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Monday, September 14, 2015

Things I Liked in 2014

It took me ten months to put this blog together, but here at last, in September 2015, is the summary of what was best about 2014.

As is too often the case, there was a lot of stuff not to like in 2014. There was the sprained ankle in January, the appallingly bad weather in February and March (in fact, we received above-average--and often WAY above average--rainfall in all but three months of 2014), too much dog-sitting in April to allow me to work on any of my other projects, a major gastroparesis relapse that started in May and lasted until October, and an unusually warm summer with temperatures in the eighties, which sounds lovely except hot weather makes me really sick. Things started to improve in the fall when it cooled down, except for when it was windy or rainy (and fall is naturally a windy and rainy time of year), and some weeks of depression in October. I spent far more time than I would like in 2014 feeling too sick or worn out or just too busy to do the stuff I love, especially writing. I also wasn't well enough to spend much time with the horses; I think I may have ridden Drifter only half a dozen times in 2014. In the past, being around the horses was one of the only things that made me forget I have any kind of disability, but in 2014, being around the horses made me feel stressed and overwhelmed and tired. The last time I attempted to ride, in June, I got on Drifter's back at the start of my lesson only to discover that I'd used up all of my energy grooming him in the hot stable, and burst into tears. I went a few times to groom and hang out with Drifter without riding in the fall, but the Year of the Horse this was not. However, there were still some brights spots, so without further ado, here are the Things I Liked in 2014:


I read more this year than I have in years' past, which was a definite highlight. The downside was that I was reading more in a large part because the summer's heat kept me confined to the family room couch. If I lay there with a fan blowing on me and drank lots of water and didn't move any more than I had to, I wouldn't feel sick, so I often read for eight hours a day. I was able to read more difficult books this year than I've been able to in recent years, in part because what was often keeping me from being more active was my gastroparesis, not my migraines. So the reasons WHY I read more in 2014 are perhaps not the happiest, but as a lifelong avid reader, it's hard to get too down about getting a lot of reading done. This is an overview of some of the best books I read:

The best book I read in 2014 would be Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A well-written story of love, race, and immigration, it allows us to see America through the eyes of an intelligent Nigerian woman who is struck by the subtle ways that differences in language, culture, perceptions, and expectations come together to form a country both different from her native land and from the America of her imagination. Most particularly interesting were her wry observations on race because a black African has a very different sense of self, culture, and color identity in the United States than a black African-American. I'd been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of race in America in 2014, so this was a very timely read. But despite the potential weight of the topics--immigrant struggles, racial challenges--and the amount I learned from it, it is a book that went down easily. I highly recommend it.

Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer, was one of the most compelling and unsettling books I read in 2014. I was in college when it was published in 2002, so I missed the furor that broke out around it at that time and I approached it knowing only that the title and author seemed vaguely familiar. The story purports to be a comedy about a American Jew seeking to find the Ukrainian Gentile that saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The story is told through the back-and-forth exchange of letters from the young Ukrainian tour guide who is to help the American with his search and the novel that the American (a writer named Jonathan Safran Foer) is writing about his ancestors. I was originally a bit skeptical as I didn't find the translator's mangled English and attempts to pass himself off as a playboy very amusing and the novel sections were bawdy, romantic, fantastical, and strange, but I stuck with it and was rewarded by a book that unexpectedly unfolded to become one of the most devastating, affecting, and emotionally destabilizing books I've read about the Holocaust in a long time. The blurb on the back cover from the Washington Post Book World says, "Read it, and you'll feel altered, chastened--seared in the fire of something new." It's an apt description, especially the word "chastened." It's a brilliant feat of writing. Lots of people absolutely hated the book when it came out and I can see why, but it managed to punch me in the gut and left me gasping for air for some time after I finished it. I can't think of a higher compliment.

The other most devastating and affecting book I read this year was Andrew Solomon's nonfiction work, Far From the Tree. The book profiles what it's like for families when their children are profoundly different from their parents, especially in ways that are stigmatized. This includes children who are deaf or dwarves, have autism or Down syndrome, who are prodigies or psychopaths. I learned about the book when Solomon was interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air." They talked about a number of the categories he covered, including children conceived through rape, and then they discussed his interviews with the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine killers. Show host Terry Gross shared a quote that stuck with me and made me seek out the book. Klebold's mother said, "While every mother in town was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else...I gave the hardest prayer I ever made, that he would kill himself, because then at least I would know that he wanted to die and wouldn't be left with all the questions I'd have if he got caught by a police bullet. I've spent so many hours regretting that prayer. I wished for my son to kill himself and he did." The entire book was as moving, unsettling, and challenging as that passage and I ended up learning a great deal about myself: about my attitudes toward difference, about my acceptance of disabilities, and even my definition of disability, which is of interest to me, since I have a disability myself. There was also a lot to learn from this book about love and acceptance of seemingly unbearable realities, a subject that is of interest to me as well. Although long, it was accessibly written and I early devoured it in no time at all. I found it to be a profound and very important work.

On a lighter note, I very much enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs, and am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. The books grew out of a whimsical notion by the author as he looked at vintage photographs, many of which featured strange looking children in weirdly enigmatic scenes, clumsily edited so they appeared to be defying the laws of nature: what if these photos were real, if these stilted images were in fact revealing an alternate world, one where the children of bygone days could indeed levitate or disappear? And thus a world full of peculiarly talented children concealed in time loops to hide from hollowgasts was born. In the books, a modern teenage boy, Jacob, finds that he has inherited the task of protecting from destruction the children, the bird/women that shelter them, and both the real and magical worlds. This journey takes him from suburban Florida to a remote Welsh island to war-torn 1940's era London. It's a strange and clever conceit bolstered by likable characters and a nail-biter of a plot!

Other books that I read and enjoyed in 2014: Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill; Dear Life, byAlice Munro; The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert; the Divergent Trilogy, by Veronica Roth (not my usually sort of books, but highly entertaining!); The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout; White Teeth, by Zadie Smith; Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros; The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan; Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder; Empire Falls, by Richard Russo; The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman; The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin; and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.


2014 was the year when I stopped watching many shows that I had been following because I just couldn't handle the excitement. After enjoying a show for several seasons, you start to get invested in the characters and the story lines and I found myself unable to handle the stress of worrying about the welfare of characters I had come to like or following new and convoluted twists in plot lines. By and large, I didn't have energy to waste on emotionally demanding TV. With a few exceptions, most of the television shows I enjoyed this year allowed me to preserve an emotional remove.

Over the course of ten months or so, I worked my way through the first eight seasons of "Law & Order." I'd take my nighttime medication, watch an episode, and then go to sleep. It was very soothing. (Reading keeps me awake, so it's best if I don't crack open a book around bedtime!) I found "Law & Order" perfect for my needs because the episodes are formulaic without being dull, the recurring characters are interesting but don't demand much emotional investment, most of the crimes are committed off-camera so there's little violence or gore, and at the end of each episode, justice is almost always served. There are no edgy cuts between scenes or other distracting visual effects, there isn't an overly amped-up soundtrack, and most of the show is made up of people talking to each other. For me, that's just perfect! I'm really hoping that Netflix will put up the rest of the seasons soon.

It's always a struggle to find light fare that will work within the limitations imposed by my migraines and my taste. I have minimal interest in sitcoms, for example, because sitcom humor almost always centers around humiliation and I do not find humiliation funny in the least. That means I am unamused by a lot of the television shows and movies that are considered funny, which is a pity since I could stand to have a little more laughter in my life. However, I got lucky when I stumbled upon the Comedy Central game show "@midnight". The basic premise is simple: three comedians compete for points earned by making wisecracks about ridiculous things found on the internet. I have laughed out loud at least once during every single episode! It airs four nights each week and I catch it the day after on Hulu. I haven't missed a single episode and am bummed whenever the show takes a break. It's often rude--I have to warn my mother not to come into my study while I'm watching it--so it's not a show for those who are easily offended, but it can be an awful lot of fun and it definitely is a bright spot in my day.

I never would have considered watching the kids' cartoon "Adventure Time" if the show and its creator hadn't been written about in the New Yorker, but as I was casting about for lighter fare to watch in the fall of 2014 after finishing up all the "Law & Order" episodes available on Netflix, I decided to give "Adventure Time" a try and really came to enjoy it. It's loopy, charming, and weird; I like, for instance, that episodes often end abruptly, right in the middle of the story, without any explanations or resolution. Sometimes an episode's plot will be resolved more traditionally (climax leading to falling action leading to denouement), but without the usual need common to children's fare for there to be a moral to the story. On other occasions, everyone learns an important lesson, though there's often some ambiguity built into the lesson learned. I like this unpredictability and general lack of preachiness--it makes the cutesy elements of the strange and magical land where the action takes place much more tolerable, especially since there's no guarantee in this world that something cute will be wholly good or something bad or ugly will be wholly evil. Creative, off-beat, funny, trippy, bizarre, effervescent, ambiguous, and good-humored, "Adventure Time" has turned out to be a hit!

Occasionally, I do have the energy to invest in a more intense show and I was so excited for the second season of "Orange is the New Black"! I'd gobbled up the first season after seeing enough of my friends rave about it and ended up getting totally hooked on this female prison comedy/drama. I approached the second season with high hopes and it did not disappoint. "Orange is the New Black" has been written and talked about extensively by others, so I won't go into detail in describing what the show entails. What I will add is that while there are many things to love about this show, the thing I like the very most is that the characters, both how they are written and acted, seem like real people. It's one of the highest compliments I can give a production.

The other intense show that I enjoyed this year was "Vikings." I have to confess that I haven't watched the second season yet because the prospect is too daunting given my current energy levels, but I was absolutely riveted by the first season, so I'll get to the later seasons eventually! The show centers around the legendary Viking hero, Ragnar Lothbrok, and brings alive the world of 9th century where he would have lived. (While the men purported to be his sons are established historical figures, Ragnar may be a fictional hero.) We learn about navigational sunstones and the flat-bottomed ships that allowed the Vikings to exact devastating raids upon English kingdoms, how the religious beliefs and formal power structures of Viking society contributed to the legendary violence and lust for battle that allowed the Norsemen to go on to pillage all of Europe, and what day-to-day life might have looked like. Make no mistake, though: those historical lessons are couched in with plenty of drama, complete with betrayals, battles, strife and bonding between kinsmen, and no small amount of sex! Ragnar is played with such charisma by actor Travis Fimmel that it seems wholly possible that such a man could have existed and accomplished the stories of legend. And while Travis Fimmel the 21st-century man (and former underwear model) doesn't much interest me, when he's in Ragnar mode and smiles his deliciously devious, charming, twinkling smile, well, that's a pretty darn reason for watching the show all on its own.

On a completely different note... I count myself very lucky to have been dog-sitting at a house with a large HD TV when Nature's "Legendary White Stallions" aired. I regularly watch Nature programs online (there's no TV at my house) and while I have a very large computer screen, it's only about a quarter of the size of the one where I first got to see this beautiful program about the Lippizaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. This wasn't the first time I'd heard of the Lippizaners: I read Marguerite Henry's White Stallion of Lipizza when I was a kid and was so taken with the story that my parents took me to see a performance by the horses when a Spanish Riding School tour came to Seattle. However, I hadn't thought about them in ages and I'm an even bigger sucker for shows about horses now that I ride myself, so it was an absolute delight to catch this program. Not only does it show the horses being trained and performing at the riding school, it also shows the entire life of a Spanish Riding School Lipizzan from birth until retirement. The shots of the young horses running free across the hilltops and the white mares ambling through the sun-dappled, tree-dotted meadows at the Piber Federal Stud farm are exquisite! I highly recommend it for horse lovers.


Stitch! So cute! So naughty!
I almost hesitate to admit this because I don't think of myself as a Disney sort of person and don't want to be thought of as a Disney sort of person...but I've come to realize that when I'm feeling sick and down and am in need of cheering up, animated Disney movies work extremely well for that purpose. I watch whatever animated Disney movies are currently available on Netflix, so in years' past that has meant "The Princess and the Frog" and "Tangled," both of which I enjoyed. Neither are currently available for streaming, so I turned to what was: "Lilo & Stitch." I knew the movie was set in Hawaii and there was a naughty alien involved, but that was it. It turns out there is a little bit more to the story than that, but the reason to watch "Lilo & Stitch" is to enjoy the adorably naughty Stitch being naughty. Yeah, yeah, there's some larger message in there about family and togetherness and the main characters are not only female but also of color, but let's get back to Stitch, okay? It cheers me up to such a degree that there were some weeks in the fall of 2014 when I watched it more than once. Maybe I'm sort of a Disney person after all?

There's no doubt as to whether or not I'm a "Mary and Max" type of person. I'm all in favor of it! This decidedly quirky claymation picture details the relationship between two awkward, lonely pen pals: a young Australian girl with a large birthmark on her face and an older man with Aspberger's in New York City. Through the course of the movie, Mary grows up, experiencing many heartbreaks as well as a few small triumphs, and Max remains exactly the same, despite hospitalizations, winning the lottery, and being tried for manslaughter. It's absurd, deadpan, charming, and tender. It also reminded me that my dream job would to be a set dresser for stop-motion animation productions! 

Also, you should watch "Exit Through the Gift Shop." It's so much more than the summaries suggest! I think it's even better to watch it without knowing too much about it, so I'm not going to tell you all the reasons why you should see it except to think that it is merely a film about street artist Banksy would be a mistake.

I'm just a little bit too young to really have understood or been impacted by the AIDS crisis; by the time I was in high school, treatments had improved to the point where people where no longer dying. My understanding of the early years of AIDS has mostly been historical, so what made the documentary "We Were Here" so meaningful to me is that it made me fully grasp for the first time exactly how heart-wrenching and devastating AIDS was: what it would mean to have your entire community gutted, what it was like to watch everyone around you die, what it was like to survive. "We Were Here" follows the story of five individuals who were living in San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic and whose lives were forever changed and scarred by the unspeakable losses they witnessed and endured. It's a devastating movie, but I am so thankful to have watched it. I definitely recommend it, especially for members of my generation who were spared the knowledge of the worst of the scourge.


"Breathe Your Last" - Jameson Burt

My cousin made my list of Things I Liked in 2013, but I'm giving him another shout-out this year. Seriously, folks, this guy is talented! "Breathe Your Last" is off of his "Carnivore" EP. "Carnivore" is available on iTunes and you can check it out on Soundcloud.

"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" - The Shirelles

Back when I was a kid, I spent about three years listening to oldies on the radio, so when I stumbled upon PBS' "60s Girls Grooves" show while channeling-surfing, I ended up getting completely sucked in. It was fun to see the groups performing in archival footage from the era and reminded me how much great music there was going on at that time. The song that really struck a chord with me was the Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." I'm hardly alone in liking it--it reached #1 on the charts after its release and has made many "Greatest Songs" lists--but I have difficulty describing why, exactly, it resonated with me so much, though it has something to do with Shirley Owens' voice. (I also really like the Shirelles' song, "Mama Said.") If you have had little exposure to music from the early 1960's or your knowledge of girl groups of the era starts and ends with the Supremes or you just haven't listened to oldies recently, I recommend taking a minute to play "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."


There are two websites I'd like to highlight as important to me in 2014. The first has been edifying, the second...not so much. Well, I HAVE learned that toilets in kitchen are an actual thing. It's amazing what information the internet can bring to you!

A year or so ago I really started trying to up my game in understanding the dynamics of race, power, diversity, and oppression. I had all the nice white liberal ideas about race (racism is bad, racism still exists, I am not a racist person), but realized I could do better. Delving into racism is hard stuff if you're white and you're not used to it, but whenever I get tired of having to think hard about racism, I remind myself that it's a lot more tiring to have to experience racism on a day-to-day basis, that my ability to shut off my exposure is one of the types of privilege I have access to. I also learned that if an idea makes me uncomfortable and defensive, I need to sit with that discomfort and instead of defending my beliefs, ask myself, "Why does this upset me so much?" Those moments of discomfort are your prime areas for growth. I've also learned that it is critical is to listen to what black, brown, and marginalized people have to say. This does not mean just reading what a white person has to say about what black/brown/marginalized people have to say, no matter how well-written or well-reasoned or well-researched. This means going to the source. The #1 source for me, the one that has taught me the most, is Black Girl Dangerous. BGD seeks to give voice to queer people of color, a group that is discriminated against not just because of race, but also because of their gender and/or sexuality. Most of these people are seriously angry and they have every right to be. It can be hard to listen to people expressing their anger without getting defensive, but it's worth it to stifle your knee-jerk rebuttals and really hear what they have to say about their lived experience and how traumatic it is. Do I agree with every single thing I read? No, but I make sure I sit with that discomfort and take a long, hard look at why I don't and have learned a lot along the way.

On the lighter side, my favorite web site when I needed a laugh is Terrible Real Estate Agent Photosgraphs. The premise is simple: absolutely terrible photos from real estate listings are given deadpan captions. I try not to check in too often because they are especially delightful when the cumulative effect of so many dreadful photos hits and you find yourself giggling out loud on a dreary winter afternoon... I recommend checking the website out!

"After days of waiting this agent's patience is finally rewarded. Weak with thirst, a pair of wild mattresses appear at the watering hole."


I've long admired the pet portraits that many of my favorite dog bloggers have ordered from Yellow Brick Home's Pet Shop and had resolved to eventually get one of not just Abbey, but of every dog I dog-sit. I decided these would be memorial portraits; sadly enough, I had occasion to commission two of them in 2014 after Sweetheart passed away at the end of December of 2013 and Lady in January of 2014. Kim, the artist, was wonderful to work with and I was so pleased that the Pet Shop also now offers prints of the original portrait. This meant I got to send a copy of the portrait to Sweetheart's and Lady's owners. Lady's owner in particular was deeply grateful for this tribute to her beloved dog and send me a Glassybaby votive in the color "wet dog" in return. This votive holder, representative to me of the deep bonds we form with our dogs and through our dogs, even after they have parted from us, stands next to my beautiful portraits of Sweetheart and Lady.

Sweetheart, by Yellow Brick Home

Lady, by Yellow Brick Home

My Yellow Brick Home portraits and memorial votive.

© Elke Vogelsang
I've really come to love the fantastic dog portraits of German photographer Elke Vogelsang, who can be found on Facebook under the name Weiselblitz.  While she does beautiful work for clients, I especially love the photographs of her own pups, a trio of Spanish greyhound mixes named Scout, Noodles, and Ioli. She often makes use of a wide-angle lens to create distorted images of her long-muzzled pups with humorous results. The photographs reveal the great relationship Vogelsang has with her own dogs, but the rapport she develops with clients' dogs during photo shoots is evident in the way the personality of each dog shines through. While much of her work is light-hearted, she also can create beautiful, elegant images, often using the fair-coated Scout as her muse. I'm always delighted to see a new Weiselblitz photo popping up in my Facebook feed!

Scout, Noodles, and Ioli
© Elke Vogelsang

Noodles, Scout, Ioli
© Elke Vogelsang
© Elke Vogelsang

© Elke Vogelsang

© Elke Vogelsang

© Elke Vogelsang

© Elke Vogelsang

Her other favorite animal subject? Horses!
© Elke Vogelsang

Mila and Murphy, the Velvet Burritos
What happens when you take an evolutionary paleontologist, add a couple of pit bull mixes with velvety coats, and mix it all up with a big sense of humor and an enormous love for pets? Velvet Burritos, of course! I follow them on Facebook and while I enjoy all of the posts, which discuss such diverse topics as drive-by squeezings, oxytocin comas, the effects of Flap Juice, and Burrito Wrangling, it's the "scientific" ones that I like best of all. Murphy recently went to live with his dad, but the seal-shark-panther-hippo mix known as Mila (a.k.a. the Sausage Shark, a.k.a. the Phocid Queen), she of the Naughty Monkey Eyes, Spikes of Glory, and Proto-Flaps of Destiny, is still living with the scientist who is researching the elusive beast known as the Protomiladon velvecanthus. This is one of my very favorite posts:

Protomiladon velvecanthus
© Velvet Burritos
"The Protomiladon velvecanthus is generally a very gregarious animal that lives in small groups, each referred to as a 'shiver' of Protomiladon due to their phylogenetic affinities with sharks. Biologists studying the behavior of this unusual chimera species have observed that individuals will participate in ridiculously ostentatious ritualistic display of rolling and thrashing around whenever they find a new pool of mud or an undisturbed but excessively mucky river bank. While this is an activity that is usually done in front of other P. velvecanthus, it is a solo ritual meant to both coat their robust sausage-shaped bodies in mud for its cooling properties, and establish their rank in the group. The more absurd and erratic the display, the higher the individual animal is ranked. Biologists have noted that the highest ranking individuals will frequently snort, sneeze, bark and generally make pig-monster sounds in all directions when they have achieved the climax for their display behavior. If a Protomiladon is disturbed or startled whilst fully engaged in their thrashing display, they will enter a manic state of semi-enraged derangement that will be directed at the nearest object or living animal. This has been known to cause mass hysteria among the other members of the shiver, and can be very dangerous if a human or unwitting animal is caught in the middle of the resulting stampede. The Great Sausage-Shark Stampede of 1854 was believe to have been triggered by a group of rowdy prospecting gold miners that accidentally stumbled upon a large shiver of Protomiladon engaged in a thrashing ritual at their favorite bathing grounds. Historians believe that this event was the primary contributor to the end of the California Gold rush in 1855."  (Here is great one about Murphy.)
If this sort of thing strikes your fancy, I highly recommend the Velvet Burritos. You might just learn some new scientific facts about felid-pinniped hybrids, caring for your house walrus, the canine division of WWE, and positive-reinforcement training. At the very least, you can get seduced by the one-and-only Mila of Troy!

Another dog-related thing I've enjoyed in 2014 was "Corg Life," a comic about a man and his corgi, Otis. It has short, charming stories about Otis and his love of ALL of his fox toys (don't throw any away!), the one thing he doesn't like about the vet, his superpower of detecting cheese about to be eaten, only cuddling on HIS terms, balls balls balls balls, and more. Dog lovers should check it out!


Canon EF 70-200mm 1/2.8 L IS II USM
I took 13,269 photographs in 2014, but what was most significant for my photography was the acquisition of my Canon EF 70-200mm 1/2.8 L IS II USM lens. It's hard now to believe that I ever went without it! It's the main lens that I use, the default one I keep on my camera. I had wanted it in particular to use for birding and I snapped photos of 70 different species of birds with it, which in turn led to seven out of the 13 blogposts I wrote in 2014 were dedicated to birds. It has also been great for photographing dogs! This lens has been worth every penny and I'm so glad I bought it.

Below is a selection of some of my favorite photos from 2014:

American Robin.

Hermit Thrush.

Female Red-Winged Blackbird.

Juvenile Dark-Eyed Junco.

Spotted Towhee.

Male Wood Duck.
Without the 200mm lens, this wood duck would have been completely out of range!

Chicken feathers.

Varied Thrush feathers.

Stellar's Jay feather.


Baby goat.

Photographed at a distance through a thicket, this critter is another that would have been impossible to photograph without the new lens.

Red-Eared Slider.


Baby rabbit.


Three bees.
Yes, the little insect on the right is also a bee.

Paper Wasp.
One of the single coolest things I photographed in 2014 was this paper wasp carving a caterpillar that she'd killed into chunks and carrying the pieces off to her nest to feed the larvae.

Robber fly with prey.

Honeybee taking a drink.

Ghostly hydrangea bloom skeletons.

Corn silk.


A particularly amazing sunset.





Goldie and her best friend, Sable.

Mr. Gorgeous.




The Thing I Liked Best In 2014

It may sound funny that out of all the things I could have possibly liked in 2014, what I liked the most were Trader Joe's Organic Peppermints, but these mints significantly improved my quality of life. Similar in size and texture but sweeter in flavor than Altoids, these mints saved me from so much gastroparesis misery. I have medication to help improve the ability of my stomach to grind and empty, but I can only take small amounts of it on a semi-regular basis because otherwise I experience side effects that negate the effectiveness of the drug. I have a great medication for nausea (something I commonly experience as part of both the gastroparesis and migraines), but it, too, has side effects that make it inadvisable to take more than a couple of times a week. Peppermint, on the other hand, gives me no side effects and is great for digestion. I took these mints after meals when my stomach was being recalcitrant and the paralysis would ease, allowing the food to move through. I could pop one in my mouth when I was queasy and feel my nausea dissolve. Without Trader Joe's Organic Peppermints, I would have been so much sicker in 2014, so that's why they overwhelmingly earn the title of the Thing I Liked Best!