Monday, August 19, 2019

A Window on the World

In the human race, mom certainly did not come in last. Smart, beautiful, resourceful and with a keen sense of humor, she got to work making a home for herself and me after my father left. Brother Mel had moved away before the end times. I envied him his distance from the nightly fights before Dad moved to Hermosa Beach. Mel lived at Knott’s Berry Farm and managed Ye Olde Mill Stream trout farm run for the Knott family by our friend Cole Weston. Mel got paid under the counter to stock the ponds and haul bags of fish food and teach kids how to fish on weekends. He had a room to sleep in behind the ticket booth and commuted to Marshall High School in Silverlake, Monday through Friday, driving his sea green mist Chevy. 

Mom had always voted with her feet. She found a job at The Lung Association in the Public Relations office. Conscientiously, she hired the same folks to work for her at home  as our neighbors hired. When Luis and Bess had to move back to Mississippi and could no longer serve as occasional handyman and monthly maid, mom turned to the wondrous being of Sue Jones whose ancestors were from Holland. Sue could've stepped off the page of a Van Gough  sketch, all knobs and bumps, with gnarly thumbs, fingers, elbows and knees. She always took off her shoes when she mopped the red cement floors of our flat-to-the-earth, redwood and glass rectangle of a house, scrubbing by hand with rags and buckets full of scalding, soapy, pine-scented water. Knurls on her toes turned as red as the floor, knees too.  She’d move wispy almost white tendrils of hair out of her face with the back of her wrist while she lectured me about life and laws of nature. 

Without Mel at home, and all my best buds moved away, my days seemed endless. I spent a lot of time in Sue’s company after school whenever she was there. 

Sue had a way of incorporating nature teachings pitched solely at me. Whenever she wiped the counters free of the teeny tiny grease ants that loved to make a conga line from their home in the wall to the butter dish, she would do so gently and with a prayer under her breath: May you come back as a beautiful butterfly. Hers was the first finger pointing me toward things beyond the day to day life I knew at ten years of age. God, angels, sprites and spirits were of the realm Sue Jones inhabited. Resurrection and reincarnation. In her book, bugs, animals, and people all had a chance at moving up some mystical magical spiral staircase of consciousness. I imagined a gauzy pastel chiffon draped circular staircase, every step filled with ascending critters of all kinds disappearing into the clouds as she spoke.

At twelve, I read a library book called The Astonishing Ant. From it I learned about societal constructs and hierarchies these six-legged creatures were capable of creating. There was a huge hill of black ants at the base of the four by four wood post holding up our mail box and another even more elaborate red-ant hill out back by the tall eucalyptus that was planted way before my parents bought the iconic John Lautner mid-century modern home in 1949. I liked to imagine in three dimensions the two colonies’ underground tunnels, rooms and nurseries. 

Quite a distance separated the tribe of red from the tribe of black ants, but I fed both the same snacks of 'Nilla Wafer cookie crumbs and tiny individual capsules carefully culled from oranges cut into quarters for my after school snack. Black ants were more socialized. They gladly accepted what was put in their path. Red ants walked around the orange capsules but hoisted the crumbs onto their backs to take down into the hole in the center of the crumbly earthen hill. Summer afternoons during the three years between my father leaving home and mom marrying Leo were spent, in part, exploring just what ants liked best.

The summer I found Ray Bradbury, I set out to read everything he wrote. I gorged myself on oranges and cookies and books with my foot wedged into the top-most V in the tree. My  shaggy bark reading room was high above the old playhouse that my father built for me when I turned four. Brother Mel used to smoke out in the play house. Mom eventually took it over as her writing space. From tree top, besides all the eucalyptus pods and crescent shaped leaves on the play house roof, I could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean - out beyond Miracle Mile and Century City. I’d read up there for hours, mostly R is for Rocket and Martian Chronicles. Something Wicked This Way Comes creeped me out a bit, but I could read Dandelion Wine three times a week, so intoxicating, it was. 

Crumbs and peelings at the bottom of the tree were the only evidence of human activity outside our house. If only my mom had looked up, she would have found me. I much preferred not to be found. By then, Peter and Angelika's mother had died and the twins' dad moved with them to their family’s summer home in Running Springs. Jacky moved from the bottom of our hill on Avon Street to Santa Monica when we were in fourth grade. Julie was the first of my best friends to move from Echo Park all the way over to Miracle Mile off Wilshire Boulevard. From my tree perch, I fancied I could see her walking home from school… if only I had a telescope.

By thirteen, I'd outgrown 'Nilla Wafers and segmenting oranges, but found both colonies of ants liked dabs of butter and sugar that fell off my toast on which I slathered layers and layers of both until the creamy coating was almost as thick as the bread and spread evenly crust to crust. I was taught not to waste crusts, so they got slathered extra high and often to the delight of the ants, little chunks would fall into their domain while I watched their scurrying forms heft many times their weight. 

In seventh grade, Rhonda Dunstan became my new bestie. She lived all the way down Echo Park Boulevard almost to Sunset Boulevard. Our mothers would drive us most often to one another's homes for playdates. Sometimes we’d walk. Our favorite thing to do was to buy penny candies at El Batey liquor store near the corner of Morton. We’d walk from her house to El Batey, use our allowance on candy, and climb up onto the garage roof of the apartment building next door to hers and eat every bit of what we bought. One day, we'd gotten what we thought were giant purple grape-flavored jaw breakers for our thirty-two cents to share equally. Eight jaw-breakers each at two pennies a piece. Our eyes widened at the same moment when we discovered the center was soft gooey grapey-good gum! We giggled and chewed, giggled and chewed. One ball after another. Purple spit ran out the corners of our mouths and dripped off our chins. Whatever possessed us to think of throwing the wads of partially chewed purple gloptiousness onto the neighboring garage wall, I do not recall, but throw them we did - small chunks at a time. All told, there must've been two-dozen globs of purple gum wads randomly decorating the expanse of otherwise beige stucco.

One of the neighbors was a fink. Rhonda's grandmother confronted us when we went inside. No use denying it. We were purple from face to knees. She said someone had just called her saying she saw us throwing stuff at the wall and now we had to clean it off. I took a page from Sue Jones book. We got two bowls of hot soapy water, rags and a step ladder and whistled while we worked. We also wrote a note to the nosey neighbor apologizing (that was gran’s idea) for our lapse in sanity… or something as high-falootin. 


I told Rhonda I hoped Miss Nosey Neighbor would come back as a beautiful butterfly… and soon!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

This blog I keep (mostly) is about Birth, Death, and the Stuff In Between. That offers a pretty wide open range of topics.

Once in a while I get political. 

Dropping a bomb on NRA Headquarters would be my best political act today, except then I'd become one of them. Them, being the strong gun lobby folk who won't budge an inch on bump-stocks and machine guns. How DARE the Wayne La Pierre's of the world hold the rest of us hostage because of their fear of losing one scintilla of their "Right to Bear Arms.” The Second Amendment says nothing of assault rifles. It was put into the Bill or Rights long before anyone invented machine guns and assault rifles.

How dare anyone make children suffer. How dare sickos make immigrants suffer at the hands of our white supremacists and in the hands of our racist culture. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not booting out the Dumpling Donald/Dumping the Trump years ago. You cannot have free speech if that speech incites violence. It’s like yelling fire in a crowded movie theater. POTUS’s rhetoric does just that… incites and makes dangerous most public gathering places because those inclined toward expressing their hatred, bigotry, and ignorance hear the dog-whistle Trump uses regularly to keep us just off balance enough so he can continue to dismantle Democracy. That seems his greatest agenda... after making himself and his friends and family fabulously wealthy. I would love to see his tax returns.

*.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  

I went to a poetry reading Sunday afternoon with some writing buddies. It was not something my beloved would stay awake for, so he sat this one out. His surgery is coming up Wednesday to rebuild his right thumb joint and move some tendons around to hold it all in place. Twelve weeks later, Dr. Chin says Mark’ll get some Physical Therapy  sessions. Then we'll see how he's recovering. If all goes well, Mark may elect to have the other thumb joint rebuilt. A full year in recovery mode sounds daunting but really is just a hiccup in the long arc of a life. Aren't we lucky to live in an age when such miraculous treatments are available??!!

My beloved came to watch folk dancing Saturday night. It was my second time joining in at a nearby venue where Circle Dances are taught. Not yet ready to dance on account of his hurt paw and sore ankle, Mark watched this time. Soon, we hope he may give it a try. We used to enjoy folk dancing together very much. He would meet me at Silverlake Parks and Recreation Center on his way home from Hollywood. I came from working downtown and we'd meet up to dance, then caravan home to Studio City separately on Thursday evenings. So much fun. It was in the days when I was making Banana nut bread for Garden of Eatin’ - a little health food restaurant on Echo Park Boulevard.  We once calculated that I was losing only a dollar and a quarter per loaf, contrasting the cost of ingredients and gas to deliver the breads with what the restaurant owner was paying me... not counting the time it took to cook and deliver! Ha ha ha. Short-lived career. 

*.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  

Once upon a time there was a funny dog named Fairfax. His owners were Mark, Melinda, Mosa and Megan. When she was two years old, our daughter Megan couldn't quite pronounce the dog's name, and called him Fucka. Older sister Mosa was outraged at what she knew was a “bad word” coming out of Megan’s little Kewpie Doll mouth and tried to get her sister to say the dog's name correctly. 

"Megan, say 'Fair.'"   

"Fair."  

"Megan, say ‘Fax.’"    

"Fax."

“Megan, say ‘FAIRFAX!’" 

"Fucka." 

Giggles ensued, which reinforced Megan's mispronunciation. They tried this exercise many more times, with increased glee and giggles. 

So it was that Fairfax came also to be known as Fucka.

Devlyn, the granddaughter at ten years of age loves hearing family funnies like this.

She has been asking for them repeatedly each visit here or when we’re in the car en route to one of her many lessons… horseback riding, piano, or homeschooling art or math lessons with her dad…

Friday, we had her here at our house. Our daughter Megan, who knows now how to say Fairfax, had driven up from San Luis Obispo area for a visit with us Tuesday and Wednesday. She helped us out with a combination crossword / jigsaw puzzle that's been languishing on the dining room table, where we left it stalled-out for months. Gran’Pun and I got re-inspired with Megan's enthusiasm and worked on it intermittently through Thursday night after Megan went home. Dev came over Friday morning and was impressed with the progress. She had helped solve the crossword portion of it and put in many pieces months back, when the putting in pieces of type-face clues was quite a bit easier than all the black and white letters of the crossword boxes and we all got frustrated with it. 

Friday, we three worked on it for a good forty minutes or more, then she put in the last few pieces by herself to our great delight. Dev got that sense of accomplishment so satisfying to both us Grandies and to her Grand Self.

She also had a horseback riding lesson on Friday, which I took her to after a trip to the zoo, where we saw Luca, the jaguar - sleeping. We saw one of two adult wolves. Four young pups are still hiding in the den. (Probably watching re-runs of Rin Tin Tin on TV.) We saw bison in the distance, bears close-up dancing, or sparring, or engaged in foreplay - hard to tell, and six wonderfully graceful giraffes with the dorkiest sweetest faces. Gotta love giraffe’s eyelashes and “smiles."  

To the tiger in the zoo, Madeleine just said, “Pooh, Pooh!” Tigers seem best suited to sleeping. Watching their stripes expand and contract as they breathe entertained D for about ninety-seconds. Then off to the baboons and bunnies. 

*.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  *.  


Weekends are for lounging. So we only washed both cars, dusted and vacuumed the house, and watered the garden. Then we read a lot. 


Time to start a new puzzle… or finish the thousand piece giant view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay! Oy Vey! Come back, Megan!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Monday Musing Almost Snoozing...

Tune back in on 8-11

Summer breezes are a blessin'

Know I'm really not a traitor

See you later, alligator



May cool August breezes blow your way

With moisture keeping drought at bay



Melinda

Monday Musing Will Be Snoozing

Out of town. On vacation.

See you 'round the state or nation.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Drift...


When I give myself time to sink into each yoga pose in my tried and true set of four, there washes over me such peace and well-being that I drift into yummy deep relaxation and feel miraculously healed. 

Friday, I went for a two and a half hour hike with a friend on a path that was mostly asphalt. Lake Chabot is nine miles around, we did not circumnavigate the whole path 'round!  At the boat house, we went to our right, making our partial walk around the lake in an anti-clockwise direction. We passed through Redwood groves. Bay Laurel trees let go their scent as cooler late afternoon air prevailed, and the magnificent twisty Oaks laughed in rustle-y chortles while the wind tickled them. The surface of the water was studded with diamonds as wind-whipped air dug up the gems, reflecting light into the leaves of all the trees. 

We came to a waterfall and hushed to hear its song. We came to an old wooden foot bridge over a marsh that had only just drained itself as the hottest part of the summer staked its claim on moisture. Jean said the ducks had been floating around under this bridge just two weeks ago, now they had to move on to the deeper waters of the lake. We saw Mallard Mamas and a few ducklings, but no Papa Mallards with their bright green neck ties on. We wondered if they might be off playing a game of poker or penuchle. I wondered what they looked like with visors on to cut the overhead light that made their cigar smoke's rings visible. The foot bridge itself was a musical instrument. It sighed and it sang and percussed and it chattered like a one man band just for our walking along it over the once-upon-a-time marsh. I wondered if the surface water in storm season reached the bridge, which seemed so close to the mud. 

Herons and egrets and seagulls, oh, my... 
All a flying across the blue sky. 
Nary a cloud to darken the sun. 
So it shone bright on everyone!

We saw fisher folk and bikers, strollers and hikers. All were friendly and taking in Nature. 
How lucky we are to have this glorious park nearby to enjoy. 


I had done my yoga and meditation early that morning, but by the time we got back, my hips were cranky from walking too long on a hard surface. I felt all nature-ized and nourished by the beauty, but my body needed yoga. I lay down on the floor and did some Ujjayi breathing with my lower legs up on a chair in the bedroom. It was golden hour, almost 7:00, and light from the low-in- the-sky sun was split into all its glorious colors by a couple of crystals hanging in the window. Both sides of the window were open so the breeze moved them. The rocking crystals made six arrow head shaped spear tips striped Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violet dance on the ceiling directly above me. They were surrounded by a sprinkling of rainbow colored dots that looked like stars. What a lovely light show. 

I let gravity do the work of straightening my spine while the Ujjayi breathing replenished my life force (prana) and the colorful arrows danced above me. 

With the first asana, Alternate Leg (Pawanmuktasana) I felt my tail bone releasing and my hip creases sighing with relief and release. 

Next came a sacrum pose called Reclining Hero's Pose (Supta Virasana). Aaaah... all's right with the world when tension lets go its hold on the pelvis. 

Releasing the muscles of the waist area of the spine ought to have come next, but that would have meant getting up, and I was enjoying the floor and the light show on the ceiling too much to move just yet, so I did the rib-cage-area-of-the-spine's pose next: Rotated Stomach (Jhatara Parivrrtanasa). 
I love the sound of the Sanskrit names. 

Then, once the knot behind the heart had been addressed with that lovely twist, it was time for Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana) for the psoas muscles deep in the middle of the body on either side of the waist and pelvis. These are LONG muscles that act like slip 'n' slides for babies coming into the world from mother's dark and quiet. They are also the muscles involved in putting our foot on gas and brake pedals when we're driving. When those psoas muscles are tight from heavy lifting, too much sitting, or life "grinding" or scaring us, we end up curled over in a "C" shape and feeling out of sorts because there's pain in the lower back and a pain in the neck because we have to tilt our chin up to be able to see anything when our back is so curved over. Releasing all that tension made the world right again for me and I got up and made dinner. I felt much taller and so relaxed.

Drift is what my teacher calls it when I start getting sloppy or rushed with my practice or forget what the proper alignments are. Drift curtails us from experiencing the deeper gifts given us by Svaroopa(R) yoga. Proper alignment and allowing ourselves to savor the experience are keys to helping us sink into the Bliss of our Own Being, Svaroopa!. 


Yoga: Don't leave home without it!

A video called "The Primary Practice" with my yoga teacher from 1995 to present, Rama Berch, is still available, I believe, on the Master Yoga or Svaroopa(R) yoga website. When life "does" us, we need tools to recover our joy of living.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened...

On the way to the garden, a funny thing happened. I saw a lizard sunning itself on the large volcanic rock under the plum tree. One fat ripe plum splatted on the rock next to the startled lizard. He scuttled under the protective ledge of his formerly safe and cozy sunning place. A moment later, as I watched in fascination, he scuttled back up top - perhaps to get more sun, perhaps to satisfy his curiosity and sample the sweet juice now dripping down the surface of his rock. In either case, the lizard first did some push-ups, making sure all around knew he was king of this rock and nobody better mess with him!

I certainly wasn't planning on messing with the creature. His black striped back and blue belly reminded me of ones I'd caught as a child in and around the wood pile, back of the stand of bamboo in the open field adjacent our hillside home in Echo Park. We saw a lot of Blue-bellies there sans tails. I'm not saying it was always us kids, but maybe the plentiful cats who tried to catch the reptiles. Those crafty lizards knew well how to distract predators by leaving their tails behind, offering up a tasty snack to a wily cat, fox or kid. We marveled at the wriggly squiggly remains of a tail. We never thought of tasting one.

This current li'l blue belly is a welcome visitor in the garden. I'm glad the plum didn't hit him, though it would have been fun to see a tail left behind. How long does it take to grow a new one?

Dr. Robert O. Becker, Orthopedic Surgeon introduced the idea in his book,"The Body ElectricElectromagnetism and the Foundation of Life" (with Gary Selden) that using Direct Current electricity, we can help mammals regenerate bone, nerve, muscle, skin and fur - complete regeneration! Astounding as it sounds, his ideas have helped footballers and basketball players recover rapidly from injury. Direct current helps the body line itself up to replicate all the cells that got damaged. Becker watched a salamander in laboratory do that... which is not uncommon. What was uncommon was the complete regeneration of a rabbit's foot when it had been surgically removed from the unlucky rabbit. That caught the attention of the United States Government. That could offer huge benefits for soldiers in war. 

US Navy called Dr. Becker in to testify on another matter for the Department of Defense - namely, the safety of the radar screen buried under the state of Wisconsin as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative, derisively dubbed 'Star Wars' by Teddy Kennedy during the Reagan Era. 

Dr. Becker testified that it was not a good idea to subject  humans or any other mammals to the high intensity of microwave emissions coming off radar cables- even underground. Further, he said that the arbitrary assignment of a number deemed 'safe' for emissions from radar and cell towers was a gross underestimation of the damage said emissions could do to our neurons, eyes, nervous systems, and individual cells. Our flesh can literally cook when exposed to microwave emissions. The huge increase in cataract surgeries is testament to the unsafe emissions to which we are exposed from our computer screens, televisions, sunlight, microwave ovens,  ambient electricity, and radio waves with which we're constantly surrounded. Time to build a Farraday Cage? Maybe so. The US Government did not like Becker's responses and, according to Dr. Becker, all funding for his research in bone regrowth was pulled.


Mr. Lizard has real soft plums falling on his sunny rock. Humans have invisible rays bombarding us unawares.  It's time we wake up to the invisible and take appropriate defensive actions, before we lose our tails!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Shift Happens? How Soon?

I'd like to see lots of change to the protocols we have in place for mamas and babies to give birth together. We seem, as a culture, to be missing the point of how soft-bellied mammals need to be supported in order to give birth successfully, blissfully, and safely. We have lost so much along the way from hunter-gatherers to agrarian cultures to where we find ourselves now: in a technocracy where we bar the door to keep Nature from entering. The most important part we lost was the trust we should have in Mother Nature. She knows that mammals need to feel safe in order to give birth. All mammals, including humans, will stop labor when they do not feel safe. Our systems secrete catecholamines (stress hormones) that counteract the oxytocin that stimulates contractions. What happens to many women in labor when they enter the hospital is that the stress of entering an unfamiliar space sends stress hormones into the blood stream which slows down or stops labor. Again, mammals have the capacity to stop labor when they do not feel safe. It is pro-survival to give birth in a safe, comfortable environment. We know how to stop contractions.  Asking our care providers to follow the hormone-aware protocols can go a long way toward letting Nature dictate the timing of all support during labor and delivery.* 

Sometimes the birthing couple or birthing triad, if the mother’s partner is there, need privacy and to be left alone to regroup, support one another, steel their resolve to let Nature dictate the pacing, rather than strict hospital protocols, as long as everything is going well. This means minimizing tests, exams, and giving plenty of space and time for contractions to do their job. Women’s bodies are designed to work well. 

When the baby begins her journey out, she has the capacity and is hard-wired to USE her legs to help the process, by pushing her feet against the top of the uterus (fundus) so as to propel herself toward the outlet.

When not given anesthetic, mom has more sensation and can participate more fully in helping her baby find her way out. If she is schooled in how normal it is to have big sensation during contractions, she will do much better than if she tenses up with every rush. Tension causes pain. Pain causes tension. It becomes a vicious circle of escalating pain and escalating tension. Understanding that the largest and strongest muscle in the human body is the uterus. These muscles combine strength, endurance, dynamic strength, and absolute strength. (The only other muscle that comes close to pounds of pressure per square inch is the massater muscle which yields more pressure per square inch every time we bite down on something than any other muscle in the human body. [55 pounds on the incisors or 200 pounds on the molars!])

I was fortunate to have been a dancer and to know how those large leg and gluteal muscles feel when they’re working hard. HARD is how they feel! As muscle fibers contract, the entire muscle gets more dense and it feels hard to the touch. 

A birth educator may be able to help her students understand in their body that it’s the job of the uterus to get hard in order to shorten and to push the baby towards the outlet. A good birth educator will also clue-in mom and dad that the baby has a job too. Ideally, baby is the one initiating labor… the powerful signal is given by the BABY’S release of a hormone that says: I’m ready for my entrance now. Please help me to get out. 

When contractions begin, and the fundus (the top of the uterus) gets hard, it is to the baby as the side of a swimming pool is to a swimmer. She can push off and it helps her to swim herself down toward the outlet. “Down” here is a relative word. When standing, mom’s cervix and vaginal opening are definitely down, below her navel. With gravity’s support, it’s a lot easier for babies to push themselves down toward the outlet rather than in an upward direction. When mom is lying down in classic hospital lithotomy position, flat on her back, (usually, with her feet in stirrups) baby is necessarily pushing uphill against gravity, and so is mom.

Breathing and focus can work well for mitigating pain.  Surrender is another big idea during birth. Surrendering to the powerful rushes that WILL bring that baby down the canal, is a useful and tricky trick.

Not saying it's easy for everyone. Just saying it's optimal to surrender to the flow of the rushes. Our bodies have been preparing to give birth since we were an egg inside our mother when she was a baby floating in the dark and quiet of HER mother. The process is meant to work well. Women's bodies were designed to carry and deliver babies. Learning as much as we can about how the process works is a good start. Unfamiliarity leads to surprise which leads to bracing which leads to pain. The unknown can make all of us cringe. 


While classic lithotomy position is easier for birth attendants to feel and see what is happening, it is harder on the birthing couple and often slows down the birth, thereby increasing the likelihood that the hospital will resort to other interventions, like forceps, suction bonnets and ultimately, Caesarean section, also called surgical delivery, or belly birth, which then increases recovery time and impedes the bonding process. 

Staying loose is a practice that can be cultivated. A good birth educator can help us to understand the process, learn to differentiate muscles, so only the uterus needs to work until it is time to push. She can also help us learn the benefits of relaxation and HOW to relax. Further, the role of the birth educator is to normalize many things that may come up during the birth or directly after. Few are worrisome. Most are not.

We are fortunate to live in an age when appropriate medical interventions are available. We can demand of our support staff that they do not use any of those spiffy interventions without good cause. 

Every intervention disrupts the birth dance; the threshold dance of a human child entering into the world. Every intervention has consequence that may lead to more interventions until the cascade separates mothers and babies from their own unique two-step. That separation itself is disempowering and perceived as life-threatening for the emerging being.

Ideally, s/he ought to be able to initiate labor, ought to be allowed to help push herself out (no anesthetic). Optimally, the birthing couple ought to be left to the rhythms of their singular dance music so they may complete it in their own time.


* A free download of a seventeen page booklet called (Pathway to a Healthy Birth may be found here: