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, December 30, 2018

Putting the year to bed

Sisters Thanksgiving 2011
I've been sitting here in my bed with the laptop, trying to figure out what I could write about on the last Sunday of the year. It's been a struggle. First, I figured I'd go back and read my Sunday posts to get an idea of how the year played out. It was really hard, because I realized that so many of my posts deal with much the same issues time after time: growing old, loss, aches and pains—you get the picture. Then I thought I might write about books that have inspired me this year, but found it difficult to remember the names of them.

So I went into my pictures and began to look for something appropriate to head up this final post of 2018 and found myself mired in memories of times past. Good and bad times, but mostly the incredible number of family and friends who have left us over the years. Even that wonderful picture (above) of my sisters and me reminds me that it's been five years since PJ died. She's standing next to me in front.

I am feeling all adrift this morning. I wasted a whole hour looking at old pictures, and then getting distracted by every little thing. So now I'm just going to buckle down and get this post written, no matter what course it takes. It's time. Past time, really.

Yesterday I watched the PBS show about Apollo 8, which was fascinating. I used the PBS app on my iPad to watch it, happy that I can use it if I miss a favorite program on TV. It was such an eye opener to go back fifty years in time to those heady days when we traveled to the moon and back. I remember exactly where I was when I watched the moon landing, but it seems that Apollo 8 was just as important a mission, which happened the year before. All three of the astronauts who were there are still alive and interviewed on the show. I would not have recognized any one of them, they are so different now. James Lovell and Frank Borman are both 90 years old, and Bill Anders a mere 85, so it's no wonder they look so changed. Age does that to you.

It was fascinating to hear them tell the story of what it was like to be the first humans ever to see the back side of the moon, and to see that magnificent view of Earthrise, our beautiful planet coming up over the horizon of another world. I feel really humbled to realize what an amazing time in the history of the world I've been privileged to live through. I learned from that program that the necessity of creating a computer small enough to go in the module was one reason that today we have these tiny little computers that go into our pockets (our phones). But back then, they had to create a miniscule computer that weighed 17 pounds and was capable of guiding the Command Module to the moon and back.

It also reminds me, thinking of Apollo 8, of how far humanity has come in that half century, but we have never been back to the moon since. I wonder if that will change soon. Probably not, since our world seems to be falling into turmoil everywhere, and that doesn't leave a lot of energy and resources for things like space exploration. Our worldwide interconnectivity is both good and bad, it seems. When something awful happens on the other side of the world, I know about it immediately. That's not always a good thing for one's emotional equilibrium.

Read the article to get the whole story, or find a way to watch that great show. It has been on my mind since I watched it yesterday, thinking of breaking the bonds of earth and still being able to come back to see everything with new eyes.

I have the ability to go to my local library website and look up the names of books I've previously checked out. While wracking my brain trying to remember authors and titles I wanted to share with you, all along there was that website that allows me to see previous books I've checked out. I went and looked and found that during 2018, I checked out more than sixty books. Some of them I perused and didn't read; some I didn't finish, but many of them I did. I also put a dozen or so onto my Kindle. I guess you might say I'm quite the reader, but frankly it runs in the family. We are all avid readers.

The book I wanted to share with you earlier is by Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone. It's not often that a book will stay with me as long as that one has. I was very reluctant to finish the book and re-read the ending a couple of times before sending it back to the library. I think it's my favorite book of the year. I don't think I'm alone in this. If you can get your hands on the book and read it, let me know what you think.

Okay. The post has done its magic for me: I am now feeling better about life and looking forward to yet another year to share my Sundays with you. And there is a coffee cup with my name on it at my favorite place, with my dear friends John and Gene to laugh and share with, if I can get myself out of this bed and ready for a new day, the penultimate one in the year. Partner is still asleep (natch) and my tea is long gone. Time for a new beginning!

 I hope that the coming days and weeks will bring you lots of laughter and love, too. That is what I wish for myself as well. Until we meet again, dear readers, be well.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas 2018 is upon us

It's Christmas Eve Eve, right? Everyone who celebrates the holiday must be involved in the madness of last-minute shopping and cooking and baking. People are traveling hither and yon, and there is not one store I'm willing to visit right now. It's pretty crazy out there. Even if you don't celebrate the holidays, the new year and all the celebration of that event is right around the corner. Nowhere is it possible for me to escape the disruption of my regular routine. But I don't mind, since it only comes around like this once a year.

It seems almost impossible for me to believe that yet another year, another longest winter's day, another Christmas, is upon us already. The good part is that soon we will be back to normal, more or less, and our lives can continue with many memories of another holiday season behind us.

How do you celebrate? Are you one of those who goes all in, or are you more like me, hoping it will hurry up and be over with? I suppose if I lived closer to my family members, I might feel more like celebrating in the usual sense. But since I don't have any grandchildren to buy for, or even living children to think about, now my partner and I just enjoy being together and sharing our normal life and appreciating our good fortune. We don't need to buy each other presents, because we're at the stage of life where we are looking to lessen our attachment to possessions, not get more of them.

We did spend Thursday night in a hotel room, which we decided to call our Christmas celebration. The power went out in parts of town, and our area was one of the hardest hit. We lost power because of a windstorm before noon (I was out hiking in the forest) and when I got home, it was all dark, traffic lights out, entire blocks dark. Fortunately I was able to call SG and when we found that it might be as long as two days before power was restored, we came home and packed up for a night out. Usually when I get back from a hike, I write a blog post about our adventure, but that was impossible. So, uncharacteristically, I let it go and we booked a room at the Fairhaven Village Inn. It's a lovely old historic hotel, and we enjoyed having such a nice place to spend the night.

Once we were settled in, we walked to a restaurant for dinner. It was a nice break from our usual routine, but I realized how much I love my favorite chair, sitting with my laptop reading the news, watching TV if I want, or picking up my latest book. None of that is possible without electricity. Instead, it was so dark and cold in our apartment that it wasn't cozy and comfy at all! We were out of our element, and listening to the conversations around us at the restaurant made me realize we were not the only ones eating out because of no power.

While we were enjoying our meal, I began to feel the festive aspects of being in a warm and joyous place, right at the peak of the holiday season. After we went back to our lovely hotel room, got connected to their internet, I finally wrote that blog post from our hike. We knew that it was supposed to be windy, but we had no idea it would be as bad as it was. There were branches snapping and howling winds overhead, and there were a few times when it sounded like a freight train was coming our way. We had no choice except to return to our cars, because the worst of the wind was on our way back. The trees swayed mightily in the wind and, frankly, we were all more than a little scared. We shouldn't have been out there in that storm.

Fortunately, we all made it safe and sound back to the cars, and then we learned that portions of the highway were closed because of falling trees and downed power lines. I heard that one wind gust at the Mt. Baker Ski area reached 117mph (188kh)! Bellingham itself had a couple over 70mph. No wonder there was so much damage. Last night we had some wind, but it was what we usually get: gusts maybe reaching 40. It seemed very tame in comparison.

Sometimes you need a little jolt like that to remind yourself of your good fortune. There are plenty of people in the world who have no home to return to, no usual electricity and amenities that I take for granted. It makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have such a life. I am sitting, once again, in my bed with the laptop propped up, writing a blog post to my dear friends, reminding myself once again that for whatever reason, I've been blessed with riches beyond what kings and queens of old could have imagined.

That's one reason why, I guess, the commercial side of the Christmas season has little appeal for me. I need nothing more than a nice, warm apartment with my beloved, a little internet, good food to eat, and warm clothes to protect me from the elements when I venture out. Yes, life is good in my little corner of the world on Christmas Eve Eve, and I'm filled with gratitude.

I do hope that you will also have a joyous and safe holiday season, and that next week when we meet, we'll be looking forward to the start of another year, another trip around the sun. I wish you all good things with those you love.
Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new... but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery and its design?  --Paracelsus 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Memories are made of this

Yoga Northwest yoga dancers
Yesterday evening I attended a party to celebrate B.K.S. Iyengar's birthday. Although he died four years ago, he would have been 100 on the 14th, so Yoga Northwest held a 100-day yoga challenge, starting on September 5 and going all the way to December 14. I managed to do all 100 days, even though many times it was tough. You committed to do fifteen minutes or more a day of yoga. I set the timer on my iPhone for fifteen minutes and found a way to fit it in.

There were prizes given out in a raffle for those who completed every day, those who made it for 80 days, and 50 days. I was thrilled when I won an hour of private yoga with my favorite teacher, Denise! (She is the one on her head in front.) Some of the teachers and advanced students performed a yoga dance for us during the festivities, and I captured a few pictures.

Although it was only 6:30 when I left, it was so dark, and there were so many Christmas lights everywhere, that I was very glad it wasn't raining, which would have made the drive home even harder. It was the first time this season that I've been somewhere after dark and needing to navigate the busy streets to get home. I won't do that again, since I realize how much harder it's become for me to process all the hazards around me and stay safe. Before the cataract surgery last year, I could not have driven at night in any circumstance, but I'm realizing that old age is beginning to steal other things I've always taken for granted. Sight is not the only thing you need to drive safely at night.

I find myself getting confused when too many distractions come up at once, and forgetting the names of things and the inability to articulate events is beginning to happen more often. Not all the time, but occasionally, and I notice how much I resist the realization that this is the natural order of things. You have a full life, decades of experiences, and then you begin to see it all begin to fall away, a little at a time. Perhaps that's what is necessary in order to make the transition to real, true infirmity. I wonder if this is what I'll be finding out as the years go by.

I will continue to keep up my exercise routine, my enjoyment of the outdoors, and try to keep myself from feeling distressed about it, since that not only doesn't help things, it also exacerbates the symptoms of old age. Fortunately, almost everyone I know is in the same boat: when you hang out with septuagenarians, you see it happening to those you love, too. Looking in the mirror, I see that I have become someone other than my own image of myself. When did that happen? Incrementally, of course, but happen it did.

This upcoming week is the final one of fall, and the first days of the winter season will occur next week. I'm thinking it might be a good time when I sit here next Sunday to take stock of what has happened in my life this past year. Contemplate the moments that I cherish so that they won't just fade into the distance. One really great thing about keeping a blog is that I can go back and read what I wrote on previous Sundays, and that always jogs my memory and reminds me about all the good stuff I would otherwise have forgotten. The end of a calendar year is always an appropriate time to have a retrospective.

I will start the upcoming year with a visit to Florida to see my sister, to swim alongside her in the mornings and walk with her during the day. We'll have time to visit to our heart's content, and it will also be a time for appreciating our shared history. We are the only ones left who remember the time when we were young, when we grew up in tandem with one another. Our parents and other older relatives are all gone now, and our younger siblings weren't there when the two of us were little. How strange that now it's all just memories, and most of them have been forgotten. When we reminisce and discuss things that happened to us both, it's been long enough now that they have become two different events. Memory is fungible and not to be trusted. Who is to say what really happened when we remember events so differently? And who cares, really? I'm just glad I get to spend time with Norma Jean and make some new memories together.

Mark Twain once said, "When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not." That's similar to some of the conversations my sister and I have about past events. "That's not the way it happened," she might say, and I would have no way of knowing if she is right or not. I think sometimes my inability to remember is just one more sign of growing old. Maybe it's true that once your head gets too full of memories, they begin to spill out your ears because there's no room left inside. It makes me smile to think of it. Whatever the reason, I've forgotten much more about my full life than most people would believe possible. Memories might be in there somewhere (if they haven't already spilled out my ears) and something will bring it all back, in whatever form they might take for today.

Today I'll make some new memories with my friends. First a trip to the coffee shop (of course), and later a movie with my friend Judy. We'll see that new Robert Redford movie, The Old Man and the Gun. Who would have believed that Redford would still be making movies, and his advanced age? It gives me hope for my own future, since he's even older than I am (he's 82). So I've got at least a few more years of creative juice, right?

However, no one can see the future, and we're all different. I heard someone say the other day that seventy is the new sixty, but eighty is still eighty. So true! The decline that begins in our middle years builds up steam as we approach the latter decades of life. I like to think that I've lived a good life all these years, and I look forward to the future with happiness, even knowing that somewhere in my future that will change. Or maybe not. Who knows?

In any event, another post has written itself as I sit here in the dark with my beloved sleeping beside me. Tea is gone, the day beckons, and the change to make some new memories is calling me.  I hope that your day will be a good one, and that you will have lots of happy memories being created, even if, in the words of Twain, they really happen or not. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Living in interesting times

Frosty decorations
Last Thursday on our usual weekly hike, the weather had turned very cold and clear. Many of the plants on the side of the trail were covered by frost, making for some beautiful designs, as if the Universe is busy decorating the trails for the season. Between the clear skies and the frost, it did make for a very beautiful day, as long as we kept moving. Stopping for very long, even in the direct sun, caused me to begin shivering. The only solution was not to stop.

On the days when I drove rather than take the bus, I went out to my car before the sun came up to scrape ice from the windshield so I could see to drive. Even a small carport would have kept me from having to do this, but of course in my apartment complex, we have no such amenities. And then yesterday, when I went out at the same time, no ice! Although it wasn't all that warm, it was above freezing and felt balmy in comparison. Today is even warmer. In contrast, a huge winter storm is hammering Virginia, Oklahoma, and North Carolina right this minute. That part of the country is not prepared for heavy snow and many people have lost power. I wonder if there is any correlation between our moderate temperatures and their storm.

It is winter in every respect but the calendar. Why does the first day of winter fall in late December? It seems that right now is when the days are the shortest and that winter's grip is the tightest. I say that now, but in February when the cold winds blow and the temperature falls even lower, I'll be looking forward to the first signs of spring. After the new year begins, it will be winter for real. I'm just glad I live in the Pacific Northwest where snow usually behaves itself and stays in the mountains.

For years, I've heard a phrase that many consider to be an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." After finding that Wikipedia link, I discovered that it's not an actual Chinese phrase at all, but the idea is that the best times to be alive are those that are boring, not filled with conflict and turmoil. Perhaps it's because the world seems to have shrunk so dramatically through our interconnectedness. I'm writing this morning on my laptop, connected to the internet and therefore to my readers, as well as to the news of the day.

Every morning these days it is with some trepidation that I check the headlines to make sure nothing too awful has occurred while I was asleep. And of course something almost always has. Paris is burning, the political situation is the US is going off the rails, people all over the world are being bombed and starved through ongoing wars, and sometimes it just simply gets to be too much and I have to tune it all out, for my own sanity. We are definitely living in "interesting times."

For me, part of the despair is feeling so helpless to change anything. I am just one person watching the events unfold, some of which fill me with horror and others with sadness. Of course, there are some things I can do, but they all deal with my own life. Tolstoy once said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” That is the only thing I can do, that any of us can do: change ourselves, take care of ourselves. My sister has stopped watching any news channels and even some of the late-night comedians that deal with current events, because she needs to take care of herself. When we talk, we don't discuss the world events, because she won't allow it.

My way is different. I am sitting here with my laptop and my thoughts, and I am trying to find a way towards wholeness. For one thing, I realize that I am incredibly fortunate in my own personal life, with a safe place to live, good food to eat, an adequate amount of income that should (unless things get really bad) continue throughout the rest of my life. Today I will get a massage, my every-third-week treat to myself, and I will spend time both with my coffee-shop friends and my partner. We will discuss politics, the weather, world affairs, and then share some humor and spend time laughing together. That's all I know how to do to take care of myself.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ― Lao Tzu
Well, if you say so, I'll give it a try. It's getting to be time to start the rest of my day, with my tea gone and my partner sleeping gently next to me, the day beckons. I won't have to scrape the windshield this morning (yay!), the espresso is always good at the coffee shop, and the massage will feel wonderful. That's enough for me to leave behind my early-morning trepidation and walk out into a wonderful day. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

December musings

Whatcom Park stairs
Yesterday morning several of us ladies met to go on a rather longish walk. Although it was supposed to be around five miles, it turned out to be closer to seven. As we were walking along, we saw two older women ahead of us, and I pulled out my phone to see if I could get a picture of the incredible head of hair that one of them has. See that white mane? When I passed by, I complimented her on that magnificent hair. She said, "thanks, I grew it myself."

Usually when one ages, your hair gets thinner. If I were to grow my hair out, I don't think it would get much past my shoulders, and it wouldn't be pretty, like hers, but sparse and wispy. No, I'll stick with my short hair and get it cut every six weeks. But I can admire a head of hair like hers and be thankful that I don't have to care for it.

My birthday was yesterday, reminding me that the months and years are flying by quickly. Frankly, it is beginning to feel like I'm on a carousel and as it picks up speed, I'm hanging on for dear life. One day I'll be unable to keep hanging on and will fall, laughing and hoping for a soft landing. One could hardly do better at a soft landing than President H.W. Bush: at 94, he died peacefully in his bed last Friday, a few months after the love of his life, Barbara, passed at 92. His last words were, "I love you, too." True gentleman to the end.

My brother Buz put the lyrics and song to "76 Trombones" on my Facebook page, and that song has been bouncing around in my head ever since. Thanks to the internet, I could find the lyrics easily.
Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand.
They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos,
The cream of ev'ry famous band.
I'm probably one of the few people who remembers that song when it first came out in "The Music Man," which was on Broadway in 1957. It was revived several more times, and a movie was made about it. From that link:
The show's success led to revivals, including a long-running 2000 Broadway revival, a popular 1962 film adaptation and a 2003 television adaptation. It is frequently produced by both professional and amateur theater companies.
Well, that explains why it is still so well known today. It's still a current phenomenon, so I can feel just fine belting out the lyrics and "oompha up and down the square," while I try out the flavor of 76. Why not? Many people never get the chance to experience old age, and I intend to pick up my knees and march towards 77, with a happy cadence and a smile on my face.

Of course, I'll be a lot happier to smile when I no longer have a fat lip from a fall I took on Thursday. Yes, another one. This time I was on a rather steep uphill and lost my footing on a slippery root that was covered by wet leaves. I fell forward and hit my lip pretty hard, along with scraping my shin and tweaking my wrist. It could have been much worse, but my pride was injured the most. Yesterday as we ladies enjoyed coffee together after the walk, a few noticed the bruise, which is beginning to be quite impressing. We then talked about the falls that several of the others have taken recently, some of which could have ended up with terrible consequences. Fortunately, other than scraped elbows and fat lips, we are quite capable of carrying on. Gravity just keeps us on our toes, trying to stay upright and able to move around without further injury. I smile at a quote I remember from my skydiving days: "Gravity is not just a good idea, it's the LAW!" Some of my friends had t-shirts with that saying.

I'm going to the movies with my friend Judy today, this time to see "The Green Book," a movie starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. It's gotten good reviews, but there is quite a bit of controversy over the subject of the movie. The title refers to a book that was used when travelling to help African Americans navigate the Jim Crow south, telling them where it was safe to stop and eat and stay for the night. Ali plays a gifted concert pianist, and Mortensen plays his bigoted driver. I really like both of the actors, and a few of my friends have already seen it and enjoyed it.

Last week we went to see the new Melissa McCarthy movie, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" Not being much of a fan of McCarthy, I was not sure I'd like it, but she plays Lee Israel, a real person who became a world-class forger and wrote a book with that title from her prison cell. I enjoyed it thoroughly and expect to see McCarthy nominated for an Oscar, at the very least. She showed she can do more than just slapstick comedy. I recommend it.

Well, I just looked up at the clock and realized that I'm in danger of running behind my schedule this morning, wanting to get to the coffee shop within the next half-hour (which means I will definitely be late). Oh, well. This post takes whatever time it takes to write. I'll hop out of bed, hopefully paying attention to gravity, and head off into the day. My partner is still fast asleep, tea is gone, and winter temperatures mean I'll be scraping frost off the windshield before taking off in my trusty car. I hope that you, my dear friends, will have a wonderful Sunday. Stay safe and remember to give your loved ones a smile and a hug until we meet again next week. I wish you all good things.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A larger perspective always helps

Jupiter from Juno flyby
Part of my morning routine is to visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) to see what wonder is featured for that day. Earlier this month, this image taken from the satellite Juno, which is orbiting the gas giant Jupiter and making a close encounter every 53 days, caught my eye. It looks like a painting, but it's a closeup of an area of Jovian clouds.
Light clouds swirl around reddish regions toward the lower right, while they appear to cover over some darker domains on the upper right. The featured image was taken by the robotic Juno spacecraft during its 14th low pass over Jupiter earlier this year. Juno continues in its looping elliptical orbit, swooping near the huge planet every 53 days and exploring a slightly different sector each time around.
When I think about the fact that our entire planet would be just a tiny speck against the backdrop of Jupiter, it helps to put some of the problems that I obsess over into a much different perspective, making it easier to take a larger view and relax a little. It's an amazing universe, and daydreaming about Jupiter has long been one of my favorite pastimes.

This weekend is the end of a long four-day vacation for many of us in the US; Thanksgiving was Thursday, a day to visit with family and share a turkey with all the trimmings. We didn't participate in that ritual, but instead I used my Crock Pot to make a wonderful vegetable stew, which we enjoyed with a salad and crusty bread. We had individual desserts that I bought at the grocery store, so I wouldn't be tempted to eat all or most of a pumpkin pie that I drooled over. I love good pumpkin pie, but it's hard for me to justify bringing home an entire pie for the two of us. It's hard enough to keep my appetite in check during the holidays, and I go a little bit off the rails around this time of year.

Today my friend Judy and I will go to see Melissa McCarthy's latest movie, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Several of my friends have already seen it and think that it's her best performance ever. I'm not a fan of slapstick comedy, which is what I usually associate her movies with, but this one is based on a true story and shares its title with a memoir written by Lee Israel. Since I haven't seen it yet, I can't say whether it will live up to its hype, but I'm looking forward to it. As usual, during the last two months of the year, many good movies will be shown at the local theaters in hopes of garnering Oscar nominations for 2019. Judy and I will be busy trying to see them all during the holiday season.

I've finished with the seven acupuncture treatments I signed up for, and I have to say I'm already missing the experience of having all those needles placed in my body once a week for an hour. It has made a huge difference in several areas: first, my sore heel (the initial reason for the treatment) is finally back to normal, and several various aches and pains are lessened, and I feel better overall. The part I like the best is when he puts needles in the top of my head, in my scalp. I get goosebumps all the way down to my toes. Although I've had acupuncture in the past, I had never before had needles placed in my head. I made an appointment for another treatment mid-December and am looking forward to it. If I could afford it, I'd see him once a week just for maintenance. Warren gives a free 30-minute assessment to see if someone might be interested. Check out his website at Active Points Wellness if you live in the area and want to find out more.

Oh, yes, one more thing: yesterday I finally broke down and started watching a PBS Masterpiece Theater series: Poldark. It's a British historical drama and is based on several books. With almost 40 episodes over four seasons, I've got quite a task ahead of me. A synopsis:
This all-new version of the vintage Masterpiece series stars Aidan Turner as Capt. Ross Poldark, a redcoat returning to Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War, only to find his father dead and his true love about to marry someone else. A Mammoth Screen production, the series is packed with action, adventure and romance. 
Yesterday I watched two episodes and am totally and completely hooked. Many of my friends have asked me if I watched it and I hadn't, although that has now changed. It reminds me of how I got hooked into watching Downton Abbey, just an episode or two, then being unable to stop as I got invested in the characters. With Poldark, I'm already invested after just two episodes!  Fortunately for me, it's available for free with my Amazon Prime membership.

I am also struck by how different our lives are now, compared to the late eighteenth century in Cornwall, England. It was long before anything that resembles electricity was discovered (1879), and what a difference that one thing has made in our world. It's almost unimaginable, but fortunately we have period historical dramas that remind us. As I sit here communicating with you, my virtual readers, with light from the screen illuminating the room, warmth from the heater, and a functioning toilet, I must say I feel very grateful that I can visit that earlier history without actually having to live it. Yes, life has changed dramatically since then.

And with that, I have just realized I'm going on and on and need to bring this post to a close. My tea is long gone, hubby is quietly sleeping next to me, and I am beginning to think of the morning tasks ahead of me before going off to the coffee shop to join my friend John for a delightful latte. I am sincerely grateful for having made the virtual acquaintance of so many of you, and I am hoping that this weekend will bring you all good things. Until we meet again next week, please don't forget to look around and give thanks for all that makes up your world. Be well.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A little help from my friends

Frozen leaves in early morning light
The capricious fall weather has taken us from mild and rainy to cold and clear, seemingly every other day. We have a cold but sunny weekend to be followed by rainy and cloudy before Thanksgiving Day on Thursday. Our Canadian neighbors already celebrated their own official Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. This year, the holiday in the US will fall on the earliest date possible, the 22nd, the fourth Thursday of the month.

I am not a big fan of holidays that interfere with my daily routine. Every Thanksgiving Day the buses don't run, the Y is closed, and even my favorite coffee shop is closed for the day. And of course we won't go on our usual Thursday hike, either. John and I have made arrangements to meet at the Haggen Grocery in Fairhaven for our usual morning meetup for caffeine. At least the big grocery stores are still open on Thursday, and this one has a coffee shop inside. It gets even harder to find a place on Christmas Day, but fortunately for us we will still have a chance to enjoy some coffee together. This Thursday, I'll go to a benefit yoga class a couple of blocks away, which will be the majority of my exercise for the day, it seems.

The past couple of years I've been having real difficulty keeping up with the regular hikers on our hard uphill hikes, and several of my friends have suggested various remedies. Last week, Tom, one of our regular Trailblazers, brought a box of hydration packets that he swears by. He handed some out to everybody, and he gave me three of them. They are called "Liquid IV" hydration multiplier. They are not cheap, by any means, but if they work, I'll be happy to shell out the money. From reading some of the reviews on Amazon, Tom is not alone in feeling that these electrolyte replacement packets are worth it. Plus, it seems they help with a hangover. Not that I'm likely to drink that much these days, but sometimes it happens at parties that I drink more than usual. I'll keep one with me just in case.

This Thanksgiving, my hubby and I will skip turkey or salmon (our usual fare) entirely, and I'm going to make a big batch of ratatouille, which we can enjoy for days afterwards. I'm thinking of having some side veggies to enjoy, along with some dense bread and cheese spreads. It's just the two of us, but I like to have something special on the day we formally give thanks for all we share. If I were with my family in Texas, I'd be having the usual fare of turkey, dressing, cranberry jelly, and mashed potatoes with gravy. John is going with a friend to a local casino for a huge spread. Gene is in Hawaii, walking along the beach and enjoying the weather and the food.

I will have my final pre-scheduled acupuncture treatment next week, and I'm thinking I might sign up for once a month or so. It seems odd, but I'm really going to miss having needles stuck all over my body. I've learned a great deal about my body's ability to heal itself. The heel problem I originally went for has gotten much better (although it flares up after a long hike, it's way better and returns to normal the next day). I didn't realize that the severe injury I suffered in 2000, when my pelvis was broken in six places and I lost that artery down my right leg, had such long-lasting effects. My right leg is much less strong than the left; Warren (the acupuncturist) has given me daily exercises to strengthen it, and I roll a little ball over my right heel (the one with the problem) and the arch as well. At first it really hurt, but now it's bearable and seems to be helping.

When I got to my yoga class on Friday, a friend who is also a Trailblazer, presented me with a bag of goodies that she thinks will help me. It's another sort of hydration system, developed by Pacific Health Labs, that she thinks really helps her. She gave me a bottle of capsules and hydration drink mixes, and when I compared them with what Tom gave me, there are some differences in ratios, but they are the same basic ingredients. I was really touched that she thought of me, and that she also is hoping to keep me on the trails awhile longer. She made friends with a few of the other hikers and they usually go off on their own (much harder) hikes on Thursdays, but she still occasionally shows up to hike with the larger group.

It seems that most people have less compunction to come every week than I do. That is changing, though, I can feel that I'm coming to another one of those junctures where I need to decide what is more important: staying with a routine or listening to what my body is telling me. With the help of so many friends who are concerned about me, how can I go wrong? It's rather humbling to realize how many people are willing to reach out and offer help.

Yesterday we ladies walked in sunshine and very cold temperatures. Today it's even colder, below freezing, so I'll be scraping the windshield before I take off to the coffee shop to share a bagel with my friend John and drink my favorite latte. And best of all, after yesterday's walk, one of my dear friends who I knew was angry with me, came up to me afterwards and gave me a huge hug. She went off after that, leaving me open-mouthed with tears welling up in my eyes. I have been forgiven and she made sure I knew. A tight feeling I'd been carrying around, without even realizing it, has let go, and I feel so grateful for all my friends who let me know that they care about me.

So now you know why the title of the post is "a little help from my friends." It's because I get by only with the support and love of those around me, from my dear partner right down to the people I chat with in exercise class, whose names often escape me. Right now, this Thanksgiving week, I am incredibly grateful for the many intangible lessons I'm learning about how to be a bonafide good person. The people who surround me are teaching me humility, and that's saying something.

I can only hope that you, my dear readers, will have a week that will give you an opportunity to say thank you to many in your own karass (look it up). It's a week to enjoy the company of our family and friends, whether or not you are in the US. As we move more deeply towards dark days at the end of the year, with long nights and short days, we all have much to be thankful for. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 years ago today

Smiling at you
I had a hard time this morning trying to decide on the right picture for this post, and I finally chose this compromise. It makes me smile to look at it, and I hope it does the same for you: I used the app in the Messenger program to give me a chance to put on makeup without actually having to do anything. Those are not my original rosy cheeks or lips, but it has such a cheerful feeling to it that I decided my readers would forgive me this indulgence.

Today is Armistice Day, also referred to as Remembrance Day or Veterans Day. I considered using one of the pictures that are all over the internet today taken 100 years ago to celebrate the end of World War I, which was supposed to be the war to end all wars. For those who know little about that war, the link above from the BBC will tell you everything you might have wondered about. Here is a small snippet from that website:
Armistice Day falls each year on 11 November to mark the day in 1918 when the fighting in World War One was stopped. The Allies and Germany signed an armistice in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne in France at 05:00. Six hours later, at 11:00, the conflict ceased. King George V announced that a two-minute silence would be observed in 1919, four days before the first anniversary of Armistice Day. The silence continues to be observed every year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Before I began writing this blog and searching the internet for information about events that happened long ago, I knew little about this conflict, and I remember after I moved here from Colorado a decade ago, I noticed many people wearing red poppy pins around this time of year. When I discovered that most of those people were Canadian, I began to ask about their significance. They come from a poem, "In Flanders Fields," written by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor who wrote it in 1918. This link, along with the poem, will tell you a bit about the man and how the poem came to be so well known.

This time of year also brings to mind my son Chris, whose birthday was yesterday. He's been gone since 2002, but when certain anniversaries roll around, he is never far from my thoughts. When a person gets old, when there are so many anniversaries of both happy and sad events, one can be forgiven for not carrying around all of them and only bringing them to mind now and then. At least that's what I think. Otherwise, it would be hard to live in the present moment and be grateful for my current life, which is pretty darn good.

For one thing, I am happy to find myself living in Bellingham, where I've formed many friendships during the decade I've lived here. So many things that I thought at one time would never diminish from my daily life have faded away, such as skydiving. Once, every thought and everything I did during the week would be geared toward having a weekend of wonderful skydiving adventures. Now, it's part of the past and although I still belong to the USPA (US Parachute Association) and receive their monthly magazine, I no longer peruse every page and read every article. Instead, I thumb through it and then turn it over to my partner for him to read. It's part of my past now, along with being a mother. I will never stop being either a skydiver or a mother, but I am no longer active in either pursuit. 

I woke last night with a phrase in my head that I couldn't place: "The days dwindle down to a precious few." Of course the internet knew what it was from, once I put just those words into the search engine. It's from a song written by Sarah Vaughan, September Song. It's been around since the 1960s, and I probably have heard it throughout many decades. It's a little poignant, and certainly reflects my mood of the moment. It's lovely, though, and the last part of the song also reflects the importance of my relationship with all those who matter so much to me, with the words, "these few precious days I'll spend with you."

Now you've probably got that song in your head. There are so many different ways for one to listen to the whole thing, and I'll probably go ahead and do that at some point during the day. We have another beautiful day ahead, with lots of sun and cool weather, almost freezing out there right now. I'll do my morning exercises inside before heading off to the coffee shop. I'll probably have to scrape the windshield a little first, and I'll be wearing my warm fluffy down jacket and gloves, but before too long the sun will be shining and chasing away the fog, and whatever the day brings, it will be my task to appreciate it and be grateful for all that comes my way.

And with that, the tea is gone, hubby still sleeping quietly next to me, and the post is as finished as it's going to get. There was so much more I wanted to write about, but it will all keep for another day. My heart goes out to all those in California who are suffering from both another mass shooting and those terrible wildfires. Today, we will remember that exactly one hundred years ago, the first world war came to an end. I pray that all wars will one day be only a memory. Until that happy day, I wish you all good things and hope you will be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Extra hour of sleep

Light pillars from APOD
One of my daily habits is to look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day as a stop during my morning reads. This picture, taken in late October over Whitefish Bay near the Canadian and US borders, shows vertical lines of light over a ground source that reflect from falling ice crystals. "As the ground temperature was above freezing, the flat crystals likely melted as they approached the ground, creating a lower end to the vertical light pillars. The red ground lights originated from wind turbines."

I gazed at the picture for a long time, as it gives me a sense of peace and serenity, which I often get from APOD's pictures. Looking at nature scenes and massive galaxies far from Earth never fails to add perspective to the goings on around me. I do get wound up, as most of us do, who follow the news cycles.

Our clocks in most of the US changed from Daylight Saving Time back to standard, which will last until spring. So I enjoyed an extra hour of sleep before I began my day. Since I usually retire early, I made myself stay up a little later, but when I woke I had only managed to stay asleep an extra half hour. For some reason, I have more difficulty gaining that extra hour than I do losing it in the springtime. From all the complaining I hear over the time change, I'm thinking it might be on its way out. I found an interesting article online about the time change here. It covers 5 myths about daylight saving time. I especially like the closing line:
In fact, some opponents of DST aren’t against daylight saving time per se: They think it should be adopted as the year-round standard time. Because it basically already is.
We spend eight months of the year on what is supposed to be "standard time." In four months we'll go back to DST. Why not stay on it all year round? Because of the time change, tonight the sun will set here at 4:43pm! At least I won't have to use my headlamp to walk to the bus in the mornings for awhile. I started using it last week because there are a few areas on the walk that are not well illuminated by street lights and as I age, I need to be more careful not to trip and fall.

I still have some residual soreness from the fall I took several weeks ago on our regular hiking day in the mountains. I hit the inside of my knee so hard on a rock that it is still sensitive at the spot, and I notice a little weakness if I turn my knee the wrong way. Acupuncture seems to be helping. I look forward to seeing Warren, my acupuncturist, every week. Although I know he's going to be needling me, I sure do like the results. Last week he put several into the top of my head, and I felt goosebumps all the way down to my toes with each one.

My sister Norma Jean learned about my experience with acupuncture, and when she saw her massage therapist asked for a recommendation. She went to one treatment for her feet, which have been bothering her for months now, and he told her that her arches are falling. He put needles in her legs from the knees down (she said she felt nothing) and recommended she purchase certain orthotics. When she left his office, she was in serious pain, but by the time she woke the next day, all the pain is gone, and it has not returned! He told her she didn't need to come back unless she needed to. I on the other hand have already had four treatments, with three more to go.

But I don't mind. I actually enjoy the sense of overall well-being I have when I leave, and the heel pain that was my original reason for going is much diminished. For the first time in years, there are times when I don't have any pain in my heel. It does return after a hard hike or long walk, but it's much, much better. And during the half-hour that I have the needles in, we chat and he massages my shoulders. He used to be a kinestheologist (someone who is a little like a massage therapist and manipulates pressure points). It feels great as I lie there bearing a strong resemblance to a pincushion. Once all the needles are out, I ask if it's safe to move around, and I realize I worry about disturbing the needles when they are in.

Something that has been on my mind for awhile now, ever since learning that my friend Ronni's pancreatic cancer has returned, is whether or not it's a particularly painful cancer in the last stages. Of course I went online to read about it, and I found that it's a relatively rare cancer and that yes, it's not going to be easy to manage the pain and still be conscious and aware as she desires. If it's so rare, how come I know two people right now who have it? It's one of the scariest forms of cancer because it's usually too late to treat once it's discovered. Ronni at least thought she had a chance of it not returning, and she spent months being cancer free after that awful Whipple surgery. It makes me wonder what I would choose to do if diagnosed with such a disease at my age. Would I want to go through all that for a chance of a cancer free life?

I am reaching the age where this sort of conversation goes on in my mind more often. My friend John just spent two days in the hospital with a bowel obstruction, which has been treated and cleared without surgery, but years ago he suffered from the same thing and during surgery a large part of his bowel was removed, which I guess exacerbates the occasional difficulties he has now. When he doesn't show up at the coffee shop, I wonder if he's all right. I realize that, without warning, he wormed his way into my heart and I care very much about his health.

The only remedy to my dilemma is not to care, and I'm not about to go there. So I've added him to my list of people to worry about. I actually feel very fortunate to have so many souls on the planet with me right now who matter to me, because I feel so much less alone as I go through my days. There's the one on top of the heap, my guy, because we share everything without being joined at the hip. He thinks of my needs even when I don't. It's nice, and it also reminds me to be thankful for all the weeks and years we share together, because at some point it will all change. I don't want to have missed the moment because I was too busy thinking about the future.

Yes, I am very fortunate indeed. He's still sleeping, even though it's an hour later than it was yesterday at the same time on the clock. I'm getting restless and ready to start my day. The coffee shop staff will have an extra hour before opening, and I'll bet they will appreciate it. They're young and don't go to bed all that early on a Saturday night, I'm sure. I'm feeling pretty good myself right now, filled with energy and ready for my Sunday activities to continue. Before I get out of bed, I'll take a quick look at the news and read the Sunday comics.

I hope you will have a wonderful week ahead. Don't forget to vote, unless you live in a mail-in ballot state like I do. We are done with our civic duty already. Please remember that whatever happens, we live in a democracy where we get a chance to choose our leaders, and there will be plenty of happy (or sad) people no matter what. Be well until we meet again next week, and I wish you all good things.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Getting long in the tooth

My front porch in the fall
The beautiful flowers I've had on my front porch all summer long are beginning to get, as they say, "long in the tooth." (I just looked up where the phrase originated: it comes from judging a horse's age by looking at its teeth, which continue to grow as they age.) Other than the pretty chrysanthemums, which bloom gloriously in the fall, all my other flowers are beginning to fade. Soon it will be time to put them all to bed.

The leaves from the trees are also beginning to fall, but there are plenty more just beginning to turn and drift to the ground. To me, it's a delightful time of the year. And it always amazes me that while we in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying fall, those in the Southern Hemisphere are moving from spring into summer. The Aussies are getting ready for the heat, while we are bundling up for the winter to come. It's all because of the tilt of the planet that gives us our seasons. You can read about it here, at one of my favorite websites timeanddate.com.

For some reason, I'm having a hard time focusing on the task at hand this morning. I've already spent some time looking up the origin of that phrase, then quotes about it, and each one of those events have caused me to go off on yet another tangent. I did find a quote from Angela Lansbury that I like:
I have never directed. But I think I could. I have thought about it. I'm a bit long in the tooth to start.
She's 93, so yeah, I guess she might be right about that. She has been around for a long time. Now I wonder how she's doing. That took me on yet another tangent, and I found this article that has seven surprising facts about her. I didn't know she has three citizenships: England (her place of birth), Ireland (her mother's homeland), and the United States (her adopted country). You can read the article yourself and enjoy learning more about this long-in-the-tooth celebrity. I have loved her since the days she was on "Murder, She Wrote." She also holds the record for the most Emmy nominations (18) without a win. And she's still working, an inspiration for those of us who are much younger than she is and feeling long in the tooth ourselves.

I wonder why it is that some people manage to stay active and involved in life for so long, and others don't. I'm sure part of it is genetics, and working to stay fit and active, but there must be other reasons, too. I'm resisting going on yet another internet search to find out! I'll never finish this post unless I find some focus. Falling into google searches is a habit I hope I never get over, though. I've learned some amazing facts and really enjoy the challenge of it all. Deciding what phrase to use is key, and that means starting and stopping and going down rabbit holes at times, but it's still a lot of fun.

It also makes me reminisce about what I did before we had all these research possibilities. When I was a girl, my sister Norma Jean and I would spend hours reading new (to us) words in the large dictionary we had at home. We also had a huge set of Encyclopedia Britannica volumes that I would spend time reading at random. Because of changing times, those books would now be useless except as collectors' items. (I am resisting another urge to go find out.)

Last week my friend Judy and I went to see A Star Is Born, a new movie with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. I loved it, although I would have been in bad shape if I had left my ear plugs at home. The music was way too loud, but I guess that's normal for movies these days. The main theater in Bellingham, owned by Regal, is notorious for blasting your eardrums. Some people love it, I guess, either that or they are already deaf. But once I plugged my ears, I was able to get lost in the movie and really enjoyed it. It is the fourth iteration of the same story. Maybe I'll try to see them all (made in 1937, 1954, and 1976) and see which one I like the best. This latest one, however, is getting rave reviews. Here's one:
While praising the direction, acting, and writing, Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune argues that a A Star is Born's formula has always been very seductive to audiences, even when it has been written poorly, and Cooper's few missteps include being a bit of a scene hog.
Bradley Cooper is a good actor, and I have to agree that he might have spent too much screen time on himself, but Lady Gaga again wowed me with her talent. This person can not only sing, but she can act as well. She deserves all the accolades she gets from her performance in this movie. And when I think that this is the same person who at first only seemed out to shock people (think about the meat dress, for instance), I have been continually amazed at how incredibly talented she is. By the way, in case you were wondering, her real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The movie is well worth your time, in my opinion.

 Well, I think I did it. I managed to stay focused enough to get this post written before it became too long in the tooth. I'm feeling a little anxious to get going this morning and get off to the coffee shop. I could spend many more hours sitting here following lead after lead, but I'm going to stop right here and change my focus to the task of getting out of bed and finding my way into the new day. I do hope that whatever you decide to do with your day, it will be rewarding and enjoyable. And don't forget to hug someone today. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Treasures of the moment

Walking with the ladies
You can see from this picture that we are fast losing all the leaves from deciduous trees in town, and while on our usual Saturday walk, it was fun to walk through them and listen to them swish, swish underfoot. We have been enjoying a period of dry, sunny days for weeks now, but it all comes to an end next week. Our rain and dark days will be with us most of the period ahead as we move into the winter months. On November 4, two weeks from today, we'll turn our clocks back an hour, and the sun will set before 5:00pm!

In past years, I thought it would only be fair for me to get back that extra hour of sleep that I lost in the springtime, but these days I get plenty of sleep, between eight and nine hours almost every night, and I won't enjoy trying to stay awake long enough in the evenings to keep from waking up too early. It takes me a few days to get used to that extra hour, strange as that may seem.

I am not one of those retired people who goes through my days wondering what to do with my time; the days just fly by, the weeks and months accumulate and before long, I'll be "celebrating" another birthday, marking another year older and continuing my second decade in retirement. When I signed up for a new Medicare Advantage plan, I had to remind myself when I started Medicare: it was November 2007. That now seems so long ago. We moved here from Colorado in April 2008, now more than a decade in the past.

But I am more than blessed with a wonderful environment here in Washington state. On top of the wonderful weather we have been enjoying lately, I've also got lots of good friends and places to exercise, both outdoors and indoors. And just this past week I started getting acupuncture treatments, which is turning out to be a rather large commitment, one I didn't expect. Not only will I visit Warren (my guy at Prime Sports Institute) once a week for the next six weeks, but he has also given me exercises to do at home to strengthen my right leg.

Of course I should have realized that the damage done to my leg back in 2000 would make a difference. I not only fractured my pelvis in six places, shattered the sacrum and now have two permanent pins in there, I also lost an artery (the internal iliac) and sustained some nerve damage. Now that I think about it, I'm really lucky to be able to do what I can. But this sort of thing catches up to us in the long run, and I've been having knee and heel problems that Warren is now treating. The exercises are mostly easy, but it surprised me to find how much I need to work on that leg.

Of course, yoga is helping with everything, and I am currently taking two classes a week and doing the fifteen-minutes-a-day challenge for 100 days at Yoga Northwest. So far, I haven't missed a day, and I've been able to enjoy the front porch in mild weather for most of those days, which will soon come to an end. I'll probably have to move inside, but for as long as I can, I'll be outdoors. It surprises me how much more I enjoy yoga outside in the fresh air.

Recently I realized how fortunate I am in my life, and I figure it's important to think about it now, in the present, and not bemoan the fact I didn't appreciate it when I had it, once it changes. And change it will. Our bodies are not made to last, and as much as I attempt to keep age at bay, it keeps intruding in my daily life. But I must say I am encouraged by how much better I feel after only two treatments with those needles. This is not the first time I used acupuncture; in Boulder I saw a Chinese doctor for several months to help me through menopause, and it was a very successful treatment. Warren is the complete opposite of him: he's Canadian, not Chinese, and I can talk to him in English instead of needing an interpreter. Both of them are really good at what they do, however.

I'm not one of those people who is great at making up lists, but right now I'm going to try to list all the things I am grateful for:

  • Bellingham and its myriad choices for exercise
  • My wonderful partner who is much appreciated
  • Relative health and ability to see a doctor I like
  • Access to healthy food
  • My friends and family
  • A mind that allows me to think and write
  • The public library and online access
  • Good bus service
  • Computers, cell phones and other technology
  • My blogging family
  • Coffee!
There is probably much more that I am forgetting at the moment, but it does help me to stop for a moment and think about all the reasons I should be deliriously happy. If it weren't for the state of the world and my inability to turn away from it all, I think I would be much more relaxed and content. But then again, I figure that as my world shrinks in size and just getting out of bed and making my way to the bus stop will be an accomplishment, I can work on contentment then. Until then, I'll stay as active as I can manage.

I have just started reading Julia Cameron's book, It's Never Too Late to Begin Again, and she's got a twelve-week program that I'm thinking of starting. It helps unleash one's creative juices. I only have the book for three weeks from the library, so I might be forced to buy an actual copy of it. It's very comprehensive, and I wonder how I might squeeze it into my very full days. It's tempting, though. Check out the link to Amazon, which gives you a preview of what's inside.

Anyway, there it is, my Sunday morning post, my musings about my life and wondering what's going on in your life at the moment. Maybe it would help you to make a list of all that you are grateful for at the moment. (It was Julia's book that suggested it to me.) My tea is gone, sweet partner sleeping, and the day is beckoning to me. Another foggy one to begin, changing to full sun by midday. Thank you for being my friend and have a wonderful week until we meet again.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Another week slipped by

Mt. Shuksan amongst the fall colors
I took this picture last Thursday. I'm getting into the habit of bringing pictures from my last hike into my Sunday musings. It was such a beautiful day, and I was able to capture so many lovely scenes to tide me over until next year. Soon the snows will arrive to cover this entire landscape and make it available to me only if I pull out my snowshoes.

Right now I couldn't go back up there anyway, since I fell on the trail last week and injured my knee. It's still a struggle just to walk around the house and I must hang onto the railing when navigating stairs. It's now been three days, and although it's better, I don't think I'll be indulging in much strenuous activity for awhile. Yesterday I had to skip the walk with the ladies, and I really missed it. It was one of my favorite walks with perfect weather. And I spent it doing laundry.

It's been another rough week in many aspects. Although I am blessed in many ways, for some reason lately I've been struggling with sadness. I just learned this week that one of my favorite bloggers, Ronni at Time Goes By, has found that the pancreatic cancer she thought she had survived through that awful Whipple surgery has returned. Although she feels fine, she knows that within a short time she will begin to have symptoms and will then die. She might make it to 78 (she's 77 right now) but that will be it. As she entitled her post, she'll be going Into the Great Unknown. It's worth a read, since it's the same journey we will all make one day.

Another dear friend lost her husband to Alzheimer's last week, and although he left her in little increments over the years, she was relieved that he didn't live long enough to forget how to feed himself or swallow. He was 80 and started having symptoms of the disease when he was around my age, 75. This is when it all begins to change, during our eighth decade of life. Even if you've been healthy and careful, our bodies begin to wear out right about now. And I'm busy nursing a sore knee, which I know will get better, but still feeling sorry for myself. It takes a lot longer to recover from anything at my age.

But on the other hand, I can look back at a life well lived, a long one even if I'm not terribly ancient. Nobody would exclaim about my having been snuffed out too soon if I died today. Nobody ever thinks I'm younger than I am, I remind myself, with my white hair and wrinkles. I look at my friends, and they are all getting older, too. My dear partner, the same age as me, looks every bit the old man he's become. We met when we both had just turned fifty, and although to some people that might seem old, we were both skydivers with plenty of life yet to live. Now, 25 years later, we are retired from both work and from jumping out of airplanes, but somehow the days continue to be filled with lots of activity and joy, mostly. I appreciate him so much (as he snores gently next to me right now) and he takes great care of me. What would I do without him? I shudder to think about it.

My friend Peggy's husband is now at a local rehab facility after a month in the trauma center in Seattle. She doesn't want to say where, exactly, because they are not in any way ready for visitors. Just family for now. I wonder how it will be for him, since he had so many surgeries and lost a leg in the accident. Just to remind you, he was going out to the end of his driveway to collect the garbage bins once the truck had gone by, and apparently the driver had forgotten one, backed up quickly, and somehow ran over him. Although the backup beeper was working, I suspect Lyle didn't hear it because of hearing loss. Anyway, he's out of the woods for now, but he's got a long road ahead of him. He's 70 and was never as active as Peggy. I know him slightly from socializing over the years, but Peggy has been a dear friend for more than a decade.

I woke this morning from a dream about another friend I haven't seen since I moved away from Colorado. She and I hugged and cried together in my dream, and it was as real as if she stood in front of me now. I woke from the dream feeling the loss, and realized I had been crying in my sleep as my cheeks were wet. Dreams are such strange ventures into another world; I wonder if I'll ever understand them. I'm grateful for them, however, for being able to visit loved ones long gone.

Bringing myself back to the present, I look around me and think about the day ahead. I just received an email from my friend Judy who decided to skip going to the movies today so she can work outside in her garden. I should think about my own garden and get it ready for the long winter's sleep. Not sure whether the knee will be happy if I try to work out there today, but it might be a good way to spend some time in the sunshine without going on a brisk walk (which is beyond my capability right now). I went to the pot shop yesterday to get some CBD cream for it, and I have to say it's amazing stuff. The one I got is called "Skin Care: High CBD," and my knee stops hurting a few minutes after I rub it in. The one I had before, which I gave away, was the consistency of honey, and I didn't like it as much. This one is solid and much more pleasant to apply. I wish everybody could buy this stuff, but it's only available in states that have approved the use of cannabis products.

I don't smoke pot any more, although I did for so many years in my younger days. I look at the varieties available on the shelves, and I've tried some edibles but just don't like the fact that they last for such long periods of time, and I don't have enough time to just sit around and contemplate my navel. I wouldn't want to drive under the influence, so I will just stick to topicals and, of course, my beauty sleep at night. I take a dropperful of cannabis that helps me sleep but doesn't make me "high." I suppose if I took enough of it I could feel it, but that's not why I use it. It isn't enough to keep me asleep for the entire night, but I usually fall back to sleep easily if I wake to use the bathroom. I bought one once called "Deep Sleep" that is supposed to keep you asleep all night, but it was too strong and I woke the next morning feeling a bit of a hangover from it. I'll stick with Beauty Sleep even if it doesn't make me beautiful. (grin)

Well, writing the post has worked its magic on me. When I started I was feeling a little out of sorts and a bit sad, but now I'm thinking of all the good stuff in my life and feeling lots of gratitude. I look forward to my trip to the coffee shop this morning to visit my friends there, and now that Judy has decided to skip the movie, I've got the whole rest of the day ahead to enjoy whatever comes my way. Tea is gone, partner is still asleep next to me, and the day beckons. I hope however you decide to spend your day, that you will also spend a moment at least to give thanks. You are precious not only to me, but to those around you who love you. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Preventive medicine

Last Thursday's beautiful hike
Most of my readers know that I am an exercise buff. I really enjoy going out to places like Church Mountain (pictured above) and spending the entire day in wilderness, while challenging myself to go somewhat long distances (this hike was nine miles, which I did most of) and climbing up in elevation. I won't get to visit this glorious place again this year, since within a few weeks it will begin to snow and cover the trails.

Hiking and walking help to keep me fit, along with the classes I take at the Y every week. It's been ten years since I joined the Senior Trailblazers, and I miss as few hikes as possible, rain or shine. You might say I'm addicted. I am also slower than I was, and there are times when I think I might have to start going with the other group, which doesn't go as fast or as far as ours does. But I will miss these dear friends if I'm not with them, so I push myself. Maybe that's not such a good idea, but I know without a doubt that there will come a day, sooner rather than later, that it will happen. It's nice to know I will still be able to get out in the wilderness, even when I can no longer be with the faster hikers.

I got my flu shot yesterday. It was hard to find just the right time to get it, because in the past I've had a day or two of not feeling quite right afterwards, but it's been so many years since I've gotten the flu, I sure don't want it. I remember the last time, maybe twenty years ago now, and I was so sick I wished I could just die and put myself out my misery. I can see why it kills old people and those with compromised immune systems. So I get my shot every year and hope for the best.

The way that vaccines work is interesting. If you aren't aware of how they work, here's a short little reminder (from Vaccine Information website):
Vaccines are made from the same germs (or parts of them) that cause disease. But the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so they won’t make you sick. Vaccines containing these weakened or killed germs are introduced into your body, usually by injection. Your immune system reacts to the vaccine in a similar way that it would if it were being invaded by the disease — by making antibodies. The antibodies destroy the vaccine germs just as they would the disease germs — like a training exercise. Then they stay in your body, giving you immunity. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are there to protect you.
There are plenty of controversies surrounding vaccines, which I won't get into here, but some people believe they make you sick. In a way, they do, as is said above, antibodies are created by introducing a weakened strain of the virus into your body. And that's why I usually wait until the weekend to get my shot, since I don't want to miss any of my outdoor activities. I waited until after my Saturday walk, and now it's Sunday, with no real exercise scheduled.

My arm is a little sore, but I don't feel bad, like I have in the past. Every year the experience is different, but I believe in preventive medicine and therefore steel myself for a little discomfort to help keep me well. I am also wanting to get the newest shingles vaccine, which is given in two shots a few months apart, but there is a waiting list of almost a hundred people right now. Maybe when I go in for my wellness visit in January I'll ask my doctor about it. 

I know one person who has had both shots, and she said she didn't feel well for about three days after the first shot and just took it easy. I've read online that the effects can be intense, but I sure don't want to get shingles and am willing to suffer a little now to keep from suffering a lot later on. Today I have signed up to attend a mini-workshop at my yoga studio. It's called "Cultivating Bliss" and will introduce me to Ayurvedic medicine as well as give me some yoga asanas (postures) that will help to keep me well. What is Ayurvedic medicine? I wondered, too, and I found this information from Dr. Weil:
Because Ayurveda emphasizes prevention of disease, individualization of treatment, and the maintaining of balance between body, mind and spirit, the approach can be considered appropriate in most any clinical circumstance and is considered as such in India. In the West, it is seldom used as a primary therapy for critical medical conditions, but rather as a complement to other healing systems. 
Before I signed up, I did ask how much yoga would be included, wondering if I should bring a notebook and that it would be more informational than experiential, but I was assured that we will be doing at least an hour of yoga during the two-and-a-half hours. I was pleased to learn that, although I will definitely take notes.

This past week I was having some difficulty separating myself from the news of the day, and I found myself getting irritable and weepy, unable to keep myself from getting wrapped up in something I have no control over. It doesn't do anybody any good for that to happen, so I picked up a book to take me away from it all. I have found that Liane Moriarty is just the right kind of author for that. This book was one I hadn't heard of before: The Hypnotist's Love Story. What I like about this book is that it took me away and allowed me to get involved in one of those stories where you aren't at all sure how it will turn out, but it ends up with a (sort of) happy ending. I think now I've read every one of her books and enjoyed them all.

I just checked the weather and found that our beautiful sunshine of the past week or so has come to and end. Today will be cloudy and showery, but I'll be inside for the most part, so it won't bother me at all. I rather like this kind of weather, unless it happens on Thursdays. Walking around in the rain for the entire day is not as wonderful, but I do it anyway.

Today, sitting here in my cozy bed with my MacBook Air on my lap, keys clicking away as I write, I am feeling pretty good with only a slightly sore arm where I got the shot yesterday, and hubby happily ensconced next to me (he just woke for a quick trip to the bathroom and we talked for a bit). He'll go back to sleep soon, and before too long I'll be getting up to start my day. I look forward to the coffee shop and hanging out with my friend John. Then I'll come home and do some chores around the house before heading off to the yoga studio for my workshop.

I am hoping that you will find some techniques that will keep you safe and healthy during the coming week. That's what I will be doing, and if there are any super wonderful ideas that I learn today, I'll share them with you next week. Until then, I truly hope that you will be surrounded with love and light, as I hope for myself as well. I wish you all good things until we meet again.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A week of highs and lows

Mt. Shuksan from Ptarmigan Ridge
I took this picture of glorious Mt. Shuksan while on our weekly hike this past Thursday. It was such a beautiful day, one I won't soon forget. While we were outdoors, cut off from all internet and news, high drama was playing out in Washington, with the questioning of the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser of sexual assault almost four decades ago. I had been following all this closely, so I was very glad to have some respite from it all.

This is not a political post. There would be no reason, because nothing I might say about my own views would or should influence anybody to see things differently. It's one of those moments in the history of our country that will live for a long time, discussed and debated about the what ifs and whys, but nothing will change immediately, except for people to become more hardened in their own beliefs.

But there is a tectonic shift happening, slowly, very slowly, as it always has, with many women beginning to believe that perhaps our world might change for the better if we get involved in the political process. I'm not one of them, but that's partly because of my age and inability to begin to imagine how I would deal with the intense scrutiny and inevitable attacks. But there are many young women who have, for the first time, run for office and taken on the challenge. I'm glad for that, but other than marching for justice, I'll be watching and voting for the ones I can.

Years ago I decided to run for the position of Regional Director for the US Parachute Association. I had to gather signatures and campaign a little, not much, and I won. I was thrilled to have the chance to represent my fellow skydivers in the Mountain Region. The term was only for two years, and I served on the board for four years. What I thought would be fun and perhaps a bit of work (you had to attend the annual meeting, which meant flying to some interesting place and getting put up at a hotel on the organization's dime) turned into something else entirely. I was on the Safety & Training Committee. There were many people who had become rather famous in the skydiving world on the board, and at first I was a little intimidated, but the three-day-long meeting to discuss and decide on training techniques was really valuable, to me at least.

However, I wasn't able to handle the heat when I discovered that one of the Drop Zones in my region was breaking the rules by allowing some young men to jump from aircraft without two parachutes: only one, no reserve parachute, because the rig was designed for base jumping, which means jumping from fixed objects without any time to use a reserve. And then one of the jumpers miscalculated his trajectory and hit a bridge, being killed instantly.

I had to investigate and make a report to the USPA. Many of the jumpers who knew about the violations wanted me to cover it up, or at the very least, look the other way. I didn't, and I suddenly began to be harassed and even received death threats from some anonymous skydivers. It was a terrible time, and I tried to resign from the board, but others convinced me that I could simply serve out the rest of my term and keep a low profile. That's what I did, but it was probably one of the most difficult periods of my life, and it meant I would no longer have any desire to serve in a public capacity.

The skydiving community is a small, close-knit group, and I had wanted to make a positive difference, and I ended up paying a heavy price. The jumpers and Drop Zone owner in question were given a light slap on the wrist but did, as far as I knew, stop the practice. Once I was off the board, I continued to instruct at my local Drop Zone and teach first-time jumpers how to become safe skydivers, and I truly wish I had left it at that. So that's one reason I watch what happens with people who are willing to stand up when others attack them and admire their courage. I know what it feels like to be maligned.

Now that is not what I wanted to say in this post, that it's not worth it to stand up for your beliefs. What I did want to say is that, if you do, you must be strong and willing to take the heat. Without some people standing up, nothing changes. And there is plenty of change that will come after this week's hearings are digested and become part of the history of our country. That's as it should be, I think. I'm glad I am alive and have the ability to read and think and make my own decisions, but I don't feel moved to act, other than to vote. Which I will do anyway, because I always have and never miss the chance to vote, even in a local election.

I am reminded of a quote that has meant a lot to me over the years, and it says it all in a very concise manner. The words of Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
 But change doesn't come quickly, and sometimes it's frustrating to think that nothing will ever change. It's not true: everything changes, it's the only constant in our lives. Sometimes it's over months and years, and sometimes it's over millennia. And sometimes change is instant. Just this past week an earthquake and resulting tsunami have killed hundreds of people in Indonesia. They were just living their lives, and suddenly they died. Change came to that area, and it will take many years before the survivors will return to a normal existence. I just read about an air traffic controller who stayed on the job to allow a plane filled with passengers to flee the earthquake, and he lost his life in the same earthquake. You can read about it here.

There are small miracles of valiant acts in every catastrophe, and we never know for sure how things will turn out. But we are sometimes forced to act, even when we know it's dangerous. We are sometimes courageous and surprise ourselves with our actions. I pray that I will never have to face an earthquake and its destruction, but realistically it could happen as I live in a place where they occur. That's part of the nature of change: our world is not static, just as our lives are not, either. I'm now old enough to have seen much change, both in the world and in my own body.

What can we do about it? Some people turn their lives over to a higher power and pray; others rail against change, unwilling to accept it. Well, it comes whether we want it to or not. I am no different, wanting to preserve the good times, good health, the good weather. But one thing also comes from having had a long life: acceptance that the inevitable change will come. And learning to appreciate the good times when they are upon us.

I hope that your upcoming week will be a good one, filled with good times and happy laughter with loved ones. I know some of us are grieving over recent loss, and that's normal and to be expected. We sure know how to do that, given so much chance to get it right. It will change, too. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.