Birthday Lunch for Betty

Birthday Lunch for Betty

Last month, Betty took me to lunch for my birthday. She commented that she loves curry and has been to India seven times, so for her 87th birthday, I made chicken and cauliflower curry and brown basmati rice. Mary Rose joined us, along with with singing friend Linda.

What went well: the low flower arrangement that we could see over. Instead of spring colors, I might have picked up the blue of the tablecloth and the burnt orange of the plates.

The mandarin oranges on the buffet in the center of the image were dessert, along with a single dark chocolate truffle from See’s candy. The salad was spring mix with cruciferous crunch with my sesame/ginger dressing. Mary liked the dressing. I heated fresh naan bread in the oven too long and it was hard on the bottom. I hated firing up the oven just to heat the bread, but it was 68° outside and the windows were open slightly and the kitchen vent fan on because the Covid Omicron variant it peaking here and two of my guests are in their 80s.

I had set out dolmas and peanut-butter filled dolmas on the coffee table as appetizers, but the air was redolent with the fragrance of the curry and everyone wanted to sit right down and eat. Betty left about 2, Mary left at 3 because she needed to give Peggy’s dog its medication, and Linda stayed until 4. Only Mary drank the Early Gray tea. Betty liked the Stella beer and Mary brought some Italian Pirone beer.

Today’s NYTimes ran this graph of the current thinking on the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Kitchen Grout

Kitchen Grout

Some quick notes on replacing the silicon seal near the sink. I should have had a little bullnose ledge installed behind the faucet when the sink was put in but I did not know how to negotiate the curved corner. Now water collects in the crack. Spraying it with vinegar will kill the mold.

Silicone Seal Kitchen Sink

I applied the sealant heavily in the hope it would be easier to remove than the previous thin seal which broke easily upon removal. I smoothed it with my finger, pressing it into the crack. The material is self leveling, and when it dries to clear (about two days) it is invisible.

Tips: rubber-band a baggie over the kitchen faucet to remind yourself not to use it because moisture impairs the curing of the sealant. Have a bowl of water for cleanup of tools and fingers. Buy a new container of sealant, the old one was hard to squeeze.

Internet searches on how to clean mold from the sealant recommended ammonia and bleach (separately) but they only softened the sealant to make scraping it off easier. The vinegar kills the mold. If I can’t keep the crack dry, I have to keep it acidic.

Paulin Creek is Dry

Paulin Creek is Dry
Paulin Creek Dry

Paulin Creek Is Dry

The neighbors, some of whom have been here longer than the 20 years I have, are fretting because Paulin Creek has gone dry for the first time in memory. So far this year, we have escaped wildfires in this area, but the anniversary of the 2017 Tubbs fire is a couple of days away. This summer has been cool — I have only worn shorts a couple of times — and we got a few sprinkles of rain in September, but the fire hazard does not abate until the first good rain. No rain is in the 10 day forecast.

Housing Density Increases — Water Supply Decreases

As soon as he survived the recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law:

S.B. 9 allows duplexes to be built in most neighborhoods across the state, including places where apartments have long been banned. It essentially ends single-family zoning, but with a modest shift: Under the bill, property owners can build up to three additional units on their land, allowing single-family homes to be transformed into as many as four units.
S.B. 10 reduces environmental rules on multifamily housing and makes it easier for cities to add high-density development.

It is true we need more moderate-income housing and new shelters to accommodate the homeless, increasing population density as water supply diminishes and wildfires become annual predicts a downtrend in quality of life for Sonoma County. The number of county residents who were shelterless became exacerbated after the Tubbs/Nuns fires in 2017, the Kincade fire in 2019 and the Glass fire last year (2020). I realize that the outlook is trending in the wrong direction.



I have been experimenting with how to make a quick, delicious puttanesca sauce, and Joyce’s garden peppers make the difference.

While cooking the gemelli, heat some olive oil in a separate skillet and sauté a few anchovy fillets with the minced peppers. When they are sizzling, pour in Trader Joe’s Arrabiata (angry) sauce in the amount suitable for the pasta you are cooking.

Add to the sauce some black kalamata olives sliced from north pole to south pole, and a similar volume of capers. Simmer until the pasta is cooked, combine and enjoy!

Graffiti As School Starts

Graffiti As School Starts

Santa Rosa Graffiti Cleanup
Graffiti spikes when the kids are stressed: the start of school, exams around Christmas and at the end of the school year in June. These three creative examples appeared over the Memorial Day weekend. The “Wolf” paw print on the creek sign was especially challenging to get off because we needed to remove the yellow without destroying the underlying custom-mileage sign. Aaron, from Santa Rosa Public Works, used Mason Master for that. The other two products, he said, would “take it down to bare metal.”

“PlayboySpeedy” tagged the bridge over Piner Creek, overwriting the ugly gray patch that Public Works put up a few years ago to cover some previous graffiti. This was my opportunity to “air-brush” the whole thing with three different colors of paint over two days.

“RiderThugz” on the pole got color suppression from me with gray primer and the following day, yellow primer, but it looked bad. Aaron polished it with yellow gloss paint. He and I talked for about an hour about his frustration with graffiti and his work to clean up after homeless encampment relocation. I wish he could tune in to the good he is doing. I was happy to learn that he wasn’t the only one on the job — there is a van with more equipment including a pressure washer.

Judy Chicago DeYoung

Judy Chicago DeYoung

Tuesday, 7 September, Linda Loveland Reid drove to SF with Osha and me to visit the Judy Chicago show at the DeYoung, and to meet my friend Sue.

Visiting SF

Dianne and Osha join me on nice September day

Sue had come up from Santa Monica and met us at the entrance to the exhibit. Sue had visited some of Judy Chicago’s Southern California art buildings back in their heyday.

visiting Judy Chicago at DeYoung

I am joined by Sue, Osha, Dianne, and LLR

The show was unusual because Judy Chicago had persuaded the (excellent) curator to show it as a true retrospective — newest work first, working back to her earliest work. It was staggeringly clear how hard Judy Chicago worked to be taken seriously by the museum-level art world and how difficult the male-dominated art establishment made her life. The range of her work and materials is impressive and the newest stuff is the best. Here are a few pieces I found especially moving.

Her most famous piece “Dinner Party” is permanently installed in Brooklyn, but there was a film and some examples of the challenges they faced getting the immense project completed and displayed. I saw it in L.A. at the Hammer Museum with Sasha Ferrer who gave me the catalog book as a gift which I cherish to this day.

Irene Lyon: Who Heals?

Irene Lyon: Who Heals?

Irene Lyon says that, ideally, we develop a sense of safety and belonging within our bones, guts, and cells as our attuned caregivers encourage us to feel self-worth and personal agency over the pivotal first three years of our lives. Because we are too young to think and reason, our learning is stored into our body posture and the muscles that move us, the muscles that give us strength and a felt-sense of confidence to take on the world.

Father son attunement

Photo taken by Mother

The sensation that we are worthy of the effort it takes to get what we want comes up from our gut which sends more signals to the brain than the brain does down to the gut. As we grow up, we become conscious of our thoughts which get laser-beamed down to the gut, reinforcing the feeling that we can cope with the challenges of our life.

Vagus Nerve

Afferent Signals Arrive in the Brain

The energy that forms how we sense our gut and organ systems (what we call our Sixth Sense) defines our sensations of ourselves as physical, emotional, mental, relational and creative beings. When we are unable to connect to ourselves, to others and our to environment, this shut-down behavior is often described as PTSD. How did this connection get faulty?

For some of us, it goes back for generations, including how our parents were raised and how they mirrored this behavior in our early years. Where large broods are the norm and poverty is widespread, babies were often seen as “yet another mouth to feed” rather than an opportunity to build something wonderful for the next generation. Beating children and chronic shaming practices that use disconnection (get out of the car, now!) and humiliation as a way to control a child’s behavior creates a high level of toxic stress and biological shame that becomes infused into the ENTIRE organism of the young child. In very young children, these feelings are learned as body sensations, which can’t be rationalized later as words or stories. These bad feelings must be addressed where they are: in the body and nervous system.

Those of us who experienced this kind of toxic shaming in infancy and childhood don’t know what it means to feel safe and relaxed in our bones, gut, and cells. We have learned to always be on guard and to express something along the lines of

“all connection is bad and everyone is to be suspected as dangerous and a threat.”

The chronic betrayal by parents and primary caregivers, from which an infant or toddler cannot escape, can instill a quality of hopelessness and defeat such that the person, as an adult, will feel they are in fact bad meat. This underlies self-harm and addictions. The internalized belief that they don’t deserve to be treated well (as the adult may have screamed while the beating the child) leads them to risky situations and abusive relationships. The pervading sense that they are not valued, or even wanted, can lead to a constant cycle of resistance to doing the work, fleeing from healthy behaviors, and rejecting the care of healers and supportive situations. See Irene Lyon‘s blogpost on why every trauma survivor CAN heal, but not everyone will.

For those of us who had mothers who were not capable of soothing us, we lived our early lives ping-ponging between hypervigilant and freeze response. We must learn what it feels like to be biologically calm and to cultivate an internal sense of safety and connectedness. So much restoration work is required, including realizing that maybe the mother herself never felt safe or calm. Coming to accept that my mother could not soothe me, even though I was capable of being soothed by my godmother, allowed me to forgive both my mother and myself. I see now that maybe I am good seed that fell upon rocky ground.

Oprah says, “Feeling that you deserve something is not the same thing as feeling worthy.” And simply feeling deserving and worthy doesn’t mean there isn’t a Competing Commitment such as “if I become biologically calm, I won’t be on the same wavelength as my family and they will reject me because they believe that I must be like them to be liked by them.” If someone has a (maybe unconscious) belief that getting well would betray their connection to their (birth) family, they might get trapped on the hamster wheel of spiritual seeking. See this Harvard Business Review article titled The Real Reason People Won’t Change.

Update Dec 2021

NYTimes Opinion “Opioids Feel Like Love”

The connections between brain opioids and motherly love were first explored by the neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp decades ago. Dr. Panksepp, who died in 2017, told me that when he first tried to publish data connecting brain opioids to attachment, he was rebuffed by a top medical journal. His research showed that morphine, in doses so low that it didn’t cause sleepiness, eased separation cries made by baby animals in multiple species.

The idea that the purest, most innocent love — between parent and child — could have any commonalities with the degradation of heroin addiction was “too hot to handle,” Dr. Panksepp told me. Today, however, decades after he published his work in another journal, what is now known as the “brain opioid theory of social attachment” is widely accepted.

When people nurture children or fall in love, hormones like oxytocin are released, infusing memories of being together with endorphin-mediated feelings of calm, contentment and satisfaction. This is one way that social contact relieves stress, making bonding a fundamental protector of both mental and physical health. When we are far from our loved ones or sense that our relationships are threatened, we feel an anxiety that is not unlike withdrawal from drugs.

So if “all connection is bad and everyone is to be suspected as dangerous and a threat,” the endorphins and oxytocin are not endogenously generated. Attachment does not become pleasurable or soothing. Spending time with others does not produce “calm, contentment and satisfaction.” No wonder Maia Szalavitz says “Addiction is A Learning Disorder.”

Ferritin and Milk Thistle

Ferritin and Milk Thistle

About 18 months ago, Peggy urged me to send the extra $100 to my DNA lab to find out if I was positive for genetic hemochromatosis (GH), as she was. Our sister Connie discovered she was also positive for heterogeneous GH and briefly got on the liver transplant list. Too late — she passed away on August 15, 2020. Peggy and I got serious about mitigating the effects of this hereditary mutation. Neither of us had a diagnosis of GH and we learned that the only treatment was phlebotomy.

Peggy and I promptly signed up to donate blood and did so together, racing each other to see who could fill the pint bag first. I always won, and the phlobotomists at the blood center told me it was because I was better hydrated, but I have been recently told by a doctor that my blood is “runny” and that I bleed more than expected for simple needle-prick procedures. It may be because of the 18 months of Milk Thistle I have consumed in an effort to lower my Ferritin, a measure of the amount of iron stored in the liver.

In early March 2020, shortly after Peggy and I donated blood for the first time in many years, I got my first Ferritin test. My result was 150, the highest one could get without it being flagged. I had just squeaked by. If I had received a diagnosis of GH I would have to PAY to donate blood! I continued to donate blood as often as they would let me and added Milk Thistle to my daily supplements. I also employed the following techniques to lower Ferritin:

  • aerobic exercise
  • more beans and whole grains like brown rice cooked with turmeric
  • cut out supplemental vitamin C, shellfish, uncooked fish
  • limit alcohol, red meat, and cooking in iron pots

A few days after the first Ferritin test, we were locked down for Covid-19. I spent the next year feeling pretty crummy and took the test again in July 2021. My reading PLUNGED from 150 to 26!

That was too big of a drop. I think it would be smarter to be in the green zone above. I have cut out Milk Thistle and restored vitamin C and meat. I think the Milk Thistle may be a powerful, ayurvedic-type herb that interferes with iron uptake in the liver, lowers blood sugar and can interfere with estrogen levels. I did NOT experience it as a feel-good overall tonic. I am using my cast-iron pans again. I hope to feel more energetic and creative soon.

Movie: Annette

Movie: Annette

This is what the theater looked like at the start of the movie. Yes, I had the place to myself. I sat in the middle and wore my mask anyway. It was great.

Summerfield Theater

This theater does not cater to the kind of people who don’t get vaccinated, so I felt pretty safe.

I saw “Annette” which was the Cannes Festival Opener and won best director. It is a sung movie — an opera. Ann (Marion Cotillard) is an opera singer. She falls in love, gets married and has a daughter, Annette (little Ann, get it?) to whom she sings. When the baby is a toddler, Ann dies. About the time Little Annette starts to talk, she also starts to sing amazingly. The bad father (Adam Driver) exploits Annette. When she gets a little older, she tells the whole world the truth about him. In the final duet, she sings, “Now you have no one to love.”

Sounds like Rigoletto, I know — but it’s not. I liked it, but I understand why the theater was empty. I was disappointed that it wasn’t in French.

Ziplining In The Redwoods

Ziplining In The Redwoods

Zipline in RedwoodsA couple of weeks ago I got a frantic call from my friend Martha. She was at SFO and could not find her auto ignition key to drive home. Would I drive across town to get her spare key and drive it from Santa Rosa to SFO? I did. Because it was rush hour, it took four and a half hours to get back home. To thank me, Martha treated me to a zipline through the redwoods. Here is a video of Martha on the longest of the five runs. There were also two swinging bridges that demanded balance as well as hiking uphill, and a 60-foot rappel which was as fun as I hoped. This ziplining is not cheap because it supports the Redwood Alliance which sheltered homeless this Covid winter, and provides lodging and meals for firefighters working on summer blazes in the redwoods.

You can see how smoky it is from the Dixie Fire north of Sacramento and get a sense of how dry the trees are after two years of very little rainfall. We are all masked because, two days ago, the Covid Delta variant became dominant and fast-moving and the state mandated masks indoors. Alliance required us to be masked outdoors. There was no resistance from anyone in our group.