I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Friendships

Lily and Lynn
Yesterday afternoon, my friends and I met on Lynn's front porch to share food and drink wine together. That wasn't the original plan for the day; I had gone early to the coffee shop and was going to walk with the ladies, but my knee simply isn't good enough right now to do more than carry me from place to place. Brisk walks are hopefully in my near future, but not at the moment.

Right about the time that my lower back injury began to stop giving me so much pain, my right knee, for no apparent reason, gave out on me. My acupuncturist said he thought it is related to my earlier injury, but I'm not willing to give up my active lifestyle just yet. In the meantime, I'll continue to read and enjoy more sedate activities, such as eating and drinking wine.

My friend John was waiting at the coffee shop yesterday when I arrived, and he bought me breakfast, and said, "Harry is gone." Harry is his cat, who has his own cat door and comes and goes as he pleases. I was confused by what he meant, so he told me that he didn't come home for two nights, and John thinks he was probably eaten by a coyote. He had been attacked by one a few years ago, but he escaped and, although injured, made a full recovery. Apparently not this time. I am always distressed by the loss of our dear animal companions, for whatever reason. As his friend, I offered my sincere condolences; there is nothing else I could do.

I also lost another friend this past week. I learned that one of my old friends from skydiving was found dead in his home. His neighbors called the police after he had not been seen for several days. He always took an early morning walk and the neighbors were concerned. I was very sad to think of him taking that final journey alone. Apparently a week or so before, he had been in a car accident and had been treated at the hospital and released. I wonder if something happened that wasn't discovered at the time. We'll never know.

The downside to having lots of friends and acquaintances who matter to me is the inevitable having to say goodbye, as the days and years pass. I've lost so many friends and family by now, and it never gets any easier, just different. My heart aches for all the loss we humans must endure. Suffering is just as much a part of life as joy and happiness.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths. —Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Some people find comfort in a strong religious conviction. Although I am a believer, I'm not at all sure that organized religion is for me. I've gone through many phases of belief, but I no longer attend any church. However, I do pray, and often when I am in distress I'll go for a solitary walk and have a conversation with myself. Whether there is anybody else listening is not for me to know, but it doesn't matter: I always feel better after some tears and those talks.

I was only twenty-two when I lost my son to a bout of meningitis. That was my first loss, and it took me close to a decade of life to make my way back to a new normal. These days, I find it takes much less time, because my heart is already tender and soft just from living. I think many people feel they can harden one's heart and not feel things quite so deeply, but for me, it's the opposite. I can be reduced to tears in an instant, and I'm glad for the ability to share someone's grief. I wonder if it's a choice one makes, or whether life circumstances are what makes some of us feel things so deeply. It's a mystery to me.

One thing I know for sure: the longer I live, the more loved ones I will lose. My remedy for that is to stop often and take stock of what my life and my day contains right at this moment. My life partner, still sleeping next to me at this moment, is so precious to me, and I cannot think how I would survive that loss. But I know that I would. We have talked about it, and I know he will also be able to carry on without me. It's not easy, never easy, but it's part of life.

We are both in our twilight years, those years when we are hale and happy without major illness. Yet the path ahead for us all is towards infirmity, and we can face it with equanimity if we choose. Our way out of our loss and hurt is in and through. It doesn't make me miss my loved ones any less, but remembering them with love in my heart feels so much better than becoming bitter and wishing things were different.

As I write these words, I am sitting in my bed with my laptop, the sun has just risen on a new day, and my sleeping partner will be with me for awhile longer. My dear friends at the coffee shop, all my friends, including you, dear reader, enrich my life and fill my days with happiness. These words from a psalm just popped into my head: my cup runneth over. How can anyone be grumpy on a day like this?

My tea is gone, and I can feel the day pulling me towards whatever lies ahead for me today. Perhaps I'll lay my tired head down at the end of a good day, and I hope I will remember to give thanks for another exciting and precious adventure in the world. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will find some person somewhere who will leave your presence with a smile on his or her face. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Reveling in my humanity

Beautiful sky at Lake Padden
Yesterday I was able to walk with the ladies and complete the entire thing with little to no discomfort in my back. So, finally, I am able to take up my usual exercise-filled days and walk like I normally do. It took more than a month for my tailbone/sacrum area to heal. There are still a few movements that are a bit painful, but considering what I started with, I am thrilled to be so much better.

Today I have considered what I want to discuss, what is on my mind. After last week's mass shootings, I was on edge when I went out in public, but even after a short week, I am feeling much more normal. It's important to be aware of one's surroundings, being situationally aware, but it's also important to carry on and not let yourself get bogged down by fear. Life is fragile in any case, but more so once you become truly old. I want to enjoy every day of those I have left to me.

I'm reading three books at once: a Dave Barry book about the lessons he's learned from his dog Lucy, a book about aging well, and Pete Buttegieg's new book about who he is and why he decided to run for president. Aging Well is on my Kindle, and again I'm wishing I had it in hard copy so I could go back and forth in its pages more easily. And the book by Mayor Pete was sitting on a shelf at the local bookstore, so it was easy to peruse. Writing a memoir when you're in your mid-thirties seems odd, so I was intrigued, picked it up and ended up buying Shortest Way Home. My sister Norma Jean suggested the Dave Barry book, Lessons from Lucy, so I put a hold on it through the library website, and it (of course) showed up right as I had these other two books to read.

They are all very different from one another. I don't want the Dave Barry book to end, so I'm savoring it and reading it slowly. He's such a good writer, and he sure knows how to make me laugh out loud. He and Lucy are "of an age," with Lucy turning ten (seventy in dog years) and Dave turning seventy. He says that this time of life is comparable to the two-minute warning toward the end of a football game, and I ruefully agree. You know you've got less time than ever when you pass that milestone. And for me, that milestone is in the rear-view mirror.
Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes  —Anonymous
It seems like it was just yesterday that I turned seventy, but now I'm past the halfway mark to eighty. Eighty! Not very many people make it to that age without aches and pains and even debility. I'm hoping that I will still be able to carry out some semblance of the life I have today. As I get older, I realize how much of what I thought was essential in everyday activity needs to be modified in order to continue to work properly. "Adapt" is my watchword these days.

I am grateful to be alive during this particular moment in time, when so much has changed to make life more interesting. I mentioned the books I'm reading at the present time, how much they give me and help to keep my brain active. There is also another aspect of life that didn't exist when I was young: computers and the blogosphere. I love to write, and blogging gives me an instant outlet. Not only that, I follow several people around the globe who give me a glimpse into their lives and their own coping mechanisms when things go amiss. Many of my readers use their own method of knowing when a fellow blogger has written a new post. I use The Old Reader, and part of my morning routine is to log in and see what's new. Since I follow close to a hundred different blogs, I'm glad that not everyone writes something new every day, or I'd never be able to keep up. But seeing a new post from someone I consider to be an old friend is a real delight. I get some sort of contentment from learning about the everyday life of others. Plus I often learn something valuable.

And then there's my own small community of friends. In the book about aging well, it turns out that it's important to have a few friends who you can share the ups and downs of life with. Women have more of such friends. I think that's because many men have difficulty bonding with one another. I'm glad to have many friends of both sexes I feel I can talk to and cannot imagine not having that outlet.

Speaking of which, I guess I'd better get up and start my day. My beloved partner still sleeps next to me, and I've got a pretty full day ahead. After the coffee shop and hanging out with friends there, I'll go to Whole Foods and meet Lily there for breakfast. Then she and I will pick blueberries at my friend Judy's house, before taking in a movie at the local independent theater, where Judy will join me. By the time I get home it will be early afternoon, and I'll settle into my easy chair and decide which book to pick up and lose myself in. Not a bad life, not at all.

I hope that you will find some small (or large) delights in your week ahead. And don't forget to pay it forward, give someone a kindness that you wouldn't otherwise have thought of. It's good for both, the giver as well as the receiver. Until we meet here again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Finding a way to happiness

Walking into the mist
Is it possible to develop a stress disorder without ever having been exposed to direct violence? Sometimes I wonder if I have it. Every single loud noise at the gym or on the street makes me jump, tense up, and sometimes even emit a scream. I don't trust cars to stop for me when crossing the street, even in a crosswalk with proper lights and signals. I have become rather skittish when out in public. Perhaps my sister has it right: she avoids the news and doesn't watch anything on TV that tells about current events. Yesterday's news about two separate mass shootings has put me on edge. (Sorry, Norma Jean. I won't say anything more about them.)

Current events, especially gun violence, have shaken me to the core. When did all this start? I don't remember growing up afraid of people with guns on the street. It is definitely a growing problem, but I don't understand why. Of course I looked it up on google and found an article on Vox, written last month:
Gun violence in the US is often talked about as if it’s a single problem. But it’s really at least four different ones: suicides, urban gun violence, domestic violence, and mass shootings. Suicides are the majority of the nearly 40,000 gun deaths in the US in 2017. But urban violence is the second biggest category, making up a majority of the 14,000 gun homicides that same year.
 It's not just me, of course, who is upset about the proliferation of guns and the men who like to have them around. And it's usually men, it seems to me, that buy multiple guns and sometimes shoot up people in random settings. Why? Most of the time they die, too: are they suicidal and want to take people along with them when they die? I just don't understand it.

I remember the first time I saw a gun. I was maybe nine or ten years old, and my father, who was in the Air Force, had returned from a temporary duty assignment. He placed his gun on the top of the refrigerator, and my sister and I decided to get a couple of chairs to climb up and take a look at it. We didn't touch it, but I remember it was a handgun and looked very scary to my young eyes.

I was an adult and a young mother when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Five years later, I remember Martin Luther King's death. They were both felled by guns. These days, I wonder what these two men would think of what is going on in this country right now.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Well, that quote from King pretty much sums it up, to me at least. Hate is busy multiplying in our country, as he says, "adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." He does, however, give us a solution: love. As hard as it is for me to figure out how to do that, I know I can.

I can start where I wake this morning: by taking stock of all the wonderful parts of the surrounding world, including my country, my home town, my loved ones. Concentrating on finding love all around me is the only way forward, as I see it. Rather than concentrating on what scares me, I can look beyond to that which makes me smile, laugh, and gives me hope for the future.

Not everyone has the ability to find peace and happiness in their surroundings. Some of us live in desperate circumstances, but that is not me, not today at least. I see small acts of kindness around me every day. Why, I even practice them myself. Kindness feels good, too, both offering it to others and receiving it as well.

The choice is mine to make: concentrate on what I can offer to the world around me that will add joy and love, or let myself get pulled into the morass of hate. Nope, I won't do that, and I sincerely ask my readers to consider just one act of kindness that you might add to your world today. Each spark of loving kindness adds to the flame of happiness. Just writing those words feels good, and I know we are up to the challenge.

So, today I will make every attempt to make my world a better place. First, I'll start by finishing this post and getting myself ready to go out into the bright sunshiny day. Maybe I'll be able to finally spend some time in my garden, since my back is so much better, and pull out weeds and give the plants and flowers some room to spread out a little. I hope you will also find something that will add positive thoughts to your own small universe. I'll do the same, and we will have already made a positive difference in the world.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me; my tea is gone. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will find much to smile and laugh about, and that you will be well. I wish you all good things.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Quality is in short supply

Sauk Mountain trail two years ago
Although you cannot see the magnificent flowers in this picture all that well, when I was on this hike with the Trailblazers two years ago, I remember being astounded by them and took myriad pictures that were pretty much like this one: nice, but nothing like my memory of them.

A couple of weeks ago, I lost my favorite (and expensive) glasses on the bus. I had placed them on top of my head and forgot, until later at the coffee shop when I looked all over for them. Retracing my steps, I realized that they must have fallen off on the bus and I didn't notice. No problem, I thought: someone would turn them in, since they were obviously expensive frames with progressive lenses. Well, I checked in the Lost and Found for a week and nobody ever turned them in. Perhaps someone thought they could make a buck from the frames. I'll never know.

I went to Links Optical, where I had originally bought them, to order a replacement pair. It was on one of my Trailblazer hikes that someone mentioned to me that they felt this is the best place in town, which is why they became my eyewear specialists, too, after cataract surgery and the need for some good distance glasses.

Sure that I would have to find another set of frames, I walked in to start the process of searching through endless pairs for others that I might like as well as my lost ones. They pulled my chart and looked up the paperwork, and the clerk told me that they could call the manufacturer and see whether they had another pair just like the ones I lost. And guess what? They did and in my size, too. They ordered them and I sat down to talk about what I wanted in my new glasses: make them just like the others, please. That meant progressive lenses, transitions to darken and lighten, scratch resistance, and anti-glare as well.

Everything those previous glasses had were repeated and we sat down to figure out the cost. I remembered how expensive progressive lenses are (several hundred dollars just for that) and steeled myself for the verdict. Ouch! It took my breath away, although I had paid that much before, except for a discount on the frames. Not this time. Was it worth it? As much as a new cellphone?

Yes, I decided; it was worth it. I paid half before leaving the store and promptly forgot about them. I had ordered a new pair of glasses from Links soon after my cataract surgery, but they don't have progressive lenses because I balked at the cost back then. They are now my spare replacement glasses, which I used until the new ones came in. I found it very annoying not to be able to see the face of my watch, the dashboard in my car, always needing to peer over or under them to see anything within arm's reach. Most of the time I muddled through without any glasses, except for driving, where it was mandatory to wear them.

They came in yesterday, so I went to pick them up. It's not a large store, and the owner, Link, was there, helping people get their new frames fitted properly. He is a master at it, which meant that my new glasses would be just like my old ones, incredibly comfortable and pretty much identical. I walked out of the store, happy to have been treated to such incredible quality of care.

Never before had I found a place anywhere comparable to Links. They definitely are a cut above any other place I frequented before. My first trip to the store was when I had my first eye done and realized I was going to need some new glasses. The doctor's office had taken out the lens from my left eyepiece and I was walking around with an empty lens. It didn't bother me that much, but when Link saw it, he asked if I would mind if he put in clear glass, and I agreed. In a few minutes, he came out with my glasses looking normal again. After the second eye was done, I was given a prescription, which I took to Links to order what became my replacement glasses.

My eyes had gotten bad enough that I couldn't see 20/20 any more, but after the surgery, with the glasses, both eyes were corrected to give me the ability to see details I had forgotten were even there. I could read street signs, even tiny little letters! Now I take it for granted. My eyes, even without any glasses, can see so much better than before the surgeries. I did find, however, that my naked eyes could no longer read for hours without eyestrain, so I got a prescription for reading glasses that has made all the difference. They are usually sitting atop my latest book, as I only need them when I'm reading for hours at a time. I tried off-the-shelf ones, but both eyes are different enough from one another that they didn't help all that much with eyestrain.

That whole experience has got me to thinking about quality, and how rare it has become in our lives these days. Most companies cut corners, looking to optimize profit over customer care. It's everywhere these days. From the small stuff like underwear, to the big-ticket items like cars: nothing is made to last any more. I learned about built-in obsolescence a few years ago and see it everywhere. From that Wikipedia link:
There is an information asymmetry between the producer, who knows how long the product was designed to last, and the consumer, who does not. When a market becomes more competitive, product lifespans tend to increase. For example, when Japanese vehicles with longer lifespans entered the American market in the 1960s and 1970s, American carmakers were forced to respond by building more durable products.
My 2001 Honda Civic has around 150,000 miles on it, and my mechanic tells me with a smile it's just now broken in. I love my car, and although I sometimes lust after someone's newest vehicle, I wouldn't trade them, because I would no longer have my pal, who has been with me for more than fifteen years. It was four years old when I got it, with 44,000 miles. I've enjoyed it with little worry, and I keep it up to date with all its maintenance. I realized not long ago that I might never have another car before I can no longer drive, which isn't that far away. If for some reason I end up having to replace it, I'll probably buy something similar, by an owner who decided to get a new car when nothing at all was wrong with it, except that it wasn't new any more.

Yes, quality is in short supply. Only a few places prize quality, and they make the customer pay through the nose for it. But everything everywhere costs more. I notice that often familiar items in the grocery store look similar, but they are in smaller containers, costing the same as before. This is what the future looks like, I guess: we have grown to expect shoddy workmanship and smaller packages. It's sad, isn't it? All in the name of higher profits.
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. —Roger Staubach
I never expected to write a rant this morning, but that is what I've done, and I'm sorry for going there. What I really wanted to highlight is how scarce quality has become in our lives. But here I sit, typing away on my old laptop, tempting me to trade it in for a newer model, which I will eventually do. But I will miss the ports that the newer versions have eliminated. I'll make do for awhile longer.

Until then, I'll be here, every Sunday morning, pondering what I will write about today. I hope that you will find joy and happiness in this day, and that wherever you are, you will have a companion to share it with. There are always people who are in need of a visit, and critters who always appreciate your loving care. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I feel the day calling me to action. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friend.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Learning to cope, not my strong suit

Dog resting while waiting
I've been taking some nice slow walks around Bellingham, using my camera to take what I call a "photo safari," capturing pictures that catch my eye while waiting for my sore rear end to get better. It might not, I'm beginning to realize now, but I won't know for another month or so. This coming week I'll see my acupuncturist, who treats many lower back injuries, and I might end up coming to see him more often for a bit, if he thinks he can help.

Many people wonder why I haven't been to the doctor yet. Well, this is not my first rodeo, I've been here numerous times before. And at my age, I can pretty much tell that all they would suggest is what I am already doing. There is no external bruising and no signs that I broke anything. But it still hurts to bend over and try to straighten without using my arms to help myself get upright. That said, I can do almost all the yoga postures, although not without pain. That is to be expected. Best as I can figure, I've caused trauma to the sacroiliac joint, and that takes as long as six weeks to completely heal.

My extenuating circumstance is the previous damage I did to the sacrum, back in 2000, when I needed two stabilizing pins inserted to keep the sacrum stable. They are still there, one of them passing by the fifth lumbar nerve root. I remember the surgeon mentioning he hoped he wouldn't need to remove those pins eventually, because I would sustain further nerve damage. He said about a third of the people with my injury have chronic pain and that would be why he would need to remove them. I was one of the lucky ones, but now the pain I'm experiencing might be what he was referring to. Only time will tell.

The biggest difference between now and nineteen years ago is that I am now almost two decades older. It takes longer to heal up from everything, and I am being challenged to take it easy, but it would be out of character for me to plant myself in a chair and do nothing to help myself get better. I can do my morning Tibetan exercises, but I have to modify the one where you lift both legs; instead I lift one leg at a time, and finish off with a couple repetitions with both legs. Just to see how bad it hurts.

Yesterday, since I couldn't walk with the ladies, my usual Saturday morning routine, I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill, to see how fast I can actually walk. I started with 2.5 mph and worked my way up to 2.9, but the ladies walk at a almost 4 mph, so I've got a ways to go before I can join them again. Then I rode the sitting bicycle, which I've been doing since I got injured, and there is little to no discomfort. I'm not using as much resistance as I usually do, but otherwise, those twenty minutes really seems to help. So I am doing the best I can and keeping my spirits up by at least doing something, a little at a time. Most of the time I'm in a bit of pain, but either I'm getting used to it, or it's gradually improving.

Constant pain is wearing on the psyche, I'm realizing. I take lots of breaks by sitting in my comfortable easy chair, and with a few pillows and reclining, I can minimize the pain. I was determined when I started this post that I would not concentrate only on my latest injury, so this is the last word I'll have on this subject, okay?
* * *
Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of the first men on the moon. I read everything I could find commemorating the event, which was easy since all the major newspapers covered it extensively. In 1969, I was in Michigan, living with my second husband, and I remember the living room where the TV was located, and watching that incredible event is still a strong memory. The words "the Eagle has landed" thrilled me, and then when Neil Armstrong said, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," I cried with joy over our momentous achievement. 

Fifty years! A half century ago, and I was a young woman in the prime of life, filled with boundless energy, so much so that I took it for granted. I did yoga even back then, and remember when I was finally able to stand on my head. I was naturally flexible and thought that it would never leave me. However, as the years went by and I no longer practiced yoga, I began to lose that flexibility. I was 47 years old when I took up skydiving, and that activity helped me to regain a desire to get flexible again. Not just packing my chute several times a day, but being able to climb around on the outside of an airplane and not fall off required strength and flexibility.

As the decades went by, I forgot what a treat it is to attend a yoga class. After retiring from my skydiving days and having become active here in the Pacific Northwest, I sought out yoga again. After a few fits and starts with other studios and styles of yoga that no longer fit, I found Yoga Northwest and have been studying there for almost five years now. How quickly time passes! First, I started with what they call "Gentle Yoga" without inversions and lots of attention to back care. As the semesters went by, I moved from Gentle to Gentle II, which is a bit more advanced, and gradually I felt comfortable moving to Level I. In a ten- or twelve-week semester, the postures start easy and move towards more difficult ones, including shoulder stands, balancing postures, and something they call "Crazy Dog." My arm strength is stronger now, and many of the more difficult ones, while not easy, are fun for me.

Last semester, I moved up to Level I-II, which starts out where Level I stops at the end of the semester. After three classes, I realized I didn't belong there and moved back to Level I. Now that I am injured, I must modify a few of the postures, but I can still do them and my back always feels much better afterwards. Lunges are now one of my favorite things, and they don't hurt at all. Sun salutations are a delight.
Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga; you can write your poetry of movements. ― Amit Ray
And now yoga is as much a part of my life as my other physical pursuits. Funny, things change as I move through life, but some things never leave me: the desire to move and breathe hard, to be in nature, and to have good friends. Being injured and returning to walking photo safaris has brought back many wonderful memories. And I find that walking slowly, looking for good shots, is a much different activity than I have allowed myself lately.

Usually I'm briskly walking from one place to another and not really looking around as I'm forced to do these days. I would have missed that adorable dog in the picture before my injury. He was sleeping quietly until I stopped to look at him. He lifted his head, obviously looking around for his owner, so I gently walked away so he would know I wasn't going to bother him. Many of the shops in Fairhaven have doggy beds and lots of water for visiting doggy patrons, and I'm sure that this bed has been happily used by many of them while Mom shops.

So I'm learning to cope, as I said in the title, and even though it's not my strong suit, I'm still young enough to learn new tricks. The Senior Trailblazers are going on one of my favorite High Country hikes this coming Thursday, but I fear I will not be able to join them. Maybe in another month, and I am reconciled to a slow recovery from this injury. Whoops, I said I wouldn't mention it again, and here I am, breaking my promise to myself.

Whatever. I need to cut myself some slack as I move into my day, right? The sun is shining, the temperature is ideal, nothing like what many of my readers are experiencing. That gives me a chance to give thanks for my many blessings. One of those blessings is my dear partner, sleeping quietly next to me, and you, my dear readers. I hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, and we'll be here together next week, if all goes as planned. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Trying for patience

Damfino Lake last Thursday
Our hike last Thursday would only have been prettier if we had some sun instead of mist and fog, although nobody really minded. I had such a good time, until I fell, and now I am on the injured list. And I am not a patient person when it comes to being injured. There is a boardwalk at places around this lake, and it was on a slippery segment that my feet came out from under me, and I landed hard on my sacrum. I saw stars and couldn't move for several minutes. That was three days ago, and although I am able to walk, it's not at a pace that I am happy with. There is no obvious bruising; the damage seems to be inside, since I cannot actually put my hand on the sore spot. I suspect I will not be hiking next Thursday, and my activities are curtailed enough to make me grumpy.

It is not my imagination that I seem to fall more often than other hikers. My friend Melanie says it's because of all those parachute landings that I want to be closer to the ground, but it was only in jest, because if there is one thing I don't want to happen, it's to get hurt. Why is it always me who seems to end up having someone needing to carry her backpack while she struggles down the trail?

There is already hardware in my sacral area (a couple of long pins), on the right side, and I seem to have fallen with the majority of the impact on the left side of my spine. There doesn't seem to be any broken or cracked bones, and over the past two days I have been able to move a little better each day. But there was no way I could have gone on yesterday's walk with the ladies, because my pace is way too slow, even though I'm upright. It brings back the memory of that terrible landing I had where I broke my pelvis in six places, the worst damage having been in the right sacral area. I was in the hospital for six days and in a rehab hospital for another week or so, before going home on crutches and unable to walk unaided for months. That was almost twenty years ago; I have to remember to give myself more time to heal, since I'm older. And the damage is much less, but it sure does bring back unpleasant memories.

Sometimes I think that the main lesson I have to learn in this life is patience. That, and learning to have compassion for my own shortcomings. It sure doesn't help anybody for me to beat myself up because of events that happen, thinking "if only" — but I do that often. In the past two days I have relived that fall and pictured how different life would be today "if only" I had not been walking so fast downhill on slippery boards. I get quite accustomed to being able to get outdoors and doing what I've been doing for decades, and it's only when I am held back by my own folly that I consider maybe it's time to change things up a little.

The first bad fall I remember as an adult was on a ski slope, when I suffered a spiral fracture in my ankle and was in a cast for a month or two. The pain of the fracture was intense, but it was the aftermath that I remember the most: having that clumpy cast on my leg and having to try to live my active life with it attached to me. Back then (in my thirties) I had a bike that I rode everywhere. Suddenly I was unable to ride it at all, so I purchased bike rollers that allowed me to ride my bicycle indoors, even with my cast, and at first I held onto the wall to balance as I got going. Actually, I ended up loving the contraption, because in no time I could work up a sweat and get a good workout, even while injured.

What I learned from the pelvic fracture, however, is that when you do damage to that area, it affects your entire body. My rehab from that break meant that it was a huge effort just to try to lift my legs a short distance from the bed, and it was necessary for me to attempt it several times a day to strengthen the muscles in my pelvis. Sleeping was also difficult, because I had an external fixator drilled into my hip bones that kept my pelvis in place. That meant I had to sleep on my back, which I have never done, although I was able to use pillows to get into a semblance of a side sleep. Looking back to those days, I realize that today it will only be a matter of time before I'm back to normal. That's my hope, anyway.

If it gets worse or doesn't start to get much better within a week or two, I'll be at the doctor's office trying to figure out what to do about it. My instinct tells me that it is just a matter of time, but that could also be wishful thinking. I've been accused of that more than a few times. We are all simply who we are, doing what makes sense to us as we move through our lives, trying the best we can to make sense of things.

My hope is that I will be able to learn the lessons I've been given in this short lifetime, so that perhaps I will not have to come back and learn it all again. If we get to come back, that is. We won't know that until later, if at all. I like to think that some part of my consciousness will still exist after death, but that might come from (you guessed it) wishful thinking.
I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. —Lao Tzu
I will try my best to learn these three things in this life, because I have to agree with Lao Tzu that they are my greatest treasures. Compassion for others comes easy, but for myself it's much harder, a lesson I will take to heart in the coming weeks.

And now it's time to move (carefully) into the rest of my Sunday, with my dear friends. My beloved is sleeping quietly next to me, my tea is gone, and the day beckons. I send to you, dear friends, peace and love and hope that the coming week will bring you all of that in great measure. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Family ties

My family once upon a time
I am not in this picture of my family, but my five siblings and their children at the time are in there, along with a couple young men who were friends, but not actual family members. That's my mom and dad in the middle of the top row, both looking very happy and healthy. Daddy died in 1979, so I figure this picture must have been taken in the early to mid-1970s. That's a long time ago, almost half a century or thereabouts. But the ties are still there, and always will be.

It was probably taken in my parents' backyard, set up and captured with a timer by Pete, my sister Norma Jean's husband, in the back row, second from the left. He's been gone since early 2011, but he was a talented photographer and took many wonderful pictures similar to this of our family. Pictures like this one freeze a moment in time, one that will never come again, but that will be looked at and exclaimed over for generations to come. That little boy in the front row, second from the left, Jason, is now himself the father of four teenagers. The little elfin girl, fourth from the left, my niece Allison, is the mother of two and a colonel in the Army.

Where was I when the picture was taken? I have no idea, but many of these family members lived in Texas and often gathered at my parents' home in Fort Worth. At the time, I was probably in California, or maybe Michigan, but I was nowhere near enough to be with my family. For many years, even after Daddy died, home was wherever my mother was. Mama lived for another fourteen years after he died. She was a consummate homemaker and always managed to create a feeling of home wherever she lived. I still miss her, because without her on the planet, I've been without a place to call home. I've made my own homes, of course, but none feels like the safe environment I always felt when I was with her.

I just finished a book that has reminded me of how fortunate I've been to have such a family. It is a memoir written by Nicole Chung, a young woman of Korean heritage who was adopted as an infant by a couple who were unable to bear children. She grew up knowing nothing of her heritage, and although it was obvious she was not like the other children in her school, nobody actually talked to her about her birth parents. It was a "closed" adoption and no contact was allowed between the adoptive parents and the birth parents. When Nicole was old enough to ask questions, she discovered more about her origins and eventually became reconciled with some of her birth family. The book, All You Can Ever Know, tells her story of what it was like to grow up where nobody looked like her. It wasn't until she went off to college that she was surrounded by other Asian Americans and realized she needed to find out the rest of her story. I loved the book, and it's made me think about my own family, and how much we are tied to one another through birth.

Although I have several siblings, I am closest to Norma Jean, nearest to me in age, but the rest of my large family are all dear to me and very much cherished. What happens to them, even if I don't see them for years at a time, matters mightily to me. My youngest sister Fia is about to undergo a serious surgery, and I am afraid for her, but I know she will be well taken care of by her husband and the sister closest to her in age, Markee. Fia is twenty years younger than me, born after I had grown up and married, so I feel more like an aunt to her than a sister. But sister she is, and will be on my mind until she has recovered. Our brother and sister-in-law live near her and will also offer moral support, I'm sure. But she will be on my mind until she's out of the woods.

When I left home, I was only nineteen. Looking back, I felt like I was an adult, but now that I am in my later years, I realize how young I truly was. So much life ahead of me then, and now a half century later, I've lived most of it, with my dear partner with me for a quarter of a century. I am so grateful for every single day of my life, both in the past and in the present, and although we can never see the future or know what it will bring, I can now look back over much of my life and see that it's been a good one. Family means everything to me these days.
What the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we lived. In the end, it's the family stories that are worth the storage. ― Ellen Goodman
Part of the problem of ageing is that those who knew us when we were young begin to leave us, and if we don't find out our family history, our stories, today, tomorrow might be too late to find out. There are so many questions I would ask my parents, if I could, and I wish I had been more aware of how much I would lose by not asking those questions long ago. These days, when I talk with my sister on FaceTime, we often reminisce about times gone by, and I am always amazed at how different our memories are of the same event. Now they are simply stories without any way to check their veracity. But really, who cares any more? I love the fact that we still have each other to share the "facts" with.

I am presently busy making memories with my dear partner, ones that are captured much more accurately because of this blog, for one, which gives me a chance to relive old times just by reading what I wrote a decade ago. And it also gives me a reminder that my memories change the past: what I wrote is not what I remember. Yes, it's important to chronicle our lives if we want to know whatever truths the past might hold for us.

And now it's time for me to move into the rest of my day. I haven't even looked at the news, which I often do before I begin to write this post, but today I have no interest in what's going on outside my own sphere. That won't last long, but for now it's enough just to remember my family, love them and be grateful that I have been blessed with such a great one. And I must also acknowledge how much I have changed my definition of family, because the one that is here with me in this blog is very much a part of my life: my virtual family. I care about those I will never meet in person, and our lives have intersected here in profound ways.

Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, and that you will have family of whatever sort you choose surrounding you through your days. Be well until then, dear ones.