Monthly Archives: May 2011

Speaking of Strokes & Life

When Jill Bolte Taylor speaks, a whole lot of people listen.

She is a phenomenal speaker.  She strides on stage, no notes, no teleprompter and for 70 minutes, holds the attention of the  audience.  Animated, funny, and so crystal clear when talking about neuroscience and our brains that I get it,

Dr. Taylor is a joy to listen to.  She should be difficult to understand, a Harvard trained neuro anatomist, a pointy-headed intellectual with credentials that would make most of us take a step back.  Instead, she is someone who draws people in, makes them laugh and opens up her world and her life to us.

Her rise to fame has been quick; her journey to get there was incredibly difficult and long.

In 1996, Dr. Taylor,  had a massive stroke.  This brilliant scientist was so disabled that she could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life.  Putting on shoes and socks became a challenge.  Figuring out why 1 + 1 equaled 2 took her years.  All linear processing was gone. For many, this would have been the end; for Dr. Taylor, it was the beginning of an amazing transformation.

All in all, it was 8 years before Dr. Taylor could reclaim her life, herself.  But in returning to her life as a neuro anatomist, she brought something else with her.  This left-brain scientist was now totally, completely in touch with her right brain.

During her now famous TED Talk, Dr.Taylor describes the two halves of her brain warring for her attention – left brain screaming, “…hey, you’re having a stroke.”  Right brain saying, “Hey, wow, we are perfect, we are whole and we are beautiful.  And we’re all connected.”

Jill Bolte Taylor is a medical phenomenon because she defied the common diagnoses that says you only have 3 months, 6 months 12 months to recover functions like speech and walking.  She is also a phenomenon because she returned to her life changed by the spiritual experience of connecting with her right brain.  Scientist and artist live together inside her now.

She is among Time Magazine’s 2008 top 100 most influential people in the world.  Also appearing as  a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Soul Series and on Charlie Rose’s show, Dr. Taylor’s life caught the attention of Hollywood mega-director, Ron Howard who is making a movie based on her book, My Stroke of Insight.

Spend 18 minutes with her on TED and if you get a chance, read her book or see her speak or do both.   Or just answer her question:  You are the life force power of the universe; how will you spend your energy today?



Filed under Book Reviews, Healthcare, Life & Death, Medical Writing

How Does Healing Work?

Don’t you wish that you knew the answer to that question?  Or just a bit of the answer?

I know I do.  I am healing.  This I know for sure.  What I don’t know is exactly how it is happening.

My medical team says I have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) and…oddly enough, whiplash.  Both are being treated but not by traditional, Western medicine.  No prescriptions have been written for mood elevators or muscle relaxers.  Instead, the prescription has been a combination of:

  1. Osteopathic manipulation
  2. Psycho-therapy
  3. Mind-Body healing

Woven into these three practices are homework assignments.

When Dr. Gajdos said go forth and journal, it didn’t sound like a big deal.  But over the course of writing 3 pages, long hand, every day, discoveries occur, insights reveal themselves.  Reasons for behaviors become clearer and paths to changing the behaviors stretch out before you.

Dr. Gajdos also asked me to read  A Year To Live .  It’s a small book written by a man whose life has been spent counseling dying people.  Steve Levine’s advice is to work on dying, right now, seems depressing but working through anger, sorrow and pain, now, is freeing me up to live in the present moment.

Reading Being Peace came from Dr. Torregiani. Thich Nhat Hanh is an author whose writings are not easy but whose messages are clear and powerful.  His teaching is that of most Buddhist monks – the here and now – the present moment are all we have.  It is the way he shares his message that makes it easier to understand, easier to practice.

Reading myself came from Jodi Hutchinson.  Jodi is a highly trained Physician’s Assistant, at least she was.  She worked for one of the top Cardiologists in Delaware and was his “right hand man.”  When the Cardiology team from Christiana Care traveled to China and other Asian countries, Jodi began a journey of her own.  Her journey has led her to healing with her hands and her heart.

Learning to settle inside your own life, your own soul, your own skin, facing your fears, walking through your pain to the other side, to the light.  That is what all these activities are designed to do.  What’s beautiful about them is they don’t require new running shoes or spandex shorts.  All they require is desire.  And these activities are working for me, healing me, making it possible for the slow, sure stitching back together of my soul to happen.  To my team I say, “Namaste.”

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Filed under Book Reviews, Healthcare, Life & Death

Calling All Gardeners – BEST Soaker Hose

Okay, I don’t do product endorsements.  Really.  But this time I have to.

I have been an organic gardener for close to 25 years and every year, without fail, I struggle with my soaker hoses.  They are tangled.  I have to pin them to the ground and wrestle the kinks out.  While trying to thread them through my garden, the ends whip around and invariably smack me in the face.  They are damaged but you can’t see the holes until you lay them out in the garden, pin them to the ground and turn on the water.

I have created the Fountain of Trevi in my own back yard…year after year after year.  But NOT this year because I went looking and I have found the world’s best soaker hose thanks to the Internet, and Al Gore.

Manufactured by a company I never heard of (Bosch) in a state I used to fly into almost weekly for business, the Gilmour Flat Weeper Hose is spectacular.  It is made of material, not recycled rubber that breaks down in the sun.  And, believe it or not, this hose is guaranteed for life.  Yep, for life.  Gilmour will replace the hose, free of charge, if it does not provide, “…complete satisfaction.”

Here’ are a couple more wonderful features for this hose:

  1. It comes in 25 foot, 50 foot and 75 foot lengths.
  2. The individual hoses can be coupled together to create longer hoses.  I currently have a 125 foot hose snaking around ALL of the plants in my garden and there are 65 plants spread out in my plot.
  3. You will NOT have to wrestle with these hoses like you do with those alligators made of recycled rubber.  When they are not filled with water and soaking your plants, they flatten and can be rolled up like a piece of yarn  on a skein.
  4. The price is definitely right.  Priced by length, the 25 footer is $10.99.  The 50 footer is $13.00 and the 75 foot long hose is just over $15.00.

For a one time investment of under $50, I have soaker hoses I will be able to pass on in my will.  If you garden, give them a try.

Oh, and check out the Nelson Faucet Adaptor-High Flow, 4 Outlet Manifold.  The cut off valves work great and are, for lack of a better word, ergonomic,  They fit your hand and are BIG, you can see if they are on or off and you can actually get a grip on them and turn them on or off easily.

Side note: If you’re an organic gardener,  join people across the country who belong to Grow Girls Grow Organic on Linked In.  Lots of sharing and learning going on and it’s all about gardening, all the time.


Filed under Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money

Life & Death & Life Again

Here it is.  I am still alive.  I brushed up against death in March…and again in April.

I almost lost my sister to medical error; I almost lost myself to another man’s attempted suicide.

Damage done, you say.  Move on.  But getting out of bed in the morning, putting one foot in front of the other,  that’s not living.  That’s just moving on.  So where do you go when everywhere you look you see the world as described by Joseph Campbell — loss…loss…loss?

Millions of people do it…but I won’t take a pill to make me “feel better.”  Why?  The pill masks what’s really broken, what’s really causing the pain.  I can bury my feelings like many others do but they will still be there, will burst forth at the worst possible time, will eat away at who I am and what I really do love about this world we live in.  So no pills.

What I will do — what I am doing — is take advantage of the very generous offer of my auto (and house) insurance company, Encompass.

Who would have thought that someone trying to commit suicide on your car is covered?  Not only does this company cover it but they hire warm, compassionate people to help you through whatever your particular accident was, real people who genuinely cared that I was being torn apart by the sound of a body hitting my car, crashing through glass, bouncing off the fender, rolling to the ground.  Hearing and seeing that sequence over and over and over again.

Encompass offered me some help.  They are paying for me to see a therapist.  Not just any therapists though.  And this is the hard part.  I had to find a therapist I couldn’t outsmart, out talk or out manage.  That may not sound too hard but trust me, it is.  If you have lived a few years (63) and you are pretty smart, pretty well-read and well-educated (thank you UCF and Villanova), you can get pretty good at dodging whatever it is that is dogging you.

So enter Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos.  Quiet in a way that is impressive, gentle but pushy, demanding that I reach, stretch, open and feel all of it, everything that is changing my spiritual shape from a sphere to a triangle, trapezoid, rhomboid, pulling me out into corners that are dark and feel safe but are not.  She uses dream analysis (Jungian), color therapy, even a sand box where you create whatever you feel inside.  But mostly she uses her inquisitive nature, her years and years of experience and her sheer humanity to help you back to center and away from those small, dark places.

I have seen death but I am coming to life again,  Different, stronger even, but alive, nonetheless thanks to this magical healer and to an insurance company that still believes in helping you in your time of trouble.

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Filed under Life & Death

Sony Playstation Security Breach & How My Credit Card Companies Reacted

When the email from Sony arrived in my inbox my first reaction was  WHAT?

My personal information and that of 77 million other users was compromised.  Specifically, the email said, name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birth date, password and login, and handle/PSN online ID were taken.  The hacker may also have taken billing address and password security answers.

That’s enough information for ANYONE, even an over the hill writer like me, to be able to steal identity and start opening up credit card accounts.  But that’s not the worst news Sony delivered.  The email also said, “…while there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility.”

So, in a nutshell, me and 77 million other people were in the position of having our identities stolen, our credit cards used and our credit scores seriously damaged.  I hit the phone and called the companies of the only two credit cards I have.  The reactions of these companies could not have been more different.

Barclay’s MasterCard

ME – Explain, explain, explain that Sony had been hacked and I needed to change my password and I couldn’t get into the account.

Customer Service – Gee, I can’t help you with that.  And technical support  doesn’t open until 8AM.  Can you call back?

ME – I need help now.  I can’t get into my account.  I’m worried.  Is someone from Security available to help me?

Customer Service – I’m sorry the Security team doesn’t start until 8AM.  Can you call back?

ME – Oh, sure, fine.  I’ll call back in a few hours, after the hacker has opened a couple hundred accounts and charged a couple of thousand dollars to each.  REALLY?

Customer Service – Really…sorry.

American Express

ME – I am calling because my Sony account may have been hacked….

Customer Service –  We know all about this issue and we have set up a system to help our customers with it.

ME – Really?

Customer Service – Yes Ma’am.  We are offering to issue new credit cards with entirely different account numbers on them to any customer who is concerned.  We will pay to ship the new card via UPS and yours will arrive in 3 days.

ME – Really?

Customer Service – Yes Ma’am.  And we’ve stepped up account monitoring and will let you know if there is unusual activity.

ME – Really?

Personal Note

I have had an American Express card for more than 20 years and I willingly pay the annual fee because I know that the person on the other end of the phone is ALWAYS going to be ready, willing, able and available to help me whether I am asking about a charge, disputing a claim, or worried that my identity may have been stolen.  Always.

So which card would you want to own?

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Filed under Home Ec on Acid, Life & Death, Saving Money