I know a young woman

Well, I say I know her, but she’s really a friend of a Facebook friend. Well, I say that she’s young; she’s really my daughter’s age — just over 50. It’s all a matter of personal perspective.

Anyway, this young woman is very ill with a disease of the blood and will only get worse. She is very smart and creative and well-known and respected in the technical information/education publication world. That is not a world I know. I only know about her. And I only know about her because there is something in her brightness and bravery that moved me and made me want to learn more about her.

I needed/wanted to do something for her — because I can’t fix any of the things wrong with this world, with my country, with all of those folks hurting and trying and dying. Because I am a maker of things and because I wish — how much I wish — I could make magic.

And so I got on Google and downloaded images from her Facebook page and from her book covers on Amazon. I figured out how to do a simple world cloud using words from her various posts.

shirtfront I printed out the images on washable fabric. I appliqued the images onto the front of a t-shirt.

Then, I appliqued a healing mandala on the back of the shirt.back

And then I looked up her address on 411.com and put it in the mail.

And I included this note:

If Magic were something I could make,
I would spin you a spell of healing,

thread it with the strength and energy
of all of your best moments, color it
blue like water teeming with life,
the burgundy of blood, the red and white
of cells induced to dance again,
of a thousand loving thoughts
warming the fabric of hope.

Then you could wear it like armor
a curative cloak, medicinal mantle,
that primitive sympathetic magic
powerful in intent as any prayer

I did it as much for me as for her. We are both powerless against the arbitrary surges of fate that drag us into those dark places where we would not choose to go and then leave us, spent, to find a way out. Only she has no way out of this one.

my Hallowe’en addiction

Granny WeatherwaxFor as long as I can remember, I have dressed up for Hallowe’en. I start in September deciding on and building a costume. mad scientistLast year I was a mad scientist. The year before, a Lady Bug. The year before that, a Hogwart’s Professor. I have been Elaine of Camelot, a 1940’s gangster in a double breasted suit, medusaMedusa with pipe cleaner snakes in my hair, the “Deadly Sin” Lust (as a vampire),sneezy Sneezy of the Seven Dwarfs, Madame Sosostris (T.S. Eliot’s “famous clairvoyant, had a bad cold but was known to be the wisest woman with a wicked pack of cards”),sosostris a unicorn, Jeannie the genie, and any number and variety of witches.

ElaineMy once husband, being a playwright, actor, and director, could occasionally get into the costume thing. One year we went as Elaine the Lily Maid of Astalot and her Jester — with masks. When my kids were little, I made their costumes too. raggeyann My daughter, as Raggedy Ann, won a prize in a costume parade (an actual parade down the night streets of the small town we lived in then). autumnqueenHere’s a picture of both kids, my daughter as the Queen of Autumn and her brother as a little demon sidekick.

neutrino As my son got older, he opted to be some kind of super hero, including one that he invented and designed the costume for. He called himself “Neutrino.”

I am not dressing up this year. I just don’t have the energy, and I’m out of ideas.

But my daughter and grandson are not, and they are in the final stages of building the Dalek that my grandson will sit in and propel around the neighborhood, using my mom’s old transport wheelchair as the base. Don’t know what a Dalek is? Here’s a clue.

I have always approached “clothes” as “costumes.” I had my office worker costume, my funky weekend wear, by ballroom dance outfits. What I wear has always been an extension of who I am, and apparently I have passed those genes on to my kids and grandkid. What they wear is who they are (at that moment).

But what about me? What has changed so that I am no longer excited about a new costume — for Hallowe’en or otherwise. There is very little I seem to be excited about these days, and my Hallowe’en addiction seems to have disappeared. It’s it age? Is it some kind of depression?

Meanwhile, I am getting a real kick out of watching the birth of the home-grown Dalek, made all of cardboard, duck tape, bits of styrofoam, wire wreath frames, cup lids, spay paint, and an awful lot of imagination and determination.dalek1

Mag #237

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Go here to read what other writers have written in response to this prompt.


She seeks illusion, eyes
hiding behind a veil
no longer bridal.

Salome knew the illusive
power of veils,
but she is no Salome

and in her white unveiling
is left with only
a homely curtain
of hope.

the saga of my health issues……..and the promises of technology

I”m hoping someone with similar issues will stumble upon this post and share what works for them.

In the meanwhile, I am plagued by two health issues: a seemingly untreatable and serious sinus infection and frustrating insomnia. While they are no doubt related, I don’t believe that the former is the cause of the latter.

1. Sinus infection. After sinus surgery in May to clean out a bad infection that was lodged up near my eye (and to make a few other adjustments), I am back with a sinus infection that feels just as bad as the one that prompted the surgery. So, yesterday, I was examined by one of the three best sinus experts in Connecticut. (Why Connecticut and not Massachusetts, where I live? He is in my health insurance network, plus I didn’t want to go back to the original surgeon. Plus I was impressed by the information on the website.) The little video he took of my sinuses showed that they are an unholy mess. So, we start with a culture. He says that it’s bad, but he will figure out what needs to be done to treat and cure it. I’m sure that my immune system is shot to hell as I try to fight it off, and I feel sick and tired all of the time. I’m wondering if I should go to an endocrinologist.

In the meanwhile and in desperation, based on some of my own internet research, I am wearing this all of the time — and, damn, if it doesn’t make a difference!! My sinus don’t itch or water when I’m wearing it but do when I don’t. It’s not a cure for the infection, but it makes my life tolerable while I’m waiting for the cure. There is no way I would get on a plane without it.

2. Insomnia. Except for the last two nights (more on that coming) I have not slept more than three hours a night for the past several months. And then only for an hour at a time. I don’t fall asleep until 3 or 4 am. I’ve tried all of the suggested herbs, all of the homeopathic remedies, all of the relaxation techniques, just about all of the prescription alternatives. Nothing has worked. So, again, I did some extensive internet research and I discovered this, which is one of many such devices available. A little more research about its effect on the very important vagus nerve made me think that this might be worth a try.

A CES (Cranial Electric Stimulator) is very similar to a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulator), and I happen to have a TENS device, which is used for muscle pain management. So, I decided to try using the TENS the way they use the CES. Did it several times a day, including before bed time.

Last night, I actually fell asleep reading. I can’t remember the last time that happened. On top of that, I don’t feel constantly hungry the way I usually do, and I wonder if that’s because it’s stimulating the vagus nerve as well. I’m thinking of buying a CES if I can get my chiropractor to give me a prescription for it. But, in the meanwhile I’m going to keep doing the TENS stimulation on my mastoid bone and see if I keep getting the same results.

Placebos? Maybe. But the medical profession hasn’t helped me much, and these are technological processes that seem to work and have some bases in science. The medical professionals don’t even bother investigating or considering these options. They probably don’t even know about them

I’d love to hear from others who are dealing with the same issues as I am. Sometimes we just have to help ourselves.

Mag #212

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Mag #212

My Bed by Tracey Emin

My Bed by Tracey Emin


It descends
without warming,
squatting on your chest
like the demon it is,
the weight of its message
holding mind hostage,
the detritus of being
rising like a moat around
the bed where you lay
beleaguered by fear.

It’s no Eden.

A volunteering moment: A memory-impaired nonagenarian pats me on the butt. I just ignore it, since earlier today, for the first time, he actually conversed with me and willingly participated in a group activity. I can’t save the world, but today I make a sad old man smile.

Twice a week I volunteer at a geriatric facility that includes folks in assisted living (where I lead “Trivia” and other such group sessions) and a separate space for individuals who are memory-impaired (with whom I sing songs, share photographs and stories, go out for walks, and even play kids’ games). I think doing these things is my way of compensating for the fact that so much of this world is in such a large scale mess that I have no power to affect any of it in any positive way.

I don’t have the money to contribute to saving abused animals, abused environments, and abused people; listening to Sara McLachlan sing in the ASPCA commercial only makes my distress worse, so I avoid even doing that.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of the horrors of the “big picture,” I cut out a piece of the “little picture” that I might be able make a little better. Maybe this geriatric facility is not the worse place in the world for elders to find themselves, but it’s no Eden, either. However, it is a place where I can make a difference without the effort impacting me in a negative way.

As a matter of fact, I’m always surprised at how much of the time I spend with these folks that I actually enjoy. Sometimes I even get inspired in crafty ways that I’d never expect.

For example, I noticed one woman had a really pretty quilted pouch attached to the front of her walker. It’s just big enough to hold some tissues, a few photos, and a pair of glasses. You can buy similar ones online for about $35. It’s a handy little item that I realized other women who use walkers would find helpful. So, I’ve been inspired to design my own version that combines crochet and fabric. Maybe I’ll try to sell them online. Maybe I’ll just give them as gifts. Either way, I now have the kind of creatively useful project that I like to work on at home as I sit around in the evening and watch escapist television.

In her post today on Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett confesses to having become a “cowardly” about dealing with the overwhelming problems in the world around her. She says:

Confronted with calamity – personal, private or global – I have always been strong, eager to understand and self-confident in my ability to do my best to help when I can and pass the word on to others who might have more resources than I.

Now, I’ve become a coward. If I cannot look at the photos, will not read the news stories, won’t listen to the appeals for starving children and abused animals, how can I possibly be part of any solution.

In a real way, it’s my similar cowardice that has led me to volunteer where I do. I can feel I’m helping to make the lives of at least a very small part of the human population a little better, in only three or four hours a week. And, as it turns out (as it so often does when you give of yourself), I get back unexpected appreciation and inspiration.

Although I can do without the nonagenarian’s pat on the butt.

Seducing Spring

It’s not even 20 degrees outside, but I’m sprouting a sweet potato vine on the kitchen windowsill. By the time Spring is really here, I should have a hearty vine that I can keep rooting from cuttings. And then I can hang the vines in a basket outside my window. If I keep rooting the cuttings, I can hang a basket indoors all year.

I need something to plan toward, look forward to — something other than the solitude of a long cold winter.


All kitchens should have windows
double wide, Windexed clear
if not into sunny vistas at least
into frames of sky

beyond a stand of trees bordered
by day lilies in clumps, maybe
a lilac bush or two, certainly
a bird feeder busy with wings and

morning light. Not to mention a deep
indoor sill where seeds sprout green
even when winter shrouds the pane.

(elf 2003)

If you want it but it doesn’t exist,
create it.

I moved into this town two years ago after a decade of taking care of my mom. It took me about a year to get over the stress and tension of living with my (demented) mother and (set-in-his-ways) brother for several years. And then my mother passed away.

For a year after that, until now, I have been trying to find a place for myself in this larger community. I joined a gym but found it all very depressing (and expensive). I joined a quilting group, figuring that I like to sew and might enjoy it. But I didn’t for all kinds of reasons, including that I have neither the space where I live nor the design talent and experience to get into quilting. And I find it boring to quilt from a kit.

So, I did more knitting to keep me busy, but that didn’t fill my need for community connection. I tried a couple of book clubs, but they never talked about the books and I didn’t quite fit in with the memberships.

So, I joined the Jewish Community Center, mostly for the Zumba and aerobics and gym facilities, and that helped to get me out of the house. But it still wasn’t what I was hoping to find. The JCC offers some other programs that I might have taken, but they were all at night (and I don’t drive at night) and cost more than I can afford.

So, I joined up to be a Hospice volunteer, got trained, and just met my first assignment. That was a start, but not exactly to the point.

What I miss from my old life are the people with whom I worked and the groups to which I belonged in which I took some leadership. Some were peer discussion groups; some were expressive arts therapy groups. They were groups that dealt with substantive personal issues and opened doors to creative and spiritual exploration (even though I am an atheist). I always made friends with people in those groups because we had those interests in common.

So, I went on a search for a group — preferably a therapeutic group dealing with elder issues or major life transitions.

Uh uh. No such thing. Not even within a 25 mile drive.

So, I drafted a proposal to start such a group under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, and, since I am a trained study circle facilitator, I volunteered to lead such a group.

I’ve done that before — started a group to which I wanted to belong. It has worked in the past for me, and I’m hoping it will work again.

If it doesn’t, with the SAD season starting, I’m going to find it tough to muddle on through.

Oh well, I’ll think of something……

the condition of my condition

It was 104 degrees in the parking lot outside of my doctor’s office this afternoon. I parked near the door to make sure that I only had to walk a few steps from my air conditioned car to the air conditioned office. The older I get, the more such heat really bothers me.

And, am I ever glad that, when I used up every last cent I had to build onto my daughter’s house so that I could move in and have my own space, I was able to include putting in central air. It’s been a life saver all this week as the temps have consistently risen along the east coast. I’ve only gone out of the house to get into the car and run errands at other air conditioned venues.

Spending so much time in the house has motivated me to do some cooking (chicken cacciatore tonight), work on my no-pattern sweater that’s knitted in sections of mitered garter stitch, begin making a special banner for my college class’ 50th reunion this fall, and do a few exercises on my wii.

I’m making a concerted effort to improve my physical condition. I’ve weaned myself off the anti-depressant I’ve been on for several decades, and I’m working on doing the same thing with my Nexium prescription. It’s a very slow process, getting off any kind of long-term meds, but it can be done without major withdrawl effects. To help getting off the Nexium, I’ve halved my dosage and started also taking digestive enzymes and probiotics. It will take me months of slowly tapering off before I’m ready to leave the meds behind. There are some horror stories on the net about rebound effects from stopping too soon. Patience and persistence, I tell myself.

I need to repeat that phrase often these days as I begin trying to lose some weight. My sciatica is acting up even though I do the prescribed stretching exercises several times a day. Carrying around fewer pounds should make some difference in that condition, as well as my always-high cholesterol levels. Patience and persistence.

On Monday I’m going to join the nearby Jewish Community Center so that I can join some exercise classes and participate in some social activities (i.e. book club). The membership is cheaper than any health club and it’s got better facilities and programs than any health club I’ve ever seen. This “identity crisis” in which I have been foundering (after 10 years of focusing on caregiving my mom) is slowly abating. Patience and persistence. And a really good therapist.

From here:

If groundhog is your power animal it is time to explore
alternative states of consciousness.
Pay attention to your dreams and try meditation.
Study a specific subject or area of interest.
Take up a Yoga class and learn to relax.
Dig beyond the surface to get to the truth of important issues.

I did a little online research and learned that it’s possible to tame woodchucks/groundhogs. I wonder if I could tame our resident one enough to let me pet her (I assume it’s a her because she’s got a little one following her around and males leave soon after the babies are born).

winding sheet

(for lack of anything else to say, I’m posting here a poem a day)

I wake
wound in the sheet
–night winding sheet —
in the tight lined
yellow-sheet logic
of your wound mind
around my night.

c elf 1970s