’t be the source of my demise–at least that’s what the nurse on the phone said
  • that my husband is my best friend, an excellent cook and lover and cuddler, that he’s willing to accept and forgive me when I’m snappish and defensive (even when I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer)
  • that my children are healthy and beautiful and independent and strong
  • that I have access to some of the best healthcare in the world, and some of the best doctors I’ve ever dealt with, especially my biopsy doctor who was also the radiologist who caught the cancer in the first mammogram
  • all of the friends who have sent me such generous and loving emails and texts and phone calls; my heart is full with their love

I do realize that some other friends will find out through this post, and I hope you will forgive me for not calling each of you personally, and understand. I find I can deal with only a couple of these conversations a day, on my best days.

Love you all.






You’ve got to be monkey-flipping kidding me.

Kind of makes you wonder if the scientists involved (all male, I’m sure) were getting a kickback from the feminine-sanitary-products industry.



In case you haven’t laughed yet today


But watch it anyway. It’s hilarious.


Man-made disasters

Seems like this + this would not be a good idea.


Guess we can count on Kansas and Colorado to be the buffer zones.

Add into that the fact that we’ve just about exhausted antibiotics’ usefulness, half of our government is working against the other half in brokering deals that might help prevent nuclear annihilation, the planet is cooking and/or drowning, and we’re going to standardize-test our children into creative and intellectual automatons, and it’s pretty clear that things aren’t looking very good for the species.

Other countries seem to get it, with mandated declining use of antibiotics in meat production, fair and imaginative teaching for all children, and efforts to preserve the rain forest.

Of course, the lists in both paragraphs could be much longer. And one might imagine that the planet as a whole might be “grateful” for our demise.

What I can’t figure out is how, despite intrinsic self-interest in self-preservation, we seem to be so darn good at being the engineers of our own destruction. It’s like 20 year olds taking up smoking, because they still believe they’ll live forever.

[Not at this rate, we won’t.]


every single time

I flinch.

Every single time I watch this.

Please share it with everyone you know, love, everyone who owns a cell phone, everyone.


good thing they have all those anti-oxidants

Many Celestial Seasonings Teas, despite their claims at being “all natural,” have been found to contain unacceptably high levels of pesticides.

celestialseasoningsOf course, this is reported by a company that has “shorted” the company that controls Celestial Seasonings, so their interests lie in Celestial Seasonings stock falling, so who knows if it’s even really mostly true.

Their disclaimer even includes this sentence: “This report and all statements contained therein are the opinion of Glaucus Research Group California LLC, and are not statements of fact.

Oh. I see. So maybe not even partially true.

How does a report quoting a violation of pesticide standards fall under “opinion”?

Caveat emptor all the way around I guess.


does less = more?

As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably know, I would usually like to weigh a little less* and fit into my clothes better. I oscillate between wanting to live life fully, enjoying good food and wine and meals with family and friends and striving for better habits in terms of eating more healthfully, getting more exercise (yoga, walking, an occasional training-for-a-theoretical-5K every once in a while) and drinking more water (and less scotch). To varying success, all of it.

When I recently realized that I was even “outgrowing” my “fat pants” I decided that drastic measures needed to be taken. I am now 5 days into the 14-day first phase of the South Beach diet — no potatoes, no bread, no rice, no pasta, no sugar, NO WINE or alcohol or any sort. Lots and lots of water.

Today I actually find myself 600 calories under what I’m allowed/supposed to eat, and I don’t even want them. I had kale for dinner (Only Daughter conceded that it “wasn’t awful,” high praise from an 11-year-old gymnast-turned-ballerina. It’s a long story. Another time.) I’ve lost a few pounds, and feel pretty good, and am not actually starving, etc. etc. But I don’t want to do this by starving myself either, because I know then I’ll just put it back on.


At the same time I’m reading Hungry, the book/memoir (if one can call a book written by a 23-year-old a “memoir”) by the “plus-size” (12. As if.) model Chrystal Renn. Here are “before” and “after” photos: before, contrary to the usual arrangement, being when she had managed to starve herself into a 98-lb vacant-eyed, non-menstruating version of her former self, and after being when she had begun to eat again and had returned to a healthy weight, where she now stays and has a wonderful modeling career as a vibrant, healthy, voluptuous woman:



The one on the right is “plus size”? Seriously?

So, I am my usual conflicted self. Am I eliminating carbs and sugar to regain some control over my food cravings and get my body to a healthy weight, or am I succumbing to the pressures of society and trying to conform to a weightmeaningimage imposed upon me by people whose only concern is that they make me feel badly about myself so I buy their product/join their gym?

Husband was not home tonight, so I sat on the couch after a very long and busy day and watched Frasier reruns. Amongst the awful and incessant commercials aired during an hour and a half of television there were 11 commercials for diet programs and/or “diet” foods, 2 commercials for anti-aging makeup, as well as one commercial each for an artificial sweetener, the “Curves” exercise facility, and for Gorton’s grilled fish, “only 80 calories per serving.”

Is it any wonder we’re all so filled with self-loathing? Does makeup really keep me from aging? Is aging such an awful proposition? Is buying processed, pre-grilled fish really a healthy alternative for someone who cares about the food he or she is putting into his or her body? (I should just say she/her — in all of those commercials, only ONE of the “protagonists” was male — and he was having his powdered donut being crumbled into bits by his loving and “supportive” significant other.)

Maybe it’s just me, but the one on on the left in the photo above is clearly starving; the one on the right is vibrant and strong and sexy and alive.

And not that far off from where I am right now.

Maybe if I just lose 5-10 more pounds.


*Is it Freudian? I actually just started to proof this and realized I had written “I usually want to weigh a little more. . .” Pah.


New Year’s Resolutions, in October

Heard a little bit of discussion on the Diane Rehm show this morning by various pollsters, including how unreliable the answers to the “Do you intend to vote?” question are. One of the pollsters compared it to how committed people are on January 5 or so to carry out their New Year’s Resolution.

Some of you may have figured out, especially if you read the comments/discussions that ensue sometimes, that I broke a bone in my foot around 8 weeks ago. I would like to say it was a result of something heroic and/or exciting, like tripping over the lead runner in the Chicago Marathon, but actually I just stubbed my toe on the foot of my bed, in broad daylight. Now I’m not all that graceful, and am often doing three things at once while thinking about at least two other, completely unrelated, things, so these kinds of pratfalls are not all that unusual. I even laid on the bed, whimpering softly, for about 10 minutes before I limped out to the kitchen to tell Husband what I had done. Not that I wasn’t expecting sympathy, but these occurrences are quite frequent, and I didn’t want to push my luck. When the throbbing was getting worse rather than better, though, I thought maybe a little sympathy, and, oh, maybe an ice pack was in order.

The stupid thing was that two weeks more passed before I had it X-rayed, including a weekend when we were power washing the deck and house and I walked right off the edge of the deck while looking up at the soffit I was washing. (I don’t know how to spell soffit. I think that’s right, but wordpress is giving me grief. Anyway.)(And the deck is only ~ 3 feet off the ground, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.) Of course I was barefoot, because my toe hurt too badly to wear shoes, and of course I landed on the broken foot, so I’m sure that didn’t help either. So yes, I broke a bone in my foot. The tip of what I’m calling the 3rd toe bone — I’m sure there’s a more technical term, and I’m also quite sure the doctor employed the technical term at my appointment after my X-ray, but I don’t remember it.

It’s this one:

Which means that my foot hurts more than my toe hurts (although the toe looks like someone else’s, like a little sausage, and doesn’t match the other toes), and it has taken a ridiculously long time to heal. I wore an actual shoe on Saturday for the first time in 6 weeks (we won’t talk about the two weeks I was wearing shoes when I shouldn’t have been. What can I say? I’m an optimist.) I managed to walk ~ a mile with Husband each day over the weekend, and my foot is tight and sore afterwards, but at least I’m off my butt, finally. I did have a yoga Groupon which has now expired, and my plans to restart the couch-potato-to-5K thing has been a bust, but maybe I can start next week. . .

I also have started a new juicing plan. I’m hypothyroid, and, while I take Armour thyroid, it often feels like the only result of thyroid medication is that my blood tests show a normal TSH level; I still feel half asleep most of the time, and am always always cold (my temperature the other morning was 96˚). A side effect of hypothyroidism is slow metabolism (it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?), and I have heard that drinking fruit and vegetable juices as meal replacements a few times a week helps give your digestive system a break and this is supposed to help fire it up, somehow.

So three days a week I’m drinking home-juiced carrot, carrot-apple, carrot-beet, carrot-cucumber-wheatgrass, apple-pineapple-ginger, cherry-pomegranate, etc. juice instead of eating breakfast and lunch. On the days I do so I still have a healthy dinner (although the temptation sometimes is to eat more for dinner than I would otherwise, because, hey, I haven’t eaten all day so I deserve it, right?). I tend to lose ~ .5 of a lb on juicing days and then gain .25-.4 of a lb on non-juicing days, so I’m not really seeing this as an effective diet strategy. Also, on the next mornings, the whites of my eyeballs seem orange. They’re probably not really orange, but they seem orange.

Oh, and I’ve stopped shampooing my hair. =:-O

I have read, on more than one occasion, how bad it is for hair to shampoo it — I mean, think about it! We wash it with this stuff full of chemicals, most of which have been demonstrated to cause cancer in rats (rats with particularly clean hair, but still) and which removes all of the healthy oils and nutrients from our scalp, and then instantly put goop called “conditioner” on it to undo the damage we just caused.

I did “wash” my hair this morning with baking soda paste and then “conditioned” it with some apple cider vinegar. Of course, I thoroughly rinsed the baking soda out first, as I was not 7 and trying to make a “volcano” in my shower. I think I might smell like a pickle, but my hair looks fantastic. (And isn’t the henna-ing still looking nice? I keep thinking maybe I should stop bothering, since I have to re-apply the green mud every month or so to cover my roots, but then I see a picture like this and think, “Fine. I’ll keep doing it.”)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately avoiding any discussion of the presidential election.

I am also trying really hard to avoid eating the cold sesame noodles in the fridge. Carrot and beet juice just doesn’t have the same zing.

Oh, and speaking of hair this is what we did over the weekend:

Despite my concerns, it seems to have turned out fine, I have earned “hundreds” (I think it should be thousands) of “Mom coolness points,” and she did not get sent home from school.

So there’s that, then.


Not a war?

Sez who? (Lots of people; mostly male Republicans, but whatever.)


Just when you think it can’t get more ridiculous.

Maybe this can be a sign of hope?


the battle over women’s reproductive rights

Diane Rehm had several women on today talking about women’s reproductive rights.

One of her guests was Phyllis Schlafly. This woman is an idiot, and should be completely ignored. Maybe we can send her and Rush off to some remote island somewhere and never have to hear from either one of them again. Seems like a match made in heaven: Mr. and Mrs. Misogynistic.

Her claims were many, and all equally ridiculous: single moms are all churning out babies out of wedlock so that they can solicit handouts from Obama’s government; feminists are all anti-men, anti-family; women WANT their reproductive rights to be limited which is why they keep voting for ultra-conservative Republican white men.

Diane did a poor job challenging any of these opinions. She must have been feeling under the weather. I’m very disappointed.

The comments on the website include bizarre, paradoxical claims such as that women want big government to protect their reproductive rights so that they can keep having babies and end up in poverty. Yeah. That makes sense. There also seems to be the belief that erectile disfunction is a “medical condition” but pregnancy (or ovarian cysts, or irregular or hemorragiac menstrual cycles) is/are not. Right.

I expect more from NPR and Diane. Ms. Schlafly shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to air such foolishness. I’m sure they could have found SOMEONE less ridiculous to support the claim that women’s reproductive rights are not under attack.

Or maybe not.


missing the point, again

A University of Rochester economics professor blogged in support of Rush Limbaugh’s comments regarding Sandra Fluke.

Quoting him directly:

While Ms. Fluke [the law student] herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover [sic]. It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty. I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception (though I am skeptical that there are arguments sufficiently respectable to win me over), but Ms. Fluke made no such argument. All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it,” wrote Steven Landsburg, the professor, on his blog, The Big Questions.

To his credit, Rush stepped in to provide the requisite mockery. To his far greater credit, he did so with a spot-on analogy: If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits. His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos. What he advocates is logical consistency and an appreciation for ethical symmetry. So do I. Color me jealous for not having thought of this analogy myself.

Upon being sanctioned by his President, he has posted a follow-up, some of which I quote below:

The commenters [to my previous blog posts regarding this issue] have offered many bright and lively arguments and observations, some of which have led me to modify some of my views. This is a wonderful thing. It’s also the very opposite of Sandra Fluke’s approach, which amounts to a contemptuous dismissal of the very possibility of engaging these issues through intellectual discourse. I’d have expected a distinguished academic to feel the same way.

But he’s still missing the point. Or should I say points.

I’m curious as to whether Dr. Landsburg saw her testimony. It seems not.

Ms. Fluke DOES deserve respect, and was herself ridiculed, mocked, and jeered, quite appallingly so. Rush did not mock her position, he mocked her. This much is quite clear. It causes me to wonder whether Dr. Landsburg even saw or heard these himself, or was just reacting to the fray.

The concern regarding denial of oral contraception for women taking it for medical, non-contraceptive reasons is a real one.

And while Professor Landsburg congratulates himself on both his mastery of effective argumentative tactics and his open-mindedness, he does so in comparison to Ms. Fluke’s “approach” rather than to Mr. Limbaugh’s. As far as I can tell Sandra has been anything but contemptuous. One can certainly not say the same regarding Rush.

The fact that this clip is followed up with comments like these leave me very little hope:

This is just a few of them. Too early in the day for me to wallow around in such a misogynistic quagmire.

And it’s interesting how all of the “clueless” comments seem to come from men. Am I the only one who thinks that men should just stay out of this argument altogether? When you have ovaries, a uterus, and risk becoming pregnant every time you have sex, then you can talk about this.

Just sayin’.



men on women’s health

Hmmmm, an aspirin between the knees. Never thought of that.

Men on Women’s Health


A not-so-soupy Sunday

I know I “promised” at some point to post a soup recipe every Sunday, but we didn’t make soup today.

I did make some kick-ass oatmeal bread recipe yesterday, though. I’ll put the recipe at the end.

Just some observations for now.

1. Veterinarians should seriously reconsider using anesthesia for any surgical procedures involving dogs. I’m thinking peanut butter in a Kong is sufficient.

2. Apparently, the line between political candidates and organizations known as “PACs” is getting blurry, casting doubt on whether it is actually possible that the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.

Um, duh?

3. Many of the leaders in our government seem to think that the U.S. offers some kind of moral compass; an ideal for the rest of the world to strive for.

This, in retaliation for American soldiers openly burning copies of the Koran. (If, as they say, they contained “messages,” couldn’t they have been burned maybe a little more discretely? How would Americans react to Islamists burning Bibles? Sheesh — a little respect wouldn’t hurt anybody.)

This, depicting American soldiers urinating on slain foes.

Or how about this, where our rights of due process etc., etc., seem only to apply to American citizens.

Wouldn’t our arguments about human rights have a little more validity if we applied them to, well, humanity?

4. Mod*el:  perfect example: an excellent example that deserves to be imitated

At the risk of repeating myself.

Um, no.

The last thing I want my daughter to be “modeling” herself after. How about, instead,

5. Started using the “Fitness Tracker” app on Friday. Decided that it was appropriate for me to compare how much I’m actually eating to how much I think I’m eating. It’s been very revealing. You do “earn” calories by exercising, so that’s a good motivation, but most of the calorie information comes from prepared foods and we prepare most of our food ourselves, so that’s a bit of a bother.

Have also discovered that higher-than-expected percentage of my daily caloric intake is in the form of alcohol. That sounds bad. Mostly wine with dinner, but I do enjoy a little tippet of cognac (for medicinal purposes) as well, especially on these cold February nights. Am thinking I can balance it out by walking further or doing more vigorous yoga. Not sure what it says about me that I need to think twice about whether I want cheese on my chili or that 2nd glass of wine. . .

Anyway, according to the tracker, if every day is like yesterday I will have lost 8 lbs in 5 weeks. We’ll see.


Oatmeal Bread (Husband claims this is the best bread he has ever eaten. He might just be being nice, but still.)

Prepare 1.5 c. of steel cut oats (dry) for breakfast, following instructions on the can.

Leave 2 c. of prepared oats in a separate bowl. Eat the rest (giving the lion’s share to Husband, who likes porridge a heck of a lot more than you do), sprinkled with dried cranberries and with maple syrup and soymilk.

Soften 1 pkg. of yeast in 1/3 c. warm water.

When the 2 c. of remaining oatmeal has cooled, with the flat paddle on the mixer and the mixer running, add 3 T. canola oil, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 tsp. salt, and the yeast/water mixture.

Beat well.

Add 2 c. whole wheat flour; keep beating until the dough begins to get very stringy/stretchy.

Switch to the dough hook; add another 2 c. of unbleached flour.

Allow the dough to knead until completely smooth — 5-7 minutes.

Add another scant 1/2 c. of unbleached flour and let knead just until flour completely incorporated.

Allow to raise in a buttered bowl, punching down twice.

Divide and place in 2 buttered 8″ bread pans.

Allow to raise again (this is a good time to take a nap, or a “nap,” whichever you prefer).

Bake for 35 minutes at 350˚, 325˚ if using a convection oven.

Cool out of pans on a wire rack. If you can’t wait and must slice it while hot, turn it on its side first.

Really, really good.



something you don’t want to eat every day

Encountered this “dish” recently:


We read the label. Not sure we’d ever seen this before:


(Sorry it’s sideways. My laptop’s in rehab so I’m doing this on my tablet, and I don’t know how to rotate pictures. I’ll try to fix it from the other computer.)

But note: 7 g. saturated fat per serving, and 101% of your RDA of cholesterol.

Gordon Food Service is unconscionable for selling this. It makes me wonder how much more of their food is actually “food.” Eating stuff like this can’t be good for you, even once.

Maybe they should change their name to Gordon “Food” Service.


what she said, revisited

A few days ago, I linked to this post from another blogger.

It’s a recounting of the blogger’s experience in a coffee shop, where she overhears a very stylish looking woman chastise her 4-year old daughter, who is asking for a cookie. The woman’s response is that the girl doesn’t need a cookie, because she “needs to lose weight.”

The blogger is so upset by this that she finds a way to treat the woman and her daughter each to a cup of hot chocolate. She seems to handle it with grace and aplomb, and the woman seems to be grateful, and maybe a little chastened, by the experience.

A commenter wrote: “At the risk of being contrarian, I have a different take on this story. The woman buying the hot chocolate did a very nice thing and she handled it well. But. She really has no business judging and interfering with the mother. Child obesity is a huge problem and so is impulse control. The woman has no idea what sort of issues the mother is dealing with. She doesn’t say if the kid was fat or skinny. Maybe she has diabetes or something. A little kid not getting his or her way isn’t an act of abuse or failed parenting and telling a kid she has to lose weight might be the truth and what is called for in this case. The woman seems to have jumped to the conclusion that the mother is trying to give the kid an eating disorder. But maybe the kid already has one. Just saying.”

While I don’t disagree at all with the possibilities the commenter proposes, my gut reaction says no.

First of all, the woman didn’t tell her daughter that she had already had some sweets that day, or that she knew she couldn’t have a cookie because she had diabetes, or that they were going out for a big dinner shortly, or anything like that. I also believe that the blogger would have mentioned if the girl had been overweight. While I am a firm believer in feeding children in a healthful way, I also believe that life is to be lived, and a cookie or cup of hot chocolate or slice of cake now and then is part of living life richly.

That blog post, and the comment to my re-posting, have had me thinking for the past couple of days, about several things — namely:

1. What my children have learned from me that I kind of wish they hadn’t.

2. What my children haven’t learned/are still learning that I really wish they would.

3. What the world tells us about ourselves and whether we should or shouldn’t listen.

4. When the “world” needs us to step in and do something, and when we shouldn’t.


1. What my children have learned from me that I kind of wish they hadn’t.

My need for external validation, a tendency toward defensiveness and sarcasm (acceptable when it’s funny, but the line between funny and disrespectful when it’s coming from children can be awfully hard to see), the feeling that most people don’t really understand me, a recurring dissatisfaction with my physical appearance (just my daughter, the “boys” are pretty confident of their general attractive- and badass- ness), a fear of the unknown/uncontrollable which leads to over-cautiousness rather than adventurousness — even though my greatest leaps of courage have led me to the most happiness, I still fear.

2. What my children haven’t learned/are still learning that I really wish they would.

To put things away when they’re done with them, to look around and see when people might need a little help, that politeness and decency and other people’s feelings sometimes trump honesty or self-interest, that sometimes I do actually know what I’m talking about and that my offering of advice doesn’t come from a lack of belief in them but out of concern and love, that the easiest road to the easiest money isn’t necessarily the best road to choose, the basics of consideration: help with dinner/the dishes/laundry, always put the toilet seat down, hold doors for people with packages or strollers or just because, that belching at the table is only funny if the other people at the table think so (and I really, really don’t).

There have been so many things I’ve tried to teach my children that I wonder if they would have learned more successfully if they had been hearing it from someone besides me. Don’t interrupt. Take turns. Use inside voices. Say please and thank you. Stop talking and listen.

3. What the world tells us about ourselves and whether we should or shouldn’t listen.

When should someone’s criticism be taken to heart, as an opportunity for self-reflection and self-improvement, and when should they be mentally told to take a flying @#$ in a rolling doughnut? If someone’s bothered by my ambition, should I tone it down or look for a different outlet? If someone’s bothered by my wealth of opinions and willingness to share them, should I consider it to be a result of their lack of curiosity and/or intellectual rigor, or should I just keep my mouth shut?

I would like to believe that the problems the world might have with me are the world’s problems, but what if they aren’t?

4. When the “world” needs us to step in and do something, and when we shouldn’t.

This is really the question that presents itself by the commenter to my re-posting. Should the blogger have just minded her own business? A casual observer can’t know the history of the day/week/month with that particular issue with that particular child. But, for the sake of argument, let’s take this a little bit further. When we see someone striking a child in a grocery store, do we just consider it not to be our business, turn our heads and walk away? Is someone telling a child, who by all appearances (again, I’m assuming this) is of a perfectly normal size, that she “needs to lose weight” a form of emotional abuse? Do we still turn our heads and walk away? What if the validation provided by the person who says, no, really, you’re beautiful the way you are is exactly what that child most needs?

When the urge to “interfere” strikes, how do we know if we should or if we shouldn’t?

I think this is particularly striking to me because it’s about women and their issues with weight and body image. The women we see in magazines are basically freaks of nature; the pressures put on us by these images can be debilitating. How much worse are these pressures if they’re reinforced, perhaps unfairly, if, as I believe, this girl was of a perfectly normal weight and size, by the person who should be building us up rather than tearing us down? I look at my beautiful daughter and watch her curse at a practically-invisible pimple or worry that she has fat calves or thighs (she’s in the 45th percentile height, 10th percentile weight; she doesn’t have fat anything) or hear her wish she had my (unruly, just-curly-enough-to-be-annoying) hair rather than her thick, lustrous locks. Who is doing this to her? How can she look in the mirror and not see how beautiful she is? She’s a gymnast, and wants to be a model, with a milk allergy and shades of hypochondria; will she end up with an eating disorder? Will her awareness of my unhappiness with my weight contribute? How do I model a balance of healthful eating, regular exercise, and awareness of treating my body as something I want to live from rather than merely in without encouraging an unhealthy obsession with something that is, at least partially, genetic and uncontrollable? Is this even possible?

The blogger might be right, the commenter might be right, who can really know? At least the blogger handled it with tact and care — the mother could feel free to handle it however she choose, and was not confronted directly with an accusation of emotional/verbal abuse, and therefore did not have to react defensively.

I also think that sometimes we are teaching our children things we don’t necessarily want them to learn, and someone else making a kind/friendly offer is just enough to shake us out of it.


“the” non-surgical approach to weight loss

There’s an ad much like this along the highway between my work and home (except it’s a really skinny girl with large breasts in a blue and white striped bikini, but I can’t find it online and I’m not inclined to take a picture with my cell phone while hurtling down the road at 70mph).

And I can never help but wonder about the OTHER non-invasive way to lose unwanted bulges — you know, eating healthfully and getting regular exercise?

Too much like work I guess.

Here are some of the before and after pictures:

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t really see all that much difference, and certainly not enough to spend thousands of dollars on something I could accomplish by having one glass of wine with dinner instead of two and taking a 30 minute walk 5 days a week.

I certainly don’t see the miracle results implied by the billboard. I guess they don’t show a “before” so they’re not actually lying to us.

In my travels, I ran across this image, presumably of a woman before and after the coolsculpting (or some other plastic surgery) procedure.

Yeah, I’m totally convinced.


skin diseases and other myriad health problems, and Rick Perry

Sitting on the couch with husband, watching hockey, feeling like a lump.

Say to husband: “I feel like a canker on a boil on the goiter of the neck of life.”

Husband: “What’s a goiter anyway? From the way it sounds, it can’t be good.

Then made the mistake of looking up pictures of each of the above.

Will probably have vividly horrible dreams tonight, and I have only myself to blame.

Speaking of goiters on the neck of life, (and I mean no disrespect for people who actually suffer from such terrible conditions. Yet another reason for me to be grateful), watch this:

(thanks, guardo)

Oops is right. On so many levels: 0n him (idiot), on his staff who woefully underprepared him, and on anyone who thought for even 5 seconds that this man was qualified to be a candidate for President.



so what’s up with that?

I spent much of Saturday with a group of young singers (freshman and sophomore college students, although some in their 20s), and found myself involved in many “female” type conversations. Principally: body, self-image, weight, appearance, etc. Guess this is a normal part of hanging out with singers, the more narcissistic of the instrumental sub-species, and especially since most of them were women.

Anyway — one of the young women was talking about how she had really worked out like a maniac for a while, and at one point had gotten down to a size 4 (four!!!) and still felt like that wasn’t thin enough, and then that kind of scared her so she chilled out a little.

I thought that was pretty self-aware of her, and congratulated her for that.

Then she said that she really felt like she couldn’t consider herself “thin” until her stomach was completely flat, but no matter how much she exercised or how little she ate, her stomach always “stuck out” a little.

And I said, (in a sage-like voice), well, you’re a woman, your stomach is supposed to stick out.

And I believed it.

Sort of.

And then. . .

A woman, a complete stranger, struck up a long and rambling conversation with me today at Only Daughter’s First Gymnastics Meet Ever (FGME), and I couldn’t help but notice that she was rather can-shaped and still had her sweater tucked into her jeans.

And my thoughts alternated between “why won’t she stop talking to me” and “I wish I could just introduce myself and ask her her name and maybe know one other person in this building besides my daughter and my former husband” and “it’s so great that she’s so comfortable with herself even though she looks like a can” and “how can I be such a b#!% about what shape she is it’s not like we’re in high school anymore couldweallpleasestopjudgingeachotherthankyouverymuch” and “I really wish I was one of those women who felt sexy and strong and powerful just because I’m a woman and sexy and strong and powerful.”

So now, at the end of a long day, a day during which I ate only good and healthful foods, I am arguing with myself mentally over whether I should open that bag of Cape Cod reduced fat jalapeno potato chips®, or not. Well, that’s not actually true, I know that I very much should NOT. But I really want to.

I think I just spend too much of my life like this:



well, that’s unfortunate

I’m in the middle of what is probably going to be my busiest week of the semester, so I don’t have time to write much.

I did run across something mildly amusing in an article published by NPR on the difficulties of losing weight. The article is titled: “Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat and Biology.” Being a woman in her, ahem, mid 40s, one who finds that she can keep eating less than she used to and still weigh the same or more, and who has given up the “ghost” sotospeak in terms of losing that 15 lbs because she’d rather have 2 glasses of wine with dinner and eat ice cream once a week, I clicked on the link.

It wasn’t really all that great of an article. It didn’t tell me anything I don’t already know — mainly that your body wants to weigh a particular weight (given balanced, healthful eating, of course), and if you try to weigh less through dieting your brain will just basically flip a switch that tells your body to consume fewer calories so as to keep weighing the same. As they put it, a person who weighs 230 lbs and diets to lose 30 lbs will be able to eat less to maintain that weight than a person who has always weighed 200 lbs. (BTW, I don’t weigh anywhere NEAR 230 lbs. Sheesh.)


ANYWAY, the article included this paragraph:

“It’s a popular misconception, she says, that losing weight is “strictly a matter of willpower.” It’s a gigantic task, she says, because not only do we move through an incredible buffet of food spread before us every day, but we also face a battle with our own biological responses.”

The woman who was quoted is an obesity specialist. I can’t imagine she chose those words in order to try to be funny. (But, still, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!)(Okay, I won’t do that again.)(Well, maybe not for a while.)

I wonder if the “advocacy group for (ugly and) fat women” has filed an official complaint.




To treat your asthma symptoms.

Will not replace a rescue inhaler.

Inclues ________, which may increase the risk of death from asthma symptoms.

Well, that sounds like a good idea.


“family values”

Republicans claim this as one of their main platforms, but let’s get something straight.

They’re “pro-life,” by which they mean:

protecting CEO’s salaries and millionaires’ rights not to pay taxes are more important than teacher salaries,

best of luck to you or your spouse procuring full-time work which includes health care benefits,

and oh, while we’re at it, (Romney’s latest), we’re going to cut federal support for Planned Parenthood, so not only are we not going to allow you to have an abortion, we’re going to make it more difficult for you to procure affordable contraception.

So while “we” can’t be bothered to make contraception or STD testing available or affordable, you can just keep having those babies !!! (the more the merrier, until the planet collapses under our collective weight?), and how you feed them, educate them, and keep them healthy is your own problem.

And never mind that offering these services to people in the first place saves money; we’re not that gifted in long-sightedness.

Just like the decision not to cover prostate cancer screening, or the fact that my HMO only covers $85/year in blood work, which is inadequate just to monitor my thyroid condition. Guess it would be better/cheaper if I took inadequate levels of medication and ended up with a thyroid tumor or in a coma?

Is it really that difficult to understand that spending a little bit on things like preventive screening and contraception saves a lot of money in the long run? Seems like something an 8-year-old would understand.






cold season

I encountered 28 students in classes and lessons yesterday. Without actually having kept a tally, I would guess that 23 of them had a cold of some kind.

I know I can’t catch it that quickly, but Only Daughter was “catching” a cold last Friday, and by the end of the day last night it was quite clear that I had been contaminated. I’m sure this was helped along by things like the fact that I’m such a terrible mom I forget to give a sick child their own glass in the bathroom, and by habits of hers like eating Black Forest ham® right out of the bag in between sneezing and coughing all over herself (isn’t that charming).

ANYWAY, I promptly made my cold remedy, and Husband and I both drank some last night, and this morning I barely feel anything at all. I mean in terms of cold symptoms. (I did have a second, enhanced, dose, with a healthy splooch of Southern Comfort in it, so I have improved significantly more than my teetotalling (ha!) husband, but am not, despite previous implications, numb.)

Here’s the recipe:

Put 6-8 c. of water in a large saucepan. (depending on how sick you feel, you might want to make the larger amount)


6-8 thin (butnottoothin) slices of lemon (throw in the slice from the end too; most of the good stuff in a lemon is in the peel* anyway)

a 1″ chunk of fresh ginger, sliced (you want at least 2 T. worth of ginger)

4-6 pieces of stick cinnamon, broken into bits (I beat mine into slivers by balancing the cinnamon stick across the top of a small mortar and poking/pounding it with the pestle; it’s very cathartic, and not too much work to collect the shards from all over your kitchen)

7-10 whole cloves

1 T. whole coriander seeds

(I’ve made this, in emergencies, with powdered ginger and ground coriander, but it gets kind of sludgy — okay if you don’t mind “drinking” it with a spoon; and I don’t think it works as well. Keep these ingredients on hand throughout the winter; I cut the ginger into chunks and store them in a plastic bowl in my freezer and buy the cinnamon sticks in big bags from somewhere like Penzey’s Spices.)

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a REALLY low simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a mesh sieve. Drink 1/2 – 1 c. hot every 2 hours with a nice squeeze of honey. (Whiskey doesn’t hurt either.) DON’T DECIDE TO BLAST YOUR COLD WITH AN HERBAL REMEDY ATOMIC BOMB AND DRINK IT ALL AT ONCE. You will have a stomach ache like you wouldn’t believe. I’m not telling how I know this.

Make this and start drinking it at the first sign of an oncoming cold — you know that throat tickle, fuzzy-head, nose-just-starting-to-drip time. If you do, you can often beat it completely within 24 hours. If you make it later, it helps a little, but your cold will still run a fairly normal course.

*Is that how you spell peel? English is such a weird language. Which reminds me: Should I be concerned that I was helping Only Daughter with her spelling homework yesterday and didn’t recognize the word “kneed” as an actual word? And why are they called knees, anyway? And who thought of knitting?


healthy news?

According to last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (April 17, 2011):

  • cell phones have not been proven to cause cancer
  • cognitive performance of most individuals declines significantly after only a few nights of less-than-8-hours of sleep
  • sitting more 4 hours a day is bad for you
  • sugar may be toxic, as the effects of processing it on your liver and pancreas cause cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and may lead to several common cancers,
  • and working out in a few short bursts of intensity followed by several minutes of rest is as beneficial of a long, endurance-based workout.

I have mixed reactions to the above news.

  • A link between cell phone usage and brain cancer may not have been yet definitively proven, but I can’t imagine holding something that emits radio waves right next to my head can be a good thing. I’m still going to use an earpiece.
  • I know this, and know that I am one of “most individuals,” but I hardly ever get 8 hours of sleep. I’ll admit that on the rare occasion that I do, I feel like a completely different person. The article offers little comfort, as it says that trying to split the difference between 8 hours (better cognition, focus, fewer mistakes) and 6 hours (decline in performance, inability to sustain attention) by getting 7 usually leads to results more similar to the 6 hours than the 8. Alas.
  • I sit for hours, both at my computer and at the piano. The good news is I have some form of physical ADD which drives me to get up and wander around my house every 15 or 20 minutes, even when I’m in the middle of something particularly interesting or challenging, and this tendency to move around, even for a little bit, triggers electrical signals from my muscles and a somewhat prolonged increase in metabolism. Am realizing as I write this that this tendency may be a result of the lack of focus which results from not getting enough sleep, so maybe I should just “decide” that these 2 things balance each other out and accept the fact that I while I may look and feel somewhat bleary for the rest of my life, at least I’m doing my muscles and my metabolism some good. Who knows, maybe the wandering around is actually aiding the cognitive process — haven’t there been studies done about the benefits of learning simultaneously with physical exertion?
  • Yeah, I know. I can actually keep my weight where it should be much easier by cutting out simple carbs than by any kind of sustained diet-end-exercise program. I also have a good friend who had astronomical triglyceride numbers until he stopped drinking 4 liters of Pepsi a day. I will be interested in following this subject, as my husband’s family has a history of cardiovascular disease, and everything we can know about what might cause it can only help. The book Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes, actually addresses many of the fallacies of the cardiovascular medical establishment, including evidence that low-fat diets may lower the symptoms of heart disease, they don’t actually seem to affect the incidences of heart attacks. He draws many of the same conclusions regarding the negative impact of white flours, easily digested starches, and sugar.
  • This is definitely good news. The recommendations are to go (bike, run) with as much intensity as you can for 30 seconds, rest (I would imagine walking slowly would count) for 4 minutes, and then repeat a few times. This gets an intense interval workout into about 15 minutes. THAT I can do (see bullet 2).

So, in a nut shell:

Talk on your cell phone as much as you like, sleep more, sit less/wander more, eat as little sugar as you can possibly manage, and count running for the tea kettle as one interval in a healthy and effective workout regimen.

Sound like a plan?


the politics of breastfeeding

Apparently Michelle Obama has inflamed the ire of various conservatives with her support of breastfeeding.

The two main complaints are that women are busy and have enough pressure on them already without this type of coercion, and that Ms. Obama is out of line by suggesting that it would be reasonable for the IRS to credit the cost of breast pumps to women’s tax burden.

Yes, women are busy, and no one should be forced to breastfeed if they don’t want to. But does anyone really believe that milk from cows, meant for cow babies, is better for human babies?

And secondly, the federal government is already subsidizing infant formula for families in poverty already. Isn’t breast milk actually a lot cheaper? Last I checked, it was actually free, if you don’t count the “cost” of having to avoid 5-star spicy dishes at your favorite Thai restaurant and alcohol. And, isn’t it also, in fact, a lot more convenient? No bottles to wash, no need to have constant access to perfect water at the perfect temperature, no cans of formula to lug around on trips short or long?

Of course, Sarah Palin has to weigh in with another well-researched and intelligent response. “No wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody, ‘You better breast-feed your baby,’ ” she said at a speech on Long Island. “’Yeah, you’d better, because the price of milk is so high right now.'” Except, according to the inflation calculator at the United States Department of Labor website, the cost of a gallon of milk, which was $1.69 in 1980, would cost $4.52 today. Is anyone paying $4.52 for a gallon of milk? I pay $3.99 for organic at my local grocery store.

But thank you, Sarah, for raising the level of argument yet again.



the influence of infancy

Scientists continue to make fascinating discoveries about the impact that the gestational environment can have on a fetus, as well as the earliest stages of infancy and their impact on the person for the rest of his or her life.

Did you know that if a mother is stressed while pregnant, her child will be more likely to be easily stressed throughout his or her life?

We all know the stories about babies who, for myriad reasons, aren’t held or stimulated enough — learning delays, personality disorders, inability to form attachments.

I am developing a theory related to this regarding how hard a person is willing to work for something, even if it’s important.

Case in point: when Second Son was a newborn, he had a terrible time breastfeeding. He would act like he was starving, work away furiously for about 3.5 minutes, and then give up with a look and demeanor of extreme and utter exhaustion. When I took him in for his 4-month checkup, it was discovered that he had grown 2″, but only gained 8 ozs. Eventually, the doctor conceded that he was tongue-tied (something I had been telling him for two months, but that’s another story), and the frenulum was clipped a few weeks later.

By 6 months of age, he could drink from a cup, and couldn’t be bothered with either breastfeeding or a bottle. Too much of a time commitment, and he apparently had too much to do.

Now, (he’s 17), we can keep him from eating all of the dried cherries by putting them in the cupboard behind and underneath something. This is a boy who won’t make pasta with pre-made sauce for dinner because it’s too much work. He basically lives on yogurt (for his school lunches — he doesn’t like it, but it’s faster than making a sandwich), cereal, and Doritos. Oh, and bananas. Tonight he actually had to consider, at length, if he and his girlfriend wanted to eat dinner with us (steak, sweet potatoes, green salad) because it would mean that he would have to do the dishes, and that sounded too much like work.

I’m pretty sure he won’t starve in his first two years of college because he will live in the dorm and all of his food will be prepared for him.

Not sure about after that, though. And it’s not like he has any body fat stored up to get him through.


stuff I’m thankful for

(Getting a head start on the holiday.)

1. A healthy body and mind, for myself and my family.

2. My husband

3. Coffee

4. An apparent end to my 8-day bout with insomnia

(hmm, interesting juxtaposition, that)

5. Wine, chocolate, risotto, and a kick-ass stuffing recipe

6. Technology

7. Gainful employment, for myself and my family

8. The poetry of Merwin, Billy Collins, Jane Kenyon, and Shakespeare

9. People who take turns merging on the highway, use their turn signals, and don’t tailgate

10. The Onion and The New Yorker

Your turn.


11. Terrific colleagues — esp. DP, YW, and KB.

And FRIENDS; should have been #3! I’m a loser!!! Will try to make it up to you. . .stay tuned.


Panera Bread

What a gold mine, eh? I’ve never been in one that wasn’t lousy with customers.

Reasonable prices, food seems relatively healthful, plus there’s that beautiful counter of sweet pastries to tempt you on your way in or out.

For those of you not familiar with the Panera system, you are given your choice of sides with your meal: a white or whole-wheat baguette, a bag of chips, or an apple. I always think the offer of the baguette is a little odd when you’ve just ordered a sandwich, but I guess there are people in the world for whom there is no such thing as “too much bread.”  I have yet to get a decent apple there. I’m beginning to suspect some kind of subsidy, paid by the chip distributor, to ensure that the apples on offer are tough, mealy, and tasteless. Well, I guess not completely tasteless, if you consider “styrofoam” a flavor.

Thought I’d do a little research considering the “healthy” factor. Here’s my lunch:

Panera Lunch

Not as good as I’d hoped, but better than it could have been I guess. Seems like a lot of fat grams for half of a sandwich.

At least I didn’t get the chips.


When your food isn’t actually food

Which is, if you eat in most of America’s mainstream restaurants or eat any quantity of packaged food at home, most of the time.

Just finished reading a very enlightening book, The End of Overeating. The book is targeted towards people who have real problems controlling their eating, to the point where all they really do all day is think about food.

Now any of you who follow this blog at all know that I’d like to weigh a little less, and that I really like food. Especially good food. I’ve got a chicken roasting in the oven right now, stuffed with lemons and rosemary, and a bowl of tabbouleh chillin’ in the fridge; I’m really looking forward to tonight’s meal with a nice glass of Beaujolais.

I digress.

I’m not obsessed with food; I eat 3 pretty healthful meals a day, and sometimes a snack late afternoon — usually an apple, a bowl of almonds, a chunk of cheese, something like that. I struggle with cravings for potato chips, pretzels and blue cheese dressing, cheetohs, but can usually resist, especially if I don’t have any in the house. I try to limit snacking in the evenings — have discovered homemade applesauce and plain yogurt, or  a frozen Yoplait, can substitute for ice cream or sorbet, which my husband enjoys.

I digress, again.

The book revealed a few things to me which I did not know before, and which may not be common knowledge.

1. Eating food that you enjoy triggers dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel happy.

2. Eating food as a comfort, especially if it accompanies another sort of comfort — a plate of warm cookies from mom when you get home from a hard day of school, a rich dinner prepared by your spouse at the end of a long day — triggers a memory/conditioning response so that our desire for that food is triggered by a need for a similar comfort.

3. The food industry has very carefully deduced the prime combination of sugar, fat, and salt that triggers the production of dopamine, and therefore the desire for MORE, and just as carefully manipulates these combinations in the foods it produces.

White flour has most of the germ, bran, and fiber removed.

Chicken is processed, shredded, and then reassembled with binders, “supplemented” with saline, and then fried before being flash-frozen so that it is cheap, tender, juicy, dissolves in our mouths quickly (more calories, less work), and is easily digested (more calories, less work). Healthful-sounding meals like quesadillas include chicken that has not only been fried at the stage of production, but again at the restaurant, and accompanied by vegetables that have been fried in oil, 4 servings’ worth of cheese, layered into two white-flour tortilla shells which are again fried on the grill, and then served with guacamole (with massive amounts of added salt and fat in the form of mayonnaise or sour cream), sour cream, (sweetened) salsa, and tortilla “crisps” — more tortilla shells which have been shredded and fried.

The author of this book calls it fat on sugar on fat on salt on fat on fat.

Sugar is omnipresent — not just in cereals and jams but in peanut butter, bread, jarred spaghetti sauce. Even cereals that seem to contain a reasonable amount of sugar per serving are, in fact, ~ 1/3 sweetener of one sort or another. All they’ve done is constructed it out of 5 or 6 different versions — sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, etc. so they can move each of them a little further down the label. Apparently there’s almost as much sugar in a McDonald’s hamburger bun as there is in a home-made cookie.

Don’t even get me started on the sugar on fat on sugar involved in a Krispy Kreme doughnut. (They do look yummy, don’t they?)

And have any of you looked at the percentage of RDA of sodium in anything packaged lately? Chicken broth — no msg, no added sugar, reduced sodium, still contains 25% of the RDA per serving. The compensation for poor ingredients is salt; at least then it tastes like something.

Even reading the label on the tray of sushi I bought today gave me pause — does there really need to be that many ingredients in it? When I make it, it’s a sheet of nori, some rice that’s been seasoned with some rice vinegar, fresh tuna, and some cucumber. Granted, mine doesn’t stay in those neat tight little rolls when I’m done, but at least I know what’s in it.

Coincidentally, a facebook friend posted this picture of the meat that has been scraped from bones to be reassembled into chicken nuggets.


If you read the article you’ll find out that the scraping of the bones is just the beginning: the meat is now awash with bacteria, so it’s treated with ammonia. Now it tastes terrible (as one could imagine), so artificial flavorings are added to mask the flavor. Because no one wants to eat chicken that’s the color of Play-Doh, it’s bleached/colored to look like chicken. Gives new meaning to the expression “tastes like chicken.”

The other thing to be suspicious of is restaurants who are packaging an “experience.” Watch out for the flashy menus with glossy pictures and publicized “ambiance” or “fun-loving atmosphere.” It’s not about the food anymore, but about the escape from your tedious, mundane existence.

The gist of it is, I’m now mostly eating at home, food that’s been purchased from the periphery of the grocery store. I’ll have to find my escape elsewhere — Scrabble anyone?


Not Fat!!!

It’s getting a little colder around here, so I was pulling some “regular” (meaning full-length) pants out of my closet this morning to get dressed for work. They’re all too small. Now some of you may remember my “fat pants” post from last spring — the problem is those were all capris and shorts for the summer; despite my 7-week running program in July and August (until school started and I had to get up at 6 a.m. to do it and it was still pitch black outside) I haven’t lost any weight since.


I’m disgusted with myself. I want to be a size 8, I’m not even always a size 10. I look in the mirror and see fat. (The average woman my age is a size 14, but that doesn’t matter, because I don’t really want to be “my age” either. I still feel like I’m 35, just a hell of a lot smarter. Can’t I still LOOK 35, too?)


I write my husband an email. (He’s already gone for the day – he gets up at 4 a.m. on Tuesdays so he can spend an hour and a half on the ice chasing a little black disc around and trying to hit it with a stick while trying not to get run over by other guys with sticks. He does it on Fridays too. I think this may indicate some kind of mental imbalance, but it keeps him happy and he has a fantastic ass. Hmmm. His mother reads this. . . .ANYwhoo. . .)

I’m asking him if he will help me. Namely: stop buying me potato chips, don’t offer me any ice cream, don’t pour me a 2nd glass of wine with dinner (notice I’m not cutting out wine entirely; I may be fat, but I’m not unreasonable), keep the “sauce” separate from the pasta so I can put the “sauce” on 4 noodles, etc. I tell him this despite the fact that, while he is perfectly happy with what I weigh, he wants me to be happy with what I weigh as well. I tell him that I want to be his hot sexy wife not a matronly housefrau in a . . . and that’s it. I can’t think of the word. I write “dashiki” but I know that’s not right, and when I find on Google that it’s a tunic-top of African influence worn by men, I know I need to look further. I try to think of a way to google “word for dress that fat women wear” but I just get a bunch of pictures of super skinny models and a few really large women in bathing suits. (The little mean voice says “at least I’m not that fat.”)  I add “housecoat” to the end of the sentence, but it doesn’t have that poetic ring I’m looking for. So I persist. And I encounter this:

Wow. These women are beautiful. Now granted, my face doesn’t look anything like any of theirs, but maybe my body does — (the little mean voice points out that I might even be smaller than a few of them) — and look — they’re beautiful. They’re voluptuous and curvy and have gorgeous skin, and they’re obviously comfortable with their bodies because they’re all draped all over each other like that.

Now when I copied this off of the website I found it from I noticed that it was labeled “Glamour_plus-size-models” and that bothers me a little because they’re not “Plus size” — they’re normal size. But anyway. . .


I’ve decided to stop eating potato chips, and no more blue cheese dressing on my pretzel crisps, and definitely less pasta and bread and potatoes. I’ve also decided to try to stop being so hard on myself. And I think I might end up buying at least a couple pairs of pants.



This commercial just came on: Symbicort to treat your asthma symptoms.

Warning: “Taking Symbicort may increase your risk of dying from asthma-related symptoms.”



Salt of the Earth

Ate a naked burrito at Qdoba for dinner. It’s “Healthy Mexican Food” right? How can I go wrong?

Have drank (drunk?) at least 36 oz. of water since I got home. Wondered why, so went to the nutritional calculator on their website.

Nutritional Facts

Amount per Serving:
Calories 515 Calories From Fat 220g

Fat Total 25g
Saturated Fat 11.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 175MG
Sodium 1110MG
Potassium 980MG
Total Carbohydrate 28g
Dietary Fiber 14g
Sugar 2g
Protein 43g

Vitamin A 48% DV Vitamin C 18% DV
Calcium 34% DV Iron 16% DV

25 grams of fat? 11.5 of saturated fat? 1110 mg of sodium?

Now I know. This can’t happen again. Sheesh.


Mind Over . . . Body?

Just read a very interesting article in the New Yorker about Dr. Kataria and the laughter yoga movement.

Depending on how you look at it, there is now belief in or evidence on the healing power of laughter. Not only that it can lift your spirits, but alleviate pain, exercise your internal organs, boost your immune system, and help you sleep; it may even alter the progress of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons.

What’s really shocking to me is a study cited, performed by Robert Ader in 1975 at the University of Rochester. The purpose of his experiment was to see if rats could be conditioned to associate nausea with saccharin. The drug administered along with saccharin caused nausea. When the rats started to die, Ader stopped administering the drug alongside the sweetener; the rats still died. It was discovered that not only did the rats learn to associate saccharine with the drug, a drug which was discovered to suppress the immune system, but the rat’s memory of this immune suppression continued whenever they tasted the sweetener. “In other words, their minds were killing them.”

This led to the realization that positive physical, mental, and emotional “feelings” have the power to rehabilitate the body’s chemistry.

You can watch the video of Dr. Kataria and some of his laugh-yoga sessions here.

To contribute, I just spent half an hour trying to find the clip from the first 5 minutes of a West Wing episode which discusses a sex-education report and a regrettable use of the term “sticky wicket.” No luck. Please post if you can find it. THAT will make you laugh.


Weight and Happiness

I wish I weighed 20 lbs. less.

Me and how many women out there?

And this despite the following facts:

I can only weigh 20 lbs less if I either eat only vegetables and lean meats for 6 months or more, or am undergoing either a stressful divorce (is there any other kind?) or brain surgery (I know this for a fact, I will not go into further details).

I eat quite healthfully and am not an unusual size; according to some charts, I am actually “below average” for my height and age.

But I look in the mirror and see fat.

This distresses me, especially since I have an absolutely beautiful and incredibly fit 9-year-old daughter who thinks her calves are fat. She’s 50″ tall and weighs 50 lbs. She’s anything but fat. I’m not even sure she has any fat on her. I don’t want to even think about this for fear that she will be aware of it, and look at herself in the mirror and not see what’s there but some horrible and culture-driven distortion.

So, I want to lose weight, and want to have the buccal fat in my cheeks removed, and wish my forehead wasn’t so lumpy, and remember. . .

I remember being 20, and looking at mildly-overweight middle-aged women and thinking that I would never “let” that “happen” to me.

As if. As if we have a choice. Age happens. What are we supposed to do about it exactly?

I’m mildly overweight, and middle-aged. Hmmm. . .

I guess I could quit one or two of my myriad part-time-and-necessary-for-the-sustainability-of-my-family jobs and adopt a regular, rigorous exercise program. I guess I could eat only vegetables and lean meats, but that would eliminate bacon, and wine, and chocolate, and what’s the point of living, really, if you can’t have bacon, and wine, and chocolate?

And meanwhile, we encounter images such as this:

And this

And try to measure up. Or is that measure down?

Hmmmm. . .

What to do.

Any suggestions?


Acquired ADD

Even if our children are not born with it, chances are that all of the available distractions provided for them through technology will create it.

My son was watching Romeo and Juliet the other night while texting with his friends. He stays up until 4 a.m. — when I noticed this the other night I went downstairs to see why his light was still on — on the way past I noticed that the computer in the kitchen was open to facebook, downstairs the TV had a video game paused, and he was sitting on his bed playing his guitar and texting a friend. No matter what they say about teenagers and their unusual biorhythms, this can’t be helping. When we were teenagers we stayed up late, but not that late — there wasn’t anything to do. What happens to the body’s need for sleep, to digest and order and process the information taken in during the day?

Meanwhile, even for the rest of us living and sleeping in a more conventional pattern, what used to be called “down” time is now time you’re expected to use keeping up with every email and phone call and text that comes in. What happens to opportunities to think? process? imagine?

This can’t be a good thing.


Ultrasound Woes

Hearkening back to the good ol’ days of being pregnant with my sons. Many of you remember, perhaps with some discomfort, that when you’re going to have the ultrasound  you must drink 32 oz. of water the hour before so that the technician can use the full bladder to help locate the uterus. I’m thinking that if the technician can’t find a uterus with a fetus in it, maybe he or she should pursue another line of work.


Wherever you go, be there!

Vignettes from the week:

A young couple out for a walk on a beautiful spring day; they’re each talking on their respective cell phones; I presume not to each other.

A student gets hit by a car while texting as she crosses the street. (I’m not making this up.)

A women sits in the audience at a concert and checks her email, plays solitaire and “surfs the net” (does anybody say that any more, well, besides me just now?) on her smartphone.

You all see this, all the time. You’re at your child’s music concert or play or awards ceremony, and everybody’s elbowing each other to get in position with their video cameras; but is anybody watching?

I read something once (of course, being me, I can remember NONE of the details, such as what the book was, or who wrote it) about the true route towards spiritual peace and happiness, and that it was to do everything with full attention. (“Mindfully, young Patawan.”) If you’re washing dishes, feel the soap on your hands and pay attention to the contour of the pan and the soothing quality of the repetitive scouring motion. If you’re folding clothes, notice the softness of the clean fabric and enjoy the interplay of colors in the piles of folded shirts. Taste your food, watch the sun rise (or set, or both), listen to your cat purr as you stroke its fur.

I think this is probably one of the most beautiful things about the tradition of yoga. I had a wonderful yoga teacher for a while who used to tell us to say things like “hello hamstrings” when we stepped into that first downward dog, or “hello feet, thank you so much for carrying me through the day” as we did bound angle pose. We would all laugh, a little, but think about it — do you really appreciate what your feet do for you? (I also learned recently that a quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet. Interesting. . .)

So now I’m going to go mindfully fold my towels.

Ommmmm. . . .


Colonoscopy Day

So, my husband (51) had his first colonoscopy today. He is concerned about my preserving his dignity, but I’m not actually intending to write about anything that would threaten it in any way. This post will, it goes without saying (so why say it?), be given his stamp of approval before being posted.

I’m not really interested in discussing the enormous quantity of laxatives consumed in preparation for this procedure, nor the specifics of their effect. It was mildly amusing in a gallows-humor sort of way that some of my piano students were arriving yesterday for a group class, as we mixed the 5-year supply of laxative powder with the 64 ozs. of non-red gatorade, and some seemed quite interested in what we were concocting. There were a lot of jokes made about the potential reaction of parents if their children drank that “juice” by mistake, rather than the apple cider that was intended for them.

The gallows humor continued in the prep room this morning as the nurse described both the procedure and the “recovery” process, the results of which were audible from previous patients in the curtained areas 3 or 4 cubbies down from ours. We looked unsuccessfully for the opportunity to use Bertram Pincus’ line regarding chaos and screaming. Suggestions were made for the manufacture of buttons bearing the logo “toot for fluids;” followed by discussion regarding the implications of my eliciting promises for undying love and devotion, gifts of jewelry, and a trip to Tuscany while he (my husband, not Bertram Pincus) was under the influence of anesthetic and advised not to make any legally binding decisions for the next 24 hours.

No, what really struck me was when he was wheeled back out to me and the curtained cubbies afterward. This is a strong, virile, intelligent man, and the anesthetic had rendered him as helpless as a baby. He kept telling the nurse that he was supposed to be somewhere else, that the doctor needed to come and “do something.” Then he’d curl up on his side and fall back to sleep with a little pout. If I touched his arm he’d reach for and clutch my hand, and open his (bloodshot) eyes just enough to squint at me and ask me if the doctor was going to come for him soon.

Eventually he came to fuller consciousness, although much of what happened over the next couple of hours is only “remembered” upon my prompting. He had trouble getting feet into pant legs, may or may not have fallen asleep in the bathroom before we left the hospital, and once we got home, bobbled around, bouncing off of door frames, insisting that he could deliver luggage to the basement and wondering if he should do his routine workout while having trouble maintaining vertical as he walked across the kitchen. I worried about having to leave him home alone for a few hours.

He has never been so grateful for the 36-hour-fast-breaking brunch of scrambled egg whites, 7-grain porridge, toast, coffee and pineapple, nor have I that I could make it for him.

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