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Aikya Param is a licensed minister, a visual artist, and writer.

Thanks, Marilyn, for this informative article. Skin cancer is something we roommates have in common. I see the dermatolgist every six months. She often found actinic keratoses on my face. The big excitement came when an apparently unexciting bump with no pigment to the side of my left knee cap turned out to be melanoma. It had not spread, thank goodness. Beware, readers. Lather on that sunscreen and wear a big brimmed hat.

The partner dance between oral and overall health

Illustration for the article “Anatomy of a smile” medically reviewed by Ross W. Nash, DDS from Consumer Guide to Dentistry

Smiling has seven benefits according to the BrightSpring Health Services website. They are:

  • Improved Mood. Smiling releases endorphins, which helps a person feel happier and more positive. …
  • Pain Relief. Believe it or not, a good laugh relieves some body aches or pains. …
  • Lower Blood Pressure. …
  • Stronger Immune System. …
  • Stress Reliever. …
  • Better Relationships. …
  • Younger Appearance.

Yet in order to be happy about smiling, we need to care for our teeth. That is challenging if you are afraid to visit the dentist.

Fear of the dentist

The article “Overcoming Dentophobia, Fear of the Dentist,” says that 75% of adults in…

Identifying birds and trees

Photo of Central Park In New York City by Gautam Krishnan on Unsplash

Almost always I’ve lived in a city, in a manmade environment. Immersed in concrete, surrounded by towers of offices and homes, I am always attracted to nature pushing through cracks or flourishing in parks. I admire people who can name the trees and birds where I live and would love to be one of them.

For that reason, my bookshelves are full of volumes that hold what my mind does not.

The Audubon Society’s Master Guide to Birding, Volumes 1–3

Peterson Field Guides

Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and more.

A library on your phone for bird identification

And now, of course, such encyclopedic knowledge can…

Story telling, fashion, home ownership, loss, and misunderstanding

Photos of her mother by the author. (left) 1968 (right) 1956.

My mother Peggy was one of the older siblings in a large, Irish Catholic family in a lower-middle-class New Jersey suburb of New York City. In her day, it was fashionable for young women to be curvy with full breasts. My mother’s sisters, Frances and Marie, were like that. I have the curvy. My mother was large-boned, angular, and always thin.

Wise, prayerful risk taker

My mother had German measles in her first trimester of pregnancy with me. When I was born prematurely with a large head, doctors told my mom to put me in an institution and forget about me. She was young…

Carried like a bridal veil by the ocean breeze

Photo of Half Moon Bay Beach from the cliffs by Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer-Library of Congress

We took the cremains of Steve in a metal box
Painted a warm brown, and we all came,
Driving from Seattle, Oakland, and Belmont:
Mother Barbara, brother Don (Jack
Of all trades), Tim, lover of poetry and fine
Artist, all in black leather, and I
To bless, a day beyond Barbara’s birthday.
We drove to Cameron’s Pub, Restaurant, and Inn
For friends and helpers, Adora and Cameron.

Through the houses in construction rising,
With guaranteed buyers because, as Steve did,
Everybody loves this coastline place midway
Between San Francisco banks and South Bay tech;
Through sturdy shoreline grass, Cameron led us
To the edge…

New friends, inner weeding, rapid remakes, and quick tips

Scanned cartoon by author

I have lumbered under a load of low self-confidence most of my life. Well, that makes me a champion collector of correctives for low self-esteem. Some take time. Others are quick fixes to use on and off.

Clearing the outside

I grew up with an emotionally abusive mother. That means I was used to nonstop criticism, belittling, and nagging about all the things I still didn’t do well enough. I collected a coterie of friends who treated me the same way. One fine day I saw the similarity between friends’ treatment of me and my mom’s. worst attribute.

No more!

Over a few…

Vintage yet contemporary tool to create heritage documents

Photoof fountainpen with iridium nib by Petar Milošević, CC on Wikimedia Commons

Was it five years ago that I fell in love with fountain pens? I brought several friends along. My boss, my spiritual advisor, and several sketching buddies could swap their latest pen discoveries and join me at pen conferences near home.

I first used a fountain pen in grammar school. We were required to write everything in pen and ballpoint pens were forbidden.

In my early thirties, I went to a church summer camp. Fred Eager, the author of The Italic Way to Beautiful Handwriting, Cursive, and Calligraphic, taught us the Italic alphabet basics. Was it an Osmiroid fountain pen…

Confessions of an indoor gardener

Stages in the growth of a Minerva amaryllis bulb. From The Official Blog of Jackson and Perkins.

My late Choctaw friend had such a gift for growing things that once a year she gave away dozens of plants. She offered me my pick and I selected the most beautiful flower I had ever seen growing indoors. To my amazement, she gave it to me!

It is a Being with a powerful presence. I’m never sure it will bloom again when one year’s spectacle ends. Commercially grown, these plants are forced to bloom around Christmas, but mine blooms whenever it pleases. The original bulb has two daughter bulbs. …

Standing multifaceted resource

Photograph on the LoneStar Travel Guide website.

What is it about sunflowers?
One at a time, they’re triumphant.
A field of them, an exclamation of glory.
And the petals make colorful dyes.
Besides showy flowers, the seeds give oil
So good for cooking and seeds for eating.
Native Americans made gluten-free flour
For bread and cakes from sunflower seeds.
Animals can graze in sunflower fields
Eating the heads and most of the stalk.
People in Russia love sunflowers too.
After their nuclear reactor disaster:
The roots removed nuclear fallout.
The stems and stalks are used to make paper.
Vases of sunflowers decorate dining rooms,
Their splashy images on shirts and sacks.
The sight of sunflowers wipes away sadness,
Inspiring a lighter step and a…

My freedom or humility and trust

Image by Wilhan José Gomes wjgomes from Pixabay

Ruben Mata, a fitness trainer, and motivational speaker, did not believe COVID-19 much less the pandemic was real, until he fell ill, spent five days in a medically-induced coma with only a 40% chance to survive.

“Before I contracted it, I thought, ‘It’s just made up’,” Mata told NBC News “Global Hangout” this week, adding that he figured his six-day-a-week gym habit and healthy eating regimen would spare him even if it did exist. “That’s what prevented me from getting help sooner when it went really bad.”

Is independence really what we think?

For many years, I saw that American’s ideal for independence misled us. I…

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