Beautiful

A big Thank You to Carole King, who wrote my Blog entry today:

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel.

Waiting at the station with a workday wind a-blowing
I’ve got nothing to do but watch the passers-by
Mirrored in their faces I see frustration growing
And they don’t see it showing, why do I?

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel.

I have often asked myself the reason for sadness
In a world where tears are just a lullaby
If there’s any answer, maybe love can end the madness
Maybe not, oh, but we can only try.

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel.

(those are my beautiful kids in the pic).

The Wisdom of Dr M

 

I want to share an article I originally published two years ago. This piece is dedicated to an amazing healer named Dr. Armando Moreano. Dr. M taught me what true healing is all about…

Years ago I worked for a very wise doctor. He was a petite little man with a hot Latino temper. I learned a whole slew of Spanish cuss words from Dr. M. He’s been dead for more than 15 years, but he’s still one of the most amazing healers I have ever known.

Dr. M grew up in Ecuador; a tiny country in South America that is certainly not known for being at the forefront of medicine. But he learned much about the true essence of healing from watching his physician father treat patients with access to only the most basic equipment and medicines. And even after years of U.S. medical training and experience, he managed to maintain an intuitive sense of how to help his patients heal; simple yet profound treatments were the rule. Nothing very complicated; not much in the way of whiz bang technology; just the basics delivered with love and compassion. His patients adored him – they sensed they were in good hands.

My boss knew all about his patients and their families; he would quiz them about their love lives, their jobs, their mothers – no question was off limits. I sometimes found his questions bizarre and intrusive. I was young and did not yet understand that he asked those questions because he sensed that his patients emotional and spiritual health directly affected their physical health.

I wish Dr. M were still here with us training this generation of doctors. How wonderful to have a doctor who remembers me and asks me about my love life and my family! All those nosey questions that used to embarrass me now seem crucial to quality health care. How can a doctor care for you adequately if she doesn’t know anything about you except a few facts listed in your chart? But that’s another subject entirely.

Dr. M was opinionated and not at all shy about expressing himself. He would go on and on about how preservatives in food were at the root of many health problems; he blamed everything from cancer and diabetes to arthritis and heart disease on artificial chemicals in our food. He liked to deliver his dire pronouncement about American food and health while standing in his office smoking a cigarette and drinking a diet Coke. This made his argument seem especially poignant.

My boss was a great example of the old adage that the most difficult patient for any healer to heal is himself. His father had died suddenly when Dr. M was still young. He never got to say good-bye to his dad and it obviously still grieved him deeply 20 years later. Add to that being caught in the middle of constant arguments between his wife and mother and Dr. M’s smoking made perfect sense. But back then I just thought he was weak for not being able to quit smoking. That was decades before terms such as emotional eating, stress related illness and PTSD became mainstream. Today the research on the link between emotional upset and illness grows every day. And as I try to give up my own chai habit, I realize first hand just how emotionally loaded our food and drug choices can be!

When Dr. M would jump on his bandwagon and lament the sorry state of American food, I would roll my eyes and try to change the subject. I was a know-it-all twenty something, fresh out of college; I really loved my candy and junk food; my boss just seemed like an eccentric old man to me. He actually reminded me of a college chemistry professor I had who would go on and on about the dangers of fluoride in tap water. Now I realize just how wise both of them were…Today, years later I am the one lamenting the sorry state of American food.

Our food has not improved in 20 years. If anything it has gotten worse. The grocery store has aisle after aisle of food, kept “fresh” with preservatives such as BHA, BHT and MSG. Europeans want nothing to do with our mi lk and cheese because we continue to feed our cows bovine growth hormones. How can we give growing school children milk laced with those hormones?!

The ingredients labels on many foods read like a chemistry experiment. It actually is a big chemistry experiment; put preservatives in our food to increase the shelf-life and assure us that all those chemicals are “fine”; they won’t do us any harm. Wait 20 years and see what happens. Sounds a bit like the instructions for instant soup; just add hot water and wait a bit. Only this time the results can be way more serious than soggy noodles!

This crotchety old nurse has gotten a bandwagon of her own and it is called Avoid Artificial Dyes and Preservatives. Twenty years after Dr. M tried to tell me and anyone else who would listen, I am now trying to tell you. My wise old doctor boss was absolutely right – what you eat can either nourish you or kill you; choose wisely. Do not assume that just because they sell it in a grocery store that it is good for you!

Those of you who have known me a while have heard all of this before. My husband calls it Nancy’s rant #1A. And yes, I actually do get red in the face and rant about this on occasion just like my wild Latino boss used to. Dr. M has passed his baton to me. : -)) I rant and I push my opinions about food. And I will continue to rant because your health is worth it.

What You Can Do:
1. READ LABELS; know what is in the food that you feed yourself and your family.
2. AVOID ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVES & DYES; Artificial chemicals are NOT food and they CAN hurt you. It may take 20-30 years, but these chemicals can make you sick and even kill you. And watch out for preservatives and dyes in lotions, makeup and hair-care products as well.
3. AVOID FOOD THAT HAS BEEN PROCESSED OR MANIPULATED TO MAKE IT LAST LONGER. Long shelf life does not mean high quality. In general, the more processed a food is, the less nutritious it is. For example, avoid oils that have been refined with chemicals and heat. Buy cold pressed oils instead.
4. BUY THE FRESHEST FOOD YOU CAN AFFORD. Cheap food can cost you your health. It is NOT worth it.

I hope you will take a cue from Dr. M; please protect your body from chemicals that can hurt you.

Fading Away

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to my mom and to all the other families out there dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia…

Mom’s name is Eve and she was born in 1925. Even now in her 80’s, living in a ‘memory care unit’ and suffering from Alzheimer’s, even now my Mom is still feisty and opinionated and a bit of a rabble rouser. My mom may have been born in 1925, but she really resonated with the feminist ideals of the 1960’s. Even though her career was staying home and raising 4 kids, Mom instinctually understood the basic feminist message. Women need choices about how to live their lives, Women deserve choices. My mom understood that even as she allowed herself few of those same choices.

My mom’s name may be Eve, like the first woman in the Bible, but the name NEVER fit her. Mom never fit the mold of the “little woman” who is made from her husband’s rib and is subservient to her man and lives to serve him. No way! My mom complained about the silly rules that dictate proper female behavior from the very beginning; as a kid, she demanded to know why her 5 brothers never had to do housework while she and her sister were cooking and cleaning every week. And how come the boys got to swim in the creek, but she and her older sister couldn’t? Apparently it wasn’t proper in the 1930‘s for teenaged girls to swim in the creek, even when southern Illinois was 95 degrees in the shade. Can you imagine??!

Later on as an adult, my mom wondered aloud why men got to do all different kinds of work while women were expected to marry and become homemakers. And she thought it very sad that an intelligent and beautiful woman like her sister who never married was labelled a spinster and considered broken by this society!

No, my mom was NEVER a mild mannered ‘good little woman’. And I mean that as the highest compliment. Mom was actually more like Adam’s first wife, Lilith. You may not have ever heard of Adam’s first wive Lilith, but she appears in the Jewish Talmud and several other sacred texts. Most references to Lilith were stripped from the Bible. And what, pray tell, was Lilith’s crime? Well, Lilith refused to be subservient to Adam. She refused to “lie beneath him”. And when Adam balked at treating her as his equal, Lilith up and left Adam and went to live by herself. For refusing to cleave to Adam and do what he said, Lilith was condemned by her culture and turned into an evil demoness that ate newborn babies and sucked the virility right out of men. For “misbehaving” Lilith was rejected and labelled an uppity bitch. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I picture a mix of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan when I think of Lilith.

Lilith is the original feminist archetype; she’s a powerful female who KNOWS she is complete unto herself and she needs no man to define her or validate her existence. Lilith resonates with that same powerful anger that drives modern feminists like myself; we feminists look around and see how women allow themselves to be treated and we roar with rage.

Unlike Lilith, my mom never left her husband. She never left, but she roared with rage at the inequities of her married life on many occasions. She roared but she really never figured out how to make her own marriage less traditional. It took me years to realize that Mom was actually raging at herself and her own decisions as much as anyone else. I think Mom craved a small space of her own without the needs of a husband and kids drowning out her own desires. Like millions of women before her, my mom craved a space of her own, but never figured out how to take it for herself.

When I asked my mom in her late 60‘s what she had dreamed of being when she was a girl, she had difficulty even answering me. Is it any wonder? Didn’t 1920‘s society just assume that girls would want to grow up and be a wife and mommy? Give them dolls and teach them how to cook and clean, right? What a waste!

My mom must have felt such a conflict within herself for so long. She resonated with the feminist ideals of finding yourself and building a meaningful career and yet stayed in a traditional marriage and spent her days taking care of 4 kids and doing mind-numbing secretarial work.

Please don’t get me wrong; my mom adores my dad. She always did. But she dreamed of something more than marriage for herself and for her daughters. She cajoled and encouraged and pushed me to take a different path; to be more than a wife and mommy, to graduate from college and find work that I could make my own. I have her to thank for this career that I love.

So, after decades of denying any part of herself beyond wife and mommy, my Mom is slowly losing her mind. Is that just coincidence? I don’t think so. Ironically now as the Alzheimer’s progresses, she becomes a lot less like feisty Lilith and more like docile Eve with each passing month.

Today I watch my mom’s brilliant wit and intelligence fade away and I am sad. Sad for the loss of the outrageous woman who was my mother. I am sad that my opinionated mother cannot figure out how to hold onto herself and her opinions any longer. And I am very sad that my 11 year old daughter will never really know her grandmother’s strength or her powerful presence.

I am also sad because I look around the “memory care unit” where my mom lives and I see what the future holds for her. I do not understand why she clings to a life that consists of eating and sleeping and not much else. She is kept safe and fed as every week she fades a little further away, like an old photograph fading over time. And I wonder what the point of this slow fade to death is. Years as a healer have taught me that God always has a good reason for everything. But I really cannot figure out the point of Alzheimer’s.

I watched “You Don’t Know Jack” a few weeks ago on HBO; it’s a movie about Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia doctor that the press nicknamed Dr. Death. I watched that movie and I puzzled over how some people could condemn and despise Jack Kevorkian for helping suffering people to die. Granted, Jack is an opinionated old coot and he does not make it easy to like him. But his heart is huge and his intent seemed pure to me. I wonder if anyone who has watched a loved one suffer on the edge of living for months or years could condemn Kevorkian?

Is keeping my mom’s body fed and alive while her brain slowly dies a noble, caring act? Or would helping her to die quickly be more noble? At this point, I certainly don’t know what’s more right or more noble. Ironically, my mom was a big proponent of euthanasia before Alzheimer’s set in. She had a living will drawn up years before her illness became apparent. Yet today if you ask her, she will say emphatically that she wants to be resuscitated if her heart stops. Even as barren as her days seem to me, my mom still wants to be here.

Here she stays. I have trouble killing a bug, so there is no way I’m going turn into Kevorkian here. All I can do is watch her slow decline with sadness. I wish that I could somehow make it all better for her – and for me and my siblings. But all that I can really do is turn Mom over to God again and again and again. And try to remember that God has it handled.

In Defense of Men

I want to defend men today. An odd statement coming from me, but there it is. Men have it rough these days. Being male in this country is no picnic.

Now before I get accused of being a subservient little woman who has obviously been brainwashed, let me just say that most people would consider me to be a rabid feminist. I actually joined NOW as a teenager – and I was a charter member of Ms Magazine – that’s how rabid I am! If I am brainwashed by anything, it is probably all the feminist rhetoric that I absorbed from MS Magazine during my formative teen years.

So, why would a feminist like me say that men have it rough today? Well, I look around and I see women with all kinds of choices that we didn’t have 30 or 40 years ago; young girls now play soccer and volleyball and softball – thanks to Title IX, jocks are not just boys anymore. And now there are huge numbers of female doctors and lawyers and even female CEO’s. More and more women are running for political office and winning. The U.S. Speaker of the House is a woman, the Secretary of State is a woman – 30 years ago, I thought that might never happen in this country, but it has.

Gone are the days when a woman virtually disappeared from view behind her man after marriage. Remember that old line about a woman only gets her name in the newspaper when she is born, she gets married or she dies? Well, we’ve obviously come a long way baby. Today we women have so many choices about what we can do with our lives. We can go after the top corporate job if we want to, or we can stay home with our kids. Or we can choose to juggle some combination of the two. We get to choose.

The women’s movement was good for women in my opinion – very good. We now have lots of choices.

But look around at the men in your life. Have men’s choices changed for the better in the last 40 years? Did men’s choices expand along with women’s? Actually from where I sit, men’s choices haven’t changed much since the cave man days!

We still expect men to protect and provide for us – that’s still supposed to be their top priority. We expect a man to go after the best paying job he can find and make a bunch of money to put a nice roof over our heads and food on our table. Isn’t that how we still define male success? We still send our man out into the world hoping he will provide for us. Only now instead of hunting down the biggest antelope he can find and dragging it home to us, we expect him to slay corporate beasts and drag home a pile of money.

Look at the “perfect man” in all those romantic movies that women love watching. The alpha male that every woman wants to marry is still the best provider. Oh yes, we want him to be good looking and emotionally sensitive, but he better be able to take care of us financially too! Male nurses still rate far below male doctors on the marriage material scale – no matter how sensitive they are. And forget about HIS personal fulfillment – he’d better bring home a big paycheck week after week or he’s somehow lacking.

But isn’t that thinking just as Neanderthal as what feminists accuse men of wanting from women??

In addition to providing for us, we still expect men to protect us no matter what – even if it means they end up dead. We seem to be locked into thinking that physically protecting us is an essential part of being male. All men are aggressive, right? All men are supposed to want to fight for us – whether it’s a big macho strong man or a skinny sensitive guy with an artistic soul. It’s their DUTY to fight for us.

Every year our young men do their duty and go off to Iraq or Afghanistan or some other battlefield. They go off to “protect our honor and our country” and end up dead or maimed. We treat young men like they are disposable. Men are still cannon fodder just like they were in medieval times. Can you imagine expecting and encouraging young women to do that for us? No way. But for men it’s another matter – we assume they will defend and protect us and we proclaim them heroes when they die in the process.

One of the highest honors a man can earn is to die defending us. I find that very sad.

So, I look around and I don’t see men’s choices opening up like women’s have. I still see men locked into provide and protect, provide and protect – even if it kills them. And I don’t think that old male model works very well in today’s world. This isn’t the year 1114 and the enemy isn’t storming our castle walls threatening to kill us. It’s the 21st century and issues like global warming and pollution threaten us in a totally different way. Traditional business as usual just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I want to help the men I love find a new way of being in the world.

What does that look like? I really don’t know. But I think we all ought to start talking about it with the men we love. I AM certain that we can figure out a new way that works better for men – just like we did for women; a new way of being male that expands and shifts their role and opens up their choices in life.

We’ve had 40 years of women demanding things from men; women demanding to be heard. Isn’t it about time to listen to our men?

Let’s get our knight in shining armor down off his horse. Let’s invite him to come in out of the cold. Let’s encourage him to take off his armor and get comfortable. And then let’s sit down with him and really listen to what he has to say about what it’s like to be a man today. Let’s listen to the men we love and go from there.

Wet Mother

There’s a message in the water, they say
Yes! I cry
She says dive in, enjoy
Love your juice
The wet messy wonder
In the flow of life.

There’s emotion in the water, they say
Yes! I cry
All tears and fears
Rage and sorrow
The entire saga is there
Within your flow.

This Earth’s all about the water, they say
Yes! I cry
Whales sing their song
A love for mother ocean
Who birthed you
And flows within still.

You are more water than solid, they say
Yes! I cry
The better to flow
Within, ride ocean’s wave
Connect with mother
Warm wet mama.
Juicy blue.