Author Archives: Barbara Anderson

About Barbara Anderson

At age 48, I changed my lifestyle (food, exercise, rest, spirituality, balance) after a heart diagnosis. I write about living well and doing good, no matter what life brings.

Beyond Cozy


Butterfly in Mount Ranier National Park, by Mark Smutny

I pulled a soft blanket over my shoulders, tucked my hands under the pillow and fell asleep.  Sometime in the night, I woke up with my right hand and arm numb and hurting like Hades.  Curling myself into a ball felt cozy at first but eventually cut enough circulation to my arm that my arm and hand “went to sleep.”  Note to self:  Don’t stay curled up so long you become numb.

It’s been about two years now, that I’ve lived a mostly secluded life because of health issues.  First in LA, where I was pinned inside because air pollution inflamed my lungs and put my life at risk.  then in Seattle, where it’s taken a year for my body to recover from the injury I did to it in LA with years of pollution.  My world shrank as I curled into a ball to survive.

Safe to say, I’m not the only one who finds it hard to exit the cocoon and come back to life after a time of solitude.  Folding in on ourselves is often an essential, life-saving strategy.  It conserves our energy, lets our mind and body heal from illness or grief.  It keeps us safe.

But staying like that for too long can cut us off, numb us, cause us to feel invisible and useless, and make it hard to re-engage.  Butterflies struggle to emerge from their cocoon.  My fingers tingle and ache as I wiggle them back to life.  We hesitate to reach out friends, search for a new job, adapt to new circumstances, resume hobbies we used to enjoy.

I slept through my hand and arm going numb until it became too much to bear.  I only acted when the pain awakened me.  Then I rotated my shoulder and dangled my arm.  Action, even minor, restored feeling and life.

We emerge slowly.  Testing.  Pushing through discomfort.  Pausing.  Starting again.

Feeling returns.  Life flows again in fits and starts.  Bit by bit, we wiggle our fingers, dry our wings, and begin to live again.

Coming Home


Our house at the end of the rainbow

The Eagle has landed!  We bought a house on a quarter acre just north of Seattle.  My husband has the hot tub and chickens he’s wanted for years.  I have clean air and gardens, and peace. It’s just the right combo of city, suburb, and country. I love it.

I forgot how stressful moving is.  Then we moved three times in eight months–into a short-term spot in a new state, then a rental house, then our own permanent house–and I remembered. Holy cow!  It’s stressful!  Find a place, move, unpack enough to live; find a place, move, unpack enough to live; find a place, move, unpack…..everything?  Get a mortgage, find a job, get lost forty million times even with GPS.  I’m still finding stuff I needed last winter–sweaters (it was cold), flat iron (crazy hair all winter), Kitchenaid whisk– that we accidentally put in a storage unit.

downloadMy health was so much a Rosanna-Rosanna-Dana sketch that at times I thought hope had gotten buried in the storage unit, too.  You know, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”  But it finally stopped raining and the sun came out.  And, like peeling an onion, the docs and I uncovered and mended one problem after another.  For the record and a public therapeutic moment, I’ve weathered:

  • broken shoulder in a fall
  • three frayed and one torn shoulder tendon
  • kidney and bladder infection
  • poor vision caused by severe dry eye,
  • broken cheekbone in a fall
  • bruised ribs from two falls,
  • severe anemia
  • infected root canal
  • sciatica
  • inflamed SI joint.

Plus the usual suspects of heart failure, adrenal insufficiency, and reactive lungs. On top of the afore mentioned moves.  OMG!  No wonder I was tired and dropped off the face of the Earth.  Maybe if I read this blog enough times, I’ll stop giving myself a hard time for not having had enough energy to be  engaged with the world, vivacious, and active in the ways I wish I’d been.

20170610_115138But I made it!   I’m home.  I read outdoors in the shade again, open my windows to fresh air and the sound of birds again, walk with my dogs again, and ride my bike on sun dappled paths along rivers.  I’ve planted flowers, weeded gardens, harvested peas, lettuce, radishes, and raspberries.  We’re exploring mountains and forests at least once a week.  I see well enough again to drive after dark.    I take deep breaths and feel my body relax.  I’m beginning to live again.



Embrace the Rain

That’s what my new doctor in Seattle says:  “Embrace the rain.”  After 18 years of (almost) constant sunshine in Los Angeles, my husband and I moved to Seattle, Washington in time for five months of recording-breaking rain.

Most of the time, LA rain disappears in a day.  When it rains, we act like we’ll melt.  We try to stay indoors and off the roads until the sun returns, birds sing, and life returns to its normal sunny state.  Ah, those were the days…

Our first month here was filled with beautiful blue skies and fall colors on the hills.  Plenty of sunshine as we began our new life.  Gorgeous.  Then the rain came and came and came.

At first I acted as if I was still in LA.  I waited until the next day to go to the grocery and walk the dogs.  And then the next day.  And the next day.  You get the idea.  It was still raining.  Finally, I bought an umbrella and got my sorry butt to the grocery.

Surely the sun will return soon, I thought.  It can’t rain forever. Wrong.  It can rain for more than a week at a time.  Of course, I knew this before I moved here, but living the reality is different.  Now I know that, during the winter, I could starve if I wait for sunshine before going to the grocery.  Plus, staying out of the rain neither gets me exercise nor fends off cabin fever.

I know I used to live in rainy climates, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal, but those places weren’t like this one.   It rains so often here that people have learned how to get on with their life in the midst of it.  They garden, mow their lawns, and wash their cars in the rain. They bike, jog, hike, and take their children to the playground in the rain. They pause for floods but otherwise keep going with every aspect of life.  I’d forgotten how to live like that.

19de2badb2b9cd4ab20b894341d5c288One of my new doctors laughed when I told him I didn’t like walking in the rain.  He responded, “I tell all my LA transplants to embrace the rain.  The sun is fantastic in the summer and the days are long.  In the meantime, buy waterproof shoes, a rain slicker, fleece pants, and a brimmed hat.  Walk, hike, jog, ride.  Don’t wait for sunny days. Embrace the rain!”  Since this guy rides his bike to work in the rain, snow, sleet and sun, it was hard to argue.  Before letting his enthusiasm drain away, I drove to the REI Mother Store where I bought new walking shoes and a down vest for under my rain slicker.  After driving home in the rain, I took my brimmed hat off the closet shelf and went for a walk in the rain.

I’m still not excited about walking in the rain.  Yuck.  Maybe I’ll feel differently by next winter.  I like sunny days better.  I’m practicing my embrace of the rain, however.  I spent an half-an-hour at the dog park with my dogs this weekend in the rain.  I’ve raked my yard and even washed my car in the rain–once.  I run errands, look at potential houses, and explore the area in the rain.  I’d be lying, though, if I said I don’t like the sunny days more than the rainy ones.

On the other hand, the rain keeps the air so clean that my lungs are already healing.  I finally feel better than I have in over a year.  Thank goodness.  This is what we hoped for. As I said before we moved, I’ll take lots of rain if it helps me breathe.  Plus, the green forests that seem to surround us wherever we go are stunning and the moss on the trees outside my window is stunning in its vivid green.

20170206_092548So, for the past few months I’ve made “Embrace the Rain” my current life motto, not just to get me out of my house, but as a way to respond to the parts of life I don’t like or wish were different.  I couldn’t march in the rain but I’m calling my senators and congressman.  I can’t fix all my health issues but I’m working away at them.  I couldn’t type or telephone for months because of my broken shoulder, but I’m doing my physical therapy and am back at my keyboard.

It takes determination, persistence, and a certain frame of mind to embrace the rain and transform it into a marker of courage and character.   Life is too short to wait for sunshine.

Postscript:  We not only had rain this winter.  We had a great snow storm.  This is a picture of me in my new winter parka, embracing the snow, too.