Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Ode to Massage

I wish I could say definitively that my funk has lifted: it has changed, however. I'm still in limbo and doing, as I'd expected, more testing to figure out what's going on in this body and what to do about it. My expected outcomes range from 'Oh, no problem. A little medication change and we're good' to "OMG, we need to do WHAT?." I'm leaning more toward the former. My imagination sometimes gets a little dramatic.

Massage is good for the soul, though, as well as the body, and after one today from the talented and busy Natalie Peterson (plus this morning's yoga class), I'm feeling the Zen. At one point during the massage, I could swear I was nestled on the bosom of the Great Mother (that was what came into my head), wrapped up in those great arms, even to the point of hearing Her heart beat (it was not mine nor Nat's). It was very reassuring and comforting, and I can still envision myself in that feeling of loving, healing calm and power. It will be an image that I will recall and use to help me cope with anxiety and stress in the coming weeks.

When I last worked for a company other than our own, I got to the point where I was having weekly massages from a wonderful therapist, and I swear it was all that kept me sane and going as long as I did. At that time my health insurance would pay at least partial benefits, but honestly, I would have figured out a way to do them even if it hadn't.  Massage is so much more than a spa-type benefit, and it is finally getting its due recognition as a health benefit.

During my mother's last years in a nursing home, she participated in what was then a pilot program titled Compassionate Touch. A caring massage therapist visited her weekly and in 30-minute sessions, gently massaged her and talked to her. She always felt so much better and calmer afterwards, and she and her therapist developed a wonderful relationship. Nursing home residents -- indeed, so many of our elderly -- are so touch-deprived anyway, at least of loving, caring touch, and I always felt like Ann  Catlin, the Compassionate Touch founder, was giving my much-loved mother the hugs and loving touch that I couldn't do very often, since I lived some 2000 miles away. The program has since grown tremendously and practioners all around the country are able to receive training and certification in many regional workshops.(Note to California therapists: there are only five Compassionate Touch practitioners listed. We have a lot of nursing homes, hospice, and other eldercare facilities in this state. You might want to consider this...just saying...)

Most cities now have a plethora of massage therapists and even schools where massages can cost as little as $10. In our little rural community, we have 10 therapists listed online and several in the phone book, and I know there are more. Chiropractic offices often have a staff massage therapist as well. Marinello School of Beauty in Redding has a training program, and there is also at least one program in Chico.

Take care of yourself. This is not a dress rehearsal, and massage is yet another way to help us find our path through life by taking kindest care for our miraculous selves.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In a bit of a funk

It feels like so many things in my life and around me are up in the air, and I've never done limbo very well. And yes, the gray skies and rain that I so wanted have been here for several days, although sun is peeking through as i write, but gray skies and rain also can exacerbate moodiness, and I'm fighting it a bit.

Partly it's the cold that I'm getting over, and am very grateful that it did not get any worse than it did and that I can taste again. But it makes me tired and without much energy, and I've taken naps the last few days, something that is pretty rare for me.

Partly it is waiting for the results of a health test that I'll likely know about tomorrow. While I truly, deeply, do not think anything is terribly amiss, I think there could be some medication changes and possibly further testing. It  -- or at least the what-if factor -- maks me feel terribly mortal and more than a little fragile, and that is never a good place to be.

And partly it is looking at all the bits and pieces of projects that need to be completed, few of which will take a long time, and just not wanting to tackle any of them. There are certainly more than a few that indeed will take time and effort,, like cleaning out the attic, but that's not one that is right under my nose. No, it's the scraps and bits of Christmas still left in the spare bedroom  and the messy shelves in the laundry room that need to be tidied and stuff thrown away. I'm heading for the bedroom in a few minutes to at least clean off the floor.

And it's January,  never my favorite month. The music and falala of the holidays  are over, and it's on to hoping that we get enough rain to fill up the lakes and water tables and lessen the summer fire danger, and realizing that we have only a few more months to do that. While I love the freshness of spring, I'm not ready for the outdoor work that really needs to be done this year.

I know all this will pass and the test will be what it is and I'll adapt however I must. I know that Tony's last full-time day is less than a month away now, and that his long-awaited retirement will soon be here.  I'm glad for that change, even though it also brings with it the acknowledgement that we are indeed in our 'golden' years, hopefully with many more good ones ahead of us to share.

What I know for sure: nothing lasts, everything changes. So it is with my life, so it is with yours.

“We're all just walking each other home.” ― Ram Dass

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Icky cold -- we has it

I'd forgotten how icky it is to have a cold. And I'm very grateful that I don't feel especially sick: my nose is drippy but my sinuses are congested despite using the nasal irrigator, and I occasionally have a bitty cough. My chief complaint today is that I can't taste anything.

Not sure where I got it, but there are so many who have been so sick for weeks with flu and cold and stuff, so I'm glad mine seems very mild. I'm drinking tea and sucking lozenges and wishing the Cold FX had gotten here in time for this. Fortunately I've had no trouble sleeping at night.

I think it's been a number of years since I had a cold or been sick, and I'll be happy to resume that schedule. I probably failed to wipe off a grocery cart or wash my hands once I got home. Won't make that mistake again.

Here's the tea recipe that I got from a friend a few years back -- thanks! Also known as chai tea, but without the milk although you could add it, it really helps and is full of flavor, not that I'm tasting it today:

Masala Tea 
2 inch piece of ginger
9 cups  cold water
1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
6 to 8 small green cardamom pods
6 to 8 whole cloves
1 tablespoon tea leaves, preferably a blend of Indian teas, or 2 or 3 tea bags
honey to taste
Scrape the ginger.  Place it on a board and give it a few gentle blows with a mallet so that it breaks into several pieces.
Pour the water into a medium-size pot.  Add the ginger, cinnamon, cardamom pods, and cloves and bring to a boil. (I use a tea brewing basket to hold the spices.)  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. 
Add tea and boil 2 to 4 minutes.  Strain and serve the tea with honey to taste.
May you be well and not need to drink this for a cold remedy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

You don't know what you got....

Joni Mitchell's lyrics are running through my head today: "Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got
Til its gone..."

While I'm not talking about paving paradise and parking lots, I am thinking of how we age and the subtleties of how it happens. Aging is not something I thought about at all in my 20s or 30s, and never a lot even in my 40s, although there were plenty of changes in that decade that had to do with aging and perhaps maturing in one way or another.

And even into my early 50s, an especially wonderful time in my life as Tony and I met and eventually got married, the aging process was noticed, but was not yet a big deal.

As I approach 65, it is becoming more so.

There is almost no brown left in my hair, I noticed during a haircut this morning. It's a mix of greys and silvers with a touch of white here and there. Over the years, it started as a sort of mousey brown and changed to a darker, richer reddish brown, and I experimented with various colors and textures -- perms, weaves, dark, blonde, light, red,streaked... And now it's straight and soft and full and fine. And grey. And it really works for me.

Older faces DO have wrinkles and creases, and I have 'em. And the awful jowly turkeyneck too, something I've yet to see successfully dealt with without a surgeon's intervention. I hated turkeyneck from my 20s. But I'm not doing any surgery that isn't absolutely necessary, lemme tell you. Turkeyneck doesn't qualify as essential repair. And hands -- ooo, those nasty veiny, my-aging-grandmother hands.  Moisturize. Moisturize.

Things don't work like they did, from the limbs and joints to the bladder and teeth. My urologist pats my hand and says, shaking her head, "Beth, God didn't mean for us to get old." My joints, several of them repaired with plates and screws, still work reasonably well, but that's if I keep taking the glucosamine-chondrotin-MSM stuff and drinking my folk remedy cocktail of grape juice and Certo. Yikes! I sound more like my grandmother every year!

Health takes more maintenance. Like a classic car, we're in the 'shop' (doctor's offices) more frequently, and the older we get, more tests/meds/effort are required to make sure the parts are running adequately. No matter if things have been reasonably okay up until now: you don't ignore the little stuff any longer because it can easily turn into bigger deals: expensive, complicated deals that can definitely mess with your quality of life.

Oh, food. That's definitely changed. We were talking about fried foods the other day, and  I realized that it has probably been decades since I fried a chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy? A couple of times a year, at the most. If I fix rice, it's brown and basmati, which has the lowest glycemic index load.

Who knew anything about glycemic index back in their 20s or 30s, or even 40s?  Who cared? I ate and drank pretty much whatever I wanted, as did most of us. Not any more, although I'm grateful I appreciate fresh veggies and fruits as much as I do.

Now all this stuff isn't gone, but it's definitely changing. We take so much for granted on our path through life, or at least I sure did, always understanding that I'd get older, but not even slightly getting how much change aging brings, and how sneakily it creeps into your every day life, year by year. One year you're bouncing around in heels and cute little strappy sandals, and the next -- well, sooner than you'd think -- your feet are killing you and you're searching for 'comfort' shoes that are at least a little stylish.

I didn't appreciate most of it when I had it, either. I like to think I'd have taken better care of my skin, my body, even my health, and stopped eating or drinking things that were clearly not good for me even then.

So listen up: if you're lucky enough to live long enough, you're going to start to show the results of all the things you've done to your body over the years. Your skin and hair and teeth and organs are going to begin to show that they've carried you a long ways, and sometimes over a lot of dirt road.

Appreciate what you've got in your amazing life machine when you're young and aging is waaaaayyyy down the road, something that parents and grandparents do. Sooner than you think, you'll be there.
It's not all bad, mind you, this aging thing. But that's another day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Working on a post

Okay, so I'm working on a longer post, and I didn't get it done today. I'm thinking about aging and how things just change a bit at a time until one day we look at ourselves and wonder what happened and how did we get to be this age?

There are tradeoffs. You get older, but you also get smarter, or many people do and I like to think I'm one of them.

But bottom line is that I wish I'd paid more attention to things over all these years.

See you tomorrow with the full story.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Vagina Monologues -- year four

Tonight was the first rehearsal for the 2012 "The Vagina Monologues," presented for the fourth year locally and for the second year in Redding. I'm delighted to again be part of this cast, and also to be doing the same monologue as I've done for the last three years -- "The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy."

The production is a part of the larger international organization, VDay, founded by playwright Eve Ensler, and dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. It is not only about ending domestic violence, it also puts a spotlight on rape as an instrument of war and as genocide, and violent acts of hatred or anger that harm women or girls. It's about educating audiences and broadening attitudes.

The play is funny, angry, sad, introspective, bawdy, shocking. It can take an audience to tears in one moment and have them rolling in laughter the next. There are some new monologues this year that our audiences have not heard before, and we have a number of new cast members, several from Redding.

The monologues are the words of women who were interviewed by Ensler, and we never forget that: we interpret to audiences their words, which are real stories, not imaginary situations. Men are welcome: it is not a play only for women.

Performances are in Redding on Saturday, Feb. 25, 4 and 7:30 pm, and in Red Bluff on Saturday, March 3, at 7 pm. I'll post ticket links when they are up. The proceeds benefit Girls Inc. of the Northern Sacramento Valley, and part is also sent to the international VDay organization to help with the work they're doing to aid women.

I hope you'll come. Or if you aren't from here, please use the VDay link to find a performance near you, and go see it. It is important.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rain on the way -- we hope!

Our weather is sharply colder tonight and a north wind is sending the outdoor kitties into corners to shelter from the wind. Nevermind that they have houses that are packed with blankets, foam rubber padding, purrpads, and doors that help keep the wind out. They'll go in, just not when I'm looking.

But we have for the first time in a couple of months the promise of rain for this week. Our favorite Old Forecaster says that our area will have 1-2 inches of the stuff by this time next week, and more in the surrounding area. Since our grass is once again brown and crispy, after a brief greening-up following early winter rains in October-November, that will be most welcome. Most necessary, if we're to escape serious fire threat this summer.

I'm good with this. There is little I love more than snuggling down with an afghan in front of our warm woodstove, kitties curled deep on their tuffets (really RustiesGranny pet beds, which they LOVE, thankyouverymuch Tamina!), a cup of hot tea and something good on television -- and Sunday night is a big one, with Shameless, House of Lies, Californication, Desperate Housewives, Once Upon a Time, and I forget what else. Not that we watch all of that in one evening. It's hard to remember not having a DVR. We seldom watch anything live anymore because it is so easy to record and watch at our convenience.

Our day has been so good: brunch with friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then we went to see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" which was quite good even though we haven't yet read the books. Tonight it's hot beef stew for dinner and a quiet evening enjoying shows. Tomorrow we're back to work and chores.

One of the posts I've been thinking through is about writing, prompted by a question asked at yesterday's Writers Forum conference: Why do you write? What a provocative thought, actually -- and I'll write about that sometime this week.

Another question from the same event asked about the kind of books I like to read and also authors I admire. That, too, deserves more thought, and I'll share with you. Generally, our leaders told us, writers read what they want to write. And I'm not sure that I do. Hm.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Renewing my intention

(((Wow but my daily hits on this blog go down when I don't write every day. Duh.)))

After an inspiring all-day workshop about Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age presented by the Redding Writers Forum, I'm again determined to write something every day, however, no matter how short.

Because I need to write.

Because I need the discipline of daily writing.

Because it is a craft, an art, and if I don't practice it and work at getting better, I am not growing or using this gift of words that I have. And I am grateful for that gift.

Ergo, I will write. Every day.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

January is so LONG...

(((I'm procrastinating putting away Christmas decorations. The tree stands still decorated; the stuff from the rest of the house is consolidated in the den (with the tree), and I need to get on with it. Soon as I write this, k?)))

We had the tree up longer this year than I've ever had it, and that's because I succumbed to the lure of the artificial tree this year. I'll admit it is easy: three sections, pop, pop, pop, plug, and it's ready to go -- well, with a bit of fluffing here and there. It holds our favorite ornaments and there is no hassle about stringing lights. I *never* thought I would get a fake tree.

I did, however, find some good Fraser fir room spray and little hanging thingies infused with the scent that satisfied my nostalgia for the tree smell. And I don't miss dry needles.

But it's over for another season. It's January. The leftover cookies and fudge are wrapped and tucked deep into the freezer. It's time for salad and veggies and sugar-free popsicles. And a positive attitude about the whole thing.

Maybe that's what I've always disliked about January: the resolution and diet thing. Well, that and the fact that I spent a lot of my adult years living in Midwest cities where you got snow and ice and gray skies from November to May. It just seems like January is too long in comparison with the other months (well, there IS August...)

I'm not doing anything especially new this year: still dieting, with good intentions to write daily and continue with yoga and whole body vibration machine and maybe even treatmill. And not to beat myself up over slipping. That'll do.

Onward to those decorations.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Changes for the New Year

It feels odd not to have the Reverb11 prompts in my inbox every evening, and to think about what I'm going to write for the day's post. Reverb gave me a starting place for each day which often became more than its intent, since I usually would spend some time reflecting on the themes and checking my calendar to prod my memory.

Today, of course, was thinking of New Year's Day, especially from the past, but also noticing what turned out to be a very unseasonably warm day with plenty of sunshine. We enjoyed the company of friends today and good food -- I  think we all ate too much, including too many cookies, and laughed a lot. May there be more of that this year.

Long ago in another life I used to cook something on New Year's Eve that was a new recipe, usually completely different from food I regularly prepare, and share it with friends who were not critical. Our kids and we adults played games like Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary or charades, and at midnight we'd go outside and bang pots and pans to welcome in the year. And even longer ago there were NYE parties, and some pretty awful hangovers the following day. And harking back to 1968 NYE, I was proposed to at the stroke of midnight. So many years have gone by since then. So much history. So many lessons.

We get to start over, if we want, with a new year, beginning a new month, a new year, and changing what it is we don't want to carry with us any longer. And yet we are who we were just moments before that midnight hour strikes. I am who I was those 43 years ago, but I am not the same person. My choices throughout each of those years inbetween have brought me to where I am now, and my choices in 2012 will find me changed on New Year's Day in 2013.

I get to choose what to keep and what to cultivate this year. I'd like to make those choices wise ones, ones that will enlighten my soul and make clearer my life's path. I'm grateful for the people in my life to help me do that.