The Courage to Change What I Can’t Accept

T-24:30 and counting.

This level of fatigue and brain fog is unacceptable. So are the mood swings, the sleeplessness, the heavy periods. 

T-24:25 and counting.

I’m not thrilled with the weight gain, either. Part of it my own doing, granted, from stress eating when my mother in law went through her last year on this side, trapped in the revolving door of what passes for health care for the elderly in the US. Part of it stems from attempting to comfort myself after Orion crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A lot of it has to do with this last act in the monthly dance of the hormones.


So tomorrow, I give something different a shot. Inspired by the quick and positive results that Oakley had with his herbs, I made an appointment at the local acupuncture practice. Many of my friends who live in town have had good results. It is worth a shot. 


I want to stay as far from synthetic hormones and more commonplace medicine as I can. At the time of her death, my mom was on high-estrogen birth control pills. She smoked. She had little relief from them. The heart attack that claimed her life happened when she was 51, just a few months older than I am now. 

That is totally unacceptable. 

I have too much to do right now. I have an e-mag; letters and emails to write concerning the environment for the generations to come; crossposting and reposting to do for animal rescues on Facebook; and a dog to care for. I don’t have time for fatigue, for draining periods, or to slip the veil of tears.  


I’ve done my research, so I have a rough idea of how tomorrow’s appointment will go. Curiosity has overridden fear. What changes will be suggested otherwise, I don’t know. I will let curiosity lead the way.





Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Bowl of Soup

We had a cold, damp Memorial Day yesterday. As in turn the heat on cold. Wrong on so many levels. 

I made soup for lunch. I found the recipe in More with Less, one of my go-to cookbooks. It’s a compilation of recipes published by the Mennonite Church along with some gently thought provoking reflections on the world’s food supply. The Vietnamese chicken soup sounds austere, but is oh-sooo-good on a grey damp day.

My spin on it: cook enough pasta in chicken broth laced with garlic and soy sauce. I used whole wheat spaghetti. I see no reason why you couldn’t use rice or spelt or some other kind. Cook until it’s kind of mushy and thick. Put in lots of black pepper and some shredded leftover chicken. You can garnish with a few sliced onion tops. I drizzled on a little sesame oil. It hit the spot as I watched the rain fall.

It was also a way to remember my dad. He had a gift for soup making, and I’m sure that my efforts pleased him almost as much as the chicken that I made on the rotisserie on Sunday. Indoors due to chilly dampness, but still delicious. 

My favorite station played Bach yesterday as I lunched. My mom was a classically trained pianist, and Bach ranked her top five favorite composers. I held pictures of her practicing at the organ at church where she filled in as organist, and images of Dad at the stove. Somehow, it seemed more appropriate and more of what they would have really wanted than making a five-hour drive to weep at their graves. 

Is Your Liver Happy?

Oakley’s tummy runs on the sensitive side. Transitioning him off of the corn-laden food that had been donated to the shelter and on to a healthier brand proved interesting, to say the least. So did figuring out what he could or would eat–or not.

He’d been having problems with acid reflux. After a particularly bad episode, I got him in to see the vet at our practice who does traditional Chinese medicine. Check pulses, gums, tongue and a few other noninvasive things. Oakley had been holding heat and phlegm in his liver.

Dr. P recommended “cool” proteins such as bison, turkey, and fish; cut way back on dairy products; and a tablespoon of pumpkin with each meal. She also prescribed an herbal formula called Liver Happy. He’d gained weight. A lot. His body wasn’t breaking stuff down properly, and not being able to absorb the nutrients made him feel hungry.

I have no idea what’s in it, but he had a peaceful night for the first time in quite a while. He’s adapted to the diet changes pretty well. Perhaps a bit of complaint issued now and then, but a firm “What did Dr. P tell us?” puts a stop to it.

In very rudimentary terms, Chinese medicine is about bringing the body, mind, and spirit into harmony with each other through the use of acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition. It’s noninvasive. It spares the inconvenience, discomfort, and pain involved with western diagnostic testing. 

Oakley had hit the wall with the acid blockers, the only thing that western medicine had to offer. He will be weaned off of them soon. His liver will be kept happy.


The Walk for a Cleaner Environment

On Saturday, the March Against Monsanto will take place. Events protesting their attempts to poison the food supply will be staged at locations throughout the US. 

It’s good, and it’s needed to show that we will not allow ourselves, our descendants, and our companions to be experimental subjects. However, we need to demonstrate what we are for as well. 

Mother Teresa was once asked if she’d join a demonstration against war. She declined, but said, “I’ll be there if it’s a demonstration for peace.” What if we who may not be able to get to an event for one reason or another supported our comrades by staging a walk for a cleaner environment, a healthy food supply for humans and their companions, and a safer world for all?

This is what I’ll be doing: I will walk into a store and buy at least one organic or nontoxic item. If I see a manager, I will walk up to him or her and thank them for carrying said item. I will walk into the local organic garden center and get some plants. 

That’s all you have to do. Hope you can join me, and keep our friends on the front lines in your spiritual practices on Saturday.

The Price of a Green Lawn

She’d been holding her own, and had a good day on Saturday. She participated in a fundraising walk for cancer in dogs, then went home and took a nap. 

Sunday found her hiding in the shower. The side of her face was swollen, and there was blood in her saliva and nasal discharge.

Monday found her at the vet’s. The cancer was in her nasal cavity. Nothing more to be done. Take her home, keep her comfortable. Chicken, mashed potatoes, ice cream.

On Tuesday, she and her guardian took the walk to the Rainbow Bridge. The vet released her at her home. She was only eight, or about 56 in dog years.

Her guardian lives in a town that carries on the tradition of Hemingway’s Oak Park, one of “broad lawns and narrow minds,” or in this case, green lawns at any cost. What’s a few companions and kids when one feels compelled to have an emerald swath unfolding from the front door to the sidewalk or road? 

It’s been said that the quest for a green lawn generates more agricultural research than any other crop. Unfortunately, it’s geared towards the “better living through chemistry” school of thought rather than encouraging homeowners to consider planting their yards with ground covers that don’t need to be spoon fed toxins to look their best. The main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, glyphosphate, has been linked to more ecological disruption than any other chemical polluter.

Other lawn chemicals have been linked to cancer in animals and humans. That’s why groundskeepers and the people who do the spraying for lawn care companies wear haz-mat suits and respirators while they work.

Two big changes need to be made: 1. if you must have a lawn, explore ecologically friendly alternatives to keep it green and 2. if you live someplace where grass wasn’t intended to grow, why are you trying to fight with nature? You can do a lot with alternatives such as xeriscaping, growing organic vegetables, alternatives to grass–you get the picture.

We have, and will continue to pay a heavy price for the damage. In addition to cancer, exposure to these toxins has been linked to neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and to autism spectrum disorders. Treatment of any of these is not cheap, nor can the cost of the heartbreak involved be calculated. Prevention is always better. 

(With love for Georgia, Gids, Toby, Walter, Stanley, and Orion)







Hunting and Gathering

There was a host on a now-defunct classical station who would describe today’s weather as “moody and introspective; a good day for tea and Russian novels.” I would add wool socks to the list. If I had any in the house, I’d add a shot of blackberry brandy to the tea.

Today’s introspective processes are brought to you by the irony of living in still more or less farm country but having to make a 20 to 30 minute drive to go grocery shopping. I’m blessed with a home delivery service for some items such as eggs, greens, organic chickens, and bison at competitive prices. For nonperishables and some organic stuff, I divide my shopping between Trader Joe’s and a couple of local family- or employee-owned stores. 

We have some chain stores, but I really prefer to avoid them. One which offers deep discounts smells kind of weird, even in the new building, and carries too much stuff made in China. Another that used to be locally owned is chronically overpriced, and its new parent company has a creepy policy of sending a bagger to your car with you to “help” (working theory is to prevent shopping cart loss). Then there are Target and Wal-Mart. Target is OK for grabbing milk and has a pretty decent line of pizza made in Italy, but I don’t get much else there. I try to avoid Wal-Mart, except in an extreme emergency.

When Hubby worked in the physical office before telecommuting, I would send him a list for Woodman’s and Trader Joe’s. Nowadays, I do most of my shopping mid-week on days when I have voice lessons. My teacher is within spitting distance of Woodman’s and Trader Joe’s. I take a cooler for things like cheese and chicken so they can sit in the quiet cool of my hatchback while I sing. 

I have a local friend, another unrepentant foodie, who shops at the same places. We carpool in summer. If we go out for lunch, we have made a day of it. 

This year, I’m toying with joining an organic CSA for the summer, anyway. The farmer’s market the next town over has some good options, especially as summer rolls on. 

I picked up some chicken from a decent producer for dinner tonight. I’m thinking oven fried, a nice compromise between comfort and austerity. My produce lady brought asparagus yesterday. Probably roast that. Maybe some mashed sweet potato. 

It sounds good enough to take a nap on, and dream of the coming summer.



The Cold Winds of May

Last summer as the days began to shorten, one of my best friends had to walk her Beagle boy to the Bridge. He’d staved it off for eighteen months, but the time arrived. Even though the day was warm, I still felt chilled after she called to tell me that he was running free.

That chill has turned into a familiar but unwanted companion of late. One of my dearest and closest friends through dog rescue circles and Facebook found out a week ago that her senior Brittany boy has inoperable cancer. She’s weighing treatment options to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.

The owner of the pet store where I get Oakley’s prepared food is weighing options, too. Despite support from a holistic vet, an anti-cancer diet, and five radiation treatments, her cattle dog girl’s brain tumor came back. They are taking everything an hour at a time.

Three years ago this month, lymphoma sent Orion over the Rainbow Bridge. Between his age (13 -1/2) and his heart condition, nothing could be done except keep him comfortable and share many bags of potato chips with him. 

There was also the news of the passage of a Facebook friend’s wife who had fought back with everything she had against ovarian cancer for eight years. His deep grief emerges in the details of small acts such as removing her jewelry when the time came to let her remains go to the funeral home for cremation.

Last year, another dear and close Facebook friend had a cousin, now by an act of grace seven, who had to be treated for a form of cancer usually seen in elderly men who smoked cigars. For the second time.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a human or a companion. If there had been clearer diagnostics back in the day, Dante would have added a tenth circle representing cancer to his vision of hell. Weighing treatment options and their side effects; diet changes; lifestyle modifications are complex enough for a two-legged person who can more or less comprehend what it’s all about and why. Making them on behalf of someone who may or may not understand what’s going on or why is excruciating. 

There are natural treatments out there, certainly. But the question needs to be reframed: how do we prevent it in the first place? The usual advice is to eat a lot of fruits and veggies; some debate meat and dairy; others the role of carbs. Others feel that it’s caused by built-up resentments. All good advice in the microsphere, but how does one avoid it in the wider world? 

I don’t know. The world has grown more toxic despite the environmental consciousness that sprouted in the ’60’s when people started to realize that better living through chemistry was a short term solution at best. There are some legislators who have as much as admitted that they believe we live in the end times and that it doesn’t matter because they and others of their religious ilk will be swept up into heaven and tough for the rest of us. The companies that produce the problematic chemicals have pretty much bought and paid for the federal government. So we have to find ways to get around the dilemma.

Things I’m choosing to do in my world: buying a lot more organically produced food and looking at joining a CSA for fruit and veg this summer. I get most of my meat and fish from a local merchant who brings it to my door. I use nontoxic cleaning supplies.

For Oakley, I make a lot of his food. I’m keeping his vaccines to a minimum. He’s not a big outdoors guy, so I don’t have to worry so much about exposure to chemical run off from the farm next door.

I know intellectually that I did my best for Orion with the information that I had at the time. Still, when I wake up at 3:30 AM, the questions start. Why did I listen to the old vet about vaccinating? Should I have hosed him off more when he was digging? Was it the steroids he took for allergy relief? The family who farmed the adjoining field all developed unusual illnesses in their adult years, and they used the chemicals linked to cancer, autism, and neurological problems; is that was made Orion sick?

Then Oakley starts to snore, and I am lead to dreaming my way into a world where these questions will never be relevant.