2021 in review, 2022 well-wishes

Just added this quote to my Favorite Quotes page:

Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. ~ William James

I haven’t added much to this blog for a while. i’ve been busy with work, training, and travel, and…COVID malaise.

It’s as high in Austin now as it’s ever been.

I got double-vaxxed in the spring of 2021, and my bodywork practice took off again, with so many who had deferred bodywork finally feeling safe enough to come in for TMJ Relief and craniosacral therapy sessions. Work boomed in April, May and June 2021, and I was glad for it after a year-long lull, half of which I didn’t work on people at all.

From late June to early September, I spent 10 weeks based in Taos, New Mexico, with a two-week side trip to south central Colorado and several other shorter side trips to check out the gorgeous landscapes, including Valles Caldera.

It was the longest vacation I’ve ever taken, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I slept in the back of my car sometimes!

Two months before I left, I had applied for a NM massage license, which turned out to be a much longer process than I anticiipated. I didn’t give sessions in Taos, except for some distance healing sessions. I worked on the business end.

I found people to occupy my home and my office while I was gone, so I didn’t take a financial hit from not working.

I enjoyed my friends in Taos and small town life. The Saturday farmer’s market was wonderful. I found ecstatic dance there.

I went back between Christmas and New Year’s, leaving just in time to narrowly avoid a blizzard!

There’s something about driving toward a distant horizon, a clean line between earth and sky, that nourishes my soul.

I started a 2.5 year training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy in late September and went again in late November for the second module of 10. We meet in Silver Spring, MD, just outside Washington, DC — a lovely city to visit when you ignore the politics.

This training is offered through the Wellness Institute, and my primary teacher is Roger Gilchrist, one of the most experienced teachers of biodynamics on this continent.

Doing this training and doing lots more biodynamics sessions have been bright lights.

Those bright lights mean so much.

I plan to return to DC for more training in March, June, September, and late November 2022 and complete the training by the end of 2023. I’ve had some of the content before in previous trainings, but I signed up for this training to add to my knowledge, skills, and professionalism, and it’s working. I’m doing a lot of biodynamics sessions along with TMJ Relief sessions.

Now, in January 2022, I’ve just joined West Holistic Medicine, an integrative medical practice in downtown Austin.

I’m offering Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and TMJ Relief sessions there.

Although I am still offering these sessions at my office in West Lake Hills, it’s nice to be back working downtown, where I started in private practice from 2012-1016 with an office on 12th Street.

It’s also nice to be working alongside two integrative MDs and an acupuncturist.

I’ll be working five days a week between these two locations instead of four. I can do it! My work feeds me in so many ways, it almost doesn’t seem like work! It’s more like adventures.

I intend to spend some time this summer in Taos again. This time I’ll have a NM license and can work.

What else will 2022 bring? Key words from my Aquarius and Virgo horoscopes (Free Will Astrology) are integrity, impeccability, work, love, accept incremental progress, love my life exactly as it is, be creative and resourceful, and play.

I like that.

May 2022 be a good year for you too.

Craniosacral therapy helps with insomnia

I’ve been giving a lot of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy sessions since returning from some advanced training at the beginning of October.

I’ve also done some trades with other Biodynamics practitioners.

I love this modality of bodywork/energywork. It seems to me to be a natural extension of both bodywork and meditation: it involves light touch, perception, stillness.

I’ve found it is especially helpful for insomnia. I’ve experienced better sleep after I receive a session, and my clients report the same, even those who have difficulty falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep.

It helps with both.

One thing we do know about how it works is that it has a calming effect on the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord — deep in the body.

CST is thought to improve efficiency of biological processes through boosting inherent self-regulation, self-correction and self-healing.

The Cleveland Clinic

By stimulating the rest and recovery systems of the body, the subtle work of CST allows the body to re-source its powers of rehabilitation and revival.

Craniosacral Therapy Association, UK

Craniosacral therapy

Swishing with salt water reduces gum disease

I have a new dental hygienist, and one of the things I love about my dentist is that she hires people who are really experienced and good at what they do. Turnover is really low in her office.

The excellent hygienist she replaced went on to a job teaching dental hygiene. Her students are lucky to have her.

I’ve written about my dental issues before: the one back molar that had a pocket that kept getting deeper…4, 5, 7, 8…

Short version of how it happened: When I had my wisdom teeth extracted ages ago, the dentist did not remove the extra gum tissue. Years after, I got a piece of popcorn kernel stuck between the now-back molar (tooth #2) and that extra gum tissue. I could not get it out, went to sleep, and the next day I couldn’t feel it any more. It must have softened from saliva.

I forgot about it, but that gum tissue slowly became infected from bacteria drawn to the stuck food substance, and it eventually affected the bone. That’s why that pocket kept getting deeper.

I finally had the tooth extracted and bone treated a couple of years ago. Problem solved. Whew.

The thing is, having one deep pocket affects the entire microbiome of the mouth. Those inflammatory bacteria spread and deepen other pockets.

I still had some recovery to do.

My new hygienist gave me a very valuable tip. She said that if I swished salt water in my mouth for one minute after brushing and flossing, doing that every night for six months, my pockets would go down two points (millimeters).

She says a pocket 4 mm deep is consider borderline. Better to get 1, 2, or 3. A depth of 5mm or greater is serious, requiring more frequent cleanings and treatments.

I starting doing the saltwater swish, using about 1/8th teaspoon of Real salt (my favorite for cooking as well) and a tablespoon or two of warm water.

My setup for salt water swishing

Although I was not as consistent as she prescribed, I did it frequently enough that my pockets did indeed go down. I don’t have the numbers but will ask for a printout showing my gum exams over time the next time I have an appointment, for my own satisfaction.

I recall that I still had a few 4 mm pockets, and the rest were 3 or below. Next time, I’m going for no 4s!

My mouth feels deeply clean after the salt water swish.

Another bonus: the dental office is now scheduling my cleanings every 6 months instead of every 4 months.

Swishing with salt water after brushing and flossing is simple, inexpensive, and easily obtainable.

How does it work?

Salt pulls fluids out of tissues, reducing inflammation and swelling.

Salt alkalizes the pH of the mouth, reducing harmful bacteria that prefer an acidic environment to thrive. Thus, it is anti-bacterial, killing bacteria causing gingivitis and bad breath and reducing plaque on teeth. You can skip the mouthwash.

The swishing action also loosens any food particles not removed by brushing and flossing (and if you don’t have time to floss, this will at least help keep your mouth cleaner).

It reportedly helps with canker sores and soothes toothaches.

Salt water swishing promotes healing after dental procedures, preventing painful “dry socket” after an extraction.

If you gargle it before spitting it out, it soothes sore throats and prevents colds, upper respiratory infections, and virus transmission.

Precautions? Don’t swallow it, spit it out! Don’t overdo it, either. Once or twice a day is enough. Overuse could irritate inflamed gums.

I used a CGM to monitor my blood sugar

I’ve been wearing a continuous glucose monitor for a few months. It’s a sensor on the back of my upper arm that I scan with my phone using an app that analyzes data.

I enter what I eat and when.

I was curious about how glucose affected me. Apparently people can’t tell when their glucose is too high, unlike when it’s too low. And with so many people being prediabetic or diabetic, I wanted personal information.

Things I’ve learned:

It’s all about carbs/sugars/starches — whatever you call it, it’s converted to glucose.

Warm roasted potatoes make my glucose spike high. Cold potatoes not so much, and I presume that other starchy foods like cold rice or pasta salads would be the same. Better cold than hot.

(Another benefit: I understand many grains and starchy veggies, when served cold, create resistant starch, which feeds gut bacteria.)

Half a serving of warm potatoes doesn’t spike it nearly as much. Same with a banana. Half is better — you still get some carbs but keep glucose levels down.

I’ve read that not everyone responds the same. Some people may be able to eat warm potatoes and not have their glucose spike as high as mine did.

I haven’t tested popcorn yet and am curious.

You want your glucose to come back to baseline within 2-3 hours after eating.

One staple of my diet, at least in summer, is a large salad of greens, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, green onions, black olives, capers, walnuts, and sprouts, with half a filet of wild salmon or some chicken sprinkled across the top, drenched in a balsamic vinaigrette I make with olive oil.

It does not budge my blood sugar.

My reading on a really good day

Walking or otherwise exercising after eating lowers glucose because you’re burning it as energy, especially if you eat carbs.

You want to keep glucose levels between 70 and 140, with your daily average below 105.

Fasting glucose is measured two hours after waking up and not eating anything. Eating dinner and/or drinking alcohol closer to bedtime raises it. Try to eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime.

That’s a key indicator of future health. Here’s more info on levels, from Levels, another CGM company (that has a wait list).

Also, you may understand from this why intermittent fasting (eating within a 4-8 hour window) makes such a difference in health.

If you don’t want to use a CGM device, you can use the finger prick method of obtaining your fasting glucose level two hours after waking. Research shows that a fasting glucose reading of 86 is ideal for health and longevity purposes.

That, and keeping it steady from day to day, are the best and easiest ways to optimize healthy blood sugar levels.

NutriSense is the company I used. I had access to a dietitian for free the first month.

If you want to try it with $25 off your first month, use this: https://nutrisense.io?code=MARYANNR

Post-COVID changes: distance healing, TMJ Relief via phone and Zoom

Dearest readers, how are you doing? I hope you are well and that you are experiencing some renewal related to the decline in COVID and the onset of summer. I sure am.

Here in Austin, TX, I’m noticing more people (including myself) dining out, more stores making masks optional (but still urging the unvaccinated to wear them), and an increase in traffic as (I suppose) people who had to work from home are returning to the office or just getting out more.

COVID put an end to my plans for a trip to London and Scotland, another trip to Taos, New Mexico, and a trip to Costa Rica in 2020. I spent more time at home than I ever have as an adult — I made my Spartan trailer home more comfortable and started gardening again, using the Square Foot Gardening method.

I didn’t work from March to September 2020, when I started working one day a week, wearing masks and using an air purifier and new screening procedures.

In April 2021, once I was fully vaccinated (Pfizer), I began working two days a week and added a third day in May. The stress of the pandemic created high demand for craniosacral therapy and TMJ Relief once more people were vaccinated and felt safe coming in for sessions.

(I now require people receiving intraoral work to rinse their mouths with a 1% hydrogen peroxide solution before I work in their mouths, since both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can still unknowingly have and spread COVID, and I let my clients decide whether they or I need to be masked.)

And so here we are in June 2021, and nationally it seems we are coming out of the pandemic. I feel sorrow for those who lost someone or who suffered/are suffering from long COVID. I’m extremely grateful for the decline in cases. Seeing full faces again is sweet.

And…I need a break, and a beautiful opportunity has arisen. I am taking time away from my practice in Austin to partake of the refreshing air, the high-altitude light, the mountain-desert-river views, the small town life, and the much cooler summer of Taos, New Mexico, and environs.


I’ve applied for a New Mexico massage license but haven’t heard back yet if I meet their qualifications, which are different than Texas requirements.

I do love working, so I plan to offer distance healing sessions by phone. These sessions are hands-off energy work and don’t fall under the definition of massage therapy, so no license is needed.

I studied this modality with a master teacher, Suzanne Scurlock, last summer. It is not craniosacral therapy, but it does have some similarities, in that it helps your system release stress and strain patterns to optimize your functioning.

The way I do distance healing is dialogue-oriented — between you and me and between you and your body-mind system. Interestingly, I can feel energy in my hands like when I do hands-on work.

Several clients have had amazing results, exploring an area of their system that seems to be holding on to a previous strain and feeling it release in real time.

This type of session is especially helpful for those who could use some guidance in how to have a compassionate dialogue with your parts.

I’m also offering TMJ Relief sessions via Zoom. This has been a clinical bodywork specialty of mine for years. These sessions focus on whole body alignment, the neck, the external jaw muscles, and the internal jaw muscles.

The latter takes special training. I’ve been studying and practicing this since 2013 and taught a Zoom class last fall.

These one-on-one sessions are private, we work at your pace, and I can meet you where you are comfortable in terms of language (anatomical or layman’s language).

Sessions are 75 minutes, and it’s really fantastic if you schedule a free 30-minute TMJ Consultation via Zoom beforehand so we can go over your symptoms, history, co-factors, and primary goal.

The biggest bonus is that having someone guide you through this self-treatment teaches you skills you can use the rest of your life. Zoom also allows recording sessions so you can refer to that if needed, or schedule another session.

I will available for these sessions starting Tuesday, July 13.

If interested, please email me at wellbodymindheartspirit at gmail dot com with your phone number and a good time to call.

New pillow recommendation

This may be a new concept for some of you, but we have posture 24/7, including when we sleep. Our bodies shape themselves to how we use them. Spending 1/3 of your life with a bad pillow is an invitation for neck pain, possibly headaches, and exacerbated jaw pain.

My profession is bodywork, and I specialize in craniosacral therapy and TMJ Relief. I’m interested in the quality of life of my clients and my readers, and that includes quality of sleep, posture, range of motion, habit change, breathing, awareness, deep relaxation…and so much more.

In the past I’ve recommended the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow often. Nearly every person with jaw issues also has neck issues, so inquiring about sleep posture and pillows is part of my evaluation, and treating the neck is part of nearly every TMJ Relief session.

The Therapeutica pillow is what I’ve used myself for years, and I never have neck pain. It comes in 5 sizes — you measure the width of your shoulder to get the right height for side sleeping. It also supports the curve in the neck for back sleeping.

I’m still recommending it, and there’s another option now as well. Yes, it is more expensive than the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow, but it has some qualities you may appreciate.

A client recently shared with me that she’s discovered a pillow that she just loves. She has neck, head, and jaw issues. I looked it up, and it has much going for it. It’s the Turiya Organic Latex Pillow.

It’s made of natural latex and is mold and mildew resistant. The cover is made of organic cotton. The pillow is described as “medium firm”.

The top is for side sleeping, and the bottom is for back sleeping. The ear indentations are great for side sleepers with lots of ear piercings.

The average review is 4.2 stars. I haven’t tried it myself, but my client just loves it, and she’s a savvy woman…with neck, head, and jaw issues.

It’s $118, and you can buy it in 4 interest-free installments. If you buy one, you get 15% off a second one. You can try it for 30 days (which they recommend because it may take some getting used to). It comes with a 365 day guarantee, and returns are free.

It is 5 inches high, so if your shoulders are wider than that, you can put a folded towel under it for added height.

If your shoulders are narrower than that, please don’t get this pillow! Try the Therapeutica instead.

The Therapeutica pillow comes in 5 sizes, doesn’t have ear indentations, uses one side for both side and back sleeping, costs about $80 for the average size, is firm, and comes with a 5-year guarantee that it will hold its shape. It does not have ear indentations, but it does have “valleys” to minimize pressure on the jaw for side-sleepers.

It is non-allergenic and has a 90-day return policy.

If you have a favorite pillow or have tried either of these, I’m interested in your experience.

After the Texas freezepocalypse…

I’m working in my office one day per week (Tuesdays) and have since September. I took 6 months off because of COVID, and it’s almost 6 months since I’ve been back.

Working one day a week means that my workday is full with no gaps between appointments. This is time-efficient for me since I have a 30-minute commute each way (barring rush hour, which can take 20 minutes longer).

Although I optimize my road time by listening to relaxing music or audiobooks or podcasts, honestly, I’d rather not be in the car that much.

I’ve had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine with the second scheduled for later this month. My system should reach maximum COVID immunity on April 7, and at that time I will add another day in my office, Wednesdays. I’ll continue to add days as my time in the office fills up.

I’m seeing a lot of people coming in for craniosacral therapy. It’s so good for stress, and the pandemic and recession and political insanity have taken their tolls. You may have heard something about the polar vortex reaching Texas in mid-February, creating what’s being called “snowmageddon” and “freezepocalypse” because of the electrical grid nearly going down.

There was a lot of uncertainty with that. Even for those who came through it with little discomfort (including me), no one knew if they would lose power or how long it would be out, or if their pipes would freeze or burst, or if they would have food and water.

Temps got down to 4-8 degrees F in this area and stayed below freezing for 4-5 days. Usually if our winter temps go below freezing, it gets down to maybe 28 for a few hours. So homes aren’t built for cold. We have no snow plows. We sand icy bridges, and businesses and schools and offices close, and that’s it. “Snow day”.

So…lots of stress means lots of clients for me. I’m offering a discount now, which helps make craniosacral therapy affordable for more people. And we’re still taking full COVID precautions. And because of the downtime, I’ve been able to study in more depth both Upledger and biodynamics styles of CST.

I spent 8 days with my family during the freeze, and it was wonderful, 5 of us under the same roof, cooking, watching WandaVision (which I liked although Avengers fans had to explain the backstory to me), Servant (which I didn’t enjoy), enjoying each other’s company. One member has 4WD but not much was open. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs. Laughter.

I did miss the silence of my solitary abode, where birdsong is the soundtrack, but I was out of propane to cook with, and it was cold. My pipes froze but didn’t burst, and my electric bill will probably be enormous.

And now it’s spring, just like that, with highs ranging from 60 to 80.

We’re taking stock of the freeze damage to the plants. My Meyer lemon tree is probably a goner but I’m going to wait before doing any cutting. My spinach, collards, parsley, cilantro, carrots, onions, lettuce, and fennel made it through with frost damage, but chard and beets, snap peas, fenugreek didn’t.

The live oaks look bad but will probably recover. Palm trees, agaves, cacti, nope.

I’m doing a lot of MELT method sessions to help my body recover from a low back injury last fall when I tried to lift too much. Because some yoga poses were prohibited, I decided to give up yoga classes and to do MELT at home this year. It’s so good at helping the body to release compensatory tension patterns from injury and lack of use (being sedentary or workouts that don’t work the whole body).

I have a way to go but the pain is much less and my range of motion in all my joints has improved a lot.

Although the governor of Texas has declared Texas 100% open for business and ended the mask requirement, all the major grocery and superstores are requiring them, although how good enforcement (which usually falls to low-paid but somehow essential workers) will be remains to be seen.

Texas is something like 47th among states in getting its population vaccinated, and Houston is the only city in the nation with all 5 variants of COVID.

What? What was he thinking? Diversion from the near-crash of the electric grid and dozens of deaths and billions in damages resulting from that? Because of policies recommended during past less-serious strains on the grid but never enacted, to keep Texas attractive (cheap) to businesses? Because he appointed the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT (whose board is mainly people he appointed)? Because most of the cities in Texas are Democratic — although GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression are what keeps them in power? To slap President Biden in the face after he quickly released FEMA funds to the state (in the minimal amount Abbott requested) with no questions asked?

I’m pretty sure only Republicans will be attending mask-burning parties, before they are even vaccinated. I’m pretty sure that businesses who thought Texas was a good place to do business are having second thoughts.

Time will tell, but this extreme partisanship and lack of sensible governing could sure tilt Texas blue again. I’m ready for it.

Hello from the deep freeze that is Austin, Texas.

Some years, the temperatures never get below freezing in Austin. In the years when it does freeze, it doesn’t last longer than a few hours. We’re accustomed to 70 degree days in January, not consistently, but warm enough that some younger men don’t even seem to own a pair of long pants.

Not this year. We are breathing Arctic air, experiencing ice, snow, and prolonged below-freezing temps, and many are without heat and water due to the Texas electrical grid being overloaded and shutting down in many places for several days, so far.

I’ve been extremely fortunate that my power has stayed on the entire time.

My central heat is struggling to keep up. I’ve had a large pot of bone broth simmering on my stove day and night, dipping into it for an occasional cup of warm nourishment.

I discovered that a weighted blanket is even better than a sleeping bag at keeping me warm because I can sprawl out underneath it and it holds my body heat in just as well.

It’s chilly at home, but it’s a fun challenge, like winter camping. So far, anyway!

It started when it rained on 2/11 and froze on the bare limbs and twigs of the trees and bushes around my place.

On 2/12, the temperature briefly rose above freezing, and the ice on the branches slowly started melting.

On 2/13 I covered my Meyer lemon tree with a quilt and 3 tarps to prepare for temps in the teens. They’re supposed to be good down to 20 degrees F, but seeing as it’s 6 degrees as I write this on 2/16, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make it.

We got five inches of snow overnight on Feb. 14-15. It’s the most snow I’ve ever seen in Austin in my many years here, and it’s definitely lingering the longest. The forecast changes slightly from day to day, but it looks like we may get above freezing briefly Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

My four square-foot gardens are covered in snow. Not sure which plants will make it.

From my long-ago experience of an entire January spent below freezing in Oklahoma, it will melt the roads just enough to be passable for a few afternoon hours, and then slick over once temps drop at night. Saturday night will remain above freezing, or so it’s forecast.

It was 4 degrees this morning, and more snow and freezing rain are forecast.

My bird feeder has been super busy with puffed up birdies getting nourishment for all the energy they need to stay alive in these temps.

~~~

Well, at nine am, I ran out of propane. My daughter is coming to pick me up, and I’ll stay with her until this cold front is over, probably on Friday.

MELTing and staying hydrated to reduce pain

I posted this on my business website’s blog and then thought my wider readership on this blog (more about wellness in general) might be interested too.

Some of you have been following my posts about the work I did to recover from a sacroiliac joint injury and may find this of value.

Shall we all become as pain-free as we can?

New Self-Care for Jaw Pain course starts in February

I am a bodyworker, and one of my specialties is TMJ Relief. I help relieve jaw pain due to muscle tension. I’ve been doing this since 2013.

It has not been safe to work in people’s open mouths since March. I’m a one-woman practice without the resources of a dental office to acquire state-of-the-art air cleaners and make a large investment in PPE.

Meanwhile, the need for relief is even greater due to the stresses of COVID and the economy, working unergonomically from home, and poor sleep. People are clenching and grinding and damaging their teeth more than they did before COVID.

So…not wanting my skills to go to waste, knowing I could relieve some of the suffering, I spent the summer developing a Zoom course for people who would like to learn how to relieve their own jaw pain, offering it for the first time in the fall.

I’m offering it again in February 2020. There are 4 classes a week apart in the course. You will learn to replace the clenching habit with Relaxed Resting Mouth Position — you can accomplish this during the 4 weeks of the course with some helpful hints and daily mindfulness.

You will learn the quickest stress reduction technique available, documented by a neurobiology lab.

You will get helpful information and direction about stopping a night-time grinding habit. It’s more involved than daytime clenching and usually takes longer to eliminate, yet people have done it so we’ll model them.

You’ll learn how to work on yourself, releasing tension in both your external and internal jaw muscles.

You can learn more and sign up on my website. You can also join my email list for future announcements, join my Facebook group Word of Mouth for people seeking solutions for jaw issues, take a jaw pain quiz, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or a 30-minute Zoom consultation.

The class starts February 4, and the size is limited, so if this interests you, please sign up early to ensure you get in.

Not everyone has jaw pain, but nearly everyone knows someone who does suffer from it. I would be much obliged if you would share this post if you know someone who’s suffering who would at least want to know about this offering.