Starting the New Year

For over ten years on January 1st I have formed my personal intentions for the new year.  In keeping with this tradition this year one of my intentions is to post on my blog at least once a month. So here’s my January post just in time!

Living the single life

My life has changed a lot.  Now I am a “committee of one” – a role that I reluctantly have taken on.  It’s so much easier when there is someone present to be witness for each other and to share in decisions.   Ever since I read the book “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, I’ve been making an effort to simplify my life.  Part of this is driven by the aging process – I am being forced to simplify in order to cope with changes in my physical strength, stamina, memory and ability to focus.  I’ve discovered there are real benefits to slowing down and enjoying the moment.  Having too many choices can be immobilizing.  I’m doing things that make me happy whenever possible.   Big projects cause me stress and anxiety.  I’m finding that accomplishing little projects bring me great pleasure.

I made the decision to refocus my art-making on drawing and sketching, casual watercolor and stitching.  All of these activities offer potential for creative expression but are portable and don’t take up a lot of space. I’m no longer submitting my work for juried shows or taking intensive art classes that go on for days.  I’m limiting my travel to short trips of 3 or 4 days mainly to visit my sister.  And I’ve discovered on-line classes that I can take at my own pace.


Self Care

This refocus has allowed me to be more involved with taking  care of myself through exercise and good health practices.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even tho I live alone I enjoy putting time and effort into food preparation.  After Ed died, I expected that this would be a chore.  Instead it has become a creative adventure.  Recently I’ve started to ferment veggies to make my own probiotic foods. I’ve had fun developing original recipes that give me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  I’ve started attending a regular Feldenkrais class that has helped my lower back become stronger.  I’m even getting a monthly facial- something I had never done before.  I’ve begun going to the movies by myself and enjoying it!!!  I plan to continue this blog but I expect to be writing more about my new life as an active and creative “crone”!!!  and sharing it with you.

An Encounter with the Flu

One of the big challenges this month was dealing with the flu. This was traumatic as I seldom get sick and Ed wasn’t here to take care of me!  For years I have gotten a flu shot and this year was no exception.  But the day after New Years I realized that I had the flu.  Granted it was a mild case but it kept me down for eleven days!  I discovered some interesting alternative treatments on-line that seemed to help moderate my symptoms.  I learned that oregano oil is both an antiviral and antibiotic!  Fortunately I had some on hand and so I put several drops on a spoonful of yogurtand gulped it down fast.   Ugh – tastes terrible but I did it for several days and feel that it knocked out that virus.   (Next time I’ll use oregano oil capsules.)

I developed an ugly chest cough which I treated with Ricola cough drops and Sambucus (elderberry syrup)  I drank camomile tea with ginger, honey, lemon and 3 fresh basil leaves.  Water was my best friend and my hydration goal was to drink a half cup every hour.  On the eleventh day I woke up without coughing so I pronounced myself cured and took a walk around the park to celebrate.  Just last week I read that golden kiwi fruit is being successfully used as a flu“treatment”.  There is documented evidence that if one eats three a day when they first have the flu symptoms the virus is killed within three days.

It’s too bad family doctors don’t offer these kinds of alternative treatments for colds and flu.  Of course I don’t know if my self-determined approach cured me,  but my on-line research alerted me to these alternatives, and I believe they prevented me from landing up in the hospital with pneumonia.  Three cheers for the internet.

On-line Classes

I’ve been taking a most enjoyable and interesting on-line class with Australian sketchbook artist, Liz Steele (  Her training is as an architect, but her love of rendering has made her a highly regarded Urban Sketching Teacher.  She has developed unique and original approaches for sketchbooking.  I’m taking her newest class “Watercolor Sketching” and learning how to work fast and juicy!  I’ve had to “unlearn” some “bad” habits and I’m enjoying the results.  Here are two versions of an assignment she gave us – working juicy – one wet on wet and the other waiting for paint to dry before painting the adjacent areas. Each painting was done in about 5 minutes!   I’m only half-way through the class.  The first two weeks focused on painting skills and soon we will be adding drawing to the formula.

I’ve also enrolled in two on-line photography classes, which focus on developing skills using iPhone apps and working with digital photos to create composite art.  There are so many interesting classes one can find on the internet.  I  never got involved until I took a class this past year on creating mandalas as a spiritual practice.

Happy Making Activities

Kale and Garlic Soup

2 slices bacon, chopped

6 cloves garlic sliced (or grated)

4 – 5 cups finely chopped kale – no thick stems

1 quart of chicken broth (I like Costco’s brand)

Place bacon in a 2-3 quart saucepan and render the fat over low heat.

Add the garlic and cook gently (don’t brown)

Pour in the broth and add the kale.

Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer.

Cook 30 minutes or until the kale is nice and soft.

Fresh Flowers

When Ed was alive he often brought home fresh flowers.  I miss his little gifts of love, so in his honor I almost always have fresh flowers or a blooming plant on the dining table.  This is the orchid I got to celebrate his 80th birthday.  Every time I pass by it or glance across the room, it brightens my spirit and makes me smile.

I share all this with you as an example of one way of creating a solitary life with a positive focus rather than being enveloped by grief and melancholy.  Our lives are impermanent  so the gift we have each day is to live as fully as possible.

To be continued next month…….

Managing Anxiety

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything to this site. Weekends come and I promise myself that “I will post this weekend”, and then, before I know it, the weekend is over and I haven’t posted. I claim to myself that I have nothing to write about and that is partly true. I think the real reason I haven’t posted is that I’ve been preoccupied with other thoughts which have taken priority in my life.


All my life I’ve been what I would call a “fear based” person. That has been both a gift and a burden. Whenever I undertake any kind of project be it a vacation trip, an art project, teaching a class, even writing a blog, I prepare for it. This often involves research to make sure I know what I should do, list-making to insure that I have what I need and that I don’t forget any vital steps, and rehearsals to make sure I really do know what I’m doing. That way I avoid mistakes and disaster.

I have been so good at being prepared, that I mostly experience fine outcomes. But the burden that comes with being so well prepared is that the “angst” and fear of coming up short has taken its toll on me. It has become my primary way of dealing with life. And it produces lots of anxiety and adrenaline!

When my husband recently had cancerous growth removed from his nose, I felt on the edge of disaster, like my world was coming to an end. Three or four times a day, I would feel a knot forming in my stomach. My heart rate was irregular. I couldn’t concentrate. What I was experiencing was extreme anxiety and I knew I needed to do something to alter this crazy-making response.

blogSt FrancisNormally I would turn first to my doctor. I had done that this past fall when I was having acute anxiety about turning 75 and a planned trip. He referred me to a wonderful hypnotherapist to learn self hypnosis. It was extremely helpful, and I broke the anxiety pattern for a while. I thought I had it licked and was most surprised that I had spiraled back into unmanageable panic – even with the self hypnosis.

This time I turned to my sister, a retired nurse paramedic and asked her how she worked with people who had PTSD after being in accidents. She got me started on this new journey, with a very effective 5 minute exercise that shifted the panic response with breath and visualization.

I immediately started using this approach each time the panic set in, and began to feel better. I realized I needed to learn more about anxiety. I’d like to share with you some of the very interesting books that I’ve been reading.

blogSagofernThe first book I purchased was “Fear” by Thick Nhat Hanh. It presents a Buddhist way of looking at and dealing with fear. It is easy to understand, and just reading it has brought me greater peace. Ed and I are reading it together out loud and I’ve found this experience has stimulated some great conversations where we both have come to know each other more deeply. I’ve found the practices and affirmations offered in the book to be very effective in lowering my anxiety levels.

I was talking about all of this with a friend who has spent the last year in treatment for breast cancer. She is a huge proponent of positive thinking and told me about the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, M.D. It arrived from Amazon several days ago and I’ve devoured it. Through fascinating narratives about real people with challenging physical issues, Dr. Doidge explains how neuroscience is offering break-though treatments for all kinds of neurological disease. The chapter on fear described my situation to a “T”. The explanations presented the most current approaches to treating extreme anxiety and shed light on my problem. This has given me hope that I will be successful in managing my anxiety.

MothAnother friend told me of her experience with “HeartMath”, another view of dealing with emotional issues based on innovative research and the development of tools and techniques that work on anxiety, depression,hypertension, anger, stress etc.
She loaned me several publications which offer me yet another way of looking at my situation. The book “Transforming Anxiety” was particularly helpful, providing a sequential approach to developing new life-long practices.

What has been most fascinating has been the congruence in all three views with emphasis on the ways that breath and visualization can bring about long-term physical changes and a shift to normalcy.

I did make it outside a few times and took the photos included in this post at the Tucson Botanical Garden. It is a visual delight since spring has arrived and the next few months will offer visitors a botanical cacophony of color.

CupidSinkIn conclusion, I’m back and I think I’m ready to begin posting again on a regular basis. My goal – to post once a week. The desert is blooming again and, hopefully, so am I.