Welcome! What's this human’s life like? Just like yours: too much to handle gracefully. Here you’ll find writing on the epic theme: What now? I post weekly-ish. Except when I don’t.



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Belly Dance For Reading Fitness 

Cool shot of a dancer a-twirling! (IMG_2734a)

I’m a self conscious, round-shouldered bookworm. These qualities have made me the best at my sport of choice: extreme reading, in bed. Holding up a book while lounging for hours daily may result in permanent injuries such as dowager’s hump, reader’s elbow, and paper cuts. To cross train, I belly dance.

As a child, I read all I wanted without hurting myself. As an adult, I’ve relied on decades of jogging, swimming and tai chi to prevent the bed sores that plague extreme readers.

Seven years ago, at fifty, I attended a middle-eastern dance recital with a friend. If I’d been standing, my knees would have given way. Must! Do! That! Now, twice a year, I “dance” in these recitals myself. 

Being very middle aged, very married, and very professional, I’m free to make a fool of myself. Nothing is more fun than prancing around on stage to music in a girlie, glittery costume in the company of (mostly) younger women who dance way, way better than I do. The audience is looking at them. How great is that? All the fun, none of the pressure. Hubby, my biggest fan, cheers me on from the audience, bored out of his gourd. 

Belly dancing draws all types of women— fat, thin, young, old, tall, short, athletic, not. Wiggling comes naturally to female bodies. It feels good. And looks good too.

Provided you can pat your head, rub your belly, shimmy the hips, undulate your spine, travel to the beat, and smile, all at the same time. Easy. Especially when compared to the focus and concentration required for hours of non-stop reading while reclining on a soft surface. 

It’s bad for the scholarly stoop, but what the heck, I try to keep my shoulders level and rib cage still when shifting and lifting my hips. Since learning to sway my arms like seaweed in a current, I’ve had problems tossing a bad novel with the old flap. Add fancy footwork and I worry my eye muscles are getting flabby. 

The fall recital is right around the corner, and I am not ready. But then, am I ever? I’m in two dances, one with a veil. My veil is a nine by four feet sheet of hand dyed silk, emerald green bleeding into brilliant blue. 

To hold it, I toss it behind me, then center my hands along the long edge, slipping the fabric between straightened index and third fingers, palm straight too. Readers, this is the antidote for those pesky book-holding cramps. 

Veil work, like reading, develops the imagination. When I read It was a dark and stormy night, those words call up heavy cloud cover, no moon, wind tossed tree branches stripped of leaves, gusts of rain rattling the window. 

When I lift the veil from behind, bring my arms forward and cross them over my face, the veil covers me from head to toe. When I sweep my arms open, I’m a butterfly bursting from her cocoon. 

When I lift the veil up and sashay forward, it lofts and billows like a sail in the wind. When I swish it in a figure eight in front of me, it flares in bursts of blue green fire. When I lower it to the ground, I step on it and trip. 

There are six of us in the veil dance, each swooping a different bright hue. When we practice, I drift out of my row, stumble into a classmate, get tangled up in my veil. At home though, I’m better about bumping into Hubby, tripping over the dog and banging my shins on end tables en route to my book. 

The daily practices weeks before the performance keep me vertically challenged and cut heavily into my reading time. The paper cuts will finally heal. 

Hamming it up for the audience, especially when they send the love back with clapping and ululating, provides healthful contrast and balance for the solitary pleasures of reading.  The best performance perk though, is the improvement in my horizontal fitness after: I fall into bed like an axed tree. 

When I come to, I have the arm flexibility to pop eight hundred milligrams of ibuprofen and the core strength to lean over the bedside table to click on the lamp next to my tasty book stack. My eyes stroll leisurely down the spines. A trash thriller? Why not? A roll back onto the pillows in the classic round shouldered posture, a heft to prop the book on my belly and— Ah! Let the extreme read begin.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alaskan Dude


Holiday Family Gatherings A Contributing Factor To Yearly Winter Flu Epidemic, Study Reports  

By D. Essemfour

November 2012, DweebMD, Internet Medical News. A landmark study published last week in the esteemed science journal Family Hell asserts that holiday revelry with relatives “is so stressful to the immune system, it collapses like a building seeded with dynamite,” says I. M. Trapt, M.D., primary researcher and family member.

“Extensive research has already concluded that sugar, recreational drugs and holiday shopping are deleterious to the immune system,” Trapt reports.

But what happens when family members gather to “enjoy” the holidays? “Nothing good,” says Trapt. “Irresolvable grudges, sniper pot shots under the influence, Auntie Petunia’s jaw-breaker chuck roast, the soup slurper—   Slimed! Again.”

Why do we forget? Wishful thinking. What’s the cost of hoping for the best? Breached immune defenses and invasion by viral hordes. Expect at least a week of shattering chills, burning-house fever and bodily fluids exiting from multiple portals.

“It’s a wonder we don’t kill each other. Or keel over,” observes Trapt. “That’s what gave me the idea for the study.”

According to Dr. Trapt, this is the first population-based analysis to examine whether avoidance of locked-room family events during the holidays decreases the incidence of flu.

Study Highlights:

  • The study asked: Does running for the hills prior to holiday get-togethers boost immune response, thus protecting against microbial infection?
  • The researcher’s husband and their eldest child spent the holidays with both families of origin.
  • She and the middle child stayed home alone, serving as the control group.
  • She excluded their youngest from the study because his nose drips snot year round like a leaky faucet. She foisted the kid on friends for the holidays.
  • The research period began the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and ended January first, no time off for good behavior.
  • Unlimited e-mailing, texting and phone contact was allowed between the research participants (and youngest kid), for three reasons: 1. to maintain nuclear family bonding 2. to maintain verisimilitude of real life and 3. to prevent nuclear meltdown.
  • Mr. Dr. Trapt and oldest child returned home January 2 via emergency medical transport.
  • Dr. Trapt and middle kid remained healthy during the research period, as well as two weeks after, at which point, the doc went under.
  • The youngest’s nose continued to need a new washer, but he remained flu-less.
  • Dr. Trapt’s family of origin is no longer speaking to her. 

Clinical Implications:

Dr. Trapt was unimpressed the study validated the holiday-hermit hypothesis. “Less stress, more white blood cells, better immune defense against germ incursion. Duh.”

As to why the flu struck her down mid-January, she speculates the culprit to be survivor guilt.  “I maxed out keeping Hubby’s and Son’s pillows fluffed.”

“My daughter the doctor, she never texts, she never calls,” Lila Sitzendedark, the researcher’s mother said. “Her brother the Nobel Laureate, he finds time.”

“I feel bad about Mom,” Trapt affirmed. “But I’ll get over it.”

More research is needed to confirm these findings, she says. Limitations of the study included small sample size, lack of objective measures and an utter lack of professionalism. Still, the results are encouraging. “Avoid family gatherings over the holidays, by all means,” she says.

“If you can’t, and get sick, there are worse things,” she says. Like, relatives clustering round. “Say you’re contagious,” she suggests.

If you time it right, she speculates, it may be possible to delegate all holiday responsibilities, avoid everybody and end up looking good. “That’s next year’s study,” Trapt says.

In the meantime, if you don’t want to be sick forever, pull out the big guns. “Nothing,” the doctor says, “kicks viral butt like ginger lemon tea with honey.” (Recipe below.) 

“Chicken soup, a.k.a. Jewish penicillin, is also efficacious, and delicious. Kill two bugs with one stone: Beg Mom pretty please to make you hers.” 

Ginger Lemon Tea 

  • Bring a spaghetti pot of filtered water to a boil.
  • Peel and chunk a palm-sized piece of ginger. Add to boiling water.
  • Reduce heat, and simmer for an hour, with lid askew (to vent steam). Turn off the heat.
  • Wash and slice several lemons into thick coins. Add to the ginger infusion.
  • Add honey to taste. Dilute to taste.
  • To kick viral butt, drink hot till your back teeth float.
  • Stores for at least a week in fridge.



Annual Psychiatric Conference Reveals State Of The Art

By D. Essemfour 

November 2012, Dissociated Press.  Shrinks from throughout the country gathered in Manhattan the weekend before Halloween for the Always Searching for Competent Psych Pills (ASCP) conference. This year’s theme: Psych Meds Update:  State-of-the-Art 2012. 

As a group, psychiatrists tend to be pleasant and open-faced. Some even make eye contact.  Still, there was a buzz, albeit socially appropriate, at the breakfast orientation. 

“State-of-the-Art” promises a lot given the current state of play in psychiatry. Research on brain and behavior yields hard data on a geological time scale. Those few nuggets rattle inside a toilet paper roll. Winnow what’s clinically useful, and that fills a tube of lipstick.  

Occasionally, there are unexpected breakthroughs. Leading centers of science and learning ignore them— the only response to getting scooped. 

The usual psychiatry conference smears lipgloss in a way that distracts (the hosts hope) from the lack of new facts. A successful one adds amenities: good coffee, tasty treats and lots of potty breaks.

“Fingers crossed,” sighed a shrink with fatalistic salt-and-pepper hair, “for a discovery that decreases patient suffering, increases capacity for love and work, and is covered by insurance.” 

Conference clinical pearls included: 

  • Recognition and Treatment of Sexual Morbidity Associated With Psychiatric Illness: “Relational issues should be entertained as a possible etiology.”
  • Psychiatric Genomics: “Most research findings are false.”
  • Impulsivity in Psychiatry: “Impulsivity is not poor judgment, it’s no judgment.”
  • Recent Developments in Psychopharmacology of Depression: “Internists and family practitioners think depression is easy to treat. It’s not. We might have lots of drugs but that doesn’t mean they work.”
  • Evaluation and Treatment of Dementia: The Best Of What We Know: “I’ve lost my train of thought. What was I talking about?”
  • ASCP Business Meeting: “We are breaking even. There will be a meeting next year.” 

Attendee surveys declared the conference a success:

  • “Appallingly candid and unpretentious.”
  • “You can’t trust most research findings? Oh. My. God.”
  • “I was shocked, shocked, to learn the patient’s relationship, not just medical problems or medication side effects, may cause sexual dysfunction. What next?”
  • “Awesome coffee.” 

The event was held at the Grand Central Station Hyatt, a state-of-the-art hotel and conference center. The only complaint came from a participant in line at the ladies’ room: “When will architects realize women go nine point three nine times more than men? The research is conclusive.” 

A friend cut the line to give the speaker a hello hug. The speaker yelped, “Don’t squeeze!” 

That got a laugh from the queue. “Most architects are male, but that’s hardly an explanation,” the squeez-ee continued. “While their females cross their legs waiting in line, those guys are pawing the ground too. Somewhere else. Maybe at a bar.”  

Sighing fatalistically, she pulled a lipstick from her purse.


It’s Not Easy Being Green

“Not so much!” says Hubby, as I serve him a beautiful plate of garlic grass-fed beef and emerald broccoli over brown rice.

“What, are you saving yourself for hot dogs and canned baked beans later?” I ask. 

“Where’s the ketchup?” he answers. 

Son says, “This has sauce. You know I eat veggies plain.”

“You like the broccoli with brown sauce at the Chinese Buffet,” I say. 

I take a seat and tuck in. The broccoli is so fresh it talks back.

Oh, I forgot. I jump up from the table to bring back a bowl of chopped cukes, tomatoes, onion and parsley in lemon vinaigrette. 

“More salad?!” cries Hubby. “I’m swimming in salad!”

“I don’t hear you complaining you’re swimming in bagels, salami and pretzels,” I retort.

“The Food Sheriff strikes again.” 

“You’re going to leave me a widow. Just at the point when I morph into a wrinkled old crone.” 

“Yeah, but you’ll be healthy.” 

Son, mouth full, asks, “What’s for dessert?”

Hubby and Son have been getting a fresh cooked dinner every day since July, no time off for good behavior or a pizza.  That’s because it’s harvest time at Essex Farm, our CSA. 

CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. Instead of buying organic produce (and other food) from the grocery store, you buy directly from a local farmer. At the supermarket, you pay retail, by the item. As a CSA member, you pay a flat rate up front for a percentage, a.k.a. “share,” of the farm’s yearly production. 

During the growing season, once a week, you pick up your share(s) of whatever is on hand. In spring, it’s chives, spinach and new carrots. In June, it’s succulent strawberries. Then suddenly, it’s summer and the harvest takes off. Veggie after herb after fruit, the variety and quantity astounds. It’s relentless till the fever breaks in autumn, after the frost. 

We had a glorious summer here in the North Country this year— hot, not too much rain. The bounty has been to die for. As I stand at my kitchen counter, hour after hour, chopping for dinner and the freezer, I wish I could die. 

The abundance has taken over my life. Most CSAs give members a pre-packed box of whatever is on hand. Not Essex Farm. They make me gauge how much to take for the week. I can’t help it my eyes are bigger than my kitchen. 

Propped on its short end against a leg of the open air produce “pavilion,” there’s an eight by three foot green board with weekly announcements for members written in yellow, blue and pink chalk. For example: TAKE AS MUCH (veggie x) AS YOU CAN HANDLE TO PUT UP FOR THE WINTER!

Truck loads of tangy tomatoes. Canyons of perfumed cantaloupes. Springy spinach vaulting en masse out the box. Taut purple eggplants big as steroid-swollen bowling pins. Broccoli trees too wide to hug. Leeks long as witch brooms… 

My eyes cloud over, I lose my mind, and before I know it, I’m home, completely overwhelmed, fondling the knife and considering my options. 

So maybe I have a little problem.  But I’m not a harvest-holic.  I can give it up any time.  

Seriously, belonging to a CSA is not cheap. If I don’t put up the harvest excess, I have two options for winter produce. 1. Buy at the supermarket.  Since I’ve already paid the CSA for a year’s supply of produce, that’s a financial stupidity. 2. Go without.

“Option 2!” says Hubby. “Ketchup is a vegetable.” 

Watch me chop chop chop. Stuff zip lock bags bags bags. Label label label. Bear all this treasure out to the garage and bury it in whichever of two freezers has room. Yes, two.  

One is already full with frozen veggies, and the season’s not yet over. Then there’s the fact that I cook for six for our family of three, and Hubby always says, “No thanks. We had that yesterday.” The second freezer is pretty full. 

I have an extra fridge out there too, filthy with farm dirt and packed to the rafters with prime produce calling to be cooked, put up, or—  Shut up! I am so tired. 

The old coconut ticks over, slowly. There’s brown rice left over from yesterday. The rainbow chard gives a little finger wave, and jumps in my arms. A stir fry. With scrambled eggs. I plod in to the kitchen and Hubby wails, “No! Mercy!”

Son runs in: “What?!” Sees Hubby, my cargo and his opportunity: “Yeah! Uncle! Uncle!”

Hubby wheedles, “Babe, don’t cook tonight! You’re working too hard!” I feel myself weakening even as I roll my eyes at him: I see right through you, mister

“Yeah, Mom! Let’s order a pizza!”

“All right! All right! Fine.” Like I’m doing them a favor. Fingers crossed for first frost tonight.

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