The Anatomy of Sick

sickI can’t remember the last time I was as sick as I was last week. I’d say I caught a cold, but I think more accurately it slammed me into the wall, put its fingers up my nose and pounded my head repeatedly until I couldn’t breathe. I don’t do sick well. It’s really not pretty for anyone.

It started with my son saying, “I’m not feeling well.”  As soon as that happens, I usually arm up prophylactically with Wellness Formula or Eastern herbs and Vitamin C. But this time, before I got a chance to put my armor on, I woke up the next day with a sore throat. I hightailed it to the acupuncturist, picked up some herbs and lozenges and went home for a good night’s sleep, positive I would get around this thing.

No such luck. The next morning was worse. This time, I went for the big guns and hit the Western doc. I showed up, looking like death, and he agreed with me. “Yep. You’ve got a very sore throat, don’t you?” He shot my Z-Pak over to the pharmacy and I was on my way to wellness by tomorrow. At least, that’s how it usually works.

Despite my armoring up right there at the Walmart Pharmacy with my double dose, the next day was horrible. So I decided my body just wanted to be sick that day. I’d give it what it wanted: a couch bed and some adjusted goals for the day. Here they were:

1. Work my way up the chain with  my newly discovered Words with Friends (I know, I know–last on the train)

2. Watch really bad movie I’ve been wanting to watch

3. Resist urge to check email

4. Watch inspiring short film I’ve been wanting to watch

5. Drink copious amounts of tea

6. Relax as much as possible

Lofty goals, I know. Where did I fare? I did work my way up to the #2 position with WWF and learned about a whole sub-culture. (Those top 3 are very serious about maintaining their positions, btw, and I think it must be a full time job. I think maybe that’s why I don’t play these games on a regular basis.) I did watch “How I Escaped the Cult” on Netflix which actually turned out to be quite riveting. I drank in excess of 10 cups of Good Earth Original & Spicy tea. I watched a short called “Helium” (in subtitles) about a little boy who was terminally ill and afraid of dying and how one man tapped into his imagination (on his terms) to make him less afraid. That made me cry, but did make me feel better that I wasn’t dying quite yet.

The only goal I failed to meet was the email one, but heck. My phone was right there and what was I to do between my WWF turns? Besides, progress not perfection, to steal a quote from Denzel.

During this whole time, I also read some reading from a class I’m taking on the Creative Process by Thomas Troward. It talks about the Source of all that is creating us (physical manifestation) to enjoy and experience the physical aspects of life through us. Hmmmmm, I thought. I wonder if God is enjoying playing WWF or if I can bring this thing around and start having some better fun here. I decided to go outside and watch the yellow finches eat from the feeder. I sat in the hot tub and floated (my new at-home floating technique) with my eyes closed and thought about all the sensations–the water against my skin, the sound of my forced breathing, the air on my face. I visualized full and complete health. And I decided to release the Ick into the Ether where it could dissipate. I’d drunk enough tea for one stint.

Today, I feel better. I was able to go on date night last night and see the amazing Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer.” (Twelve thumbs up!) I had a delicious whole foods dinner at the Savory Spoon with chipotle lentil soup, local greens, and hot tea (tea was my husband’s lovely idea).  I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful, too, for my new word playing friends that entertained me on my down days, for Thomas Troward for reminding me to look beyond, for my family for giving me a chance to regenerate, for my extra soft kleenex that did not chafe my nose, and mostly, for my cold reminding me how grateful I am to be 100% healthy.

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Attitude is Everything

imagesLast week I traveled to Tucson, Arizona to celebrate my oldest son’s 27th birthday. Getting to Tucson–or anywhere–is not as easy as when we lived 15 minutes from LAX.  Currently, we live in a po-dunk town with an even po-dunker of an airport so to go anywhere, I first need to drive a minimum of 2.5 hours and shuttle from my car 15 minutes to get to the airport. It’s a long prep just to get on the plane and get home after the trip. A good time for that audio book.

On the way to Tucson my two connections were silky smooth. No problems at all. I met a tribal judge on the Tucson leg who had gone to law school at Berkeley like my step-brother and my step-dad. She was reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. How could we not be friends?

I spent a fantastic week celebrating with my son and his friend, Kelly. We hiked, we explored, we went to movies, farm to table eateries, local coffee shops, fancy birthday dinner, and just had space for one-on-one time to talk and to enjoy each other’s company.

We also got to meet the final five winners of the Last Comic Standing and see them perform. This was special for us because we had watched this show since he was in high school. We always loved laughing with (and at) the different comics. No matter how hard high school was (and we definitely did have some dark days during that time) that show always gave us something to look forward to–an hour we knew we could count on to be together and laugh. The live show just happened to be booked at The Fox theater in Tucson where my son is working while finishing up a PhD program at University of Arizona. It’s a beautiful, restored theater with lovely people on staff. To be able to be in that space and share that experience with my son and Kelly felt sacred and colossally fun!

While walking around in my perpetual good mood, I became very aware of moods of those around me, especially concerning the weather. The Tucsonians were very concerned about flash floods. There was much talk about it. The grad department at the University closed down in the early afternoon. People were sandbagging. News coverage was all about the impending storm.

I thought about how we all can jump on the bandwagon. We’re in a good mood and everybody else is yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then pretty soon we’re asking ourselves, “Should I be more concerned that the sky is falling…or, should I stay anchored in my intuition and act accordingly.”

It did sprinkle one day, by the way, but that’s about it. The cloud cover kept us nice and cool and in the high 80s instead of the 100s which was a beautiful thing. The other benefit of the mass hysteria about the un-storm was it kept the streets/restaurants/etc. traffic free for us to enjoy. The only place packed out was a country bar called Denim and Diamonds. These people came to dance and were going to dance no matter what.

After a fantastic week, I boarded the plane in Tucson knowing I’d be home after a few connections to make the long drive home. However, when we landed on the runway of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, the pilot mentioned the airport was on lockdown. My first thought: another opportunity to practice attitude.

What happened next reminded me of the reactions to the un-storm. Inside the plane, people started making calls. Going on their news feeds to find out what was happening. Yelling out their findings.

“Somebody’s been shot and the airport is on lockdown,” somebody yelled.

“No flights going in or out,” somebody else yelled.

The passengers had informed each other before the crew chimed in, an interesting influence of our 2014 culture. The stories, you may imagine, we’re just pieces of a truth. We really did not find out the “real” truth (or did we?) when we got to the airport. The media tries to cover such things, but as we all know, they get it wrong as well.

Sitting out on the runway for two hours does not bring out the best in people. I heard things like, “This is a nightmare” and “I have no idea what I’m going to do.” I can relate. Nobody wants to miss their connecting flight and be told, “Sorry. All flights are full and we can’t get you out for two days.”

Wait. What?

There was a time when this experience would have unraveled me. I’d have been yelling and demanding justice be served. This time, I was determined to be kind to the people trying to help me, to my fellow passengers, to strangers in the same conundrum.

And here’s what happened. I made a new friend and we shared a ride through the airport, my phone because hers died and ideas on how to get out of this scenario in a way that would serve all needs. I also was asked if I wanted to go on stand by (me and about 100 other people, btw) 20 minutes after I finally reached the front of the mile long customer service line. The woman looked at me and paused before she asked, as if she was sending me “you will get on that plane” energy. I asked her about my bag because it was locked up in the manhunt downstairs. (They still hadn’t found the shooter.) She asked me to describe it. My first thought started out, “There’s no way in hell that bag is making it” but before that thought could even finish, I rewound and reprogrammed: I will get on that plane and so will my bag.

As I stood at the gate, waiting for the stand-by names to be called, I felt a seed of doubt trying to take hold in the soil of my brain. Denied! I will get on that plane and so will my bag. 

And guess what? We did.

So here’s my takeaway: send love to those around you,  sing when you can, dance always, and welcome opportunities to practice all those things in various venues, even crime scenes.


Posted in conscious living, friends, healthy living, law of attraction, parenting, positive attitude | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Rafting Life’s River

rafting3Comparing life to a river is a worn out cliche, I know. But on this day, the day following my oldest son’s 27th birthday and just a few days before my youngest son’s 16th, I can’t think of a better symbol for this journey. (Not even a box of chocolates, Forrest.)

The river thing is fresh and vibrant in my mind having just gone on an all day white water river raft that my 78-year-old aunt arranged on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon. (We’ll get back to her because she’s pretty amazing.) All day I kept returning to the life/river thing. The day’s story tells it all.

I got up at the crack of dawn. Well, 6:45 a.m. The almost-crack. But on a Saturday, that’s extra early. I think my Aunt had already been up an hour before me playing “Words with Friends” or something on her phone in bed so as not to wake me. We headed north bound for Morrison Lodge. I had looked forward to this hour and a half drive to have one-on-one time with Aunt Necie. Usually when I see her we’re surrounded by hoards of people and I don’t really get to connect just with her.

I wasn’t disappointed. I learned all kinds of things about my ancestors. One that stands out: my paternal Grandma was a foster parent and my dad and his sisters had grown up with  fosters, including one named David during Dad’s freshman year. That had never come up before.  And, then, why would it? This time alone framed a window for those very interesting stories to fly through.

As we arrived at the Lodge, we met our raft mates and our guide. I thought about how we were going to spend the day together with these six strangers in a raft. Life is like that, isn’t it? Different people get in your boat at different times for different reasons. It may be a group of people that are easy to be with. It may not. You may have a strong guide that will lead you where you need to go…or your guide may pop out of the boat and go flopping down the Rogue leaving you stranded on a rock. (Ahem, Eli.)

We took off down the Rogue in the cool morning. The river was stunning. A quiet, peaceful sanctuary filled with white egrets, blue herons, and osprey with ginormous nests high above us. Glassy water created a mirrorraft5river3 for the beautiful black basalt lined with white granite cracks.

Everything was so magnificent. Just to share this creation with others in our boat magnified the beauty. I sat looking out at the miracles surrounding us. I reached my hand over the raft and watched my fingers create a wake in the icy, clear water. I thought about how we are truly surrounded by this same beauty donning different masks each day.

As we floated along, the scenery changed. Sometimes rocky, sometimes filled with thriving evergreens. We saw otters, beavers, turkey vultures of unusual size…we saw deer, and ducks, and–wait, what? A nutria? Turns out these very large river rats are the nemesis of Oregonian farmers because they tunnel into the land and ruin their crops. (Yep. Everybody’s got one of those in their lives somewhere.)

Then came the rapids. Not as smooth as the beauty-drifting, but it’s own kind of white-water experience. When life gets like this–and it’s going to get like this at times because that’s just the nature of the river–we need to remember we still have guides. We still have oars. We still have life jackets.


There we were, six passengers stuck on a rock in the rapids, and our guide was floating downstream in the icy river along with several of our oars. This was supposed to be a pansy river ride. We weren’t wearing helmets like those people in my first picture up above and half of us didn’t even wear life jackets much of the time. We signed up for the low-adventure, pretty scenery full day tour.

Don’t you hate it when that happens? When you thought you were going down one kind of ride then all of the sudden somebody cheats or dies or gets cancer or is murdered or has a psychotic break or… And there you are, on this freakin’ river, with the person you were hoping could navigate no longer there to help and you have to figure out what the freak to do. This is when the people in your boat become very important. Choose accordingly.

I was worried about my aunt and she was worried about her phone. She was getting it into the dry bag and I was thinking, “If she falls out, how am I going to go get her? Do I jump out after her?” (She later told me she was not afraid of that at all.) The farmer on our boat–because farmers are self-reliant and can do ANYTHING–stepped up and started doing stuff. I have no idea what he was doing. Just stuff. It looked like stuff that could save us from our predicament so that gave me hope.

Soon, everybody started doing stuff with him. We rocked back and forth. (Not helpful.) We found rope. (Helpful later.) We all moved to the back of the boat. (Eventually what worked, but we could have easily flipped.) Eventually, the guide returned to the side of the river and a joint effort with all (okay, really he and the farmer) set us free back down the river.

Right after that, the river was calm. No rapids anywhere. It was just like none of it ever happened, except for one thing. We kept talking about it. The guide kept talking about how that was a first. The passengers kept talking about the farmer saving the day. I FB- statused of course as a follow-up. And now, I blog. The conversation keeps an event, which in reality is only a few moments and an adventure, alive.

So goes real life. There’s an event of some kind. It lasts a few minutes, but the conversation keeps it going for weeks. Just take a look at CNBC for events that affect the market or ESPN for stories about football players behaving badly. The conversation could send the NASDAQ plummeting or it could change NFL regulations for the better. The conversation has much power, a fact the media uses to bulk up their ratings every second. It can destroy and/or it can transform.raft4

Back to my aunt. At 78-years young, she’s out kayaking in lakes across the state where she drags her kayak in her truck or her van (and her shovel in case she gets stuck due to drought conditions and boat ramps.) She goes out by herself and has done that for as long as I can remember. She’s such a model of a strong woman to me. I’ve watched the way she’s navigated life through celebration and tragedy, always finding a way to glide gracefully down life’s river no matter what. I hope to copy that as I float. I’m so grateful she’s in my boat.

Posted in conscious living, creativity, Exercise, facing your fears, friends, health, healthy living, Inspiration, Rejuvenation, relationships, spiritual, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forks Over Knives

forksoverknivesWhen I was about six, my dad,  a cattle rancher at the time, would take me out at dawn in the pick-up truck to traverse the ranch. He drove, and I rode in the back, shoveling hay off the tailgate as we approached various groups of cattle.

One day, Dad said, “Hey, there’s a new calf. You want to name it?” I immediately fell in love. It had black and white markings on its face with a pink nose. He was simply adorable. I named him Bandit.

When I came to the ranch on weekends (divorced parents), I’d visit Bandit. Then one day, Bandit wasn’t there. (Think Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, but without a spider–or Fern–to save him.) My dad said we’d eaten him for dinner the night before. That’s just how the world works, he’d said. The sooner I learned that, the better.

That experience stuck with me.  Fighting what I was taught was “Just Life” seemed counterproductive. I grew up in rural America where the high school offers ag science, many of my friends raised animals that would be sold at the fair then slaughtered, and every other family raised their own meat. How could I, a rancher’s daughter, be a whiny baby and turn my back on “Just Life”?

But when I see movies like “Forks over Knives” that’s exactly what I want to do. What made this documentary so poignant for me was that both the doctors in the film come from ranching backgrounds. They grew up on farms with the same messages as I got as a child. As adults, however, they have looked at the messages from a nutritional, scientific, and political perspective, and both opted into a Vegan world of whole foods sans animal products.

Our culture has been fed certain messages about animal protein. The beef and dairy industries both have seats on the national advisory board for the food pyramid and are very powerful forces in determining the public perception of what we need to eat. My husband and I even watched an interesting Law & Order: SVU episode called “Beef” (S11, E20) about an investigative journalist delving into the practices of the meat-packing industry. (She got her throat slit, p.s.)

This documentary suggests that we’ve been dished up a crock. We do not need animal protein and milk does not (as advocated by the dairy scientists) make bones strong, but rather breaks them down. It’s worth looking at the science.

The thing I found the most fascinating was a little look at Norway during Nazi occupation. Before the occupation, there was a large percentage of cancer and heart disease in Norway (which the film advocates is directly linked to diet). When the Nazis came in, all animal products were diverted to the troops leaving Norwegians with a whole food, plant-based diet. During that period, the rate of cancer and heart disease plummeted.  But when the Nazis vacated, and the Norwegians once again had access to animal products, the rate of cancer and heart disease sharply increased. Check it out.forksoverknives3

I find this fascinating. Minimally, something to follow up on. The scientists on this documentary espouse that indeed we are what we eat. In a world with so many Vegan options, it might be a fun experiment to test them out simply by substituting that filet with some sprouted tofu  in your summer veggie stir fry. Who knows? You might just love it and live longer because of it.

In the end, my dad lay dying of cancer. He wouldn’t touch meat. He no longer had a taste for it, he said. I couldn’t help seeing the irony in that.

Posted in conscious living, diet, health, healthy living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


floating2Recently, while staying at an Air B&B house in Carpinteria, I was having dinner on the patio with the hostess who so graciously (& deliciously!) prepared it. We were sitting, chatting over lemon chicken and fresh garden vegetables, and her friend, Phillip of Grover Beach, started talking about “floating.”

I immediately remembered reading an article on this in one of those throw-away magazines about six months ago. It talked about the therapeutic benefits of sensory deprivation tanks at a place in Oakland Hills. Somehow, after reading it, I had the feeling there was only one place that did this and I had to go to Oakland Hills to do it. Some day, I thought.

Phillip went on about how he just loved this thing he called floating. He’d go for multiple sessions at a time. He described the atmosphere as I remembered from the article. Here’s how that conversation went with regards to his specific floating hangout in Santa Barbara called Alchemy Arts Center and Spa. (Haley and Chapala, close to State St.)

You walk into a room that is about the size of a bedroom and has a door that locks. To your left is a table with a glass water jug, lotion, and wash cloths. Straight in front of you is the floating “pod.” It looks like a giant egg. The hood is propped up like in this picture. Inside the pod, is a light feature (like the kind you’d find in a hot tub) that changes color.floating  Also, inside the pod are speakers, an emergency button, and a spray bottle with spring water/wash cloth combo in case you get salt water in your eyes. (Thoughtful touch.)

In the room, at least at this place, is ambient lighting which you control and a personal shower. You are instructed to shower before and after entering the pod which seems obvious, but I suppose some people may need to be told or they wouldn’t do it. Spoiler alert: You are also warned if you have cuts, scrapes or any type of open wounds, to pick another day because the saltwater will send you flying out of your pod in a jif.

While showering, music ala India is filling the sacred space, transporting you somewhere mystical. When you get in your pod, you have five minutes to get organized before the music stops leaving you in complete silence. (It starts again 5 mins. before your time is up to signal you your time is wrapping up.) The pod is filled eleven inches high with heavily infused Epsom salt. Between soaks, a loud jet filtration system makes sure water stays hygienic between guests. The water is exactly body temperature, making it hard to distinguish where the body starts and where the water ends. You get in and pull the lid closed. You have complete control over the lights. As my whole goal was silence and darkness after a weekend dream conference of Jungian proportions, I killed the lights.

At first, my eyes were closed. I feel things deeply, so I often cut off that visual sense when things start coming too fast. It took about 10 minutes for me to realize, “Hey, I can open my eyes. I can’t even see my hand profile when I hold it up.”

That was very liberating somehow. After my initial “fascinated with the dark” phase, I sunk into the moment. I could feel my heart slow, feel the blood moving through my arteries. I followed my breath in and out which seemed extra loud in the silence (and because I had ear plugs in so I wouldn’t get Epsom ears.)

I wondered if this is what it had been like in the womb…for me…for my babies…for the beginning of time.

And eventually, I just floated.

When I posted a picture on my Facebook, I had a quick response. Three people I knew were booking sessions. Others said this sounded horrible. Creepy. Awesome. Fascinating. Weird. Reactions were as interesting as the floating itself.

Back to Phillip. He talked about how recently he’d noticed while standing in San Francisco that the city had a hum he hadn’t been aware of in years past. It was getting louder. (Phillip is from Manhattan so it’s not like he’s not used to noise!) I thought how this is true of the world in general. The skies are full of satellites, many of which we can only see when sleeping on top of a houseboat in the middle of Lake Shasta’s darkness. Technology moves so fast, it’s hard to track the portals. When I drive in the city (even in Santa Barbara) everybody is in such a hurry sometimes I just have to pull over and wave. (I’ve turned into my mother.) Our lists are longer than ever. It all hums louder and louder.

This fact makes slipping into a quiet, dark place all that much more meaningful. And I’m going to guess, the health benefits from stress reduction and relaxation are phenomenal. If this speaks to you, Google your city and “sensory deprivation floating,” and treat yourself to an experience out of this world. I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

Posted in bathing ritual, health, healthy living, Rejuvenation, relaxation, soul rejuvenation, spas, water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rejuvenate–Olympic Style

olympicspaI always hesitate to tell people about this place because my small self wants to keep it a big secret from the world so it never changes its drop in policy. However, it’s so crazy amazing that my Bigger (more giving) Self feels the need to share it with you. I try to live in a world where my Bigger Self is the boss of me.

Olympic Spa is a special place in Los Angeles’s Koreatown that I’ve gone to for over 10 years. However, when I stepped into the spa last week, it had undergone a radical transformation which makes it even better than it was before. The upgrades and new additions were so well thought through: the rain shower next to the cold plunge, the beautiful waiting area, the connection to the Korean restaurant which you can enjoy in your spa robe.

The Korean Spa Retreat is a truly eastern philosophy. In the West, a bath is the place one goes to cleanse the body. In Asia, one goes to cleanse the soul. (Olympic brochure)

The new additions only make this soul journey more complete. I walked out of this sanctuary with a feeling no other spa has ever given me. I usually do. I have thought about why for years. It starts with the philosophy above, but it soaks in as I sit in the various water stations. Take the Mugwort’s tea tub. Or the ice cold plunge. Or the jade steam sauna. Or the regular jacuzzi. Or the wood sauna. Or the biostone room to reverse aging. (Heck, yeah!) But the best ever addition to the Spa is the newest room, the Himalayan Salt room. That’s right. Like the lamps. The whole freakin’ room is built of Himalayan bricks and if everybody wasn’t running around naked, I would have taken a picture for you because it’s simply stunning. On the floor are little baby Himalayan rocks with white gauze mats lying in rows like yoga mats. There is something so magical about this room. I really, really want one in my house.

That all takes place on your own, floating from station to station (spa tip: hot/cold/hot/cold), to destress and detoxify.  All this ritual before you even get to the spa treatments. As far as treatments go, there’s a menu. Here’s what I say: get the GODDESS TREATMENT! You’re a Goddess and it’s amazing. Just do it.

With the Goddess, here’s what you get for the same price a western spa charges for a 50 minute massage. An Akasuri scrub head to toe which removes every dead skin cell you own and makes you feel silky smooth. An aromatic seaweed shampoo that will leave your hair shiny days later. A Darphin Aromatherapy massage that will identify knots you didn’t know you had and dismiss them. An essential oil scalp massage. A purifying face mask painted on with each incredibly aromatic stroke, followed by gauze over your eyes and 2 cucumbers on top of that. So refreshing! While that’s setting, an aromatherapy shampoo and rinse, then luxurious body emulsion that smells so incredible is massaged all over from head to toe. When you are done with this treatment, you’re pretty darn sure you’re Cleopatra. The whole process takes about two hours and the bodyworker never leaves your side. I have never seen this treatment ANYWHERE else in the world and they back that claim up.

After that lotta bit of heaven, you’ll want to lay down in the Himalayan salt room again or on the jade, heated floors, complete with blankets and head rests (wood, Asian style) for your napping pleasure.

Best of all, you don’t have to schedule your treatment weeks in advance unless you want to. You just walk in. When you do, you see this.


You’re welcome.

Olympic Spa, Korean Spa and Retreat (Female Only)

3915 W. Olympic Blvd, LA  (323) 857-0666


Posted in health, healthy living, soul rejuvenation, spas | 6 Comments


robinNothing throws us off more than suicide. It hits especially hard when that act is committed by a young person or by someone famous. It draws attention to a subject we’d rather collectively turn away from and talk about the weather instead. Or guns. Or drugs. Or anything else, really, but the idea that somebody would check out on purpose.

What draws a person down such a dark path? How is it that he arrives at this choice? One thing is undeniable. When a person reaches that point, chemicals in the brain have gone haywire. Neurotransmitters have started spewing a wash of sadness that the person who owns the brain can’t understand. This wash results in blinding that person’s eye to hope. Despair and overwhelm are squatters where hope once lived.

To everyone else, that life may seem full of hope and promise. But to the person suffering, not so much. It feels like there is no alternative. The person is desperate to escape the pain and that really is the only thing they can consider.

And when they go, I suppose that pain releases–though in reality, nobody really knows. One thing we do know is that she leaves behind a trail of tears to all who wish she would have seen hope. They wonder if there was something they could have done. She leaves confusion and a huge wake of sadness that the people left behind must trudge through without losing hope themselves.

In the case of a parent, that trudging can last a life time. In the first National Alliance of the Mentally Ill Family to Family class my husband and I took 18 years ago, I met a friend who cried through most of the first few classes without saying a word. When she finally was able to speak, she shared that her 15 year old daughter had come to her telling her she was feeling sad and hopeless. My friend told her she needed to get it together…pull herself up by her own bootstraps and be resilient. Two weeks later she jumped off a cliff and killed herself.

To deal with her grief, her mom became a mental health advocate. She travelled around high school health classes to talk to high school students about mental health and how to look for red flags in themselves and in their friends. Each time, when she asked how many students in a random class had thought about suicide or knew someone who had nearly 100% of hands went up.

Just because we aren’t talking about it, doesn’t mean nobody’s thinking about it. And nobody is exempt from a mental health moment. We need to bring these conversations out of their dark closets (starting with our schools!) and not leave them solely for psychiatric evaluations. It doesn’t always mean we will change the person’s mind, but at least we can try to pass on hope and love they might not be feeling or able to see themselves in any particular moment.

We will miss you, Mr. Williams. Thank you for sharing your genius with us and giving joy to so many others during your stay here.

Posted in health, healthy living, hope, mental health, mental health and children, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Are We Having Fun Yet?

funWhen I was teaching second grade in Manhattan Beach, my students would write Weekend Wonder books every Monday. On the first few attempts in September, before we talked about alternative ways to express ideas, 95% of the students would write somewhere, “It was fun.”

It used to drive me nuts. Fun? Can’t we be just a wee bit more creative, people? But the older I get, the more I’m okay with it. It’s clear. It’s to the point. It’s the key to living a healthy lifestyle. It’s a fine word.

It’s also one of my core values. If I’m not having fun, I’m not doing it right. I need to modify, reinvent, make changes–and nothing motivates me faster. This was the theme of a movie my husband and I saw last night on date night called, “Begin Again.” We see movies (lots of them) frequently, both at home and in the theaters. I love foreign films, pop films, documentaries nobody’s ever heard of, pretty much any genre. Comparatively, this one struck me as darn near perfect.

I ask myself why and I’m pretty sure this is the answer: the film looks at creative energy in all its stages, and keeps bringing the viewer back to where the fun begins. Is it in the fame? Is it in adapting to what others want and responding to (for the sake of the ego) that demand? Or is it in the joy of the medium outside the demands of status quo for the medium’s sake?

In the case of this film, the medium is music. One character played by Adam Levine (who looks just plain silly in a big beard–the classic line was “he acts like he’s just too busy on the road to shave it”) sells out. You watch his happy monitor drop as he becomes dependent on (addicted to?) the attention of the audience (amongst other things) and loses his core values to his own detriment. His idea of fun warps.

Concurrently, you see his estranged girlfriend played by Keira Knightly, who asks the question over and over: “Isn’t it about the music? Who cares what people think?” She teams up with a washed-up record producer and alcoholic played by Mark Ruffalo (who just may get a nomination for this one) and together they rediscover what fun is by reinventing themselves and thinking outside the box.

Yep. I know. It’s a movie. But it captures an essential truth. That is, it’s really hard to live a  full and healthy life if you’re not having fun.



Posted in conscious living, creativity, healthy living, Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments



I am typing this from my childhood home where I am holding up residence for the second time this year. No, I didn’t run away from home. I’m caring for my mom who’s had an active 2014 surgery schedule. That’s her with her hookah pipe to the left.

This time it’s hip surgery. We chose not to do rehab because it’s the prime place to pick up infection. In fact, in hip class (yes, they have that) we heard the word infection 38 times. Nothing like putting it in your head.

But apparently it’s one of the biggest complications next to the hip popping out. The doctors are even categorized on the down low by who has the “least infections.” We picked #1.

The doctor and the hospital can color an experience and we scored high numbers on both this time.  A shout out to Mercy Medical in Redding, California, primarily thanks to Peggy Manning who I can simply not praise enough.  What a difference that makes in the whole experience to have someone with such high standards. A fantastic experience–the best we could hope for under such a scenario. Even the food was delicious.

Since we skipped rehab, though, that means yours truly is the 24/7 caretaker until Mom can get moving independently again. This also means that all those other things I do in normal life are put on hold which makes me feel torn to say the least. For example, this weekend I had to miss my son’s swim championship meet which made both me and my mom sad. My husband did a great job of being head cheerleader and giving me race times via text. These are long weekends and that’s no easy breezy task. (Thanks, Honey.)

My 2014 nursing stints here at Casa Little Jamie have taught me things about Mom and about myself…and about other caretakers out there in the world who do this on a semi-permanent basis. To those caretakers, if you’re reading, I bow down. I have unbridled respect for you. You are the unsung heroes of this world.

Back to my lessons. Here’s what I’ve learned about my mom.

She’s a creature of habit. I knew this before, but I know it at a whole new level now. Everything in its place. Everything.

She’s a survivor. Can’t even imagine how it would feel to go 5 days without a shower, but with hip surgery, that’s what you have to do. And you can forget about shaving your legs.

She’s the best listener in the world. With surgery just six days ago, I’ve listened to call after call of people calling to check on her and telling her about THEIR problems.

She’s a good friend. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all that 90% of the conversation is about the other person when she’s the one with the new hip.

She’s incredibly independent. Even though I can go down the hall to get her glasses in two seconds flat, she insists on doing it herself to practice moving.

She’s a great patient! She studies the books, highlights, makes notes and follows her directions to a “T.” It’s incredible, really.

She’s so appreciative of all I do. She gushes over all the meals I prepare as if I’ve been to the best Culinary Institute around and was the star chef.

Here’s what I’ve learned about me. Some of these traits I’ve inherited, and on some counts, I’m exactly the opposite. Take the direction thing. I am direction-challenged in a big way. My mind is wired for making the rules far more than following them. Even on the rare occasion I want to follow rules, I struggle. It’s just something I live with.

Here’s what else I learned about me. I have such great back up. My husband was awesome at handling the swim meet weekend and my son’s friends, meals, and all that while managing to visit us and carpet clean the pee that our dog decided to leave on Grandma’s floor. My son was so understanding about me missing his swim meet and came by to visit with his friend, Kyle, and watered Grandma’s plants. My oldest son wrote his Grandma the most touching letter to boost her spirits and my baby left a welcome home message telling Grandma he was thinking about her. What a great team.

The other thing I’ve learned is that caretaking is so multi-faceted. I imagine it’s exhausting for people who do this full time. It’s quite easy to forget to meet your needs when you are helping someone that can’t get meals, and showers, or their underwear on by themselves. (As we were both laughing hysterically at the role reversal, I told my mom I never signed up for this naked thing. Even though I’m a quasi-nudist, seeing your parent nude is a whole different gig!)

Caretaking for a parent is far different than taking care of a child. I’ve been a parent for 27 years and it feels wholly different than Nurse Jamie. There’s just a funky role reversal dynamic involved in the parent part. So many differences in so many things. For one, my mom prefaces everything with, “Okay, Love, before you sit down…” My oldest son is on his own, gloriously independent, but my teen never addresses me that way. Instead, he goes like this, “Mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, MOM!” assuming I don’t respond promptly enough on the first or second “mom.” And that’s what you expect, right? It’s developmental.

Not that I’m complaining at all on either count. I can imagine, while my mom speaks kindly to me that there are a number of parents out there who are mean and demanding because they don’t feel good and they’re frustrated. I’ve heard stories. How difficult to be in that situation where you know your parent needs help, and you’re the selected one, but they’re mean to you. I’m so thankful that’s not me, but I have developed empathy for those going through that.

While it’s no vacation in Mani Lani, I cherish these lessons and this time spent with my mom, talking about our dreams while sipping tea, sharing meals together, and sitting quietly. And, yes, even changing underwear.

Posted in health, hospital, recovery, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hidden Treasures in Trinity County

onemaple2You can stack our summer up into a pile of swim meets, swim practices, and community service shift taxi rides that looks like a wobbly Jenga tower about to crash. We’re nearing the top of that tower as July wraps up. Swim meets are a Friday through Sunday commitment and often require an overnight stay or two in a half-star hotel that you’ll want to be sure to bed-check before you bring your bags in. You know the type. The ones where they still ask you if you’d like smoking or non-smoking. There will be no chocolate on your pillow.

Nevertheless, we’ve learned to become fond of these weekends as this is our sixth year shoving duffels full of swim swag and dragging coolers and fold-up chairs to towns with no chain stores. The weekends are fun and exhausting for both swimmers and swim families. It’s often over 100 degrees and direct sun is simply unavoidable at times. You’re like a human see-saw. There’s getting up to watch your favorite swimmers, the anticipation, the excitement, the finish–and this happens over and over and over. There’s the smell of the grill barbecuing burgers mixed with sunscreen that’s oddly intoxicating, a smell you never quite get out of your skin the entire weekend. There are conversation with families who’ve become–well, like family. Today a 17 year-old swimmer sat down and said, “I like swimming because we’re a family. We help each other be better students and athletes.”

It’s true. And just like Mike and I have instituted our date nights into our family life for the past 15 years, it’s awesome when we can pull these off at these weekends. This weekend we were able to do just that. But our normal date night is dinner and a movie. No movie theaters in the town of Weaverville. What should we do? A hike? Hot and tired. A drive to the coast? Two hours away. Weaverville is so small they don’t even have a 101 Things to Do Guide and Yelp…well, you try it. When we asked the front clerk if there was anything we should do before we left her town, she said, “Nope.”

On the way in, though, we had passed a winery sign. We’re not ones to just let wineries in odd places go unexplored. So after finally tracking it down, I called up One Maple Winery in Lewiston. A man answered and said they’d be open for a few hours. We headed seven miles east to Lewiston.

When we arrived, we were surprised by the maturity of the vines in the vineyard. This had been here awhile. Why hadn’t we heard of it? We wandered in and the guy in charge was chatting with some friends. We looked around the cute gift shop filled with raw honey (a 4H project, the label said), interesting cheeses, chocolate, and the normal wine swag with some very cool local pottery products from the coast.

Ernie eventually greeted us. Turns out he is the owner, winemaker, pourer, and entertainer extraordinaire. As he poured, and we tasted we were very impressed and surprised to discover such tasty wines in the outskirts of Weaverville. We were also surprised to learn that Ernie had grown up in the same Southern California neighborhood we had lived in for nearly two decades (Torrance/Redondo Beach area.) These synchronicities make me smile every time.

We decided to soak in the peaceful grounds. The tasting rooms sits on a creek and the garden is full of beautiful apple trees, Hollyhocks, and a piano Ernie couldn’t part with so turned into a water feature. The piece de resistance is a welded sheet of copper with a maple leaf cut into it that shifts as the sun shines through it.

onemaple4We took a bottle of chilled Chardonnay out on the patio and were immediately struck by the peaceful setting. So was Rosie the dog. Laying flat on her back spread eagle, Rosie sprawled in the grass under the shade tree completely content in the moment. We sat, debriefed the day, discussed whether life is fate or free will–or a combination of both–and why. (What? Doesn’t everybody get into that over smoked gouda, ritz crackers–compliments of Ernie–and a nice, dry Chard?)

As the dinner hour approached, we worked our way back in to settle the tab with Ernie (worth noting, locals–HIGHLY REASONABLE!) and asked him about dinner places.  He had a tip, as often locals do in these venues: The Lewiston Hotel. He’d heard good things. He scratched us out a not-to-size, unlabeled map and off we headed to the old hotel.

When we arrived, the front looked like a facade at Frontierland in Disneyland. Inside looked like more of the same. Moose heads on the wall (Country Bear Jamboree, may it rest in peace.) Antiques, like wall phones. Cow skulls. You get the picture.dinner3

What makes this such a gem, though, is it’s real. You can feel the vibe of the old gold rush era. If you had one of those EMF meters they use to find past residents, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Neither were we. This little gem was simply amazing.

dinner1It’s not a menu you want to go in and tamper with. It’s one of the few places I didn’t ask for any modifications. I was thankful I didn’t. One dish that jumped out at us was also an unusual pick (I usually steer clear of calorie-laden starters) but so worth it. Maria, one half of the new young couple that bought the place, was our server. She told us Joe had picked the wild blackberries “in a bucket down the street on the bridge.” This phyllo dough melted brie was quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Know that over the course of my 50 years, I’ve sampled my share. It really was incredible.

Discovering these little gems in the middle of Trinity County was unexpected. We may not have been pioneers digging for gold, but in our own ways we felt like explorers on an adventure who had definitely struck it rich.

One Maple Winery – Old Lewiston Rd, Lewiston, CA 96052 – owners Ernie & Kristel Bell
(530) 778-0716    Ask for Ernie Bell. Tell him his Torrance friends who lived where the drive-in used to be sent you. (By the way, he’s won awards all over the world for his wine! He won’t mention it, but you’ll see them on the back wall.)

Lewiston Hotel on the Trinity River - 125 Deadwood Road, Lewiston, CA  (530) 778-3823. The brie is a must (I reiterate) and the chicken parmigiana is outstanding, as well as the rosemary chicken breast.


Posted in travel, wine and food | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments