What's it like to have the M.A.I.D. drugs sitting on your kitchen counter?

Ronni Bennett knows now. Read her impressions and thoughts here.

As is usual with her, she writes with humor and honesty in this quote:
"But I suspect that more often now I will take up the questions that have both buoyed and bedeviled me from time to time
and even, in a couple of cases, made me laugh:
Will I have breakfast on the last morning? If so, how will I choose? Cheerios? Scrambled eggs? Maybe just a muffin with jam?
Should I wash the dishes or leave them for someone else?
And what does one wear to one's own death, especially when you know you are dressing for the final time?
To whom should I look for inspiration? Anne Boleyn? Marie Antoinette? Lady Jane Grey?"

Her post is well worth the read, IMO.

"Old age should burn and rave..." or maybe not...

Riffin' on Ronni Bennett again.  She is now under hospice care at home.

She says no.
"Going gentle into my personal good night is one reason I have embraced medical aid in dying.
Those drugs will send me on my way quietly without a prolonged period of decline or pain."

I confess that I tend to lean into the idea (of suicide), if not the reality.

But/and I know that a bit of depression is so common now that it is effecting almost everyone.  (and I have my therapist on Speed Dial!)
I've wondered about suicide rates in these months. There has been a lot written about the subject, mostly from a therapeutic POV.
You'll find no end of articles on Google if you're so inclined.

I'm completely with Ronni regarding attitude, though. I want to go gently. I believe it's a 'good night'.
The hard part now, when I contemplate my death, is the solitude the pandemic has/is enforcing.
I really don't want to die now...
...when it might be days before anyone knows it.
...or when someone might stop by and find Mango picking katecrone out of his teeth.    That's funny, you know.

And I kind of hope someone will be standing by, even though I know I'll make that trip alone.



"What it's like to be dying"

I'm not going to comment on this post today. Just want to post it here.  (How I long for our group meetings...)

This is from Ronni Bennett, one of the Internet's recognized experts on aging, who has been told now, that she qualifies for Hospice
...meaning her doctor expects her to have less than 6 months to live. 

Her words in this post from June 15th, are worthy of our time, and may even inform some of our own choices in our futures.

I've found that Ronni has quite a presence on the wider web, as well.    
If you're curious, an online search will turn up several interviews and a Wikipedia entry.           



"Question to self: When is it too late to change one’s default state?"

The title of this post comes from an essay I'm eager to share with you. Click here to read the full article.
It was written by Charlotte Wood, originally for The Griffith Review, a literary magazine from Australia; and now published by The Guardian. 

This essay's title is "What Are We Really Afraid of When We Think of Old Age? Ms. Wood writes from the POV of a woman in her mid 50's, and begins her essay with this question:

"In a black-and-white thinking culture, how should we consider the richness of who we are in old age?"

I really like thinking about "the richness" of old age. Mine is proving to be so.
Not far into the article, she mentions an elderly gerontologist she met at a dinner. He recounted tales of some of his patients and at one point..   I quote her here:

"Later, he asked me: “How many years of your life would you trade for a Booker Prize?”

“What?!  None!” I replied. I was surprised at the vehemence and speed of my answer, and that I knew it to be absolutely true.

Then he asked, “What if they were the years between 85 and 95?”


Would you trade some of your years for anything?  Would you if you could pick the years?

She writes:
Our predictions for old age foresee an epoch of physical incapacity and psychic misery, in contrast with our vital, flourishing youth. But last night on my couch I spent five minutes scribbling down a list of the troubles that plagued me and those in my social circle – middle class, well educated, well resourced – before we turned 50."

She follows this with a list of illnesses, conditions, and other frailties that she knows of among her younger friends. The list she came up with is about 3-4 times as long as the quoted paragraph above. 

Attitudes about aging vary widely. This is clear in her article. What is also clear is that most of the harsher attitudes come from the Youngers among us. We old folks tend to take it much better, "finding greater contentment, more peace, more comfort with ambiguity, deeper gratitude, and a focus on more meaningful engagement in the present."

I'm tempted to quote more, but then you'd have nothing to read! 

May 22, 2020 no meeting; no minutes; plenty of Missing.

I last posted minutes on March 13, 2020, after our last IRL (in real life) meeting. We were already talking about Covid-19.

You'll no doubt remember our two Skype meeting. We were never successful at getting everyone on the calls.
We gave up after those calls on March 27th and April 10th. Zoom seemed too risky, so we agreed not to meet in person for the time being.
Who the Hell knew it would be so long, and still...there is no real end in sight?

I'm likely to wander around and find a safe way for us to try again.  I miss you like crazy. 

Here is a very cool song by an artist I was recently introduced to: Carrie Newcomer.

A Woman Living Alone

Subtitled "Seven Stories of Solitude During the Coronavirus, from ages 24 to 86",  this story comes from the Washington Post
and is written by Caroline Kitchener.       

I'm not going to reprint it here, though I recommend it to you as an interesting read.
Our group includes four women who live alone:  Jessica, Angie, Irma, and me. 
Irma is without pets, too; Angie, do you have animals?

I'm not sure if or how that might make our experience during this social isolation different from
the experience the rest of you are having. But I think it might be interesting to explore.
(and sometimes I'm just fishing for stuff to do...)




MAID: Medical Aid in Dying and/or Death w/Dignity (and a mention of Death Doulas)

Ronni's blog post today... titled as above without the parenthetical phrase.

I'm not going to reprint it here; it's an easy jump to her page. As you may remember, she has pancreatic cancer and COPD. She is THREE years past the cancer diagnosis and surprised to be here still. She expected death much sooner.

She has had the 1st conversation with her doctor about the options and requirements of using that law, and discusses that conversation openly, clearly and, in her style, without emotion. She has broken much ground in sharing information about aging and now about dying. I hope you'll choose to read this and other posts from her.

I want to comment on the terms being used by the lawmakers. I'm with Ronni on this point: 
With the possible exception of sudden violent trauma (accidents, wars, etc.), ALL deaths are accomplished with dignity.
To name such a compassionate law Death with Dignity implies that other deaths are somehow less dignified, less noble, less than. 
That irritates some bone in the back of my brain!!
Might just be me and semantics, again, but I believe the words we choose carry a certain energy.

Some states use the other phrase: Medical Aid in Dying - MAID. The acronym is not thrilling to me, but the whole phrase seems more appropriate. That is also the terminology used in Canada, though one comment on the blog post did say that finding doctors willing to follow the law upon request is difficult, because many Canadian docs refuse to prescribe the legal drugs citing religious conflict.
It's heartless and ridiculous that we in the US treat our pets better than our families. 
(I make an intentional distinction between pets and livestock.)

She also mentions Death Doulas for the first time... or perhaps that was a commenter. I'm curious about your knowledge of that field. Have you heard of Death Doulas? I'll include a link or two I've been following recently if you're interested in learning a little about it. Do you think that a doula would be a welcome part of your dying process?
Going With Grace   a website by Alua Arthur   Read about her on the 'About' page at the link. 
YouTube home of Going with Grace. She has many 1 minute videos you might enjoy.

A Minute on the Life Lottery  a video by Alua Arthur. This is literally 58 seconds long. and joyous! and a wonderful POV on life.
Watch it now:

Deathbed Planning is a 9.33 minute video done by Mortician, Caitlin Doughty of YouTube's Ask a Mortician. She's spotlighting Alua Arthur's work showing what Caitlin's deathbed might look like and what might be done. Caitlin's website.  

NONE of these links or videos are remotely depressing. Caitlin is a practicing mortician and is on the front lines of what is known as the Death Positive Movement.
I'm definitely interested in the possibility of a doula for my own death.

I hope you'll read and comment on the post.  (I might have a tiny crush on this woman!)



Distance and Solidarity a poem by Chase Beach

Kate H. shared this poem with us by email today. It seems like a good fit here. 


Distance and Solidarity

This puzzling reality we are all facing, 
that in order to stay safe 
we must stay away. 

We stay away 
in order to remain, in a way, together.
If we are afraid enough
of one another, 
or FOR one another, 
we may be able 
to save each other. 
Love and fear, 
distance and solidarity 
have never been 
so obviously conjoined. 
Thanks, Kate.

Our Random Thoughts about and/or during the Covid-19 Pandemic

This post will contain the random comments we send to each other thru the Salon email group.
We might want to look back one day...

3/30/20 from Kate: (copied from elsewhere on this site)
"Kate shared this by email the other day and gave me permission to post it here with her comment.  

To Live 

To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury, and style rather than fashion;
To be worthy, not respectable and wealthy, not rich;
To apply talent, think quietly, talk kindly, act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages with open heart;
To bear all patiently, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never;
In short, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is my symphony.
H. Channing 

"Thank you all for being women who spur me to all these aspirations, and accept me when I miss them by a mile."   - Kate H.

4-15-20 from Kate H.
"You’ve probably all thought of this but I will voice it for us all.  This all makes more [me] grateful for every breath I take
while so many struggle; makes me face again the fragility of my life, the wonder of the body’s delicate balance and the beautiful horror of how a viral molecule can send the world to its knees. Carpe down" (I'm guessing that auto-correct ate the word Diem)

4/15/20 from Jess:
"I love you all! 

I love that we can embrace and share, even from a distance (for now).
Thank you, Nona, for the gift of the poem.
Thank you, Kate for your words of wisdom on gratitude.
And for all the ways you ALL inspire simply by your presence and through your comments in this thread.
Happiness, hugs, & blessings to you all as we continue to navigate our new world...
All my love~"

One Hundred Thousand


100,000 now, but I am unable to see or hear or feel

what it means, really means —-
to the bride whose dad won’t walk her down the aisle,
to the mom who dreamed her graduate”s dreams,
or the man who lost the one, gone at 45, who showed him how to be a man. 


I can’t see the tears

or hear the weeping

or feel the depth of anguish

at not being there

to hold their hand

look in those eyes

or say I’ll miss you so much. 

I can’t imagine. 




20 hearts full of memories


scores of nights filled with tears


a myriad long days with no voice in the house

no calls from him

no stories to hear or tell. 


But I can look at those 1,000 names on a New York Times front page and try to imagine the
99 pages more it would take to know all your names. 


It’s not fair 

you got the short straw,

not fair the one who wore no mask that day,

not fair that the share of love you earned 

is costing your loved ones an equal share of pain. 


100,000 now. 


-Kate H.  May 27, 2020

Covid & Climate & Summer...

Climate Change Won't Stop for the Corona Pandemic.

it's a long read and not fun.

I do know that most, if not all, of my friends are smart and savvy on many levels.
I share this from an excess of caution and love, and because we all know people who are not smart.

So while you're keeping yourself safe from the virus, remember to prepare early for possible other SH*t that may go on later.
Love you. Miss you.


To Live...

Kate shared this by email the other day and gave me permission to post it here with her comment.  

To Live 

To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury, and style rather than fashion;
To be worthy, not respectable and wealthy, not rich;
To apply talent, think quietly, talk kindly, act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages with open heart;
To bear all patiently, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never;
In short, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is my symphony.
H. Channing 


"Thank you all for being women who spur me to all these aspirations, and accept me when I miss them by a mile."   - Kate H.                                                                                         

"The Dakini Speaks" and "On Meeting Death" by Jennifer Welwood

The Dakini Speaks


My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple — how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride — let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope!

written by Jennifer Welwood of No Mind's Land        

And while creating the links here, I found This One!!   


On Meeting Death

Tonight, Pluto, with the crescent moon as my witness,
I welcome you as my lover.
If you have come to break down my door,
See, I have opened it,
And wait here for you at its threshold.
If you have come to tear off my clothes,
I have flung them aside already,
And stand naked, shivering gladly.
If you have come to hurl me into the abyss,
Watch now, as I release all false supports, one by one,
And fall toward you in ecstasy.
Hear this, Pluto, lord of transformative fire:
What you have come to take from me, I offer you.

Pandemic by Lynn Unger

Pandemic by Lynn Unger            

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love-
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live. 


I did not write this. I mean no copyright infringement. I post here because this is beautiful and important.                                          

An Imagined Letter from COVID-19 to Humans by Kristin Flyntz

An Imagined Letter from COVID-19 to Humans by Kristin Flyntz

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about the quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.

Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.

~ Kristin Flyntz 3.12.2020

I did not write this. I mean no copyright infringement. I share because it is powerful, beautiful, and important.


March 13, 2020 - Coronavirus and Covid-19 With Links

Like, what else would we talk about today!?!?

There were 8 of us present today! Yea! Angela, Revin, Irma, Mel, Kate H., LB, NE, and I.
That's something that may not be happening for awhile as we sequester ourselves in these coming weeks/months.   

I'm going to post the 2 things I read in our "Essays" section, as well as links on that page.

Here is a link to the Dutch designer NE told us about. NE's favorite quote from this short article is,
     "It's almost as if the virus is an amazing grace for the planet."
Her reasons for saying that make sense to me.

We talked about the things that scare us about this virus and its repercussions.  We are not panicked at all.
We are mostly old, so we all fall into that risk category, and a few of us (or someone very close to us) have other contributing risk factors. 
These are things that concern us today:
  Staying 'balanced' in ourselves.
  Other folks panicking.
  Economic impact. (more for our community than for ourselves individually)
  Helplessness - Kate quoted, "It's like a tornado is coming; dad's drunk on the couch; and I'm 7 years old."

It seems like that a bit to me, too, and partly because there is so much conflicting information out there.

On another subject, we talked about KIVA and the ability to help internationally, and as a group, thru this organization.
If you are not familiar with them, follow the link and see what you can do there. And feel free to lend Anytime!  :)
I will get our group set up in the next day or two and will let you know when that is ready.

We talked about Days for Girls. I don't want to lose track of this opportunity. I encourage you to donate to this group. I hope that we'll get a sewing circle going at some point. I might even learn!

The only other charity that I support at this moment is RIP Medical Debt. This organization buys up medical debt that has gone to collection agencies and abolishes it! Check out this video:


There is a 'group' component to this organization, too, but I think it is scaled for large companies.
Go to YouTube and search RIP Medical Debt to see tons of videos about this group.

So... now you have things to read...places to donate... 
And Skype to learn between now and next week.  Have fun, Sisters!! 

“Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. is "an American poet, psychoanalyst, and post-trauma specialist who was raised in now nearly vanished oral and ethnic traditions. She is a first-generation American who grew up in a rural village, population 600, near the Great Lakes."You may remember her "Women Who Run With the Wolves". In this insightful article Estes reassures us that we are, indeed, made for these times.

Consider this excerpt:

          "Yet … I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. 
Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is – we were made for these times.

Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised, since childhood, for this time precisely.

…I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone."

And then continue to enjoy her encouraging words. 

Ursula K. Le Guin on Being a Man

This article was found on Brain Pickings, written by Maria Popova.  I keep going to unsubscribe from her newsletters only to find so many more interesting things, that I just never unsub... 

Ursula K. Le Guin was a very influential American writer (October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018). "Frequently described as an author of science fiction, Le Guin has also been called a "major voice in American Letters", and herself said she would prefer to be known as an "American novelist"."

"She blends anthropology, social psychology, and sheer literary artistry to explore complex, often difficult subjects with remarkable grace. Subjects, for instance, like who we are and what gender really means as we — men, women, ungendered souls — try to inhabit our constant tussle between inner and outer, individual and social, private and performative.

"This is what Le Guin examines in an extraordinary essay titled “Introducing Myself,” which Le Guin first wrote as a performance piece in the 1980s and later updated for the beautifully titled, beautifully written, beautifully wide-ranging 2004 collection The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination. To speak of a subject so common by birth and so minced by public discourse in a way that is completely original and completely compelling is no small feat — in fact, it is the kind of feat of writing Jack Kerouac must have had in mind when he contemplated the crucial difference between genius and talent."

Consider this excerpt:                    
"I am a man. Now you may think I’ve made some kind of silly mistake about gender, or maybe that I’m trying to fool you, because my first name ends in a, and I own three bras, and I’ve been pregnant five times, and other things like that that you might have noticed, little details. But details don’t matter… I predate the invention of women by decades. Well, if you insist on pedantic accuracy, women have been invented several times in widely varying localities, but the inventors just didn’t know how to sell the product. Their distribution techniques were rudimentary and their market research was nil, and so of course the concept just didn’t get off the ground. Even with a genius behind it an invention has to find its market, and it seemed like for a long time the idea of women just didn’t make it to the bottom line. Models like the Austen and the Brontë were too complicated, and people just laughed at the Suffragette, and the Woolf was way too far ahead of its time."      

With wit and charm, Le Guin continues her essay On Being a Man. 

I do hope you'll read it, and perhaps, enjoy it as much as I did. 


February 28, 2020 - A short one...

I was in Texas on the 28th, happily closing on the sale of our family cotton farm.
Nona and Kim were on the road, on a trip to pick up Nona's aunt Verna and bring her back to her homestead near Capitan.
I think Irma had the 'crud' at that time, and others were engaged elsewhere. 
Revin and Angela volunteered to host that day. Angela provided the minutes below:

"Revin and I enjoyed it. Vanessa was our sole attendee. So we just talked about what’s going on for us. She’s dealing with the difficulties of aging parents, etc. Revin and I talked about our experiences with that. Revin mentioned a new book she purchased, “The Art of Dying Well”. It sounds perfect for Salon.
We then adjourned to Ranchers where Mel and Kate joined us.
I missed you!     - Angela"

I missed you, too. This group is just so important to me, as it seems to be to us all.  Color me smiling!
And I also agree that it would be good to hear more about the book Revin mentioned.  Perhaps a report when you've read it, Revin?
I'm happy that the group expanded a bit to include Kate & Mel at Rancher's; that's a very cool way to end our time together!    :)

An Acronym to Help Notice Stroke Symptoms

When I read the easy way to remember stroke symptoms below, I thought about all of us.
These may be familiar to you already, but I readily knew only 3 of the 6.
So I include them bc I want us all to be ready, since time is critical when symptoms occur.

The acronym = BE FAST

Balance – Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?

Eyes – Is there sudden blurred or double vision or sudden, persistent vision trouble?

Face – Ask the person to smile. Is one or both sides of the face drooping?

Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one side drift downward? Is there weakness or numbness on one side?

Speech – Does the person have slurred or garbled speech? Can he/she repeat simple phrases?

Time – Call 911 for immediate medical attention if you notice one or more of these signs. Also, take note of when symptoms began.

“May you be well in body and mind.“ ❤️                -Kate H.

February 14, 2020 - Questions inspired by a National Geographic issue on Women

Five were present for our Valentine's Day meeting: Kate H., Angela, Revin, Nona, and I.

We had brief updates from Nona regarding her decisions about her aunt. Verna will be coming to live with Nona and Kim in the next few weeks. We'll get to exercise our Holding Space talents for them over time, whether they need our physical presence or not.  And we acknowledged that we are building this group with these issues of aging and support as paramount.

We continue to acknowledge the losses currently impacting us. Our former member, NH, has lost 2 dogs in the last 3 weeks,
and Angela and Revin are still feeling Rose's absence, naturally.
We are all animal lovers of one stripe or another; we know that the deaths of our fur-friends are not just simple events, but ongoing holes in our hearts.

In the last 'business' point, I asked for volunteers to host the next meeting since I will be in Texas for the closing of the sale of my family farm. It will be good to be done with that aspect of my life; I'm very grateful that we have not been raising animals! Angela and Revin stepped up to volunteer, so
The February 28th meeting of our Salon will be at their home in Upper Canyon. Details will follow.

Kate facilitated a rich discussion today inviting us to consider how we have claimed, or are claiming, our identities and empowerment as women, and using the questions below:

What is your greatest strength?

What is the greatest hurdle you’ve overcome in claiming your power/equality/
independence as a female?

What was your breakthrough moment?

What is the greatest challenge women face today?

What needs to change in the next ten years?

What advice would you give a young woman today?

The discussion was fun and interesting. Many good points were mentioned.
It was nice to acknowledge our strength, wisdom, and power as Women and as Elders.

Why it’s So Tempting to Build Walls and Shut People Out (and what to do instead)

The article linked here adds to our conversation regarding 'to add or not to add' a new member or two and comes from TED.com

The intro begins like this:

"Why do humans often want to create a world of “us” vs. “them”? And what can we do about this unhelpful, often damaging, yet somehow reassuring instinct? Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger has some useful advice."

The article seems important to me because I still want to increase our membership just a little, and because, as many of you, I'm really concerned about how polarized we in America - and the world - have become.
This article, along with others that address how we are so often committed to those friends, news agents, mentors, preachers, etc., who support and report on issues from our own points of view, rather than diligently seeking out broader perspectives. 

The 'what to do instead' parts of the article are informative and creative. I'd like to see us consider them one day.
Meanwhile, an enriching topic for discussion might be 'Our Biases, and How We Came to Them'. and perhaps, 'How do They Serve Us Now'.

Meanwhile, I found these two definitions from Merriam Webster relevant and clarifying.


a : an inclination of temperament or outlook especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice
: an instance of such prejudice
c : bent, tendency
: deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates
(2) : systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others


1 : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights especially
   : detriment to one's legal rights or claims
2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion
      (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
   b : an instance of such judgment or opinion
   c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics


(I'll also link the article in our List of Links and the topic in our list of same.)


January 24, 2020 - Holding Space

Seven of us were present this week. 
As frequently happens, I was engaged in the conversation and took no notes! mea culpa. 
In our meeting, NE facilitated a discussion on Holding Space. We didn't all have an idea of just what that means, and some of us interpret it a little bit differently. But I think that by the end of the day we agreed that we do, indeed, hold space: for each other in this group; in our families; very often with our animals; and certainly when/where we become aware of needs within our circles.
We demonstrated that by lighting a candle and pointing some healing energy in Ang's direction. 
(Hope you're much better, now, Ang!)
And, we are doing it now, in our own ways, as we empathize with the pain Revin & Angela are feeling now over Rose's death.

Two others of our Salon family members are experiencing some pain in their biological families, but frankly, I get my two groups mixed up, and don't know, in this case, who knows what. So I'll just say that it is NOT necessary to know all the particulars of someones' circumstances, or even who they are, to Hold Space and wish/pray for peace, health, clarity, etc. Our intentions toward love are really all that is needed.  So spread a little around when you feel the inclination.

Irma was back for the first time since her Christmas trip and brought with her Mexican Dia de los Muertos tiles for us.
Thanks, Irma. That was sweet, and very nice to know you thought of us while you were away. Welcome home.
Every Act a Ceremony is a article I posted on our links page a few weeks ago. I brought it up again and was happy to see that it didn't freak anyone out. :)  In fact, we created a little one then and there with a candle-lighting and some silence for Angie. Kate had also shared with me a little circle that she & Mel shared with friends in Texas. She told us about that, and we practiced it at the close of our meeting. I loved it! I think we all did.
We're not creating a religion, or even a little cult, but I like that we may bring a bit of ceremony to what we do here.
Please feel free to comment further here or in the group about your feelings on this subject.

The Lost Words Blessing

Gorgeous harmony; beautiful words.... 



The lyrics:

"Enter the wild with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you travel far from heather, crag and river
May you like the little fisher, set the stream alight with glitter
May you enter now as otter without falter into water

Look to the sky with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you journey on past dying stars exploding
Like the gilded one in flight, leave your little gifts of light
And in the dead of night my darling, find the gleaming eye of starling
Like the little aviator, sing your heart to all dark matter

Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home."

The Case for Adding New & Younger Members

All of you know that I continue to hope for a larger number of women in our Salon.
Much of that hope is based on reasons I've stated before, one being having a congenial number present when some of us are otherwise engaged, whether it be travel or illness, etc.

Another reason, and perhaps a better one, stems from my reading about Co-housing and what makes them work. Multi-generational groups fare much better over time than those limited to Olders.  We're more likely to age successfully in place if there is a range of ages, strengths, abilities, etc.  In such groups, generally, Elders' responsibilities for various maintenance tasks decrease as their ages and abilities decrease. Without multi-generational partners more of this work has to be 'hired out', so to speak.

“The real fountain of youth is the fountain with youth.”  -Marc Freedman

This thought comes from an article I found online, called "The Real Trick to Staying Young Forever"
I confess, I was triggered by the 'young forever' part and started to read so that I could argue.  

It mentions a study begun in 1938 (not a typo) that tracked 268 Harvard sophomores for EIGHTY years.  This study found that relationships, especially those with multi-generations, produced the greatest physical and mental health.

These relationships don't just benefit we Elders, though.
Another 40 year study in Hawaii followed 700 children from the age of 1 to age 40 and focused on resilience.
Their short definition of resilience was defined as "why some kids thrive under adversity and others do not".
You can guess their results and why it's included here.

The article also talks about how the generations came to be so separate; the consequences of this separation, and how we might get back together.
And it touches on a Cleveland Elder living community that offers an artist-in-residence program for young musicians which exchanges housing for concerts and interaction at meals, etc.  The article also mentions in brief several other programs designed to connect young people with Elders.

"Almost eight in 10 people between 18 and 24 and the over-65s want life to slow down, and social care
for older people remains the second-highest concern for 18-to-34-year-olds.
The issue is not whether they have anything in common, but how to connect them."    -from the article

Yes, this is me proselytizing. I hope you enjoy the article.   Kate W.   

An Obituary ~ this one is Joel's - 2015

Well, Shoot!  I’m dead.
Should have told you a couple of weeks ago, but Kate has the only fingers I can use and she just hasn’t felt the creative urge to write like I do.

I left that ratty ol’ body behind on August 7,, 2015, and slipped into the coolest pair of wings you ever saw. But you know me; no plain ol’ white ones for me!  Mine are bright turquoise and hot pinks and huge and fluffy. I didn’t spend a lot of time leaving once I understood just how sick that body was. But we had a grand ride, especially those last couple of decades. Wow!

Just so you know, we thought we were chasing heart valve trouble, but the sneaky thing that actually took me out was liver failure. Who knew?!!
I left a few folks I care about behind. Kate Winner was my wife of 21+ years.  She took damn good care of me over the years, and stuck right by me all the way…well, she’s still living, so I guess she’ll have some catching up to do later on. And I must mention our kiddos, Bearly, Mango, and Maxie.

I was born in Fremont, MI, over 7 decades ago. Still holding down the fort in the Midwest for me are my siblings: my sweet baby sister, Chris Carothers, in Ann Arbor, MI; my brother Curt Carothers, in White Cloud, MI; and sis, Cathy Carothers; two most favorite cousins: Rilee Thompson-Masters in Baldwin, MI, and Jane Thompson, back in Fremont, at last; and some great nieces and nephews: Maya, Luke, Neil, Elec, Alan, Kevin, Dalton, Kelsey, and Cody, and Rilee’s grandkids Leah and Lane.
My Ruidoso posse, aka The Girls, include Kathryn Walker, Marcia King, Carol Freeman, Mary Taylor, Susan Finch, and Nancy Bradford; great friends, golfers, Karaoke Crooners, and Hand & Foot players. And Shaula Cull who never failed to answer the call from Kate about house and cat care, and who took Kate to LOOOONNG lunches when she needed a break; and Andrea Radow in Albuquerque, whose hospitality and support were invaluable to Kate in the last several weeks. If this were Kate’s obit, she’d mention Jim Blackburn and her CheeBees, too. They are helping her out even now.
There are others whose names should be here, but I can’t get Kate to pull those names out of the air, though I’m shouting them at her pretty loudly!

Back in the day, I was a great trumpet player, getting two summer scholarships to Interlochen during high school. I even had a hand in starting the first Gay & Lesbian chorus in Chicago. I loved golf, too, and got to be pretty good at it, playing often, especially with my great friend, Fran, who was waiting for me when I got here. I also enjoyed writing: poems, screenplays, books…may even get one published posthumously. Cool, huh?! I loved travel and am still a little miffed that I will miss the cruise in February! Sue, Chris R, and your partners better have a rockin’ good time, that’s all I’m saying!

Kate and I would like to thank a lot of people. The Angel Team are those friends who stayed in touch throughout this last summer and filled the air with prayer, meditation, positive energy, and help with the chores; our ‘Not Doctor’ Amanda Smithers, PA, who spoke real truth to us at a time when we needed it; the team at Presbyterian Kaseman Hospice in Albuquerque, who took care of both of us in the ‘last days’.  If you need a cool, peaceful place to croak, that’s the one!

And on a similar note, here’s some advice you need. Never miss a chance to have a good time or say I love you. And talk about what you want your ‘transition’ experience to look like with those who may be walking it with you. Kate keeps a “Croaking” folder; it’s a good idea.

And lastly (unless I decide to haunt you), I meant to throw my own pre-death wake with loud music, probably some Karaoke, and always great food. I didn’t get it done, and Kate hasn’t a clue… so, remember me in your own way…on a golf course or a BEACH or a cruise. It won’t matter and I’ll know!

There have been two other remembrances written about me. They both make me smile. And in case you’re interested too, you will find them at these links.
This one published in The Windy City Times: (lots of photos here)
and this one written by my nephew Alan Winner:

July, 2012


Who's going to write your obituary?

Information for this post came from this Washington Post article linked to Facebook.

Obituaries seem almost a thing of the past. And they can get really expensive, really fast.
Most newspapers these days might give you a column inch for free, maybe, but you won't get space for any real information.

If you type "How to Write an Obituary" into any search engine, you'll get a boatload of articles. Blogger, mortuaries, death doulas, etc. all have opinions on how it should be done. When I searched for HT publish an obituary for free, I got only 2 links.  You can hire a professional to write one for you...for a cost that could be $100 or more.

I didn't use a professional.
Joel had always meant to write her own. Did she?    no.
Had no real clue as to what...  knew I wanted her to have one. Turned out she got two. :)
I had to wait for inspiration before I could write hers, though I started it many times.  I started it first in the weeks not long after she died.
But she didn't actually inspire me toward the right words until November. We celebrated her on what would have been her 75th birthday in 2015.

Joel's obituary was published in the Ruidoso News (at almost $300 - she paid it from her life insurance!) and was published online here.
I'm proud of it. :)
And I've started my own. Its tentative beginning sounds like this, and includes notes:

"Title: Hallelujah! I’m finally dead!
I died contentedly on _________, from the consequences of the choices I made in my life. What a Ride!   (you can edit in a disease, if you must, and if I had one.)"

It goes on from there, but you'll have to await publication to read it all! :)

So, what do you think? Are you writing your own? want to?
Let's talk...


December 13, 2019 ~ Supplements +

Ten of us were present yesterday; that included our guest, Kim.

At the start of the meeting, we reviewed our 'Rules' and had her introduce herself to us.
LB was the only one who did not already know her, at least casually.

I called for any Leftovers but we had none.

Then we turned the conversation over to Irma who facilitated our discussion on Supplements. Her primary resource was Consumer Reports Magazine, Issue of December 2019, which focused entirely on that subject. (The magazine is in our lending library if anyone wants to read it.)

The CR issue also includes evaluations on some of the supplement manufacturers and whose products are best/purest.

I made notes of 4 types of supplements the magazine suggests that most of us need:
Fish Oil
Vitamin D

Our group includes several women with varying degrees of knowledge and experience with similar products and we learned a lot from each other.
NE noted that she has dropped fish oil and is using hemp seeds instead, for the taste and for the burping taste later on, and because the seeds are a food product, not something extracted from something else. My words; made sense to me!
There was considerable discussion of Vit. D, and NE (resident medical expert) made clear that D3 is preferred to any other.

Several of us use turmeric or have used it. We learned that it is best absorbed when combined with black pepper! Never heard of that, but will check it out.  LB told us that supplements in LIQUID form are more quickly absorbed and, because the gut has less work to do, it is less likely to cause gut issues.

The discussion included PRE-biotics as well, and we learned that these are really the foods on which the PRO-biotics live. I learned that pre-biotics include fermented foods such as yogurt and keffir; gonna have to retrain my palate for that! :)

NE also listed the blood tests that we, as women, should have done on a yearly basis. We would ususally have to ask for them as they are not included in traditional blood tests.  These tests include:
Chemistry - electrolytes & liver function
Thyroid panel
D-3 levels
Lipid levels

Online resources say these tests measure the following things (links provided).  I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Take care of yourselves.

The CBC (complete blood count) measures white & red blood cell counts, hemoglobin, platelets, among others. See details here.
Blood Chemistry Screening measures electrolytes, other chemicals found in blood, and information on organ function. Details here.
A Thyroid panel measures thyroid hormones and their components. More here.
Vitamin D has to do with bones and teeth. Info here.
Lipid Levels are tests to measure cholesterol. More information here.

Some of my key take-aways from this discussion are these:
The source matters. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. (not that I consider the FDA to be the "last word".)
Nutrition from food is always preferable to non-food sources.
We will be better served to pay attention to our own bodies. and learn how they inform us about what we ingest.
I don't know nearly enough about my own health.
I remain unclear about how much change I will make/tolerate in my current pantry and fridge.
I am old enough to die.   :)

I will restate the disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. 
The meeting yesterday, and this posting, are for your evaluation only. Nothing is being recommended to you by me. And even though our group includes a doctor, she is not mine, nor yours.  I value her opinions a Lot, but she does not know my body. I think she would say the same.
(NE; add a comment to this post if ....  )

November 22, 2019 ~ no specific topic ~ energy wk contacts

There were 7 of us present today.

In Leftovers, we accepted Irma's emailed offer to facilitate our next discussion on The Consumer Reports issue on Supplements.

We have no specific topic today so I brought up December dates, first.
We voted to meet on the 13th, and NOT to Meet on the 27th of December.

Mel suggested variations on the subject of loss as we age: of people and abilities most specifically.
Revin did facilitate a discussion on similar issues back in April of this year. I did not make many notes, so a re-reading of that post won't help much.
I suspect we will/may notice other things as we continue this process of dying. When it's right for us, it will bubble up, I suspect.

We learned a little more about Angie today when she talked a bit about Reiki and energy work. She and Mel have connected on this subject, and Angie has offered to tell us more when that seems like the topic-of-the-day.
LE offered information about acupuncture. Angie mentioned Core Synchronicity and Chelsea Arbogast, and I mentioned Reflexology and Sonya Loya. 

Energy Work is on the topics list now, along with a couple of other new ones, but don't limit your thinking to what is on it!
If something is hollering for your attention, tell us about it.

Here is contact information for the practitioners mentioned above:
Acupuncturist in Roswell:
    Dr. Keely Holder, Dr. of Oriental Medicine

Core Synchronicity in Ruidoso
    Practitioner Chelsea Arbogast
    email [email protected]

Reflexology & Ionic Cleanse in Ruidoso:
    Practitioner Sonya Loya

LE suggested a game: we each wrote on a piece of paper 2 true things we did from our childhoods, then the group would guess who. It was fun and funny. Some were a little obvious and some were a total surprise!
Bowling was mentioned - the styles of 'throwing' discussion brought laughter! - and we learned that Mondays is Locals Night = Half Price Bowling!

We agreed that we like to play from time to time...  play being a veerrryy broad subject.


The Cure for Toxic Positivity

The Cure for Toxic Positivity is an article by Rebecca Renner, a journalist and fiction writer who's bylines include the Washington Post, Paris Review, and Tin House.

I've wondered if I am just naturally contrary partly because my mind leaps to "evaluate" words, sentences & thoughts for their energy content. And because I had not seen/heard anyone talking about too much positivity. This article, then, was encouraging. Many commenters felt the same, and some pointed to books and other articles.  As a result, I've learned there are Many more such resources for those interested.
And I've got one more reason to trust my intuition.   :)

Another First

Another First

I see it as your foot skips over, its tail whisks and snaps as it rushes into the safety of the brush.

It’s our second walk in the forest this week he and I. Happiness pours into my soul knowing he wants to spend more time with me!

"Stop!" I say a little too hurriedly, excited about our find, never really knowing when a sighting will take place. "Be still, easy, don’t move too fast", I whisper, as I slowly creep to spy its resting place. My motion is quick and steady as I lock my fingers around it as gently as possible, not allowing it to slip away. As I stand holding our prize he reaches quickly without hesitation, wrapping his tiny little fingers around its wiggling body, the look on his face is of stunned exhilaration.

"Nana, it’s my first time to hold a snake."
"Hold him gently but firmly behind his head and allow his tail to wrap around your wrist; now he is secure, as you are when your feet are planted firmly on the ground."

Our firsts started eight years ago when I watched him unfold out of the safety of all he knew. Looking like a little Pterodactyl his limbs long and skinny grasping for that safety, just as the snake hanging in midair tips his tail to connect with that which he knows.

We find many more prizes on our short excursion that day, each one gently scooped up and released, and with each find I remind him,

“With gratitude thank them for their presence and your connection with them, for mother earth has many gifts to share.”

 And for the second time that week he skips along the path and tells me “you’re my spiritual Nana”.

He and I we have many things to teach each other.  We have many more firsts ahead of us. Some will be grand and some will be small, but with each one my heart and soul will be as full as the first!


Angie    September 2019

November 8, 2019 ~ Book Discussion: "...And a Time to Die

In old business, LB suggested that we call this section "Leftovers". We liked that, so now we have No old business; only Leftovers.

There were 8 of us present today.
Most of us have now seen the email from NH, who has withdrawn from our group.
I will miss her presence and her energy in this group.

In Leftovers, we decided to table any conversation about adding new members for the near future. We may (or Not) revisit this topic in the Spring.

Revin facilitated our discussion today.
The book, "...And a Time to Die" is a collection of essays about various specific people who have been/were dying in hospitals.
Probably the most important takeaway, and one we know already, is to have an advocate with you if/when you have to be involved in a hospital.

The book reiterates the need for better training and understanding among medical professionals, and a greater understanding of the Hospice environment. Mel and Kate, having worked in Hospice in Texas, had some valuable personal anecdotes that added to our understanding. I'm still surprised by how many doctors simply do not 'believe' in Hospice.  (reminds me of politicians!)
These attitudes are further proof that one must have legal paperwork ready and already in place with doctors, etc., and that your advocate should have bulldog qualities. 

Before adjourning, we spoke of the next meeting and possible topics. We left it for the moment, and are thinking (in her absence!) that NE may take it. I seem to remember that she had a topic in mind already.  You'll be notified by email with topic and facilitator before the next meeting.

October 25, 2019 ~ Identity Politics

There were 5 of us here today.  I took NO notes, so this "minutes" article will be extremely short!

We agreed that labels can sometimes be helpful in making generalizations, or in our earlier years as we were learning about who we are and finding our tribes.  And we agreed that more often than not, all these labels and all this "political correctness" separats us and increass the divide between people who ascribe to different labels.

The conversation was rich and engaging. I'm sorry you missed it.
I'd apologize for not taking notes, but then I'd have missed something, too. 

Revin stepped up to volunteer for the following meeting, discussing a book called ...AND A TIME TO DIE: How America Hospitals Shape the End of Life.

Identity Politics - Opinions and links

Identity Politics is the current buzz phrase for Labels. Like we need MORE of those. And yet, we use them all the time.
They can help us find our tribe, I suppose; they can help define a search if you're looking for a forum online - say, RV travel, as an example.
Or Gay, if you're on a dating site and want to limit the responses.

But more and more, they divide us into Us & Them.
You can see that within our group as we decide how and when to allow new women into the group.
By the way: Women: one of our labels.
Here are some of mine: Crone, woman, Lesbian, student, teacher, dancer, centrist, singer, survivor of Fundamentalism and of Christianism.
You can add Former daughter, aunt, cousin, friend, helper, instigator...  it all depends on how I 'identify' in any given circumstance, and/or how you see me through your own filters.

And the real truth is that the more we cling to our labels, the less we know of ourselves, the more likely we are to close our minds to any new idea, to new people, to new points of view.

If you spend any time at all among the posts and comments on Social Media, you know this is true.

I came across this article today, written by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. She has another take on this label thing.
“A Gentle Corrective for the Epidemic of Identity Politics Turning Us on Each Other and on Ourselves”

Her research is extensive; though, since she claims "reader" as one of her labels she may just know some of this stuff!
There are several great quotes of other writers such as James Baldwin, John O'Donohue, Descarte, John Quinn, and others. Near the bottom of the article, she links to essays by Margaret Meade, Barack Obama, Walt Whitman.
This one is Maria's own:  

            "...we now cling to our identity-fragments, using them as badges and badgering artillery in confronting the templated identity-fragments of others." (emphasis mine)       

This one from James Baldwin is a new favorite of mine:    

“This collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.”

I do hope you'll read this article and maybe follow a link or two. I think it would be good fodder for conversation.



October 11, 2019 ~ More on enlarging group; Vaccines; topics; Mental Health

Six of us were present for this meeting. In Old Business we continued our discussion on adding members.

Two new points were made, neither of which I had ever considered. 
LB told us that there would/could come
a point at which the size of the group alone could cause her to self-censor.
She appreciates the intimacy we now have and is concerned that too large a group could lose that feeling.
Irma holds the opinion that those members who are absent in the flesh, or IRL, are actually present in some ways. That is true..in some ways. Others seemed to feel that their energetic presence is not here & that energy is missed. It's an interesting idea and maybe fun to explore in a discussion.

A couple of us are a bit reticent to welcome someone with strong political differences, since one prospect is politically conservative and the group as it is tends to lean rather firmly in a more liberal direction. 
That could be a big concern.
But since we have been talking about helping women be heard, and since we have already made it 'policy' to leave politics as such OUT of our discussions, then it seems quite possible that we could enlarge so much more than just the group Size by embracing other points of view (POV).
I am linking elsewhere an article about the "Epidemic of Identity Politics" on this very subject. It's a good read, and could also be an excellent topic in itself.

On to New Business: we didn't really have a prepared facilitator; seemed to work just fine, at least for me! :)

The Barbara Ehrenreich article started off our discussion of medical issues.
We talked about Vaccines; we're fairly evenly split on whether we get them or not, with a slight bend toward yes. The discussion about why we would choose different medical procedures, etc., was very informative, and to me, clarifying. The best reason I heard was Grandchildren! And several of us are still in our 60's and younger, so it seems natural that some of our opinions differ. A few take a stand more strongly in favor of natural treatments where possible and use our doctors more for testing and diagnosis than for treatment. Others have conditions that require intervention by the traditional medical world in order to continue to live as fully as possible.
Some of us are just grandly confused by all the manipulation and marketing and "bottom line" thinking that exists in the medical-pharmacological world.
It was also disconcerting to learn that most drug testing does not, and never has, included old people.
Someone mentioned that one could find out online how much money our doctor makes from pharmaceutical companies.
If that was you and you have a specific link, please send it to me.
However, a quick search using the most generic phrasing produced many results, so if you are specifically interested in this subject, you can find it.

I brought up Mental Health next, because it is presently a big issue for me. The discussion that followed was helpful, mostly loving, and gave us a chance to look at how we communicate. We bumped up against our rule about advice or 'fixing', and learned that we can point out those things without offending or derailing.
And just so you know, your willingness to hear me was immediately helpful.
I have since found a couple of resources that are continuing that help.  Not the least of which is guided meditations through an app called Insight Timer and a teacher named Sarah Blondin.  I have used that App for some time, and recommend it highly.

As conversation began to wind down, two additional topics were suggested.
One was to talk specifically about what we want our dying process, and/or funerals-memorials, to look like.  This came from some mention that green burial is now possible in NM, up near Espanola, and that some groups have formed clubs to make their own coffins.
Personally, I think that discussion could be fun, but maybe that's just me. 
And we mentioned again all that Death-related paperwork. Wills, trusts, Advanced Directives, and such. Some of us have done it all, some not; some have simple estates, some more complicated. The answers are varied, to say the least.

I look forward to our next meeting on the 25th.


"How Contemporary American Medicine is Testing Us to Death"

This is the subtitle of an article by Barbara Ehrenreich, published on April 9, 2019.   I like her theory a little more every day... 
(Reprinting here in its entirety; no copyright infringement intended. This is solely the work of the author.)

Barbara Ehrenreich: Why I’m Giving Up on Preventative Care

In the last few years I have given up on the many medical measures—cancer screenings, annual exams, Pap smears, for example—expected of a responsible person with health insurance. This was not based on any suicidal impulse. It was barely even a decision, more like an accumulation of micro-decisions: to stay at my desk and meet a deadline or show up at the primary care office and submit to the latest test to gauge my biological sustainability; to spend the afternoon in faux-cozy corporate environment of a medical facility or to go for a walk. At first I criticized myself as a slacker and procrastinator, falling behind on the simple, obvious stuff that could prolong my life. After all, this is the great promise of modern scientific medicine: You do not have to get sick and die (at least not for a while), because problems can be detected “early” when they are readily treatable. Better to catch a tumor when it’s the size of an olive than that of a cantaloupe.

I knew I was going against my own long-standing bias in favor of preventive medical care as opposed to expensive and invasive high-tech curative interventions. What could be more ridiculous than an inner-city hospital that offers a hyperbaric chamber but cannot bestir itself to get out in the neighborhood and test for lead poisoning? From a public health perspective, as well as a personal one, it makes far more sense to screen for preventable problems than to invest huge resources in the treatment of the very ill.

I also understood that I was going against the grain for my particular demographic. Most of my educated, middle-class friends had begun to double down on their health-related efforts at the onset of middle age, if not earlier. They undertook exercise or yoga regimens; they filled their calendars with upcoming medical tests and exams; they boasted about their “good” and “bad” cholesterol counts, their heart rates and blood pressure. Mostly they understood they the task of aging to be self-denial, especially in the realm of diet, where one medical fad, one study or another, condemned fat and meat, carbs, gluten, dairy, or all animal-derived products. In the health-conscious mind-set that has prevailed among the world’s affluent people for about four decades now, health is indistinguishable from virtue, tasty foods are “sinfully delicious,” while healthful foods may taste good enough to be advertised as “guilt-free.” Those seeking to compensate for a lapse undertake punitive measures like fasts, purges, or diets composed of different juices carefully sequenced throughout the day.

I had a different reaction to aging: I gradually came to realize that I was old enough to die, by which I am not suggesting that each of us bears an expiration date. There is of course no fixed age at which a person ceases to be worthy of further medical investment, whether aimed at prevention or cure. The military judges that a person is old enough to die—to put him or herself in the line of fire—at age 18. At the other end of life, many remain world leaders in their seventies or even older, without anyone questioning their need for lavish continuing testing and care. Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, recently turned 90, and has undergone multiple treatments for prostate cancer.

If we go by newspaper obituaries, however, we notice that there is an age at which death no longer requires much explanation. Although there is no general editorial rule on these matters, it is usually sufficient when the deceased is in their seventies or older for the obituary writer to invoke “natural causes.” It is sad when anyone dies, but no one can consider the death of a septuagenarian “tragic,” and there will be no demand for an investigation.

“In the health-conscious mind-set that has prevailed among the world’s affluent people for about four decades now, health is indistinguishable from virtue.”

Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and that will stave off hunger for as long as possible, like protein, fiber, and fats. I exercise—not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me. Ideally, the determination of when one is old enough to die should be a personal decision, based on a judgment of the likely benefits, if any, of medical care and—just as important at a certain age—how we choose to spend the time that remains to us.

At the same time I had always questioned whatever procedures the health care providers recommended; in fact I am part of a generation of women who insisted on their right to raise questions without having the word “uncooperative,” or worse, written into their medical records. So when a few years ago my primary care physician told me that I needed a bone density scan, I of course asked him why: What could be done if the result was positive and my bones were found to be hollowed out by age? Fortunately, he replied, there was now a drug for that. I told him I was aware of the drug, both from its full-page magazine ads as well as from articles in the media questioning its safety and efficacy. Think of the alternative, he said, which might well be, say, a hip fracture, followed by a rapid descent to the nursing home.

So I grudgingly conceded that undergoing the test, which is noninvasive and covered by my insurance, might be preferable to immobility and institutionalization. The result was a diagnosis of “osteopenia,” or thinning of the bones, a condition that might have been alarming if I hadn’t found out that it is shared by nearly all women over the age of 35. Osteopenia is, in other words, not a disease but a normal feature of aging. A little further research, all into readily available sources, revealed that routine bone scanning had been heavily promoted and even subsidized by the drug’s manufacturer. Worse, the favored medication at the time of my diagnosis has turned out to cause some of the very problems it was supposed to prevent—bone degeneration and fractures. A cynic might conclude that preventive medicine exists to transform people into raw material for a profit-hungry medical-industrial complex.

My first major defection from the required screening regimen was precipitated by a mammogram. No one likes mammography, which amounts to a brute-force effort to render the breasts transparent. First, a breast is flattened between two plates, then it is bombarded with ionizing radiation, which is, incidentally, the only environmental factor known for sure to cause breast cancer. I’d been fairly dutiful about mammograms since having been treated for breast cancer at the turn of the millennium, and now, about 10 years later, the gynecologist’s office reported that I’d had a “bad mammogram.” I spent the next few anxious weeks undergoing further tests, in the midst of which I managed to earn a ticket for “distracted driving.” Naturally I was distracted—by the looming decision of whether I would undergo debilitating cancer treatments again, or just let the disease take its course this time.

It turned out, after I’d been through a sonogram and fought panic in a coffin-like MRI tube, that the “bad mammogram” was a false positive resulting from the highly sensitive new digital forms of imaging. That was my last mammogram. Lest this seem like a reckless decision, I was supported in it by a high-end big-city oncologist, who viewed all my medical images and said that there would be no need to see me again, which I interpreted as ever again.

After this, every medical or dental encounter seemed to end in a tussle. Dentists—and I have met a number of them in my moves around the country—always wanted a fresh set of X-rays, even if the only problem was a chip in the tip of a tooth. All I could think of was the X-ray machines every shoe store had offered in my youth, through which children were encouraged to peer at the bones of their feet while wiggling their toes. The fun ended in the 1970s, when these “fluoroscopes” were eventually banned as dangerous sources of radiation. So why should I routinely expose my mouth, which is much more cancer-prone than the feet, to high annual doses of roentgens? If there was some reason to suspect underlying structural problems, okay, but just to satisfy the dentist’s curiosity or meet some abstract “standard of care”—no.

In all these encounters, I was struck by the professionals’ dismissal of my subjective reports—usually along the lines of “I feel fine”—in favor of the occult findings of their equipment. One physician, unprompted by any obvious signs or symptoms, decided to measure my lung capacity with the new handheld instrument he’d acquired for this purpose. I breathed into it, as instructed, as hard as I could, but my breath did not register on his screen. He fiddled with the instrument, looking deeply perturbed, and told me I seemed to be suffering from a pulmonary obstruction. In my defense, I argued that I do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, not counting ordinary walking, but I was too polite to demonstrate that I was still capable of vigorous oral argument.

It was my dentist, oddly enough, who suggested, during an ordinary filling, that I be tested for sleep apnea. How a dentist got involved in what is normally the domain of ear, nose, and throat specialists, I do not know, but she recommended that the screening be done at a “sleep center,” where I would attempt to sleep while heavily wired to monitoring devices, after which I could buy the treatment from her: a terrifying skull-shaped mask that would supposedly prevent sleep apnea and definitely extinguish any last possibility of sexual activity. But when I protested that there is no evidence I suffer from this disorder—no symptoms or detectable signs—the dentist said that I just might not be aware of it, adding that it could kill me in my sleep. This, I told her, is a prospect I can live with.


“A cynic might conclude that preventive medicine exists to transform people into raw material for a profit-hungry medical-industrial complex.”


As soon as I reached the age of 50 physicians had begun to recommend—and in one case even plead—that I have a colonoscopy. As in the case of mammograms, the pressure to submit to a colonoscopy is hard to avoid. Celebrities promote them, comics snicker about them. During March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, an eight-foot-high inflatable replica of a colon tours the country, allowing the anally curious to stroll through and inspect potentially cancerous polyps “from the inside.” But if mammography seems like a refined sort of sadism, colonoscopies mimic an actual sexual assault. First the patient is sedated—often with what is popularly known as the “date rape drug,” Versed—then a long flexible tube, bearing a camera on one end, is inserted into the rectum and all the way up through the colon. What repelled me even more than this kinky procedure was the day of fasting and laxatives that was supposed to precede it, in order to ensure that the little camera encounters something other than feces. I put this off from year to year, until I finally felt safe in the knowledge that since colon cancer is usually slow-growing, any cancerous polyps I contain are unlikely to flourish until I am already close to death from other causes.

Then my internist, the chief physician in a mid-sized group practice, sent out a letter announcing that he was suspending his ordinary practice in order to offer a new level of “concierge care” for those willing to cough up an extra $1,500 a year beyond what they already pay for insurance. The elite care would include 24-hour access to the doctor, leisurely visits, and, the letter promised, all kinds of tests and screenings in addition to the routine ones. This is when my decision crystallized: I made an appointment and told him face-to-face that, one, I was dismayed by his willingness to drop his less-than-affluent patients, who appeared to make up much of the waiting room population. And, two, I didn’t want more tests; I wanted a doctor who could protect me from unnecessary procedures. I would remain with the masses of ordinary, haphazardly screened patients.

Of course all this unnecessary screening and testing happens because doctors order it, but there is a growing rebellion within the medical profession. Over-diagnosis is beginning to be recognized as a public health problem, and is sometimes referred to as an “epidemic.” It is an appropriate subject for international medical conferences and evidence-laden books like Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health by H. Gilbert Welch and his Dartmouth colleagues Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin. Even health columnist Jane Brody, long a cheerleader for standard preventive care, now recommends that we think twice before undergoing what were once routine screening procedures. Physician and blogger John M. Mandrola advises straightforwardly:

Rather than being fearful of not detecting disease, both patients and doctors should fear healthcare. The best way to avoid medical errors is to avoid medical care. The default should be: I am well. The way to stay that way is to keep making good choices—not to have my doctor look for problems.

With age, the cost/benefit analysis shifts. On the one hand, health care becomes more affordable—for Americans, anyway—at age 65, when a person is eligible for Medicare. Exhortations to undergo screenings and tests continue, with loved ones joining the chorus. But in my case, the appetite for medical interactions of any kind wanes with each passing week. Suppose that preventive care uncovered some condition that would require agonizing treatments or sacrifices on my part—disfiguring surgery, radiation, drastic lifestyle limitations. Maybe these measures would add years to my life, but it would be a painful and depleted life that they prolonged.

As it is now, preventive medicine often extends to the end of life: 75-year-olds are encouraged to undergo mammography; people already in the grip of one terminal disease may be subjected to screenings for others. At a medical meeting, someone reported that a 100-year-old woman had just had her first mammogram, causing the audience to break into a “loud cheer.”

One reason for the compulsive urge to test and screen and monitor is profit, and this is especially true in the United States, with its heavily private and often for-profit health system. How is a doctor—or hospital or drug company—to make money from essentially healthy patients? By subjecting them to tests and examinations that, in sufficient quantity, are bound to detect something wrong or at least worthy of follow-up. Gilbert and his coauthors offer a vivid analogy, borrowed from an expert in fractal geometry: “How many islands surround Britain’s coasts?” The answer of course depends on the resolution of the map you are using, as well as how you are defining an “island.” With high-resolution technologies like CT scans, the detection of tiny abnormalities is almost inevitable, leading to ever more tests, prescriptions, and doctor visits. And the tendency to over-test is amplified when the doctor who recommends the tests has a financial interest in the screening or imaging facility that he or she refers people to.

It’s not only a profit-hungry medical system that drives over-testing and over-diagnosis. Individual consumers, that is, former and potential patients, may demand the testing and even threaten a malpractice suit if they feel it is being withheld. In the last couple of decades, “patient advocacy” groups have sprung up to “brand” dozens of diseases and publicize the need for screening. Many have their own celebrity spokespersons—Katie Couric for colonoectal cancer, Rudy Giuliani for prostate cancer—and each sports its own distinctive colored ribbon—pink for breast cancer, purple for testicular cancer, black for melanoma, a “puzzle pattern” for autism, and so on—as well as special days or months for concentrated publicity and lobbying efforts. The goal of all this is generally “awareness,” meaning a willingness to undergo the appropriate screening, such as mammograms and PSA tests.


“The tendency to over-test is amplified when the doctor who recommends the tests has a financial interest in the screening or imaging facility that he or she refers people to.”


There are even sizable constituencies for discredited tests. When the US Preventive Services Task Force decided to withdraw its recommendation of routine mammograms for women under 50, even some feminist women’s health organizations, which I had expected to be more critical of conventional medical practices, spoke out in protest. A small band of women, identifying themselves as survivors of breast cancer, demonstrated on a highway outside the task force’s office, as if demanding that their breasts be squeezed. In 2008, the same task force gave PSA testing a grade of “D,” but advocates like Giuliani, who insisted that the test had saved his life, continued to press for it, as do most physicians.

Many physicians justify tests of dubious value by the “peace of mind” they supposedly confer— except of course on those who receive false positive results. Thyroid cancer is particularly vulnerable to over-diagnosis. With the introduction of more high-powered imaging techniques, doctors were able to detect many more tiny lumps in people’s necks and surgically remove them, whether surgery was warranted or not. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of thyroid cancer surgeries performed on US, French, and Italian women in the first decade of the 21st century are now judged to have been unnecessary. In South Korea, where doctors were especially conscientious about thyroid screening, the number rose to 90 percent (Men were also over-diagnosed, but in far lower numbers.) Patients pay a price for these surgeries, including a lifelong dependence on thyroid hormones, and since these are not always fully effective, the patient may be left chronically “depressed and sluggish.”

So far I can detect no stirrings of popular revolt against the regime of unnecessary and often harmful medical screening. Hardly anyone admits to personally rejecting tests, and one who did—science writer John Horgan in a Scientific American blog on why he will not undergo a colonoscopy—somewhat undercut his well-reasoned argument by describing himself as an “anti-testing nut.” Most people joke about the distastefulness of the recommended procedures, while gamely submitting to whatever is expected of them.

But there’s a significant rebellion brewing on another front. Increasingly, we read laments about the “medicalization of dying,” usually focused on a formerly frisky parent or grandparent who had made clear her request for a natural, nonmedical death, only to end up tethered by cables and tubes to an ICU bed. Physicians see this all the time—witty people silenced by ventilators, the fastidious rendered incontinent—and some are determined not to let the same thing happen to themselves. They may refuse care, knowing that it is more likely to lead to disability than health, like the orthopedist who upon receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer immediately closed down his practice and went home to die in relative comfort and peace. A few physicians are more decisively proactive, and have themselves tattooed “NO CODE” or “DNR,” meaning “do not resuscitate.” They reject the same drastic end-of-life measures that they routinely inflict on their patients.

In giving up on preventive care, I’m just taking this line of thinking a step further: Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.

End of article...





Is there a magnet drawing me to you?


I walked down the hill to the Tholos, 

     rounded a corner

     and there you were 


Tears flowed unchecked down my cheeks 

Even though I was still asleep at that first encounter, 

    my spirit knew you

    My soul remembered

   Tears of recognition, tears of joy came unbidden


How my soul rejoiced!

    Memories of times past, of sacred rituals 

    floated at the edge of consciousness


Several times since then I’ve made return pilgrimages

My being is at peace in your embrace


Delphi, place that I love



Winona S.  Sept. 2019

Where I'm From

Where I’m From

I’m from creators and tinkerers.
I’m from dilettantes and demigods.
I’m from demolitionists and destroyers.
I’m from musicians and mentalists.
I’m from stoics and strangers.
I’m from teachers and hoarders.

I’m from churches that nourish, and withhold.
I’m from perfectionism, taught without tenderness.
I’m from people who do what they are told.
I’m from people who won’t.

I‘m from landowners.
I’m from settlers, and from the unsettled; tied by DNA to both.
I’m from blissful ignorance born of privilege. Still ignorant, but less so.
I‘m from willful blindness; learning to see.
I’m from Wall Street and from back streets.
I’m from women who held power. And lost it.

I’m from joy, and lust.
I’m from love and apathy.
I’m from accomplishment and disappointment.
I’m from contentment and depression.
I’m from lessons, and from doing it my way.
I’m from an unremembered past, charting a path without moorings.

I’m from stardust, formerly pulsing thru the cosmos, now living a sabbatical from pure energy, to explore the nature of a physical body.  
I’m from 73 years of living this physical experiment.
It’s taken this long to learn there is no test at the end of it.
I forget why I chose this.

Sometimes I remember.


Kate W. 9-9-2019


September 27, 2019 ~ "Bright Minds"

...and more Newbies discussions.
It seems that our/my interest in growing this group is giving us quite a bit of fodder for conversation, and possibly some growth of our/my own.
I do find that I am looking a little deeper into just what 'connection' means to me and how and by whom that might be facilitated.

One idea about our Social Event, should we have one: that we make it slightly broader by inviting women we know or believe to be already interested in these subjects.
Not sure how we might implement this, but consider, for example, who among your friends/acquaintances are taking, or have taken, classes through Creative Aging, or who may be taking some sort of "senior" exercise class, etc.  A not-original thought that might be valuable, thrown out for your consideration...

On to our minutes.
LB facilitated our discussion today from material she is gleaning from a series of webinars she is following.
This discussion focused on some of the work of Dr. Daniel Amen in a podcast that is subtitled "How to Make Your Brain Better Even When You've Been Bad to It", an interview with Dr. Amen conducted by Peggy Sarlin.
(In case it disappears, I found this audio-only recording on YouTube.)
We have hand-outs for this topic, and I have an extra (and can copy it) for anyone who had to miss this meeting and is interested.

I am not going to try to reproduce my notes on this discussion here. I will happily share them, and I refer you to the podcast linked above. 
Bright Minds is an acronym for a program that Dr. Amen has developed to help us heal mental health issues and improve our memories.
B = Blood Flow
R = Retirement/Aging
I = Imflammation
G = Genetics
H = Head Trauma
T = Toxins

M = Mental Health
I = Immunity/Infection issues
N = Neurohormone Deficiencies
D = Diabesity
S = Sleep Issues

Each of these has a set of conditions/circumstances that may be exacerbating cognition, as well as suggestions for treatment.
We also learned about specific types of blood tests/panels that we could request of our doctors if we have concerns in one or more areas.

Learning a bit of self-biofeedback could also be really helpful.

But here is the COOLEST thing that I learned. Not all Alzheimer's diagnoses are correct.
There is a form of depression known as pseudodementia that mimics Alzheimer's disease. A web search will pull up many other links if you're curious.
It's not a huge number, but perhaps as much as 6-7% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's may have pseudodementia instead.
I'm extrapolating that number from a Very Brief scan of a couple of articles; don't hold me to that.
One finds out with brain scans, a test(s) not usually done.

We talked about celebrations and birthdays. I will share the dates with you by email as they need to remain private.

Ending it Well: Missives from Inside the Death Wellness Movement

"The death wellness movement is about facing hard choices openly and mindfully. For author Leslie Krongold, this has been a very personal exploration."

This article by Leslie Krongold, Ed.P, was published in August of this year, and is pertinent to many of the things we talk about withing our group.
The article was suggested by Jessica in a comment on another post.

Ms. Krongold is writing about her own journey toward her, possibly soon, death, and began seeking similar information shortly after her mother's death.
She's now doing podcasts, and when I've found them, I'll link them. In the meantime, this is short, and helpful.