When Bloggers Felt Like Family

More than a dozen years ago, when “personal” blogs were beginning to blossom, I managed to brazenly infiltrate a small group of such bloggers. all of whom were expert in some aspect of communications technology. That they welcomed me — a technological dilettente –into their virtual family still amazes me.

In many ways it was the best of times for personal bloggers, as we played off each others’ posts, bantering and badgering and behaving pretty much like affectionate siblings — even though many of us had not met in person. Like most siblings, after some years of sharing a rolicking range of adventures across our global homestead, we drifted apart — catching up periodically these days via the much less adventuresome terrain of Face Book.

Michael O’Connor Clarke was a warm, funny, and energetic member of that original blogger family. To learn that he is in the hospital with esophageal cancer is more than just disturbing.

But it is not surprising to learn that members of that old virtual family are again coming together in an effort to generate both emotional and financial support for his actual family, because as our blogger/friend Jeneane Sessum shared on Face Book: They are a one-income family. That income is in a hospital bed right now and for the foreseeable future.

One of the blessings of the Internet is that it enables the coming together of like minds and hearts to help things happen. We can’t cure Michael; that’s up to his doctors in Toronto. But we can help him by helping his family. If you are moved to do so, go to http://supportmichaelocc.ca/ and see if you might be able to help.

I’m joining the Snatchel Project

What’s a “snatchel”?

Before I get to that, let me just explain that I have in my life marched in protests carrying banners with symbols proclaiming my positions on critical issues. During the wartime 70s, I sewed a gigantic “Peace” banner and hung it from a tree limb that hung over our driveway. I believe in the power of symbols. I believe that sometimes you have to get in the faces of those who refuse to hear what you’re saying.

So, I’m joining the Snatchel Project.

First, go here to find out about the project, supported by a group that proclaims:

— We are women, we are strong, we are smart. And we have a sense of humor.
— We do not need government interference with our doctors or our healthcare.
— We do not need government probing our vaginas to help us make decisions about abortion.
— We do not need government to give us guidance about whether or not to take birth control.


So, here’s my original knitted interpretation, my contribution. I am thinking that I might just make a bunch of them and send them to the group to distribute appropriately. I will make a little card that says:

Get your pre-historic laws out of my personal private parts.

The Snatchel Project already has received considerable media coverage, as listed here.

I realize that there are lots of people who think sending uterine and yonic representations to legislators who are trying to drag us back into the Dark Ages is a waste of time.

Well, maybe it is. But for us pissed off feminist knitters, it’s a hoot.

And hey, you never know. At least it will get their uncomfortable attention. Works for me.

ashes to dust

I used to walk around with it on my forehead on this annual ashy Wednesday. Rituals are important, I still believe. It’s just that these days I believe in different kinds of rituals, ones that are created to empower, not depress.

Today, though, as I walk around attached to a heart monitor, I am confronted by coincidentally timed reminders of the fragility of my mortality.

It’s Ash Wednesday and my mortal coil seems to be “sproinging.”

I have a theory about where these symptoms are coming from, and I don’t believe they start in my heart, although that is where they wind up. I wish there were a Dr. House in the house who would sleuth his way through the electrical impulses of my body to shine his light on the first cause.

But this little picture works the same way as the big picture: we might never know the first cause, so we just keep examining each clue, each symptom, eliminating possibilities, one by one, until we get to the point of it all.

And, all in all, the only point might be that we are, after all, only the beginnings of ashes and dust.

My testosterone theory on “House”

I have always had a theory about testosterone levels and aggressiveness, and this last episode of “House” pretty much makes my point. In this episode, a man chooses to let his testosterone level stay low because it keeps him being a better person. (That’s a paraphrase, but it’s also the gist of it.)

With men in power ganging up on us women to limit our control of our own bodies, maybe we women need to suggest some limiting that men should do.

Googling around for some supportive information, I found the following, here, after scrolling down a bit:

An excellent book on testosterone and behavior is James McBride Dabbs “Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior” ( McGraw Hill, 2000).

In modern advanced cultures, somewhat lower testosterone appear to be of great benefit…. For our ancestors 20,000 years ago, individual strength and aggression were critical to survival. But obtaining rewards in modern cultures usually require patience, cunning, and interpersonal skills.

The use of anti-androgens and DHT blockers may improve male health. Testosterone has often been suspected as a cause of the increased heart disease in men. Studies of men who were castrated in the 1920’s in the USA found that they lived an average of 13.6 years longer than comparable men. In contrast, smoking one pack of cigarettes daily reduces one’s life span by an average of 4.9 years. (Hamilton & Mesler 1969)

Now, the issue (for me and many other women, as well as many pacifist-minded males) is not how to deplete men’s testosterone so that they lose their masculinity; rather it is how to enable men to maintain a level androgenic hormones that keeps their aggressiveness in a manageable range.

Apparently, testosterone is only one of the adrogen-related male hormones. The other two are dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and androstenedione.

From what I’ve begun to read, it’s the levels of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) that can easily be reduced, and that reduction can have an aggression-lessening effect.

So, I’m suggesting that scientists start doing studies that track how the quality of men’s lives (and especially their relationships with women) improve by blocking some of their DHT.

In the meanwhile, how about putting some DHT blockers in Congressional water supplies?? I read here that spearmint tea has some anti-androgenic properties. How about we send Congress cartons and cartons of spearmint tea and spearmint gum?

It’s a Lego Christmas

He got all the Lego sets he wanted: a complete police station, a chinook helicopter, and a (no longer made. so thanks to ebay) a Coast Guard rescue boat. He kind of made my morning when the first thing he said when he opened the police station was “Oh look, a female police officer!” He already put the boat and helicopter together and is working on the police station.

I look at the hundreds of little Lego pieces and my brain locks up. I am terrible at anything that smacks of putting puzzle pieces together. The “spatial relations” part of any IQ test is the part on which I did the worst. I wonder if I wouldn’t have that problem if I had Lego to play with when I was a kid. But it was the 40s, and what I had were dolls. Lots of them, with every imaginable accessory. When my brother came along in the 50s, I played with his Lincoln Logs, but those aren’t as complex as Lego, so that part of my brain never really got enough exercise.

We are all coughing and nose-blowing, and it’s been going on for almost two months. I’m sick of being sick. The antibiotics only took care of my sinus swelling. The rest has to be viral, and it’s wearing us all down. (Except for my grandson, who is having too much fun with his Lego stuff.)

In desperation I am making a concoction of onion, garlic, honey, and lemon juice. I’m a firm believer in the power of onions and garlic anyway, so I figured it was worth a try. After the stuff sits overnight, you take the liquid by the teaspoonful or put it in tea.

I think it’s time for a nap. By then, he should be finished putting together the three-story Lego police station, complete with jail cells, mobile command center, K-9 unit, criminals, and police officers — including the one token female.

dealing with that disturbing “D” word
— being a midwife to the dying

Death is the final taboo in our culture. We can talk about illness and religion, politics and sex, gender and race issues, but the D word is still difficult for people to utter in polite company….

From Last Acts of Kindness: Lessons for the Living from the Bedsides of the Dying, by Edith Redwing Keyssar.

I have a unique relationship with death. My father was an undertaker, and we lived in an apartment above his business. Contemplating death and dying — my own and others’ — has been a part of my life since childhood. I have sat vigil during the hours and days of the deaths of both of my parents. At the age of 71, I am closing in on my final years. I have no control over when or why I will die; but I am learning about the choices I have about “how”.

After leaving a comment on a post on Time Goes By about Judith Redwing Keyssar’s book (quoted above), I have had a chance to read that book myself. And, doing so comes at a particularly relevant time in my life as I await my first assignment as a hospice volunteer.

During the intense training that I had to undergo, I learned about my role and responsibilities as part of a hospice team and examined my reasons for choosing this kind of volunteer service. I found that the experiences that Keyssar shares in her book take whatever personal motivations I have for becoming — in her words –“a midwife to the dying” and draws them into an even greater context of compassionate and cosmic significance. As part of her stories, Keyssar reiterates the point that it doesn’t matter what one believe about an “after-life;” the focus of her message is to live fully while embracing the fact that we, after all, are all “terminal.”

At the end of her book, she provides a list definitions, internet links, and bibliographical references if the reader chooses to further explore the range of information available about compassionate care during the final stages of life.

The final chapter in Keyssar’s book is a poetic Epilogue (see below) that captures the intent and the spirit of the mission of those who choose to honor and celebrate the final, fleeting days (and sometimes months and years) of a human life by becoming part of a palliative care and/or hospice team.

Epilogue
Job description For Any Member of a Palliative Care Team

I am here to witness
the sacred hearts
broken open.
Friends,lovers, families
whose loved ones die in their arms,
in the homes, in their beds, in hospitals or other places.
Peacefully, nor not.

I am her to witness
the sanctity of human life
as the spirit is released from the temple
to join once again, with the invisible cellular infinity
of the Universe,
the mitochondria of the Milky Way,
becoming energy to light the stars,
since we know —
the energy we manifest as a particular human being,
like any other,
can neither be created
nor destroyed.
God, by any other name by any name, by many names,
by no name,
Is
One.

I am here to witness
the breath
as it enters the body
and exits for the last time.
The miracle of birth.
The miracle of death.
The miracle of each moment in between:
Life
the infusing of consciousness
into each and every cell
enduring every moment
we are here
on earth.

I am here to witness
to feel
to experience
to honor
to know that Love is eternal.
to share this blessing
in gratitude.

and to perform any other duties
required.

Last Acts of Kindness is a book that should be read by everyone who expects some day to die.

____________________________________________________________

As I was writing this post, today Ronni Bennett at Times Goes By posted another piece that includes additional thoughts on death and dying. The conversation continues.

treadmill meditation

I don’t run. I walk with my eyes closed, holding onto the bar that measures my heart rate. I up the incline a little. Up the speed. Little by little.

I like walking with my eyes closed, but I can’t do that out in the street, where I would probably fall and break a hip. But it works here, in the exercise room at the Jewish Community Center, where it’s never crowded and the mirrors never reflect any hot young and toned females reminding me that’s it’s been a half-century since I was one of those.

I am meditating on my new gravatar, and I know that if I were a half-century younger, I would have my own mythic Avatar. She would probably look at lot like Xena.

I would be a player. Or, more accurately, a gamer. I actually don’t know much at all about gaming, but I “know” some interesting gamers because I follow them on Twitter — because my son follows them on Twitter.

There’s a whole subculture out there of gamers — of bright, creative younger people who Tweet and FB and blog and tumblr and instagram and flickr and all of those oddly spelled connective mechanisms that people my age usually have to look up on Wikipedia.

I’ve become a real fan of Felicia Day, a young woman of so many talents and creative projects that she takes my breath away. There’s no point in trying to describe her here, since her website has all the relevant information. You really should check out her funky youtube video of her song “Don’t You Want to Date My Avatar.” I’ve even gotten sucked into watching her , The Guild. It’s like I live on another planet from these creatives.

So, I’m on the treadmill, meditating, sort of, on being who I am. Not a gamer. Not even a player. Just a little old lady whose heart rate is up to 135 and I do, indeed, need to take a breath.

I open my eyes and look straight into the mirror into the mirrored eyes of a really good looking gray haired guy, who is working out at one of the machines in front of my treadmill. He smiles. He can’t be smiling at me, I think, but I smile back anyway.

Later, as I get up from the ab-crunching machine, he’s standing nearby, cooling off. He obviously takes this exercise thing a lot more seriously than I do. At least I get that impression from his trim physique and the gym shorts and fingerless gloves he is wearing. “This is a good time to come here,” he says to me. (It’s just a little after noon on a Sunday, and the place is almost empty.)

“Yes,” I say, smiling back. “Except it’s such a nice day out there. It’s a good day to be outside.” (Duh! What kind of a response is that??) For a minute we talk about the weather. I move on to the recumbent bike. He moves onto the the free weights.

Now I’m pedaling and thinking about the fact that I have no makeup on and barely ran a comb through my hair before I left home. I don’t come to the gym to meet men; I come to try and get my cholesterol under control and increase my stamina.

I might have to rethink all of that.

I’ll meditate on it.

why I’m addicted to pesto

I’ve been making fresh basil (from my garden) pesto and now I put it in just about everything except desserts.

You can find lots of recipes for basil pesto on the web (and all of them work fine), but I like my own the best — I use Basil, walnuts, honey, some fresh parsley, a lot less parmesan cheese than usually called for, and a little more garlic.

I put in on fish instead of tartar sauce. I even add it to V8 juice and my homemade gazpacho. I mix it with a little mayonaise and lemon juice and use it as salad dressing or a dip. The Food Network as a great list of 50 things to make with pesto.

And a basil pesto addiction is a really healthy one to have.

Accoring to here:
Basil has more phytochemicals than vegetables, has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants effects, protects the chromosomes and cells from damage, is good for digestion and stomach problems, and contains these minerals:
magnesium that helps relax heart and blood vessels.
calcium
potassium
iron
vitamin C
vitamin A to protect cell damage
vitamin K for coagulant factors in the blood and strengthening of the bones

As far as I’m concerned, the more garlic you add to the pesto the better. Garlic can lower your blood pressure decrease triglycerides and the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) The sulphur compounds in garlic can help with inflammations that may be causing arthritis or asthma. The sulphur compounds also act as antibacterial and antiviral agent. That is why they recommend eating garlic to keep colds away.

According to here:
The phytonutrient in garlic, called allicin, may help you maintain or even lose weight. Garlic gives great taste to all meals and can be added in all meals, sauces, stews, dips like hummus, guacamole, and mashed potato. You can even add it to a raw fresh delicious juice or smoothie. (Um, I think I draw the line at the smoothie thing.)

I add parsley for lots of reasons. According to this, parsley contains:
— myristicin, an organic compound found in the essential oil of parsley, not only inhibits tumor formation (especially in the lungs), but also activates the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps the molecule glutathione attach to, and fight against, oxidized molecules. Myristicin can also neutralize carcinogens like benzopyrene in cigarette smoke that can pass through the body, consequently fighting against colon and prostate cancer.

— an antioxidant arsenal that includes luteolin, a flavonoid that searches out and eradicates free radicals in the body that cause oxidative stress in cells. Luteolin also promotes carbohydrate metabolism and serves the body as an anti-inflammatory agent. Furthermore, two tablespoons of parsley contain 16% of the RDA of vitamin C and over 12% of the RDA of vitamin A – two powerful antioxidants.

— luteolin and vitamin C, which serves as an effective anti-inflammatory agent within the body. When consumed regularly, they combat the onset of inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis (the degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone) and rheumatoid arthritis (a disease causing inflammation in the joints).

— folate (or vitamin B90, which helps convert homocysteine into harmless molecules. A regular garnish of parsley can help ward off cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

— vitamin K, which is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens the composition of our bones. Vitamin K also prevents calcium build-up in our tissue that can lead to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke. The vitamin K found in parsley (wo tablespoons of parsley have a whopping 153% of the RDA of vitamin K) is essential for synthesizing sphingolipid, the fat needed to maintain the myelin sheath around our nerves, and therefore our nervous system as a whole.

And, on top of that,

Parsley is the best weapon against garlic breath. That’s why many recipes that include garlic also include parsley. Chewing parsley with your garlicky meal seems to contain the problem to some extent.

But it’s not enough to just sprinkle a little parsley on top of what you’re eating. You need to chew at least one sprig of fresh parsley, ideally more, with your meal. Chop up a sprig of fresh parsley or two and add it to the meal somewhere, or put it on the plate as a garnish.

In case you’e wondering, here’s why I make my basil/parsley/garlic/honey pesto with walnuts:

Walnuts, a rich source of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), improve artery function after a high fat meal and may be even more important in a Mediterranean-type diet than olive oil in promoting heart health, suggests a small study from Spain (Cortes B, Nunez I, J Am Coll Cardiol).

Finally, I always cook with honey.

From here:

HONEY, a most assimilable carbohydrate compound, is a singularly acceptable, practical and most effective aliment to generate heat, create and replace energy, and furthermore, to form certain tissues. Honey, besides, supplies the organism with substances for the formation of enzymes and other biological ferments to promote oxidation. It has distinct germicidal properties and in this respect greatly differs from milk which is an exceptionally good breeding-ground for bacteria. Honey is a most valuable food, which today is not sufficiently appreciated. Its frequent if not daily use is vitally important.

OK. Now I’m hungry.

Do I wanna dance?

I’m singing with the Ramone’s:

Do you wanna dance and hold my hand? Tell me baby I’m your lover man Oh baby, do you wanna dance?

Well do you wanna dance under the moonlight? Squeeze and kiss me all through the night
Oh baby, do you wanna dance?

Do you do you do you do you wanna dance Do you do you do you do you wanna dance?
Do you do you do you do you, do you wanna dance

Well do you wanna dance under the moonlight? Squeeze me baby all through the night
Oh baby, do you wanna dance?

Do you do you do you do you wanna dance Do you do you do you do you wanna dance?
Do you do you do you do you wanna dance

A dozen years ago, I was dancing three or more nights a week — Latin, ballroom, in studios, in nightclubs — and keeping my cholesterol down and stamina up.

Now I have an “assist rail” on the side on my bed because I tend to roll off at night while tossing and turning trying to get comfortable despite sciatica.

I miss dancing, so I did a little google search for ballroom dancing in my area. And I found a couple of places about a 20 minute drive away. I miss dancing, but I don’t miss the “competition” for dance partners. And I’m realy out of shape in terms of stamina. My knees aren’t what they used to be either.

So I’m asking myself, do I really, really wanna dance or would I rather do some other kind of exercise that doesn’t require driving at night and being reminded that I’m not the person I was a dozen years ago.

I think I wanna dance, but what I really want is to have the life I had all those years ago. And that’s not going to happen.

What I need is to keep taking the gentle yoga class once a week and try ramping up to some kind of low-impact aerobics. What I need is to keep finding ways to meet new people, find some new friends.

What I want is to be the person I was 15 years ago who could do a jive performance and not limp away after.

But it ain’t gonna happen.

there’s a woodchuck in my chakra

My woodchuck totem is a metaphor, a symbol, a visual representation some part of me that is “woodchuck-like.” (See earlier post.) She arrived as my totem animal for my third chakra, offering to be my metaphorical guide along my current meandering path. Whether the woodchuck chose me or I chose the woodchuck is irrelevant to how the metaphor might empower my thinking and feeling. That’s how these things work.

The third chakra

is located in the region of the navel, and is represented by the element of fire . The form is ….. triangular, the seed syllable is ram. It is a ten-petaled lotus. This is the chakra of digestion[emphasis mine], manifestation and power. The ego can manifest itself for good or harm through the power of the navel chakra. It is the one that gives us the sense of generosity, complete satisfaction and contentment.

Whether such a chakra physiologically exists or not is irrelevant, although….

Regardless of whether you believe in chakras, and whether you’re convinced by the ideas in the pages that follow, the journey offers its own reward, introducing a perspective sometimes lacking in our collective conversation.

Since the dawn of the 20th century, science has expanded in startling and important new directions. Chaos theory, quantum mechanics, genetics, cosmology, emergence, consciousness studies… All these disciplines have moved science forward, but they also hearken back to concepts and principles from the earliest days of recorded history.

The i-Ching’s 64 hexagrams correspond to the 64 informational sequences encoded into human DNA.iii The significance of this correspondence is subjective, but its existence is not. Spiral structures are embedded in the universe of physics, but they are also omnipresent in spiritual art and sacred geometry.iv Chaos theory provides a scientific framework for how everything is interconnected, a recurring theme in Eastern spiritual systems. The Eternal Tao is now considered relevant to everything from physics to corporate management… even Winnie the Pooh.v

You can vigorously debate the importance of these correspondences. You can endlessly argue about how specific principles play out in the real world, or how they don’t. But regardless of your world view, these parallel structures are important because they demonstrate that both sides of the divide are concerned with the same mysteries.

The article from which the above quote was taken is part of an unfinished book but is worth reading to get some idea of the connections between science and old spiritualities, between what we know as fact and how various spiritual traditions echo these facts in myth and metaphor.

For purposes of my current journey to get off generic Nexium and stabilize my digestive system, the third chakra becomes the mythic landscape though which I will metaphorically travel toward physical health, with my metaphorical woodchuck as my guide.

Thus is the mind/body connection. At least for someone like me for whom poetry and symbolism and metaphor and meditations have been known to work psychological magic.

An interesting aside I found out about charkras (on the site linked above) is about “The Void.”

Surrounding the second and the third chakra is the Void which stands for the principle of mastery (guru principle) within us. In many spiritual traditions, this area is the “ocean of illusions” that needs to be crossed with the help of a spiritual guide. When the Kundalini is awakened and passes through the Void, this principle of mastery is established within us. Thus, you become your own guru, your own spiritual guide since you can feel on your fingertips all your subtle problems and have the power to cure them using your own Kundalini. Moreover, establishing this center helps us get rid of all our habits, laziness, gross attachments, and everything that enslaves us in a way or another: we become our own master. Following false “gurus” who are more interested in power tricks or your purse can damage very much the Void area.

Finally, as I was searching aroundthe interwebs for information on woodchucks, googling for “woodchuck dance,” I found this post that is just delightful! (Makes me wonder what meaning that woodchuck metaphor might have had for that guy.)