Category Archives: Baboon Achievers

Inside / Outside

I love walking through a door into the outside. I noticed this about myself several years ago – a whiff of fresh air, a little breeze and I take a big breath and feel a sense of joy. Sometimes I even open my arms and take an even bigger breath.

Is it claustrophobia? I don’t consider myself to be severely claustrophobic – no problems navigating life, although I’m not sure how long I would last in a full elevator stuck between floors. The idea of crawling into a tunnel (like Phillippe in Ladyhawk) gives me the creeps and I’ve abandoned a book once because all the action takes place in a deep cave (Blind Descent by Nevada Barr). No problems with planes, no problems in crowds.  I have done caves of my own free will, although I’m really not happy while I’m underground.

But I don’t think its claustrophobia; I just think I like going outside. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What about you? Inside or outside?

Skill Set

We spent the weekend in Brookings, SD visiting our son and daughter in law. They moved to a new town home a couple of weeks ago, a place they will reside for a couple of years while they financially position themselves to purchase their first home.

Every time they move to a new place, they request my assistance hanging pictures. They insist that I am the only one who can hang the pictures straight, at the correct height, perfectly centered, and do it virtually error free. They say they make too many extraneous nail holes if they do it themselves.  So, I scramble on top of the sofas, chairs, beds, and other furniture, measuring, marking, stretching, reaching, and pounding nails and picture hangers.

Each time they ask me to do this, I demonstrate, one more time, how to figure out where the center is, how to make sure groups of pictures are evenly spaced and at the same height, and I show them the tools they need. I also demonstrate how to hide extraneous holes with tiny screws of tissue and/or toothpaste. It isn’t rocket science. I learned this from my mother, who was a meticulous picture hanger, measuring side to side, ceiling to floor, to find the perfect spot for the nail.

They were so happy to have the pictures on the walls, and declared that the art and photos made their new place truly home. It could have looked like home much earlier if they did it themselves.

What skill set does your family depend on you for? What is your plan for teaching them to do it without you?



Living through Adversity

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

I’m in the process of publishing a book that is a compilation of a year’s worth of journals on Caring Bridge during my battle with cancer. I thought I would share just the introduction with you.


It was a day like any other, getting up to drink coffee, check out the news on digital reading online. Two days earlier, I’d seen my primary care doctor for a complaint about chronic constipation.  As he was exiting the exam room, I thought to mention that, once in a while, my daily medications got stuck in my throat.  He turned around and said, “I want you to have an endoscopy this week. Don’t worry – 99% of the time it’s nothing”.

On January 20th, two days after the endoscopy, the gastroenterologist who’d done the procedure called me. She said, “I’m sorry, but you have esophageal cancer”.  Just like that. No “Come in with a friend or family member because there’s a concern about your test results”. Only, “I’m sorry but you have esophageal cancer”.

Never having heard of this kind of cancer, I immediately googled it. What I read in the first few articles basically informed me that I would be more likely to die than to live with this highly fatal type of cancer. This didn’t scare me; it astonished me.  Reading something which basically says you’ll probably die is surreal.  From this moment on, I never dwelled on this probability.  I still haven’t.

For me, seeing a small white spot on a PET scan was in no way a threat to my life; it was just a white spot. How could a little white spot on a scan kill me???

This whole thing made me intensely curious and I researched endless hours to meet my new, unwelcomed internal guest. Never once did I grasp, much less react to, this as a real threat to my life.  It was simply a white spot on a scan.

What I did realize almost immediately was that this diagnosis was a very big deal and that most people hearing it would trip them into fear, panic, anxiety, and generally into feeling powerless. I recognized that this would be a “normal” reaction to hearing a diagnosis of the big “C”, regardless of which type.  For some unfathomable reason, my gut rejected falling into a victim space.

I’d learned a long time ago that the story we make up about any situation will determine how we deal with it. I decided right then and there that I’d make up a story which would carry me through as best as possible, and it sure as hell wasn’t the version of crumbling into fear or depression. No. Not me. Not my style.

Crafting a story of my choosing, I decided that this would be the journey of my lifetime no matter how it turned out. I decided that my greatest responsibility was to my children, grandchildren, and friends.  I don’t have many friends, but have many dozens of acquaintances from my years of being the local “Dancing Grandma”.  With a vision of everyone who knew me in mind, I crafted this story:

I would soldier through with humor and curiosity. I would remain fiercely independent throughout. I would model how to face adversity. I would, if I died, show my loved ones how to do this with gusto and a semblance of dignity. I would not cave into despair no matter what. If I was going to die, I did not want people’s last vision of me to be one of a person victimized by this odd invader. No, I would not allow this to diminish my spirit even as it diminished my physical being.

Making up this story freed me from all of the emotions most cancer victims would feel. This story was so much bigger than me, and I knew it. It was about the people who loved or liked me witnessing a way to make this cancer journey without angst or helplessness. It was bigger than me, and this realization was exactly how I faced cancer with acceptance.

There’s a belief out there that we must view cancer as the “enemy” and envision it as a marauder to be conquered. A very wise friend told me, years after my encounter with esophageal cancer, that I probably survived because I didn’t make cancer an enemy.  For me, it was simply a white spot on a scan, nothing more, nothing less.  It wasn’t a friend or an enemy; it just was.  Its discovery would embark me on a journey that would enlighten me and bring gifts no other journey ever could have.  I learned how resilient I was.  I learned how to accept – even ask for – help.  I’d never before been in such a physically compromised condition that I couldn’t take care of myself. I learned that others instinctively and whole-heartedly respond when they see another human in dire need. I came to understand something I’d taught many clients but never applied to myself: helping someone in need is a gift to the giver.  I hope that I can hold onto this part of my enlightenment.


Has adversity brought unexpected gifts to your life?



Complaint Department

I spent part of Friday looking up the online recipes for a new diet I’ve been trying, and printed out a few of the recipes for my collection. I finally gave up on one recipe, however, when I read that I should “In a small saucepan, whack honey with liquid and simmer till sauce thickens slightly.” I realized after reading the next sentence “Take off heat and whisk in mustard” that the author meant for us to “whisk honey with liquid”, not whack it. (!)

In the next paragraph I was told to “mix sugar with nest and chile powder”, but I’m on to them now, and after consulting the ingredient list, I understand that oddly enough, instead of nest, they meant lime zest.

I want to write to them with my rant – “What is wrong with you people? Have you no editor? Since I’m doing it anyway, how about if you pay me to be your editor?” but there is nowhere to write that would bring satisfaction.

When have you lodged a complaint with the appropriate party, and did you get satisfaction?

My Life as a Baboon Whisperer

Today’s post comes to us from Jacque.

Over the weekend I found a new website which I like, It has a variety of news and special interest stories.  I was browsing through it when I came upon this irresistible article, “My Life as a Baboon Whisperer.”    Apparently in South Africa alpha baboons have become a local menace, kind of like the bears in Northern Minnesota. The alpha males are raiding local garbage cans as a food source.

In 2009 a South African city decided to start exterminating the baboons doing the raiding. The article is written by the person who started Baboon Matters. Baboon Matters is an organization which tries behavioral alternatives to shooting the offending animals.   The organization discovered the following:  “so-called ‘raiding baboons’ are almost always alpha males, and killing them creates a vacuum in the troop hierarchy that results in chaos.”

When I read the quote, the first thought flitting through my mind was, “This sounds a lot like politics in the USA at present.” The second thought was, “It is so nice to know Baboons Matter!”

Here is the link to the article:

After reading this so many questions that might fit at the end of this post went through my head:

What kind of whisperer do I want to be? How does this situation serve as a metaphor for American politics right now?  Who will save us?

What question would you pose for others after reading this?

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Today’s post comes to us from Jacque.

 I love cherries.  A bowl of cherries just sends me over the edge of contentment into pure joy.    However, seldom in life have I found life to be consistently as good as the dear old axiomatic bowl of cherries.  It is especially not as good as the cherry pie made from cherries ala Door County, Wisconsin (sour pie cherries).

Now I am the pleased owner of a sour pie cherry tree.  For many years on holidays like Mother’s Day or birthdays, I have been getting trees and plants for the garden or yard.  There are not many physical belongings I want or need.  So I ask for trees and plants.  They contribute oxygen to the atmosphere and produce for my table.  And every time we plant one of those it is less grass to mow and tend.

The cherry tree was a Mother’s Day gift two years ago.   This year it produced a bowl of cherries, after producing nary a cherry last summer.  And then I produced a cherry pie. It is delicious.  There are two pieces left as of the writing of this post.  By the time you read this, it will be gone.

Recently, when I passed a major professional certification process, my colleague brought me a red Wiegala bush as a congratulations gesture.    The “therapy certification bush” now stands proudly in the front lawn, reminding me that I did this thing.  It makes me smile.

What do you like to get as a gift?

Gardening with Godzilla!

Most of my friends don’t like weeding; all they see is a big chore ahead of them and how long it will take. Of course, if I never had to weed again, I probably wouldn’t be heartbroken, but I like to think of it as “zen weeding”.  I’m outside, it’s usually a lovely summer day with sunny skies and hopefully a nice breeze.  I let my brain wander off where it wants.

Today I was working on my creeping Charlie problem and trying not to think of all ground cover as evil.  After all, it’s only doing what Mother Nature intends it to do.   As I pulled up a tendril I wondered if the creeping Charlies on the other side of the boulevard knew what was happening on this side.  And that’s when I got to Godzilla.  What if the creeping Charlie is a Japanese city and I am the monster Godzilla?

No stopping my brain at this point! A long over ground tendril became an elevated train, underground tendrils were subway lines.  Tall bits that were reaching up – high rises.  Clumps of little root systems – office buildings.  Particularly thick clumps – city hall.  Bits that clung and clung and clung – Senate.  This kept me occupied for the better part of an hour.  I’m thinking Godzilla and I will be bonding again on the boulevard!

What monster would YOU like to be?