Susan Neder

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page


In Play with Your Food on February 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I’ve been thinking about some of the unusual gifts I have received since the “Battle of the Netherlands” began. I think the winner of the Oscar for the “Most Unusual Gift” has to go to the hermit crabs.

Yes, you heard correctly…. hermit crabs. My granddaughter, Alessi, insisted upon buying me two hermit crabs, complete with a habitat (plastic box) filled with sand and a plastic palm tree, because she knew that “Ya-Ya” loves the beach and misses it, so this gift would give “Ya-Ya” some of the beach while she was sick. Hmm…how can you argue with that? I will admit that I was completely stunned when I received this gift; I was actually speechless. Alessi’s excitement  was all that pulled me out of my dumbfounded state! Had I really been given pets that are one of my favorite food sources? Okay, we don’t eat hermit crabs, but their larger relatives, certainly.

I peered suspiciously at my vegan daughter to be sure she wasn’t behind this – she’s been trying to guilt me for eating meat since she turned vegan. However, she seemed as shocked as I was. My other daughter, Cindy, whose turn it was to watch me that day, took one look at me and one look at the crabs, and went into high gear. She apparently decided that I was incapable of caring for my new pets ( I may not have been as good a mother as I thought I was, judging from her lack of confidence in my care-giving abilities). What did she do first? She “googled” them, of course! Why didn’t I think of that? What she learned on the internet was that these things are pretty easy to kill if they aren’t cared for properly, so off we went to Petsmart to buy a larger habitat, more sand, another palm tree, a water dish complete with a sponge for them to hang onto when they are drinking water ( I guess a number of them accidentally drown while drinking water – sounds like they are about as dumb as sheep, doesn’t it?), a calcium block for them to chew on and a book entitled “Hermit Crabs For Dummies”.

All I was allowed to do, other than pay for all this, was to name them and look at them while Cindy gave me instructions. Frankly, I think that was probably all I was capable of doing at that point. Based on being told that hermit crabs are very active and love to race about and play, I named them “Scooter” and “Wheelie”. Perhaps in a warm climate at sea level they are more active, but in Colorado in the winter at this altitude, all they do is sleep. They are the most boring pets I have ever had. I don’t even see them eat anything. Once a week I submerge them in warm water (their bath) and see if they move, so I know they aren’t dead. This must be what it is like to be a guard at a sperm bank – your only job is to be sure the damn things don’t die on your watch! Oh well, sometimes life lessons come from odd places we don’t expect. As I look at these things sleeping in the white sand under their palm tree, next to their pool, complete with a float, next to a fully stocked buffet table, I realize that as good as it sounds sometimes, that isn’t a great life either. In fact, it is so…oh..oh..boring….. life has to have purpose. So even though running off to the Keys sounds like a wonderful idea, it can only be a temporary break; you can only sit in the sand and stare at the ocean for so long. Rats!

Oh well, hopefully  the hermit crabs haven’t ruined me for one of my favorite restaurants, “Joe’s Crabshack”. On the other hand, maybe I’ll just stick with shrimp. Please, no one give me any pet shrimp!


Absence of Fear

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I have just returned from my first visit to the doctors in Denver since I left in January. This was not the visit that tells me if I am done with this – that visit is in mid-March, but I did learn that my blood work looks good and everyone I saw in the cancer center (doctors, nurses, technicians) all commented on how good and healthy I looked. I guess I look much improved from when they saw me last, and better than most everyone in there getting treatment that day. I commented that perhaps I was well and no one argued with me! Not conclusive proof of anything, but I am feeling better, so all of that gives me hope. Even more amazing to me was that I discovered on this trip that I am no longer as fearful as I have been all of my life. I am not ready to become a snake handler or a tiger trainer. The changes I noticed were much more subtle, but very profound for me. If you are a person who grew up a “scaredy cat” like me, and still feels that way often ( but has learned to mask that feeling to the outside world), then you know what I am describing. When faced with something that would have caused me a lot of fear before, I now feel a calmness and a confidence that I can handle anything and be okay. That is extremely empowering and the relief is amazing! Carrying fear is quite a burden, I have discovered, and it feels wonderful to be freed from it. I also noticed that when the fear is gone from an experience, a space opens up for curiosity and positive thoughts to come in, that never had a chance when the fear was there. Wow! I know there is a book out there about how fear is good, and perhaps I am “splitting linguistic hairs”, so to speak, but I really think caution, common sense and wisdom can keep most people out if trouble, unless they have a “karmic shotgun” pointed at them, in which case nothing can help them (see the Darwin Awards for examples of those people). I think books about how fear is a gift need to go onto the bonfire – mine is!

The Little Zen Giraffe

In Doing "Giraffey" Things on February 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm

The last couple of weeks at home have been quiet and healing – I am getting better slowly, but the old comedy sitcoms like “Mr. Ed” and “I Love Lucy” have helped distract me.

As I begin to feel better I am spending more time thinking about who I shall be now – how shall I be changed by this experience of having cancer? Of course, some changes are unavoidable, but what about deliberate choices of change? A different way of handling stress more effectively is certainly a good idea. This requires a calmer view of life, I think; a more “zen” approach, which is not easy to achieve if you are a “do-er”. As I look around for a role model to help me achieve this goal, I can’t help but think of a little giraffe at the Denver Zoo. I became very attached to this little guy and visited him often, before the weather in Denver turned so cold. He was in the habitat with a number of bigger giraffes, who were all doing “giraffey” things, like walking around, eating leaves, etc. He was over in a corner, near the front, with his back to the crowds, sitting quietly with his legs folded under him and his eyes closed. I decided he was clearly meditating. He sat very straight and opened his eyes from time to time, but mostly he just meditated (no, he was not snoring – he was being very “zen”!).

I noticed that nothing bothered him. The other giraffes, which sometimes got rowdy and had to be separated from the others, and were all much bigger than him; the other zoo animals growling and roaring in their habitats, not even the crowds of humans walking to and fro and pointing and talking and taking pictures seemed to bother him; he stayed calm and cool. How does he do that? He is there, participating, but staying objective and centered. He is not being drawn into the drama of life around him, but he sees it.  How many people do you know that could do that without the help of some sort of substance, natural or artificial? Not many, I would guess. I don’t know anyone who lives that way over a sustained period of time, unless they are withdrawn from everyday life, like a monk or a guru, which doesn’t really count in my book because the normal life stressors aren’t there for them. But what a great way to be in the world! To achieve that sense of calm and objectivity, which seems like it would bring wisdom in situations – now that is a goal! I am going to print out the picture of this little giraffe and put it on my mirror! I wonder if sitting on a pile of hay helps?