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Poem a Day April 2, 2012

Posted by on 02 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: health, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized

Hemoglobin (suggested by Grant)

Like a gift
I wrap the iron
securely in a net
tightly bound
in the red blood cells
reaching for oxygen
special delivery
to your cells
of life

Yes, this is the molecule that makes red blood cells red and takes oxygen up to the brain. It also has significant regulatory functions that I didn’t know about! Blood pressure is partially regulated by hemoglobin, and it is essential in the kidneys, as well.

A really interesting and explanatory image for hemoglobin is at the ACS site. I didn’t want to just copy it here because I don’t have permission, but it’s a great illustration!

I also found an undergraduate paper available online, that has illustrations and explanations of how this molecule is made and how it functions: K R Heiner paper at Davidson College, North Carolina

Doing good things…

Posted by on 09 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: citizenship, health, Making a Difference, Uncategorized

I saw a flyer for Project Healing Waters while I was in a local shop today.

Please give this organization a look — it is such a kind thing to do for people who have suffered in service to their nation. People with injuries from military action can struggle to regain a sense of peace and equilibrium when they return home. It sounds like this fly-fishing project can provide them with the sort of meditative and physical recovery they often need.

As a person with many family members who have served in the United States Armed Forces, I encourage you to consider supporting Project Healing Waters or a similar organization.

Sometimes, a little bit of publicity can save a life

Posted by on 07 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, Giving, good things, health, illness, Uncategorized

And if my half-dozen readers aren’t “a little bit” I don’t know what is!

I was alerted to a pressing need for a bone marrow donor through Seth Godin’s blog.

Here is the post that caught my attention: Eliminating the impulse to stall.

And here is the website for Amit Gupta who desperately needs a donor.

If this finds a donor for Amit, or raises awareness of the pressing need for donors of all kinds, then my blog has done its job today.


Amit found a donor and has had the surgery. Now he needs to recover and get used to being healthy again. I hope the transplant “takes” and that Amit will have a long and happy life.

Garden Update

Posted by on 24 Jul 2010 | Tagged as: Family Matters, fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, health, hope, school, Uncategorized

Okay, so I walked through the garden yesterday and today. ALL the plums are gone from the plum tree. All of them. I harvested two (of the several dozen that were there) a couple weeks ago, and now ALL of them have been eaten. Presumptive culprits: deer, raccoons, crows. I am not a happy camper.

Other losses: the large sage plant that I had in a planter next to the driveway has also died. I believe it is due to getting too dry, even though we have had more than average precipitation this year and I didn’t water it much last year. So it’s possible that it’s just old. I have a new one I bought from the local school’s fundraiser down in the veggie garden. Will transplant that one up to the planter in the fall. I will MAKE time. An advantage to being a student teacher is that for a few of the weeks at the beginning of the year I am NOT the one in charge.

Other things of note: we have a LOT of figs on one tree, a few tiny ones on another, and nothing discernible on the third. The hazelnuts are almost ready, I am sure the squirrels will get them before I do, as usual. The pretty yellow wood rose that was by the pond is gone, but there are two very anemic-looking gladioli in evidence. I have one dahlia already blooming, and several plants managed to survive the long wet winter, so I am pleased. I very much hope that I will be able to lift them all in October and let them dry out over the winter for a change. Otherwise, I will need to just purchase a whole bunch of new ones (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

On a personal level…. I played in the back yard for a little while on Wednesday and Friday, running around a bit. AND went for an hour-long walk with Tom last night. I think my hip is back to (my) normal. And it is sooooo good to be mobile.

Tomorrow… I plan on a leisurely day, some garden, some berry jam making, and in the evening, going to a performance of The Sound of Music, at which the elder stidkid is playing in the orchestra pit. I am completely in vacation mode.

Year-End Wrap-Up

Posted by on 05 Jun 2010 | Tagged as: Babble, children, education, Family Matters, fun, garden, Gardens and Life, grad school, health, Making a Difference, parenting, school, teaching, Uncategorized

Well. It was a LONG school year for me. And now it is over. I am apparently continuing in the program, and have a student teaching assignment lined up for next year! I will meet with my mentor teacher next week.

The end result of the actual teaching in the school I was doing my practicum was positive. Not only did we all survive (always my first concern), but more than 95% of the students managed to turn in work that demonstrated an engagement with and understanding of the idea of adding description to writing to enhance meaning! A few students even chose to continue to refine their work after I returned it to them. Most students seemed to find either poetry OR prose engaging, but a few enjoyed the whole shebang. I was able to demonstrate improvement in writing for many students, although in the future I need to refine the actual points I document.

The best parts of this school year were definitely the work I did IN the actual classrooms; the hardest and least satisfying were the “lessons” I had to write up and “teach” to my peers — who don’t interact with materials at the same level of interest or ability as real children. Also, most of those lessons provided anywhere from minimal “good job” feedback to none at all from my instructors. What is the point of assigning work that isn’t monitored, and letting students continue blindly in a path that may or may not be profitable? At least now I know from a student’s point of view how that feels (not good).

I have a couple weeks now to relax and recoup before I begin the summer session — five weeks, but devoted to the reading endorsement that so interests me. So it won’t seem onerous. And it’s with the same teacher I had last summer, someone who is engaging and gives good feedback.

The “free time” I will have will be devoted to the garden and house, and to working with a stidkid on refining some skills that his school has (again) dropped the ball on. *stern mama look* No excuse to let a student’s performance not meet their ability!

And in August, just before I dive into the student teaching, there is a Babblers meet up here in Olympia! We are very excited about this. Will get some folks from the local area as well as some from as far afield as Canada and the East Coast of the U.S.!

For today, however… I am resting and getting over a late flu bug that hit this week (yes, I missed my final day of class for the program), and getting my bearings on the tasks ahead for the summer. If the sun comes out, I might even spend time in the garden!

What to do when you feel bad

Posted by on 31 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, health, Uncategorized

Grammatically the title is incorrect. However, in the vernacular, it’s dead on.

Since the meeting ended, and the classwork tapered off, I had expected to be able to channel my energy into getting my house and yard whipped into shape. Instead, the opposite happened.

The migraine that began the last day of the meeting was “legitimate” — a sudden unexpected complication on Mt. Rainier triggered it. The virus that hit two days later was pretty obviously related to having been around hundreds of people I didn’t know when I was under a lot of stress. Inconvenient, but understandable. Both lasted longer than normal, a factor mostly of the overworked brain and body.

However, the unease that gradually morphed into anxiety and rapidly into panic attacks was both unexpected and greatly inconvenient. Having battled back from severe post-partum depression (twice) and panic attacks (more recently, but nearly a decade ago), I recognized it for what it was the morning I woke from a peculiar dream unrefreshed after 11 hours of sleep. A few hours into the day, I realized that “realization” wasn’t going to help this one go away.

And so I called the consulting nurse (who spoke with the doc-on-call) to get a temporary prescription for an antidepressant that helped so many years ago when I was battling the panic attacks. And wrote to my doctor to get official approval. That was yesterday.

So last night, I slept pretty well and woke feeling as if the day had possibility – for the first time in a couple months. And a message was waiting in my inbox that my doc has approved the longer-term use of this medication.

Why post something this personal? Because too many people think depression is a personality flaw instead of the physical malfunction of chemicals in the brain. Too many people believe that “happy thoughts” are sufficient to change anxiety into enthusiasm. Too many people believe that “resorting” to medication demonstrates weakness of character.

The truth is that for some people, myself included, there is a point when depression moves from a “blue day” (or week) to a chronic condition, a moment when anxiety has no basis in reality, and panic rather than helping overcome an urgent situation instead sits like an anchor keeping one from moving ahead with tasks. The truth is, sometimes it is necessary to get help.

And so I did. And though I am not “instantly” better, I have more energy today than I did yesterday. Though I am not completely free of the feeling that things are falling apart, I am able to see a few ways to fix what I can. Though I am still a tad overweight with increasing gray hairs, I can look in the mirror and see the laugh lines today.

What do I do when I feel bad? If I can’t fix it myself, I ask for help.

That makes sense to me.

Health, the Environment, Longevity

Posted by on 26 May 2009 | Tagged as: environment, garden, Gardens and Life, Green Living, health, Uncategorized

We have the ability to greatly improve lives, or to ignore situations and let lives be lost. Not just human lives, as in the case of the current cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, but the lives of all residents of earth. It turns out that many of the substances we use to improve human lives have detrimental effects on the environment – on the life of the plants and animals around us and downstream of us.

Two hundred years ago few of my ancestores, if any, thought the words “healthy” and “tan” were compatible. Instead, women jealously guarded their skin, and mean wore hats when outside. Most people in the northern hemisphere, away from the equator (and many peoples at the equator in places that lacked tree cover), kept their bodies well covered. To be fair, that was partly because of the cold; but hats, long sleeves and leg coverings were common year-round among fair-skinned people.

I am fair-skinned. Few people are more naturally ghost-like than I am, my veins showing through the thin skin on the inside of my arms and on my feet. I was born with such pale hair that even after it grew a bit I still looked bald (photos of me at one year bear this out). My eyes are grey — perhaps the only part of me that started out with some life — they reflect my surroundings rather than dominate them. And though my hair is now quite dark, I retain the essential pale-ness of my childhood.

When I was a child, I remember my mother slathering on the sunscreen. Coppertone, mostly – it was ubiquitous. I wasn’t going to burn if she had anything to say about it! Which was a good thing, because when I was a child people often didn’t cover up. It was the era of perhaps the greatest use of bikinis; shorts, sleeveless tops, miniskirts; even tube tops. Women and men went about mostly uncovered in hot weather. Aside from the occasional towel draped over the shoulders, people at pools and beaches, in parks and backyards, paraded about uniformly as if they were impervious to the damaging effects of the sun’s rays.

As a more mature adult, I tend to wear long sleeves year-round, long pants or skirts, and a hat when I am in the garden. This is just my “style.” But I also drifted away from using sunscreen at some point. Perhaps it was when I was younger and my finances barely covered rent and food. I have also developed serious reactions to many fragrances and find some sunscreens are now impossible to live with. Either way, I am unused to the smell and feel of it, and tend to avoid it for myself (though I used to insist on my children using it in the summer). This is beginning to show on my face, which has a few age spots developing, like pale freckles across my cheeks.

I was considering trying again to find a sunscreen for my face, to minimize further damage, when I came across an article in Slate’s online magazine: Staying Green in the Sun. And it got me thinking again. Sunscreens and other cosmetics, drugs and substances we use on a daily basis (soap, detergent, cooking oil) have environmental costs both in their manufacture and in the aftermath of their use. When we dispose of, or wash off, these substances, where do they go? What effects do they have? The research is starting to come in, and it isn’t good in many cases.

Now we are being cautioned, not just by magazine reporters but by scientists, to look carefully at the long-term residual effects of all these things as well as their immediate benefits. This is all well and good. “Mindfulness” — though the word is overused — of necessity, a sober cost-benefit analysis, is generally a reasonable step in determining whether we need or merely want, anything.

Putting aside the purely cosmetic (and vain) considerations of how my skin looks, my mother is a 20+ year survivor of melanoma; which means that for me, the risk is higher still of contracting this often-fatal disease. Yet I require a fair amount of real sun exposure to combat the seasonal depression I experience every year. Truthfully, I am far more productive and have greater endurance in the summer when I am out in the sun on a regular basis. I need the sun, but I don’t need the lasting effects on my skin. And, it turns out, in addition to my own chemical sensitivities making most sunscreens now off-limits for regular use, the sunscreen that is so common in our developed world may be contributing to species decline.

A thousand years ago, though overall life expectancy was not as great as today, skin cancers and sun-related skin problems were far less common. What did they know, and how did they discover it?
Perhaps we need to return to the old forms: long garments and hats, gloves when outside, parasols (for the sun, different from rain umbrellas), sitting in the shade and resting during the heat of the day. More than vanity and tradition, these may be methods to protect ourselves – and our fragile world.

On a side-note, the BBC carries an article today on the longest-married couple: Couple Celebrates 81st Anniversary. I know that sunscreen was little used in their day… still they are happy, as healthy as 100+ year olds can be, and still married. What is their secret? Hinted at in the article, it is common sense.

What I thought was an allergy…

Posted by on 02 May 2009 | Tagged as: art, health, illness, Interesting Websites, Uncategorized

seems to have turned into a virus. A head cold, actually. Not influenza. Which is good, because the flu knocked me back about three weeks winter quarter. But this is bad enough.

Didn’t study at all yesterday, just sat around in bed mostly, playing computer games because I couldn’t concentrate well enough between coughs and sneezes to read or think. Oh. And I napped… I suspect I will repeat this performance for Saturday (today) if I ever manage to fall asleep.

Until then, I am surfing the web and looking at my blogroll. A new category is in order, I think, anticipating the summer. Art Blogs. The first will be Art Projects for Kids, something that my friend Robin linked to a few days ago.


Poem # 26

Posted by on 26 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Gardens and Life, health, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Uncategorized

pandemic headlines
scream across the biosphere
there is no safety

Sorry for the downer poem, it’s not how I really feel, but how I am responding to the media coverage of this potentially serious development. There are many, many things to worry about this week, from political to medical items. We hear about things so quickly these days, it can seem overwhelming as there is no space in between reports. On the plus side, we get news fast enough to change mid-stride and choose another direction. If we will.

The basic mechanisms for staying healthy remain the same: wash your hands, don’t poke at your face, wash your hands, cover your face if you sneeze/cough, wash your hands, don’t share eating utensils or foods, wash your hands, eat right, wash your hands…

Wash your hands. It saved thousands of lives in the 1800s when it was first adopted by doctors, and then by individuals. It can save thousands of lives still.

Wash your hands. Please.

Valentine’s Day

Posted by on 14 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Blog Carnival, caring, children, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, health, illness, musings, Uncategorized

It’s late on Valentine’s day. I have been too sick this week to finish the valentines as I had hoped, which really bothers me because those cards are the most fun to make. The more glitter the better, and if you can fit some lace or ribbon on too, do it! Oh well, I have supplies for next year!

I wanted to revisit the theme I touched on twice this week: the difference between enduring LOVE and the oogly-googly feeling of romance.

This week started out with my darling Tom feeling ill — last weekend, in fact, and he took the first three days off work. Then I caught it, and took the last three days off. One of the children has had an annoying post-nasal drip cough for over a month, the other was sickly Thursday and Friday (but much improved today). Nothing is a bigger test of true love than everybody feeling ill all at the same time.

Today, Valentine’s Day, I woke up on the sofa (had to sleep sitting up so I could breathe). Tried to keep the dog quiet so Tom could sleep longer (didn’t work). Sat on the sofa feeling miserable for hours. Then moved to Tom’s chair after he and the children left for their afternoon activities. Felt miserable there, too. But played “Puzzle Quest” for a long time anyway. It’s slow-paced and mesmerizing, just right for a fever. And then, to prove my love, I started a load of laundry and the dishwasher.

I am now recuperating from my exertions…

But silliness aside, true love isn’t the sparkly, bright, shiny, new gift of the valentine; it is the somewhat worn, dingy, occasionally ragged, “comfortable” old bathrobe of real life. My valentine from Tom was the leisure to rest and sleep as much as I need this week. My valentine to him this week was to step up and do just a little more as I could so he didn’t have to do everything. My valentine to my children was to make sure I talked with them at least a little each day — including the day I had no voice. Their valentine to us was to help out around the house, doing chores that are normally mine or Tom’s.

After courtship, excitement and adventure; after the wedding, ribbons and bows; after the first house, the first real disagreement, the first child (or the first pet); after real life begins… Then love proves itself. I believe that everyone should be able to marry — to experience all the joys — all the discouragement and responsibilities — all the triumphs — all the sorrows and worry — all the peace.

Hey, if someone is willing to put up with kleenex everywhere and random half-finished cans of ginger ale in unlikely places… why not?


And although the Blog Carnival actually ended yesterday I think, I noticed that Robin had another post today, so I will refer you over to her last post as well.

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