Green Pastures


I knew it.  I could  just tell.   Especially when our dad gave us those whistles — those emergency whistles — from Tiffany.   Still have mine on a keychain — on a hook — on a wall — so I don’t lose it.

Then he had everything in the house repaired — little things — teensy things — things only he would see.  Things — we’d never get fixed.

That outside spigot still drips.  He left that on purpose, I think.

Hoped it would move along faster.  It did.

So selfish — so foolishly selfish — thinking it was all about me — a cotton candy rain cloud — thinking I was twinkling — in the dark.

Maybe I’ve changed.  Not sure, really.

Haven’t yet learned the art of goodbye.


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

grandparents by Akuokuo Vallis

Bombs bursting in air — that’s what I see  —  that’s what I  hear— when my mom talks about her parents.  Seven children in ten years is a lot.  It wasn’t their fault.  But, it must have been too much for her.  For them.  Would be for me.

My grandmother looked vacant —  after that.

But — in those pictures — in that box— the one in the back closet — upstairs — she looked happy — once upon a time.  The two of them looked happy —  together — at first.  But, 7 children in 10 years is a whole lot.

And my grandfather was never alone when he drank — every night  —  around the corner.

Of course, she was tired of it — my grandmother.  I’d be tired too.  Might even say something — might even do something— not so nice.  But not in front of the children  —  I’d hope.

That wound  is hard to heal, says my mother.

Leaves a stain.


Jack and Jill

Here Comes the Bride by Akuokuo Vallis


Seems like only yesterday — but — Kookaburra was just a puppy — when the neighbors  told me about their Just in Case Supplies.

They  were wearing matching purple sweatsuits — No, they’re violet, she insisted — because — violet is the highest frequency.  Their amethyst amulets were opulent in an understated way.  The gold chains were excessive.  A distraction.  I thought.  I did like their sneakers — Reeboks, I think.  Puffy like marshmallows — high tops.

Criss-crossing each other like automatons — inspecting and reinspecting — they were putting all sorts of numbers — codes, he said — on boxes — lots of boxes — piled up way too crazy high —  in their jam-packed garage.

I asked — just in case — if they would share their supplies — Just in case?

Get your own, she snapped.  Sounded like a growl.

When he died — not that long ago — those boxes —  the ones filled with their Just in Case Supplies — started disappearing — one by one.

His — not mine.

She still wears the purple sweatsuit.





Not exactly night and day–but we are different.  I’m usually, but not always– the guinea pig–the one who tries new things first.  If all goes well– then my identical twin sister, Akwelle, might give it a shot.  We have completely different interpretations of everything.  We are more like complementary opposites–competitors, even.  We absolutely do not complete each other–as some might think.  We are individuals who just happen to look alike– twins.



Our mother, Alberta,  has come a long way since her stroke– last January. She is recovering well–but she still compares herself to the self she was before.  She has always had trouble sleeping.  But since the stroke–it’s gotten worse.  Tossing and turning at night-staying up–anxiously  wondering when she will see improvement.   My mom’s doctor suggested she take a magnesium supplement–an hour or two before bedtime.  He said it would ease her into a more relaxed state–for a more restful night’s sleep.




The magnesium supplement is working out well for our mom.  She still has to go to the bathroom a few times a night–but she is less restless, more at ease.




The other night– I was curious. I wanted to try the  magnesium supplement.  I told my twin sister, Akwelle, my plan.  “I don’t think that’s a good idea–given your sleep history,” Akwelle said.  My sleep history– what sleep history?  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Your sleepwalking! she said.

I had forgotten all about my sleepwalking episodes–once or twice in childhood– a few times in college and then once or twice after that.  Maybe 5-6-7 times total.  I have that under control– I don’t even think about it anymore.

Actually, by the time I told Akwelle my plan, I had already taken the magnesium.  And– I was already sensing a change.  Yawn, yawn. I was feeling  very relaxed. Akwelle’s concerns did not even rattle me  as  I settled into a cozy, sleepy zone-dropping into a calm ocean of marshmallowy fluffiness–down, down, down–all thoughts exiting my mind–  gone–blissfully asleep.



The next night– Akwelle tried the magnesium supplement.  She said she had a great night’s sleep.  Only– she dreamt she was the neighbor boy.


A Good Hot Bath

I don’t know much about astrology–but, I think, maybe, perhaps I love a good hot bath because I’m a water sign.




Actually, it could also just be a family thing.  My mother really loves a good hot bath. Thankfully–even with her mobility issues–she can still enjoy the benefits of a hot bath  with the help of a  bath lift.



I used to take my bath time for granted.  I assumed that this special  me time  was something everyone experienced and enjoyed.  I was wrong about that– for sure.


In 10th grade– I was an exchange student in southern Spain. The town I lived in was very small.  So small–there was no high school.  The high schoolers had to be bussed to school– in a totally different town.


I remember I had to wake up extra early to get on that bus.  It was a very large bus that looked more like one of those giant city tour buses rather than a school bus. It took more than an hour to get to school.  But, at least the seats on the bus were plush and very comfortable.




There must have been something wrong with the radio on the bus.  Everyday, only one song played on an endless loop over and over and over… (click here to listen to it).




The exchange family I lived with had a seafood restaurant. My job was to gut the fish, cut the onions, sweep the floor, wash the dishes, set the tables, take out the trash–then pick up the little sister from school and walk the dog.  I don’t know how I got any  homework done. The family kept me very busy–all thanks to a phone call from my father.




My very protective father called my new exchange family before I arrived.  He spoke to the dad of the exchange family and apparently made quite an impression.




The day I arrived–the whole exchange family picked me up from the airport.  They asked lots of questions and wanted to know if we spoke Spanish at home.  I explained that my family did not speak Spanish at home. That’s when the dad of the exchange family firmly interrupted and said, “Your father does speak Spanish!  I spoke to him this morning.  And–he said we have to keep our eyes on you– all the time.”  The exchange family dad then pointed directly at me and said in English, “YOU NO GO ANYWHERE!  I no want no trouble from your father!!”




I was not a trouble maker.  But, I quickly learned how to make things easier so that I could have my me time.  I’d  walk the dog and pick up the little sister at the same time. Then we’d stop at the bakery on the way home. Everyday, I’d get two very large cream puffs (for me) and a cookie for the little sister. When we got home–the little sister would watch t.v. and I would take a good hot, long bath.  I needed it–fish gutting is dirty, smelly work!




One day, while I was sweeping the floor at the restaurant, the exchange family dad said,  “You’re using too much water at home.  Stop with the baths.”




So–I stopped with the baths and doubled up on my cream puff load. Before getting on the school bus every morning–I started going to the bakery.  I bought myself the usual 2 cream puffs plus a hot chocolate!




On the bus– I’d eat the cream puffs, listen to that same old song over and over and drift into a daydream about what it would be like to be a princess in a palace.




My fantasy palace had a huge  bath tub that looked more like a swimming pool. And there were butterflies flying around inside and rose petals everywhere and beautiful exotic scents in the air.  This daydream became my new me time.




By the end of the exchange program– I was 20 pounds heavier.  I had become a certified cream puff expert!  And a master daydreamer!!




If you are ever in Spain (or NYC or Chicago or even Paris) and you need a good hot bath– you’re in luck.  There’s this place called Aire Ancient Baths  which seeks to revive the ancient bath tradition.  And I don’t think you have to be a water sign to enjoy it!



Because Plants Have Feelings Too

I am terrible with plants.  I know I can do better.  I just need to figure out what to do.


I was in denial at first– but now– I fully accept that my little Bonsai Boy plant, Tiberius–is a goner.  It happened so fast too.  Tiberius was a birthday gift from my twin sister. From the moment I saw him–I could tell he was special.  He even came with instructions.  And I read them– thoroughly.  I thought I was doing all the right things. Poor Tiberius used to have such bright, beautiful, green leaves. He was very healthy and alive. Then something happened. His leaves shriveled up and they all fell to the ground.  He became a collection of stems in a decorative planter.  “He’s probably just hibernating,” I convinced myself.  But, then the stems turned into dry sticks. Then dust.


Now, I have a strong feeling–if I don’t do something fast– my Aloe Vera plant, Agripina, will soon meet Tiberius in plant heaven.


Unlike me, my beautiful mother has a real green thumb.  Plants, flowers, tomatoes–they all flourish under her care.


While my mom has been recovering from a stroke (10 months)–she has trusted me to take care of her plants.  My dirty little secret (click here to listen) is that I have been slowly getting rid of them–one by one.

shovels2 by Akuokuo Vallis.jpg

Of course, I wait until they’re good and dead first. It’s not like I just bury them for no reason.  I know, I know.  I can do better.  And I will.  It’s just that my mother has a lot of plants–so many plants that my twin sister takes care of half of them and I take care of the other half.  I remember  when my mom was first in rehab– she’d look my way and ask, “How are my plants?”  I’d smile broadly– but in my mind I was singing this song (click here to listen).


I  feel terrible about my inability with plants. Especially now that I’ve done some research into the many health benefits they offer.  Not only do plants emit oxygen and humidify the air– but they also purify indoor air of pollutants.  According to (click  here to read more):  plants are mood enhancers.  In fact, there’s even a wellness modality called Horticulture Therapy (HT):

  • HT is a practice that uses gardening as therapy. Outdoor gardening can reduce your risk for dementia by 36 percent. You may find similar therapeutic benefits from desk-sized Zen gardens, bonsai trees, or mini herb gardens.


I’ve also learned that plants have feelings. Meaning–they feel pain (click here to read more):

  •  According to researchers at the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Bonn in Germany, plants release gases that are the equivalent of crying out in pain. Using a laser-powered microphone, researchers have picked up sound waves produced by plants releasing gases when cut or injured. Although not audible to the human ear, the secret voices of plants have revealed that cucumbers scream when they are sick, and flowers whine when their leaves are cut.


According to Michael Pollan (read more here) plants not only feel pain–they also hear, taste and have intelligence.  Pollan says that “the line between plants and animals might be a little softer than we traditionally think.” Click here to listen to an interview with Michael Pollan.


Michael Pollan also believes that by studying plants, humans can eventually create more intelligent robots-because plants like robots “process information without a central command post like a brain.”


Last night I watched an interview with the famous Australian architect, Peter Stutchbury (click here to watch it).  In the interview Peter Stutchbury talks  about the importance of being responsible by showing respect for all materials used.   This  concept of being responsible by showing respect really struck a nerve with me.


I started thinking that the missing link in caring for my mother’s plants is that I was not showing them the respect they deserve.  So, this morning I tried something different.


Before watering my mother’s plants — I stroked them and I spoke to them.   I took my time to really be present with them. All of them. And I finally saw how unique and individual they are.  For the first time ever–I quietly listened to them. And I learned that they do not all require the same amount of water.  But they do require care and attention.  I finally respected them.  And in return– I was transformed. Colors seemed brighter.  The air literally became sparkly.  A connection was made and I was healed– on many levels. This simple, profound act of respect has opened up a whole new world for me.  And I like it.  Thank you Peter Stutchbury!

Simon Says, “Rub Your Ears!”


The other day, I had my ear needled.  My mom’s acupuncturist, Matt, suggested it.  He said it would help me de-stress. It is amazing how stress can make you look like a giant elephant.


Or a spaced-out  cat.  “You will buy me that Betta fish.  You know I’ve always wanted one. Buy it…  Buy it meow–oops–now!”


Matt  put 3 needles in my left ear at various acupuncture  points for relaxation.


He then put 3 needles in my twin sister’s left ear. Matt pointed out that my sister and I have completely different ear anatomy. He said he can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their ears.

  • The ear is a microcosm of the human body– and in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine it is compared to an upside down fetus.



You can also de-stress by using your own fingers to press on acupressure (or marma) points of the ear.  According to Vassant Lad’s book, Marma Points of Ayurveda:

  • Gently pulling the earlobe downwards helps to descend energy to relieve headaches and migraines.  It has a tranquilizing effect because of its functional connection with higher cerebral activity, which promotes tranquility and bliss. This action also aids in stress management and quieting children who are hyperactive.




Qi gong is an ancient Chinese health practice that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention for total body wellness.  Try this Qi Gong ear exercise.



Shiatsu is a form of therapeutic bodywork from Japan. It is based on the same principles as acupuncture–in which pressure is applied to certain points on the body using the hands.  Take a look at this Shiatsu ear exercise.



You can even make up your own daily ear massage routine. Just do what feels right for you. You cannot go wrong.  Your whole body will benefit!


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A Good Reason to Vote

When I woke up on Election Day– I had already decided.  I wasn’t going to vote.  I thought, “What difference does my one vote make anyway?”  Plus–I just did not want to deal with long lines or parking problems or people.  I was in a sour mood.



My mother, on the other hand, was getting ready early.  She was determined to get to the polling place and vote.  She was beyond excited.  “This is historic.  It’s important,” she said.




My older sister had already agreed to take our mother to vote later in the afternoon.   But around 10:00 am, my twin sister suggested we make a dry run to see about handicap parking before our older sister arrived.




Surprisingly, the polling place was practically empty.  There was ample parking–even handicap parking right at the front door.  Clearly, there was no turning back.



So I voted.  We voted– and I’m glad we did.  I realize now that my mother needed to feel a sense of normalcy again. She got a chance to let go of her own worries to focus on something different, something a little bigger for the moment.  That was important, and a good reason for me.




Confessions of a Wheat Belly

It has been 2 months, 1 day, 4 hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds since my last cupcake. I am now officially grain free.  I honestly never knew I had a problem until I changed my diet.





My dog, Kookaburra, has been grain free since she was a puppy. Looking back– I can now understand (and relate to) the crazy behavioral issues she had during her transition from kibble to grain free.




Initially, I found myself secretly, quietly perusing images of cupcakes and (yes) sandwiches on the internet.  Then my wheat addiction symptoms got more serious.  I bought food magazines and cut out pictures of bread and other grain filled gems and pasted them on my bathroom wall!  I was also light headed and a tiny bit cranky.



But, to support our mother’s path to wellness and her newly prescribed grain free diet, my sisters and I have decided to remain grain free too. As Dr. William Davis, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author states, “Once wheat-free, always wheat-free is the best policy.”





  • Is there a difference between Gluten-Free and Grain Free? 

Answer:  Yes

  • A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.  
  • Rice, corn, barley and oats are allowed.




  • A Grain-Free diet is a diet that excludes all grains including wheat, rice, corn, barley and oats.  
  • According to Dr. William Davis, a Grain-Free Diet is the healthiest.




In a recent interview from, Dr. William Davis  states:

  • Wheat, harboring its hidden gliadin protein, increases appetite.
  • Wheat is a weak opiate. Eat wheat, you want more wheat, you want more carbohydrates. 
  • When we eat more grains, we gain weight and acquire all the health consequences such as hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, acid reflux, and diabetes. 



To celebrate our new grain free life–I have decided to reincarnate my favorite popcorn snack into a non-popcorn (grain-free) snack.  It really is just as delicious.  Enjoy!



Non-Popcorn Snack

1 cup marcona almonds, salted
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries, sweetened
3-4 ozs. dark chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 cup manchego cheese, cubed
3 cups popcorn (eliminate)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.



The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I used to trust reviews on the internet–100%.  I was easily swayed by comments and  perfectly photoshopped photos of pretty people in white coats with stethoscopes.




After reading reviews for this one neurologist, I convinced my sister to schedule an appointment for our mother, Alberta.




“This doctor must be really good,” I said. “Five stars and she’s interested in natural medicine,” I said.   I was wrong.  Those reviews were wrong.  It was a bad experience. But at least we got forms filled out to get a temporary handicap placard for the car. And at least I learned a lesson.




My twin sister later told our mom’s acupuncturist all about  the horrible experience at the neurologist’s office. He then said, “My dad’s a doctor.  You should call him.  He’s not traditional at all.  You’ll like him.”




Dr. Robert Bookman, a.k.a. Dr. Bob (  is not your typical doctor.  We did not even have to leave the house for the appointment with him.  He called us on the phone. He then ordered extensive lab tests to figure out how to best proceed with our mother.

  • “I want to understand everything that is out of balance with my patients in order to return them to optimum health. I provide the support and guidance for you to achieve and maintain a healthy existence.”

Robert H. Brookman, D.O.




When the testing was completed– Dr. Brookman  analyzed the results and called us again–this time  with a plan of action.



Dr. Bob’s 10 steps to achieve optimum health are:

  • Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
  • Exercise is Medicine
  • Stress Reduction
  • Gastrointestinal Health
  • Detoxification
  • Balance Vitamins, Minerals, Fatty Acids and Amino Acids
  • Hormone Balance
  • Immune Modulation
  • Enhance Mitochondrial Health
  • Longevity Enhancement