It’s the End of The World As We Know It…

November 2, 2016

Might as Well Dance.

Here’s what I figure. There will be a decision and an outcome. The game will be over.

We have three branches of government. Checks and balances.

Next season, everyone begins with a 0-0 even record.

During periods of oppression and repression, we’ve also – at the same time – had:




Ask why. Ask how. But don’t let your incredulity freeze you.

Keep on.

The world needs YOUR words, YOUR science, YOUR art, YOUR stuff.






September 17, 2016


This is  a health issue. A mental health and a social health issue.

I recently participated in a push-up challenge, propagated through Facebook, in which one is to do 22 push-ups for 22 days. You are filmed and post it, then challenge a new person to do the same every day. The goal is 22 million push-ups.

It brings attention to the statistic that every day, on average, 22 veterans are killed by suicide.  

The movement is part of the group #22 Kill . They have other initiatives which raise awareness and support. “22KILL is a global movement bridging the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support.” 

What I (think I) learned:

I was alarmed at the statistic.

Many factors contribute to suicide. For veterans PTSD is, indeed, part of the picture.

And I recalled this, then (U.S. stats):

  • “About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • About 10 of every 100 (or 10%) of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 (or 4%) of men. Learn more about women, trauma and PTSD.

Some groups of people, including African-Americans and Hispanics, may be more likely than whites to develop PTSD. This may be because members of these groups are more likely to go through a trauma. For example, in Veterans who survived Vietnam, a larger percent of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans were in combat than whites.” – National Center for PTSD

As soon as you are a veteran, your chance of developing PTSD is extraordinary.

Just living as a woman, African-American or Hispanic-American means your chance of developing PTSD is high.

Most people in the U.S. with PTSD are not veterans.

I can do more push-ups now.

Now that I know I can, I kind of have to. I think that is the point. One of them.

It’s still hard to do push-ups. My form is OK. It was interesting to see from the outside.

What now?

It has been inspiring to see so many people participating in this.

Some of my friends and family members chose to participate when I tagged them. That resulted in a bunch of thoughts and feelings:

Pride. Excitement. Concern. Selfishness. Hope. Worry. Frustration. Joy. Hope. Excitement. Frustration.  All of these fed the question:

What now?

Some did not want to be on film. Some modified the push-ups and some maintained insane form. Everyone struggled at some point.

My friend Jill has linked her performances to specific history and place, to awareness about minority veterans, family history and more.

Some did them on vacation, quietly in the house, some boldly in the streets or at memorial sites.  Some involved other people, made it about community.  They inspired others to begin it, and so it goes.

ALL of it is inspirational. But, still:

What now?

What do YOU think about this challenge? What did it do for YOU?

If YOU are a veteran, what do you think?

Those of YOU who have felt suicidal, tried to commit suicide…what matters?

Have you developed PTSD, or do  you know someone who has? What helps? What do YOU want?

It feels like it is all about me, still. How to use this momentum to make it about the people, about you?

What I am going to DO – Please share resources to help me, if you have them. 

  • Ask gentle but direct questions, like: “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” 
  • Push-ups. For my own health. 
  • Keep resources close. Domestic and sexual abuse hotlines and safe places. Suicide hotlines. To share. 
  • Support the work. Domestic and sexual violence groups. Peace efforts. Mental health initiatives. Legislation addressing homelessness and environmental prejudice.
  • Continue the conversationShare resources and stories.
  • Collaborate and make community. From all of the above, and continue to ask people to join me. 



Yelling at the Earworm

March 3, 2016

I have a bent, a tendency, a lean…an intractable character trait or brain problem or whatever it is…toward obsession. Perseveration. I get attached.

A random word releases a memory, which always (always) links to a tune. Usually it’s a phrase of a popular song or a commercial jingle. The earworm is hatched.

After a few days of incessant turning of this worm, I am desperate to put an end to it. (Yes. It can be days. Sometimes weeks. Often multiple worms. I’m a fantastic multi-tasker.)

It’s hard to end it.

My sister, a mental health professional, responded to my plea for help and gave me the best advice I ever got.  “Yell at it.”


“Yell at it. In your head. Think about using the voice … if your nephew were about to put his hand on a hot stove, how would you say it?”


“Yes. Like that.”

So I do it. And it WORKS!

I often use “Hey!” Occasionally it needs more, like when the dog sometimes gets (correctly or not) an extra “Stay. Staaaaay. STAY!” command.
Recently, after I’d worn down a good brain pathway by repeating [gulp. i am risking re-awakening the worm.] the chorus of Kim Richey’s “Chinese Boxes“, and though I love her music, I had had enough.


For some reason, I used the word “STOP!”

Well THAT just put another song right into my head.

But to my pleasant surprise it wasn’t

  • Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • MC Hammer
  • Vanilla Ice
  • etc
  • etc
  • etc

…though clearly I went there afterward. [sigh]

What scoured a new channel into my brain?

Batdance” which morphed into “Electric Chair” – both by Prince from the Batman soundtrack.

No cursing this time. I raise a glass to the fact that music is inextricably linked to all things in my life.

I toast to my sister, and to this song set again, still digging (ha. get it?) the memories and the jams…






just the first few blocks

May 12, 2015

Every once in a while, Deb and I toy with the idea of what it would be like to move out of our house. Out of our neighborhood. Out of Madison, even Wisconsin.

There would be losses and there would be benefits, like anything. At this point, it is a philosophical exercise. But we do it sometimes when we think about navigating stairs as we age, or when we assess our financial situation, or my business, or when we discuss our long distance from family.

Often in the spring, we have a neighborhood block party. I have the privilege of setting it up and of encouraging folks to get involved. Through our local neighborhood list (which Deb and I set up at the first block party I organized), we ask for help. We get it. I got seven offers to hand out fliers and accepted five. Pretty cool.

I met one of my “over two blocks, and up one block” neighbors while walking our dogs.  She shared pet training tips and neighborhood stories, and walked with us, like she always does.

Last Sunday, I rumbled my wheelbarrow (with its mostly inflated tire and a shovel) around a couple blocks to dig up ferns. I had posted a request to my neighbors on that listserv, and learned very quickly I’d be doing many favors by taking ferns away. They are in our yard, now, with my wishes for them to take over the crazy ground-cover and to hop over our fence to the public land that borders the bike trail…supplanting more of the kooky weeds that grow there.

Not only did I get ferns, I got gardening tips and some wild ginger. And stories about each person, how they had been, their new kitty, their job, their plans for summer. I got to help remove ferns from places where cats would hide under a bird feeder as well as to remove ferns from overcrowing beautiful trilliums. Trilia?


In our mailbox the other day we found a flier for our neighbor’s retirement party. “Meet at Wilson’s!” bar, two long blocks up and one over, where somehow we had never been. (If you know Wisconsin, you know bars are on every corner.)  This one has a zillion screens tuned in to any NFL game by request during the season (and still, Deb had never been there) as well as a famous Friday fish fry. The latter is not rare, but we hear it is one of the best. We got to celebrate with our neighbors, who welcomed us and made us feel special in an enormous sea of friends and family.

Happy to be retired!


Walking the dogs, I saw our handyman/carpenter (finally found “the one”, who we won’t let get away), and we chatted a little about a project he did, about the weather. He’s my neighbor.

Walking a different day, I met a local business man who makes trekking poles which I encourage in my therapy practice for everything from fitness to help with balance to relief of joint pain while walking. I do it because they are good products and they help people and they are locally made. We partner because we are both passionate about people staying active and safe and independent.

He’s a keeper. He’s my neighbor.

I encounter many of my therapy clients where I live. On the street, in the grocery store, at the gym, at local art walks, in restaurants. I get to see them being themselves in their every day lives. We chat about how they are doing, and they can show me how they are doing. They are my neighbors!

This year at the block party, we will have new neighbors, new children.  There will be people who have been here for decades. Our alder is coming.  The local “tool library” will come.

Our new neighborhood community police officer will come.

I walk three blocks south to one of the lakes that makes us an isthmus. Three blocks from our house to the west is the river. I see at minimum two Little Free Libraries, with different combinations of books inside almost every day. I nod to people I don’t really know but whom I see all the time.

I walk by houses of people I know and know of:  A friend from my undergrad days at Ripon lives around the corner; so does the public TV producer and musician, and several public radio guys. The piano teacher everyone loves is here; the local entrepreneur and baseball fan; several retired fire fighters, all women. More musicians and artists per capita than a planned artists’ colony.

The people whose passion it is to fill our neighborhood festivals with live music live a few houses away. Five festivals are within walking distance of our home. We can hear each of them without walking out the door. We do walk out the door, though.

The kids – unbelievably loud and boisterous – fill the streets each day around 2:30 as they leave the grade school across the river.  It’s safe for them to walk to school here.

Out the back gate is the bike path that can I take all the way to Illinois, if I care to.  The path is visible from our back window. All varieties of life pass through and we get to watch that parade.

Out that same gate, and over a couple blocks is the music venue where we saw George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic this weekend. I’ve seen Cheap Trick, Ryan Adams, the Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega, KT Tunstall, and more, right there.

Between here and there, there are a multitude of incredible restaurants. Diners and chocolate cafes and Laotian and Tibetan and pizza and walnut burgers and fish fry. I could skip to and among them all and not get tired, they are that close.

Our gym is walkable, even in the windiest of winters. There is boxing to watch between sets. There are strong men and women heave-ho-ing and bodybuilders fine-tuning and people stretching or doing yoga. Everyone knows everyone, at least by sight. Strenuous activity and neighborhood conversations happen all together.  We see these folks in our neighborhood, watch their kids grow, see their dogs.

Jon and Marla on the German Wheel

Between here and there are the Circus Space where I practice German Wheel-ing, art studios (one in which I had a tintype made), a multitude of incredible restaurants and pubs with “new american” locally sourced food, chocolate (a different one), microbrewery, pizza, tacos, fresh salads and fresh eggs.  Then there’s the pet supply store where we get our best information and found our Lizzie dog; the convenience store with tiny post office, a local bank, and some mystery businesses we still don’t know about but whose display windows suggest art and design of some kind. There are acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors. Someone tends the gardens on the various small plots of ground between and among these places.  The vocal arts studio where you can learn opera is next to the tap/drama studio (celebrating 30 years) which is just over from (one of) the microbrewery(ies).  I have often skipped among all of these places without becoming winded.

Two blocks over, one block down is the market. Honey? Can you go pick up a…? Yes. Be right back.

Deb can catch a bus to anywhere on the isthmus at many different stops which are no more than two blocks in any direction of our house.  She (and I…well, anyone) can bus or bike safely to most places on and outside of the isthmus. Paths and lanes and trails leading to schools and farmland and prairie and parks, hills and waterways and businesses.

There are art walks and gallery openings within these, our first few blocks, multiple times a year.

Bicycle Benefits are available at most businesses.

The neighborhood bar (which serves the best pizza and best walnut burgers you have ever had) is too close for us to ride to, so we don’t often get to take advantage of Bicycle Benefits.   The bar is where we always see someone we know:  Team mate, co-worker, neighborhood family with kids, local business owners.  (Mostly, they know our names.  And they’re always glad we came. And it always feels really good to be greeted.)  Yes. Brewers are always on the TV.  The young man we know who boxes at the gym, one of the nicest people we have met, always greets us when we go. We first met him working there when he was just a teen.

Deb Marcus and Susan

One of the storefronts for a local ice cream maker is across the street from the bar.  (“This S&@! Just Got Serious!” is my favorite flavor.  I’m always slightly uncomfortable ordering it. Not uncomfortable enough, though…) It’s owned by someone who lives within the blocks.  People curl around the corner from the window, and spill onto the bike path.  Last year, the locals got together to close the side street as an experiment to see if it could be better used as a park. It was full of couches, knitting, ice cream, side-walk chalk, food carts… I think it was a success.

People stop at our house and talk to us; they comment on our unique railing and our cute dogs. We don’t even know most of them.

I ride my bike along the lake a few blocks to my softball games at the park next to the botanical gardens.  That’s also where our gym holds the strong man (this year, including women!) competition each year. There is also an annual Kubb tournament.

throwing the kastpinnar at the king: 2

Heading north on a path next to the river we reach the other lake less than a mile away.


You travel under the roads to get there.  A few more miles down the road is the local baseball stadium, home of the Madison Mallards of the North Woods League, in the middle of a large, beautiful park. Fun and games and local entertainment. We can pull right up to the gate on our bikes and get valet (bike) parking if we want it. There are always promotions, and vegetarian options for food; they donate tons to the community, and provide the ball park for non-baseball events almost year round. The manager lives…yep…within our blocks.

There is Colleen. Colleen is the unofficial Mayor of Madison – at least of Downtown and the Near East Side.

Colleen and friend (Aaron?)

The question you ask people is not, “Do you know Colleen?” but “How do you know Colleen?” Last week, I saw her on the capitol square, walking home from one of her jobs.  Then, a few days later, we saw her in Milwaukee at Miller Park.  The next day, I saw her on the bike path on the opposite side of town. She lives in our blocks.  This week, we stopped at her place for the annual “Bike to Work Week Breakfast” that she cooks from 6:30am – 10:30am every year on the last day of this week. Piles of bikes outside, piles of shoes at the entry, and piles of people in her kitchen munching on homemade waffles, eggs, bacon and other treats.

When we widen our circumference just another a few blocks, we get the local hardware store where we greet (and razz) one another heartily; we collect even more restaurants, coffee shops and cafes, community and social justice centers, shelters, business incubators, yoga studios, health care providers, art galleries, bakeries…

Yes. Just within a few more blocks.

Come. Visit. Because I think we aren’t leaving any time soon.  There are more photos if you want to peek.


Now, for the turkeys.

February 13, 2015

Yes, we have ducks in our neighborhood.

We also have our own flock of wild turkeys. I normally see four. I have heard there are more.

Our neighborhood listservs are a-flutter with sightings and thoughts and plans. True to form, no one has tried to remove them. “Have you seen the turkeys?” is now a common sentence after initial greeting, when we meet on the street.

They have been spotted roosting high in the trees a couple blocks over, between Schoep’s Ice Cream factory and The Harmony Bar. Right off the bike trail along busy Atwood Avenue.

They have stopped traffic multiple times. I heard they loiter on Oakridge Ave.

Deb spotted them — twice! — surrounding a semi-trailer delivering groceries to the corner store. They wouldn’t let the trucks out of the bay.

My client emailed me a phone-photo of them feeding in the median of the avenue, exclaiming one of them was balancing up on the electrical wires above.

The Turkeys of the Near East Side, Madison, WI

Our mail carrier, the most gentle and kind and humane person we know, has been harassed by them many times.  They surround her vehicle, stretching up to the blue and red stripes that encircle her truck.  She has had to sneak through the front door and then escape out the back door of a neighbor’s home, because the flock wouldn’t let her back down the steps of the house after she delivered mail.  Not only would she never harm them, she is trying to understand their behavior. She heard they are aggressive toward the color red, so today she was wearing only blue on her uniform in hopes of gathering information if she met them. But she didn’t.


We did. Walking along Oakridge, the dogs’ noses were magnetized to the ground, pulled along, zig-zag-zig-zag. There! The tracks in the light snow dusting the walk. Four-pronged and segmented like a string of wooden beads with a tip at each end. Turkey prints! The only street I’ve seen them on so far.  We turned the corner, and the gang was there, hanging out, waiting for Kim the mail carrier.



February 12, 2015

hooded merganser

It’s winter in Madison, Wisconsin. My neighborhood is right on the isthmus, with the river two blocks down, and one of the lakes just three blocks over.

Walking around the streets I see the ducks, including some of the returning diving ducks like the hooded mergansers (whose “ducklings depart with a bold leap to the forest floor when only one day old.” Imagine that!), bobbing in the open water of the river. The river makes me think of a cheap zipper on a too-small-coat:  Sealed around the edges, open in the middle.

The ducks nest along the river. But they also nest and feed in the driveways and the yards of the houses along the water. This is a common sight.  Many days, when we walk the sidewalk along the water on a snowy day, to the left are the bobbing and feeding birds. In front of us over the sidewalk and to the right all the way up a driveway are waddling prints, heading toward a backyard shelter. Sometimes the flock takes off right over our heads, splashing back to the water, stunning us and the dogs. Sometimes they park under bird feeders, bushes and trees in the side yards.

I imagine the same pathway this coming spring, with invisible flap-footed prints both large and small, as the ducklings-to-be follow their parents up the driveway and back down to the water.

Many days, as I walk the sidewalk along the lake edge on a clear, cold day, I happen upon a common sight:  Little ducklings ahead, toodling toward the water’s edge, behind their daddy. They are colored pink and purple and green with fuzzy hats, waddling on fat ice skates and holding stubby little hockey sticks.


A message from the past

January 12, 2015

Girourd Welcome Poster 1Girourd Welcome Poster 2I have been going through some old letters and mementos.

I found this poster – I think it was about 2000. My friends had moved from Virginia to Wisconsin. I was trying to find a new home, too, and went on a road trip with my sister, Kate.

Scottie and Jim and Casey and Samantha took us in as we explored.  Sam was about two, and Casey would have been about five years old.

We were welcomed – we still talk about that day! Jim G letterJim G letter 2

It was beautiful and a little jolting to see these messages from the past.  I am glad I kept them. I don’t need them to know that my friends are my family, but it is lovely, nonetheless. Thank you, my friends.