Pain, Patience and the Patient/Physician Relationship

hands in lap

hands in lap

On Labor Day, 2014 I began a new documentary-style photo essay in collaboration with Dr. Mark Ibsen who owns Urgent Care Plus in Helena, Montana. We are telling a story with photos of his patients, of Mark and of his staff. We aren’t sure what the story will be yet — that will come when we see what the photos are telling us. For now, I am going to be spending time at the clinic and with permission from the patients themselves, documenting their time with this passionate, compassionate healer.

Watch my blog and my Brown Bird Studio Facebook page for progress on the photo essay, and for announcements of an exhibit which we hope to have sometime in the next few months.

Hands can tell so many stories just by themselves. Like eyes, hands are expressions of our history, our struggles and triumphs, our pain, sorrow and celebrations. Hands instruct. They argue. They heal, comfort and can hurt. Here are a few images from this week, from the first batch of photos that really pulled at my heart. I am curious what you think and feel when you see these images.

Hands 3 Hands 2 Hands 1 Hands 5 Hands 4

Thank you for looking and appreciating. I look forward to some dialogue about this project as we continue.

~ Maureen

Nutritarian Adventure … How are we doing?

Healthy grocery list

Healthy grocery list

Well, it has been a little over a year since Tim and I embarked on our Nutritarian food adventure, and I thought it would be a good thing to write an update on how it’s going. So … ummm. Well. It’s going okay. Not perfectly. But we’re doing pretty well with it. The reason we started eating this way (the Dr. Joel Fuhrman way) is because of my health. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to do something about the rheumatoid arthritis I’ve had since I was in my early twenties. Something more than I had already been doing all of my adult life. Yeah, I had managed it, but it would flare up with a monster-roar every once in a while and really kick my butt!

So, although he doesn’t have health issues and can eat just about anything, Tim agreed to help me change my diet by changing his too. Otherwise it would have been just too hard to eat differently than he does.  We were very strict with the Eat to Live food program for the first 3 months or so, then we switched to the Eat for Health version, which allows some leeway and is, for me, more of a long-term sustainable way of eating. Tim still eats foods that are definitely not on the list of Nutritarian foods, and I have allowed myself to make some different choices some of the time. I believe that is the only way we can eat this way for the long run.

At first, I noticed a huge improvement in the level of joint pain and other health issues seemed improved. Not totally, but enough that I convinced myself last year to stick to the Nutritarian food program as long as I could. I now can feel it in my body when I have a couple of days of eating too many grains, especially refined grains. Or too much sweet stuff. I worried that if I had something like a homemade cookie, or a piece of fruit pie, that would throw me totally off of the diet and I’d backslide down into the pit. But that hasn’t happened. I think being really strict the first few months was what made it possible to “cheat” once in a while without going overboard. I know what it’s like to feel better now. And I know it’s directly connected to the food I eat.

One thing I took away from Dr. Furhman’s books was this: if not being able to have a cup of coffee everyday (or a glass of wine, or whatever) might be the thing that prevents you from making this a lifelong dietary change, then have your cup of coffee. It won’t kill you. So, I give myself, with grace and softness (not with guilt) to have pasta once a week. Or a piece of sourdough toast every now and then… or a danged homemade chocolate chip cookie! (Tim can eat all the cookies he wants and it doesn’t seem to affect him. Envy …)

Early on in this adventure, I made a Nutritarian grocery list using Evernote (with the checklist feature) which syncs to all of my devices. So I always have the list on my cell phone when I am shopping. It really helps to just look at the list, check off the things we need, and stick to it — at least 95% of the time.

Soba Noodles with Stir Fry Greens

What’s in our cupboards also helps — we don’t keep stuff around that we’re not supposed to eat. We save that for eating out, or in Tim’s case, for stopping at the Dive Bakery on his way to work in the morning.

We could do better. Always. Sometimes I just crave red meat. Rare bison steak. Or elk steak. Sometimes we have that. But way less often than before I started this program of better health.

At the top of this post is my grocery list, and it’s for you to download if you’d like. If you click on the grocery list, it will open in a new window as a pdf file and you can save that to your computer. This won’t work as an Evernote checklist, but if you print it out, it might help you know what to buy on your grocery trips. You could also make your own list in Evernote, or in some other list-making app on your own phone.

Let me know how you’re doing in the comments. Let’s do this together! Good luck. 


Hot Honey Custard Soothie … Happy Birthday Mickey!

Hot-Honey-Custard-SoothieI was thinking about the specialness of today* and craving a hot drink after being outside in the cold. I wanted something creamy. With high protein. Something comforting. Here’s just the thing, inspired by the hot milk drinks I used to make for my boys when they had trouble falling asleep.

I am dedicating this Hot Honey Custard Soothie recipe to Michael Cloud, who came into my life exactly 32 years ago.

October 5th, 1981 is a day I will never forget. I labored for 36 hours (34 at home with a midwife, my mom and Mickey’s dad.) He was kinda stuck by my crooked tailbone and even after I got to the hospital (we had tried for a home birth) I had to breathe through the contractions while we waited for a doctor to come from Butte… a doctor who could turn my baby’s head around 180 degrees with forceps without hurting him. When his head came out, the doc told me to stop pushing for what seemed like forever — it was probably just a minute — while they suctioned the phlegm from his lungs. In those eternal seconds, I had the most amazing experience of mutual eye contact with my baby before he started breathing on his own. He was calm and quiet, eyes wide open, staring into my eyes. Still part of my body. Not yet on his own. Seconds later he wailed as his umbilical cord hit cold air and they put him on my breast. He was fine except for two bruises where the forceps had pressed into his head.

Now Mickey and his wife, Michelle, have two boys of their own and I know they have had experiences as profound and moving as I had with him on that day. I am so proud of the man he has become, of how loving he is toward Michelle and his children. Of how he uses his mind and his body and heart to make good things happen in the world.

Here’s to you, Mickey — I hope you pass along this warm drink to your kiddos when they inevitably have a hard time falling asleep. xoxo


 Hot Honey Custard Soothie


  • 1 cup milk (or rice milk, soy milk or coconut milk)
  • 2 tsp honey (or to taste)
  • 1 very small egg (if you are doubling the recipe, use a normal size egg for 2 cups milk)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few drops almond extract (optional but super yummy)
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg


  1. works best if you have a blender or a hand-held blender. A whisk will do if you don’t have the blender
  2. Gently heat the milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla and almond extracts in a saucepan on the stove until it is very warm. Try not to boil it over like I always do. (ahem!)
  3. While the milk is heating, beat the egg with a whisk until creamy, or beat it in the bottom of the blender.
  4. Take the cinnamon stick out of the milk and suck on it while you finish the drink. [grin]
  5. When the milk is very hot, turn on the blender and gradually pour the milk into the beaten egg while blending. (If you pour it all in at once, the egg will cook in the hot milk and get chunky.)
  6. When the hot milk mixture is very foamy, pour it into a pre-warmed cup and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Serve immediately while it’s still hot. Yummo!



  • You can substitute nut milks, rice or soy milk, or coconut milk for the cow-milk. Coconut and soy milks foam up pretty well in the blender. Rice milk and almond milk not so much, but the drink is still delicious even if it’s not foamy.
  • If you are vegan, skip the egg. It won’t taste the same but again, still yummy.
  • This really does taste like custard — the ingredients are the same and that nutmeg and honey give it dimension and depth. Heaven!
  • Heating the milk to a very hot (but not boiling) temperature cooks the egg just enough to kill any bacteria. It’s safe for children, though I wouldn’t give this drink to babies.
  • With the milk and eggs, this is a nutritious way to give your kids not only protein and calcium, but also the kind of comfort and soothing they just might need at bedtime. Make sure they brush their teeth after drinking the soothie.
  • I used a teeny egg from our friend, Colleen. Her hens lay beautiful eggs with dark orange yolks, so in the photos my soothie looks yellow-er than yours might if you are using store-bought eggs.

Charlie likes soothies on cold days too: 

Notice the streaks on the outside of the pan… that’s me boiling the milk. My bad. [grin]