Hiking in Arizona
Looking over Hoover Dam at the Nevada Border
Looking Out from our Cruise
Beautiful and Peaceful Meditation site at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe New Mexico
Steve and Me in Vancouver
Group photon at the Natalie Goldberg Memoir Writing retreat
It’s a snow day here in Mason, Ohio. I love snow days when I have nowhere to go-just the time to catch up around the house, make final travel arrangements and sit here and blog to my readers. I hope you all had a great holiday. Here is our New Year’s letter that I send out in cards. Hope you enjoy it!!
As I reflect on our year, I want to thank you for your cards, letters, and photos. We enjoy hearing from friends and family. Hope your holidays were wonderful.
This was our second full year of retirement, and it has been a joy to be able to sleep in, travel, have time with our kids and grandkids, and all the things we do together and separately.
Steve continues to attend his weekly prayer group (minyan) and the Synagogue. I continue to write and teach my monthly Course in Miracles group. Steve also enjoys working out both physically and socially;) I enjoy taking long walks especially in Sharon Woods with friends. We enjoy watching our shows on Netflix (Breaking Bad, Ozark, and for fun The Marvelous Mrs. Meisel and The Kaminsky Method). Most of all we enjoy our travels-visiting family and friends around the globe. Time is always a commodity but when not in the routine of going to work every day, moments become even more precious, and life’s experiences can be savored.
Some of our most precious moments have been visiting my Godmother Helen and our 100-year-old frien
d Evvy -both in nursing homes. Sadly, Helen died in March, but the memory of our time together while she lived near us will remain.
This year we traveled to Los Angeles in January for a wedding and to visit friends, then to Chicago to babysit our Granddog Jax, while Marcie went with friends to Cancun, Mexico. In February we were in Phoenix for a Bat Mitzvah, and to spend time with a cousin and friends. In March during Spring break, our family embarked on a Caribbean Cruise where in Cozumel, the kids swam with the dolphins, and we explored the shops together.
Following the cruise, we visited Steve’s Aunt Peppy and some old friends in Boca Raton, then drove to Cape Coral to stay with very close friends but unfortunately, all the travel was too much, and Steve was diagnosed with Influenza B the day after we arrived. Thank goodness these friends are like family and made us feel at home – the four of us spent
ten days on Tamiflu and a week of convalescence. I was the only one who did not get the flu. Luckily, they have a beautiful home on the water with lots of separated living space, so we were able to be with each other in a healing environment.
In May, I attended a Natalie Goldberg memoir writing retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Natalie is a practicing Buddhist and the author of Writing Down the Bones and several other books. I enjoyed daily meditation and writing while embracing the sunshine and warmth of Santa Fe.
Later in May, our family all attended our great niece’s Bat Mitsvah in the DC area. Hannah did a great job, and we enjoyed all the festivities of the weekend.
In August our youngest daughter Marcie and I traveled to London and Amsterdam, where we celebrated her 36th birthday. We loved walking London and visiting the many regal sites as well as the Churchill War Rooms, St. Paul’s Cathedral and more. While in London, we got theater tickets to The Book of Mormon, which we both enjoyed. Amsterdam was delightful. We visited the Anne Frank House after taking a guided tour of her neighborhood, which I would highly recommend. We also went to the Van Gogh Museum and enjoyed our hotel with its evening wine and cheese, and a room with floor to ceiling windows we could open to the air of the street and canal views below.
We took another trip to Chicago in September to celebrate my sister’s 60th birthday. She had a great party and being with family is always wonderful.
In October Steve and I took a memorable trip to the Pacific Northwest where we enjoyed our niece in Eugene, Oregon, a Dental buddy of Steve in Portland and a niece in Seattle. We also took the Amtrak train fro
m Seattle and went north to Vancouver, British Columbia where we spent time with our great niece who is a student at UBC and enjoyed the essence of this part of the world. Our Air BnB was across from the water with views of downtown and Stanley Park. While away, we ordered an organic bed in Seattle-so comfy.
Our Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Years holidays were spent here in Cincinnati. Our nephew and niece from Washington DC joined us for Thanksgiving this year which made that holiday extra special-lots to be grateful for.
Love to all and Happy 2019
Mary and Steve
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We did! I love watching the Macy’s parade, making my stuffing and roasting my turkey, then relaxing until the family arrives and it’s time to coordinate the dinner.
I do get to know turkey hotline reps for at least one phone call every year, but this year my worries were a little over the top. I made three calls to the Butterball Hotline (Even though I bought my turkey at Trader Joes). Three calls to the USDA, two calls to local cooking schools, and several calls to various Trader Joes to reassure me that the fresh turkey my husband bought on November 12 would be okay in the refrigerator (as directed by the Trader Joes manager) until I stuff it and roast on Thanksgiving Day. The fear of food poisoning from old or undercooked poultry is a reality I wanted to prevent, and I usually freeze my turkeys.
I was also concerned because my turkey got done too early. I love that we have so many opportunities to problem solve on Thanksgiving. I make at least one call a year for something about my turkeys. I got to know all the representatives I called and learned a lot, so let me pass it on.
#1 It will be fine. The turkeys ship fresh and are refrigerated at low temps and will stay fresh if the wrapping is intact and it remains in the frig until the expiration date, which in my case was Nov 25. It was fine. “It will be fine” were the magic words I heard over and over. I just needed to trust. It was fine. The turkey smelled fresh and tasted delicious.
#2 Oven Temps-You can start the oven at 400 and reduce to 325, but the best temp is 325 for the duration of cooking. Check for doneness by measuring your turkey in three places. The breast or white meat should be 165 degrees. The thigh or dark meat should be 170 degrees, and the stuffing should read at 165. I do stuff my turkey, so this is an important measure. It was almost 170 all over, but because I baste the turkey, it stayed moist and utterly tasty.
#3 Timing- You can safely plan that it will take about 15-20 minutes per pound, but if you baste like I do every hour, it will take longer.
Nevertheless, my turkey did get done earlier than I planned. If the turkey gets done too soon, cover it and keep in a warm oven that maintains the internal temperature of the turkey at 140 degrees. One of my neighbors puts hers in a 250-degree oven the night before at 11:00 PM, roasts until 8:00 AM and keeps it warm until dinner that evening. That was quite reassuring. My oven’s warm setting is 170 degrees. I put it in the oven for maybe two to three hours and guess what? “it was fine!”
#4 One additional tip: DON’T WASH YOUR TURKEY- Pat it with a wet paper towel to clean, and if you’re like me, you can tweeze the end of the feather tips left in the bird. Be sure to clean all surfaces to prevent cross-contamination.
The day after Thanksgiving we had our annual cookie baking day where I lay out every ingredient you could think of for a cookie. The grandkids come over and choose their recipes and bake. The kitchen was in chaos, but we had fun and then by 3:00 we have all had enough, and it’s time to clean up and transition the kitchen for “leftovers night,” our annual Shabbat dinner after Thanksgiving.
Hanukah came early this year. It was the week after Thanksgiving. This year I made dozens of potato latkes. The kitchen was a mess, but the latkes were delicious. I made homemade applesauce too. It was great. We celebrated a few days here and there with the grandkids and will have a Hanukah party at my daughter’s house. We lit our candles every night and turned on our electric menorahs for the windows.
Now we are looking are forward to celebrating Christmas, when my youngest daughter comes in from Chicago with our granddog. Christmas eve we will have my traditional spinach lasagna and Christmas day will wake up to stockings for all the grandkids thanks to “Santa” and stockings for our grown kids filled with an array of stuffers including gift cards to their favorite restaurants.
Our oldest daughter only has Hanukah in her home so she and my son in law and granddaughter will be with us, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our son and daughter in law and their children celebrate Hanukah and Christmas and have their tree and family traditions as my daughter in law is not Jewish, and like me, Christmas was always an essential part of her life. They celebrate both holidays. For Christmas dinner, I make another turkey (yes- from Trader Joes but this one I put in the freezer) and stuffing and bring it to my daughter in laws mom’s house where our family gathers with her family and enjoy the spirit of the holidays.
I will share more about my Christmas memories in a future blog.
Florida Artist Rita Schwab is holding her beautiful glass mosaic that reflects journey, path, heart 🙂
This is a long post with a long story that begins with just a catch up on our travels including our experience with the flu, and then my cardiology journey and resistance to doctor’s orders. If you have ever felt you and your doctor were not communicating-read this post. Enjoy!!
This year we have done a lot of traveling-California in January, Nevada and Arizona in February, Florida in March and early April, and in May I went on a wonderful and writer changing retreat in beautiful and peaceful Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each of these trips have their own story and lots more to share.
It’s been both fun and exhausting and Steve has set his own boundaries around travel. “I can’t unpack and repack a suitcase without an at home for a while break. “It’s too much!” I, on the other hand have a hard time saying no to life and opportunities to travel, explore and experience everything. Steve reached his limit when after completing a delightful family Caribbean cruise, we embarked for a 10-day vacation to be with friends in Cape Coral, Florida and the second day there he was diagnosed with Influenza B. Poor Steve. For the first week of that trip he was either outside on their beautiful lanai or in the house wearing a mask. Although our friends were wonderful, “like family”, and we did enjoy many great conversations in between rest time, this did take a toll on all of us. Our dear friends hung in there with us and we all went on Tamiflu. I was the only one who did not have at least a day of the flu.
At the Urgent Care, it was noted that my blood pressure had climbed to 160/90 — yikes! I was stressed. I managed my stress by writing daily out in the Tiki Hut down on their deck and canal landing. It is a beautiful and serene place to reflect and write. Some days I would just rest in the hammock or sit and meditate and listen to the many sounds of nature. It helped that the weather was beautiful. I also enjoyed an evening glass of wine, which I noticed did lower my blood pressure. Toward the end of our stay we were able to go out and enjoy the last few days of our trip. One of our outings was an art fair in Cape Coral where I met and photographed the artist, Rita Schwab and her glass piece used with her permission as my photo for this post.
By the time we got home and to our own beds, Steve was exhausted and I was concerned about my heart. I purchased a new OMRON B/P monitor and made an appt with a cardiologist.I continued to monitor my blood pressure and it varied-sometimes high and other times normal. I really focused on my breathing and although I did not sit in formal meditation every day, I attempted to stay mindful of my thoughts and pace of living.
As I sat in the cardiologist’s waiting room, I felt a bit out of place. The room was filled with elderly people, some in wheelchairs, and the younger patients were very overweight. I “pride” myself in being as healthy as I can “the middle way” through exercise, a plant-based diet, and meditation, yet here I was. I have to admit I have a strong family history of heart disease—Mom, Dad, and siblings. But I thought I was different and was on top of controlling the risk factors, at least that’s what I thought. Yet now I realize how hard it is to control the biggest risk factor-underlying tension and anxiety.
My cholesterol is high but so is my good cholesterol. I used to smoke but quit 36 years ago, and I have not been overweight since nursing school. Why was I there? My primary care physician was okay with me going although he has never seen my blood pressure over 120/70. He takes my blood pressure every time I see him, and he carefully monitors my lipid profile every year.
Long story short, the cardiologist was not quick to put me on any medication (I liked that!) until I had some tests to determine if I, indeed, showed signs of heart disease. He ordered an echocardiogram and coronary calcium scan (CAT Scan of the heart and its major blood vessels). I was game. The heart scan took about 20 minutes and the echocardiogram took almost an hour.
The next day I got a call from the nurse who gave me the results of my tests—the echo was normal and the heart scan showed minimal heart disease, better than most for my age so the doctor would like me to take a daily 81 mg of Aspirin and 40 mg of Lipitor. Noooooooooooooo.You would have thought she told me the doctor wanted to do open heart surgery. I totally reacted with surprise, anger, sadness, and disappointment and asked that she have the doctor call me.
He did, and it did not go well. The American College of Cardiology recommends the aspirin and Lipitor for a patient picture like mine. Actually there are many cardiologists that feel we should all be on a statin. But that’s it! This doctor really does not know me and I am not a typical patient. I had only seen him one time, and we need to go beyond one size fits all medicine. My primary care physician is an MD with years of alternative medicine experience and for over 25 years has followed my health and prescribed the daily supplements I take. I take no prescription medicine and don’t want to start. On the other hand, I also don’t want to have a heart attack or stroke and would welcome a plan to prevent further heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
When the cardiologist called, I let him know how disappointed I was that the nurse called and that we did not talk before I was given a prescribed plan that included a statin drug without more discussion on its benefits and its risks. Statin drugs do lower cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, but they also come with an array of side effects—muscle aches and weakness, GI symptoms, and more. There is a ton of research that is now questioning the cost/benefit of statins.
I have to admit, I did not give the doctor a chance to explain how we would proceed or how he would follow up with me. When I got off the phone, I felt sad that the conversation did not go well and I wished I had sat in a 30-minute meditation prior to speaking with this doctor. This doctor has an excellent reputation as a cardiologist, is very kind and personable and I am sure he has saved many lives. I wish I could have expressed myself in a better way to be heard by the doctor. I also wish his office would have scheduled a follow up appointment so that he could go over the results with me in his office. Most of all I have used this experience to reflect on my own defensiveness and fear and also trust that there is a blanket of universal forgiveness between both of us.
Doctor patient communication can be difficult. There is fear on all sides. I have a deep respect for the medical profession. I am a Registered Nurse and know how difficult it is to navigate around a system that is frustrating to the patient and the doctor. And I also know that in today’s world of alternative, integrative and functional medicine, there is much that medical schools and nursing schools have failed to teach. The research is often driven by pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in us taking drugs when there are so many alternatives to healing. I will not take a long-term prescription without research and that is my current mission about statin drugs and heart disease prevention and treatment in general.
Dr. Danielle Ofri’s book What Patients Say. What Doctors Hear, states it well:
Patients, anxious to convey their symptoms, feel an urgency to “make their case” to their doctors. Doctors, under pressure to be efficient, multitask while patients speak and often miss the key elements. Add in stereotypes, unconscious bias, conflicting agendas, and the fear of lawsuits and the risk of misdiagnosis and medical errors multiplies dangerously.
A week later, I went to my primary care physician. He agreed that going on a statin drug was premature, but also agreed that we needed to take the tests serious and take a closer look at my cardiac risks and current status. He was grateful to have the test results for additional information about my health. He recommended beets and cayenne pepper as nutritional support for the heart. He also recommended 1000 mg of Niacinamide (Vit B3 derivative-not as much research on its affect on cholesterol like Niacin). He also said he may want me on a low dose of of Zocor, which is a statin. I might add that my physician knows me well and suggested I relax and balance my chakras.
My lifestyle supports health but there is more I can do. I exercise (making sure I get 10,000 steps a day) but could increase the intensity of my walks and add more strength training. My diet is plant based; no red meat and I avoid saturated fat- but I am far from perfect and need to be more aware of salt and sugar. I do meditate, but I am a hyper personality and need to focus on breath awareness and slowing down in between life’s adventures. But more important than all of that is that I often feel I live in two worlds. On one hand I teach and coach a very deep spiritual path of love and forgiveness and on the other hand I have the same fears of illness and death as everyone else. Our fears fuel our defenses and often cause us to separate rather than join.
In two months we will repeat all of the blood tests that aid in determining my current heart disease risk. Since being more mindful of my diet, exercise and meditation as well as forgiving myself and the doctor, (Forgiveness is a powerful medicine for the heart), I have noticed my blood pressure has been staying within the normal range and I am hoping my blood tests show that I can reduce my heart disease risks without taking medicine.
In the meantime, I will continue my research, be mindful of my lifestyle, and stay “open hearted”. I have a follow up appointment with the cardiologist in 6 months. I’m not sure if he is the right fit for me, but it would be nice if we could meet again. I will go prepared to listen to him and hopefully he can also listen to my concerns and we can join in a much more productive manner.
In the end, its not about any of this. It’s always about all the lessons we learn along the way and as I continue the journey, I enjoy bringing you along.
My friend Janet and I with her red convertible. Notice the basket of wine and chocolate.
A friend of mine owns a red convertible. She got it over 18 years ago and it still looks great. She is now in her late 70s but as vibrant as her car. Her license plate is Joy 4 All, and she lives that every day of her life from her vintage clothes and hats, to her thoughtful gifts and notes. This friend recently lost her oldest son to early dementia so it’s hard for her to have that joy all the time. In fact, as she feels her grief and experiences her body aging, like all of us, she has occasional meltdowns. But not for long, for something will come along that not only delights her but delights someone else.
Recently one of her neighbors was celebrating their mother’s 94th birthday party. One of the things on her bucket list was to drive around in a red convertible. The son of the birthday girl was trying to figure out how to make this dream come true. He called several rental car companies to no avail. No one had an available red convertible for rent. He thought of borrowing one from a car dealer, but unless you put a down payment on the auto, you are out of luck. Then an idea came to him. He said to his wife, “ Doesn’t our neighbor own a red convertible?” Light bulb idea!!! He called my friend and said he had an out-of-the-box favor to ask. Could he borrow her red convertible? My friend, joyful as can be, thought this was a great idea and would be happy to let him use the car for the day.
On the day of her birthday, the son surprised his mother by picking her up in the morning for a day of celebration and driving around in a red convertible. She was so delighted and could not believe her dream came true. They had a day out to brunch, then took a ferry ride to Maysville and toured the home of Rosemary Clooney followed by a celebration dinner.
Later that day they returned the car, full of gas, with the utmost gratitude. My friend told me this story with a smile on her face -“Oh! It was so much fun to make someone’s dream come true!”
I have another friend who recently celebrated her 77th birthday in hospice. Two weeks ago she was walking my neighborhood and now has weeks to live due to a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. I went to visit her. It was 11:30 in the morning and there she was sipping a small bottle of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc. I said, “ Are you drinking wine?” I was smiling as I do love wine and thought, why not? Glad they let you have it here. I think I might want to do the same thing. She turned her head to me and said, “Yep! All day long-that and chocolate. What else can I do?” She explained that she chose not to have any treatment, but rather to take the path of palliative care, which assures comfort and allows her to spend what time she has left with her family and friends and enjoy her wine and chocolate. She said if anyone asks what to bring-wine and chocolate!
A group of us put a basket together for her. Each person contributed something based on the theme, wine, chocolate, and comfort care. We brought her a basket full of wine, chocolate, cookies, books, and more. I think she appreciated the thoughts as well as the things. She died about 10 days later at peace and surrounded by her family
One never knows how much time we have left to age and then to die. We don’t all have the same dreams or the same joys. We don’t all have the same experiences, but what we do have is a choice to live as full a life as we can and to be there when someone asks for an out of the box favor and to give with an open heart. It is healing for all.
It has been awhile since I wrote this and I want to add that we all should imagine just for a day that we are in hospice with only 6 months to live. How will you live those days? Angry? Afraid? At peace? Have you had those important conversations with loved ones and friends? Don’t wait to suddenly be told you only have weeks or months to live. We all are on a time line. Life is precious.
I recently got pulled over for going too slow. I love to take my time on the country roads between my home and visiting my Godmother at the nursing home in Centerville. I set my WAZE navigation app for avoiding freeways. That way it takes me through the small town of Lebanon and along beautiful tree lined roads with large homes and gardens, farms and pastures.
On Fridays or Saturdays, I stop at all the garage sales if I have time. I love garage sales-not just for the small items or books I may buy for a couple of dollars, but also to chat with the sellers. This Friday on my way, I stopped at one sale, and the house had the most beautiful landscape. There were flowers everywhere neatly groomed into garden areas around the mailbox, and light post. There was a large manmade pond in the front yard surrounded by perfectly groomed flowers, hosta plants, and garden sculptors and decorative pots. There were 8 foot Dalia plants and a variety of perennials and annuals. The back yard was a beautiful array of retreat areas, trellises, rocks, and stone paths. There was a fairy garden and a tree house, a quintessential potting shed and a beautiful wooden swing set and play yard. As I got to know the owners, I learned they had several grandchildren who enjoy visiting and exploring Grandma and Grandpa’s paradise. They also enjoy the small pontoon boat sitting peacefully in the front yard pond. I didn’t buy anything at the garage sale but learned more about gardening and then headed on my way.
I continued to traverse the country roads and enjoyed a couple of more sales before finally reaching the nursing home for my visit. After taking my Godmother out to a small quaint European Café for lunch and a trip to the doctor, I brought her back to her room, hugged her, and looked forward to my 40-minute drive home again enjoying the country roads and catching any sales I might have missed along the way.
I never worry about the speed limit as I love just taking my time if I’m not in a hurry to get home. Today was one of those afternoons. As I was driving I saw some garage sale signs, I hesitated for a minute before realizing I had been to those sales, so I kept driving. I noticed a police car following me and feeling innocent I didn’t think much of it until the car in back of me had turned, and the policeman kept following me. I got a little nervous as I was driving by a school zone-however the lights for the lowered speed were not flashing. I thought I better be safe so I only went 25 miles an hour in the 20- mile school zone. And there went the flashing lights. I thought, Could he have gotten me for going 5 miles over the speed limit? Or was he stopping me for something else? Was I speeding before? Oh dear!
I pulled over into the school parking lot and sat there waiting for him to come to my window and ask for my license. I rolled down my window and said, “ What did I do wrong?” He said, “ You have done a lot wrong!” Gosh, I thought I’m in big trouble-although I couldn’t imagine what would make me so guilty. He continued, “ For one thing you hesitated at an intersection where there was no stop sign! I started to tell him that was because I thought I saw the garage sale sign but realized I’d already been to that one. He interrupted me without humor, “ And do you know you are going 45 miles an hour in a 55- mile speed zone? Then you go slow in a school zone, and the lights were not flashing so you were supposed to go the speed limit.” I apologized. I said I just like to take my time and felt nervous with you behind me.” He said, “ I have to ask-Are you impaired? Do you have any warrants? Are you a diabetic on the verge of coma? I can see you were not texting, but if you were, that would be another problem.”
I politely said with sincerity, “ No, I’m fine. I just like to enjoy the country roads and stop at garage sales along the way. And truthfully I did not know what to do in the school zone. I could see it wasn’t flashing, and there were no cars in the school parking lot, but I feel nervous when a policeman is following me. “
Then he smiled, and said, “ Well I’m not giving you a ticket or anything but in the future go with the speed limit and be careful at intersections. I do still have to see that you are a legal driver and have a license so please take your license out of your wallet.” Gladly I gave him my license. He took it back to his car, and I remembered I had expired epinephrine injectors and albuterol inhalers in my trunk. They were from an old emergency drug kit from Steve’s dental office. I needed to discard of them and had not yet taken them to the local police dept. God, what if he searches my car! Drugs. Then I thought of anything that could be on my record. I think I’m clean and hopefully my license plate ALLARONE will soften him a bit.
He came back to the window. Gave me my license and was much more congenial.
He said, “ You are clean. Not a ticket in 10 years. I had to do my job. When I see someone going slow, often they are either impaired or texting. My sister is diabetic, and I have been called more than once to come get her on the side of the road when her blood sugar was off.” I empathized with him and acknowledged that had to be hard and make him more aware of impaired or sick drivers.
I told him I understood and I appreciated his concern, but I’m fine. Just like to take my time. I did think about the danger of texting and driving. I told him, generally I use my blue tooth for calls and avoid texting, but I do occasionally have to adjust my WAZE while driving. He said they are not allowed to ticket for using a navigation system and mentioned they hadn’t ticketed much for texting but the time is coming for more stringency on this issue. Just like to take my time. I thanked him for caring, and we both agreed to “stay safe.”
Enjoy these two interviews I conducted 6 years ago for my Blog Talk Radio show, The Middle Way Health. Now that I am retired these two interviews were even more meaningful to me today. If you plan to retire within the next 5 years, I highly recommend these books.
Retire With a Mission by Dr. Richard Wendel.
Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Dr. Richard Wendel on Retirement. Dr. Wendel is a retired urologist who has both written the book Retire With a Mission and has given many lectures on retirement.
Your Retirement Quest by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence
Listen to my Blog Talk Radio interview with Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence. Alan and Keith are retired P & G executives and enjoyed writing the book Your Retirement Quest and have given many seminars on retirement.