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 29, 2019

Back pain and more

Coffee shop celebration: John, me, Theresa, Gene
On Christmas Day, trying to find somewhere to have a decent cup of coffee becomes a real task. Those of us who hang out at Avellino's are spoiled, and regular coffee from Starbucks just isn't the same. The coffee shop is usually closed on Christmas, but two of the employees agreed to open from 8-11 just for coffee, no food, not even regular cups, just to-go paper ones. We didn't even hesitate: we were there before 8:00, waiting for the door to open.

And then here comes Theresa, loaded down with a piping hot quiche right out of her oven, a wonderful fruit salad, champagne and orange juice, with silverware and enough for everyone in the whole place. What a treat! We were intending to go out for breakfast after coffee, but there was no need. Theresa said she was honoring her mother, as Theresa is spending her first Christmas without her, since she died a few months ago. It was lovely and much appreciated. Festive and totally unexpected.

Sort of like my back pain: totally unexpected. I slipped and fell on our Thursday hike, scraped my knee and took a hit on my right hip as well. Since this is becoming a usual thing with me, I didn't think much of it. I was able to get up and keep going, and as soon as I got home I cleaned up the knee, which wasn't as bad as I thought. The hike had been pretty wonderful, a perfect thing to do after all the Christmas festivities. But then on Thursday, when I woke I had a little twinge in my right sacrum area. Nothing I hadn't experienced before.

But as the day went on, although I did all my usual walking and exercises, that area where those pins reside in my lower back began to get really sore. I figured it's another one of those sacroiliac joint pesky pinched-nerve situations. But it feels different: it's so painful that I had trouble sleeping Friday and Saturday nights, and today, Sunday, it's not any better. I've had many back pain scenarios before, where moving in a certain way will make me cry out in pain, but it came and went, depending on how I moved. This is pretty constant pain.

One of the nice things about keeping a blog is being able to go back and search for things that happened earlier. I remembered something similar having occurred back in 2011, more than nine years ago, and I went to a chiropractor who had been recommended to me. His name was long gone from my memory, but there it was! Tomorrow I'll call first thing and see if I can get in to see him. Tuesday I already have an appointment scheduled with the acupuncturist, and he always helps. But until then, it's pretty much all that is on my mind.

One of my blogging friends, Rian, who writes on Older But Better, has recently been dealing with terrible back pain, that just appeared suddenly. Mine was caused from trauma upon trauma, but in her case, she couldn't even walk. It's been almost a month and she's still in serious pain, with diagnostic tests showing nothing, no reason for it. I know why mine is hurting: I keep getting sciatic pain from two six-inch-long pins that reside in my right sacrum, from a pelvic fracture and trauma that I experienced almost twenty years ago. (If I could just fall on my left side, for heaven's sake.) As my sister has reminded me, any of these earlier injuries will come back to haunt us as we age.

I missed the walk with the ladies yesterday, because even though I can walk around, I cannot stride and move fast without discomfort. Getting up from sitting is the most painful movement, but after a few minutes of loud moaning and exclamations, it gets better and I can walk around with difficulty. Yesterday I went off to the pot store for some strong CBD that I can take internally. While I was at it, I also purchased a topical cream to add to the one I already had. Since the old one wasn't helping, the new cream was an effort to see if another formulation would work any better. It doesn't.

But I do have to say that the strong CBD tincture gives me some relief, but not for long. It does take the edge off for a few short hours, and I could sure tell when it stopped working. CBD doesn't make you "high" at all, and the difference with and without the tincture is noticeable, but I'm still in pain. As I sit here in bed with the laptop, I can feel that radiating pain from the pinched nerve, but I can deal with it. My friend Rian couldn't get out of bed for days, so I'm counting my blessings. Today I'll try going to drive to the gym and see how riding the stationary bike works with this pain. Plus, there's a sauna that might feel really good right now.

It's not like pain and I are strangers. I have experienced really serious pain, and I was addicted to OxyContin when I broke my pelvis. Back then the doctors didn't know how hard it would be for people to stop taking that awful opioid. Yes, it's effective with pain, but it's also extremely difficult to stop taking it. My doctor in 2000 had prescribed it without my knowledge; it was just one of the pills that the nurses gave me when I was flat on my back with the external fixator holding my pelvis together. It was a desperate struggle to free myself from that drug, so I can understand why so many people are unable to do so.

These days, I don't even like to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain. I will take two or three tablets, but they really don't do much except mask the discomfort, and anything that does that encourages me to overdo. Pain can be a friend, if we allow ourselves to pay attention to what it's telling us. What it's telling me right now is to be good to myself and stop worrying about the number of steps I'm getting in for the day. It's amazing how strong a motivator my step counter is for me. But that should be secondary to getting better. R&R is hard for some people (rest and relaxation) and for some of us, it takes effort to relax!

Today I might get into the pool at the Y and see how swimming feels. Since I decided not to visit my sister in Florida next month, as I've done for the past eight years, taking a new look at the pool here is on my list of things to explore. When I first started swimming with Norma Jean at her pool, I would come back home and try to keep up the activity here. But the difference between swimming outdoors in a wonderful pool and struggling with the heavy chlorine and very crowded indoor pool here caused me to give it up. Time to see if I've changed my mind.

Well, here I am again, having written a rather mundane post about getting through my most recent misadventure, instead of remembering to count my blessings and be glad I'm still functioning, mostly. My dear partner sleeps next to me, my tea got cold before I finished it off, and the adventure of getting to the coffee shop looms ahead of me. I've got lots of things to watch on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, so there no way I'll be bored, but I prefer working up a sweat and feeling my muscles getting a workout. I think I can still do that, so I'll give it a try today.

Until we meet again next week, I sincerely hope you have a wonderful New Years holiday and take care of yourself. Hopefully I'll be back to my old self by then. Sending you all many virtual hugs and thanking you for being there.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Winter musings

Advent calendar on my laptop
Looking for some inspiration for the first full day of winter (in my hemisphere, anyway), I visited the Jacquie Lawson Cotswold Advent calendar that was gifted to me by my blogging friend Dee Ready. It showed up in my e-mailbox right before my birthday, and I've been visiting it every morning since. Every day there is another delight to see, a game or a scene that shows the animated village of Cotswold, with puzzles and clues that enchant me for hours. First thing every day I go looking for the sheep hidden in the scene. This morning I see him there in the lower left. I click on him and he disappears, until I get to find him again tomorrow in another part of the scene.

This is the second year in a row that she has gifted me with this calendar. Many of the games are the same as last year's, but my memory had forgotten so much, until they popped back up into consciousness when I see them again. Memories are such strange phenomena, aren't they? Somewhere vast storerooms of my past lie dormant in my brain, and something jogs a memory loose and an explosion of thoughts fill my mind. There is so much available if I only knew how to access it all.

But why would I even want to do that? It's hard enough to remember where I put my shoes yesterday, and I guess my mental processes are conveniently taking old memories and storing them without my knowledge, so that I can concentrate on the present. Like so many other seniors, I fret sometimes that I'm losing my grip because I cannot remember names or where I just put my glasses. (They are often on top of my head and therefore invisible to me.) There is no doubt that some slippage has occurred, but right now it doesn't seem terribly worrisome. Many people my age experience mental cognitive decline.

A dear hiking friend has slipped into that state, and it's hard to watch him struggle to figure out how to put on his backpack, or remember how to use the car seat belt as we head up into the mountains. He no longer drives; his wife drops him off and then picks him up afterwards. We keep a close eye on him, and everyone is glad he can still get out and enjoy the outdoors, where he is himself again. It's odd what he remembers: names and faces are easy for him, but spatial orientation is slipping away fast.

Years ago I took one of those cognitive tests to determine the state of my own cognitive abilities, and the test was pretty easy for me, except for that pesky problem of counting backwards from 100 by seven. I just couldn't do it, until I figured out that I could count backwards by ten and then add three. Not exactly elegant, but I could manage. It just occurred to me that these days, there are probably plenty of online tests one can take to see how I'm doing. I might do that one day, if I can remember to (smile).

* * *
What is on my mind these days is how to keep myself from gaining any more weight during this holiday season. Mostly I allow myself anything I want, but that daily weigh-in has become annoying. It shows that I have definitely been eating more calories than I am burning. It's a problem that many of us experience at this time of the year. I read an article recently that studied whether getting on the scales often makes any difference. It said that yes, those in the study who weigh themselves daily gain less and have an easier time losing the excess weight. (I tried to find the article again and had no luck, but I'm glad to know it works.)

It does make a difference what I allow myself to eat on a day when the scale says I'm maintaining, and when I realize I've indulged too often. I weigh myself at the same time every day, after I have my tea and read the news on my laptop (or, in the case of Sunday mornings, after I write this post). If I've been particularly indulgent, I will hold onto the nearby table and ease myself on the scales. Not that it makes much difference, but I've been able to fool the scales once in awhile. I know when I see a number that doesn't make sense that I've got to get on again. I keep gaining and losing the same five pounds and I know by the way my clothes fit whether it's time to get serious.

However, the older I get, the less I seem to care about those extra pounds. Well, that's not exactly true: it still matters to me that I am able to keep my knees happy, and any extra weight makes it harder to walk up and down hills. I learned that every extra pound is a four-pound stress on my knees, which makes me hesitate when I get ready to bite into that wonderful Christmas cookie. Maybe it's true that a daily weigh-in helps to keep one honest. But I no longer feel like I need to get on the straight-and-narrow path of eating. Some people eat to live, and others live to eat. Mostly I see myself in the first group, but the enjoyment of good food helps me understand the second. Plus, food tastes better when you're hungry.

I found this lovely quote from Peace Pilgrim, which deals with the first and second parts of this post: "I don't eat junk foods and I don't think junk thoughts." If I could remember to follow her precept, I'd be a much happier person. She was quite an inspiration to me for years. If you don't know who she was, you can find out about Peace Pilgrim here. She was only 72 when she died, but she created a legacy of peace and wonder in the world that continues today.

And with her admonition, I finish today's post and look forward to what the rest of the day will be. Every single day is one to be treasured, and the company of good friends and family always lightens my heart during these dark days of winter. I hope you will have a wonderful holiday season, and that you will come back to visit me here next Sunday. Until then, be well, dear friends, and don't forget to count your blessings.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Continuing to examine my life

My guy and me on my 75th birthday
How is it possible that two years have passed since this picture was taken? I think we still look pretty much the same, but it really does astound me how quickly the years fly by as I get older. In two years, my friend Leo from the coffee shop has changed from a pre-teen to a young man. I can see the change so easily when I look at him. He doesn't much care to engage with us old folks any more, but it was only a decade ago that I dandled him on my knee.

It's nice to look at pictures to see times past, long ago and not so long ago. As you know, I take pictures with my cellphone almost daily to chronicle my current life. And as anybody knows who has been around for long, things change and nothing is permanent. That's both a good thing and a bit scary, when you consider that our short time being alive is rushing right on by, inexorably carrying us from the present to our unknown future.

One of my blogging friends put a picture of a yellowed newspaper cutting in a post that has got me thinking. Since Trish MacGregor of Synchrosecrets and her husband write books (as well as their blog) about synchronicity and other supernatural phenomena, I have followed them for a long time. This particular item is worthy of examination. In the Tacoma News Tribune on April 11, 1953, this short little article appeared:
There'll Be No Escape in Future from Telephones: (Pasadena, AP) Mark Sullivan, President and Director of Pacific Telephone and Telegraph said in an address Thursday night: "Just what form the future telephone will take is, of course, pure speculation. Here is my prophecy: in its final development, the telephone will be carried about by the individual, perhaps as we carry a watch today. It will probably require no dial or equivalent, and I think the users will be able to see each other if they want, as they talk. Who knows but what it may actually translate from one language to another?"
When he made this uncanny prophecy about our phones, it would have seemed impossible to fathom how this might come about. In 1953, we didn't even have computers, much less those little magical devices we take for granted, carried around like yesterday's watch. When I started working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 1979, I remember we typed manuscripts onto Selectric typewriters, without so much as a a floppy disk in sight. Then we went to our first "computers," Micom, which allowed us to transfer our typing onto an 8-inch floppy disk and insert it into a huge machine that typed out the manuscript, one character at a time. That was the beginning, and we quickly moved to personal computers. Well, "quickly" took several years.

And now I sit here with this lovely little laptop, which is rapidly becoming obsolete. I will probably replace it with a later version sometime this year, but I still am often astounded at how much has changed during my own lifetime. Who knows what the future holds? I remember that sometime in the 1980s, I went into the bowels of NCAR's basement to examine its Cray Computer, which took up a space about the size of half of a football field. It needed to be supercooled because otherwise it would burn up. I still remember walking around the dark towers of computing technology in awe.

These days, I have a smartphone that I carry with me everywhere, and it not only allows me to call someone whenever I have internet connection, but it also allows me to ask questions or get information instantly. The telephone aspect is rather incidental to my use of it. I also have a tablet, an iPad, that allows me to stream movies and news whenever I have internet. These items have become essential to my daily life, and they are not likely to be left behind as I continue to take a look at what's become extraneous to my enjoyment of life.

Yesterday I watched several episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on my tablet, which is currently set in 1960. The difference in life today and back then kept reminding me of how much has changed since those days. If you haven't been watching the series, you probably don't know much about her, a young woman who decides to become a standup comic. That was simply not done by many women back then. The character of Lenny Bruce, a comic I remember from those days, has been re-introduced to the series, and he becomes a mentor and friend to Midge Maisel. I woke in the middle of the night (it happens often to me) and suddenly remembered that the real Lenny Bruce died at a young age in 1966. I wonder if the series will be around in that time period and how they will deal with it. (That link in the beginning of this paragraph is to a Washington Post article that examines the question.)

The series has reminded me about how much more people drank back then, and how cigarettes were ubiquitous. I myself smoked for over a decade during the 1960s and 70s, and realized I would have to give it up if I wanted to stay healthy. It was a really hard journey to become free of nicotine, but I managed it over a period of years of backsliding. Research shows that after a few decades free of cigarettes, my lungs are probably no longer at risk of cancer. Of course, something is going to fail, as that is the inevitable direction of life. I do the best I can to keep myself healthy, but as the years pass, it gets harder to keep up.
You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.—Marcus Aurelius
I will continue to struggle to rid myself of old habits that hold me back from enjoying the life I share with my dear partner. It's coming along, but it's also interesting to notice what matters the most to me, what I definitely don't want to let go of. Part of what gives me pleasure is sitting every Sunday morning in my darkened bedroom writing this post. Time is passing, and the coffee shop beckons, as it always does early in the morning. My friends await.

And of course, with that, I must also remind all of us that the power of connection, family and friends, is the lifeblood of our happiness. My tea is long gone, he's over there snoring lightly, and it's time to start the rest of my day. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, be well and don't forget to count your blessings.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Surrounded by technology

Fragrance Lake reflections
I took this picture of Fragrance Lake last Thursday on my hike with the Trailblazers. It's a miracle to me that such a lovely scene can be captured with my cellphone, but these days nobody is surprised that we carry such advanced technology around with us all the time. We are accustomed to it and consider it unremarkable. But every once in awhile, I am reminded that this is a very recent phenomenon, and that taking it all for granted is causing me to forget to appreciate how amazing it all is.

Steve Jobs introduced the smartphone to the world in 2007, not much more than a decade ago, and now you rarely see anybody walking around without one, either staring down at the screen while sitting on the bus, hanging out in the coffee shop with heads bent over their phones, and very occasionally having a conversation with someone. What do people mostly do with their phones? I sometimes take a peek at a screen or two as I'm standing up to exit the bus, and I see some are watching movies, others shopping and looking at (for example) dresses, or texting, little balloons filled with words sent to carry on a written conversation with another. Or checking emails or Twitter accounts. Now that our bus system has onboard wifi, I often join them with my own phone, although I've already done all that before boarding, so I have little incentive to continue. We are tethered to our phones, in any event.

Last Thursday, my friend Melanie realized that she had lost her phone while hiking, and I learned that it's possible to locate your lost phone by logging into iCloud on another phone and putting in your own ID. I wrote about this on my other blog, but it still continues to astound me that it's even possible. We were able to backtrack and find the phone, which was hidden in bushes, but it is possible to instruct it to make a sound when you think you're close to it, and that's how we found it.

Once I got home, I pulled out my tablet, logged into iCloud, and discovered that it and my phone are located on a map! Although this is wonderful in one way, it also reminds me that technology knows where I am at all times, as I walk around with my phone in my pocket. The only way to remain incognito is to turn my phone all the way off, which of course I'm not going to do while out and taking pictures. When I'm in the High Country, we have no internet, so I guess that means I'm also not findable at those times.

When I think about it, there's no doubt that our lives are better off because of technology, but it's also impossible to keep up with it. I read recently that some voice activation technology can listen to you while you're going about your business at home. In fact, that's what much of it is designed to do. Fortunately, we don't (and won't) have any such thing in our own home, but many people are fine with it, wanting the convenience of simply talking to the device and turning on the TV to search for something they want to watch. It's all a bit scary to me.

We seem to be headed to more of the same, with self-driving cars a reality in my own lifetime. And that astonishes me. Of course, here I am sitting in my bed with a laptop as I write this post, early in the morning before the world comes awake, and I'll be able to send it out into the world with a touch on the screen. It will make its way across the planet, to my readers in Australia and Europe, as well as to those close by. It is a different world than even a few short years ago.

Yesterday, I just finished binge-watching the third season of The Crown on Netflix, about the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is most enjoyable, and now I will have to wait for season 4 before taking it up again. I really like the ability to watch shows I enjoy when I choose to, rather than waiting for a pre-scheduled moment every week or so when a new episode is released. I have subscribed to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now Disney+. It makes for an incredible number of shows of all varieties to choose from, keeping me not only informed and entertained, but also overwhelmed at times. But it's also on my own personal schedule, rather than a network's, which is delightful.

So, technology has its pluses and minuses, as do most things in life, but keeping up with it all is almost impossible. Without the assistance of my friends, who point me in various directions when needed, I'd never be able to figure out how to proceed. It was our leader, Al, who introduced me to the advantages of iCloud last Thursday, and I'm passing on the information to you, who might not have known about it either. Who would have guessed that we would be talking about clouds in such a manner? Although I can literally say I've seen clouds from both sides now, I have just been introduced to the electronic cloud as well.
Success in creating artificial intelligence (AI) would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. —Stephen Hawking
*  *  *
A week ago I had a most enjoyable birthday, from start to finish it was exceptional. Now I am seventy-seven and seven days old, and I'm feeling incredibly blessed as I find my way through these next days, weeks, and months. It would be possible to focus on what is difficult in life these days, but it's also quite possible to be optimistic and delight in the world around me. As I continue my journey towards letting go of habits and daily chores that bind me, I find that each day I wake with hope and joy in my heart. This Advent season moves inexorably towards the shortest day and the longest night of the year, but in compensation I see holiday lights everywhere, and it seems I see more smiles and happiness on the faces of those around me. Maybe they are reacting to my own smiling face, but for whatever reason, life is good and filled with love and laughter.

And that is what I will leave you with today, my dear readers: hope that your own days ahead will be filled with much of the same joy. My dear life partner still sleeps next to me, my tea is gone, and the coffee shop beckons. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Old and new beginnings

Seventy-Seven today
I woke this morning after a wonderful sleep, tucked into my down comforter while the temperature fell outside to below freezing. And today I am older, according to the calendar, anyway. I feel the same as I did yesterday, but nobody can say that old lady is anything but, well... old!

Yesterday when I ordered my coffee at Avellino's, I received a surprise: it was paid for and this lovely carrot cake muffin as well. Although it wasn't yet my birthday, a dear blogging friend had sent a letter to Avellino's, with instructions to surprise me with this, with a $10 tucked inside, too. Far Side of Fifty outdid herself this year with this surprise. They were supposed to do it today, but yesterday was Carrie's last day, so they went ahead and sang to me, and I burst into tears when I saw the card. I cannot tell her enough how touched I am by her kindness, a woman I will probably never meet but feel like is family. Over the years I have received her unique wood carvings and homemade cards, and they have all touched me, but not quite like this.

I took a blogging break from my other blog on Thanksgiving Day, because I'm feeling the need for some changes in my life. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for many years I have written a post on DJan-ity, my other blog, and I just didn't feel much like it, so I did what I've seen other bloggers do: take a break. Nobody but me set up the schedule, and although I do appreciate routine, it had become a burden. I don't feel the same about this one, because it's quite a different animal. Once a week on Sunday morning, I sit down and pour out my feelings and concerns about life right here. Sometimes it's hard to find a topic, but by the time I've finished, I always feel like I've figured things out a bit. Roaming around inside my head, looking for words and thoughts of consequence always helps me start my Sunday with a more focused outlook. Today is the same, but it's also my birthday. Time to take stock and consider where I'm going from here.

I started writing here almost exactly ten years ago. Here's a link to the first post on December 6, 2009. I have written 1,825 posts since then, always on a Sunday morning, whether in Florida or Istanbul or here in Bellingham, my adopted home. The third picture in the masthead is now more than ten years old, but I'm not actually able to change the heading unless I start over, since the software I used to create it is long gone. The world has moved on, too. A decade more of life under my belt, which is fortunately still the same circumference as it was then. That has been a struggle, but trying to stay healthy and relatively fit is an important goal, one that will not change for as long as I can continue to walk, hike, do yoga and work out at the gym.
Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you're aboard, there's nothing you can do. —Golda Meir
Have you ever been on a plane during a storm? I have, many times, and I know that the only way to keep myself from panic is to clutch the armrests and take deep breaths. That's sort of the way I feel about life these days. Every day takes every one of us closer to the end, but that's the genius of life itself: we need to clear off the dance floor so others can have room to dance. When I was born, there were fewer than 3 billion people on the earth; today, it's 7.7 billion. No wonder the world seems so much more crowded now, it actually is. There's no reason to try and move to a less densely populated place, because all the good places are overrun with people already. I will probably see more changes in the world before I die, but the world will continue to attempt to deal with the enormous difficulty of exponential population growth. One day I will not be here to worry about it, and there will be a bit more room on the dance floor.

I am feeling the need to change some of my restrictive behaviors, but I don't feel any need to sweep everything away in one fell swoop. When I first began to experience the need for change, that's what I wanted to do, but the simple act of removing one of my self-imposed limits on myself changed the dynamic. Now I can look at my life and take positive steps to find more happiness in each day. My relationship with my family is changing, too. Ever since my brother-in-law Pete died in February 2011, I've spent several hours a month talking with my sister Norma Jean on FaceTime, and I think we are both finding the routine a bit of an unnecessary restriction. I'm not sure exactly how to change that dynamic, but when we talk next, we'll figure out a solution, I'm sure. It feels good to allow myself to move ahead and not drag past routine along behind me.

Of course, I am a person who loves to have an ordered life, a way to differentiate the days now that I'm no longer working. And blogging has not only served to fill my need to write on a schedule, publish my pictures on a platform easily accessed by others, but also to continue the incredible connection I've formed with so many fellow bloggers. My friend Rita in North Dakota sent me a lovely handmade birthday card, and I've already told you about Far Side's gift, and I know I will receive more good wishes generated by this post from my dear friends. Through blogging, I know of the trials, tribulations, joys and celebrations that we all share with one another. Ten years ago, when I started this blog, I decided not to court followers, so every one of you has come to me because you wanted to. That carries a great deal of significance to this humble and dedicated blogger. We come to Blogaritaville together to share our lives fully with one another. When I stumble, somebody comes up with an idea to help me along, and I hope I've done that for others, too.

And with these final words, my post for this special Sunday morning comes to a close. My dear partner sleeps contentedly next to me, the coffee shop will open soon and I'll join my friends there, before heading off to the movies this afternoon with my friend Judy. I will spend some time this evening talking and laughing with SG before the day ends. But right now, I am feeling like one of the luckiest people in the world, to have started my day with you. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Remembering my parents

Mama and Daddy
This studio picture of my parents must have been taken not long after they married in 1941. Mama was only nineteen when I was born, so I'm thinking that she was eighteen when she and Daddy got married. One of my nephews was married on their anniversary this year, November 16. It has got me to thinking about how different the world was back then. Daddy, as you can see, was in the Air Force as a Warrant Officer. During the war, he earned a commission as a lieutenant and retired from the service as a Major.

Just yesterday I finished a novel (City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert), much of which was set in the mid-twentieth century, when my parents were married and raised their family of six children (there was a seventh daughter who didn't live more than a few days). It made me think of that time so long ago (75 years!).

Rita Rice and Norman Stewart met at a wartime dance hall. These dances were all the rage during the war and the buildup to it, and I remember Mama telling me once that Daddy was instantly smitten. And of course, at this time in history many people were getting married, and hopefully starting a family, because they were not sure about the future. Many young men were drafted into the war and would not return. I don't think my parents had a long period of time getting to know each other before they married.

I was the firstborn and therefore the only child who never had to share my parents with my siblings, and I know I was not only cherished but very much loved. I was the center of the world, after all. Then when I was not yet three, my sister Norma Jean was born, and I must have been quite a terror when my world changed so drastically. But the two of us were quite close for most of our years growing up. I am still very close to her, decades later.

We lived in many different places as I grew up, but our time in California at Travis Air Force Base lasted a long time, and most of my childhood memories are of those years. And then when I was seven, my next sister was born, PJ. (Her name was Patricia June, but we always called her by her initials when we were young.)

Daddy moved from base to base during the 1950s, as he learned to be a navigator on Air Force bombers, and then was stationed in Puerto Rico when I was a young teenager. We lived in officers' quarters on base, not far from the ocean. It was an idyllic time for me, and my memories of that period are quite vivid. I enjoyed the attention of boys in my class and cared more about what I was going to wear to school than anything I might have learned there. In fact, I have little memory of that time that doesn't involve boys, clothes, or girlfriends. Some of the dresses I wore at the time still appear in my dreams.

My parents took up golf in earnest while in Puerto Rico. Mama was quite good and won many trophies in local tournaments. Daddy complained that all the trophies had skirts but was actually quite proud of her. He went on TDY (temporary duty) often and we would be without his presence for months at a time, when I was growing up, but that was a normal occurrence for those of us who were Air Force dependents. I didn't realize that moving around all the time and having him gone was anything but normal behavior.

My brother was born when we lived in Fort Worth, Texas, and I graduated from high school there. Although my memory is hazy, I think both of my youngest sisters were born when we moved to Albany, Georgia.

When Daddy retired from the service, my parents bought a home in Fort Worth on the lake, and that's where my three youngest siblings were raised. The home was in need of much work and repair (which my mother transformed almost singlehandedly), but it had a dock where those three took to the water like ducks. They were raised in one place, very different from the life that the three older children experienced. I visited from time to time, but I had left home before my youngest sister, Fia, was born.

Daddy died of a heart attack when he was only 62. It was a hard time for all of us, because we just didn't know how to carry on without him, but of course we did, as we all must when we lose a loved one. Mama still had young teenagers at home, but when they left, she decided to move away, to some land that she and Daddy had hoped to develop one day. She commissioned a friend to build her a home, and I visited often when she was there. But she was lonely and eventually moved back to Fort Worth, where her youngest children lived. She died fourteen years after Daddy, at the age of 69. So neither of my parents lived as long as Norma Jean and I have; I think it's fair to say that we still miss them.

Norma Jean and I are the only ones left who have memories of those early years, since PJ died in 2014 at the age of 63. Heart disease is what has taken so many of my loved ones, and it spurs me to continue to exercise and keep as healthy as possible. But I've lived a full life and don't really have any regrets. My parents were wonderful people who gave us the gift of life, and raised us to the best of their ability.

It was a very different time than today, where communication is instant, and I can keep in touch with my family through Facebook and video chats, so I don't really feel too far from them most of the time. Our parents would be proud of us, I think.

And with that, I should bring this lengthy post to a close. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and my tea is long gone. The coffee shop beckons, and I look forward to our next meeting, which will occur on my birthday. I hope until then, you will be well and happy. Don't forget to count your blessings; you are one of mine, dear friends.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Another birthday around the corner

Exercise class ten years ago
I have always enjoyed showing off, the typical class clown, I guess. It was ten years ago (in two weeks) that I got my fellow exercisers to pose with me in this picture for my 67th birthday. I am still attending this class on Tuesdays, and the lovely lady on the right is Mona, who is 88 now. She doesn't look much different and shows what a difference getting regular exercise can make in one's physical fitness. She is the mother of the instructor, Robin, standing third from the right. I keep a copy of this picture inside the door of my locker, so I see it often.

Birthdays just aren't the same as they were when I was a kid. Then I looked forward to whatever I might receive from my family as gifts, and now that seems not only unnecessary, but unwanted. I do enjoy getting a small gift now and then, but I sure don't need any. In fact, I am in the process of getting rid of stuff I no longer use.

Yesterday I walked with the ladies, my usual Saturday exercise, and we were a little worried about the possibility of getting really drenched. Rain was forecast to start around 10:00, so we hoped we'd miss it, and that is exactly what happened: it didn't start until after we finished, but of course we all had to be ready for whatever was coming. I brought along my rain pants but didn't want to put them on, as they are very hot once I get moving. Instead, I carried them in the little pack I carry with some water and sunglasses (which we sure didn't need). The rain started right after, and it's still going strong, almost a day later.

This year, my friend Hedi will be having a small birthday party for me at her apartment here in the complex. She did that two years ago when I celebrated my 75th and had just finished recovering from cataract surgery. It reminds me that it has been two years now since I got my new eyes, and they are still so much better than before. No more glasses all the time, although I use them for extended reading, as well as distance glasses for driving and going to the movies. You get the choice (at least I did) to have either close vision or distance. Since I have been nearsighted my entire life, it made no sense to me to suddenly be able to see 20/20 but no longer able to see my watch without readers. I made a good choice, I think, and can certainly see well enough to drive without them if I didn't need to read street signs. What a boon that surgery has been!

It's that time of year when us old folks have a window of time to choose to change our insurance coverage. I have been using a Medicare Advantage plan and will try a different one, a bit cheaper with lower out-of-pocket costs. I just learned that our small COLA (cost of living adjustment) will probably not cover the increased Medicare Part A deduction from our Social Security benefits. I will be happy if it all works out to be about the same, and I realize how fortunate I am to be able to have health insurance coverage at all. So many young people who don't have coverage through their work cannot afford to have comprehensive medical insurance at all. I talk to some of them at the coffee shop and am just happy to have another year ahead with good health insurance.

At some point, I will probably have a health issue that will mean a hospital stay, although I sure hope it's not any time soon. But once you reach a certain age, it's important to have some way to pay the bills if you get sick. I am not so naive as to think it won't ever happen to me, because the older you get, the more our bodies break down. A hiking friend just died two weeks ago from cancer. I had wondered how he was doing; he told us he had pancreatic cancer a year ago, and now he's gone. It was a bit of a shock, since he seemed so healthy.

I also feel very fortunate to live in a place that has plenty of options for healthy exercise, both indoors and out. And now that I've reached the grand old age of 75+, I get to ride the bus for free. A sign at the terminal said that there will be a meeting to discuss raising the bus fares, which concerned me until I realized it won't affect me at all! I'll just continue to pull out my Gold Pass when boarding the bus.

I'm also thinking about buying myself a birthday gift, just for fun. It needs to be something I really want, not just need, and a few things come to mind. I read a review yesterday about the new AirPods Pro, which are expensive but also add a noise canceling feature while listening to music or watching movies on my iPad. That's one item that caught my eye.

I know I could go into the local REI and find something that I just cannot live without, but it seems I have little need for any new workout or exercise clothes. If I looked as fetching in leggings as so many young women do, I might consider buying a pair. But I feel naked in them and would then need to put a pair of shorts over the top, negating the intended look. I wear them in yoga class but that's different than walking around outside. However, they are ubiquitous everywhere I look. Do you wear them on the street?

We used to celebrate our birthdays by going out to eat, but that's not as much fun these days. I tend to overeat when I go out, and the food isn't as good as what my dear partner has prepared for me. He's the cook in the family, and it's so lovely to know all I need to do is rummage around in the fridge for something good and it's always there. He's a little proprietary about the kitchen, wanting things to be just where they belong, and clean, too. I'm not as persnickety as that; if I cook something and clean up, he will surreptitiously follow along behind me to make sure I do a good job. I don't mind a bit, as long as I have good food to eat and a wonderful pal to enjoy it with.
If you age with somebody, you go through so many roles – you're lovers, friends, enemies, colleagues, strangers; you're brother and sister. That's what intimacy is, if you're with your soulmate. —Cate Blanchett
That pretty much says it all for me: having a partner who shares my life in a perfect manner for both of us. It wasn't easy getting here, but I now would not change it for anything. He is still sleeping next to me, having gone to bed long after me (our usual evening activity), and I'll be getting up soon and heading off to the coffee shop. Today my friend Judy are going to see that new movie with Helen Mirren (The Good Liar). I'll be wearing lots of rain gear when I venture out, since the rain is still pounding the roof even now.

Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I hope that life brings you lots of love and, if you want it, some adventure too. I look forward to our next little chat in a week. Be well and don't forget to count your blessings. I am, and you are one of them.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Thirty years ago the Berlin Wall fell

Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That just astounds me, as I remember well where I was when it happened. Reagan was president, and I watched the news with real amazement that the Wall, which was erected in 1961, had fallen.

I was a young wife, pregnant in 1961, and had no interest in international politics. I knew little about why the Berlin Wall was built (you can learn everything you want to know from the Wikipedia link). In November 1961 I gave birth to my first son, Christopher, and nothing existed in my life after that except caring for the tiny infant.

But that was not the case in 1989. I was single and living in Boulder, Colorado, when the Wall fell. It was all over the news, and I watched with interest as I learned how it happened. Did you know it was by accident? Apparently in an effort to reduce tensions, a series of orders were issued to the German police, but nothing was very clear. Gunter Schabowski, the East German party boss, read the pronouncement.
Schabowski read out loud the note he had been given. A reporter, ANSA's Riccardo Ehrman, asked when the regulations would take effect. After a few seconds' hesitation, Schabowski replied, "As far as I know, it takes effect immediately, without delay." After further questions from journalists, he confirmed that the regulations included the border crossings through the Wall into West Berlin.
Well, that was the beginning. People flooded out of East Germany and were embraced by West Germans and welcomed with champagne and flowers. It was late on the night of November 9 when few people in Berlin, both east and west, were swept into history. The evening of 9 November 1989 is known as the night the Wall came down.

Thirty years have passed since that night, and frankly, I was surprised to mark that so many years of my life are now behind me and never to return. Why, people who were born that night are now thirty years old! Their own youth is beginning to fade. There is nothing to make one feel more ancient than to consider that their children are middle-aged. My son, had he lived, would now be in his late fifties.

I was living in Boulder in 1989 and spending much time with a dear friend who was dying of breast cancer. She was my age, and although she lived in Denver and I lived in Boulder, I would drive to her home two or three times a week. And this was by someone who hardly ever drove such distances, even in those days. I needed to be with Marty, and she could no longer travel. We discussed the Berlin Wall, and she said she was so happy to have lived long enough to see it fall. She was very political and one of the reasons that I became more so.

My friend was one of those women whose diagnosis to death was quite short, just a few months from start to finish, less than a year. When I think of how many wonderful women have had their lives cut short by this dreadful disease, it saddens me. But then again, I wonder if I will maybe live long enough to celebrate the day when that will all change. Probably not, but there is a chance. And it will happen one day. Nobody expected that the Berlin Wall would just disappear overnight. Miracles happen all the time. After all, I have learned to love all those moments of my life that have come and gone: the good, the bad, the indifferent. Life sure looks good from here.

What happens thirty years from now will not be part of my own history. It would mean I lived to be a centenarian. I'm figuring that if I make it into my eighties, that will be unexpected, since my mother and father both didn't make it out of their sixties. I don't have what you might call good genetic makeup. Nevertheless, if I were to die today, or tomorrow, I would not feel that it was a premature death: I've pretty much exhausted my bucket list and have no regrets on a life lived fully.

Most of my friends are also in their seventies, and we enjoy each other's company and enjoy our twilight years together. My dear partner is the same age as me, although born a few months earlier and he dips his toes into the upcoming birthdays to let me know that the water is just fine, come on in.

Where does the time go? Now I'm looking at the day ahead, with little planned for the day, just the usual coffee shop visit. Since I missed yesterday's walk, I'll look for a way to get the juices flowing in the old bod, but other than that, I've got nothing on the calendar for the day. I am just now finishing up my Sunday morning task, this post, and I notice I've spent longer than usual writing it.

I had to read all about the Berlin Wall, and that took up some time, but now my tea is gone, my dear partner is still sleeping next to me, and it's now time to bid farewell to my readers and get on with the day. I do hope that the coming week will bring something delightful into your life. Please don't forget to count your many blessings, and I will also. Be well until then.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Swans and more

Swans in the Skagit Valley
I found this lovely picture on one of my Facebook friends' page, of the migrating swans that show up in this area every fall. I had been seeing some queries about whether they have started migrating yet, and then this picture. They sure are beautiful! Then, after reading about their journey on this page from Nature, I also learned that we have other white-winged birds in our area. From that page:
Swans migrate from Alaska down to Washington every year. Two kinds of swans make this annual journey: trumpeter swans and tundra swans. Both can be seen at places like western Washington’s Skagit Delta, where they may mingle together.
Now, considering the other information on that page, I'm wondering if maybe these are snow geese, rather than swans as they were labeled on my friend's site. The reason for that is I learned that the snow geese congregate in huge numbers.
For many, Washington’s flocks of winter snow geese are a favorite spectacle. While these birds come here every year, they never fail to amaze. Why? Because they come to western Washington’s greater Skagit Delta by the tens of thousands! When these flocks take off en masse – say, because a bald eagle flies overhead – they are so noisy and dizzying to behold that it’s easy to lose one's balance. 
So, that picture is either of swans or snow geese. Maybe one of my readers is more familiar with them and can tell the difference. In any event, I sure love to see so many beautiful waterfowl all at once.

* * *
 Last night, we gained an extra hour of sleep; it's only 4:30am on the clock, but 5:30am to my body's clock, so here I am writing my post "early" because I couldn't sleep any longer. Tonight I'll need to force myself to stay awake past my usual bedtime or this problem will continue again into tomorrow morning. It's funny, I easily adapt to the time change in the spring, when we lose an hour, much more than I do in the fall. Perhaps it's my own circadian rhythm to have shorter, rather than longer, days.

Many people tend to get depressed as the daylight dwindles, but it doesn't happen that way for me. In fact, I find recently that I have unexplained moments of happiness well up several times a day. Although I do get dragged down occasionally by world events, mostly I just live in the smaller community of my home town, where life is pretty good. However, tonight the sun will set at 4:46 and will continue to set earlier and earlier, until we get to the winter solstice on December 21st, when it will set at 4:15pm. I keep track by using timeanddate.com for my area. I find very interesting to peruse the chart and consider how different it would be if I lived, for example, in Florida. While we are experiencing a fairly normal fall, my sister is still enduring abnormally warm temperatures there.

I much prefer having a real change in the seasons. And since we live so far north, we also get the long days in summer and long nights in winter. I am also fascinated by the fact that in the Southern Hemisphere, it's just the opposite: they are moving into summer, and their days are growing longer. What a wonderful planet we live on.

Sometimes I wonder whether I will live long enough to see real positive change in the world. Probably not, since I guess it will need to get worse before we come to our senses and begin to take care of Mother Earth. I try to do my part by using less plastic, recycling wherever I can, and reducing my carbon footprint as much as possible. I ride the bus almost every day. When I walk to the bus stop on my way to the Y, I also get additional exercise and never miss my step count for the day. I'm rather addicted to the way I feel after I've had a dose of physical activity.

I recently learned that we have a serious obesity epidemic here in the United States. I kind of noticed that, once I moved here from Boulder, Colorado, where the number of overweight people is not as high as here. It's been awhile since I was there, so maybe I would see more obese people if I visited today.
Over 70 million adults in U.S. are obese (35 million men and 35 million women). 99 million are overweight (45 million women and 54 million men). 2016 statistics showed that about 39.6% of American adults were obese. Men had an age-adjusted rate of 37.9% and Women had an age-adjusted rate of 41.1%.
That quote is from the Wikipedia link about obesity.  Does this mean that almost all those overweight people don't exercise? I notice at the gym that there are very few obese people. It might mean they are leaner because they are more active, or it might be that some overweight people don't want to dress in workout clothes. I know that exercise and diet are essential elements to my own efforts to maintain a proper weight. Although I carry a few more pounds that I'd like, my BMI (body mass index) places me in the normal category. And every extra pound means that much more stress on my vulnerable knees.

Going back to the beautiful birds at the beginning of his post, they sure don't have to worry about getting too much food to eat. It is rather amazing to think about what the problems are that cause humans to overindulge. Are we looking for security if we keep eating when we're not hungry?
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do people as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. —Helen Keller
Yes,  a daring adventure. That's from the experience of Helen Keller, who managed to lead a wonderful life without being able to see or hear. She read and wrote numerous books, graduated from a prestigious college, and is an inspiration to many, including me. When she writes that avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure, she speaks directly to me.

And that brings me to the end of this rather self-indulgent post. I just followed wherever my thoughts took me, and now it's almost time to get out of bed and begin a new day. My partner still sleeps next to me, the tea is long gone, and the coffee shop beckons. Although it won't even open for more than an hour, I'll get up and putter around a bit before heading out the door. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Time of the year for spooks

Pumpkin patch and Mt Baker
I wonder why so many people enjoy all the scary movies and programs that are everywhere during the Halloween season. I've never enjoyed being frightened, whether on purpose or by accident. Halloween falls on this coming Thursday, with Mexico's Day of the Dead following right after. I have to say I really enjoyed the animated movie Coco, which is all about this day. It's still available on Netflix, and I just might have to watch it again, just for fun. If you haven't seen it, maybe this is the time for it.

When I was a kid, I loved to dress up for Halloween. I remember one year when I was about ten, when I dressed up as a grown-up lady, complete with a sequined dress, a fancy hat, and lots of makeup. I thought I was gorgeous, but somewhere there is a picture (which I cannot find) that shows it was just a little ridiculous, instead of what I imagined myself to be. But mostly I dressed up as a witch or a ghost, which back then was pretty common. Or a princess, maybe.

Today I live in a place that gets few, if any takers for candy. Of course, I always have to buy some just in case, and I turn on my porch light, always hoping for a few little ones to make their way up the stairs and to my door. This year, any takers will get a whole Kind Bar, since I bought them for myself and will share them with anybody who shows up. Over the years, I've had fewer than a dozen trick-or-treaters all together. It means I need to keep something at hand, but making sure I don't use buying candy for the nonexistent kids as an excuse to have too much of it around. I'm sure you understand and have probably eaten a little Halloween candy yourself.

In any event, this time of the year is a little sad, as the days get shorter and the nights longer, even as one gets to enjoy the falling leaves and brilliant colors of fall. My birthday is now only one month away, and if anyone were to ask, I'd tell them my age as if I had already had that birthday, just so I can get used to it before it befalls me. I've done that for years now, and it makes me realize that once a woman gets to a certain age, you no longer need to worry about trying to look young, because, well, it doesn't work. Inside my own head, I'm much younger than my actual years. In Bellingham, once you reach the age of 75, you ride the bus for free. Nobody exclaims in surprise when I pull out my geezer card to board the bus.

Yesterday I walked with the ladies as the clouds cleared and it became sunny, although not warm. My knee is behaving and I seem to have regained my ability to hike at a normal pace. Although I will never walk with the fastest of us, I am still able to keep to the middle of the pack rather than lagging behind. This makes me very happy, meaning that for now I am back to what I consider my normal routine. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Probably the one thing that bothers me the most these days is my inability to remember things. I misplaced the key to the laundry room the other day, and after a couple of hours of panic, I found it in a pocket, right where I had placed it so I wouldn't lose it. I was wearing a top that has two small pockets that I keep forgetting about, and after having searched everywhere, I felt really embarrassed that I had not thought to look there. And I wear over-the-glasses sunglasses and place them on my head when not needing them. You can probably guess how often I've searched for them, only to find them right there on my head. Yes, I've always done this, but not to this extent. Or looking for something that I had just moved and forgot where I put it.
The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time. ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Yes, this is the best part of misplacing things: once you find them again, it's like a gift of joyful reunion. I was uplifted for the rest of the day, after I found that key. So there are upsides to just about everything, if you look for them. It's also true that the loss of anything, including loved ones, fades with time, and then you can enjoy remembering them without the searing pain of loss. The important thing, for me, is to think about my loved ones, both living and dead, with gratitude that they will always be part of my life. Nothing is permanent, all is transient, so to remember to enjoy what I do have right now is a key part of my enjoyment of living.

Right this moment, my dear partner sleeps next to me, and I need to remember to tell him how much I love him at least once today. I will tell my friends at the coffee shop how much I care about them. Oh, and there you are, dear friend of the blogosphere: have I told you lately how much I appreciate you? Although you are a virtual friend, you are no less important to me.

Until we meet again next week, I hope you will be well and will remember to tell your loved ones how glad you are to have them in your life. Or in your memories, if they are already on the other side. I wish you all good things, dear ones.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Accepting changes

After a skydive
It's been a long time since I've made a skydive. More than four years, in fact. I was an instructor when this picture was taken. I've always liked this photo, because it shows how happy I felt afterwards. That was true more often than not. Skydiving is part of my personal history, and like so much of my life, while in the past, those memories continue to surface.

For some reason, my dreams have lately taken me back into those years. I loved what I did, and I had many friends who were also with me when we jumped out of perfectly good airplanes together. I woke from a dream the other night where I could feel the air when I leaped out into space. It was very vivid and real. The colors were brilliant and all my senses were engaged. Except I was dreaming it all.

Sometimes I wonder if I could even make a skydive today. I've still got all my faculties, my knees and body still work well enough, and after more than four thousand skydives, surely I would remember how. But would I want to? What compelled me back then? I never let anything stand in my way when I wanted to jump, and long days out at the Drop Zone always left me feeling blissfully tired as I drove home.

Ah, but that was then. Who in the world was that person? Is she still a part of the present day me? Changes sometimes come slowly, and other times they come all at once. Today the injuries I sustained during my skydiving years are beginning to remind me that they will always be there, alongside my happy memories. That is normal, and I have been incredibly fortunate to have become a senior citizen, made it through all these years, with who knows what adventures still to come?

One of my favorite blogging friends, Doris, is now celebrating having written her 100th post. Now for some of you, this doesn't sound like much, but she started writing Engaging With Aging when she turned 95. She's now 97, twenty years older than I am, and she writes with honesty and vigor about her ARCs (age-related changes) and how she copes. Her past posts are essential reading for me these days.

She's got one adventure ahead of her that we will all share: leaving our bodies behind as we pass from this earth. I wonder if I will be able to have so much of my essential me-ness with me as she does, as I move through the rest of my life. Even now, she looks forward to each day and her blog gives her (and me) plenty to ponder about what's left as we each deal with our own individual ARCs.

My biggest fear is losing my eyesight. I realize that it would be harder to lose my sight than just about anything else. Dealing with AMD (age-related macular degeneration) has given me more appreciation for my ability to continue to see well enough to read as much as I want, drive, walk to the bus, perform my yoga routine, or head out on the trails with friends. Of course, anyone who has AMD knows that it doesn't lead to complete blindness, but takes little bits of sight away as it progresses. I have lost much of my ability to see details with each eye, but for now, one eye takes over for the other, and my central vision is unaffected. That's not exactly true, but it's good enough to do all I require of my eyes. For now.

And I've got so much to be grateful for. The place that we've chosen to retire, Bellingham, is filled with all kinds of activities that people across the aging spectrum can enjoy. Art walks, museums, walking trails, and a great bus system that will allow me to get anywhere around town I wish to visit without using my car. Physical activity is possible with even limited mobility. I watch with interest when someone in a wheelchair waits to board the bus. A ramp is extended, and the driver assists the person onto the bus and folding seats give the chair a place to be secured. Even people with rolling walker seats can ride the bus and are able to get just about anywhere they need with our bus system.

And of course, I've got all those memories that resurface in dreams. Have you ever woken from a dream thinking that it happened? Those kinds of dreams have been coming to me more often lately. Last night I dreamed that I was getting ready to leave a party, and the two people who came with me didn't want to go quite yet. I convinced them that I needed to leave, and then we had to travel through an intricate maze back to the car. I lagged behind as they chatted and I used their voices as a guide. Just as I was beginning to lose my way, I woke up.
Yes, I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. —Oscar Wilde
And now I am awake and ready to start another day. My tea is gone, this rather unusual post percolated its way out of my fevered brain and will now enter the world. Sometimes I wake up with a sure idea of what I will write, but as you can see, this was not one of them. I hope that the coming week will bring you much joy and happiness, and until we meet again next week, be well.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Beginnings and endings

Leaves and water
I had a bit of a scare this morning when I went to turn on my laptop. It was dead. No nothing, and I tried everything I knew to make it turn on. Then I got my iPad and searched for what to do if such a thing happened, and I found the solution. Why in the world it just didn't turn on was rather upsetting. After a "hard restart," everything seems to be normal again.

After having read about the problems with the new operating system that Apple just released, I decided not to put it on my laptop. This dear friend of mine (my MacBook Air) is now four years old and it doesn't seem to like the latest updates very much. It's getting to be time to replace my old friend. After having checked online, I realize it's becoming a necessity. Sigh. More things to get used to, different plugs and ports, as well as a new operating system. But at least I've got my laptop up and running for the moment.

Yesterday I went to the outdoor wedding of my friend Carrie, who runs my favorite coffee shop, and Tim, who started out as a customer and became her boyfriend. They are now married. It was brave to have an outdoor wedding at this time of year, because it could have been raining, freezing cold, or even snowing. But the weather cooperated: it was a little cool but pleasant, cloudy with no wind. It was a lovely ceremony and then afterwards they had arranged for a reception at a local brewery (Twin Sisters). We were all given one drink and a selection of sandwiches and the usual trays of cold food. I enjoyed a turkey sandwich and a lovely IPA.

At the same time, another dear friend of mine, Lily, who lives in our apartment complex, filed for divorce on Friday. She is sad and still living here until she finds a new place that she can afford. She pays an enormous amount every month for her year-old car, so her options are limited. I think she has found a coworker to move in with, until she has time to find something more permanent. She is a very hard worker and has become a good friend.

So some things have just begun, and others are ending. I think Lily will be just fine once she has worked everything out. She knows she has my friendship, and we will still be seeing each other often, hopefully. And of course I'll see my friend Carrie almost every day at the coffee shop. She and her new husband will be continuing their lives as before, since they had already been living together. Not much will change for them, but the commitment and ceremony always make a difference, in my own experience.

I've been married four times myself, with those old relationships long in my past. Although I was very young (and pregnant) with the first one, it lasted five years and produced two children. By the time I had turned thirty, all three marriages were behind me, and I embarked on a two-decade period of not being married. Then at fifty, I met my current and forever partner, and we have now been together more than a quarter of a century. We have grown old together, and I cannot imagine my life without him. I cherish every day we share.

All of my family members will be gathering in Texas to celebrate the marriage of my nephew. It's a big affair and I decided not to attend, although all the rest of my siblings will be there. They have a formal dress code, with the women expected to wear a cocktail dress or a formal jumpsuit. Even if I had been thinking of attending, I haven't worn anything like that in decades, and it would have been enough to give me pause. I'll see plenty of pictures, I'm sure, and I'm just a little sad not to be there with them, but also relieved not to have to deal with the travel headaches.

The older I get, the less I want to leave my own routine and home. It's not that I can't, but I sure don't want to if I don't have to. My sister PJ died in 2014, and that was the last time I visited Texas. Perhaps it would be prudent to attend when it's a happy occasion, but I just can't get excited about traveling right now. Am I becoming an old fuddy-duddy? It sure looks like it. When you're approaching eighty, it's almost expected. (I've still got a few years before then.)

Physical changes are expected, definitely. I've slowed down considerably, and yesterday I decided not to try to keep up with the ladies' walking group. I started out with them, and as hard as I tried, I could not stay with them, so I just turned around and headed out to the nearby park for a nice solitary walk at a reasonable pace. It just occurred to me that I am by far the oldest member of this group, so there might be a reason I'm lagging behind. Usually other women are available for me to walk with, but they had the good sense not to even come out for this particular walk.

It's becoming obvious that I've been in a bit of denial about what I can and cannot do these days. My seventy-seventh birthday is right around the corner, and I keep forgetting that my days of challenging myself to do harder things, go faster, and keep forging ahead as usual are over. At least I'm in fairly good shape, and if I can keep myself active and healthy, I can continue at a slower pace for a good long time to come.

As I sit here in the dark with the laptop illuminating the room, I realize that my life is pretty darn good, and I've got lots to be grateful for. Not the least of my blessings is my dear husband sleeping next to me, and my absent family and friends. Although my sister Norma Jean is the only one with whom I keep in constant contact, they are all there if I need them. And they know I am here as well, even if I am not traveling to Texas next month to attend the wedding.

And I know that you, my dear blogging family, are always there. I follow your lives and enjoy seeing what you're up to, and I look forward to your comments. The beginning and ending of life's ups and downs goes on with all of you, too, and I am always happy to hear of joyful events in your lives. I am there with you when you face some of life's ordeals. That's what community is all about.
The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. —Richard Bach
Well, with that delightful quote, I'm off to find out what today will bring me. First of all will be the coffee shop, of course, and then perhaps a nice walk if the weather cooperates. Until we meet again, dear ones, I wish you all good things and hope that you will find much to be grateful for.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Happiness and the mind

Lake Padden in sunshine and mist
This time of year, it's so easy to find beauty all around me. It makes me feel good to walk around Lake Padden at any time of the year, but when the brilliant colors begin to come out in the trees and bushes around the lake, I find that just being outdoors in the clear, crisp air makes me happy.

That made me wonder: is happiness a trick of the mind, or is it inherent in all situations? I know when I am feeling happy, the whole world looks better. There is plenty of research on positive psychology, and I find that most of what I've read assures me that it's possible to be happy by simply training my mind. My yoga practice teaches me that "A stable mind is like the hub of a wheel. The world may spin around you, but the mind is steady (BKS Iyengar)." And a quote from that link:
It’s well-documented that negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and sadness can impact our health in negative ways, such as triggering our stress response and contributing to chronic stress, making us more susceptible to disease. But Positive Psychology research has now found that positive emotions can aid health by undoing the physical reactivity that can lead to these problems.
Well, the world has certainly been spinning lately, and I am constantly trying to find my own equilibrium in the turbulent political atmosphere, both here and abroad. I've tried staying away from the news, but that doesn't make me feel any happier, just less informed. So, I'm busy trying to make sense of it all, with the help of my daily routine and activities.

When I am getting ready for a good night's sleep, which always makes me feel better, I have found that not eating too late always helps me get a better night's sleep. After climbing into bed and opening up my Kindle, I read for a few minutes from Light on Life by BKS Iyengar, which I was introduced to during one of my yoga classes. We usually receive a short lesson from the instructor before we begin the asana practice, and I was intrigued enough by this book to download a copy. It's not the sort of thing that grabs you and makes you want to read ahead, so it's perfect for giving me something positive to focus on before I drift into slumber.

Last night I read about the five qualities of mind. They include a dull state, a distracted monkey mind, an alternating or oscillating mind, a single-pointed attentive mind, and finally the the timeless state of absorption called "samadhi." I have experienced all of these except samadhi. Maybe one day I'll experience it, but I have certainly felt the monkey mind state, which certainly keeps me from feeling much happiness. When I'm in that state, I know that if I stop trying to figure everything out and lead my mind to focus on just one thing, like gratitude, reminding myself about what is positive in my life right at the moment, I begin to feel better.

Everyone has much to be grateful for, no matter what your situation might be. Well, most of us, anyway. I just flashed on what it must be like to live in a war zone. Could I find happiness there? Years ago I read Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, about his experiences in a Nazi death camp. There are scenes from that book that stay with me. He was able to find purpose and meaning during those years, and several times he found real joy and love in such circumstances. Yes, it's possible to find happiness even there. He not only survived, but he has helped many others find our own way to a better life.
With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice. —Oprah
As I sit here with my laptop perched on my knees, here in the dark, with only the light from the screen illuminating the room, I look around me at what many aspects of my present situation make me feel grateful. First and foremost, it's my dear partner sleeping next to me, making little puffy sounds as he breathes. He's so accustomed to the sounds of my tapping on the keys that it probably makes him feel safe as he subliminally hears it. Looking to the window, I notice it's dark outside, since we are losing more than three minutes of daylight as we move towards the solstice in just a few short months, and I look forward to the march of the seasons. Autumn is my favorite season, although I'm not quite sure why.

Another thing that gives me so much gratitude is the fact that I am not alone in my world. Not only do I have friends and family to be grateful for, but I also have this electronic community of friends, like you, who give me so much to appreciate. Every day I learn something new from my blogging friends, and there is a fertile interaction between us that gives me much satisfaction. I've been blogging for more than a decade now, and not only has the world changed greatly during that time, so has my community as it has grown and flourished. So much to be grateful for!

Today my friend Judy and I will see the new Renee Zellweger movie Judy. From the reviews, I'm pretty sure it will be enjoyable. Everyone is saying that she's perfect in the role of Judy Garland. And the sun should be shining most of the day, which will also be a nice change from all the rain. My tea got cold before I finished it, but I just swigged the last cold remnant and will now begin my day. I've done my first Sunday duty by writing this post. Then it's off to find happiness in the rest of my day. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

My favorite season

Me at Lily Lake last Thursday
Melanie took this picture of me last week, and I didn't see it until I checked her Facebook posting about the hike. Lily Lake is still pretty, but as the season progresses, all the brush in front of me will begin to change colors and thin out. I love this time of the year, when it's cool for hiking but not yet cold, and the foliage brightens the landscape. My favorite season.

I am so pleased to be able to join my hiking friends once again, feeling like I'm almost back to normal. But not really: I really suffered on the downhill section of the hike back down the steep trail. Without my hiking poles, I wouldn't have been able to do it. But once you're out there, you don't have a lot of choice about it, you need to get back down. My knee is still sore, but now I'm beginning to think this is as good as it's going to get. I'll manage. It's not the distance that gets me, but the elevation change, especially navigating the steep downhill.

Yesterday I walked with the ladies around Lake Padden, a trip we make at least once a month, and for the past few months I've only gone once around the lake, but yesterday I went twice around, so I am slowly making progress. At my age, I should be happy that I am able to see a positive difference, but I am still in denial about my abilities. Just because it was easy a decade ago doesn't translate to the present day. Why is that so hard to accept?

One of my blogging friends, a new one I just recently discovered, hosts a blog she calls Engaging with Aging. She just wrote her 100th post, which is pretty amazing, when you consider she started writing this blog only two years ago, when she was 95. Her writing is clear and concise, and she talks about ARCs and how she deals with them. ARC stands for age-related changes, and I find her optimism and mental acuity inspiring. Here's an excerpt from her 100th:
Looking ahead, I foresee postings that reflect my accumulating, progressing ARCs, their effects that are creating increasingly difficult challenges and the constant, conscious adaptations that fill the minutes and hours of my day. I’ll continue to share what I can of my ongoing journey.
When I begin to feel grumpy about what I can or cannot do any more, I find myself gravitating over to her blog and reading one of the previous posts. She has not lost one whit of her sense of humor or joy at being alive, and she rarely communicates dismay over her ARCs. I figure if she can do it, so can I.

The internet and the community it has created through the blogs of everyday people has truly changed my life. Doris (the blogger in question) says that her blog allows her to "wake in the morning, ideas churning, eager to start the day." As I sit here in the dark, writing to fulfill my Sunday morning meditation, I now think of her, waking up and raring to go. I discovered that she was an RN for much of her life, so she knows how to help people, and those around her are now helping her in much the same way as she did when she was working.

But Doris is just one person within the pantheon of the blogosphere. I also have so many others who brighten my days with their posts. And they are all over the globe: some are here on this continent, but I also share community with one in Australia. I keep forgetting when I mention winter or summer, that it's opposite for her. She displays spring flowers while I enjoy the bright colors of fall. Some of my favorites live close to the water, while others are urban dwellers. One friend in Canada had a serious brush with his mortality and almost died during an operation. He is now in a wheelchair and writes of the changes he faces, having been an avid hiker before becoming paralyzed from the waist down. And there are so many others who feel as close to me as family members.

My sister just sent me a text, wondering where my post for this morning is. She's three hours ahead of me in time, so I guess she forgot. This post is taking a bit longer than usual, because I'm thinking about what I want to communicate, and it's elusive. Sometimes when I sit down to write, it all just pops out without much effort, and other times I struggle to find a direction. I am looking forward to a beautiful day, but this part of it takes as long as it takes, there's no shortcut. Oh, I could just throw some words on the page, but then I would feel bad about not having done due diligence in composing this properly for my readers.

And so, I just went looking for a quote (I always like to include one) about aging, and I found this succinct one from Betty Friedan):
Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
I think Doris can attest to that. I encourage you to explore her world, and her incredible writing. And now, perhaps, I've gotten to the place where I can begin to wind this up and begin the rest of my day. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, it's still dark outside, and my day beckons. The coffee shop awaits my attendance. Until we meet again next week, dear readers, I hope you will have lots of quiet adventures and happy times with those you love and who love you. Be well.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Last day of summer

Misty late summer scene
The autumnal equinox happens early tomorrow morning, in my part of the world at least. I took this picture last Thursday, and I like the mood of it, along with my true happiness at having been able to complete this favorite hike. I've missed so many this season, because of one injury after another. I guess it comes with the territory: you don't get to be a septuagenarian without having aches and pains.

That said, there are two people in this picture, both dear hiking friends, who both will be celebrating their eightieth birthdays early next year. I am a few years younger, but I am not far behind them on the aging spectrum. After having missed several hikes this summer, I had hoped my knees and back would be healed enough to accomplish this one, and sure enough they and I did. Even though one does take longer to get over things, you still do, given enough determination and help with exercises and, in my case, acupuncture.

I am wrestling with whether or not to go on next Thursday's scheduled hike, one of the more difficult ones: long with lots of elevation gain and plenty of rocky trails to navigate. In past years it's been, if not easy, at least well within my ability. Now I am not so sure, but I will probably go anyway, depending on the weather. As the days grow shorter, I want to be as active as I can while there is sunshine to enjoy. I feel so much better at the end of the day when I've had a chance to move enough to get my steps in. It's a good kind of tired, then.

This has been a very full week. Last Sunday I woke with a sore throat and cold, and I had to make my way through that, feeling pretty terrible for two days. When I realize how miserable I can be with just a simple cold, I'm reminded that I'd better go get a flu shot because I sure don't want to multiply that misery. A distant memory of my last bout with the flu is not a pleasant one. I've also been considering getting the latest shingles vaccine shots (there are two of them, six months apart), because that's another way to prevent or at least mitigate that awful virus.

 After recovering from the cold, I began to feel good again, and it was possible for me to have the energy I needed to complete the hike on Thursday. In fact, I've noticed a sort of rebound effect that happens after illness: I feel ridiculously happy and glad to be alive. And it helps to have plenty of good books to read, especially ones that give me a chance to ponder what makes one person thrive, while another experiences nothing but difficulty and unhappiness throughout life.

I usually have at least one long book on my Kindle, and I will read it for a few minutes before retiring. Sometimes it will be longer than a few minutes, but mostly that's all I need before drifting off. One book that I've been making my way through gives me plenty to think about: Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life by George Vaillant. I think I've written here before about the book. Last night I finished it, and I realize I've got to find another similar one to take its place. George has also written another that looks interesting, so it's probably going to be my next one. I'd like to share the last part of Aging Well, because it's something I'd like to keep uppermost in mind.
Besides my sister, my favorite teacher is a two-inch-tall mouse named Stuart Little. Stuart told the children to remember three important rules: (1) Be a true friend. (2) Do the right thing. (3) Enjoy the glory of everything. ... 
A person who is looking for something doesn't travel very fast, and waving farewell to his childhood and boyhood, that secure and sun-warmed past that is over and done with and gone for all time. Yet Stuart knew this: "If a flower blooms once, it goes on blooming somewhere forever. What is changed is never gone unless we let it go."
This is a quote from a valedictory address by Timothy Coffeshall. He mentions E.B. White's character Stuart Little, a very human modern mouse. The above quote ends the valediction, and George uses it also to end his wonderful book.

Today will be a very full day. After heading off to the coffee shop, I'll join my friend Judy to see the new Downton Abbey movie. The reviews suggest that it will be enjoyable for fans of the series, but not so much for those who don't know and cherish all those characters. Since I'm one of the former, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Afterwards, I'll join my dear friends here at the apartment complex for a birthday party. Because I'm someone who needs to go to bed rather early, it's starting at 4:00pm and will end no later than 7:00pm. And of course I can enjoy some wine, because my walk back to the apartment doesn't require driving. Yes, another full day.

I just checked the weather and, as expected, it's raining right now and will continue to rain all day long. I probably won't get a walk in, but Sunday is my usual day to relax and not worry about getting my steps. I can do that, but it's not easy. Instead, I'll enjoy a day filled with lots of companionship and joy. Just thinking about it all has brought a smile to my face. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, the tea is long gone, and the day beckons me out of bed. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things and truly hope that you will enjoy lots of smiles. Be well.