Thursday, April 30, 2009

Onion Fingerprints

I think that I just altered my fingerprint. I know that in movies, sometimes the bad guys wear off their fingerprints with sandpaper or something rough like that. I did not do that, I haven’t done anything illegal that would cause me to want to inflict that upon myself. I have a better way. As some of you know, I try to be spontaneous (sometimes in a planned way, sometimes off the top of my head). I like to keep the world wondering what is coming next. Well, today, it was that I altered my fingerprints-maybe. I haven’t taken a good look yet, it makes me a little queasy.

I altered my fingerprints by cutting onions, with a serrated knife. I was right next to the sink, so when I felt the knife slice through my fingerprint, I immediately put pressure on it and went over to the sink and doused my left ring finger in running water and dish soap. It didn’t really hurt yet because I was pretty much in shock. I didn’t look at the blood. I didn’t want to know, it always makes me a bit woozy when I see my own blood, even if there is no pain involved. So, I got my mortal wound cleaned and grabbed a paper towel to put pressure on it without looking for a few minutes. I kept it covered and pressured while I dug out the antibiotic ointment and a band aid. I put the ointment on a q-tip and watched it turn red as I smeared it on my fingerprint. I quick put the band aid over it so the blood wouldn’t escape out from under the ointment and really look like blood.

It still doesn’t really hurt that much. And I think the bleeding stopped. And I really don’t know if my fingerprint will change or not. Maybe I’m just a drama queen. I wonder if I now qualify as a genetically modified onion, since I'm sure that the knife worked some onion cells into my system.

I’m worried about my cat, Cindy Lou. She is losing muscle mass and is having trouble jumping up on furniture. Her thyroid medicine doesn’t seem to be helping. She doesn’t seem to be in pain. She snuggles and purrs just like always, but I worry about her.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Green Tooth Finds a Home

Saturday, my young friend, Eva Rose, brought me joy and her cabbage plant. It’s still her plant-her responsibility for a contest at school to grow the biggest and best cabbage. I let her choose any spot in the garden and she chose the middle long bed, front and center. She dug the hole herself, we put a bit of worm poo and water into the hole, she carefully lifted the plant by its sturdy stem and placed it into the hole, lovingly backfilling with the dirt she’d just removed. We gave it another shot of water and sprinkled crushed eggshells all the way around to protect it from slugs. While she decorated the stake and named her cabbage “Eva’s Green Tooth”, I sprinkled carot seeds nearby. She decorated that stake as well, writing carefully “Carrot 4-18-09” and drawing a pictures of carrots on it.

She wanted to plant something else. So we planted turnips. She wanted to plant something else and something else. Before we knew it, we had sprinkled seeds and labeled carrots, turnips, Brussels sprouts. Kohlrabi, mustard greens, Asian greens and all of the middle long bed was full of seeds and wide wooden stakes and a cabbage plant protected by eggshells and a tomato cage so running dogs and slugs don’t mess with it. And Eva sprinkled wildflower seeds under one of the maple trees.

Sunday morning before church I went out to look. No slug marks and I swear the cabbage is so happy that it has already grown some! (Maybe as the proud foster mom I just think it has.) And then it rained and I think it rained just for those precious seeds and happy cabbage, but that may simply be my self centered illusion.

I told Eva that when she watches the news and the weather person is talking about rain or snow as if they are bad things that she should not believe them because her cabbage and all these other new lives need that rain and snow in order to grow and so do we. (Why DO they dis rain anyway?)

Playing again in the dirt really helps me to stay centered and calm in a world that seems to constantly be trying to throw me (and everyone else) off balance.

Writing and thinking about all of this, my heart is filled with gratitude and love of my afternoon with Eva Rose. It also reminds me of all of the days I worked side by side with my mom and her friend, Mrs. Turner, in our big garden on Baldwin Road. It makes me miss mom and miss being a mom and miss Little Bit, knowing that she’ll miss digging up the carrots I just planted.

So, I guess that mostly right now I have a jumble of feelings mixing up like a beautiful tie dye tapestry in my heart: joypainlovesadnessaweanxietyhopeanticipationexcitementgriefgratitudepeacefulnesscentered.

P.S. I wrote that at work last night. It rained all night, so I went out to visit the cabbage. It seems to be happy in the rain. Also, some of the seeds I planted inside the other day are sprouting!! Also, see picture of kale planted one month and two days ago: (pretty twisted, I’m like a new parent showing pictures of my child’s first trip to Disney or something.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Oh, and another thing… for those of you who are convinced that I have a screw loose: your convictions have been validated by the car dealership. I’m fixed now. My brains have stopped rattling every time I hit a bump.

Spring Comes Again and Again and Yet Again

I planted some seeds indoors yesterday-mild banana peppers, eggplant, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary. Some of the seeds were off the shelf this year, and some were dug out of my stash from past years. I’m not sure if they’ll grow at all, but I’ll soon know. (I also sprinkled a few lettuce and spinach seeds in a pot.) I still have more to plant-tomatoes (I’m going to try not to go so crazy with them this year), bell peppers, cucumbers, melons, squash (those 3 won’t be for a few weeks yet). I need to get out to the garden beds yet and get seeds for my cole crops (broccoli, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi) in the ground before things heat up too much. There are some root crops begging to be planted as well: carrots, beets, parsnips (I recently discovered that I really like parsnips-yummy roasted!), turnips and radishes for Deb.

If I get off my butt and do the successive plantings that I have planned, we’ll have way more than we need-but it will be fun to watch it grow! I’ll need to do successive batches of canning as well, instead of just waiting until September when there is a bumper crop of tomatoes. I’ll have to do early beets, pickled veggies in a gardeneria-type of concoction, and clean, blanch and freeze kale, broccoli and maybe cauliflower (I think I forgot to get seed for that).

Amidst all of this seed planting and spring bulbs singing a chorus of colors, I am also acutely aware of the cycle of life not simply being the joy of birth and growth, but also the sad harvest of age, sickness and eventually death. In all of this talk of planting, I am acutely aware that I don’t have to plant extra carrots and tomatoes this year because my beloved thieving Little Bit won’t be here to take first pick of the best of everything right out of the dirt or off of the plant. I am anxious as I see people close to me battling health issues and I am unable to stop the cycle of illness.

And yet, with sick loved ones, and others aging rapidly or in need or in pain, I still find joy in the cycles of life. Spring once again reminds me that not all is dark, not all is illness or pain. We go on, and after us-the daffodils will keep renewing their lives each spring-after the cold and despair and seeming death of winter. Still, there is life. Still, there will be life, even after I am gone and even after humans are gone there will still be flowers and tomatoes (or some evolutionarily related tomato like species) and carrots and slugs to eat the pepper plants (ditto with the evolutionarily related statement on all of these living nouns). Still, there will be births, renewal, lives and deaths throughout time-throughout the life of this amazing planet that we call home.

Today, I am grateful for all the beauty that surrounds me in the spring riot of growth. I am grateful for the love that surrounds me in the arms, eyes, hearts and words for those who choose to share my life and who I also choose to share mine. I am grateful for the sacredness that surrounds me in the plants, the four-leggeds, the stones, the stars, the two-leggeds and the tiny seed sprouting in trays in my entryway. I am grateful for the cycle of life, for I am constantly reminded that this too will end and this too will begin again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More on More Healthcare

A friend of mine who is a doctor who is working very hard with a group called Physicians for a National Health Program sent me this information on the universal healthcare information that I wrote about before. Doctors from all over the country are working very hard to encourage the administration to consider an effective healthcare policy that would serve all Americans. The information that she sent me is this:

Health Policy Q & A with PNHP Co-founders Drs. David
Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler

Should PNHP support a public Medicare-like option in a market of private

PNHP should tell the truth: The "public plan option" won't work to fix the health care system for
two reasons:
1. It foregoes at least 84% of the administrative savings available through single payer. The public
plan option would do nothing to streamline the administrative tasks (and costs) of hospitals,
physicians offices, and nursing homes. They would still contend with multiple payers, and hence still
need the complex cost tracking and billing apparatus that drives administrative costs. These
unnecessary provider administrative costs account for the vast majority of bureaucratic waste.
Hence, even if 95% of Americans who are currently privately insured were to join a public plan (and
it had overhead costs at current Medicare levels), the savings on insurance overhead would amount
to only 16% of the roughly $400 billion annually achievable through single payer.
2. A quarter century of experience with public/private competition in the Medicare program
demonstrates that the private plans will not allow a level playing field. Despite strict regulation,
private insurers have successfully cherry picked healthier seniors, and have exploited regional health
spending differences to their advantage. They have progressively undermined the public plan –
which started as the single payer for seniors and has now become a funding mechanism for HMOs,
and a place for them to dump the unprofitably ill. A public plan option does not lead toward single
payer, but toward the segregation of patients; with profitable ones in private plans and unprofitable
ones in the public plan.
Would a public plan option stabilize the health care system, or even be a major
step forward?

The evidence is strong that such reform would have at best a modest and temporary positive impact
– a view that is widely shared within PNHP. Indeed, we remain concerned that a public plan option
as an element of reform might well be shaped in a manner to effectively subsidize private insurers by
requiring patients to purchase coverage while relieving private insurance of the highest risk
individuals, stabilizing private insurers for some time and reinforcing their control of the health care
Given the above, is it advisable to spend significant effort advocating for
inclusion of such reform?

No, for two reasons:
1. We are doctors, not politicians. We are obligated to tell the truth, and must answer for the
veracity of our stance to our patients and colleagues over many years. Ours is a very different time
horizon and set of responsibilities than politicians'. Falling in line with a consensus that attempts to
mislead the public may gain us a seat at the debate table, but abdicates our ethical obligations.
2. The best way to gain a half a pie is to demand the whole thing.
Is fundamental reform possible?
We remain optimistic that real reform is quite possible, but only if we and our many allies continue
to insist on it.

As a lay person (not a doctor, not an economist, not a social worker, case worker, nurse, insurance underwriter or any other person of experience except patient and consumer of medical services), I obviously don't know how all of the issues play into one another, and I have absolutely no idea how to navigate the healthcare maze of billing, treatment, referrals, etc., and I don't really understand the interplay and differences between Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.

I will say that this information gave me something to really think about in terms of whether or not to support the idea of accepting a step on the way to universal healthcare, or to hold out for the best possible scenario. Here is the response that I sent to my friend:

Thanks for this information. I guess I'm one of the majority who has been hoping that this would be just one step on the way to true universal healthcare. I understand the logic of not settling for less than what would fully address the true need out there, and that in the long run it would cost less to only reorganize once. My thoughts also, however, go toward the knowledge that many taxpayers are skittish about universal healthcare. They don't seem to understand that their tax dollars wouldn't just be paying for the healthcare of the masses, but of their own as well. Some I talk to are already convinced that universal healthcare (or socialized medicine as they term it) will be inferior to what we already have. They are afraid of long waits, untrained staff and refusals of needed treatments and medications. How do we assure people that there will be safeguards against their fears coming true? It amazes me how many people I know who feel this way. I don't get it. Thanks again, I'll post the information you sent me on my blog, to help get the word out and to let people see multiple sides of this vital issue.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Greater Good or THE Greater Good: A false choice

When I was diagnosed with cancer one year and ten months ago, my first thought was not what you would expect. My first thought was not "I'm going to die", nor was it "I'm scared". My first thought was "I'll never be able to leave my job because I'll never be able to get health insurance again". I had been planning on going to seminary within the next few years in order to help people heal themselves and to teach people how to help one another make this a better world. Because of my cancer and the improbablity of being able to get health insurance again, I am having to decide between my personal well being and making a wider difference in the world. There are other considerations as well, but health insurance should not be one of them.

Money is just money. Protecting one's health and the health of those we love is worth more than any gold standard green paper. So please support universal healthcare. In the long run it is a wise investment that will benefit everyone.

-that is a paraphrase of my personal comment that I made when I signed a petition to try to get our legislatures to support a healthcare bill that will go a long way toward getting Americans the healthcare they need.

If you are interested in raising your voice in support of this issue, or of finding out more, you can visit this link:

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Child Remembered

Every time a child dies, grief of the parents and even the grief of strangers leads us to ask: Why is such a young life wasted when they held so much possibility for the future? The death of a child causes people of faith to question the fairness of their god and it causes people of science to scramble for solutions to prevent this type of death in the future. The death of a child feels so senseless and painful.

I recently read an article about a little girl who died around the age of three. She died near the water, covered with pebbles and sand swiftly upon touching bottom. No person of science has scrambled to prevent any future such deaths. Likely, no person of faith raged at their god for the loss of this girl child still donning her mild teeth. Instead, scientists are marveling at her tiny fingers and teeth and, perhaps, a person of faith may question the origin story that they have always unquestioningly accepted- that of Adam and Eve 4300 years ago in the Garden of Eden. This little girl died around the age of three, and it took 3.3 million years for anyone to find her. She is known as the Dikika baby and I read about her online in a National Geographic article assigned by my anthropology professor. (To read the article yourself, go to: .)

As I read the article, I was fascinated and excited that such a fossil skeleton was found in such amazing condition, a very rare find and rarer still for being the fossilized bones of a child to be preserved so perfectly. Soft child bones usually decay before the minerals can be replaced by the surrounding minerals of the land and water around them. In that time, if they didn’t decay, they likely were eaten by predators. Her bones are preserved, encased in limestone as if preserved in the cement foundation of a human made building, delicate and expressive, right down to her tiny curled fingers, now made of stone. She is the same species of our ancestor as Lucy, the adult female partial skeleton that was found when I was a kid, only 3 years older than the estimated age of the Dikika baby.

As I read this article, in my head I was thinking of a sad mama Australopithecus afarensis, perhaps Lucy, or perhaps a relative of Lucy. (Not likely Lucy since she was 100,000 years younger than Dikika, as I call the girl.) I imagine this mama crying out as her not quite weaned daughter drew her last breath. I wondered if she fell into the water and died there. Or, did she fall into the water after death, displaced there due to a strong rain or earthquake rolling her downhill until she landed in the wet limestone-rich sand. Or, did her mama have some private burial ceremony by the edge of the water, digging a hole in the sand with her bare hands and lovingly placing her daughter in her sandy, rocky grave soon to be covered in water with the spring floods and rising waters of melting glaciers, and changing shorelines. (As an experiment, when I die you can bury me in sand near water and dig me up periodically to see how long it takes me to become fossilized into stone. No, really. I’m serious. Or not. Maybe I’ll blog one day about my after life wishes.)

As this vision of the unlikely possibility of the mama burying her dead daughter, I imagined the mama’s grief, her cry of anguish. Perhaps the first human word-like sound meant something like, simply, “why?”. Perhaps with that grief-filled desperation inspired hope that out there somewhere, maybe, possibly, there is “something” that knows the answer. “Something” that might respond.

Did I mention that Dikika baby gave anthropologists an extremely rare sample of a hyoid bone, a bone so soft that rarely does it complete the fossilization process. It is the bone that is necessary for human speech. It is the bone that allows grieving mothers across the globe scream out “WHY?” when their sons are killed by war or their daughters are maimed by assault. Dikika baby possessed the secret of language, the cornerstone upon which today’s human cultures depend. She possessed the secret of words, my words, my thoughts, the secret of my words that you now read.