Purple Healing

  prince in purple

      I sat alone in a diner waiting as my car was serviced when I noticed silent clips of Prince performing on the far wall TV.  I squinted to read the flashing news lines thinking, oh no, something must have happened, not prepared for the headline PRINCE DEAD AT 57.

For a moment I could not breathe.  I looked around, not understanding why people seemed not to notice, carrying on as usual.  I did not know my waitress, but wanted to hug her, ask her, did she hear the terrible news about Prince?  My Facebook friends were already talking, debating, hoping the news was a hoax, as confirming reports came in.  Thus began my descent into a grief I didn’t understand but couldn’t deny.

Circumstances left me alone throughout that day and well into the evening.  I longed for a place to go, somewhere to be, someone to be with who shared my grief.  It felt personal, his death.  I always admired Prince, considered him an icon, a genius, deserving of every gushing description he’s now receiving, but I couldn’t call myself a fan, feeling I did not deserve to place myself in that category.  His hits were among my all time favorite songs, I turned the radio up whenever I heard one, but I never attended a concert, didn’t own any of his music and hadn’t even seen Purple Rain.  Yet I felt devastated he was gone.

For the next two days I couldn’t get enough Prince, listening to every news outlet, alternating between news and music.  I learned the full extent of his genius:  playing so many instruments, laying down all the tracks of his early music, writing songs for others — performing, producing, managing his catalogue, building his “vault.”  Rarely do we see anyone so talented in even just one area, let alone all he displayed.  Yet that didn’t explain why I was feeling such an unshakable sadness.

People were calling in to EW Radio to share their personal Prince stories.  I thought of watching him guest star last year on the sitcom “New Girl” with Zoe Deschanel.  The episode captured classic Prince, the balance between his superstardom and humanness.  He gave Zoe’s character the opportunity to “freak out” at meeting him and then went on to share an evening with her like a new best friend.  It was a look behind the curtain for someone like me who only knew his mysterious, remote, untouchable side; a glimpse into what I heard one fan describe as his ability even in a full concert arena to make each person feel like he was performing just for them.  It seemed I could connect to his positive energy even through a flat screen TV.  I wanted more of him.

After sadly slogging through two work days wanting only to talk and think about Prince, I decided to go out on Saturday night, despite facing work again the following morning.  I am fortunate to live five minutes from Daryl’s House, as in Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates; it was my first visit though it’s been open over a year.  That night acoustic guitarist Andy McKee, with whom I was not familiar, was playing.  I thought, hoped, maybe in a music venue I’d get the shared mourning experience I was craving.

Andy McKee’s guitar playing was indescribably soul touching, soothing and restorative.  Even watching with my own eyes I could not understand how he got so much music out of one instrument.  He performed with no mention of Prince or the terrible news, and I thought perhaps his niche was too different to hold a strong connection.  It was getting late and I thought about leaving just as he finished his set.  The filled room drew him back for an encore, and then he started talking about Prince.

In intimate detail, Andy shared his story of being invited by Prince first to collaborate and then to be a part of his upcoming tour.  We shared in his surprise and disbelief at receiving the first email invitation, the thrill of visiting Paisley Park, jamming with Prince, and planning for the concert tour.  Andy would play as the show began leading up to Prince’s entrance, and Andy hilariously described Prince’s specific idea about what Andy should wear for the occasion (involving a long fur-lined cape) starkly contrasting Andy’s usual casual style.

And then Andy played for us, as he played for Prince then, his acoustic guitar version of Purple Rain.  Beginning softly and building to the throbbing intensity a proper Prince entrance would demand, you could almost feel Prince’s spirit filling the room.  This was exactly what I needed, more than I could have asked for, and I felt unspeakably grateful for this answer to my prayer.

andy mckee

Gabrielle Bernstein says in her book Miracles Now! the light we see in others is our own light reflecting back at us.  By all accounts Prince knew exactly what he wanted and went about making that happen with exceptional precision.  He was more than his music, he was an example of a life well lived.  We all wanted more.

Thank you, dear Prince, for showing me what it looks like to dive fully into being exactly who you are.  I see what can be accomplished even in a too-short lifetime by someone who is not afraid to fail, who reaches heights only attained by taking risks that leave people shaking their heads in disbelief.  I hope I can be at least a little bit like him.  Purple has always been my favorite color.








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McDonald’s – Still Lovin’ It


mcd's sign
According to the New York Times, McDonald’s is struggling with how to turn around an ongoing slump. Apparently they’ve tried everything: getting healthier, more exotic, cheaper, more expensive, more customized, and nothing is working. I just want to say I still love McDonald’s. As a lifelong customer, here’s what I recommend.

Get back to what you’re good at. You don’t have to compete with more “upscale” fast food chains like those you mention, most of which are not in my area anyway. McDonald’s is a treat, not a way of life. When I was a kid, my mom took us to McDonald’s on nights my father wouldn’t be home for dinner. Whoo hoo, Big Mac here we come! Onions and pickles were my first introduction to vegetables. Who needs it your way?

big mac

What’s better than a hamburger, fries and vanilla shake? I don’t care if it’s not a real milkshake…

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McDonald’s – Still Lovin’ It

mcd's sign
According to the New York Times, McDonald’s is struggling with how to turn around an ongoing slump. Apparently they’ve tried everything: getting healthier, more exotic, cheaper, more expensive, more customized, and nothing is working. I just want to say I still love McDonald’s. As a lifelong customer, here’s what I recommend.

Get back to what you’re good at. You don’t have to compete with more “upscale” fast food chains like those you mention, most of which are not in my area anyway. McDonald’s is a treat, not a way of life. When I was a kid, my mom took us to McDonald’s on nights my father wouldn’t be home for dinner. Whoo hoo, Big Mac here we come! Onions and pickles were my first introduction to vegetables. Who needs it your way?

big mac

What’s better than a hamburger, fries and vanilla shake? I don’t care if it’s not a real milkshake, it’s delicious especially when swirled around in my mouth with a bite of burger. And no one beats McD’s fries, the original guilty pleasure. I get anxious anytime I hear you are changing them. Use whatever fat you like and keep pouring on the salt, your fries rule! I especially enjoy digging into the bag after the fries are gone for the treasured few that fell out of the container.

super size fries

When I had my own kids, I couldn’t wait ‘til they were old enough for Happy Meals. I got as excited about the toys as they did and would drive happily around to other locations to make sure we got the ones they wanted. There’s nothing wrong with feeding your kids chicken McNuggets once in a while, give yourself a break. And an apple is not a treat! Let’s learn the difference between a healthy eating lifestyle and having treats once in a while.

Now that my kids are grown, I vicariously enjoy that intoxicating McDonald’s smell the young people at work constantly bring into the break room. Even though my nearly senior stomach knows the connection between that temptation and indigestion, I still look forward to the occasional Mickey D treat. Adding a McD’s stop makes errands more tolerable, like visiting people in the hospital, returning things to the mall or my favorite time to go, right after having my cholesterol checked.

regular hamburger
When I’m traveling by car, I choose highway rest stops according to whether McDonald’s is on the sign. If I’m trying to be healthy, I may substitute the Classic grilled chicken sandwich for a burger or a soda for the shake. I may order a regular size hamburger and skip the fries if I’m really being good. I’ve had the salads which are surprisingly fresh and tasty, but don’t consider that offering a requirement. I love the coffee and get an occasional uncontrollable craving for those amazing breakfast biscuits which I order with just an egg, no cheese, or sometimes just the biscuit, make that two.

egg biscuitbiscuits
My only complaint is when those to-die-for biscuits are not available after 11:00 am. I want them when I want them, all day or night. Do that and you can be sure I’ll be lovin’ it all my days. I deserve that treat today!

Not the Same Doctor

doctor patient

My annual physical with my doctor of more than fifteen years was not at all what I hoped for.  Despite the inconvenience of a 45-minute drive to her office and having to wait over two months for an appointment, I’ve felt the continuity important to my care.  I was looking forward to our usual productive, congenial visit.

I’m grateful not to have serious health issues, but had minor complaints to discuss, previous health concerns to follow up on and idiosyncratic worries to share (including last week’s epic nosebleed). I also expected kudos for finally, completely quitting smoking (not that I was much of a smoker anyhow) and for bringing my weight down to ideal levels.

Our annual appointments typically start with me sitting, fully dressed, in her office talking about my health and risk factors before we move into an examining room. After the exam, we return to her office to discuss recommendations, lab work, prescriptions and next steps. This is not what happened.

After checking in and making a quick trip to the rest room, I sat in the waiting room for only a few minutes before being called in by the nurse, who escorted me straight to the examining room where she weighed me, took my blood pressure and asked questions about changes in medications and allergies.

I was left to change into my gown before the nurse returned, leaving the doctor outside the door. She said, “The doctor uses a recording system for transcribing exams. Someone in another room is listening in and recording what goes on,” she gestured toward the computer. “Is it all right for us to leave that on while you are with the doctor?”

What??  Someone I don’t know in another room listening in on my discussions with my doctor?  Is already listening in?  I never heard of such a procedure and was not at all sure I liked the idea. It seemed intrusive, and I felt inhibited just thinking about it. So I answered, no, I’d rather not.

The nurse informed the doctor as she walked in that I’d said no and she muttered, “Oh great.” I wasn’t sure she meant that as I heard it, negatively, so I asked her whether she was unhappy about my saying no. “Yes,” she said, “it’s more work for me.”

Now I was uncomfortable. How do I open up to an irritated doctor? I was bothered, too; I think this appointment isn’t about what’s good for her, but what’s good for me, the patient.

“You don’t want to do it, that’s fine,” she said, though obviously it wasn’t fine, since she went on to describe how now later she would have to dictate her notes.  My previous low blood pressure steadily rose.  She tried to move on, asking me how I’ve felt this year, but still reacting to her now confirmed annoyance, I said, “I’m still thinking about the recording business.”

“Just forget about that, let’s move on,” she said, pointing to her watch. “You were already late.”

What? Now I’m being rushed?  “I wasn’t late,” I responded, now getting angry that she would add insult to injury.

“Yes you were,” she insisted, looking again at her watch, “it’s 11:10.”

I know I was on the elevator at 10:46, one minute past appointed time, close enough. Checking in took a few minutes as I first fumbled with their new self-check in kiosk and ultimately had to speak to the receptionist after all.

“My appointment was at 10:45 and I was here. I received several (automated) reminders of my 10:45 appointment time; if you need people to arrive 15 minutes early, you should let them know,” I said.

She was curt, I was offended and upset. I told her I didn’t think we could have the appointment after all. I said I didn’t see how I could talk to her when she was annoyed and I didn’t like feeling chastised. She kept insisting it’s fine, let’s just move on. I’m sure our voices raised enough to be heard outside the room.

I stayed only because I waited so long for the appointment and wanted the lab results, but I believe I would have been right to end the appointment right there.

The rest of the exam was perfunctory, the doctor trying to lighten the mood, but it was too late to have the visit I wanted. At one point she apologized for the time it took to enter a prescription into the computer. I responded, “That’s okay, I’m not the one who’s in a hurry.”

“It’s just all the other people …” she replied. Yes, that is the problem, I’m right in front of her and she’s thinking about all those other people.

I don’t know who’s to blame for the changes being imposed on doctors, whether it’s laws about getting everything electronically recorded – although privacy laws seem in conflict with having someone listen in on a private discussion between doctor and patient – or it’s insurance companies dictating what has to happen in a physical exam, or it’s large private medical groups trying to remain profitable by squeezing more patients into a doctor’s schedule. But it doesn’t feel like good medical practice.

On her way out, the doctor held out her hand and said “I’m sorry for the miscommunication.” I don’t think it was a miscommunication at all. I think it was a pressured doctor taking it out on a patient, which is inexcusable.

I was still upset later that night thinking this doctor owes me a huge apology while not expecting that would be forthcoming.  The system has gotten too big, too impersonal.  And that’s worrisome, especially considering I am fortunate to have great insurance and this doctor belongs to a premier group in our area.

My advice is take your health care into your own hands and do your best to get and stay healthy so you don’t need doctors, because the health care system is getting worse, not better. Thank goodness for WebMD.

Nose Bleed

straight hairIt’s so dry in the house with this severe cold weather, I wake up every morning with such a scratchy throat I think I may be coming down with something. Once I’m up and moving around, though, I’m fine after all. The other day as my head was clearing I felt one big sneeze coming on, one of those really satisfying ones, you know, like wow that felt good.

Then my nose started its usual drip, drip, drip, the annoying constant runniness I experience through two out of four seasons of the year. Except this time, I looked down and saw red. I don’t get bloody noses, which is just what my husband said as I reached for a tissue. It stopped quickly enough, leaving me more concerned about the bloodstains on my freshly washed bathrobe as I wished my husband well and he went off to work.

A few minutes later, my nose started up again, this time in earnest. I mean it was a gusher, sending me running into the bathroom grabbing a handful of tissues to catch the bleeding. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to pinch, up high? Down low? I’m tilting my head back and feel blood running down the back of my throat. Yuck. It’s coming so fast I can’t keep up with the flow. I am not good with blood. I sit down at my desk and google bloody noses, thank God for the internet.

I quickly deduce from selectively reading WebMd.com that I must have a posterior, perhaps arterial, bleed because this is too much blood to be coming from the front of my nose and hello, it’s so profuse it’s coming out of both nostrils. The next sentence annoys me more than the blood: “[these nosebleeds] tend to occur more often in elderly people.” I told you 60 is not just a number.

It turns out you’re supposed to tilt your head forward, not back, and you’re not supposed to swallow blood. I further read, “These nosebleeds are more complicated and usually require admission to the hospital and management by an otolaryngologist” so it’s time to call my husband in the car on his way to work. My voice is garbled from wads of tissue stuffed up my nose and a gathering thickness at the back of my throat. I have to yell into the speaker so he can hear me.

“This is not a normal nosebleed!” I holler.

“Well, stop walking around and go lie down,” he says. (The internet says not to lie down!)

“The internet says this happens to f*&@ing elderly people,” I shriek.

I go upstairs to tell my son who is getting ready for work he may have to drive me to the doctor. “I’m having a problem,” I can barely speak, my nose and throat feel so clogged and swollen.

“I know,” he responds, “I heard you.”

Following sacred WebMd’s instructions, I sit up straight, head tilted forward, pinching my entire nose for a solid ten minutes (use a timer, they say). The bleeding slows although it takes more than an hour to become blood free during which time I feel a huge glob slide down the back of my throat “which may cause vomiting.” It’s a good thing I don’t have to work today.

I did have work the following day however, so I was more than usually anxious about sleeping that night, afraid my nose would erupt, ruining my pillows and bedding, and keeping me from work. When did it become so hard to feel good enough to go to work? Despite a fitful night’s sleep, my nose and I were fine the next morning and I got to work without incident, albeit with my pockets stuffed with tissues just in case.

On the drive in, I thought about the vaporizer I recently found while emptying out a closet. That would have come in handy, except I just got rid of it. It sat in that closet the entire fifteen years we’ve lived in this house and hasn’t been used since the kids were young. Day before yesterday, a long time ago.

Still Alice — Disappointing Adaptation and Missed Opportunity

julianne mooreI so enjoyed reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova that I couldn’t wait to see the movie. My father died of vascular dementia so I relate to Alice and her family, their story so well captured in the book. Julianne Moore deserves her Oscar for portraying Alice, although the movie could have shined a clearer light on dealing with dementia by including more of the book. The filmmakers skimmed over or skipped parts which provide salient lessons for those who might find themselves or someone they love in that situation.

I wanted to see more of Alice’s pre-Alzheimer’s life and all she had to lose, as well as the insidious changes that revealed the disease. A lot happens to Alice between feeling lost in her surroundings and losing her teaching position that shows how it feels when it happens to you and how people around you tend to react. When you’re faced with deviations from normal it’s too easy for annoyance to overshadow compassion, denial to delay needed assistance.

Like daughter Lydia, I was the sibling who lived away, so when I’d visit, changes I witnessed in my father’s behavior were more alarming than to those living around him. People closer expect life will continue as normal and may miss gradual slides; coming from a distance baselines are more clearly drawn. In the movie Alice looks up a holiday recipe on Google, but that’s not the same as Lydia coming home for Christmas and seeing that her mother has forgotten how to carry out a treasured annual ritual.

When Alice repeatedly asks what time is her daughter’s play, the family argues about how best to respond but the movie leaves out how one daughter insists Alice be forced to “try harder” to remember rather than use her phone as a crutch. Alice can’t try harder, that’s the reality of the disease; that response, a potential misstep of well-meaning but mal-informed friends and family.

I wish the movie included the scene where Alice, having given up teaching, tries to stay connected to her colleagues and attends a department lunch. She offers an articulate, insightful observation on the speaker’s presentation which is well received until she offers the same remark a second time. The ensuing awkward silence makes you wonder: Why do we find this disease so discomfiting as to effectively shun the affected?

Feeling abandoned, book Alice searches out new colleagues, forming a support group herself since none existed for her ailment. This is what brought her to the poignant, climactic speech in the movie which expresses what I wish the movie demonstrated instead. I’m glad this movie draws attention to Alzheimer’s at a time where, as Julianne Moore points out, the disease has no treatment or cure.  It just could have done more.

See the movie, but read the book, too.

Christmas Basket

Christmas basket
Every year after I think Christmas is all put away, I find overlooked items scattered around the house. This year I decided to plan for that reality and the Christmas Basket was born.

The basket itself came as a gift to my husband’s office containing a “tower of treats” which slowly disappeared over the holiday season (I immediately ate the caramel corn and left the rest to everyone else). The empty basket is nicely lined in festive red plaid, too nice to discard, yet too big to pack away with the other kitchen Christmas decorations. After clearing the rest of Christmas, I placed the basket on the front hall dresser, a central location. Immediately it began to fill.

paper towels

First in: an unopened package of holiday paper hand towels found in the powder room cabinet while reaching for a roll of toilet paper. I bought the pack in the fall and then forgot about it, or more accurately, where I had put it, which proves you can start preparing for the holidays too early. Next, one shiny green glass ornament that apparently fell off the tree, rolled under a chair amazingly unbroken, although it lost its hanging cap. (I spent an inordinate amount of time this season squeezing together little wires to replace those caps; someone should do something about how easily they pull out.)

The laundry revealed a tree-embroidered kitchen towel, one I like that actually works (I must get rid of the too many I have that neither dry dishes nor match my current kitchen). That reminded me to search for holiday guest towels I know I have but never put out because they are buried in closets rather than kept with the official holiday linens box I’ve been organizing over the last couple of years. I was thrilled especially to find Dancer and Rudolph who had been missing from the reindeer lineup.

dancer towel
Surprisingly lovely dollar store door knob jingle bells were the first decorations I put out the morning after Thanksgiving, but to which I apparently became oblivious; four of five were still on display. That reminded me of a non-jingling door knob decoration that had been hanging since last Christmas (or the one before?) on the front hall closet door. I felt guilty every time I noticed it but not enough to make a special trip down to the basement holiday corner on the off season.

door hanger

A golden angel candle in a mini-basket was on display for so long her nose and elbows are losing their finish. She was left out last year and I decided she’d look nice in the guest bath since angels are welcome anywhere, anytime, but enough for now. Leaving the bathroom, I noticed the Christmas tree/bubble nightlight still plugged in after spending all last year in the medicine cabinet. The “Christmas Joys” book was sitting on the coffee table and four cookie cutters I bought this year because I wasn’t sure I could find the dozens from coffee shop days (I never got to making cutouts anyway) sat on a kitchen shelf.


While dragging out the tree, my husband spotted one of our boys’ first Christmas ornaments falling onto the driveway. Now there’s something I’d hate to lose. Am I done yet?  Looking up I see a glass wax Santa on the window.  Probably not.