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, 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.