I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in a citizen science project with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, by signing up for the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative. There are enough categories that anyone can do it. I registered in ‘a certain age’ group with no symptoms or diagnosis; my brother who’s been recently diagnosed registered in the ‘anyone 18+’ group. He’s doing great with medication. There’s also a category for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s but not yet taking medication. There appears to be a link between loss of smell and certain degenerative brain diseases.
This study involves a ‘smell identification test’ which they mail to you, along with a pencil. You get four booklets with ten scratch n’ sniff patches in each book, use the pencil to scratch the patch, and then identify the smell to the best of your ability. Some of these were easy and a lot of them were hard. Kind of smelled like one thing, kind of like another, sometimes not like any of the options. But you have to fill them all in, so you take your best guess.
It was really fun, but awareness of chemical scent residue lingered in my nose for hours, even after a brisk walk up the driveway in driving wind. I was glad it was trash day, and pitched the booklets in the garbage can once I had entered the data online. It was very thorough, leaving no room for error, going through each page of each booklet one at a time, and then checking your answers at the end of each booklet. It felt good to contribute to this research to try “to learn more about how brain disease starts and changes and how to stop it.”
I won’t ever see the results of my test, so I won’t know whether that one patch was supposed to smell like watermelon or motor oil, cloves or apple. But I do think that my sniffer is in pretty good shape, as almost all of the patches smelled like something that was on the multiple choice list. I encourage you to check it out, have some fun, and contribute to this admirable effort sponsored by an admirable foundation started by an admirable and courageous man.
I was surprised by how delicious this simple meal was. Two cans of white beans rinsed and drained, four celery ribs sliced thinly, some chopped shallots and spiralized zucchini from the freezer, and a quick vegetable broth simmered from saved odds and ends in the freezer. Sautéed the celery in some olive oil first, tossed in the zuke, shallots and stock with some Penzeys Justice and Mural of Flavor, salt and pepper, a splash of Umi plum vinegar and stewed for about five minutes, then added the beans and cooked for another five or ten. It’s a NYT recipe that I both simplified and spiced up, then served with a pop of paprika on top, and a quick flatbread improvised from sourdough discard yesterday. It was definitely the most healthful thing I ate today.
It also gave me a good laugh! Talk about perspective. I was facilitating a meeting online from six to seven, wearing my hearing aids, for which I’m immeasurably grateful, and which sync with the computer really enhancing the auditory experience. At one point I heard Topaz growling/moaning in the background as she does before she throws a hairball, or when she sees another cat, and it was a little distracting but I kept on with the meeting without fretting. She came over for a head rub and lay down by my chair. Then I heard the sound again, still faint, and thought it came from outside. It almost sounded like a chainsaw whining in the far distance. Or a stray cat outside moaning and wailing. After awhile it went away and I didn’t think about it again until later, when I was off the computer and heard it closer this time. It was my own gut hissing and rumbling!
I’m grateful for the Monday Mindfulness in Life meeting where people come to meditate together, and to share some of their successes, insights, and challenges on the path. And I’m grateful for the practice that allowed me to continue on with the meeting with equanimity, instead of jumping up to look for the source of the disturbance outside myself. With a little patience and awareness, the truth revealed itself, as is so often the case.
I am continually frustrated with the load of ‘cordwood’ that I paid a lot of money for last fall, despite my best effort to let go. Every time I load wood into the trolley to bring it inside I get an opportunity to practice acceptance and equanimity. Every time I load up the woodstove with half a dozen or more hand-sized ‘logs’ which happens about every hour or two, I get an opportunity to practice acceptance and equanimity. It’s not so much that I mind the extra work of having to fill the stove so very often: It’s keeping me warm, after all wood is wood. What I mind is having paid so very much money for such tiny scraps of wood. So very much of the wood is actually mill scrap. These were supposed to average 14″ long and 3-4″ diameter, that’s what I paid for.
But like my friend Peter used to say, “Oh well.” I can still practice gratitude, noting that I won’t run out of firewood this winter, that there is a kind helper who brings it down to the house for me, that I have a house, that I have a good stove and chimney. No matter what our challenges, if we are paying attention we can always find something to be grateful for. I have the added gratitude of a good recliner, and sufficient leisure in a day to spend some time in it reading, with a cozy blanket, and a sweet companion.
I’m grateful that there are people who read this blog and when it doesn’t show up they sometimes check on me to make sure I’m ok. For you, I want to let you know that I’m working on a big project for the next several weeks, and will be posting less often than usual. It doesn’t always take a lot of time to post, but I like to give it a hundred percent attention when I do it, and I won’t have that available at the end of every day for awhile. Thank you so much for your attention, responses, and affection. I’ll be here as much as I can this coming month, but not every day. I’m grateful for break time.
Wishing everyone peace and ease on this third anniversary of WHO’s declaration of Covid-19 as a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).” WHO reiterated that designation today, stating that the world “cannot afford to be complacent” at the same time they seem poised to succumb to the same ennui as most Americans. Oh well. Not my job.
I’m grateful for finishing this fun puzzle of Carmel, with all its miniature businesses, restaurants, shops, and homes, little people in windows, giant garden gnomes, and myriad other tiny details. It was challenging in a different way than the birds puzzle, and easier but not much. I’m grateful for puzzling friends and sharing puzzles.
I’m grateful for podcasts, of which I listen to quite a few when I’m puzzling. I listen to Lions Roar podcast, Upaya Zen Center podcast, NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”, Catherine Ingram’s “In the Deep,” and several others, including random recommendations from trusted friends, and one I stumbled upon the other day, The Brain Health Revolution podcast. This particular episode is a marvelous overview of research from 2022 including correlations between napping and dementia, cannabis use and cognitive impairment, and evidence that some people in a coma may be conscious–followed by a lively discussion of how we don’t even know what consciousness is. It’s a couple of neurologists, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, with an easy way together, sharing their enthusiasm about the research in their fascinating field.
I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to have the world at my fingertips, from the laser cutters at Liberty Puzzles, to the digital opportunities for learning and growth.
I’m so grateful for this mindfulness path. Some days the challenges are small, some days larger; some days easier to navigate, some days harder. But it’s always good to have some awareness of what is actually going on, what is real, versus what’s all in my head. Today gave me plenty of opportunities to practice.
Today’s guidance in the Mindful Life Community was about going beyond forgiveness to having compassion for those who have hurt us. Forgiveness is hard enough for me, much less compassion for those who have wronged me, even long ago, without an apology or accountability. But tonight’s Mindfulness in Recovery meeting, where we discussed the guidance, opened my heart to remind me how ego lies at the root of resentment, and opened the door to finally forgiving, and even having compassion for, that crazy bitch who stole from me and the state, and let my house fill with mouse shit, when she was supposedly tending it for me during my mother’s decline and death. Does it sound like I’ve forgiven her? It’s hard, but I’m getting there. I’ve made some pretty awful mistakes too.
Why was I even thinking about her? Today’s Mindfulness Activity was “to reflect upon some people or situations that you may be resentful of. Try to step back and identify the suffering that gave rise to it. Can you find it in your heart to forgive? Can you find it in your heart to be compassionate? Can you give yourself permission to heal? As you go about your day, try to be aware of how your outer actions are reflective of your inner states. See if you can recognize this in yourself and others.”
I had plenty of time to reflect on people or situations I may be resentful of as I drove to the dentist and home again this afternoon. I was anxious about going to the dentist because of potential covid exposure, and my anxiety was well-founded. There were absolutely no covid precautions in place: no signage even suggesting voluntary masks, no masks on staff, no hand sanitizer on the counter. There was a large, older gentleman in the waiting area, unmasked, and I sat as far as possible from him, but that didn’t make me feel any better when he coughed without even covering his mouth. Then I heard one of the unmasked staff beyond the counter also cough. The tech who led me back masked when I asked her to, and the tech who did the x-ray came in masked because I’d asked; the dentist of course was masked for his protection but when he pulled down his mask to talk to me–I felt his breath on my face–I got that static in my head and took a long while to figure out that it was okay to ask him to keep it on for my protection. Just in time for him to leave the room.
I am having second thoughts about pursuing a crown with this office. Yes, the middle-case scenario is what’s prescribed, not a filling (best-case) or a pull (worst-case), but a crown. (This is not the kind of crown I want.) But I’m grateful for the technology and the expertise to repair a tooth, despite the sticker shock from the price tag.
I was grateful that staff were willing to mask when asked, and some were even pleasant about it, but the general lack of awareness and concern for at-risk patients appalled me. Any medical office should have hand sanitizer on the counter. Any medical staff should be masked when they interact with any patient, or at the very least, when a patient comes in masked anyone who interacts with that patient should automatically put on a mask when they see that the patient is masked. I get that I’m on the fringe where I live, that people in this county are done with covid, but as Eric Topol wrote just last week in the Washington Post, the coronavirus is not done with us. I’m grateful for access to newsletters from leading researchers, analysts, and medical professionals, including Topol, and public health professor Dr. Leanna Wen, whose email today addressed the plight of a woman whose husband is immunocompromised with stage 4 kidney disease.
“For millions of Americans who are immunocompromised or who live with someone who is, it extremely difficult to live in a country where most people no longer see covid as a threat. The same is true for elderly Americans who are more vulnerable to severe outcomes and those who simply wish to avoid the potential consequences of infection, including long covid.” (from The Checkup With Dr. Wen: We need to do more to assist the immunocompromised 01.12.23)
Dr. Wen agrees with this woman’s policy prescriptions, which include this proposal, so relevant to my experience today: “Masks should be required in medical or dental situations until and unless covid becomes much less of a threat to those who are at risk. Many at-risk people already skip necessary medical and dental appointments due to fear of contracting covid, and optional masking in these venues only makes matters worse.”
All in all, at the end of the afternoon as I drove home, my nerves felt frayed. I chose to turn my attention to some healthful comfort food once I got home, and calmed myself, indeed practiced the skill of relaxation, by cooking this delicious red lentils with butternut squash and tamarind paste.
The dish came together and simmered until dark, when I sat down with one bowlful, and then another. Grateful for food, grateful for teeth, grateful for another full day of practice and living fully.
My aspiration when Wren arrived in spring was to have the two of them lying together in front of the fire by Christmas. Well, this morning almost, but not quite! It’s a big improvement over yesterday, though, when there was a fight over my lap in the same spot. I use the little stool to sit on to start and feed the fire, and Topaz used to let me pick her up, lay her on her back, and brush her at that time. Since Wren’s arrival she’s not allowed that until yesterday morning, and as she lolled there and Wren sniffed too close, she reached over her shoulder and smacked Wren on the head. Then there was a kerfuffle which involved hissing, growling, smacking, and lunging before my ‘stop it!s’ stopped it. Oh well. One day at a time.
It was a quiet day at Mirador, slushy outside, cozy inside. I meditated, napped, generally relaxed all day, allowing this body to take the day off from sitting at the computer, shoveling snow, doing much of anything. It was restful and restorative. This evening I had some options but chose to watch a couple of shows, drink a salty dog, and chat with Amy, then tuck into silence and reflection. I figure about half of the New Year’s Eves of my adult life I’ve partied like a drag queen, but the more recent eves I have simply tucked in to reflect on the previous year and contemplate my aspirations for the new one.
This year, I’ll deepen my mindfulness practice by remembering to ask the four questions: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it helpful or healthy? Is it based in reality? I’ll focus on the value of Curiosity. If I’m curious, I’m not judging; if I’m curious, I’m not reacting. If I’m curious, my mind is open; if I’m curious, I’m learning. I’m curious where that will take me in the coming year. Wishing everyone a fulfilling and peaceful new year! Remember, it’s not what you get from the world but what you bring to the world that creates genuine happiness.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m grateful for Drag Queens. Over the past six or seven years they’ve taught me so much about compassion, kindness, authenticity, inclusivity, and shattered so many of the negative biases I was raised to believe. They’ve opened my heart, broadened my mind, and enriched my life immeasurably. My love affair with drag queens started when on a whim I decided to check out RuPaul’s Drag Race on Amazon Prime. For awhile it was an obsession, then merely an addiction, and for the past few years it’s been simply a joy.
The other day I tripped over another drag queen show unexpectedly, ‘We’re Here’ on HBO. I’ve only watched two episodes out of the three seasons currently available. The first was filmed in Grand Junction, Colorado, the closest big city to where I live, and the place I go to see the dermatologist, pick up visitors from the airport, the nearest Natural Grocer, and once upon a time a shopping or restaurant destination when I used to drive up there once a month or so for errands. Just before Covid hit the US, friends had plans to take me to a drag show up there for my birthday present. Oh well. This episode was a consolation prize. The other episode, which I watched tonight, was ‘Florida-Part I’. In the series, three drag queen stars, Shangela, Eureka, and Bob the Drag Queen, travel to small towns in the US mentoring queer people and putting on a drag show starring their mentees.
‘Florida-Part I’ was a fabulous representation of the ramifications of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill popular there now. The episode is culturally and politically relevant, inspiring, moving, and hopeful. The three queens mentor a ten-year-old trans girl whose mother is a schoolteacher now prohibited by law from mentioning ‘gay’ or ‘trans’, a 58-year-old gay man living in conservative bastion The Villages, a 75-year-old recently trans woman and her wife of 50 years, and a Pulse survivor who brought his celebratory party of twenty friends to the club that night where four of them were soon shot to death. Imagine living with that: it was your idea to move the party to the club, and four of your friends died as a result.
The intolerance, hatred, misrepresentation, and fear that perpetuate tragedies like Pulse, Club Q, and any other culture-wars mass shooting have got to stop. Obviously, me saying that won’t accomplish anything if governor after mayor after governor saying so hasn’t stopped it yet. But all of us saying it, time after time, in our homes, our communities, our churches, and our ballot boxes, can finally make it stop, or at least slow it way the hell down. LGBTQ people are people. We are all people. In my world view, deer, mountain lions, juniper trees, even skunks are people.
Why can’t we live and let live? We are all connected. Whoever you are, someone you love is gay or trans or differently gendered or sexually oriented than you think is ‘normal.’ Anyone who votes for ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation is hurting or killing someone they love. This isn’t the time or place to go into it, and also I don’t know enough to proclaim but the research is out there; I do know that throughout human history and across cultures, gender and sexuality have never been purely binary. Let’s learn from the drag queens, and just love each other how we are.
Wren doing Arts & Crafts at doggie daycare yesterday. I’m grateful today that we both got to rest at home. I napped in the morning, I napped in the afternoon, I showered and rinsed my achy nose; I read, ate, read, talked with people; I rested all day and now it’s time for bed. I actively appreciated so much of what I did and didn’t do today. Namaste.
I’m grateful today for MOHS surgery, and for Dr. Weber at Mountain West Dermatology who has performed several of these procedures to remove skin cancer from my face and head. Too much sun when I was a child and even our parents were ignorant of the consequences. I’ve lost count of how many MOHS’s I’ve had in the past 25 year. I’m grateful that my terror level has dropped from 10+ before the first one to <1 for this latest iteration. For one thing, Dr. Weber’s precision cuts on me have all resulted in minimal to invisible scarring, and he’s just a super nice guy. Everyone at the office is kind and compassionate.
What anxiety I did have about it revolved around the weather–would it be snowing? would my car get out my driveway? –and around little Wren, who’s not been separated from me for more than four hours since she arrived six months ago. I’m so grateful for friends and community who rallied around, one prepared to blade the driveway if needed (it wasn’t); GB and the Super eager to drive me up to GJ and run some errands of their own while I waited in limbo between cuts; and Rocky’s mom eager to babysit Wren for the day. Beyond that, lots of love and encouragement sent my way before, during and after, including a baked goody at my doorstep. Who could ask for more? Oh, and there was that one Ativan I popped right before setting off this morning, that helped lower the anxiety immensely.
The first cut was done by about 10:30 am, but the tissue has to go off to pathology to determine if they got clean margins. They did! First cut! But it took three hours to find that out, and then the time-consuming plastics-style suturing, and layers of bandaging. When it was all done it was way past lunchtime, so the Super asked what I wanted, and steered us to the best chocolate milkshake, which I enjoyed with a side of cheddar poppers and fry sauce. They each ordered their faves, and we sat in the Sonic corral and enjoyed our meals. I’m so grateful for friends who aren’t old enough to be my parents, but are old enough to care for me like a little sister. There was something so nostalgic about him asking what I wanted to eat, then making it happen. I felt so very cared for. My heart runneth over for them, and for everyone who contributed to making what could have been a grueling day into a joyful day: including my own mindfulness practice.
I’m grateful to be all tucked in at home before dark with a cozy fire going. Little Wren seemed to have a fun day at doggie-day-care with her buddy Rocky and the camp counselor. She was too excited to see me to tell me all the details of everything they did, but I know there were some naps, some treats, some snow-watching. I look forward to hearing a full report from the counselor tomorrow. I’m grateful for a safe and happy place to be able to leave her should I need to in the future, a place where she’ll be loved and pampered, and won’t come back to me with some new neurosis. Such a feeling of peace, contentment, gratitude, and love will carry me off to a deep sleep tonight.
I’m grateful for the occasional stability of my skeleton, always enhanced by a visit to Dr. Leigh. Wren helped her at this morning’s appointment, following her about as she moved around the table gently pressing and pulling on my body, assisting as needed, and a couple of times lending an extra four hands by jumping up and standing on top of me. When I peeled myself away from the soft, heated table, little Wren did not want to leave.
I’m grateful for the tenuous stability of the cliffs on either side of the hairpin turn heading to or from town. From halfway on the south slope you can just see the road below wintered cottonwoods, and above it the giant boulder with a smaller boulder tilted on top it. There’s a deep crack between boulder and cliffside. More and more often, especially in winter, I keep my eye on it as I approach, then punch the gas as I pass beneath it–just in case. I’m grateful it hasn’t crashed down on me or anyone else so far. Someday, maybe tomorrow, the rock will fall.
From the same place in the road (I rarely stop on this road for obvious reasons, but today was feeling stable enough within to risk it), other boulders loom and another huge piece of the cliff overhangs, just waiting for that one last freeze-thaw cycle to release its grip and tumble down. The road itself constantly requires repair as the steep slope below steadily, slowly erodes. We dwell on a living, breathing, sighing, sloughing planet, clinging to our diaphanous illusion of stability. I’m grateful for the illusion, and for the stability gained from knowing it is just an illusion.