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, February 1, 2015

Superbowl Sunday

Superbowl #49
I'm not much of a sports fan, but it's almost impossible to live in the United States these days without being aware of the final football game of the season: the Superbowl. And living in one of the states that has a team in the game, well, the enthusiasm borders on a fever. One team will win today, and one will lose. This is a matchup that should deliver a close game, one that millions will be watching.

Not me. I care too much about who wins and who loses to watch the play-by-play drama. Although I have friends who are sports enthusiasts and wouldn't dream of missing it, I will be at the movies, which I discovered is the best time to be out and about: everyone else will be at home or ensconced in a bar somewhere watching. And I will be home and in my bed before the drunks hit the streets tonight. Win or lose, you know there will be people celebrating to excess. Last year a drunk drove up on the sidewalk and killed a pedestrian in downtown Bellingham. Many times a week I pass by the spot, where a memorial to the young man is still lovingly tended by those who miss him and honor his memory. Hopefully the man who killed him is in jail somewhere.

It reminds me how quickly things can change. In an instant, the young man's life was gone, and the life of the man who killed him is essentially over as well. It's a scene that plays out all over the world, and in this country, every half-hour on average another person is killed by a drunk driver. That's rather terrifying to realize. And that's just alcohol: I wonder how many more are killed by distracted drivers. It's a scene that only a few years ago I couldn't have imagined, but today I see more and more people looking down at their smartphone screens while walking, sitting, or... driving.

But that is not what I intended to write about this morning. I'll be missing this wonderful little scene in my bedroom for the next two Sundays, since I will be traveling. Now that it is upon me, I am excited for the adventure, and I'll be doing what I can to maintain my blogging schedule, since I should have lots of interesting things to write about. I've never been in a Muslim country before, and I have been reading about Turkey and all the controversies over headscarves and proper dress. I didn't know that, as in France a few years ago, the headscarf was banned in many cities in Turkey for some time. The reforms that were instituted by Atatürk in the early part of the last century gave women many rights that were ahead of the rest of the world: the right to vote, hold office, and own land.

But as often happens, there was a conservative backlash in the country, and once the current Islamist president, Erdoğan, who was elected more than a decade ago took office, he repealed the ban against headscarves in Turkey. I've learned that it will be all right for me to walk around on the streets without one, but when visiting mosques I should cover my head, as well as making sure I don't show too much skin. Well, I never do anyway, so that shouldn't be much of a problem. Long pants and long sleeves are pretty much all I ever wear, summer or winter. There are times when I wear short-sleeved t-shirts, but as someone who is all too conscious of what old-lady upper arms look like, I'm always careful to cover them. I sure don't want to stand out in any way while I'm over there. I've also learned that means to leave my purple Crocs behind and wear dark shoes.

Turkey is ten hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, and I will have my schedule thrown off by a full day of travel and that big time change, but if I recover sufficiently, I'll be walking around the city of Antalya next Monday. The conference doesn't start until Tuesday and will continue through Friday. Then I'll board an airplane on Valentine's Day and spend three nights in Istanbul. During that time, we will forge a document from our combined notes and then return to our respective homes. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends from my working years, but in almost a decade we will all have changed. My old boss Mickey is bringing his wife Karen, and I look forward very much to seeing them both.

There is a tiny nagging doubt that I will not be able to carry out the duties that came so easily years ago. I've learned that I don't bounce back like I once did, either from travel or stress of any sort. Writing in these blogs has helped me to keep a semblance of my former language skills, and I suspect that it will all return to me. It was hard to learn how to bring my own personality into my writing, since all science writing is expected to be formal and academic and expressed in the third person. Mickey has always bent these rules a little himself, and I will be counting on him to help me with my writing. He has always been a prolific writer, and it was my duty once upon a time to help him in the same way. I've taken a look at the tentative agenda, and it is very similar to dozens of meetings that I've helped Mickey organize in the past.

As I said at the beginning of this post, that is the plan, but as we know things can change very quickly. I'm not exactly nervous about the actual flights, but in these days of so much political unrest around the world, I hope I am able to avoid any conflict myself. I will be only a few hundred miles away from the Syrian border, and nowhere in any of my imaginings did I see myself there. And now here I am going to the Middle East. Well, things change. Hopefully it will be a positive experience and all will be well.

I'm not sure how or when I will get next Sunday's post up here. In the long waits in airports, I'm thinking that if they have internet connections I might be able to get some pictures and thoughts organized and posted here. My other blog will have more pictures and less dialog (probably, anyway) if all goes according to plan. I'll have my iPad, my iPhone, and my MacBook Air with me. Although they will all be disconnected from the internet, they will nevertheless still have many usable functions.

It's been quite an education so far, and I have learned a new Turkish phrases, thanks to YouTube. I've become so accustomed to being constantly connected to a wealth of information, and Turkey is a very modern city. şimdilik güle güle (goodbye and until we meet again in Turkish)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Less than two weeks now

Whatcom Falls after three days of rain
Yesterday on our walk, we ladies got drenched. It amazes me that fifteen of us showed up anyway and bravely soldiered on in the light rain. Sometimes it wasn't quite so light. It's been three days since we've seen the sun here in Bellingham. Usually the rain comes and goes, but a warm front moved in and brought with it lots and lots of precipitation. We are hardy Pacific Northwesterners, after all. But I'm glad to see that the next few days to a week will be mostly dry.

I am beginning to pack for my trip to Turkey. I have both suitcases in the living room, and as I think of things I don't want to forget, I put them on top and will at some point begin to put stuff inside them. Every day when I wake, I think of how long I have left before the big day. At this time in two weeks, I'll be finishing the third leg of the journey on my way to Antalya. Three airplanes, a full day of travel. The good part is that I'll have one day to recover before I will need to function in the conference environment. I hope it will be enough.

On Friday I went to see the naturopath I mentioned last week. He is a very inspiring guy, around my age, very fit and listened to me and my concerns carefully. We talked about supplements and vitamins that I already take, and he gave me a prescription that I will begin today. He has increased the amount of Vitamins A and D that I take to what seems to me to be large amounts and has suggested increasing the amount of lysine to what seems to be a huge amount starting in another week. I'm to take a probiotic beginning three days before the trip and continuing for a week after my return. It is a soil-based probiotic and doesn't need to be refrigerated. He didn't sell any of these items to me but told me they are cheaper at the the local co-op where I shop.

Yesterday I checked and there was the probiotic he suggested, Saccharomyces boulardii. In fact, I was surprised to see an entire shelf of different probiotics of every description. I only once took any probiotics, after a series of antibiotics that killed off all the good bacteria in my system as well as the bad ones. All of this is to boost my immune system and help me to fight off the effects of air travel as well as lack of sleep. We'll see if it works.

The bottom line is that he did indeed make me feel as though I can manage to get through all this without illness, and he inspired me with a sense of optimism. As I said last week, I know that my state of mind is essential, and now I feel that I am armed with what I need to have a good chance of staying healthy. I know that I often brag about how healthy I am, but I know my limits, and they will be tested during this upcoming period.

With all that said, I have also been getting a little bit excited about the adventure ahead. The entire country of Turkey has an amazing history, which I've found is readily available on the internet. As usual, I first headed to Wikipedia for the History of Turkey. What a wealth of information!

Interestingly enough, I was able to get my visa for entry into Turkey off the internet. I've printed it out and hope that it's all I will need, along with my passport. When I traveled during my working days, my passport was filled with stamps for different countries on almost every page. In 2012 I received a new one, and it's never been used. This trip will be its maiden voyage, and probably its only one, too. Frankly, I will be glad when I'm back home after all this travel, with plenty of pictures and memories of a hopefully wonderful and memorable time.

What else is going on in my life? Well, Judy and I have been making our way through the Oscar-nominated pictures, and today we'll go see the final one on my list: American Sniper. Frankly, this is not one I am looking forward to. That link goes to an article on Salon about the controversy generated by this movie. Apparently (I haven't seen it yet) it glorifies war and disparages Muslims. Not the kind of movie that I want to support, but I'll give Clint Eastwood the benefit of the doubt until I've actually seen it myself.

This brings me to a topic that I find hard to write about: the increasing militarism of my country. When I was a young woman, during the days of Eisenhower and after World War II, it seems that we were the good guys in the world, and now I'm not so sure. The world changed, the entire world, after 9/11. It was a horrible, horrific event, and it seemed to bolster the warmongers among us to take revenge, which is still going on today, many years later. I would never have believed that my country would take hundreds of men and lock them up without trial as we have done in Guantanamo, for more than a decade now. I can hardly bear to think about it. How has this led to a safer, more stable world? It gives the jihadis plenty of reason to hate us.

One thing I have tried very hard to do is to keep politics off my blogs. There are so many people who are looking for someone to target, to hate, and I don't want to put myself in the line of fire. By simply writing the previous paragraph, I may be forced to monitor the comments and possibly even have to shut down the entire operation. I've seen it happen to other bloggers who express their opinion openly, but I'm going to see what happens now. Maybe nothing, as I hope. My small readership may be enough to protect me from serious repercussions.

It's always easy to read between the lines of my blogging friends and intuit the political leanings of each, and you probably already knew more about me than I have told you in words. I am a pacifist. There, I said it out loud. I believe that war is unjust, and that if we could all just get along we would be better for it. And I know that as long as there have been people, there have been wars. That doesn't mean that sometime in the future we might not find a better way. It won't happen in my lifetime but I am hopeful that the spirit of humanity can accomplish anything.

I am sitting here in the dark, again, tea finished, and partner already stirring. It's almost 7:00am on a Sunday morning and this blog went in a direction I never anticipated, but it's done now, and I can begin my day. Hopefully I'll see the sun, so I can raise my face to the warming rays and give thanks for all that is good and beautiful and true. Blessings from my house to yours.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gearing up for a trip

Turkish lira with a US $100 bill
It seemed so far in the future last year when my old boss Mickey asked me if I would be willing to travel with him to some exotic place for his "swan song" of a meeting. It's been seven years since I retired, and I hesitated for weeks before agreeing to go, but eventually I did, all the while thinking that it might not all work out. Well, it did, and now it's less than three weeks before I will fly to Antalya, Turkey, for this four-day-long meeting.

This is the sort of thing I did with Mickey for many years before retiring: he would get funding for a conference of scientists and resource managers in some part of the world, usually somewhere in Southeast Asia, and I'd find a venue, make all the arrangements, firm up the list of attendees, and travel there with Mickey. I've been to China six times, Vietnam twice, Thailand a couple more, and Malaysia. There were a few times we went to places in Europe, Russia once, and many more that my tired old brain has forgotten for the moment.

But I've never been to Turkey or anywhere in the Middle East, for that matter. And in less than three weeks I will board a plane (three of them, to be exact) and travel for an entire day to get there. My trip is funded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), based in Switzerland, and I've received my ticket and had the Daily Subsistence Allowance transferred to my bank account. All I have to do is take notes at the conference and help prepare a report before I return home. That was only part of what I did for Mickey in the past, and by the time we were in the midst of the conference, most of my work was done.

The meeting itself is to examine Disaster Risk Reduction in a Changing Climate. It's the same sort of thing Mickey has done in the past. That link takes you to his website with information about the meeting, if you're interested. I haven't had to do anything so far for it, but now it's imminent and I'm beginning to get concerned. It's the Middle East, after all, and I am no longer as resilient as I once was, and all that travel is the part that makes me the most anxious. My economy ticket will NOT allow me much of a chance to sleep on the plane. When I traveled with Mickey, he usually was able to upgrade me to business class, because he flies so much he's got lots of perks. But not this time; I'm traveling by myself to the meeting.

I've gotten sick three out of the last four airplane trips I've taken. It was last year in February that I traveled to Florida and then Texas for my sister's Celebration of Life. Of course, it was very emotional and draining, but after I returned home I realized I was sick with a respiratory illness of some sort. That led to a series of infections and distress for a couple of months. And that was just a small portion of the travel that lies ahead of me in a couple of weeks. My mental state about all this is not helping, is it?

So I will be taking myself to see a naturopath here in town. I've been told he is wonderful, and it will be my intent to ask him for any and all assistance to keep from getting sick. Do you know anything about naturopathy? I'm going to see a doctor at the Northwestern Clinic for Naturopathic Medicine, and I've heard wonderful things about it. It is not covered by my insurance, but I really cannot go to my regular doctor and ask him for ways to prevent illness. I am encouraged by the fact that this doctor has a "keen interest in natural approaches to both pediatric and geriatric health issues."

I am a firm believer in the importance of one's state of mind in regards to illness, and I realized that I had worked myself into quite a state over this trip. Just the fact that I have taken the step to see this doctor has relieved me and given me a sense of optimism. Just because I'm old doesn't mean I am not up for this task. But it's been seven years since I retired, and that is not inconsequential. We all know how quickly we begin to see the inevitable signs of age in ourselves at this time of life. It's one reason why I have decided that it's no longer in my best interests to keep skydiving, although nothing is stopping me. I'll make another few skydives this year, but nothing like I used to in the past.

I've learned in my life that there is good stress and bad stress. I exercise my body for the effects that it gains from being well used, and even though sometimes I hurt when we're hiking uphill and my muscles are protesting, I know I'll be stronger and feel better for having pushed myself. I remember when I was first learning to skydive, how anxious I would be before each jump. But once I successfully accomplished it, I was euphoric for days. That eventually diminished somewhat, but I still feel exhilarated after a skydive. And anxious beforehand, obsessively checking all my equipment before I exit the airplane. There's a reason why I really don't want to stop completely until I really must, because it still gives me great pleasure to have a successful skydive.

I am in the process for the next week or so of taking charge of my state of mind, and finding everything I can to assist me in the process. For better or worse, I'm going on a life adventure, and I sure would like it to be a positive experience. It's funny, it's not the actual conference and the work that is the problem with my state of mind; it's the travel. I know I will enjoy (and endure) the long sessions at the meeting where I must pay attention and take notes, because I've done it successfully in the past. I suppose that if air travel were not such a stressor in itself, I might have a different attitude about it. We'll see what the naturopath can do for me.

In other things going on in my life this week, my friend Judy and I are in the process of seeing all the movies that have been nominated for Oscars. We went both days last weekend and yesterday as well. She said her husband is getting a little miffed at all our movie-going, which reminds me again how fortunate I am to have my guy, who doesn't mind in the least. He's glad I'm not the type to drag him to a movie, but he also knows that if I see one that I know he will enjoy, I'll tell him about it and he will go to see it on his own. We saw Whiplash yesterday, after hearing nothing about it until the Academy Awards were announced. I left the theater feeling literally worn out, since it's a fast-paced story that doesn't let up one iota for the entire time. It was a wonderful experience, but a little hard to take on one hand. I'll say no more about it, but if you're interested, check out the link.

Today we'll go see Selma, which is about Martin Luther King and LBJ during a historic three-month period in 1965. It is a movie that has garnered great reviews and plenty of controversy. Neither the director nor the actor who plays King were nominated, and people feel it's a huge snub. The depiction of LBJ as an obstacle to progress toward the Voting Rights Act is also in dispute. Since I lived through that time, it will be hard to be reminded how awful things were, but it's also a perfect way to remember a man on his birthday weekend who changed history.

Another post is written on a dark Sunday morning. I can hear the rain beating down hard, with the wind whipping around as well. It's also the day when the NFL championship game will be played here in Seattle, and I'm hoping that the weather calms down a little before everyone has to head out to the game. I know my friend Linda in Seattle will be warm and dry in her home watching on TV. I may have to wait until after the movie to find out who won. Go Hawks!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My fifteen minutes of fame

The nine women skydivers over sixty prior to jump
This has been an interesting week. After I returned to Bellingham from Elsinore last April, where we made the record skydive for the largest formation of women skydivers over the age of sixty, I forced many of my friends at the gym to watch my video. Some of them suggested that I contact the local newspaper, the Bellingham Herald, to see if they might be interested in writing something about the event. I sent an email off to the Herald and got a polite response that maybe it might be of interest for the Prime Time section (about seniors) that is published every other month.

Well, I had done my part and didn't really need to worry or wonder whether or not they would follow up. In fact, I had forgotten about it until one day I got a telephone message from Dean Kahn, the editor, to see if I would be willing to be interviewed about it. This led to a very interesting couple of hours, as I met the journalist who was assigned the interview. She loves to talk, and after more than a half hour in her presence, I had still not said one word, but I knew all about her! She ended up taking lots of notes and did eventually get quite a bit of the information about me down on paper. I was not optimistic about whether or not she would represent the event accurately. The article will probably only be available until the next Prime Time articles come out, but last Monday it appeared in the local paper. You can read it here.

So now I'm "famous." In class the next day, a few women had brought their copy of the paper so that I could autograph it. And then on Wednesday, another instructor stopped the class before it started so she could point out the article, which she had taped to the door, in case anybody had missed it. Okay, I thought, that's the end of it, I shouldn't be accosted by many more people about it, but everywhere I went there were people who recognized me and said, "nice article." I was really quite surprised by all the notoriety.

And then on Friday, one of the women I know from the class approached me with a copy of Jill Bolte Taylor's book, My Stroke of Insight, to ask if I'd read it. I had indeed and enjoyed it very much, but she asked me if I would be willing to contact Harvard University to have them take my brain (after my death, of course) for study! She said it would be fascinating to find out if my risk-taking activities and resilience show up in my gray matter as being different from others. I was quite surprised, but maybe she's right. I'll give it some thought, since I can still use my gray matter the way I prefer: as a living, breathing human.

One of my skydiving Facebook friends had found the article and posted it even before I did, and that led to yet another round of notoriety. If you use Facebook, you know that any article can be shared with your friends, and this one was shared a total of 11 different times, causing hundreds of well-wishers to comment and "like" the article. It was quite overwhelming. I was glad when the flurry of activity on Facebook began to wind down.

It made me think about people who really ARE famous, and what it must be like to have no place to hide from the curiosity of others. Not to mention those articles that purport to tell all about somebody that has no basis in fact at all. I was surprised that the woman who interviewed me used quote marks around paraphrased and downright incorrect remarks I had supposedly made. I was taught that you only use quotes around actual utterances by a person, but that is not what she did. Only one time did she say something that came from her own brain and not mine: at the end of the third paragraph, the article says, "Skydiving became my drug." I never said that and was rather taken aback when I read it.

It's not a big deal, but it sure makes me wonder about direct quotes that are attributed to people, about whether or not they actually said it or whether it came from the mind of the journalist. If I were to ask the woman why she wrote it, she would probably say that it is because I said it during the interview. But I know I didn't. Just one person's word against another's in a conversation. Lesson learned.

It was an interesting week, that's for sure. On Monday I went to Seattle to visit my long-ago stepdaughter, and we connected in a way that surprised me by its intensity after a quarter of a century apart. My love for her has not diminished, but those difficult years were brought to the fore, and that night I had unsettled dreams about times I thought I had forgotten. It makes me realize how much I have stored in that gray matter that can still be accessed many years later. The brain is a remarkable organ, isn't it? Maybe I should donate my brain to science, although I'm not sure what can actually be gleaned from physical remains. Loving kindness will not be anywhere in evidence, I'm sure.

And that makes me even more convinced that the spirit, the soul of a person, is completely unique to that person and can only be experienced heart to heart. It's all very curious, thinking about what makes us who we are, the individual creature who sits in bed and taps away at the keys, wondering about the wide universe she inhabits. As I bring myself back down to earth, I realize that another Sunday morning post is just about finished.

I am also aware of the invisible threads that connect me to you, my readers, people I will never see in person, but whose presence is palpable in this room with me, right now. I am sending you loving kindness, can you feel it? Until next Sunday, be well and try not to be too famous.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Much has changed in our lives

Chihuly Garden and Glass
Tomorrow I'll get up at my usual time and follow my morning routine until it comes time to walk out the door to catch the bus. Instead, I'll drive a couple of miles to the Bellingham Cordata bus station and leave my car. I'll take the Bolt Bus to Seattle for the day, to visit someone I haven't seen in decades. She was once upon a time my stepdaughter; I was married to her father for several years during the early 1970s. I think. It's been so long ago now that I'm not at all sure of dates, but when I try to figure out a timeline, it comes up around then. It doesn't matter: we will have a wonderful reunion, and one thing we've decided to do together is to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. Yes, that is a glass structure outside the museum, and the link will take you to the website to learn more about it.

If you ever have a chance to see it, I've been told it's spectacular and not to be missed. I don't travel to Seattle often, and never if I have to drive myself, but there are so many other options to get there. The Bolt Bus will arrive around a mile away from where she and her husband are staying, so I'll either take the light rail or perhaps walk if the weather isn't too rainy. Since I'll miss my morning workout, I'll probably walk so that I'll feel more like myself for the day. You regular readers know how much I dislike any break to my daily routine. Unless it's really important, and this definitely is.

I was a young woman living and working in Michigan when I met her father, who came to attend a year-long internship at the Mott Inter-University Clinical Preparation Program, where I worked. We fell in love, and when he left to return to California, I went with him. Of course, there are a lot of details I'm leaving out, which I wrote about here, way back in 2009 when I first started this blog. Just re-reading what I wrote back then brought back enough painful memories for me, and I really want to think about the future, not look back. We will do some of that together tomorrow, but I suspect we won't dwell on the really difficult days but instead will remember the good times we had as a family. She was a young teen back then, just beginning her adult life.

And I was also young, although I was right around thirty or maybe a little younger, I'm not sure. I did see her once again in the 1980s, in Boulder when I was attending a music concert. A young woman screamed my name and was crying as she threw her arms around me. It was her! She had been attending the concert also and saw me as I was standing in the aisle. She was in Boulder for some reason or other (I'll find out what she remembers) and we then spent a day together afterwards, when I met her boyfriend who is now her husband. He's attending a conference in Seattle, and she knew I lived nearby and sent me a message on Facebook wondering if we could get together. That was a few months ago, and it's happening tomorrow. We haven't talked on the phone yet, since messaging and texting has allowed us to make all our arrangements for the day. She suggested the Chihuly museum, and I've been wanting to see it and now I will, thanks to her.

Because she is fairly active on Facebook, I can look at her pictures and know how she is living her life. She looks pretty much the same, although older, and she can also look at my pictures and see that my hair is white and what I look like these days, too. The entire internet phenomenon has occurred since we last lived together, when nobody had ever heard of a website or a smartphone. Now they are as much a part of my life as breathing. And here I am, writing about all this on my laptop before dawn on a blog that will be reaching myriad places in the blogosphere as soon as I publish it!

The connections that have been created by the World Wide Web astound me, when I sit here and think about it. Since I started to write this a short while ago, I have searched online for the website of the Chihuly Glass Museum and found out how to get there, how much it will cost, and a little background (it's only been around since 2012). Then I went looking for a link to the Mott Intern Program and sure enough, there was plenty about it and how it's evolved since 1970. When I began to think about my years with her father, I knew that I had written about it on this blog, so I searched internally for the post, and there it was. And just a few minutes ago I wanted to be sure I was using the word "myriad" correctly, so I clicked on the Dictionary app on my desktop.

But even with all these amazing connections, the one that I could never have predicted and is the most important of all, is the community of bloggers. Although this is a virtual community, it is no less important and significant than those other social networks I have created in my daily life. Five fellow bloggers and I have also started getting together in the flesh once a year in October, thanks to one of us who is a champion organizer. We've done this three years in a row, and now it's a tradition, something we all look forward to. All because of blogging.

I feel a strong connection to many who comment here and tell me of their lives. I always visit the website if they are someone I don't recognize, and if I also feel a connection, I begin to follow them. I use The Old Reader to keep track of who has posted since I last checked. I think I follow around a hundred blogs, and fortunately for me, not everyone posts daily, or even weekly. The posting habits of my favorite bloggers varies, but I certainly see them as an important part of my community life, agonizing over their illnesses and tragedies, and celebrating with them over their triumphs and happy events. Just this morning one of my blogging buddies wrote a long post about the 45 books she read last year. That's a LOT of books, and I immediately went over to my library website and put a hold on one of them that sounds good. Once the book is available, the library will send me a notice and I'll pick it up. That way, I don't have to buy a book that I will probably only read once.

Yes, much has changed in our lives in the past decade. Just seeing someone in the flesh that I haven't seen in at least two decades will be a thrill, and you know I will have my cellphone camera and my regular one as well to capture the event. Although I don't know exactly what to expect from my excursion to Seattle tomorrow, I know it will be a good way to start the new year, with new connections and old merging together. I do hope that the coming week will bring you, my dear readers, some new beginnings as well. Until we meet again, I wish you and yours all happiness.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The year in review

One of the very best parts of writing a blog, other than the fellowship with my followers, is having a way to recall the past. It's like an online journal in that respect. I have written 155 posts on my other blog so far in 2014, and just thinking back about the year, I'm sure much of what I don't remember can be brought back by reviewing the year through my posts. The ones I write here on Sunday mornings are usually much more contemplative, so I will skip them.

I just went through the posts I wrote in January 2014, and I found that much of what is going on today is the same as a year ago: hiking every Thursday with the Senior Trailblazers, walking every Saturday morning with the Fairhaven walking group, and attending the aerobics classes at the Y four days a week. January was not much different than this December, with a few changes. When I looked at the pictures of our hikes, Amy was with us and now she's unable to join us because of health problems. She held the Christmas party anyway, but she said she's not likely to be able to join us any more and won't be having the party next year. There were several other former hikers at the party, and it made me realize that I need to be thankful for every single day that I can continue to enjoy the beautiful outdoors with good friends.

In February I traveled to Florida to be with my sister Norma Jean in the sunshine, but it was cut short by the death of another sister, PJ, who lived in Texas. We both traveled there for the celebration of her life, and then I flew home, catching a bad cold in the process. I missed a hike and walk, instead staying home and being miserable. I'd forgotten it was in February that I caught that cold. If you had asked me, I would have said I hadn't had one all year. That just shows how unreliable my memory is.

By the time March rolled around, signs of spring were popping up all over the place, and I began to prepare my garden for the season. In April I traveled again, this time to southern California where I participated in a skydiving camp and was part of a new record, the largest number of women skydivers  over the age of sixty in a formation together (9). It was a great time, and for once I didn't catch a cold. I had traveled first class because of a $300 credit that Alaska Air gave me to compensate for delayed travel the previous fall, and I needed to use it within a year's time. I also got my first garden starts into the ground during April, and it turned out to be the best year yet for the garden.

May and June were wonderful months spent in the outdoors, with my garden coming along wonderfully. Our hikes into the High Country, my favorites, were attempted a time or two, finding ourselves turned back by snow, as we expected. So nice to go back and be reminded about the wonderful summer season we enjoyed together. July and August had little to remark upon, either, other than being able to skydive on the weekends and spending the weeks doing what I always do in the summer months. Nothing stands out in the next several months as well. My life just kept on cruising along right up to the present day.

The only glitches I see in the past year are ones that I well remember anyway: the trouble I started having with my right heel, which continues to this day. It started in mid-July as an annoyance and now I've grown used to it, but it's not gone and bothers me still. If it were something that kept me from my activities, I'd have gone to the doctor by now. I don't know about you, but I find that going to a doctor with a complaint like this usually ends up with me knowing little more than I did before. And it costs me a fair amount every time I visit him, so until it gets worse, I'll just keep icing it and paying attention. I did go to my doctor about a sticky eye problem, and all he did was send me off for a CT scan of my head. Nothing there, he said with a smile, and I take care of the eye with over-the-counter eye drops. Hummpfh! Why bother? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have a doctor to see when I really need one.

So, in looking back over the past year, I can see that it's been a good one, other than having lost my sister. I spend every other Wednesday in a video chat with my sister Norma Jean, keeping our connection current. She's doing well, too, with her son living with her and doing a lot of the cooking, which she enjoys. He's got a full-time job now but still continues to prepare much of their meals. Norma Jean is really a lady of leisure! Golfing, swimming and walking in the Florida sunshine.

When my mother was in the same situation as we are now, she wasn't very happy. I realize from my own experience that it was caused by her isolation from close friends and not making a successful transition from married life to being a widow with grown children. Her days were spent reading and watching TV, with occasional visits from us. I've found a real community here in Bellingham, but it has come from joining exercise groups, mainly, and it's expanded from there. My coffee shop crowd has become like family to me, and I can honestly say I don't feel isolated or lonely at all. Of course, I'm also not a widow, as I have my partner to share my life, and that makes a huge difference. Although we live together, we each follow our own pursuits. No being joined at the hip for us!

He's sleeping quietly beside me now, as I finish the last of my tea and look forward to the day ahead. I'll go visit John in the nursing home where he's recovering from having received two bionic knees last Monday. He'll probably be there for a month or so until he can get around on his own. Right now, less than a week later, he can get himself out of bed and, using the walker, get to the bathroom on his own. That is simply amazing to me. I've got my fingers crossed that he'll have a full recovery.

Another non-contemplative post. I hope you'll hang in there until I again feel the need to dig down deep into my thought processes. These days, when I look there, nothing seems to pop up to be weeded, but I'm sure it'll come around again. Just like the garden, there's always something that needs tending, if I pay attention to it. Be well, my dear readers, until next Sunday. It will be a new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter solstice

Still lots to buy on the last day of the Farmers' Market yesterday
It was a little poignant to see the last Farmers' Market of the year close yesterday. I didn't have anything particular to buy, as I've finally finished all the small bits of shopping I do every year. Without any kids to buy for, and staying home from visiting family, I only buy a few things for Smart Guy and a few things for myself. I ended up with a pair of earrings from my favorite jewelry vendor yesterday. They feel festive, so I'll probably end up wearing them every day during the coming week. I do give gift certificates to the three children in the apartment complex, but that hardly qualifies as shopping.

Today marks the Winter Solstice (3:03pm PST) in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year. The sun doesn't rise here until 8:00am and sets at 4:15pm. That's only eight hours and fifteen minutes of sunlight, that is IF it's not continuing to rain all day long. Yesterday we had a half-inch of rain on top of the half-inch we got the day before. It's soggy out there, not to mention warm. We've been having a really warm spell and all the snow that fell in the mountains has melted under the rain. The ski areas are not happy, since Christmas break is usually a big money maker for them. Mt. Baker usually has lots of snow by this time. It's an odd weather year over the entire country.

One nice thing about keeping a blog is being able to go back and look at the same time in previous years. We got just a small dusting of snow last year, but it wasn't until February, so it's not unusual for us to be deprived of a white Christmas. They'll have more of it than they want on the East Coast, it seems. I'll take this scenario, thank you very much. But rain? We've had plenty of it, it goes with the territory.

Have you ever heard the phrase "right as rain"? I was thinking about it the other day and wondered where it came from. I found this information on The Word Detective, which gives a humorous explanation for different idioms. I read the entire thing and learned that it's been around in print since the late 19th century, meaning "everything is great." I would think that unless you have too much of it all at once as they did in California last week, rain brings all kinds of good things, including rainbows. I am now the proud owner of four different raincoats and a rain poncho, rain pants, and a waterproof cover for my pack. The only time I find rain to be problematic these days is if it's cold and windy and blowing the rain sideways. Then it's definitely time to spend some time inside.

You may have noticed by now that I'm rambling a little, with nothing much on my mind to mull over and write about as I usually do on Sunday mornings. Of course, everything else is just as usual: partner asleep next to me, my tea within reach, and plenty of quiet time before the day begins. Last week was emotional and I needed to write about that, but this week is calm. And Christmas Day comes on a Thursday this year, meaning there will be no more Senior Trailblazer hikes until next year! We also won't go on New Years Day, but I'll have a nice celebration with the Fairhaven walkers that day, so I will get some exercise. The gym is also closed both days. Sigh.

I realize that I am very much a creature of habit, and that is only getting more pronounced during my years in retirement. Some of my readers have commented on it, usually with humor, but it's funny that I didn't realize that about myself. I always thought I was a spontaneous person, wanting little to do with routines and familiarity. Boy, how untrue that is! I realize now that I really really need things not to change too much every day, or it causes me to get stressed out. It's probably that as I've gotten older, I need to conserve my energy and spend it in ways that I prefer, since it's no longer boundless. By early evening after dinner, I'm ready to settle in and am almost embarrassed at how early I will sometimes go to bed. There are times when I'm in bed four or five hours before my Other Half! But he's a night owl and I'm an early bird: he gets much of his sleep while I'm writing (like right now). It works just fine for the two of us. I will sometimes wake in the middle of the night and reach over, realizing that I was so fast asleep when he came to bed that I didn't wake up at all. It's always reassuring to know that he's there.

On Christmas Day, we will have a really nice dinner together, with salmon from my fisherman friend Gene, some winter squash and a hearty salad. It's a change from the usual steamed veggies that we eat almost every day, but I've realized that my usual diet has kept me healthy. Last week I went to two parties in one day, and I ended up eating way more sugar than usual. I figured that since I had eaten a good deal of excellent foods, eating a couple of the desserts wouldn't hurt me much. Boy, was I wrong about that! By the time we left, I felt horrible, a stomach ache and felt downright ill. It didn't go away quickly, either. All the next day I felt like I had been on a bender, with no energy or appetite and just feeling miserable. Of course I went to the gym and worked out anyway, which made me feel somewhat better, but it wasn't until after a good dinner of steamed veggies and rice that I began to feel normal again.

Diabetes runs in my family, and that's basically why my sister PJ died last February at the age of 63. From the reaction I have to concentrated sugar, I have no doubt that if I ate a normal American diet of processed foods and little to no fresh veggies, I'd have it by now. Something about the pancreas and insulin uptake, I guess. Whatever it is, I'm once again reminded that staying on the straight and narrow food path is a much better idea for me. The cost is too great, and now even the thought of that pecan pie that tasted so good when I ate it is unpleasant. And fortunately for me, I have a husband who makes sure I always have good food to eat already prepared. Yes, I am definitely a lucky person, and I give thanks for him and my life every day.

I've got to finish this up and go answer a FaceTime chat with a friend, who wants to talk. I told him he could call me any time after 6:45 and he just rang. He lives alone and will be having double knee replacement surgery first thing tomorrow. I am anxious for him, and want to be there in whatever way I can. Listening to him is one thing I know how to do. So I'm going to get out of bed and start my day with my post written and virtually hold John's hand. Until next week, dear friends, have a wonderful Christmas holiday!