Category: exercise

Right to health? Health and interventions are not the same.

Right to health, what? What do you mean by right to health? Right to medical intervention is not the same as health, in fact it’s far from it. Access to preventative screenings is several steps closer to giving people the information they might need to promote their health – assuming the screening is accurate and not prone to false negatives or positives. In the ideal setting the intervention would be early enough that it was minor and effective.

Healthy people generally have the least contact with the medical field unless you are part of the medical field (as I was). So I’ve had lots of contact, just not many interventions.

The current system rewards interventions with payment and interventions breed more interventions. Iatrogenic mortality (one source) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (medications, surgeries and hospital based infections are often fatal). Basically, if the system drives illness-based-wealth, we will get more illness. Because there is money in it, lots of money, goodwill and power. Why else would churches be a main player in hospital ownership? Hm, religion is a player on the field.

Non-healthcare people generally seem to believe the medications they take are keeping them well. Most medications only control the symptoms of being unwell, they do not cure the underlying disease or chronically poor behaviors promoting the disease.

The great exceptions are antibiotics, which are rapidly being undermined by stupid use (meat animal growth enhancement and as placebos for viruses) driving evolutionary changes in bacteria. And vaccinations, which are a proven prevention strategy, being undermined by misinformation and fear (and inadequate understanding of the risks of the diseases being prevented).

One of the reasons surgeons are the rock stars of the medical profession is because with a scalpel they can cure disease (sometimes).

Let’s take for example the approach to an ever increasing chronic problem overweight/obesity. The answer, the weight loss industry – diets and surgery.

As a dietitian I know something about it although, because I’m an idealist, I never partook of its riches – it seemed wrong to me. The best predictor of unintended weight gain is going on a weight loss diet. The efforts to find one main cause for the obesity and subsequent diabetes epidemic have not really uncovered ‘a’ culprit, but the ‘best predictor of unintended weight gain is dieting.’

If you never, never were restricted, shamed, never went on that first diet…and next and next it is exceedingly likely that you would weigh much less now. It is more likely that you would have maintained the internal system for hunger and satiety cues that those without weight issues use to maintain their body weight. You wouldn’t be charmed by recipes or be entranced by foodie shows or have undeniable need to eat when not hungry. You wouldn’t be a prime candidate for adult-onset diabetes.

However if I wanted to partake and make money off weight loss systems I would use some modified diet, controlled portions, an external system. Because then you would continue to need my services ($) after great initial success and praise, then, oh darn you failed, lost your focus, lacked willpower, but some people succeed and you could be like them! See they’re famous on TV.

Or I would get aligned with a weight loss surgical team and do counseling about how to deal with minimal stomach volume. Lots of clients, effective surgery (people definitely lose weight following surgery) and follow up issues usually related to absorption problems or eating through – regaining and need for another surgical intervention. Nice economic system. Justifiable because of the serious health problems that come along with obesity.

If I wanted you to be able to really become free of this chronic problem I would have to help you see it in a completely different way and you would have to resist the multiple forces driving you towards dieting, food policing, scales, portion controls, fast change, elective surgery and whatever newest and greatest extreme exercise craze. And nutrition and exercise would be of the gentle long-haul quality, something you could and wanted to continue forever without will power. You would pay attention to your own body, how it reacts – you would be aware. Sounds spiritual, it is.

Makes you think – maybe. But we don’t want to have to change our behaviors, they are ours and we’re used to them. So what if they are making us sick, making us feel sick, making us less than happy.

It is the government’s responsibility to make the decisions that will benefit the whole country. Decisions like ensuring clean air, clean water, untainted food sources, fairness in economic systems and security in those systems. Perhaps being the police force for the world is part of that, probably not. It is also important to prevent endemics of diseases that would threaten the population and the population’s ability to produce healthy food and a reasonable living, which ties into education. The government which we deride, is us. We vote, we buy, we accept, we want, we demand, we blame and we ignore our responsibility to think choices all the way through.

The financial system is a completely made-up, arbitrary system. Its consistency important only because it stands for other things. Its regulation is very important because of that factor. Money means nothing if there is no health, no clean water, no clean air, no untainted food, no way for the majority to have security, except of course those with the most will be able to garner the last of the supplies and sway the ones who also want the power of money.

Having people driven into insolvency, poverty and death instead of being a productive member of society is tragic. Having subsidies, benefits, cheap loans for companies who will significantly damage the air quality, water quality, food quality, devalue employees, is idiotic, and amazingly short sighted; except if your over-riding purpose is to quickly accumulate money – which is most corporations primary goal.

Continuing to support a system that benefits from illness is dumb. Continuing to promote systems that encourage the formation of morbid chronic diseases is also less than brilliant.

Yes we should have freedom to choose with informed choice, but then we also get to have the results of those choices and how educated are we in our choices? Are the repeated pieces of marketing doing all the education? Are students even taught how to evaluate the risks vs the benefits of a health care protocol? How many men get treated for prostate cancer, when the statistics show that 49 will get the treatment and only one will benefit by not dying from that cancer. The other 48 get the side-effects and no life saving, but you don’t know it, you might be the one who is saved. Would you be tough enough to say no if your doctor told you of your cancer and what he could do to possibly save you?

We have tried this current system of private insurance health care for a while now and the results? Well U.S. does not have statistics that support continuing as we have been. But the players have a lot of money on the field and it is better for them financially if things continue and people already in ‘disease’ are afraid.

Afraid of the things they might lose, afraid they won’t be saved, afraid in a culture that keeps death at arm’s length and wants to hide from the declines of aging. Afraid medications won’t be there, in denial that sick old people often just want it all to end, denial about the level of mental illness in the population…  Do you think fear and denial make a strong country or are they more likely to set up ill-thought-out panic? Scare mongering seems amazingly blatant lately.

And everyone in the system can’t see a way out of the system, that’s the way it is with systems, they overtake ones whole perspective. They blind us to the potential benefits of other ways.

But yes, I call for choice in interventions. However I think there needs to be proof of homework, proof of viable research for the choice being made. Where is the risk/benefit ratio? How likely is this intervention to actually produce a healthy recovery. Would a surgeon from another medical center agree to have it done to him?

Choice based on proof of quality of life after intervention and understanding of the likelihood of little benefit and a myriad of unpleasant side-effects.




If you don’t want dementia, log in a gratitude journal

I’ve noticed that gratitude is often born out of misadventure, maybe that’s why it wards off dementia. I mean, there are choices; remember the problems and spin them into gratitude examples – ‘optimism r us’ or remember the problems, but don’t figure out any solutions – which would be the opposite of finding a reason to be grateful. A dead end. Or let someone else provide the answers and be grateful for them – which seems somewhat lazy, especially if they also do the work – maybe really smart.

I’ve met some people with dementia who are optimistic despite continually having forgotten what they were doing, but I doubt they were writing a gratitude journal.

Does it really need to be a journal? Do you have to write it? And are there actually any studies on this or does it just sound nice? Expressing gratitude is pleasing for the people around you, maybe this is just a plot to get potentially confused people to be nicer? Whatever.

Gratitude entry #1: Yesterday I dropped a used syringe out of my pocket in the horse pasture and couldn’t find it despite doing many grid search patterns over the area.

I am grateful for horses who were willingly bribed to a new grassy fenced area before stabbing themselves. I am grateful the syringe was capped so being stuck with a long pointy used rabies vaccine tip is low. I am grateful I got my additional hiking exercise in a grassy rough horse poopie area as the mosquitoes were rushing into full power. I am grateful I didn’t pick up any ticks (none that I know of) in the search process. I am grateful I didn’t write a review for the syringe seller since I now believe clear, gray and black is not the best color choice for syringes used on horses.

Gratitude entry #2: Today I hit the turquoise new post button and ended up with the message, flash program not responding continue or end program, so I hit continue, then after many seconds the page came up and I hit inspire me. I waited several minutes and nothing – I suppose this, if it worked, would be the lazy version.

Thank you for the frustration that drove new thoughts on dementia. Thank you for the opportunity to write in a gratitude journal, since I was actually intending to post in my dog blog, but this at long computer pause, came up first. Thank you for letting me wonder if computer foibles are helping to drive the explosion of dementia … wanting to go somewhere, but ending up somewhere else.

Yeah. Feel much more cognitively sound!

However, it seems that the building blocks of dementia are put in place up to 30 years or more before its onset. I doubt that backdating the gratitude journal would fool anyone.

Gratitude entry #21788: I’m 25 years old, visiting Pearl Lake. Lovely day, grateful for the blue skies, warm breezes and warm sand on the shoreline. Water’s cold yet, but looks pretty.

Yah, unlikely I would put my age into a gratitude entry. Plus dementia turns back the clock, don’t need to jump start the process.

So exercise anyone? I’ve got a syringe to find.




Have heart, have palpitations

Normal EKG contrasted with atrial fibrillation

Back in September, on a very early Monday morning I decided to go the emergency room for possible heart problems. I felt it was probably just a waste of a fairly large chunk of money ($1424 for labs, EKG, physician, x-ray), but if it wasn’t, I didn’t want to kill myself, I should just go in and be evaluated. That’s how I think now at this age (is this likely to kill me?).

I don’t know if you know the reasons women are supposed to go in, but they are pretty sketchy; dizziness, nausea, upper-back pain, anxiousness, prolonged palpitations, sweaty-ness and then the same things that men have; chest pain …. Well I’d had dizziness (but I have inner ear vertigo sometimes in the fall/winter), some nausea (but when I have vertigo I get a little sick to my stomach), sweat (yippee, I’m still in the zone of hot flashes), prolonged heart palpitations (this is the one that decided me) and anxiousness (well the prolonged palpitations plus the lack of sureness about the other symptoms did make me anxious enough to decide to go to the hospital).

So I drove in (yes, I know experts say call an ambulance, but really I couldn’t tolerate the excitement). And I spent several hours getting tested.

Surprised, nope, absolutely nothing showed up as abnormal in the tests. But, I know what I was experiencing wasn’t normal for me. The ER doctor offered me a prescription for beta-blockers, that didn’t make sense to me as I didn’t have high blood pressure (110/74) and my resting pulse is 60 to 66 so I declined. They also gave me a handout for lifestyle changes and wanted me to contact my regular physician for a visit. Yah, yah, yes, agree, let me leave.

Things that seem to drive heart  arrythmia or electrical problems (palpitations or fibrillation=rate 110-350) are: smoking, caffeine, alcohol, salt, stress, inadequate sleep, inflammation (overweight, inflammatory foods – like Omega 6 fats, sugar, corn-fed meats), inadequate or excessive exercise, hyper-thyroid, anemias (iron and/or B12) and chocolate and/or other heart issues.

I am overweight (as is most of America) and I like some coffee and chocolate and some salty things and my exercise plan had waned a bit (I’d had a series of injuries – ankle, knee, foot and these made it easy to skip workouts), I eat many healthy but goiter-causing hypothyroid, but not hyperthyroid, foods (collards, broccoli) and am mostly vegetarian (so B12 [anemia] possible low normal). My part-time job as a proofreader is stressful because of the perfection rush, and having hot flashes and palpitations interferes with good sleep (no kidding).

So I increased exercise walking daily, joined a two times a week weight lifting course offered by UW-Extension called Strong Women – which was great but made some muscles in my chest sore (?chest pain anyone), went decaffeinated (or at least tried to), reduced salt from an already low salt diet, gave up most of my chocolate, added Brazil nuts for selenium (protection for my thyroid) and still had palpitations that woke me up, often nightly. But they were a lot less than what I’d had for the several days before I went to the ER.

This went on for several months, as did the reminder calls from the local hospital/clinic that I was supposed to make an appointment with my provider. Yes, yes, I have a HSA with high deductible health insurance and so I dislike spending my healthcare dollars on useless (?) visits. Mostly palpitations are benign. Plus, over and over again lifestyle changes trump medication as far as real effectiveness in resolving a problem instead of just treating symptoms and giving you side-effects (I know there are exceptions; antibiotics, vaccines, and several others).

So I endeavored to follow a much more focused healthy lifestyle. The extremely cold weather and snow didn’t help much, but I persisted.

Well, things were going along (I have a whole bunch of decaff/herbal teas that I ended up not being able to tolerate – need some?) until I had a whole rash of palpitations despite my continued care for following a healthy program, so I finally scheduled a provider visit, which happened a week later when there were no symptoms.

More tests (labs were normal – below 200 cholesterol, good HDL,  LDL) I agreed to wearing an EKG monitor for two weeks. More sleep disruption with box and cords hanging off me. Push the button and it records whatever is happening to your heart. Get three recordings and dial-up the nurses to send them (usually at 3:45 am) and then they ask you “What were you doing when you made the recordings? (sleeping) Any symptoms? (fast, hard heartbeats) How are you feeling now? (fine) We received the recordings, there is no reason to contact your doctor.”

My most difficult thing was avoiding caffeine as decaffeinated isn’t really caffeine-free and I also seem to react to artificial/natural flavors so lots of things were eliminated. Lots of things, like stuff with natural vanilla flavor isn’t really vanilla, nor is anything that says natural _____whatever flavor. If the flavor was real it would just say the ingredient vanilla or honey or ginger on the label. I liked the taste of Celestial Seasonings herbal vanilla honey chamomile, but couldn’t tolerate it because of the “natural honey and vanilla flavoring.”

Recently studies confirmed that avoiding artificial flavors/colors (note ‘natural flavor’ is not real) is more effective than medication in helping ADD and since I felt jittery and felt better if I was moving (couldn’t get comfortable sitting/lying still) I figured maybe I was reacting just like the kids did. This was mid-monitoring when over and over there was nothing to report on my heart rhythm per the called up nurse.

Eliminating artificial and ‘natural ___ flavoring’ removes a whole lot of processed foods – almost all of them. Just take a look at the labels. Even Real Mayonnaise has ‘natural flavoring’ added. Eh, I like to cook, just get the real item basics and skip the rest. Seems difficult? Not so much, at least not at home.

Beverages are a problem: There’s water and milk, but I don’t like milk. Juices are made from cooked down concentrate re-colored naturally and re-flavored naturally to make them look and taste good again – the whole fruit is better anyway.  There’s plain soy, rice and almond milk, which are OK in small quantities.

The teas I like and are really caffeine free and only contain real mint and chamomile are Bigelow herbal mint and herbal chamomile. I put 12 cups of water in the coffee pot, put three tea bags (2 camomile and one mint) and brew it and leave it out. Hot I add some honey, but room temp I drink it plain. My homegrown mint, which I only dried a small amount of because I didn’t have a use for it then, is much more flavorful and better than the bagged tea mint. This year, now that I know I’ll want it, I’ll dry much more. That goes for all my herbs.

Then salt … well salt is added to lots of things in amounts that are surprising – bagels with over 300 mg per each, tortillas with 310 mg each and then all the pork and chicken with added salt (broth for flavor). I don’t each much meat, but now really not.

Calcium supplements have also been connected with heart rhythm problems esp. anything over 500 mg., remember high school chemistry? Ca++, sodium, potassium? Electrolytes that need to be balanced for proper muscle function? The heart is a muscle.

So I did all the things you do to avoid heart burn/acid stomach without using calcium (Tums or other product); raised the mattress at the head of the bed, quit eating by 8pm, avoided overeating even really good stuff – stopping when almost satisfied, used plain almonds, apple, lemon water as tools to settle acid excess. I put a little baggy of almonds in my bed drawer, in my jacket pocket and a plastic container of them in the car so I’d have them if I needed them. They work and eating the right amount of food at meals to keep me feeling good is a great side-effect.

I recorded and recorded and wrote my patient diary about my palpitations. I had three different times when my ‘palpitations’ or whatever were really worrisome to me and each time the Life Watch nurse said the electrodes weren’t connected (but I think they were – maybe). The second time this happened into ER I went, with the same result as the first time. Perfectly normal EKG, nice blood pressure, great pulse and more detailed handouts on palpitations, fibrillation and lifestyle interventions. I liked this ER doctor very well, she was reassuring and helpful with information – adding more details (I like details because then I can make better decisions). She said that if she had a heart problem she’d rather it be electrical than clogged. Well OK then.

The third time I awoke wondering ? V-tach?, hit the button to record, dialed in the recording, they said bad connection, I had new electrodes on, hmm I decided, whatever, since I felt fine and never really had any other symptoms and they, obviously weren’t able to tell me anything. I peeled the electrodes off and put the monitor in the mailer ($1100 worth of monitoring). The result – normal.

So whatever is going on is not bad enough to  find by the current system. There are multiple studies that show that too much contact with the healthcare system is bad for your health. As a previous member of the system, I know it’s true – the third (maybe second) biggest cause of mortality and morbidity is iatrogenic (caused by the system – medications, infections or other interventions).

Now – and these are not for you because you may be having a heart attack, but knowing what I know, I add to the list of warning signs 5-minutes of nausea (not caused by vertigo or bad cooking), same for dizziness, sweat that doesn’t build like a hot flash does or become cold just because it’s 40 below windchill out, chest pain sitting in a chair not caused by too many tree-hugger moves weight lifting, palpitations that don’t go away as soon as you get in the car or see a doctor.

I don’t want whatever is going on to progress, and keeping on doing the same things gets the same results.  So I tried to quit my stressful part-time job (I’d learned what I could from it – it was a good run, yah, yah so I’m still helping them) the stress from it was no longer worth the minor paycheck. I added vit B12 since I’m even more vegetarian than before. I added some Vinyasa yoga practice, which I am liking immensely, other than certain body areas that don’t particularly want flexibility. I quit recording or timing any palpitations (except for unusual quantities of them, which occur on a 4-week cycle, hmm)  I felt I had given them enough attention so I covered the night-light clock and if I wake up with palpitations I go right to yoga breathing which resolves them if they haven’t already resolved.

The other day when I declined a friendly offer of wine (alcohol) and reminded my friends I was a no alcohol, no caffeine. low salt. no chocolate (because you do need others help to make it so – unless you become a hermit).

Asked by a new acquaintance what I did for fun. Do you think she was dissing me? I think she was, but I pretended it was a real question and I started to list, but a different friend did it for me – play guitar, artwork, play with dogs, horses, sing … OK so maybe my embrace of healthful practices is irritating. (I worked with a big guy who was a serious weightlifter, now he was irritating. Nothing was important enough to interfere with his eating and weight lifting schedule. He had to eat at certain times, certain foods and when we went to a restaurant young teen boys would follow him and he’d ignore them. It was funny and irritating.)

And that’s the thing. It isn’t about the restrictions, it’s about finding things I like to have instead and making those available and easy. It’s about being healthier and following my body’s feedback. It told me I needed to change what I was doing. I’m stronger, resolved some things I didn’t know could be fixed and feel better than I did, but I also feel less invulnerable and that’s a good thing, because I can make changes now and not have to hit some sort of ‘bottom, bad zone’ and need major healthcare intervention before doing them.

I’ve gotten rid of things that weren’t good for me, tried blends of real things, planned more to do in my garden and read more labels than I have in years. I learned a bunch just because I needed to. I also wondered if some major change happened in the food industry  and I’m just one of the canaries.

Grocery shopping is definitely faster since there are so few reasons to go into any aisles, convenience stores are not really convenient – although KwikTrip has real bananas, onions, potatoes, fruit, herbal tea… it’s my gas station of choice. M & M’s have gone by the roadside. And yah, the Wisconsin brewery tour is not on my list of ‘gotta do it.’

I hope my litany of stuff is helpful to you if you’re dealing with any of the same worries. All the best to you, be well.

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Saturday morning cat tricks

Every morning when I come in after my walk with the dogs, as I’m climbing the steps Smokey dashes to the bar stools and proceeds to stare at me.CattricksMar1512014 002

If he is late in his dash, or if you are in his way, he may do a cat bumper crash to get through – this is very important to him. He jumps up onto one of the stools and checks to see if you are watching.CattricksMar1512014 001

Then he proceeds to jump from one stool to the other,  expecting kitty treats for his endeavors. (FYI I just give him bits of a different kind of kitty chow as a treat, a high end ‘free sample.’ Cats have very specific nutritional needs and they really like to choose different food even if the current kibble is completely nourishing). The teal hoop is part of his repertoire.

But I’ve gotten tired of the same old trick just like he has of his regular chow, so I changed up what is getting rewarded. He complained a little and threw in a couple of leaps for free.

CattricksMar1512014 004CattricksMar1512014 005CattricksMar1512014 006Today’s trick is high five. Cats like to touch your fingertip if it’s extended (just like dogs like to touch your palm). They’ll reach with their paw or their nose.

Some cats will eat from your hand. Smokey tends to like it better if I put the treat down on the chair after he sniffs it.

We’ll work on this trick for a while, then incorporate it into the stool and hoop jumping one.

Do you have your cat do any tricks? Pre-breakfast furry entertainment, and I do mean furry, the shedding season has begun.

Six Senses – mindful use or just forget about it

The visual perception - Photography Course - L...

How many people here have telekenetic powers?

Raise my hand.      – Emo Philips

The sixth sense in movies is woo woo, something psychic or ghostly. I think we’ve just been overlooking the importance of additional senses.  We get stuck in a certain way of thinking and go along with it, but what about…say, like sense of balance?

Maybe it seemed more on the inside than the out. But it’s a sense, I mean we say ‘sense of balance’ so we already accept it as a sense.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.   – John Burroughs

I’m thinking of playing with all the senses; taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight and balance to make them expand instead of decline.

Lack of use makes balance decline, but it improves with adequate vit. D and  practice (like standing on one foot or walking on uneven ground or bicycling very slowly or yoga). Actually all our senses can improve with practice and decline with lack of innovation – as in really looking for detail or specific colors or design; listening for notes, clarity, endings; or tasting for the ability to relate verbally or write a description; or touching with eyes closed and total concentration; or smelling in a way that makes us know all the scents and find them good or yucky. Just like our memory, we quit really absorbing and marking things as attention worthy and then they aren’t…

A couple of years ago I had multiple cycles of inner ear/vertigo leading to throwing up when I changed from lying down to standing up; it ended up that my down pillow and winter allergies had a lot to do with it (threw the pillow away and voila – no more dizzy retching) which was a big, OK giant, relief. I’ve always been prone to car sickness, air sickness or any motion sickness which is totally unfair. I’ve done more than my share of taking Dramamine and using those little handy airplane woozy bags – leave them on the seat, top firmly sealed – oh well.

All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth, come only from the senses.           – Frederich Nietzsche

I sit here with my eyes closed typing onto a computer screen, I realize how easy it is to get one key off-center if I don’t pay attention to the rise of plastic under my index finger on F and on J. No don’t look to check. I think how much I take for granted the seeing, the visual, the use of my eyes to double-check what I do, where I’m going, how upright and balanced I am. My world is so skewed towards vision, my other senses ignored so often, too often.

Breathing shallowly, sitting here hunched forward, until I realize I’m breathing shallowly then I take a deep breath straightening up and don’t have to breathe again for a while. I notice the sound of the furnace coming on, the sound of the radio in the room above me, some whistling, the sound of the computer humming in the key of C louder in my left ear because it’s on my left side, the drips of the water collecting in the sump pump well below my basement office corner desk top, drip, drip, drip, plop with oddly slightly different tones. I wonder why, but not too much. I’m not going to try to discover the reason, just accept the fact of multi-toned dripping.

My forehead has some tension pain, my left trapezious muscle is slightly sore,  my shoulders, neck tight and tense, my feet in my boots I didn’t take off yet, feel a little cold and a little damp from the snow I walked through. My eyes are slightly dry and squinting now at the screen, I should just close them again. Its been a long day at the newspaper copy editing and proofreading way too many sports stories, news articles and especially obituaries of very old, dead people born in 1915 who died almost 100 years later.  I wonder how much sensation is lost in 90 years. I run my fingers through my thick hair, massaging my scalp and stretching, I yawn. I yawn again, the first time felt good, I swallow, is my throat getting sore? I yawn again, I hope not sore, not that cold or flu or whatever that has gone around.

I close my eyes, sitting here feeling what I feel; points of contact, heels, rump, mid back, elbows touching my midriff and base of palms on the desk and fingertips on the keys. I keep noticing the muscles of my face, maybe I’m getting a…maybe I just keep tensing my facial muscles and they’re tired of it. And I’m chilled.

The sound of dog claws on the tile floor, the jangle of shaken head, scratched neck end of day itchy collar. Then the sound of her laying down behind me and doing doggy grooming, minor jangles and some mildly discordant licking noises. The sound metal jangling tags must bother her with her ears so much better than mine. She gets up, I don’t notice until I feel her muzzle resting firmly on my leg and under my left hand. Is she aware of my thoughts focusing toward and then leaving her or did my body change when I noticed her?

Smell is mostly absent, the breath going in through my nostrils is cool but seemingly unscented stream. The body oil I put on in the morning after showering, fragrance of lavender that makes the dogs huff. They think it’s too strong. I think I quit smelling it before I’m done with breakfast. And taste, I pull my saliva through my mouth…chocolate?

Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.      – Oscar Wilde

Maybe one of the reasons taking time for meditation is so health promoting is it provides time for awareness and just getting in touch with what we have helps to improve it or at least not forget about it.

Do you take time to do an inventory sometimes? Are you thinking about improving or working on a certain sense? Art, music, food? Where’s your balance? How important is mindfullness?

Helplessness – perish the thought

If tears are a waste of time, well ticktock. If fear causes panic, well prepare to be hurt. I’d rather try stuff and fail than say I was helpless to do anything about it, even if it turns out I was.

One early fine Spring day I was riding Cola (he who I have never fallen from, as opposed to Scout, whom I finally made it through a year without falling off) and we came upon a group of back yard loggers. They politely turned down their machinery (chainsaw, HorseclinicbyJaimeeJSept232012 022brush grinder and something else that was quite noisy) until we had just barely, passed by. Then they turned it all on full blast and felled a tree, yippee! Cola spooked hard. Oddly enough scaring a horse from just behind is more freaky than if it’s in front of them – and here was a farm family, what happened to animal knowledge?

So we were running full blast down the edge of a black-topped road with deep water-filled ditches. I mention the ditches because usually if your horse bolts the best strategy is to turn them in a circle; that was not a possibility. Oh, I thought about it and decided the chance of doing a forward flip in mud,  horse included, wasn’t worth the experiment.

So we ran (he did, I just hung on like a tick), which wasn’t so bad except that there were mailboxes and driveways and buses with kids.  Black top, just to add a bit of worry, is a bit slippery under hooves  and I didn’t have the stirrup leathers short enough to stand up enough out of the saddle because I really hadn’t thought we’d be running. The reins, not really useful for stopping. He had stiffened himself in fear and didn’t think my judgement was sound.  So being in charge of reins, doesn’t mean you’re in control, you may have them and still just be along for the ride.

My thought, when he persisted at high-speed, was “I will stay in this saddle. No way am I falling on black top!” And then I purposefully got rid of the falling thought, because I have noticed that thinking something can make it happen.

Horses usual maximum bolt range is 0.7 of a mile (I know this because I had previously had some experience with a horse that wanted to bolt for various reasons and I wanted to know how far he’d run if I did nothing). There were several times in our dash that he started to settle and respond but flood waters where he hadn’t seen them before, new logging piles with his upright tree-friends missing and the big yellow speeding school bus renewed his speedy purpose.  Horses are very aware of changes in environment. You may wonder, did the school bus driver look concerned? Nope.

We were starting to run out of road (it stopped and made a T) no way could we make the corner nicely, plus after school traffic –  eek. Cola stopped, I told him to, was totally affirmed in my purpose, resolute and he stopped. It was about 0.7 mile, so he was due to stop.

There was no falling, nothing terrible happened. No animals, children or even middle-aged women injured in this drama. I did end up with sore muscles, hanging on like a tick is harder than you may think.

He and I walked the same section of road back and forth several times then to help create new history, a history without a freak out run for both of us.

Did you think having the reins actually meant you’re in charge? I know a person who had a cop ‘friend’ turn on the siren when he saw his friend riding his horse — oops, bucking.

I do re-creations of a

MacGyver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

scene in my mind (just like in diving practice or cheer- leading) so I can practice the reactions I want to quickly have, do you do that? I also check reference information to arm myself with alternative choices. Anybody else a fan of MacGyver.

Immortalized in stone – visit an Atlanta cemetery

The smog from the cars on a late afternoon, commuter packed highway made me slow down for my lungs sake and look for somewhere better to hike. I was in Atlanta for meetings back in the 90s, I had some time between the last meeting and when we were gathering to go to a group meal, so I was walking. It was still quite hot out for my northern blood and on my right was an entryway to a rather magnificent graveyard. It’s name was Oakland, but it looked more like home, the trees were big, it was cooler and the air smelled IMG_0130so much better once I was a little ways in. Nobody human and alive appeared to be around, just me and the ones immortalized in stone.

The monuments were spectacular. I’m from up north Wisconsin and if there’s one large angel or a series of shoulder-high granite markers, well that’s a lot of stone immortalizing.

Our graveyards are mostly maybe an acre or two or maybe 10 and have remnants of fake flowers and memorial wreathes, but this one was big and the trees, big oaks (go figure – Oakland) and the monuments really big and no silk flowers here. Instead of walking for exercise I started reading monuments, one I walked through – it was like a very large redwood tree with more markers inside the stone trunk. Treelike markers were popular in one section  for one period of time. There were Grecian, there were small stone buildings, mausoleums to house the dead above ground, there were angels and there were just large family markers. They came in lots of sizes and in fads, certain kinds more popular if you died in the 50s, different if you died in the 80s. And obviously certain sections of the cemetery were more desirable for wealthy people, or maybe for those that demanded to be immortalized in stone. The oldest ones were white stained rectangular stone slabs with hard to read words, wife/mother, infant, husband/father…

But nobody else was there – no sons or daughters to read the stones. It was a park with no one enjoying it except me and the squirrels. Well, maybe everyone else thought it was creepy. I walked through the tree-shaded black-topped pathway loops for about an hour until I needed to head back to my hotel room to change for dinner. According to their website, now there are tours and tour guides available.

If I had a personal sculptor I would want them to teach me to sculpt in stone, not just do a commissioned piece of/for me.

I am my own personal sculptor and carving out my own life, but not in stone unless we count the calcium I might deposit from my bones and teeth at death creating the sedimentary rock that holds small bits of our history.

Sedimentary rock with teeth
Sedimentary rock with teeth
Collected ocean fossils
Collected ocean fossils

No, a stone sculpture is just a sculpture, the meaning is lost and changes as time goes by. It becomes a ‘wow, look at that,’ but the person or family behind it is a forgotten essence unless there is more than rock to remember them by. I do like big trees.

I do like finding fossils. And I don’t mind walking through cemeteries, alone in the coming twilight…what was that?

It’s 3 o’clock, time to play with the horses

When it’s not deer season, the horses have access to one of three rotated pastures and come and go out of the sacrifice area (sacrifice means an area that is a confinement, so the grass is sacrificed).
Especially in spring, they will eat through the night if they have access, horses have very minimal sleep needs.
They tend to play, or maybe they’re practicing running for their lives, a couple times daily. Once in the morning. This is Cola, he’s a Morgan and that purple-gray ball is a Jolly ball.
Sham, an Arab, running during the late afternoon play or prey practice session. He is actually a gray (aka white with black skin), but he likes to roll and lay in stuff. He gets depressed if I don’t play with him, he’s not really a horses horse-it may be color discrimination, really. Northern horses tend to avoid white horses, too easily seen, but desert horses are benefited by gray coats. Maybe there’s a method in his laying in stuff.
When I’ve confined them in their winter, save the pasture grass or keep the deer hunters from making a mistake, area there isn’t much space to do a good hoopla run. Although I’ve seen some pretty good acrobatics on occasion.

Well, I’m back inside after the horse play session. Today we did ‘touch’ and then ‘pick up’ the jolly ball (it’s a 10″ diameter horse proof ball, that can be squashed or bitten and it still returns to round). Lie down, Sham is getting this one. Cola just kept dropping his head and picking up one foot, he’s pretty sure that should be what  I want. We’ll just keep shaping it.

And then free (in other words no tack at all) lunging in different gaits-walk, trot and canter, with self carriage (this is circles around me in  that pleasing, round, good reach with feet, neck arched and head down and vertical movement). And then some lateral movements, which basically mean having the horse move sideways or diagonally, to strengthen, balance and stretch muscles.

The games are played with senior feed (they love it and get about a Tbs for each success) and a clicker, a sound to mark the successes. They like these games so much more than the traditional negative reinforcement horse training plan=when they do something right the pressure is removed, i.e. bit pressure, leg pressure, whip pressure, spur…well you get the idea. But I do use traditional methods too because when I’m on their back they need to know what I would like them to do. I just think the balance needs to be toward the positive so they can respond and need little or no pressure to do so. The one thing that has been a downside of this approach, they are a bit enthusiastic and an enthusiastic horse, well it is something. I can live with it.

Chickadees caught my attention – NaNoWriMo procrastination #3

What chickadee dee dee you may ask, that looks like abstract spruce branches and sky.

And that was the problem, these tidy little birds so busily finding spruce pine cone seeds were just too fast for me. Except for one that abandoned the pines and reclined in almost a sunlit dappled spot. Each time I moved closer to the trees, they liked the less sunny side, they moved to the next trees. I stood stock still. They taunted me with ‘dee dee dee’ and brief landings and flits away. Sometimes digital is so slow. I’m using my Canon PowerShot A710is 6X optical zoom.

There is a horse trailer spare tire sitting chickadee in the photo, but not very impressive.


There is a chickadee in the photo.

Now this photo expedition does not seem like a very good reason to procrastinate writing my first in progress, almost 8000 words, so far, of fiction novel, that will achieve at least 50,000 words committed by the end of November. But, these morning walks have been some of the best times for figuring out what I am going to write next.

So far my heroine is dealing with having to try to find her missing husband, who is (of course) lost in the north woods of Wisconsin.

My theory is write what I know about or at least have interviews with locals about…another procrastination scenario – interviews. So far I’ve interviewed a former bar owner (and I do appreciate all the info you gave me, I’ll try to figure out how to get it into my story, really). She says that the most popular mixed drink here is coke and Captain and, would you believe it, mountain dew and Southern Comfort. Eww, seems like your teeth would just curl up.

I’ve got to go on another walk, need more ideas.