Is it time for you to check out cataract surgery?

A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye, and they become more of a problem as we age. By age 75 approximately 70 percent of people have cataracts. Because our population is aging, more than 30.1 million Americans are projected to have cataracts this year. In other cases, cataracts may be related to eye trauma, long-term diabetes, corticosteroid medications or radiation treatments.

At first, you may not notice that you have a cataract. In many cases cataracts start clouding your vision in your 40s or 50s, but do not become a major problem until after age 60. Mine didn’t get really bad until the past year or so at age 65, and corticosteroids (Symbicort) did play a part in their worsening so quickly. The last time I had a vision test I could barely see the big E at the top of the chart!

I had my first eye done yesterday, and it was a breeze. I felt no pain and just saw weird colorful blobs in my eye while my surgeon was working on it. He simply removed my old lens in pieces and then slipped in a new one… No pain at all! In fact, on the way home I said to Mike, “If only all of my medical problems could be solved so quick and easily!”

Today my vision is so much better with no glasses and little discomfort. I feel like I can see EVERYTHING NOW! So I highly recommend getting this taken care of sooner rather then later. Don’t let the idea of it scare you.

Do you know enough about anemia?

Have you ever noticed how we don’t care about a problem until it happens to us? Anemia is my new, out-of-the-blue problem, so I thought I might teach the rest of you a little bit about it.

According to the World Health Organization, anemia or iron deficiency is by far the most common and widespread nutritional disorder worldwide, with an estimated one billion people affected. Yep, it’s a public health condition of epidemic proportions. Who knew? And it is most commonly a problem in those over sixty.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. I found out about my anemia through a standard blood test where I learned my bone marrow was not creating enough normal red blood cells, the size of them was small and therefore, the hemoglobin in my blood was not able to provide me with enough oxygen.

How do you feel when you are living with an iron deficiency? According to the Mayo Clinic, iron deficiency anemia symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Brittle nails & hair loss
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my recent strong desire to chew ice constantly was an symptom of a major problem! Still no desire to eat dirt, but this might go a long way towards explaining my daily struggles to breathe!

So now I’m busy figuring out what foods have lots of iron, foods like beef and pork, shellfish, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, leafy greens and, my favorite, dark chocolate!

In my case I also began taking a 65 mg iron supplement. Thought I might warn the rest of you boomers, because I was pretty surprised. Now I wonder how I got through my whole life without knowing one thing about this… OH, is that what those Geritol commercials from the 1950s were all about?

WARNING: Be certain to see your doctor for a diagnosis rather than taking iron supplements on your own. Overloading the body with iron can be dangerous because excess iron accumulation can damage your liver and cause other complications.

What’s blooming in my Colorado Sky Garden?

After two inches of rain in the past few weeks (!) my garden is smiling every day now. It seems the worst is over from the critters eating everything that blooms.

First of all, we just fledged our second set of Rocky Mountain Blue Bird chicks this week!

My Russian Sage and Purple Hissup are in full bloom now…

And falling under the believe-it-or-not category, my Red Riding Hood Penstemon is blooming again after only being planted this May!

Everything else is smiling brightly, even the cholla cacti I transplanted here a couple years ago!

They’re not blooming yet, but I look forward to seeing them bloom next July!

My Portulacas are even smiling through their protective cage top. Be careful or the critters will climb up there and eat you!

And then there are our native Navajo sunflowers, volunteering again this July!

Choose those who make your life BETTER!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but as I think back to so many of my early relationships I see how I did exactly the opposite. I swear I was looking for trouble in my past relationships, instead of a better life for myself. I was looking for someone to help. It wasn’t really conscious, but it was there. Somewhere inside I thought my only worth was in helping others. No one could possibly love me just for being me. I wasn’t worth that much.

Looking back I truly suffered in my early relationships, but I thought that was what being with others was all about. Where did I get this gigantic piece of misinformation? Why wouldn’t I choose to be with others who loved and wanted the best for me?

As crazy as this was, co-dependency works this way. And until I learned so much more about my emotional problems in counseling, I continued to torture myself with the same old assholes, even into my first marriage.

I guess I finally got tired of all the drama and sadness. I chose differently at age 49. I was not sure when I first met Mike. Was I making the same past mistakes? It took a year or so to know for sure. But I know now that I live within a relationship where my partner does everything he possibly can to make me a happier and healthier person. I have found my soft place to fall.

How to Believe in Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust and Your Own Inner Wisdom, by Laura Lee Carter, M.A. Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, Naropa University.

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Most of us start out believing that love can transform our lonely lives into something better. When that doesn’t work out as hoped for or planned, do we dare dream again? After 25 years, I lost my job back in 2004.  At age 49, divorced with no kids, no job and no career, I began to totally focus on “What’s next?” The rational, practical side of my brain told me to go get another crappy job, but my inner wisdom begged to differ.  It kept prodding me to open my own non-Internet-based matchmaking service. Eventually I agreed. I figured, what did I have to lose? I needed a date and a job.

Little did I know that this new business would unconsciously nudge me towards an even more profound use of my intuition and inner wisdom, guiding me towards a new life and new LOVE!

The death of John Lewis, an American Freedom Fighter

On this occasion of Mr. Lewis’s passing, I decided to re-post this piece from 2017:

My Thoughts about Racism in the USA

I have been an advocate for world equality my entire life. I was raised to think of myself as a citizen of the world and a protector of the earth. I have extreme aversion to all forms of sexism, racism, ageism, and other means of judging others by their outside appearance. Please spend some time talking to me before you decide what I think about anything.

But on the topic of racism in my country, I wish all Americans could see the film: I am NOT your Negro, released this spring, and then have a national discussion of where we come from and where we hope to go.

In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project called “Remember This House.” The book was to be an honest and deeply personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. This film is a product of filmmaker Raoul Peck’s creative vision of the book James Baldwin never finished.

For me, as a European-American raised in Kansas, and one who has followed the civil rights movement for decades, this film was a powerful eye-opener. So many may think they comprehend the black experience in the USA. If you think so, please watch this film. Even African-Americans could benefit from seeing this film. This is a powerful critique of racism, the kind that is found everywhere, and unconsciously continues to this day.

Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King knew that they would probably die at the hands of assassins, but this did not deter them from walking the talk everyday. And, as the film points out, not one of them lived to be 40 years old.

How many of you would risk your life for a cause? African-American leaders of every generation have not survived their generation.

And for those of you with the “I can’t get a hold of this film” excuse. I got a copy from a public library that serves a town of 800 residents. Interlibrary loan is alive and well nationally! It is also available through PBS on Independent Lens.

Why do we have eye brows anyway?

Have you noticed all of the crazy things women do with their eye brows? I swear, this is surely a crazy part of animal behavior! When I see this I always remember one of my favorite lines from George Carlin:

“Ladies, leave your eye brows alone!”

Then I got to thinking, what do eye brows even do for us? I mean we certainly need eyes and noses and ears, but why eye brows? So I looked it up, and according to the article, “Why do we have eye brows”:

Eyebrows have two main purposes: keeping moisture out of our eyes and communication. Physically, eyebrows are there to help keep our eyes clean and clear. They move wetness from sweat and rain away from our eyes so we can maintain our sight.

Did you ever notice how your eyebrow hairs grow outward, toward the sides of your face? That helps direct any moisture away from your eyes toward the side of your face. Eyebrows can reduce the amount of light that gets into our eyes and keep dirt away from them.

Eye brows also help us express emotions and recognize each other. Eyebrows are an important part of human expression and communication. They allow us to show our emotions. One raised eyebrow expresses skepticism or interest. Two raised eyebrows can express surprise…

So you now see, changing your eye brows can be a bad thing. So please, LEAVE THEM ALONE!

Blue-Mist Spirea! One happy Colorado foothills plant!

The first time I remember noticing this beautiful mid-summer blooming purple bush was about twenty years ago, up near Masonville, west of Fort Collins.

I couldn’t get over how cool and refreshing it looked in the midst of such a hot summer day!

So when I moved up to 7,000 feet and started my own garden five years ago, I knew I would have to have a few of these bushes sprinkled throughout.

This plant has turned out to be one of my most dependable bloomers every summer. It needs no extra water once established, the deer and critters don’t touch it and it comes back every year bigger and better than before. It attracts lots of bees and butterflies, and this year it’s begun creating new plants around itself! I love the way it starts blooming in mid-July when most of my other flowers are finished.

Tucked in with a Rocky Mountain Bee Plant and some native sunflower volunteers...

I found out online that these can be propagated from seed by “collecting their fruit—a light brown, winged nutlet. Harvest these seeds and place them in damp sphagnum moss in a plastic bag. Put that in the refrigerator for three months, then sow them in pots. Transplant them outside in spring.”

Mine seem to be propagating themselves with no assistance from me!

How Careful Observation, Writing, and Gardening Create New Meaning

One week ends another begins, but both seem the same. It’s that sameness that wears on us. The near term is the same, and the future seems clearly uncertain. It’s impossible to make travel plans, not just for now but for the fall and winter. Some people have started referring to 2020 as the “Lost Year.” Imagine how those in my family feel, having lost my Dad right before “the virus” took over our lives.

I am saddened to learn that COVID-19 may be taking a toll on Americans’ heart health even if we’re not infected with the virus. According to new research, cases of ‘broken heart syndrome’ are on the rise among those without any specific illness. This occurs when part of the heart becomes enlarged and is unable to pump blood effectively, preceded by intense emotional or physical stress.

Everybody deals with this kind of stress differently. I think it’s easier for us gardeners. We have something in our lives that brings us daily joy. We can go outside each morning and enjoy the summer blooms! The fact that our plants need us, even marginally, also helps. Let’s face it, we all need to feel needed. This is why we all need to find positive distractions from this sad time in all of our lives.

I relate to these issues more than most. I sometimes pass out from lack of oxygen and am not certain if I will take my next breathe. I struggle daily to find the good in everything, like the 4th of July celebrations on TV last week. I want to feel good about my country again and positive about our future, but it isn’t easy if I watch the news too much.

So I go outside and walk around my garden. I hang out with the birds and bees, literally! I watch the birds taking a carousel ride on Mike’s great purple wind sculpture.

I sit quietly and observe the end to another glorious day, as the sun sets over Mount Mestas to our West.

Sometimes I take photos of the sunny still life developing on my bedroom wall as the sun comes up each morning. My appreciation of my eye sight is increased one hundred-fold as it diminishes with worsening cataracts.

These are the moments that sustain me… What are yours?

A Brief High Country Lesson in Lavenders

Lavandula (common name lavender) has 47 known species of flowering plants in the mint familyLamiaceae. It is native to the Old World and is found from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia to southeast India.

Certain cultivars of lavender do GREAT in my high (7,000 feet) and dry Colorado foothills garden. I believe they survive because they are woody plants and smell funny to critters who might want to eat them.

This is Lavendula angustifolia next to a flowering Stonecrop. This one is three years old now!

According to my favorite place to buy plants in Rye Colorado, that just quit selling retail 😦 there are two types of lavenders that are hardy in Colorado,

Lavandula angustifolia (the English lavenders-called English, but originally from the Mediterranean) and Lavandula x intermedia (the English hybrids). Other lavenders, like French, Spanish, and various cultivars you may find sold at Home Depot  are not hardy here! We have talked to so many customers who ask “Why does my lavender die?” and it turns out they planted a type that is not winter hardy.  Please don’t make that mistake. The ones we grow are all hardy to Zone 5, and some brave gardeners have had luck with them at 8000′ elevation.”

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’: Along with Munstead, Hidcote Blue tops the list of most hardy lavenders. Hidcote has a deeper violet blue flower and tighter flower clusters and more compact habit than other English lavenders, and it’s our go-to lavender for xeriscape and rock garden plantings. Winter hardy, deer resistant, drought tolerant– this lavender is a good choice for the Front Range. 18″ tall. Zone 5.”

I believe this one is Lavendula intermedia. It’s only two years old.

Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’: Silver foliage is covered with a cloud of lavender blue flowers for most of the summer. It’s a very tough variety, even outperforming Hidcote and Munstead in many trials. Grows to 30″ tall and 3′ wide. If you want a lavender with landscape pizazz, this is the one for you. Edible, fragrant, deer resistant, xeric….we can’t say enough good things about this one. Zone 5.”

Most of the plants sold at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s will not survive the winter here! Those plants are grown in places like Arkansas. Also, be sure not to water lavender much. It can lead to brown flowers and root rot!

Note: Can you tell I was raised by a botanist? My Dad hopes so! Much more fun to think about than Covid-19!

Penstemons are my friends!

After five years of trying to get a Colorado foothills garden going, I have discovered how much I LOVE Penstemons!

First of all, I have a very early blooming native, I believe it is Penstemon buckleyi, that volunteers as one of the earliest blooms in my garden!

Then I started some Penstemon Strictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon) four years ago and look at them now! They also bloom quite early, in mid-May. They spread nicely too!

This year I bought two new versions that are supposed to be red. My garden is almost all purple at this point in time.

Amazingly, the Red Riding Hood variety (Schmidel?) is already in full bloom!

I also bought two Penstemon pinifolius and put them in. According to my book exclusively on Penstemons, “Penstemon pinifolius is an attractive low-growing evergreen plant with showy, scarlet flowers in June to August.” Mine are just tiny this year. I hope they bloom next year!

My point is that these are the kind of plants to grow here because they are natives! The critters don’t eat them (at least not so far…). They spread nicely and fill up their space by a foot or two, and they love it here!

Want to learn lots more about penstemons? This is a wonderful book for that purpose: Penstemons: The Beautiful Beardtongues of New Mexico.