Make yourself at home. Put your feet up. Grab your favorite beverage and prepare to enjoy the reads.



From Suffering to Courage

Elizabeth and her Dad, James D. Deane
So often over the years, people who learned about my diagnosis of bone cancer and partial amputation of my pelvis in my early twenties would say how courageous I was. I had seven surgeries over eleven years and never once felt courageous. I would deny that I was courageous at all, thereby, denying their opinion of me, almost like calling them a liar or fool.

It wasn't until one little old man told me that there were just two people in the world who he admired more than any others because of the courage they had due to succeeding to live a life with pain and suffering and not taking everybody down because of it.

The first person he admired for his courage was his own father who had been crushed between two railroad cars of a train and carried to the station where a doctor sawed off his leg. It was the early 1900's. they did things that way back then. This amputee lived out his total of 86 years with, at first, a very heavy wooden leg for forty years. Then. after all that time, he had a surgery to correct the first botched surgery, after which a new modern lightweight artificial leg was provided. This man worked a job until the day he died. I can see why this man was considered courageous.

The second person was me. This little old man, age 90, was my own father who told me this a few months before he died. I cried to know my father had kept those secret thoughts about me for so long, but terribly grateful he told me.

I have learned that courage is in the eye of the beholder, and you never know who admires your courage. Even though I did not (do not) feel courageous, when others say they admire my courage, I now let them say it and I graciously say thank you, reminding myself that there must be something I do or did that deserved that badge of courage.

Sometimes during those eleven years and seven surgeries, I cried and complained.  I wanted to die and just get it over with. Sometimes I thought I would go crazy. I felt I had no choice. I couldn't escape my circumstances. I just had to keep experiencing what came next. I felt like a victim of circumstances, not courageous at all. It amazes me that I'm still here. I made it! So maybe that did take a little bit of courage to get through it all.

It was not easy in my own eyes to think of myself as courageous, but now I can finally see it. I hope you will too. Realize that you can be afraid or be feeling discouraged and still have a courageous spirit. If life gives us a precarious path to follow and there is no getting off the path, all we can do is keep going even with the fear or pain or emotional trauma. That takes courage. Anyone who has faced adversity or suffered a loss or even stress that can get through to the other side of those things has courage. Keep in mind that like a soldier who has no choice but to face whatever it is he has to do, he does what he has to do whether he is afraid or not. He may not feel brave. But, he keeps at it even if he is afraid.

What I try to do is put one foot ahead of the other and keep going. As they say, the only way out of fear is through it. This goes for any kind of pain and suffering, too, in my opinion. Accepting whatever is happening is half the battle.

Speaking of battles. When it comes to cancer, people will say, he or she is a cancer warrior. I feel that anyone who has a medical challenge can be considered a warrior. Like any warrior on the battlefield, there is nowhere to run. You have to stay and fight the battle. If you have to fight for your life, then that's what you do, even if you do it kicking and screaming and crying and wailing. You get through it.

And now I have leukemia. But, that's another story... er... battle. Stay tuned.


Enjoying Alone

The sun is about to set behind the cliff. Due west is to my right, the ocean in front of me, I'm in an odd curve of the bay where the sun doesn't disappear to sleep in the ocean. The sky has turned a gorgeous sky-blue-pink, as my mother used to call it. I still love it here at this location so much.

I don't want to leave, but I am thoroughly chilled now, even with the blanket wrapped around me. It’s odd how I would have been warm enough, comfortable enough, in the same temperature back east (inland Midwest). But, here, on the coast, it seems colder. Perhaps the moisture from the ocean adds to the sense of the coldness. Or maybe it is just because I am by myself, and feeling a little bit lonesome. I gather my belongings and head for the car. Still, there is time on the meter. I want to sit here in my car, warm up and watch people passing by.

Many couples saunter arm in arm. Young and old, fat and thin. Some walk their doggies on leash. A young woman about fifteen comes by with her white Standard Poodle proudly prancing at her side. Such a spirited animal! She plunks down on my previously occupied bench to watch the waves and invites her furry buddy to join her. I am envious as she leans against him to borrow his cuddly warmth. They sit there a while like lovers with their shadowed heads together in the last remnants of twilight.

I've heard that the rhythm of the ocean changes on every seventh wave. They say that every so often there is a wave that seems bigger, more spectacular, than those preceding it. I don't keep count. I am watching too many other things. But it must be Mother Nature’s way of announcing the fabled seventh wave, as the sea grabs my attention enough to draw me away from all the other distractions around me, as though it has said, "Hey! Pay attention here! Yes. Here! You can't miss this one glorious wave. At least, watch this one." And I marvel.

Suddenly many people pass by now obscuring my view. The movies have just let out. I'm cold and go home.


Raccoon Danger

Recently a neighbor of mine moved away. She was in the habit of feed raccoons at night. They went into her garage to eat. I personally haven't seen any around my house, but then, I'm not out at night looking for them. They certainly are cute, but do you know that if your cat or dog sniffs at a pile of raccoon poop, the parasite can enter your pet and cause all kinds of problems and even death.

Raccoons are host to diseases like rabies.  I'd guess that most of us have had our pets inoculated for Rabies. So maybe not to worry. But most humans don't get Rabies vaccine until after bitten. And how do we know if they have Rabies or not? When bitten by a wild animal the treatment should be as soon as possible. Once a rabies infection is established, there's no effective treatment. Though a small number of people have survived rabies, the disease is usually fatal. For that reason, if you think you've been exposed to rabies, you must get a series of shots to prevent the infection from taking hold. Starting with a vaccine injected close to the spot where you were bitten. Then it takes a series of  4 shots all within a two week period. Fortunately, in the US rabies is fairly rare. But, bitten by a wild animal it is not safe to presume.

Raccoons also carry another more common problem. It's called Baylisascaris infection. It is caused by a roundworm found in raccoons. It can infect people as well as a variety of other animals, including dogs and cats. Human infections are rare but can be severe if the parasites travel to your eye, organs or the brain. The parasite is endemic in raccoons, with infection rates ranging from 72% to 100%. This parasite lives in their intestinal tract and produces thousands of eggs that are shed in their poop.

Raccoons make communal latrines that can be found at the bases of trees and up in branch crotches, on woodpiles, along and on the top of fences, on roofs, attics, and sandboxes. This results in a lot of the eggs in one specific spot, attracting foraging birds and small rodents to undigested parts. This continues the parasite’s life cycle as it infects and kills the intermediate host. Then the raccoon scavenges the dead, becomes infected with the larva and round and round we go.

The immensity of these worms can cause significant tissue trauma, especially in young children with their small bodies. The most common diagnosis from infection is eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, in which the brain and spinal cord and the meninges membranes surrounding the two become enormously inflamed. Have you heard of meningitis?

But, how to protect ourselves and our pets? How can we get raccoons to move on?


Garden Memories - Lilies

Looking back upon the past summer and the incredible heat of October, it seemed to me that autumn would never truly arrive even though my Chrysanthemums insisted on their season. Finally, we verged upon November and I welcomed the colder weather so that I could get serious about my gardening. Like a greenhouse flower, I wilt in extreme temperatures. All the things I had left undone begged me to step outside and tackle them.

For me, this was a time for general cleaning up and implementing my springtime plans. I had many ideas for enhancing my garden, and as I worked, I found that new schemes jumped into my mind altering everything. I have to admit that I am a spontaneous and haphazard gardener. While raking leaves in the area that I had intended to place some Jade plant, I suddenly daydreamed of it being planted with distinctive white Calla Lilies. Did you know that they aren't true lilies, by the way? I had recently excavated some out of a crowded corner of my yard just a short time before. Family members requested that I share my surplus. I had put them in containers in order to keep my promises to give them my lilies, just not so abundantly. I easily changed my "well thought out" plans and enthusiastically tackled my new Lily Patch when a parcel arrived.

I had forgotten my other previous autumn planting concept to create a bed of Stargazer Lilies, and here they were on my doorstep. I was so excited, it was like Christmas! Memory lapse made the surprise shipment even more pleasant. My mind overflowed with visions of pink splendor.

I recall my first introduction to Stargazers just seven years ago. Can you believe I had never seen any before then? Upon entering the home of a friend, I was assaulted by the most intensely breathtaking fragrance that literally commanded my attention. Instead of greeting my friend when she welcomed me in, I blurted out, "What is that incredible smell?" Then I saw the flustered look on her face. Some people think that the word, smell is not pleasant. My nose is in love with gardening as much as my hands, so smells of all sorts have very special appeal for me. I realized the error of my word usage, and quickly covered with scent. “I mean, that enticing scent!”

Smiling, she replied "Stargazer Lilies!" and led me to the exquisite bouquet sitting on the table in another room. I was astounded at their loveliness and have appreciated them ever since. Even though the fragrance can be profoundly concentrated (just one flower in the house can fill your home) I enjoy them. Last summer a catalog came in the mail with Stargazers on the front cover, and I made my very first mail order for plants of any kind. After receiving the package, I quickly got them into the ground. I can hardly wait for spring’s warmth to bring forth my garden fantasies.

I just moved into my house a year ago. The property had not been gardened in maybe twenty years. So I have had a lot of work to do over the past twelve months just clearing and preparing the soil. At a time when most people have put away their garden tools, I am now looking forward to my winter gardening. Oh, and by the way, anybody who wants some Calla Lilies, I have plenty, free for the digging. Call me!

I am reminded of a quote from the book by Elizabeth Lawrence, “Gardens in Winter”

"The season's beauty is in the quality of the sunlight, which is the more luminous when it is less brilliant, and in the delicacy of the shadow, which are paler and more precise than those of spring or summer or fall. On chance, mild days when an incandescent light falls across gravel walks, my garden seems more beautiful than at any other time. The essence of warmth and light is in this delicate sun that seeps into the spirit and penetrates the marrow. At no other season is the sun so grateful so gentle, and so healing. "


What do you drink?

There was a time in my childhood when water was at a premium, not in financial cost, but by lack of water availability. The first place was when we lived in a summer cabin. There were six of us. Mom, Dad, my three siblings and I. If it didn't feel too creepy we could take baths in the creek water that was our source of water through the faucets.

Mom, having been from an area of Pennsylvania where this was not considered unusual convinced us this was normal and quite safe. Waterways were not so polluted as they are today. (Or were they?) All we had to do was go back out to the dock and look straight down to the bottom of the creek through that clear water. So, what harm was there?

However, it was forbidden for us drink this water. The only drinking water came from a spring up a steep hill from where we lived. My father and older brother used to go up there and fill up large containers of water and bring it home. A bucket sat in the corner of the kitchen with a long-handled cup in it. I'm sure in olden times a family might share this cup, going over to it to take a drink.

But, Mom poured it into a container and put it in the refrigerator so we could pour ourselves a glass of water. Otherwise, the cup was used to add water to cooking pots or for heating up and rinsing the dishes.


Safe Laundry

What plant safe laundry detergents and soaps should I use for my homemade grey water system? Because of the drought, I don't want to use the hose to provide moisture to my garden. In the past, I totally got rid of grass and just started planting drought-friendly plants. Keep a grass yard takes a lot of water to keep it green all year long in California. And what a waste of money paying someone to mow it regularly! Certainly, with a yard full of grass during a drought, there is no green. Ugly!

Recently the drought has been severe in California and other places. So, I could just let the garden go. Live and let live... The ones that survive will be fine. The ones that need water will die.

It's funny how things work out. When the washing machine drains into the plumbing it goes out and down into the sewer. But, my plumbing got clogged. The washing machine water was backing up into the kitchen sink. At first, it wasn't too bad. Just don't leave and dirty dishes in the sink and the water would slowly drain. For a while, dumping baking soda and vinegar into the sink seemed to loosen things up a bit. But, after a while, it got to the point that I could only wash small loads because the sink would back up so much there would be no doubt it would overflow onto the floor if I washed a larger load.

One might ask... well why don't I hire a plumber? Simple... I have very little money. I have someone in my life who volunteered to run a "snake" tool into the plumbing, but because of back surgery, that got put off.

I thought about when I was a young mother and had an old-fashioned wringer washer. Just like washers today there was a large pipe connected to it that would be able to drain into the plumbing. However, back in those days, I could lay that hose down and let it drain out the back door into the backyard. As I thought about that, I realized I could do the same today with my modern washing machine. The only problem with it was the pipe on the back of the washer wasn't long enough to get it out the back door. That's when Kats connected a garden hose to that pipe. We ran it out beside where the dryer vent passed through the wall. Today the garden hose leads out to the garden.

When laundry water is going to the soil I wanted to make sure that any detergent I might use would be friendly to soil life. Obviously, big brand detergents are not a wise choice. I've learned that the various eco-detergents, even ones marked “biodegradable”, are not appropriate for the soil because they are essentially salt-based. And salt is BAD for the soil. Surprisingly Seventh Generation laundry detergent is not a good choice.

With a little research, I came across this list of safe laundry detergents for greywater use:
Oasis laundry liquid
Bio Pac Laundry Liquid
Biokleen Laundry Liquid
Ecos Laundry
LifeTree Laundry Liquid
Ecover Laundry Wash (some salt)
Mountain Green Laundry Detergent
Vaska Herbatergent

Here is a list of ingredients to avoid in greywater
boron/borax (toxic to plants)
sodium and ingredients with the word "sodium" in them
chlorine bleach (acceptable alternative: hydrogen peroxide)
sodium perborate
sodium trypochlorite
petroleum distillate
water softeners (contain sodium chloride or potassium chloride)
anti-bacterial soaps & cleaners
"whiteners", "softeners"
enzymes (enzymes in biological washing powders break down protein or fat stains on clothes)
titanium oxide
chromium oxide
artificial colors; FD&C colors
synthetic fragrance
artificial preservatives

NOTE: Most "popular" detergents do not even have their ingredients listed.


Dave Eggers - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Mini Review

It's a (creative non-fiction) memoir about a young man about age 20 whose father and mother die of cancer 5 months apart. He's left to raise his 7 year old brother. The author suggests that parts of his writing is fiction. Ah, well. I suppose any autobiography writer doesn't remember all the details and has to make up some parts.

Some people in my book group didn't like it.The first chapter is pretty graphic in descriptions of his caring for his mother in her last days. Those who didn't like the book wanted it to be a cleaned up version without the awful reality of his experience.

The rest is about how he raised his kid brother, and how he manages on his own after the death of the mother. He uses the F word a lot in his descriptions of how he and his friends relate as they enter into adulthood supporting one another, though he is very careful to raise his little bro with high parental standards.

Yet, of course they still relate as brothers rather than a parental figure and child. He doesn't have any opportunity to grieve or have closure but it's all expressed in his behavior throughout the book.

The writer has an interesting prose style that goes against anything we've ever been taught is the standard way to write. I really like it for that reason.

It is obvious to me that the author is a bonafide manic-depressive with paranoid tendencies. Either that, or he is in permanent panic mode because of his circumstances. Yet he copes and is successful enough to hold it together eventually, with the help of his friends, sets up his own business.

I also liked the book because it takes place right where I live, in the San Francisco bay area. I'm not sure readers in other parts of the country would relate to his descriptions of neighborhoods and travels in the region.

Check out author's name in Wiki.


Autumn Leaves

The abundance of blooming chrysanthemums enticed me. Of course, being only 4 or 5 years old at the time, I couldn't resist picking a few flowers and tucking them into my pockets to surreptitiously sniff them, later. Too bad I forgot about them and mommy found them when I came home. I sure got yelled at!

My mother was confounded at my thievery. Hadn't I been spanked enough for my evil ways? And yet I was still willing to take the chance each time I picked other people's flowers. It seemed logical to me that such abundance was to be shared. Of course, if Mommy had a garden of her own, perhaps I would not have had such urges. But, since I was given the freedom to roam.... well... it just seemed natural to me to help myself. I had no idea what was to follow the blooming of the chrysanthemums. It seemed like the metamorphosis happened overnight.

I walked the length and breadth of the streets marveling at the extraordinary changes taking place. One day the trees were green, the air was humid, and suddenly the next day, the trees were screaming brilliant and the air was brisk with a new warmth and freshness. The fragrance was tantalizing. That first autumn I remember surprised me.

As I walked the sidewalk that magical day the multi-colored leaves deliciously licked my feet as I crunched my way through them. I remember gathering maple, elm, oak, even willow. I knew my trees by name, of course. Only for a moment did I ask myself if this was another form of stealing. But, did the trees belong to individuals? It seemed to me that since they lined the streets on both sides, they belonged to the streets and not to people. Besides, the leaves were already no longer attached to the trees! It seemed the leaves were up for grabs. I often tossed down one pretty captured leaf in exchange for another even lovelier one. My hands were so full of leaf bouquet by the time I returned home, this time, I was sure it was okay to bring this bounty. And for once I was right.

The instant I walked in the door, my mother's shriek was one of delight. She was pleased with what she thought was a gift for her. I immediately went along with that idea. It hadn't occurred to me to offer them to her. But, I was so happy she approved, so relieved I was not in trouble for being a bad, stealing girl that it was easy for me to give up my newly acquired treasures.

Mommy laid each leaf out on the table, then mysteriously began to slip each one into a book, to save them, she said. Imagine my disappointment with the next stage the trees exhibited... the skeletal barrenness preceding winter. 

Apricot Pit Cure for Cancer - Not

Herbs Cost Money
Over the years I attempted to modify my nutrition in whatever was the most popular fashion at the time. (and if you read the latest, you must realize it changes frequently). Still, I do continue to take vitamins and use various herbal preparations substantiated as useful, as well as use standard methods of medical treatments. I use the Balch Books, as they are well formulated without all the hype. They have some references, but not enough. I study them and compare other sources to gain enough knowledge to see what I would be paying to pee at a high and useless rate, or to gain some healthful benefits. And that's my point aiming for as good a health as possible, not necessarily to cure what cannot be cured. If my ancestors used the stuff for generations for what ailed them, fine, But that didn't stop them from dying from cancer or have deaths at a younger age than we have. Just because a treatment was used in the past, doesn't mean it would work any better today.

Not too long ago, I found a site that gave the original recipe of eating just 17 sun-dried apricot pits per day to "cure" cancers as that was the original way of doing it. The site offered a U.S. source of the apricot pits and provided them at nominal cost But, when I looked for that site today, I found it's been long gone. So, I found another one where you can buy organically grown apricot pits already hammered (it is a really hard job). But, apricot pits contain cyanide! When someone gets cyanide poisoning it actually interferes with the body's ability to get oxygen. So none of the cells in the body are getting any oxygen. Some of the symptoms of cyanide poisoning are:
Apricot Kernel Warning
Patients will first notice a faint almond smell, feel dizzy perhaps initially, breathlessness, then convulsions or seizures, foaming at the mouth. And finally complete organ shutdown and death.

Today, the apricot pit cure has been transformed into Laetrile treatments.

I experienced the first three symptoms, then vomiting before I quit ingesting apricot pits. I really didn't know about all the dangerous side effects at the time. I just foolishly followed all the latest hype of what alternatives could magically cure my cancer. Needless to say, it didn't work. I hope anyone reading this will research it thoroughly by finding authentic scientific articles.

I am aware there are clinics in Tijuana, and Juarez, Mexico where one can go for "Laetrile treatments" under the care of a Mexican physician claiming to be able to cure your cancers. You don't get apricots to eat, you get IV's full of vitamin C and other nutrients you could easily just get for yourself. You get a place to stay, you get people who are so happy to receive your money that they will treat you extra nice, just to make sure you will come back often if you're in good enough condition to do so. I’ve run a support group for cancer patients the last fifteen years. I see people waste money and precious time they could spend with their families. I’ve watched them suffer so badly towards the end of their lives because they think standard medical treatment is “bad” for them. They risk following the idea that there are secret cures for cancer if you only just try them. They do not work.


On Happiness

Whatever happened to happily ever after? That was all hype, like Santa Claus, Leprechauns, Fairies, Jesus and all that other bunch of lies that were perpetrated upon us as kids. There ought to be a Law!!!

Really... I think happiness is what we make it. As the Buddhists say, one of the first truths is that we all experience suffering. None can escape it. Once that sinks in, we can work on it, or around it or with it, or whatever.

My life has often seemed as though it has all been one big dark pit of suffering, and a lot of it I brought on myself by my attitudes. (But, I didn't know any better. How could I cope if no one I knew had the skills to be an example to me?) I have a serious history of depression and hopelessness.

The person I am today is not who I once was. Somewhere along the way, I learned that happiness is not meant to be a permanent condition. What a shock when I found that out! I thought I had missed out on something everyone else had.  Though, truly, it is a good thing we don't have an abundance of joy. We would get bored with it. So, in order to appreciate it, thrill to it, we must be deprived of it, before it fills us to overflowing. Shades of "My Cup Runneth Over". Anywho, to make a long story short, it is funny how the littlest things make me happy now, that I never even considered worthy of the title. Plus, just forcing myself to smile makes me feel a sort of a fake happiness that catches on and becomes real the more I do it. Sounds crazy I know, but I am probably somewhat that, too.

Then, of course, there's Chocolate Happiness!

I am a believer in the concept of destiny. Not that we are pawns of it, but that we have created a plan to enhance us and challenge us to become the best we can be. Naturally, we do not live the perfect path, but some acceptance of the painful things sure goes a long way for making life easier.

When I look back, I can see so many things that I used to consider disastrous in my life were actually good things. Being with a man who I loved, for 17 years and having him turn against me with his fists, and tolerating it way too long before setting myself free in such a very traumatic way. (I went through all that with the most negative attitude possible).

Yet, today, I do not regret a single moment of it. If I had clung to what I thought was going to bring me happiness, (staying with him and working on the situation) I would never have met the true love of my life and true happiness even though we can only see each other once a week. (It is all the more precious!) And I never would have learned to use the computer properly, and never would have set up the chondrosarcoma support group, and so on and so on. And all this brings me, deep in my soul, healing, and satisfaction beyond mere happiness. It brings me a compassionate heart that opens to heartfelt pain and full love for others I have never met. See what I mean?


When Water Was at a Premium

I remember two times as a child when water was at a premium, not in financial cost, but by a lack of water availability. The first place was when we lived in a summer cabin. There were six of us. Mom, Dad, my three siblings and I. If it didn't feel too creepy we could take baths in the creek water that came through the faucets.

Mom, having been from an area of Pennsylvania where this was not considered unusual convinced us this was normal and quite safe. Waterways were not so polluted as they are today. All we had to do was go back out to the dock and look straight down to the bottom of the creek through that clear water. So, what harm was there?

However, we were forbidden to drink this water. The only drinking water came from a spring up a steep hill from where we lived. My father and older brother used to go up there and fill up large containers of water and bring them home. A bucket sat in the corner of the kitchen with a long-handled cup in it. I'm sure in olden times a family might share this cup, going over to it to take a drink. However, Mom poured it into a Tupperware container and put it in the refrigerator so we could pour ourselves an individual glass of water. Otherwise, the long-handled cup was used to add water to cooking pots or for heating up for washing and rinsing the dishes.

The second circumstance where lack of water was an issue was when we lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse out in the country. The wide creaking floorboards of the kitchen housed a large trap door that led down to the storage cistern, our only source of water storage. Winter snow melt and rain helped to keep the cistern partly full. But, it was necessary to go out to the well as summer passed and the cistern went dry. We had to pump water into large pails which we used to wash dishes or mop floors. (not very sanitary, but we never thought about that).  At first, we all shared in pouring buckets of water into the cistern. But it seemed an unending chore until my big brother rigged up a rain gutter beneath the spigot so we could pump water directly into the cistern. My big brother was a really clever guy! At one point, though, even the well went dry and my father had to order water and have it delivered in a large truck, which then emptied water into our cistern.

When I think about it today, I shake my head in wonder. I live in California now. I lived in Western New York in my childhood. I expect to experience drought here, but not in New York. It makes me wonder what people did in times past when water was at a premium. The world I live in today makes it appear that water is abundant, yet not all that safe to drink. Therefore, it is popular habit to buy drinking water by individual bottles. Truck delivery is done by five-gallon jugs.


What to Expect from an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaginging)

If you have ever had an x-ray where they have you lie down on a table. having an MRI is a little bit like that except the "table" is narrower. However, you will be snug as a bug in a rug once inside the tube, as your body will be comfortable embraced and supported by the MRI machine. If you have ever had a CT scan you know that your body is automatically guided through a large hole without you having to move or anyone having to move you. An MRI is similar in the same way, except the hole is smaller and is longer. If you have ever slept in a top bunk with the ceiling above your head, it is similar to that, except the ceiling is closer. For some people, this can be intensely claustrophobic. If you know that you can't tolerate tight spaces like a too small public bathroom cubicle then you should arrange ahead of time to have something to calm you. Perhaps a tranquilizer pill, for example. Occasionally an IV can be given if necessary. Be sure to discuss these issues with the ordering doctor.

One of the best MRI experiences I ever had was when the ceiling of the space I was lying inside of was painted sky blue and had clouds. They gave me a pair of earphones to wear and I got to choose the music to be played. I had soft pillows under my knees, a warmed blanket laid over me and a pleasant recorded Lady-Voice speaking to me whenever instructions were given. There was a soft breeze wafting that came from behind my head. The banging and rat-tat-tatting of the machine never bothered me. I played a fantasy in my mind that I was hiding inside a hollow tree as a child while a woodpecker tapped on the tree.

One of the worst was when I had to lie flat, no pillows, in a cold room with just a single sheet over me. They insisted I wear earplugs. It was dark inside with a little row of mild lighting on each side. The ceiling was gray. A fan blew cold air right up my nose which started up a Migraine Headache. Because they insisted I wear earplugs, the extra loud, commanding, recorded male voice telling me to hold still, even though I was frozen into place, was the most annoying of all! I had a fantasy of being the "Incredible Hulk" and wringing the neck of whoever had set it up that way. Just kidding about that part.

Now, whenever I go for an MRI I wear sweats, or a jersey t-shirt type fabric, pants, and top with no hooks, buttons, zippers, etc and ask to wear them. I wear warm, thick socks. I see no reason to strip down and lay there freezing beneath a skimpy hospital gown when I can be humanly comfortable. It makes no difference to the reading of the MRI, I have been told. I ask for double sheeting (if there are no warm flannel blankets) pulled up around my cheeks and shoulders. I tell them I don't like the earplugs as they aggravate my sinuses. (They do.) And could they please turn down the volume on the voice. Since I have done modeling for artists in the past, I do have the capacity to lie completely still for long periods of time, even though parts of me get tingly and numb, and sometimes painful. I spend the time praying, meditating, thinking beautiful thoughts, and/or fantasizing. I make sure that I have taken sufficient medication beforehand to allay my pain if I have any. That is if I am not required to be without food or drink overnight. If that is the case, I have used a mind-over-matter technique with pain,  and have found it useful for getting through situations like this.

That first time with the music has never been repeated and I have never been able to get permission to bring in my own. So, I never ask about music anymore. If it is really cold inside, during a break in the machine noises, I will ask for the fan to be turned off, sometimes. Some people think it gets too warm and stuffy without it. But, I've never had a problem with it. During longer breaks, I do move ever so slightly to take in a very deep, slow breath and stretch a tiny bit, but never disturb the part of my body they are focusing on. The main thing about holding still is to not hold myself stiffly. That's what causes pain to arise. When I hold still, I try to think of myself as soft as butter melting in sunlight.

The staff are usually quite accommodating if I ask politely. I always apologize ahead of time for being too bothersome, explaining that I have been through so much medical trauma in the past, and would appreciate it if we could do these things. I always thank them each time some request has been agreed with, and remind them how kind they are. I think they do appreciate it and will go the extra mile for a patient that is not complaining and bitching at them. They have to take that kind of treatment all day, every day, from some patients who are really unable to control themselves while they are suffering. And it can be refreshing to be treated as sweet angels of mercy for a change. (Male staff, too.) It can often bring out the best in people that way and bring on a more nurturing experience.

That is my personal philosophy about it. It may be different for others. Sometimes there are people who do not respond to this kind of treatment and remain aloof, cold, remote, sometimes arrogant, and so forth. That is their problem if they want to act that way. I am not going to let them turn me into a helpless little patient, even if they do have me in tears. I do complain to the right people if I have received unkind, inhumane or unprofessional treatment. I have been known to get up and walk out of a situation and leave them open-mouthed when I have been treated in less than a humane way.


Vera sat in the car staring out over the cliff, seagulls dipping back and forth on the breeze. She took the rest of her sandwich, broke it into pieces, and began throwing them out the window one piece at a time.

Soon gulls squawked and dive bombed her car. Vera quickly threw out the rest, and when the fighting started, she raised the window and numbly watched, not able to look away. Her intent to do a kindness, to feed some hungry birds had turned into a violent free-for-all as the bigger birds pecked at the smaller ones taking the food right out of their beaks.

Vera was sorry she came out here. Sorry to see the gray waves sloppily sloshing the shore. It reminded her so much of herself... gray waves. Not even waves, just gray. Gray like the dreams that didn't make sense. Vera didn't just feel it, she was the essence of it, like the heavy fog beginning to creep toward the cliff. She felt like she could dissipate and seep right into it like dust swept into the air. Except she didn't have the energy to move. Just sit and stare and be nowhere.

Vera knew she was depressed. She had been here many times before. Despondency... her old friend/old foe never went too far away, always lurking in the background of her life somewhere. "That's the way it is when you've got brain chemicals out of whack," she said to the last departing seagull.

The oddest things triggered her mood swings. It wasn't anything that Paul said. He could say the same exact thing ten days ago and it wouldn't pierce her heart, draining all the blood of her self-esteem away. No. It wasn't what Paul said. It was the brain chemicals.


A Little Rain Must Fall

I was living in Indiana from '85 to '95. During that time period, California was experiencing drought where my daughter lived. My grandson came to visit me when he was eleven and wandered around, wide-eyed, at all the green grass and trees. Half his life he had not seen such verdant lushness!

We had plenty of rain all summer in Indiana. One time we had someplace to go, and just as we got out the door, it started pouring. I said a few rudely chosen words about the rain as we got in the car soaking wet.

"Granny, you shouldn't complain about the rain!" my grandson admonished. "It is sooo BEAUTIFUL to me!!"

Out of the mouths of babes...


Eye Candy Flower

Around here it's called a Poor Man's Orchid. I've seen it also been referred to as Australian Fairy Iris. I like that! More commonly, African Iris, (Moraea grandiflora).

It's a common "filler" plant. People plant them just to fill space in their gardens. But they are not noticed much amongst the long spiky leaves and everything else that grows abundantly here in California.

When I took this picture, it was late in the day and the flower didn't show up very well. But after cropping everything else out and just the flower sat there in the shading it's fragile beauty struck me. It's like candy. So sweet. I've heard the expression "eye candy" before, usually in relationship to handsome boys or pretty girls to be admired. But, this was candy for my wounded soul (a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down).