Wednesday, June 25, 2008


My father passed away earlier this morning. Eighty five years old. Suffering with dementia for the past couple years. Living in a nursing home where his dedicated wife visited him every morning.
In 1943, two months after graduating from the UofM with a BA in Mechanical Engineering, Dad left for his midshipman training at The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Within a month of completion, he married my mother and both left for Penn State Univ. for Diesel training, then Solomons, MD, for amphibious training. He hitched a ride via submarine to Texas where Mom met him. Shortly after, his LCI(L) landing craft launched from Galveston for the Pacific where Dad served as the engineering officer for three years in WWII. After his tour of duty, Dad and Mom lived in Annapolis where I was born. Dad worked at the USN Engineering Experimental Station until his mother took ill in 1950. Pregnant with my sister, the family returned home to Minnesota. Honeywell, Inc. hired Dad in their aeronautical division where he worked on fuel management systems used on the KC-135 jet tanker and helped to adapt the gyroscope for guidance systems in aircraft. His last proposal before retirement as a project engineer was for ring laser gyro guidance systems in air and space craft.

Dad and Mom raised three healthy, happy "meat-heads" and a series of dogs. They attended PTA. Every year Dad brought a strobe light from work to make the Haunted House at the grade school carnival a great success. He swam with us in the summer time at Little Boy Lake and built us a raft for diving. Swimming remained a favorite of his as he still competed in a senior division just a few years ago. Dad enjoyed hunting and fishing. Once he took me with him to "catch the big one". And there it was looking up at Dad after following the bait up to the boat. An instant later, it was out of sight. Awesome.
He and Mom square danced at the summertime neighborhood block parties. He loved music and could whistle many big band tunes. Perry Como, Andy Williams, and later Yanni were favorites. He didn't play a musical instrument himself but encouraged each of us to learn to play. He cleared the snow off our ice skating pond and tested the ice each season. The first time I ever cooked supper was with Dad when Mom was in the hospital. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The sandwiches burned, the soup boiled over but Dad made it all OK.
Family vacations always brought us further out of the city. Itasca, Black Hills, Yellowstone, Glacier, Badlands, North Shore, International Falls, and camping with friends. Camping at Devil's Hole is the vacation I'll never forget and never repeat. A couple of his hobbies lasted all his life...birdwatching and model airplanes. Dad loved birds. He attracted pheasants, chickadees, red headed woodpeckers, purple finches, bluebirds and an occasional black bear!
He guided, he counseled, he encouraged, he loved. I miss him.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quit It Now - Cold Turkey

It's not neat. It's not pretty. But, oh so effective.

When choosing to change an addictive behavior, "cold turkey" is a most effective method to accomplish the STOP step of victory. That's where I am today. The MAINTAIN step in victory will be a later post.

Tuesday morning I woke up with "the stomach virus that's going around". Felt like death to me. Both ends exploded leaving me dehydrated and too weak to do anything but nap for two days straight. Five hours passed before a tiny ice chip no longer brought on nausea. My skin was flushed and hot, my pulse rate and blood pressure high. The headache, the gut pain, even my rib cage was too sore to touch. After twelve hours a cooling, lukewarm bath eased some of the discomfort. Never thought Gatorade would be my drink of choice. Did you know that if grape Gatorade, which is not purple but blue, is all that you are ingesting, your poop, what little there is, is bright green? Anyway, the point is the STOP step of victory over an addiction.

The addiction I am trying to quit on the Quit It Now Challenge (see picture link) is comfort eating in the evening. Well, what better way to lose the urge to comfort eat than a bout of vomiting with diarrhea? Takes that whole appetite thing right away. As an added plus to the situation I couldn't have my morning comfort of hot coffee either...the incredible headache with no pain meds in sight. Going cold turkey on two addictions at once, definitely not something I chose for myself. And yet, I did, after the fact.

That was Tuesday morning. It is now Saturday evening. The BRAT diet (bananas-rice-applesauce-toast) is over. The bod is back to normal. No, better than the old caffeine and no evening comfort eating. Thankfully The Creator's surgical tools are sharp and precise. The addictectomy was a brilliant success! Patient is feeling great, feeling free, feeling blessed and very grateful.

LESSON: When you pray, both the process and the answer may be different than you expect.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flooding in Iowa

An old friend of mine lives in Iowa. She contacted me with information about what's happening there. How quickly clean drinking water can disappear even when there's plenty of water around. This quote is part of an article published today by Associated Press Writers on yahoo news:

Iowa's worst damage so far was in Cedar Rapids, a city of more than 120,000. The Cedar River crested there Friday night at nearly 32 feet, 12 feet higher than the old record set in 1929. The river had dropped more than 3 feet by Saturday afternoon.
Murky, petroleum- and garbage-choked water inundated three collection wells and threatened the fourth before several hundred volunteers staged a last-ditch sandbagging operation.
Water lapped to within 3 feet of the improvised, 4-foot-high wall surrounding the brick pumping station before it began to recede. Two portable generators, one as big as a semitrailer, roared around the clock to keep the three pumps inside running.
"It's the little engine that could," said Ron Holtzman, one of several people who came to watch the operation Saturday from a nearby foot bridge.
Residents not forced to leave their homes took the warnings to conserve seriously.
Kathy Wickham, 65, was collecting water from the dehumidifier in her basement and has been bathing from the 6-inch-deep enamel washbasin she used as a child on the farm.
"I grew up without any running water, so I'm going back to my childhood," she said.
Raejean White posted bright yellow signs at all six entrances to the Preston Terrace Condominiums that read: "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."
In Catherine Holt's household, there are nine children ranging in age from 2 to 17 — including four teenage girls. She said they're making do with baby wipes and water stored earlier in the week in milk jugs and soda bottles.
"So what if it stinks?" said Holt, who closed off one of the family's two bathrooms and forbade the children from using any faucets. "This is so minor compared to what other people are going through."

Additional comment: check for information on the business of drinking water at No Impact Man.


Chile, I need a do over.

For the past ten days my performance in your Quit Now Challenge, quitting an addiction for the month of June, has been weak and pathetic. Oh, I have plenty of excuses - really good ones. In fact my excuses are so good that I had to ask myself where addictions come from.

What makes an addiction? A donut isn't an addiction. A television isn't an addiction. A beer isn't an addiction. These items are inanimate and insignificant. So what turns them into powerful addictions? My answer? Repeatedly choosing the same behavior until that behavior becomes habitual. That habit becomes automatic. That automatic, thoughtless behavior becomes a life style in which free choice is surrendered and the life is taken over. Can addiction be reversed once the addict yields to an automatic, thoughtless life style?

The new path to freedom and independence from the trail of addiction requires stopping, turning, and starting again. But, how can the addict make new decisions if the ability to choose is gone? I believe there is one choice no one can give up. That cannot be taken away. The choice to choose.

The theme of this blog, Choosing to Change, began with a desire to change my established suburban-type life style to an Earth friendly, eco-conscious, crunchy* life style. My husband and I expanded our vegetable garden, started educating ourselves about the environment, bought energy efficient light bulbs. But now I'm up against my addictions, my thoughtless behavior. Now I need to stop, turn, and start again. I choose to change.

*According to the Urban Dictionary, crunchy is an "adjective used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc."

LESSON: Choosing to change begins at the very heart of who you are.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Golden Showers Garden Party

This new challenge is right up my alley. They call me The Pee Queen at work - I deal with pee all day long (along with other bodily fluids). We humans live off the land we ought to give back to it. Normal, healthy urine is sterile. It contains the waste products of your body's metabolism. Should be a natural fertilizer. Join in the challenge. If you don't have a vegetable garden, use your diluted urine as fertilizer for your flowers, grass, shrubs, whatever. We're going to use some collected rain water to dilute - 10 parts water to 1 part urine.
See info on the Golden Showers Garden Party.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Water rights

Both of them loved their walks through the area forests. This particular trail was new to them. He fashioned dead branches into walking sticks while she photographed the wild flowers. When they came to a pond, she said, "Let's jump in." He replied, "The water might be cold. We don't have any towels. I'll look for an OK To Swim sign." She jumped in. Still looking for the sign, he heard her cry, "Help! I can't swim." As he reached out to her with a walking stick, she managed to move in toward him. They learned the rescue process together from opposite ends of the stick.

Within the past few months Nestle Corporation proposed to my town and the neighboring town a purchase of the water rights for the reservoir and underground aquifer that supplies many residential wells including mine. After much legal talk and several town meetings the proposal was denied. A Nestle spokesperson, assuring all that their operations would only take water we wouldn't need, let us know they intend to continue their courting for the water rights. I object. But not because I'm afraid of running out of clean drinking water (which is a possibility for all of us). Not because I begrudge others getting the water they need. But because Nestle would profit from selling it. I'd rather give it away.

Additional comment: check for information on water rights at No Impact Man.

Amid all the talk of climate change and peak oil, going green and eating local, we often overlook water. We cannot live without it. Today with 90' humid weather, person after person is arriving at our emergency room feeling weak, dehydrated, passing out, etc. This is after one day of tropical heat - not months or years of water table change or decline in water quality. One day of inadequate water effects the body chemistry. Throw in an pandemic of some kind with insufficient clean water and no one will care about the price of gasoline.

"Gramma, why are those buckets of water in the bathroom?"
"Just a minute and I'll show you."
I walked into the bathroom, closed the door, peed, then called my five-year-old grandson in for a demonstration. He was too curious not to come in.

"These are buckets of water from my bath last night or from Grampa's shower this morning. We save the water so we can use it to flush the toilet."
We proceeded to pour and watch the toilet flush.
"That way we can use the water twice before it goes down the drain."
He studied the bucket then studied the toilet then ran out of the room.

Down the hall he was telling his mother, "Mom, you can save our bath water before it goes down the drain and put it in buckets and dump it in the toilet and it will flush and we can use our water two times!"

I know this isn't great, ...but it's great. Our tiny effort to make ourselves and others more aware of their water useage actually impressed someone, even if he is only five years old.
Of course the best moment was when his mother asked me, "So how do you pour the water to make the toilet flush?"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

5, 4 ...

The time is here for a little update on the overall change progress. OK, the only thing left to plant is bee balm seedlings and perhaps more leaf lettuce and greens. Tomatoes need to be staked with longer stakes, peas need to be tied up. Potatoes need to be mulched. Boy, guess this weekend is going to be busy.

Harvested parsley and chives for eating fresh. Drying dill, cilantro, mint. Oh, I canned 7 quarts and three pints of wild blueberry sauce using berries from my freezer, making room for something new.

At a flea market several weeks ago we met a couple selling local honey. This week we purchased 60 pounds of their honey. It is sooooooooo luxurious. Just a living, flowing gold. Our favorite bread recipe contains honey.

All my extra tomato plants have new homes. The first plant I tried to give away was rejected! Probably my babbling about non-hybrid, heirloom varieties and seed-saving made the baby tomato plant too much work. So I backed off on the details and gave a total of 21 away - not counting the three that sacrificed their lives so I could harvest their soil.

Education is coming along the lines of saying "no" to comfort eating. Learning what an addiction is, how to stop, and turn around. It's hands on, or rather hands off, learning. A big thank you to the Quit It Today Challenge by Chile Chews at .

Monday, June 2, 2008

Day Two: Quitting It Today

DAY ONE: At 7:15pm I ran to the freezer and grabbed ice cream. I only had fifteen minutes to eat as much ice cream as I could hold. Cookies 'n Cream not my favorite flavor but better than no ice cream. I finished eating at about 7:40...passed my 7:30 deadline!! I chose 7:30pm as my cut off time for food, all food, each day because I arrive home from work around 7pm. Except for my coffee, breakfast is usually a healthy meal. For lunch I'll eat something at the hospital cafeteria or brown bag* it. (*Currently standing in for the brown bag is a lovely zipper topped reusable lunch bag.) My eating addiction occurs after work when comfort eating takes over.

DAY TWO: Not bad. I had the day off work today. Started the day with homemade whole grain toast with peanut butter and black raspberry jam, orange juice, and coffee. Lunch included a bean burrito, alfalfa sprouts, Bing cherries, and cheese. Then 6:30pm came. A bowl of popcorn and done by 7:30pm. YES! Of course it's only 9pm now and I have stuff to do before going to bed. Then back to work tomorrow...the stress routine... we'll see tomorrow how it goes. Bon Appetit.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Starting from SCRATCH

By eight thirty this morning the tiller, rakes, small garden tools, gloves, fertilizer, seeds, and tomato plants crowded the back of the van. Our limited experience with gardening drove off for number two daughter's place in New Hampshire. They wanted to start a garden and we wanted to encourage them. Earlier this spring David read an article in Countryside Magazine about one gardener's Mantis tiller. Impressed with his praise and the price, we bought one. The writer was absolutely right. This tiny tiller can even pull rock!! David tilled, Janis raked rocks out of the tilled bed, the little girls and I loaded the stones into a wagon, pulled them to the designated spot and... Ready... Set... Dump.

"Well, Janis, guess you have new respect for farmers."
"I have great respect for farmers. That's why I go to the grocery store."

The tomato plants ended up in a different part of the yard but the soil, no, dirt, no, ground was water repellent! When I dug a hole, a little hand with a toy watering can filled it up. That hole held water like a pail! We waited and waited but nothing. Finally four tomato plants were sacrificed so their potting soil could be harvested and dumped into the three pails, I mean holes, where we planted the three sturdiest looking tomatoes. We'll see what happens.

Oh, by the way, we forgot our gardening hats. Don't ever forget your gardening hat. For twenty minutes I had two little girls on my lap arguing over who should hold the ice pack on Nana's left eye. The black flies preferred my left eye only. Don't ask me why.

LESSON: I'm sure there's a lesson here somewhere but my bath water is ready and I really, really need it now, right now.