The Year According to Me

by Donna Schoenkopf

Geography is Destiny

I saw The Descendants on Christmas Day. It’s set in Hawaii. I realized how deeply geography has affected me. I’m from Hawaii. It’s a huge factor. Not many people I am around grew up there. I find myself to be an oddball.

Place. Setting.

Geography is destiny.


If geography is destiny, then water is life.

I no longer wash my laundry with any kind of soap. Someone said about my experiment that I had finally gone all the way back to beating my clothes on the rocks in the river.

And that’s exactly how I feel.

I feel really pure and good about it.

And my laundry is cleaner and brighter and softer than it’s ever been.


My Body

I’m getting older. I’m 68. My primary care doctor said that I was right at the point where my body would start falling apart. He told me that three years ago.

He was right.

My brain is aging. I often don’t remember why I am walking into the bathroom or up to the sink or to the laundry room. So I’ve given myself tricks for remembering. They are:

Saying the word, out loud (this is important) of the thing I am going into the other room for. This works. I think because when you hear something, a different part of your brain responds than the part that just thinks it. When I just think something I see a picture in my mind, which, for some reason, doesn’t stick in the memory as the audio part does.

It also might be that in my little struggle for the word, I am imprinting that thing somewhere in my brain, within the reach of my memory. I’m thinking that the picture part of my brain doesn’t remember things very well, but the language part does.

This really works.

If I remember to do it.

Food and Drugs

Don’t let The Man invade your body and mess with your health.

I won’t get into how angry I am with pharmaceutical corporations. And I won’t tell you how angry I am with doctors who rely on them, ignore the warnings, and overprescribe those same medications.

But I will tell you what happened to me.

I have been dealing with gastrointestinal stuff. I went to a recommended gastrointestinal doctor who did a look-see down my esophagus because I had intense acid reflux. And since my dear brother had died of esophageal cancer and I had read about Barrett’s syndrome, which is a condition resulting from continual acid reflux sometimes resulting in esophageal cancer, I was concerned.

Sure enough, I had a lot of raw, open injury.

So he put me on Dexilant to give my esophagus time to heal.

I told him that I did not want to be on a proton pump inhibitor forever. I told him I was concerned about side effects.

These are the side effects listed by the FDA on Dexilant:

Blood and Lymphatic System Disorders: autoimmune hemolytic anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
Ear and Labyrinth Disorders: deafness
Eye Disorders: blurred vision
Gastrointestinal Disorders: oral edema, pancreatitis
General Disorders and Administration Site Conditions: facial edema
Hepatobiliary Disorders: drug-induced hepatitis
Immune System Disorders: anaphylactic shock (requiring emergency intervention), exfoliative dermatitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis (some fatal)
Metabolism and Nutrition Disorders: hypomagnesemia, hyponatremia
Musculoskeletal System Disorders: bone fracture
Nervous System Disorders: cerebrovascular accident, transient ischemic attack
Renal and Urinary Disorders: acute renal failure
Respiratory, Thoracic and Mediastinal Disorders: pharyngeal edema, throat tightness
Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue Disorders: generalized rash, leucocyto ... oh, never mind. There’s a lot more but isn’t it enough to know how bad the side effects are?

But there’s one more side effect I need to include—a diminished immune system. It turns out that the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs is a huge part of our immune system. We kill a whole lot of germs in our stomachs.

Anyway, I took Dexilant for six months. I found I had a lot of difficulty digesting food. Huge bloating. Constipation. And some of the other stuff on the list.

I went for my six month checkup. I told the doctor of my concerns. I asked him how much longer I would be on Dexilant. He told me I would be on it for life.

What the hell??!

So I went home, put my Dexilant away, went on the Internet to see how to control the rebound of acid reflux (which is legendary), put a bottle of Tums in my purse and on my bedside table, discontinued eating meat, started on a low-acid foods diet, and lo and behold, I am Dexilant-free with only a tinge of acid reflux.

And almost every day, no Tums, either.

Ta dah!!


I think about energy a lot. I make large and small choices with energy being a major part of my decisions. I think about it because of climate change and earthquakes and pollution.

Climate Change: Drought and intense heat, which has never been recorded before, came to Oklahoma this past summer. I watched a third of my forest die. Anyway, I think it’s dead. Oaks were hard hit. And ash. You don’t see stuff like that in the city or the suburbs.

I came to the country to see how the planet was doing. What I found out is that climate change is real.

Earthquakes: Lots of fracking locally. I have felt four good sized temblors since I’ve lived in this house. The talk around here is that fracking is causing it.

Pollution: I used to live in L.A. What else do you need to know?

If you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem, so I drive a 2001 Prius, a hybrid that gets about 45 miles to the gallon. It was used when I bought it, but still expensive. At least to me it was expensive. I felt good when I did it. That little gem gets between 40 and 45 miles per gallon.

And I live in a house I designed to be a passive solar structure. I would have liked to put in solar and geothermal and wind power, but I couldn’t afford it.

The house is like a greenhouse in the winter, unless it’s cloudy. In the summer breezes cool it. Eventually I’ll have grown deciduous trees that will shade it in the summer for additional cooling. When the leaves fall in the winter, the sun will let in the warmth.

I feel pure and good.

Mother Nature. I love her.

Plant Life

Masanobu Fukuoka inspires me. Leave plants alone, he says. Let the strong survive. DON’T WEED. Plant clover. Don’t prune.

Suits me.

To a tee.

Animal Life

I thought I was an equal opportunity appreciator of all animal life and that I could love a bug as completely as a fluffy kitten.

I have been humbled.

I have actually considered pesticides. But I restrained myself. Luckily I am a procrastinator and by the time I actually stood before the insecticide section at Lowe’s, I came to my senses. I use canola oil for plant pests. Works great. And if you look on the label for ingredients in “green” insecticides, guess what is the active ingredient is?

Canola oil.

And bizarre things happen in the country.

My neighbor Shirley tells me she found a dead wild duck in her carport. It was missing its head. She said it had really orange feet.

I have ducks in my pond.

I guess I have one less duck than I used to.

I wonder which dog got it.

Interpersonal Interaction

This year I’ve had some spats and one doozy of a fight.

I won’t go into it but ... it was not my fault.

I would tell you if it was.

I think I am a peacenik, commie, green, catholic, atheist, buddhist, existentialist, democrat because, like Joan Baez, I know how violent my emotions sometimes are and I need to get myself to a place that doesn’t let me get into that frame of mind.

I am actually acquiring some wisdom.

Comes with age.

The Planet

I connect most intimately with the planet in the mornings when the sunlight is streaming into my house through all eight of my sliding glass doors—east, south, west. The whole house is full of light.

The sun comes up through the trees in the east in the early morning, then slowly through the whole length of my house through the six sliding glass doors on the south from nine until about two. I watch the shadows move. In the afternoon it comes through the western sliding glass door until it sinks behind the trees.

The prettiest time of the day is about nine o’clock in the morning. The wide stripes of shadow and light lie across the whole house. Every chair, plant, statue throws its shape on the floor. The whole house is like a chiaroscuro Mondrian.

I feel as though I’m in paradise.

Being Alone

Gives me time to think my thoughts. I have conversations with myself.

I also talk to my dogs. We mostly use body language.

I have especially brilliant arguments with people who are not here. Not mean arguments. Just brilliant. I’m finally allowed to say everything I want to say without being interrupted.

Capitalism vs. Communism

The most stable and happiest societies are the ones that have the most equality in civil rights and money.

Capitalism has a problem in that regard. It’s an economic system built on competition so naturally it eventually reaches a point where just a few are at the top of the heap and the rest of us are miserable.

Socialism/Communism is the opposite of competition. It’s about cooperation and equality.

I think we are struggling between those two systems. We are rumbling and tumbling into a new era. The injustice of capitalism, creating bigger and bigger divisions in wealth between the classes, has created its antithesis, communism/socialism. Those two oppositional systems are converging and creating a synthesis.

I can feel the movement toward equality and justice. I see it everywhere. Do you?

And in conclusion . . .

Hau’oli makahiki hou, Dear Readers.

Aloha nui loa.


Donna Schoenkopf recently retired from teaching at 61st Street School in South Central Los Angeles, and has moved back to Oklahoma, where she spent her teens.


Hmmm, capitalism is Feudalism without the commons.

2011-12-28 by Doyal

(an etc. from doyal)

A thought that came to mind as I read your commentary:  I learned from my wise mother that if you forget what you went for, say to the sink or refrigerator, go back to where you thought of whatever it was, and it will come back to you.  I’ve been using that all my life and it has never failed.

2011-12-28 by Donna Schoenkopf

We are indeed maturing in interesting times, and the ongoing battle between need v. greed should be even more dramatic in 2012, Hermana.
May we continue to age with grace and integrity.  And a hau’oli makahiki hou backatcha (and to Doyal, as he also knows what it means!)

2011-12-28 by Fr. Clark Shackelford

Sounds like you’ve discovered the true meaning of John Heywood (1497-1580)comment: “Enough is as good as a feast.” And you’re obviously practicing Meister Eickhart’s dictum: “If the only prayer you say in your life is Thank You, that would suffice.”

And, have you tried a foam slant/wedge for sleeping.  Gently raises the upper body.  Helps with acid refluxy stuff. But good on you for solving the real problem, not just doping the symptoms.  If more people played detective and did the same, we’d be a far healthier society.

Meantime, have a wonderful, light-filled New Year.

2011-12-29 by Ann Calhoun

Loved you “Year” journey. I didn’t know you grew up in Hawaii.
It is always fun to sit in a doctor’s office and see the drug dealers getting in to see the doctor before the patients. Then the doc casually puts you on some drug for a minor problem and you wonder why you now are getting dizzy and having problems working in the garden. Stop the drug, stop the problem. There is a reason they give you all the warnings on TV drug advertisements. The patient has become the primary research victim for whether or not the drug is harmful on patients. Drug companies don’t test for all those side effects…they just want the drug on the market asap so they can market it as fast as possible. You know…before all the side effects are obvious. You, the patient, are the test for side effects. If enough people have the same problems while taking that new drug…it gets pulled off the market.

Tums was good enough for my Dad and it is good enough for me. Also about a 1/2 tsp of cooking soda in a small glass of water works very quickly to settle an upset stomach if nothing else is available. Just don’t use any one item to excess—Good rule for life.

2011-12-29 by Jeanita Ives

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