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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

As many of your may know, my life has been a journey which has encompassed many places and quite varied experiences.   For the last twenty years, my focus has been on the body:  how it works, how we can assist it to be as healthy and whole as possible.   My work as a massage therapist has brought me to places where there were epiphanies in my understanding.  I recently had one of these revelatory moments.

Body work has a tendency to bring you into contact with the human physical form and the human psyche on a very deep level.   Different modalities of body work facilitate this contact in different ways.   Lately one of my favorite modalities has been CORE body work.   CORE stands for “Coax Order, Restore Energy” which, in my mind, is exactly what I am doing when I do massage.

The end of last week I attended a gathering of CORE body workers which was truly a blessing for me.   We took a short class, and held a seminar.  Then we worked on each other.   Not only did it validate for me the value of my work, but it gave me a personal experience of the power of our work during the hands on session.   The room was small and the group intimate and safe.  We split up in such a way that the person who was receiving the work was being worked on by three people at the same time.

This was amazing, to say the least.  The workers were all very experienced, and sensitive to the receiver at the same time as being cognizant of what the other workers were doing. The level of cooperation between the three workers was exemplary.  As the recipient of the work, I can testify that when you have that many points of contact and work going on at once, you simly cannot focus your conscious brain on them.   Your conscious mind just can’t accomplish that task with so many places to attend to., and consequently, it is impossible to block the work.  The end result is, your busy brain gives up trying to be in control.  I found myself able to sink into the experience and allow blockages and stored trauma to come loose.   The effects were profound on a physical level as well as a psychological and spiritual level.

I encourage people who are not doing so yet to find a way to receive body work, especially such mindful work as CORE body work.   I am not saying that this is the only way you can experience release and healing, but it is certainly a very good way, and I have found it effective for myself and for my clients.

**********************

The seminar was illuminating.   I won’t go into all the details, but one of the results of the seminar was I decided to start watching a series of anatomical dissection demonstrations by a Dr. Gil Hedley.   He has generously made his series of dissections readily available on YouTube, and I believe anyone who is interested in how their body is put together will enjoy his demonstrations.

Hedley is a master at dissection, and has detailed knowledge of the anatomy and physiology that he is laying out for you to view.   While he dissects, he discusses the different structures and organs, and part of the glory of this series is listening to him philosophize about the miracle that is our human body.

Yesterday I was watching his Integral Anatomy series, specifically the section on superficial fascia, which some people refer to as the adipose layer.   When he got to the end of the dissection and was reverently admiring the superficial fascia layers he had removed  from a male and a female cadaver, he went into a reverie that so moved me that I sat down and transcribed the whole thing so I could study it in depth.  I feel the ideas in it are so powerful and beautiful, I wanted to share it with you.

Here is Gil Hedley’s very beautiful discussion of the superficial fascia layer of the human body:

The superficial fascia is truly beautiful, an awesome structure:   A sense organ; a warming device; a place of sensuality and comfort as well as a place of reserve energy; stored life force; emotional movement’ and other possibly as yet undiscovered functions and purposes…

…Our culture places a premium on “fat free” and “no fat” and there is a certain level of “problematization” of the adipose layer — the superficial fascia — in our culture.   And yet, as we view and appreciate this superficial fascia here, we can come to a deeper understanding of the many positive attributes of this layer, that cannot be dismissed and which we judge at our own risk, really, at risk of our health and our human experience.

The superficial fascia, like all connective tissues, is piezoelectric; it has the capacity to generate electrical fields when stretched and pulled in gravity.  It’s my belief that this is part of what makes this a sensing layer, so that the interaction of the fields generated by the superficial fascia with the surrounding fields in the environment enable the sensitive person, sensitive in virtue of their superficial fascia, to listen to their surrounding environments at a very deep level.

Perhaps this might be a physiological and anatomical root of what we reference as female intuition, and our general cultural movement to judge, and dismiss, and diminish the adipose layer may in fact represent not only a judgment of the feminine, but of a feminine  power that is inherent in this layer for both men and women.  At the same time we can recognize in this figure here how, without the superficial fascia, ultimately the form is masculinized. The demand, the unreasonable demand, for the reduction in an inordinate manner of this layer is, in a sense, asking women to reduce something that is inherent to their structure and something that is integral to all human form.

Our culture also defines where on the body superficial fascia may ideally manifest, and yet those ideals make no reference to the natural genetic dispositions and the psychodynamic tendencies of any given individual.  Each person is quite unique in their patterns of distribution of superficial fascia, and it is unreasonable to place upon ourselves the demands that it be distributed just here at the hips or just here at the breasts and not elsewhere as well.  Instead, let’s make an invitation to both recognize this layer, acknowledge it, and accept it as inherent to our human form; as inherent to it as an other layer and requiring our acceptance and integration of it so that we might step into the power of this layer.

The power of this layer is both something at a physiological level and a sensitivity level, as we’ve discussed, as well as the shifting power in a culture when a culture accepts its feminine layer. Also, this layer represents to us all a form of resource.   While it is true that in our culture we have epidemic obesity, this is hardly the fault of the layer itself.   What it represents instead is a distorted relationship with the layer, which we can correct by engaging it, accepting it, and developing our understanding of it.

It is my hope that this exploration of superficial fascia will provide grist for the mill, and will provoke curiosity and investigation on the part of scientist and somanauts alike, who can explore and tell us more about the  properties of this layer.  Within recent times it has been demonstrated that the entire level is replete with actively contractile muscle fibers previously overlooked, and that these muscle fibers are part of our wound healing response.   This I learned form Robert Schleip, who is exploring with researchers in England this contractile property of fascia itself.

Of course, within the female superficial fascia, the breast also resides, and there we have a place of nourishment and specialization of the fibers there.

Thank you Dr. Hedley.   I resolve to engage, accept, and devellop my understanding of my superficial fasica, my adipose layer, and to revel in the power that it respresents.

Until next time, I wish you all health and joy.

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Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
Doo-it in doo doo, feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy

(59th Street Bridge Song, Simon and Garfunkel)

I’ve been plagued by earworms lately, and this is the one that was going through my head this morning as Ruby and I walked the sun up this morning.  Frankly, it beats the heck out of the one I was suffering from yesterday, which was the title number from “Guys and Dolls.”

We arrived at the conservation area well before dawn.   The moon was high, and just the slightest tinge of pink was showing at the eastern horizon.   We had only gone a quarter of a mile when I saw something gleaming in the grassy verge by the path.   I picked it up, and discovered that it was an owl wing feather.    Beautiful.

A little scenario played itself out in my mind as I visualized the rabbit sitting near the wood’s edge, enjoying its evening repast; the stoop, the grab that doesn’t quite hit its mark allowing the rabbit to kick out and dislodge the feather as the owl bore it away for its dinner.

I mused on this idly as I continued my walk, and as I rounded the next corner I saw the owl, sitting in the top of the dead tree from where she likes to hunt.   I stopped short, told Ruby to sit, and we watched her survey the field.   Then she called, low hooting answered by a higher gabble of a juvenile owl from the deeper woods.   It seems that there have been hunting lessons going on.   I thought perhaps it was her youngster that missed the mark.  But no, she turned and saw me watching her, and as she gracefully left her perch to join the other owl in the deeper woods, I could see the gap in her wing feathers where the feather in my hand had been lost.

The other feathers in the arrangement are from a blue jay and a heron, also collected during dog walks in the past couple of weeks.  I came across the luna moth wings a couple of days ago, also while walking Ruby.   I searched for the lower pair of wings, but I suspect that a bat was the demise of this moth and the lower wings were consumed along with the thorax, while the larger upper wings flew off when the bat captured the moth.  The other butterfly wing came from Bennett Spring the day I collected the thousands of tiny ticks..

I love that last image, the super close-up of the eye on the luna moth wing.

There seem to be other eyes looking about the place today.

Not eyes, but beautiful this morning — lichens on my teak bench and society garlic sporting dew jewels.

The labyrinth was rather special this morning.   It needs to be mowed, of course, but it is bedizened with surprise lilies today.

This just proves that you can really neglect the bulbs of this plant.   I wanted them in the labyrinth, and three years ago dug a big cluster that was crowding out my chives.   Then I left them in a bucket for about five weeks because I got distracted by something or other and just never got back to them.   When I finally planted them, I realized that I might have been expending all that effort for nothing.   The following year I was sure I had wasted that energy, as there were no lilies at all.    But surprise, surprise!    They just had to recoup their losses, and now they are gorgeous.

I went off to the opthalmologist yesterday in search of answers about my sudden abundance of floaters and the meteoric flashes I experienced Thursday, and was once again reminded of the passage of years.   What a little cutie pie he was — not a bit older than my son.   And he called me Ma’am, an address which is the kiss of death to feeling youthful.

He dilated my eyes and made an extremely thorough examination, and he had good news for me.   All those floaters are really in there, not a figment of my imagination.   Since I described the way my floaters looked in terms of looking at pond water full of bacteria, protozoans and algae, he chose not to talk down to me when discussing my condition.   My retina is firmly attached all round in both eyes, and there are no bulges indicating that fluid has accumulated behind it.   I do have pavement degeneration, which seemed to please him since he doesn’t get to see it all that often and I guess it is interesting. (I looked  that up when I got home, and it is not really a big deal, just one of those things that goes along with becoming “Ma’am” and noticing that one’s perky boobs have obeyed the Law of Gravity and have descended waistward.)

I was sent home with a new spectacle prescription which will probably make my left eye stop feeling so tired, and instructions to come back for a re-check in 6 months.  The only caveat was if I see flashes that look like camera flashes, or something “draping across my vision that won’t go away.”   I guess meteor streaks are not such a big deal, it’s camera flashes you have to worry about.   “Don’t worry, be happy,” were his last words to me as I left his office.    (Thank goodness that didn’t become my next earworm!)

And so I returned home, feeling groovy and in love with life.  Just like the song.  Which is probably why I’ve been hearing it today.

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Surprise lilies, magic lilies, naked ladies — whatever you call them, Lycoris squamigera is probably one of my favorite flowers.  Bear in mind that when I say I have a favorite flower, you should take it with a grain of salt.   Once I asked my mother what her favorite flower was, and after a short thought she said, “Whatever one I’m looking at.”

I have a lot in common with my mother!   But I do have a soft spot for this flower because it blooms during the hottest and driest part of the summer.   My mother always called them Naked Ladies, because they come up looking very bare, with no foliage around them.   But magic lilies and surprise lilies are great names too, since they really appear from nowhere in a great hurry.

Last Monday, I was admiring the Lycoris that had come up along the back of the house, and under the redbud tree too.   I wondered where the rest of them were, as I was seeing no signs of them.

On Wednesday morning, I noticed that there were a few heads starting to poke up from the ground in the area where I had been missing them.   I didn’t get out there to take a picture until Thursday, and by then the few heads had gotten pretty tall and had been joined by quite a few more.

The speed of development impressed me, so I decided I should take a shot every day to document it.

This is Friday morning.

Of course, I missed Saturday.  But this is what it looked like on Sunday.

The whole garden was really quite lovely in the late afternoon light.

Can’t resist a close-up portrait.

I managed to capture one of the hummingbirds during a regular visit to the purple hyacinth beans that share the arbor with the wisteria.

They are hard to capture as they don’t stay put very long, and they are quite suspicious of the noises the camera makes when it turns on.

In other news, Miss Mallory has developed a fascination for her water dish, and spent the afternoon the other day trying to figure out why she could not dig a hole in the water.   She also likes the harvest baskets.   I know I shouldn’t encourage her, but she is teething and finds the handles convenient to chew on.

I prefer having her chew the baskets than my fingers, so I guess I won’t stress too much about it.   If I was going to stress about anything, it would have to be all the claw marks my nice leather furniture now sports.   I’m not sure exactly how you fix things like that, but I suppose I’m going to have to find out.

Today I am going to visit my physician and find out why I am suddenly the proud owner of dozens of floaters and an intermittent lightning flash in my peripheral vision.   Hope it is nothing too serious, while my extensive knowledge makes me quite fearful that my retina has decided to come loose to some extent.  This all just started a couple of days ago, so at least if something is going on, it will be cared for quickly.   I’d really hate going blind in one eye.

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Home made

Before I start on the subject of this post, I just have to share with you the exact content of one of the pieces of spam that was in my spam comment file today.   It read:  “I¡¯m so happy to find out there is actually some terrific content online. I¡¯ve gotten fed up with google sending me junk.”  The irony of it all made me laugh.

Now, to the subject at hand:  Home made.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the term; it gets used a great deal here at The Havens.  As Jim is fond of observing, “I can make it better than I can buy it.”   Then he’ll add, “At least here in the Midwest.   If I lived in a big city like San Francisco or Chicago or London, that might not be true.”

His favorite example of the truth of this is the fact that the readers of the Springfield newspaper saw fit to vote Pizza Hut as the restaurant that makes the best pizza in the city.   Now granted, as commercial franchise pizzas go, Pizza Hut is not horrible and it more than likely will never make you sick with salmonella or listeria.   But “The Best Pizza in the City” ??   Say what?! ?

NOT Pizza Hut pizza.   Jim’s pizza.

With visions of North Beach Pizza and Lococo’s in our heads, we started trying to achieve a great crust for pizza many years ago.   Or I should say, Jim began the quest.  I was merely along for the ride tasting portion of it.   The search began when he came across Boboli prebaked pizza crusts at the local Safeway store, and discovered that a very good home made pizza could be fashioned using that as a base.

Then the Navy saw fit to move us to a location where these convenient items were not available.   Jim started making pizza dough at that time, but the search for perfection was put on hold by the existence of actually quite good pizza at a joint with a wood fired oven in Hadlock, a mere 24 mile drive up the road.   Then we went back to the Bay Area, where the aforementioned pizza Mecca (can I use that term?   Is it PC?)  called Lococo’s was located, so we didn’t make a lot of pizza.

But then we unwittingly found ourselves in the arid pizza desert that was the Ozarks.

Peter Reinhart’s book “American Pie:   My Search for the Perfect Pizza” was our savior.   It had a recipe for a quite wonderful Neapolitan crust that meant we no longer had to long for the crispy perfection of the crust at Lococo’s.    We had already pretty much gotten the sauce right long ago, using our own tomato puree canned from heirloom tomatoes from our garden and laced with pesto made right here in the kitchen from our very own basil, garlic, parsley, and oregano.  (If only we could make olive oil, parmesan and grow pine nuts we’d have complete control of the ingredients in our pesto.)   Recently we have stopped using the canned puree and have started utilizing the roasted tomatoes that we have been producing lately, a huge step up in the quality sweeps.

Since we formed the association with a dairy that is only three miles down the road from here, we have been able to make our own fresh mozzarella cheese upon occasion.   While it is true that our fresh, home made cheese is truly wonderful and far superior to the cheese available in the grocery stores around here, it is also a lot of trouble to make and the home made version is also fairly expensive, since you only get about 12 oz. of cheese from a gallon of milk.   So most of the time we don’t make our own mozzarella.

The final step to pizza independence here at The Havens happened when Jim was introduced to the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day , a volume that changed our lives forever.   We now have a tub of bread dough living in the bottom right corner of our refrigerator.   It was well worth finding the space for that container in that appliance, I can testify.   Now we no longer have to know half a day in advance that we wish to eat a pizza.   We can decide shortly before dinner.

Hence Jim’s assertion that he can make it better.    I’d stack his pizza up against any franchise or frozen pizza and most restaurant versions any day.   It’s cheaper, too.

Here’s something else he makes better:

Those are egg noodles which he made to go under the beef stroganoff we had the other night.

I put the  left-over noodles and sauce in a casserole dish which got baked and served last night for dinner.   We had peas rather than beans last night.  It was all fantastic.

Now honestly, I don’t understand why more people don’t make their own noodles and pasta rather than buying them dry and premade.   Okay, granted, you only have to have the package of noodles available rather than having flour, salt, eggs and water available in your kitchen.   And it does take a couple of minutes to mix the ingredients and form the ball of dough, and then it takes a few more minutes to run the dough through the pasta machine.

But the mouthwatering tenderness of fresh noodles is indescribable.  In addition to being more nutritionally complete, the home made ones are quite a lot less expensive to make than the ones in the box.   This makes me wonder why it is that a product whose list of ingredients contains only durum flour, iron, and niacin costs so darn much.   Wait!   Could it be the processing, the workers to tend the machines, the factory, the shipping, the packaging, and goodness knows what all else add to the costs of the product?

Which brings me to how we find the time to be so “home made” in our lives.   Since we put our own time into the production of our food, we don’t have to earn the money to pay for all those things that are overhead incorporated into the price of the manufactured items many people call “food.”   I stand in the line at the grocery store and I notice that I am buying ingredients for making dishes, while my neighbors are buying the dishes, all stuffed with preservatives, flavorings and dyes, frozen and packaged and ready for their microwave.

For some reason, these same people get every cold and flu virus going around which almost always blows up into bronchitis or some other condition necessitating a trip to their physician and treatment with pharmaceuticals.   All of that costs money too, money I don’t have to spend time earning.

The time I save not being sick and going to the doctor or having to earn the money to pay for the kid at McDonalds who fries the fries and the other one that microwaves the burger and the third one that throws it all across the counter I utilize to grow a few tomatoes and some basil so Jim can make a better pizza.

He can make it better than we can buy it, and that’s the truth.

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You are what you eat

I mentioned yesterday that my bacteriology professor sort of radicalized me about food during the course of my studies with her.  What she said at the end of the lecture where she imparted the following information was this:   “You really ARE what you eat, you know.”

She and her partner were working on research about cell wall structure.   In the course of their research, they had reason to utilize substances that were marked with radioactive isotopes so they could be tracked in the body.

I suppose I could go into a long involved lecture about cell wall structure, but I can hear my readers yawning and complaining already just at the very thought of such an ascent into biochemistry.   I’ll just use a very simple metaphor.   Cell walls are formed by long chains of hydrocarbons and you could visualize them to be rather like those bead curtains you find hanging in certain funky doorways.  Only of course they are in great sheets rather than just one line of beads.

What my professor had found out through her research is that we are extremely efficient about our digestion of fats.   We have developed enzymes that allow us to transport these rather large molecules through the walls of the intestines unchanged.   They ride through our blood stream (raising our cholesterol in the process, incidentally) and are scooped up by the construction engineers of our body and incorporated unchanged into the cell walls.

This doesn’t sound particularly dangerous, or problematical on the surface.

There is a problem, however.    Those fatty acids that we incorporate into our bodies unchanged come in several varieties.  For simplification, we’ll break them down into two major sorts:   Partially hydrogenated (also called de-hydrogenated) and hydrogenated.

Carbon has four electrons available for forming bonds.   A carbon atom that has all four of those sites occupied by a hydrogen atom would be fully hydrogenated (and would also be called methane, incidentally).   If you make a long string of carbons, all neatly furnished with hydrogens, all those bonds form at what are called tetrahedral angles, approximately 109.5.  A long chain of carbons that is fully hydrogenated where all the carbons are hooked together with single bonds makes a rather twisty form because of this.  (For a decent discussion of bond angles and molecular shapes, go here.)

If you remove a couple of hydrogen atoms from adjacent carbon atoms on the string (de-hydrogenate it) what happens is the two carbon atoms, bereft of hydrogen to share electrons with, form a double bond with each other.   The tricky part is, when you replace a single bond like that with a double bond, the two carbons no longer form a tetrahedral angle with each other and the remaining hydrogens.   They now ride along in a straight line, become linear.

Now, let’s go back to the hanging bead strings.   Imagine your cell walls, with millions of these fat chains more or less aligned with each other, forming a barrier between what is outside the wall and what is inside.   If you have lots of long strings of twisty carbons, they sort of tangle with each other.   Also, the “corners” of the molecules share an electronic attraction, which makes them “stick together” as well.   They sort of look and act like strings of wool yarn that you just pulled from the skein and hung up on the ceiling.

What happens if you replace these twisty strings with long straight strings  of double bonded carbons?   They hang nicely, just like those vertical venetian blinds that you see in bank lobbies.   They also do not have the extra “static” charge that makes them stick together, either.

So, when a virus (or a toxic substance that you don’t necessarily want inside your cell) approaches the cell wall, imagine it coming up to a cell wall made exclusively of fully hydrogenated fatty acid chains, all tangled up together and sort of sticking together all up and down the chain.   To muscle through that tangle is not very easy, which is why we have transport molecules to assist in getting things we need to travel across the cell wall in and out of the cells.

But visualize all those neat vertical blinds.   A virus that wants in can just sort of shoulder through, shoving them aside fairly easily because they don’t have the weak bonds or the tangling to get in the way.

Your body isn’t wise enough to discriminate between partially hydrogenated and fully hydrogenated when it gets material for the cell wall, it uses what you ingest.   If what you are ingesting is all processed and shelf stable fatty acids full of double bonds, suddenly your defenses against the baddies you come in contact with are impaired.   You are more likely to get the flu, or a cold, when the virus is running around in your body, because it can find a way in through your weakened cell wall.

And if you are consuming lots of free radicals, they attack the double bonds in the carbon chains and make them in to free radicals as well, which tends to age you quickly as well as being one of the ways cancer gets started in the body.   And if you are being exposed to carcinogens, they can get into the cell more easily too.

I took that information to heart, back in my tender early twenties, and decided that I was going to choose to provide my body with building materials that would help me fight disease and minimize my exposure to carcinogens.  That was when I switched from oleomargarine to butter, and started avoiding processed food.  I also started looking for organic food too, which wasn’t that easy to find in the 70s, I can tell you.

I think it is interesting that it took almost 40 years for the mainstream to finally realize that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are really not good for us, and that they are starting to be removed from our food supply.

It makes me wonder what ELSE they haven’t figured out yet:  like how detrimental are “safe” food dyes, and artificial flavorings, and preservatives?    The cynic in me wonders if they have got it figured out but just don’t want to tell us because it would affect their bottom line.   I mean, where would OreIda be if everybody figured out that it was pretty easy to peel and cook a potato without it being processed, inundated with processed fats, shaped and frozen?

You ARE what you eat, and don’t you forget it.

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Three years ago I got a broad fork for my birthday, and I made a post about it:  How it performs, how much I like it, etc.

Now, while I was being photographed, I had on a tie-dyed t-shirt that I had made myself at a session at one of my friends’ place.  That was a truly fun day.   I like doing tie-dye, almost as much as I like wearing it.

This post serves a dual purpose.   It features a tie-dye t-shirt that I made myself, but in addition it serves as a sort of watermark for the last year’s focus on getting my weight down to the level I enjoyed during my collegiate days.  I have nine pounds to go to reach my goal.

First, the picture that Jim took of my back in 2007, one week after my birthday, as I demonstrated my new broad fork.

And now, a photo taken two weeks before my next birthday as I pose with my broad fork.   In the above picture I was actually working with it, this shot was a set up.   For the record, the shoes that I have on in the above picture died a terrible death by mud during the ensuing summer.   The shoes I am wearing in the following picture are my favorite ones!   Also, the shorts I have on in the two pictures are the same garment.   I find it amazing that I have not destroyed these garments in the intervening three years.

Like the colors in the t-shirt, I have faded to 80% of my former self.

Physically, not mentally.   Mentally I am still 110%.

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I visited a site set up by Dr. Oz and some associate (Real Age) where there is a quiz that you can take that will generate your “Real Age” as opposed to your actual “Calendar Age.”  It is a pretty comprehensive test, and if you answer it honestly you will probably get a pretty true assessment of your health.

I have always felt like I looked and acted younger than my true age.  (In fact, when I was quite a lot younger people used to try to insult me by telling me I should act my age rather than my shoe size.)  I could never quite understand what “acting your age” meant, except it generally meant that I was doing or saying something that someone disapproved of.

Well.   According to Dr. Oz and his RealAge test, my calendar age is 56.9 (which is actually closer to 57 since my birthday is in three weeks).  My Real Age calculates out to 45.6.   I am 11.3 years younger than my calendar age.

Ha!   No wonder I can haul rocks around and work so hard and still feel great.

Guess I’ll go out and do some weeding now.   We got 2.1 inches of rain last night and the ground is still going squish squish squish, but I believe I can tolerate a few wet knees in order to try to get ahead of the weeds, which really got a toehold going in the garden when we had all that rain.

And, not to sound uppity or in your face or anything,  again HA!

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