Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Breakfast: the best way I know to eat strawberries. I’m only even eating breakfast so I can take some ibuprofen in the morning for the heel pain, going on three months now. I toughed it out for two months but was barely able to function. With winter coming, I need to be able to be on my feet more than off them and so, I’m grateful for making the best of a bad situation.

I’m grateful for wasp spray and diatomaceous earth, which also helped me make the best of a bad situation. Today we flipped over the kindling-cracking stump when I was pretty sure the wasps were all dead. No wonder it took so many attacks to end their assaults: The nest was massive. I stood by with spray ready as my garden helper turned the log over; even after all that I’d done, I saw one moving inside so sprayed it before he rolled it off the patio. Next time he’s here I’ll ask him to split up the rotten log, and then I’ll burn it outside. I’m so curious to see how the nest filled the cavity, and if it conformed inside the log as it did flat at the bottom.

Above, the carnage left below when he rolled the stump away. Lots of rotten wood, and a horrifying number of dead wasps. I feel so bad about causing so much death — and yet I could not live with them. The pill bugs are alive and well and scavenging, I suppose. I hope the diatomaceous earth doesn’t hurt them–and if it does, I guess that’s what you call collateral damage…. That was definitely a bad situation, and I will be more proactive next spring to keep the yellowjacket nests away from the house or anything else I need to go near; and this winter I’ll knock down all the old ones under the eaves.

A Delightful Saturday

I slept til eight. I’m grateful for generally good sleep most nights, even though I’m a night owl, and grateful for a late wakeup some weekend mornings. And grateful to wake up to a bright late September morning, a cup of coffee, a chocolate croissant, and apricot jam, on a patio I built, with a spectacular view.

I got to take my time arranging art on the blue wall, interspersed with some housecleaning, some good listening to Radio Swiss Jazz, the Buddhist Wisdom for Life Summit hosted by Tricycle, and the Collective Trauma Summit. It’s downright amazing to have the world at my fingertips in my remote little mud hut. I’m grateful for the beautiful and meaningful artwork I got to hang on the wall.

I realized only after I hung all the art that this is essentially a memorial wall. On the far left, a piece of folk-art from Amy’s Uncle Neville, a renowned regional artist; above the lamp is my mother’s last painting titled ‘Fractured World’; above the Monument Valley photo I took (in its way also a memorial) hangs a watercolor by another renowned artist Dick Higgins who was a dear friend and teacher of Auntie. The framed puzzle, ‘Oiseaux: Varieties of Birds,’ is an illustration by 19th Century artist and naturalist Adolphe Millot, and also in part inspired the blue wall.
The only artist still living on this wall is the fox painter, Daniel Logé, whose painting I bought in a past life as a gallery owner. The rest of them have died: Richard Van Reyper painted the mountain meadow, my mother in her Oils Phase did the Lilies of the Valley and in her Pastel Phase the portrait, and my dear friend Darlene painted ‘Cats on the Furniture.’ I don’t remember who took the photo of me building my house, but my Fairy Godmother Thelma who is cheerleading me in the image, and who was instrumental in me finding this land, left this earthly plane just a few years after I finished the house. Until the day I myself die, I will be grateful to Thelma for helping me find this little place of peace.

I’m grateful for the blooming Maximillian sunflowers, which are the definitive herald of autumn, and for my Garden Buddy who gave them to me. And I’m grateful for a simple and delicious vegetarian dinner of Roasted Cauliflower with Sweet Chermoula and Yogurt. I didn’t know what chermoula was until I ran across this recipe, and it is a delicious sauce! I didn’t have sweet paprika so looked up (world at my fingertips) a good substitute, and ended up using half as much ground Aleppo pepper plus a squeeze of tomato paste to approximate the taste. I also didn’t have cilantro, and precious little parsley, so subbed dried parsley. With olive oil, honey, lemon juice, and some other spices, it was so yummy I could have eaten the whole recipe but disciplined myself to save some for tomorrow. I’m grateful for a delightful Saturday, and for the presence of mind to appreciate an easy, joyful day.


I’m grateful for finding what I needed to spackle the nail holes in the green wall… I got home from the hardware store with spackle and realized I didn’t have a putty knife. I pondered for a short while, confident that I had something somewhere that would work, and thought of my mother’s box of painting supplies upstairs in the craft-storage room. I was so happy to find her old encaustic knife, which I had a vague memory of having seen there.

I’m grateful today to have finally accomplished a project I started dreaming more than a year ago, after getting ‘wall envy’ from seeing the blue wall in my cousins’ house on family zooms. The tired, quiet green I’ve had on my one painted wall for almost twenty years was ready for a change and so was I. I bought the paint last fall but winter came before I could open it, and then one thing after another… Procrastination is one of my growth edges… This week, after some encouragement from a good friend, and feeling no pain in my shoulders for a month, and a narrow window of ideal weather for it, I took the plunge.

The 48-hour forecast was perfect: highs around 80, lows in the high 40s, and clear skies. I could keep doors and windows open all day and close half of them overnight, to keep fresh air flowing in the whole time. First I cleared off (i.e. boxed to tackle later) the stuff on the desk and dresser that stood next to the wall, and pulled the furniture away.

Then I photographed the artwork so I’d know where to put it back later, and left those nails and hooks in place. I pulled the C-hooks and plugged their holes with long brads, hoping that I could roll over them and then pull them out after the paint dried to replace the hooks. (I pulled a few small nails where there were studs and tried to plug those holes with smaller nails but that didn’t work: the roller pulled them out right away.)

I called the hardware store in our little town to ask if they had a mechanical paint shaker. “Yes,” she said, “but we’ve had to draw the line at shaking other people’s paint. If it’s not completely sealed shut it makes an awful mess.”

“I haven’t even opened this!” I exclaimed with hope, “but I certainly understand if you can’t do it.” She was happy to shake my unopened paint can and would not take compensation. I was grateful for her generosity. I remembered to buy a jar of spackle while I was there, and filled in the empty holes in the wall. Then I taped off the perimeter, thermostat, switch, and outlet.

Commitment! No turning back once I’d cut in the blue paint.

It’s been hard to adjust the photos to reflect accurate colors as the light kept shifting throughout the day. This morning I spread out the alleged ‘heavy-duty’ plastic dropcloth I’d purchased at the same time as the paint, brushes, and roller setup. While everything else was better than I could have hoped, the dropcloth was about as heavy-duty as I am! Amazon will hear about this deception. Then I started rolling on the paint.

After four hours dry-time, I repeated the cutting-in and rolled on the second coat. I could not be happier with the result!

I only let it dry a couple of hours after the second coat before pulling the tape and hanging the first two pieces back on the wall before the light faded. Yes, I missed a spot with the spackle, oh well. And as I watched the paint dry, I realized I wanted to swap out a few art pieces, so I pulled my mother’s pastel portrait of her Aunt Gretchen from the shadows where it has lived for years, and returned it to the same place it held even longer ago, when the green wall first replaced the original peach wall from the housebuilding in 1995. I look forward to playing with the rest of the wall art tomorrow!

Somewhere in there, I also accomplished another masterpiece cheese sandwich, with smoked gouda, shredded romaine, and garden tomato.

Though I knew some basics, including taping off edges and spackling, I was so grateful for the tips on rolling and some other aspects in this wonderful book from the Trans Handy Ma’am. I’m delighted to support her work empowering trans people, and making the world of home repairs more friendly and accessible to introverts like me. Her motto is “You’re worth the time it takes to learn a new skill!” Thanks, Trans Handy Ma’am, for helping motivate me toward a real sense of accomplishment.


I’m so grateful for colors! My life is full of them. No blank white walls in this house. Everywhere I look, inside and out, colors and more colors. I’m grateful for my friend who introduced me to a new word when she described herself as ‘a colorist’ — and I’m grateful for her wonderful blog where she shares the colors of the world when she travels.

Continuing to enjoy the puzzle ‘Canoe of Fate’ today in between work work, housework, and yard work. Here are some more details of whimsy pieces and images. Note the deer pieces making up the wolf image, and the wolf whimsy piece upside down right above it.

Six feathers above, and one of them in place in the feather headdress below.

More whimsy in the garden, and the birch tree turning yellow with pendulous catkins, flowers that will hang on until they open in spring and release their pollen. As I sat outside for a few minutes this afternoon, soaking in all the colors, I thought of a painter I admire whom I haven’t spoken with in a long time, so I looked up her number and called her out of the blue. “What a lovely surprise!” she exclaimed, and I was grateful to have an easy, happy phone call reconnecting with her.

Liberty Puzzle’s designer had to have had Peter Pan in mind when he drew this lovely little piece. As for what Roy de Forest had in mind with the faces below, who knows?

I saved these two figures for near the end because I love the color bubbles in them, and it was fun to find their hands touching in dance when they fit together.

They ended up fitting into the top edge and so hang upside down in their dance. I really enjoy that moment when two large sections I’ve been working independently suddenly show how they connect, when they’ve been building right next to each other for hours. The star below brings together the dancers and the canoeist.

Finding What I Need

Finding a moment of peace down at the pond, before wasp harassment drove us back inside

My little town. My neighborhood. Teaching. Scavenging. I couldn’t decide until I realized the umbrella they all fit under is finding what I need. I’m grateful for finding what I need today.

Feeling on a bit of a rocky plateau in mindfulness practice, I was grateful for finding camaraderie and meaning in a meditation and meeting I led this morning, with some wonderful graduates of the Foundations Course I teach; and then in the afternoon, finding common ground and ease with some wonderful new acquaintances in a course I’ve just started taking. Later, resting in the comfort of a zoom chat with Amy.

Grateful for finding what I need for a delicious sandwich for lunch between zooms

I’m grateful for finding what I needed at the Hitching Post in town, the little store that has one of everything you could almost ever need. I needed a couple more cans of wasp spray. I hate to use it, but we’re not able to spend more than a few minutes outside near the house, or even sit still as far from the house as the pond, without being threatened by an aggressive wasp. I don’t think it’s the same wasp every time (but it could be); I think they have guards stationed all around the yarden to drive me inside. But it’s simply too lovely, in this most beautiful season, to be imprisoned by fear of wasps. They continue to rise from the stump, and I found another huge nest under the deck just outside the east door, and another in a decorative pot on the patio corner.

I’m grateful for finding the time to take the scenic loop to town and home again, driving around the reservoir to enjoy the first fall colors turning up on Mendicant Ridge, and the plenitude of all that community water still behind the dam.

Grateful for finding salad greens to meet the needs of Biko and myself this evening

After dark, I dusted the stump with diatomaceous earth, grateful to find that in my garden supply drawer; unfortunately, that roused the wasps quickly, and I was stung again on the tender skin inside my forearm. It wasn’t as bad as fast as the last one, but continues to swell so I’ve taken another Benadryl: grateful for finding what I need in the medicine drawer.

After all that poisoning, I wanted a hot shower but it was already down to 40℉ outside and all the windows and doors were open. So I shut most of them, and found enough small pieces of wood to kindle a fire in the woodstove. Grateful for finding what I need without having to split kindling, since the kindling cracking pedestal is still out of commission. And I could go on: finding hot water at my fingertips, noticing how dry my hands are and finding lotion on my desk, finding Biko quickly before dark so I could bring him in for another cold night. Extremely grateful for having enough conveniences and luxuries so that I almost always find what I need without having to look too far or hard.

Grateful for finding the canine companion I need just in the nick of time…


I’m grateful for time in my day to prepare simple, delicious meals like a tomato sandwich, or a twice-baked potato, and to put up the last of the peaches with another mini-batch of peach salsa. I’m grateful for time to exercise, and to garden, to read, write, and meet online or by phone with friends and colleagues. I’m grateful that I’ve streamlined my life so that I have time to work as well as to relax, and that I’m beginning to whittle down the distractions that claim my attention. I’m grateful above all that even during a full and busy day, I am able to find time to rest with awareness in the present moment.

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.


Where’s Wren? She’s in the middle of the kitchen floor, where she has dragged both her beds that belong on the periphery so that I don’t step on her as I move around the kitchen. She knows she has to stay on the bed, so she just puts it where she wants it.

In my recent mostly-vegetarianism, I’m grateful for tofu, and specifically for the trick I recently learned of tossing it in cornstarch before frying it to make it extra crispy. This delicious recipe from Bon Appetit for Sesame Tofu with Broccoli made a simple dinner tonight, with leftovers for tomorrow. It was super tasty and filling, and I almost didn’t need a slice of peach pound cake for dessert, but I had one anyway, because why not. I had forgotten to get a scallion from the garden so went without that, and was so eager to eat it that I didn’t notice the toasted sesame seed part of the recipe, and still it was really yummy.

The sauce which included sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and more simmered just long enough to thicken before adding the sautéed broccoli and tofu back in and tossing to coat. So simple, so delicious!


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.