Wednesday, September 29, 2010


after avoiding
after dawdling and washing my car
after stopping at the grocery store
after gathering my courage
I finally climbed the stairs
to the second floor of the nursing home
and crept down the hall to room 240
where my mother lives

how could I have thought for even a moment
that seeing her would be difficult

oh joy and smiles and tears
as we embrace for a long time
me rubbing her thin-fleshed back
and murmuring
mmmmmmm, oh mama, mama, mmmmm
her kissing my cheek
and repeating my name over and over
accepting each other's love

because she is 100% deaf
we use a dry-erase board
to communicate
I'd been afraid that she might not
be able to comprehend written sentences
at this time
but she does
even long, complex sentences

so we talk that way
me giving her news
about my sister and brothers
about my husband
about Yellowstone

she telling me her news...
seems she's been appointed
along with nine other scholars
to a special committee
of the Geneva Conference

ten scholars given the difficult task
to solve a problem of arithmetic
one that's never previously been solved...
the square root of seven

she, being the chairman of the committee,
has been very busy, she tells me
but she's happy and proud to say
that after several weeks
they have managed to solve the problem
and now the conference leaders
being satisfied with their work
have given her committee a new task

she apologizes in advance
saying she might have to attend
a meeting or two while I'm here
although they never meet for too many hours
I tell her how proud I am of her
and that it's OK about the meetings

this morning before I go to her again
(this time with warm anticipation)
I'm pondering her vivid fantasy life
and thinking about how getting old
might have some advantages after all

and Terri is so right
I am fortunate and blessed
to have her hands to hold
these many years
and still some time to come

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


arrived in Minnesota yesterday
after seeing some "new lakes"
along the way
resulting from torrential rains
guess it's much worse
in the southern part of the state

settled into guest bedroom
in my brother's house
feels good to be here
using his wife's laptop
taking a walk with them this morning
enjoying a sense of quiet
knowing I don't have to drive
for 400+ miles today

yet at the same time feeling anxious
avoiding going to the nursing home
to see Mom, who is nearly 94
family tell me she's a lot more confused
than the last time I was here
yet physically stronger
they warn me about
how difficult it is
to communicate with her

I am avoiding it
reading blogs
writing this blog
thinking about washing my car
thinking it's her lunchtime now
thinking she'll probably have a nap
after lunch

feeling my feeling
fear of impending loneliness
sad to see her decline
longing to connect with her

I will hold her hands
massage them with lotion
gently reminding us both
of how much I love her

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Graced by Bison - Solo Road Trip Report #2

414 miles today
Billings Montana to
Bismark North Dakota
freeway semi-empty
except for when passing
two cities of size

eastern Montana
seems hard hit economically

highlight of the day
was not lunch
at the half-way point
200 miles east of Billings
I veered off the freeway
into a small town
and drove around hoping to find
for a cozy-looking cafe

lady in the grocery store
told me to go to CCs cafe
and gave me directions to get there
oh, delight, I thought
regional delicacies maybe

waitress recommends
roast turkey with all the goodies
said people drive there from all around
to have turkey on Sundays
ok... I'll try it, says I

should have had
cottage cheese and an apple
from my cooler...

stringy, dry, over-cooked turkey
string beans out of a can
mushy, way over-salted dressing
white air bun
barely tolerable salad bar
with wilted lettuce
I passed on cherry cheesecake
for dessert

oh well... the waitress was nice
I gave her a really big tip

highlights of the day
were the lovely rock outcroppings
along the rolling hills
of eastern Montana
blazing sunshine
and stopping at a rest area
with a herd of bison
grazing right there

nursing baby bison
and big-headed bulls
yikes they're intimidating
needless to say
I stayed in the car
to take pictures
but was so close
I could hear them breathe
and chew the grass
could smell their musk
could look them in the eyes
what a thrill


Thanks for comments... I feel like you're with me in a way and that's a blessing!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Solitude of Being - Road Trip Report #1

on the road today
(day three of my solo road trip)
from Missoula
to Billings
both in Montana

not so far really
but add a 5 hour detour
to Yellowstone National Park
and you have a 13 hour day
mostly behind the wheel

had lunch in Livingston
no problem with overeating
while on this solo trip
at least not so far

noticed signs to Yellowstone
how could I resist
the north entrance
just 52 miles south of
my main west-east route

went there as a kid
don't remember much
just Old Faithful

arrived at the park at 5 pm
and took the north loop
which took me past
thermal hot springs
boil and bubble
yellow leaves everywhere
big horn sheep
a herd of elk
one black bear
a fumarole
(am I spelling that correctly)
a tumbling waterfall
towering rock formations
geologist's and naturalist's paradise
photographer's too
everyman's paradise

frustrating a little
not enough time
or daylight
to take pictures
every 10 feet
like I wanted to

feeling giddy about this day
a day full with
solitude of being

a little sad not to be
sharing it with my husband
who would love Yellowstone
as much as I
yet at the same time
grateful for this day full with
solitude of being

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


today was
my birthday
number 68

so many things
I could write
about today

I had lots of trouble
feeling my feelings

don't want to tell
about some things
that happened today
don't want to dwell
on the difficult parts of the day
or even mention them

compared to some years
this birthday wasn't too bad

it's probably the only
birthday in my entire life
that I didn't have
cake or some other
special confection

even when dieting
I always made an exception
on my birthday

not feeling deprived
not feeling disappointed
about not having cake
don't miss the candles
not in the least

four sweet things
that happened today

returning home
from celebratory dinner
to a phone message
from a dear friend
one I don't see very often
who in her soft way
sang happy birthday
to me

hilarious birthday card
from my husband
waiting on the table
when I got up
sweet inscription
cash contribution
toward road trip enjoyment
happy way to start the day

dining out
with my brother
his wife
and my husband
birthday treat from bro
sitting outside
overlooking the harbor
back-lit clouds
tasty meal and
a few good laughs

before dinner
we walked along a trail
in whale watch park
it's a little late in the season
to see whales
even our resident pod
of orcas
and the others are
migrating south by now
yet there they were
headed north
traveling more on the surface
than usual
breaching, blowing, arching
I held out my hands
and exchanged energy
with them

all in all
a good start
to being 68

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 77..... again....

Today is my 77th day of abstinence, round two. The first 77 days went quite well and then on day 78 I decided to have an ice cream cone, a breach of abstinence. So I began the count again at zero the next day. At the time, it seemed like it would take forever to reach day 77 again. Yet, here I am! Actually, it's gone rather quickly and painlessly.

Tomorrow will be challenging. I'm taking a class and there will be goodies on the tables and along a buffet counter all day long. I'm taking my favorite cottage cheese and apple lunch. Also, I plan to be hyper aware if the candy bowl on our table is causing me any trouble. If it does, I'll ask my table mates if we can remove it! Promise!

Yes, I have a plan... yet today I am reminded of how fragile sobriety is and of how easy it is to think I have control of the situation. No I don't, not me. Control is an illusion.

A dear friend lost a LOT of weight mostly by working the Weight Watchers program. She'd also been in OA for a long time and understands/accepts her addiction. For me, she's totally validated the idea of loosing weight and maintaining the loss. I know it's possible because of her.

Well, it's been more than a year since I saw her last. Now she's here visiting and I see she's put much of her weight back on again since then.

Fragile sobriety. Something pops. We turn a corner and smack our faces into a chocolate decadence cake. The bottom is reached and up we go again. The dreaded yo-yo. I'm without words to express my sadness about her upward swing or about my fear of all the corners ahead in my own recovery process.

Yet the OA literature is full of stories by those who have recovered - regained their sanity, changed their emotional responses to life's irritants and held to a healthy food plan - staying clean and sober for decades.

Will I be like them or like my friend? I don't know. I can only pray for help and keep trying one day at a time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Me and Chocolate

I've known about my addictive relationship to chocolate for a long time. Here's the story of when I realized and admitted it for the first time.
It is spring of 1996. I'm in the habit of getting two chocolate fixes a day. I don't keep it in the house, because actually that's impossible. Whatever I have, I immediately eat. So I go out to get my fixes. I run a bead shop in my studio, open by appointment. Today I have a morning customer and one in the afternoon. Between them, I plan to go buy myself a treat (always it's chocolate, although I use the word treat rather than naming it).

Morning customer comes late and stays late. Afternoon customer comes early. They overlap. No treat. I am fidgeting and irritable. I want Ms. Afternoon to leave. I don't care how many beads she'd like to buy; I want her gone. I'm short with her, nearly rude. Finally she goes.

I race to my car and am driving away mere seconds after she leaves. I drive to the closest grocery store. I rush to the bakery/deli to see what they have. OK... triple-layer, double-chocolate cake! I tell the clerk I need a big piece because two of us are splitting it. She puts it in a to-go box. I grab a fork and a napkin and bee-line to my car. In my car, I slink down and eat the whole piece of cake. Two minutes and it's gone. I've gobbled it.

I realize I didn't taste it after the first bite. I feel remorse. Remorse for being rude to my customers. Remorse for telling a lie to the clerk about splitting the piece of cake. Remorse for hiding in my car. Remorse for continuing to abuse my body.

It dawns on me, sitting dejected in my car, that I am a chocolate addict, exhibiting all of the behaviors of an alcoholic only about chocolate rather than alcohol. In that moment, I realize chocolate had a grip on me that makes me feel crazy and that I can not control my intake. I decide on a course of abstinence.
Well, that lasted for about 3 years. Then I started sneaking chocolate once in a while when I was in town. Once in a while soon became a daily fix. Then twice a day. WAKE UP! OK, back to abstinence for a few more years.

Then I decided I would have chocolate only one time a year... on my birthday. Didn't work... One time became the first of many times and the fixes ruled me once again. Quit again. Fell off the wagon one more time, binged repeatedly, lied, hid the stuff, sneaked around eating it in my car.

Always during periods of chocolate abstinence, I continued to crave it... big time! I thought about it every day. I spent hours in the grocery store looking for chocolate substitutes. I tried every type of lemon dessert there is... cookies, ice cream, cake, pie, cheesecake and tarts. I tried peanut-butter cookies and raspberry bars. I tried butter pecan ice cream and apple fritters. You name it. I tried it. Always I wanted and craved chocolate... tried to find a substitute... something else to give me that same buzz.

I never found it. And I never binged as badly on the substitutes, rarely had to get two fixes a day like with chocolate. But I did binge some. My craving for chocolate was incessant and nagging.

On April 3rd, 2010, I finished reading Holy Hunger by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and realized fully and without a doubt that I am a compulsive overeater and that I can not control my eating and binging by myself. On April 7th, 2010, I attended my first meeting of Overeaters Anonymous and sensed I had finally found help.

I've been on a sensible food plan and abstinent (with one slip) from all chocolate, cookies, cake, pie, cheesecake, ice cream, candy and pastries ever since then. My body is slowly changing... when I started I wore a snug size 18 jeans. Now I'm wearing size 12. My mind is changing a lot. I don't feel crazy anymore. I'm learning to feel my feelings. I'm starting to work the 12-step program and feeling positive about the progress I'm making.

One of the most interesting things in my OA experience so far is about chocolate. Since being abstinent about chocolate AND other binge foods, I no longer crave chocolate or even think about it much. If very good quality chocolate is right in front of me, I might find myself thinking it smells really good. But then I move away from it both physically and mentally. I'm not looking for a substitute. It's hold on me is finally breaking. One day at a time, I am becoming a sober person!


As I write this, 75 days of abstinence on my binge food list are behind me. That's 75 days since I re-started the clock after having an ice cream cone.

These are the foods things I don't eat anymore:

ice cream

Today at the grocery store there was a tray with various types of cookies for customers to eat... not even cut-up samples, these were full-sized cookies. In the past, I would have made a bee-line to that tray and grabbed a couple immediately. Now, these weren't delicious cookies, by any means. They were the cheap, buy-by-the-pound kind. No matter, I'd have slunk by that tray with my hand out at least two more times while in the store and again on the way out.

Isn't that weird? To eat cookies, and so many of them, that don't even taste very good. Why? Because I am an addict. Because I have an illness. I don't want to accept this fact about myself. But it is the truth. In OA, the teaching is that compulsive overeating and binging are symptoms of a progressive illness. Yes, in my case, it has been progressive. In my college years I was more discriminating about what I ate and didn't binge as frequently. Yet, even then, I would bake a batch of cookies and eat them all in two days.

Today at the grocery store, I was almost repulsed by the tray of cookies. I did not want them at all... was not tempted in the least.

That's the beauty of abstinence. It works. The longer I am abstinent, the less I want any of the things on my list.

We have a super fabulous bakery in our little town. I don't go there very often any more. But we're having house guests for 5 days and I wanted to buy some good bread for breakfast toast. This bakery does three things exceedingly well: bread, pizza and pastries. Before abstinence, I used to buy bread there regularly and always had a treat as well... a tart, a mini-cheesecake, a cookie or a pecan cinnamon roll. Today, I barely glanced at the pastry case. Only one thing called... chocolate brownies... but only softly and only for a moment. I quit looking at them and the faint urge departed completely.

Yay! This is what I call sanity. Abstinence works for me and it's not very difficult. What is still difficult is portion control on the foods I do eat. But that will be the subject of another post.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Notes on a Road Trip

haven't driven solo
across the country
for a long, long time
not since my thirties

used to make it from
Seattle to St. Paul (MN)
in three days
driving 12 or more
hours each day
and sleeping my car
singing to keep awake
eating pre-made
peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches
kept in a shoebox
free-spirited fun

next Monday I'll be 68

next Wednesday
I'm leaving the island
headed east
to see Mom and family
in St. Paul
not flying as I've done
the past few decades
driving this time
there and back

time to think
about my marriage
about my seniorhood
about nothing and everything
time to see what I'm made of
time to find the me in me
maybe I'll sing
Bob Dylan and me
singing our hearts out

not so rushed
like in my thirties
not sleeping in my car
a cooler
not a shoebox
a cell phone

taking the freeway
fastest way
probably 4 days
but OK if it's 5

homeward bound
I plan to dawdle
taking the northern route
blue highways all the way
two lanes and slow
stop to look
at anything interesting
stop to stretch
stop to breathe
stop to smell
stop to photograph
no hurry at all
feeling my feelings
being me

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Words of Optimism

For the past few months, I've been following the blog of an amazing young man, Matt, who walked across the entire USA from coast to coast. His blog is I'm Just Walkin'.

On August 25th (day 152), he completed his long walk and posted a picture of the celebratory cake given to him by the Rockaway Beach, OR Chamber of Commerce. I wish he would turn around and head right back to the east coast, walking a different route (or even the same). I don't want it to end. Ever. Period.

His pictures have heart, the heart of a nation and a people. His pictures give heart and optimism. My appreciation, respect and admiration for Matt is boundless.

Today, I am reflecting upon his initial thoughts regarding his journey... Here they are:

I’ll need months of contemplation and reflection before I can fully and coherently discuss everything I’ve learned on this walk, but I think the two most obvious lessons are these:

1) Have some faith in this world. Things aren’t as bad as they tell us. We may all have different political opinions and different religious beliefs and different cultural norms (I’m a liberal atheist Jew. Did you know that? Does it matter?), and many of us probably couldn’t stand to be around each other on a regular basis, but most of us would, as it turns out, extend a helping hand to a stranger in need. I walked 3100 miles across this country and didn’t encounter a single person who tried to hurt me, or steal from me, or damage my possessions. Maybe this isn’t a place that needs to be feared. Maybe it’s a place that needs to be explored, and appreciated, and celebrated.

2) There’s beauty everywhere. Keep your eyes open, and keep your mind open, and you’ll be amazed what’s out there, right under your nose, just waiting to be discovered. You don’t need to go to the Best This or the Most Spectacular That; just take a stroll around the neighborhood. I blindly followed directions from Google on my walk, making no effort to see anything special, and look at everything I found that I thought needed to be shared with the world!

Matt, you make me happy! Your words of optimism are just what I needed to hear while preparing for my road trip (by car) across half the country and back! May I too take those few extra moments or hours (or even days) to explore and savor the land, the things nature and people put on the land and the people along the way.

Couldn't Get to Sleep Last Night

couldn't sleep last night
mind chatter
obsessive thinking

about our marriage counseling session
earlier during the day

about Dad's birthday the next day
on 9-11
double sadness for me
missing Dad
missing trust

about my long to-do list
seems long when its in my mind
about my next art project
about the sweater I want to knit

about how it's chilly
and my feet are freezing
about why I make the choice
to stay in bed
rather than get up
to fetch an extra blanket

about my solo road trip
leaving in just over a week
and all the route possibilities
about my stamina for driving
3,600 miles
that's round trip

about my husband and me
about how we want each other
to be like we were when we met
about how difficult it is
to accept the changes
that inevitably come
with aging
about how much better
our life together might be
if we could respect
who we are right now
about how we could do that
about if we could do that
about continuing changes
it's not going to get easier
is it

about respect and love
about forgiveness
about giving and growing

about how maybe I should
get up and read for a while
about how it's now 6 am
and I still haven't slept
about how the day will go
with so little sleep
about all these things again
and again

and then it's 7 am
about how I'm still cold
even though I finally
did get a second blanket
about how it's almost time
to get up
and go to my OA meeting

how could I forget
the two best tools I have

a mindful practice
noting the working
of my mind
not what it was thinking
not how it was thinking
just that it is thinking

and the other is
god, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference

tonight, god,
I place my busy mind
in your hands

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Island Where I Live... Pictures

as summer passes
bark of our madrona trees
cracks and peels
revealing new bark
lime green under rusty orange
hearlding fall

little nubs on buck's head
become branches of power
fall... rutting season

one hundred feet
up a trail from our house
is the studio
where we play with our art
and house our guests

our little house
more like a cabin
small, rustic, quaint
chucka-block with our stuff

sometimes I decorate the deck
at Christmas time

couple of snowstorms each winter
not bad usually
sometimes we're held house-captive
for a few days

our cat isn't too sure about snow
each winter it's the same
very tentative at first

our upper deck
off the bedroom
gives a great view
down a sloping hillside
to a grove of fir trees

my husband loves old rusty things
they are sculptures on our property
here's an old fire hose
the morning after a big snow

colorful Madrona trees
make bright orange berries
food for many birds

sometimes from a small airplane
the whole island looks orange

lots of exciting storms
in the early spring
yeah, lots of rain too

moss and wildflowers
grace the land every spring
these are shooting stars

and these are meadow camas

I love these
dainty little twin flowers
woodland fairies

twin fawns too...
we get a set of these
nearly every spring
we watch them from
our kitchen window

no gardening for us
we don't want fences
and these hungry pups
will eat anything

several alpaca farms on the island

early sign of summer
ocean spray everywhere
along our roads

house wrens
sometimes raise two families

our cat surveys
her world
from our deck railing
a favorite perch

wishful thinking
but more than that
we had to stop feeding the hummers
because she's so fast

can't beleive I took this picture
right off the west side of our island
where three pods of Orcas
make daily fish runs
all summer long

gleaming glacier across the channel
as we round a bend on the road
Mt. Baker!

ferry to and from the mainland
our nautical highways
four or five round trips per day
depending on the season

thanks for encouraging me
it seemed such a difficult task
to round up pictures from
many different files
and make some sense out of them
but now I'm happy

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Island Where I Live...

the island where I live
26 miles tip to stern
mostly rural
one small town
and one little village
community theatre
medical clinic
one OA meeting a week
no stop lights
no rivers
no trains
no squirrels
no chain stores
no chain restaurants
hills and valleys
small farms
madrona trees
diverse beaches
diverse habitat
diverse wildlife and birds
diverse population
ferry to mainland 1-3 hours
time to knit
time to breathe

my first visit in 1971
move in 1998
comfortable here
sense of community
quiet on our property
5 acres
middle of the island
on a ridge
500 feet above sea level
where snow can stick
for several days
moss and wildflowers
madrona and fir
deer and birds
no town water
no well
we collect rainwater
from our roofs
as trees fall or die
we burn them
for heat
not like mountain men
or pioneers
yet not like city folk

my food addictions
followed me here
not quite as easy
to get a fix
drive 6 miles to town
yet they kept their grip on me
in my new beginnings
as a partner, then wife
making me crazy
despite the peace and beauty
of the island

in my process of change
and recovery
the island is my rock

on a hectic mainland
museum and shopping trip
with two best friends
the chocolate
and pies
called louder than usual
tugging against
the force of the rock

the island won
today I am home again
peaceful and safe

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What's In My Car?

what's in my car?
hiding place

safe place to eat
a whole cheesecake
a Dove bar
a box of cookies

nobody will know
if I eat in my car
holding it below the windows
watchful for people I know

mindless binging
eating in my car
sometimes a daily habit
for decades

but only once
in the past 138 days
the fresh bakery bread
two days ago

a friend notices
the red flag
eating in my car
and calls me on it

she suggests
I wonder if car eating
is something you should think
about not doing

she's right
it's on my abstinence list
no more crumbs to clean
before they're noticed

my car and I
will form a new relationship
long solo road-trip ahead
a place to feel my feelings

no more hiding
no more secrecy issues
freedom and sanity
are my rewards

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who Are Our REAL Friends?

Funny thing happened at our County Fair a couple of weeks ago. A friend and I were walking through the main building past the exhibitions of baking and canning where they always put out samples of the baked goods. I'm a sucker for samples... Unless I'm really being conscious, I put out my hand without even thinking.

And that's sort of what happened. I noticed a tray of cookie bits and another tray of small slices from the cakes. Nope, uh-uh... those are binge foods. Oh, but loooookie here... a tray of breads! Several chunks of white bread and here's a very dark-looking bread, maybe pumpernickel or Russian rye? Breads are not on my binge list, so conveniently overlooking my food plan which does not include any eating between meals, my hand went out and snagged that dark bread.

"But wait!" cautioned my friend, who knows about my OA commitments and sometimes reads this blog, "You don't want to eat that!"

Oh yeah? Them there're fightin' words... The fast-acting, non-thinking rebel in me had that bite in my mouth before she finished her thought. Munch, munch.... Uh-oh... this isn't pumpernickel or rye... this is sweet bread, raisin-zucchini maybe. That would be in the pastry department, wouldn't it? Yep, on my binge list. Oh sh**t! Too late to spit it out... down the hatch already.

I didn't say anything about it to my friend; nor did she mention it again. But I thought about it a lot... thought about the rebel in me and about how she gets me in trouble... about how I might want to look at that and do some 4th step work around my rebellious nature.

A week later at our OA meeting, I told this sad tale. When it was his turn to speak, one of the other members talked about his past habits of unconscious eating and rebellious eating. Then he said something very important. He said, referring to my friend, "Those are our REAL friends... the ones who ask us 'Do you really want to eat that?' The kind of friends who say, 'Oh come on, you can have a little taste' or 'just this once won't hurt you' are the ones we don't need around us." Right on, bro!

So, if my REAL friend is reading this post, I thank you kindly for your support and encourage you to nudge me any time you see me faltering. The rebel may win, but your words will stay with me and help me to win the next time.