Losing Growths

Grateful for a quiet day, for groceries, and for seeing this handsome buck in the yard. Looks like he’s dropped some of those awful growths, with only a couple remaining and not bad scars. I’m grateful for losing growths!

Wren’s Fun Day

Miss Mary takes the early shift. I left Wren under the covers before sunrise, and Mary stopped by to let her out not long after it came up… [all photos by babysitters]

So much gratitude today! Grateful for Wren’s babysitters who checked in on her throughout the morning while I spent it traveling and undergoing a Mohs surgery. I’m grateful for neighbor-friends who happily supported me and my little family during an anxious time. I’m grateful to my dear chauffeur who drove me there and back even with her own concerns, and for the meaningful conversations both ways.

I’m grateful to the skilled surgeon who explained everything lucidly and managed to get all the basal cell carcinoma off me in one cut. Even after multiple Mohs procedures on my face and head over the past twenty-plus years, I learned a new piece about the process today. Dr. Weber explained how he marks the tissue so he can follow the cancer’s direction, and furthermore that he is the actual pathologist in the process. I knew he was trained to excise the cancer in layers, and to skillfully repair the wound, but I hadn’t realized that he is also the one who dissects the tissue to see where the cancer margins are. He told me, “If someone says they’re doing Mohs but they’re sending the tissue out to a lab and not examining it themselves, they are not doing Mohs!” I found this really reassuring.

Honey Badger takes second shift…

Around the time Honey Badger came by, I was waiting in the chair in the dark with a garish patch over my eye after the first incision, for Dr. Weber to determine if he needed to remove more. The wait was longer than I expected, two hours, but I was so relieved when he came in and said we were done, and he didn’t even have to stitch the wound. They cleaned and cauterized it, and left my eyelid largely unmarred. I’m grateful he has a sense of humor and we could joke about him including an optional blepharoplasty to lift my droopy lid.

…and even though he can’t persuade Wren to get in his lap, Fred manages the near impossible: to pick up Topaz!

By the third neighborly visit, I was almost out of the office with a few less eyelashes and a simple bandaid. I admit I had a hard time going to sleep last night. I’d done all the right things: meditating, breathing, accepting, allowing, surrendering, and still my heart pounded and my mind wrestled with worst-case scenarios. Then I remembered a suggestion I heard recently to think on the best-case scenario instead of catastrophizing. This skill of being able to choose one thought over another comes with meditation and mindfulness practice, cultivating one’s capacity to choose where to place attention and to hold it there.

And so I finally fell asleep after choosing to visualize all the aspects of a best-case scenario: just one small cut, quick in and out, easy repair, Wren safe and cared for, pleasant companionship on the road, and home in time for lunch. I’m grateful for the wisdom that allowed me to rest in that possibility, and for the success and validation of that thought-choice. I’m grateful, too, for the many well-wishes that came to me via texts, emails, and messages from friends around the neighborhood and across the country. I’m grateful for everything about Wren’s fun day.


I’m grateful for a no-wasp-bite-or-sting day, though one continuously hovered around during Boyz Lunch outside. I’m grateful I had the enchiladas already made and only had to defrost and reheat them, and that I had saved some of the apricot gelato that Honey Badger made with apricots from my tree, and that I found a simple, delicious recipe for peach pound cake. And I’m grateful that I am finally learning all the adaptations necessary for high altitude baking, including the surprising fact that at this altitude of 6800′ above sea level, when a recipe calls for a teaspoon of baking powder, I need only use a quarter teaspoon.

I’m grateful for friends who picked up more wasp spray and fresh Benadryl on their ways to my house, and that even though my hand has been intermittently on fire all day, the Benadryl and creams and ice have given me long spells of relief. And I’m grateful that little Wren is totally back to normal and was snapping at wasps all through lunch, and that after dark I emptied half the new can of wasp spray into four more nests. As I pondered the wasp problem this morning, reluctant to kill more of them, I also considered the Mohs surgeries I’ll be undergoing over the next seven weeks to remove potentially dangerous cancerous spots on my face. It occurred to me that the wasp nests are like tumors in the body of my home, and all I’m doing when I spray them is excising potential (and actual) dangers from the matrix of my life.

A Productive Morning

I’m grateful I had a productive morning, because I lost the afternoon to the aftermath of a wasp attack. It was a grilled cheese kind of a day: chilly and grey outside, and cold in the house. Smoked gouda with avocado and garden tomato, yum! It kept getting cooler, so I decided to build a little fire in the freshly-cleaned woodstove. There was no kindling split yet for the season, so we stepped outside to crack a few sticks from a well-dried aspen log set on top of the two stumps I’ve been using as a kindling-cracking pedestal for many years.

Crack! one stick. Crack! two sticks, and a wasp on my wrist cuff, and then another, latched onto the fabric, and suddenly I realized I’d disturbed a nest in one of the stumps and they were streaming out angry and determined. I also noticed poor little Wren running around snapping at her tail end, so I hurried to the other side of the house calling her after me. One stung my right index finger and I pulled out the pumping stinger. I swept my arms gently, not frantically, to keep them away, and they kept following. So we kept hurrying away. By the time I got to the back gate there were only a few left but they were persistent. We went out the gate and I pulled off my sweatshirt and swung it slowly in a circle above my head to keep them at bay, but one had gotten up my loose shirt and bit my belly. I dropped the sweatshirt and we kept hurrying away, Wren spinning to bite her back end and me sweeping my limbs to clear the air.

We walked the whole Breakfast Loop and came around to the front gate, grabbing the can of wasp spray from the back of the Mothership where I’d set it after spraying a nest in the side door the other week. I don’t like to kill them. By and large I let them live as they like, and just avoid areas where they nest, but as I was working on the Mothership and needed access, I had to kill that nest. I didn’t mind that one wasp snuck up my sweater sleeve last week and got my thumb pad when it felt trapped, even though it itched and hurt for days afterward. But I felt inclined toward vengeance after this all-out attack, especially since they hurt Wren.

But first things first. She was still hurting when we got inside, and so was I, so I poured some liquid baby Benadryl into her bowl which she lapped up, and I took the Therapik to my injuries to laser the venom enzymes. Maybe it helped, maybe not. By then my finger had swollen stiff and gone numb, and my whole had was turning red, so I popped a couple Benadryl tablets and squeezed on some cortisone cream. Then I looked out the window and watched where they were entering the stump. I waited until near dark so they’d all return to their nest before spraying the crack. The can quickly emptied, but there seemed enough to do the job, as no wasps flew out.

I’m grateful for Cousin Nurse who suggested a topical anesthetic, which reminded me I have Aspercreme with Lidocaine, so I’ve been slathering that on liberally. Wren calmed down and we both went to sleep for the afternoon. She seems now to have recovered completely, though I have not. I popped another couple Benadryls just now and am trying to type with an ice-pack on my hand which isn’t very effective–kind of like the Benadryl tablets, which are pretty old. Time for lights out, grateful for surviving another day in Paradise.

No Pain

Where’s Wren? In the windowsill watching an early afternoon rain in the mountains…

I’m grateful I woke today with no pain — or at least, so little as to feel like none at all. It’s important to be grateful for the absence of certain things as well as for the presence of others. As Thich Nhat Hanh said:

“When we’re having a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. Yet when we don’t have a toothache, we’re still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice

Having a non-heelache and non-sciatica pain this morning gave me more energy than I’ve had in a long while, to attend to many things in the house and yarden. Then for lunch I got to make a Furikake tomato sandwich, or at least my version of it with avocado on Rouge de Bordeaux bread. It was interesting, and tasty in a sesame-seaweed way, but I probably won’t make it again. So few tomatoes this year, so little time to enjoy a classic tomato sandwich. Sure looked pretty though.

After lunch I got to sort the peach harvest, laying them all out on parchment paper on the counter, less ripe to more ripe, with those that needed immediate processing because of bruising or bird dings in the basket at the far end. I’m grateful for this elegant 2-in-1 harvest and wash basket. I cleaned, peeled and sliced the slightly damaged peaches and froze them in two 2-cup parcels. Then I froze a couple dozen whole peaches on a baking pan for four hours before bagging them. I’m grateful to Suzi for teaching me this method. A few seconds in the microwave or under hot running water makes them easy to peel and then slice and use as needed. I’ll freeze a few more batches whole and sliced; still not sure what I’ll do with the rest of them. Peach jam doesn’t seem to last as well as apricot; maybe I’ll just can them in light syrup, hmmm…

I’m grateful for a full afternoon in the kitchen. After the peaches, I made a pint batch of salsa to use up a few split tomatoes and a jalapeño, then used a couple more tomatoes and peppers in a batch of refried black beans to fill the last spinach tortillas, along with half a dozen eggs scrambled and some grated cheddar. I froze five of them and enjoyed the last for supper when I finally sat down after a full day on my feet. And just in the nick of time, as the heel pain came creeping back.


In the Mindfulness Foundations Course, we include an Evening Review in the daily practice. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a Constant Review, looking at how I’ve behaved, choices I’ve made, habits and patterns that keep repeating despite my best intentions. I’m grateful for Introspection, even when it’s painful. I’m grateful for complex relationships, even when they’re uncomfortable: we can learn from every person, every situation, every relationship and every moment in our days. It can be exhausting. But the we take a break, take a walk, watch a Drag Race, curl up in a little ball, eat a heel of bread with cream cheese and jam, whatever self-soothing works in the moment. And then we return with resilience, and take on the next moment, the next day, the next challenging interaction or condition. I’m grateful for grace, forgiveness, and love from others when I find myself struggling in a mental morass of my own making.

I’m grateful for stretching beyond habits. Today I baked a different kind of sourdough. While it didn’t rise as well as I’d hoped, it still sliced well and tasted delicious. I used a locally milled ‘Rouge de Bordeaux’ flour that I’m grateful was given to me to try, mixed 50/50 with King Arthur organic all-purpose flour. I think the dough was too dry, and maybe I over proofed it. It seemed to collapse in on itself in the first half of baking when it should have steamed and risen. It made a tasty toast. Don’t know yet how it will hold a cheese sandwich, but my intention for tomorrow is to find out! I’m grateful in the midst of mental suffering for the simple sensory pleasures that make our larger failures bearable.

Covid Awareness

I was grateful this morning to accidentally disturb a preying mantis while I watered the garden pots and beds. She got washed into the dirt so I had to rinse her off and she climbed up my arm. She wanted to keep climbing but finally I was able to dislodge her onto an eggplant leaf. I’m so happy whenever I see one of these marvelous predators in the garden. I pray for more of them to control the grasshopper plague.

This afternoon I baked high altitude carrot cupcakes to take to a patio dinner up the road that’s been trying to happen for months. Finally all conditions aligned for six of us to lay relatively low for a few days (harder for some than for me) and each covid test for reassurance before gathering. Most of us share our test photos by text before gathering, a friendly reassurance that evolved over the past couple of years, though there was one inexplicable holdout to the ritual. I practiced some mindful forbearance, appreciating moral support, and was grateful that I was able to manage my feelings and still enjoy the evening.

I used the frosting from this Lemon Blossom Cupcake recipe, and it was a big hit.

I’m grateful for the ongoing but relatively sparse Covid awareness that continues in the public health research community, and really appreciated the big picture as discussed in this interview with ‘Your Local Epidemiologist’ Katelyn Jetelina, in part examining the idea of Covid revisionism. There’s a collective, voluntary forgetfulness about just how awful 2020 was for the world, and the US is not prepared at an infrastructure level to address the next pandemic. It was nice to discuss this, as well as the first-ever python parasite found in a human’s brain, the threat of deadly fungal pathogens, this year’s odd garden experiences, and various other life anecdotes, as well as to just enjoy the simple, delicious food and familial companionship. Plus, the little dogs had a ball. And, I was grateful to come back to my quiet home.

Wren is clearly lacking in sartorial splendor.

Zoom Cooking with Cindy!

In between Zoom Buddha School sessions today, I was grateful to zoom cook with my dear friend Cindy who lives not too far from our hometown back east. We’ve been talking for months about doing this, to support each other in preparing some healthy food for the week ahead. So we spent a couple hours this afternoon cooking enchiladas, and prepping for a creamy cauliflower soup. By the time we finished the enchiladas and sat down to eat one we were both too tired of being on our feet to make the soup, but I made it later this evening and it was SO simple, so delicious!

I’m happy to share the enchilada recipe we started from, which her friend Mary gave her. But I can’t possibly share the version I made, because I did just about everything differently than this recipe. First, I used up an assortment of garden vegetables from the freezer (instead of ground beef), including spiralized zucchini, snap peas, and sliced harissa sweet potatoes; plus a can of black beans from the pantry. I used half tomato sauce and half tomatillo sauce, added tomato paste, and used spinach-wheat tortillas. It didn’t matter. They were still delicious! I did add the grated cheddar and sour cream to the filling, which I could have eaten with a spoon except there was none left.

Once they were done baking, we sat down and ate together, and then got back to our busy days. It was fun to relax and play in our separate kitchens. I’m grateful for zoom cooking with Cindy, being able to get and to give support in an effort to bolster our health.

My Job

I play this game with Cousin Melinda where I send her a photo and ask Where’s Wren? She is usually able to find Wren. This is today’s photo. In this case, I was simply upstairs teaching ‘behind the curtain’ while Wren was napping in bed; later this evening she was no doubt buried in the covers as dramatic lightning and thunder cracked around the house. I’m grateful she’s so resilient. Once the storm passed, she trotted downstairs to chew on her rawhide, and beg me for treats. I’ve been giving her doggie CBD this past week when the monsoonal storms roll in, and I think it’s helping her terror trigger. I’m grateful we were nourished by a short cloudburst tonight.

During class break this afternoon we stepped out on the deck and spooked a northern flicker who’d been tapping on the house somewhere. I missed the resident flicker last summer; it feels like it’s been a long time without one around, so I’m grateful to have the companionship again. Also, I’m grateful as always for my job teaching mindfulness. Though class is only 2.5 hours a week, there’s plenty of time that goes into prep for each session, and time afterwards to review, and time during the week to support students and graduates. The work is so meaningful to me.

Despite all the pluses of the work, though, I’m taking the rest of the year off after I finish this course. I have two facial MOHS surgeries lined up this fall including an eyelid, and other neighbors are also scheduled for surgeries. I want to be able to focus on my healing, and be available to support others as needed this fall, as well as catch up on some personal projects. My next MLP Mindfulness Foundations Course is now scheduled to run from January 5 – February 23.

I’m grateful for Amy’s recommendation of this date bark. There’s no real recipe, just her vague instructions, which I adapted a little bit and now have further amendments to. Next time I’ll make it like this: Melt a dark chocolate candy bar and drizzle it over a piece of parchment paper on a 9×11 or smaller sheet pan. Press in a dozen chopped Medjool dates, sprinkle with chopped nuts (I used slivered almonds this time and would add chopped roasted/salted peanuts next time also), drizzle with a couple tablespoons peanut butter warmed to runny in the microwave, top with another melted chocolate bar (or two!) and sprinkle with salt (which I forgot tonight). I might even add a few tablespoons of dried shredded coconut. Then chill in the refrigerator until it’s hard, break it up, and enjoy. Because of an inadequate chocolate to date/peanut butter ratio, I’m storing mine in the fridge, but I think with a sufficient chocolate base it could be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. For a few days, which is all the longer it will last. I’m grateful for this healthier alternative to M&M’s for my lunch dessert. Honestly, I’m grateful more than anything else for a simple, meaningful life that affords me the opportunity to enjoy a lunch routine that includes dessert.

I’m Not the Only One Suffering

Tonight, I’m grateful for my martini-buddy Connie who taught me how to can, for Chrissie Lou who suggested cream cheese with my warm jam on toast, for Ruthie who started me on my sourdough journey all those years ago, for Neighbor Fred who prunes the apricot tree, and for the bounty this precious tree has provided this year. I’ve frozen ten cups of halves already, given away bags and boxes, and today canned five pints of jam, with a seemingly endless supply of fruit left on the tree. I can spend only a few hours a day on my feet currently because of plantar fasciitis and sciatica, and so am alternating daily between picking and processing apricots among other standup obligations. I’m grateful to remember that I’m not the only one suffering, and that even with consistently limiting physical pain, I’m able to balance and enjoy every good thing my little life has to offer; including remembering that just like me, there are thousands or millions of others around the world experiencing similar pains and limitations. I wish that they also might find joy, pleasure, and meaning in the simplest elements of their days.