Friday, December 8, 2017

ALL IS CALM; ALL IS BRIGHT

 Just checking in with my usual Christmas season complaints.....NOT!!!!!

Amazingly I am not pissed, overwhelmed, depressed, or sad.  I feel happy, content, calm, and on top of things.  This is the first time in as long as I can recall that I've been a week into December and not dreading the rest of the month.  Well, last year wasn't too bad either, but this year feels decidedly better.






Tree is up, a few decorations dispersed about, advent candles in line on the mantel, new outdoor lights strung.  The family has drawn names and I've bought my gift for my recipient.  I'm enjoying shopping for our granddaughters.

I took a friend out for her birthday yesterday and she will return the favor for my birthday 11 days from now.  There will be other celebrations with friends and  family to honor my 67th as well.  I make sure my birthday doesn't get buried in Christmas!

We have plans to do an "Ugly Sweater
and Secret Santa" party with friends, will participate in the annual Luminary River Walk hosted by my yoga studio, will have our grand girls for a sleepover so their parents can enjoy a holiday get-away.  We'll do the traditional Christmas Eve buffet and Christmas day gifts and dinner but without Son Two and his girlfriend who will be in California with her family, then when they return, one more family gathering to celebrate with them.  There's a lot going on, but it feels manageable and fun and I'm looking forward to every event!

Is this how "normal" people go about the holiday season?  I had no idea I didn't have to be stressed and depressed!  To what do I attribute this change of mood?  No one thing; probably many.

I'm still delighted that my plunge into severe anxiety/depression two years ago resulted in what seemed to be a life-changing series of visits to a Wonder Woman therapist.  But really, she would be the first to encourage me to say... I am the Wonder Woman for doing the hard work, for upping my Mindfulness and mediation practices, for practicing radical self-acceptance and self-compassion...all of that has helped me live a more settled, grounded, authentic life in relationship to those around me, through all the joys and challenges that life metes out.

I feel healthier than ever with my yoga practice and treadmill walking routine.  I'm eating healthy and sleeping well.  I feel strong and flexible and balanced -- that fall down the stairs notwithstanding -- and even my super impressive bruises are fading.

Things are going well with my "kids", my friends are a refuge for laughter and tears, my husband is my rock and love, my home is cozy and warm....gratefulness seems to play into a rising of spirit as well.

So, let's just mark December 8th as a day when all is calm and all is bright...and everything is alright.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Sunday, November 26, 2017

TAKING A FALL

Surprise.  When my stocking feet first slipped off the top step and my head hit the floor.  "Ouch!"

Denial.  When I realized I was falling, feet first, body supine, down the stairs. "No! No! No! No! No!"

Shock.  When halfway down I realized I couldn't stop myself.  "SHIT! Shit! Shit! Shit!"

Fear.  When I realized this was not a good thing and I was in danger of real damage.  "Don't break, don't break, don't break, please don't break anything!"

When I landed at the bottom of the stairs, Hub huddled over me, assessing my condition, I basically responded to the accident with my typical shock and trauma mode of crying and shaking and going into full-on anxiety over what had happened, what could have happened, what might still happen.

Then I took some deep breaths.  I realized I was really sore, really shaken, but also still whole.  Nothing broken; no concussion; I could move and stand and talk and even chuckle at the absurdity of this lapse in mindfulness.  I was reminded, again, of how one tiny slip-up in being attentive can result in an outcome of epically terrible proportions.

I had gone up to bed on Thanksgiving night when I remembered I'd adjusted the thermostat down to accommodate a hot kitchen full of people.  I wanted to re-set it, so I thought I'd just quickly run down and do that....not thinking of my slippery socks on the hardwood staircase.  I normally am religious about wearing soft-soled indoor shoes that grip the floor.  Not this time.  It only took one slip and down I went....all the way down...hitting each of the 14 steps with my right rib area, thigh, knee, and somehow jamming two fingers (which immediately turned purple!)

Hub said I looked like a log going down a flume run on Skid Road.  I felt like I was on a toboggan run...with no toboggan.  I think I heard myself scream at one point -- but not in joyful exhilaration.

I write now, three days later, still tender and bruised.  My knee is a little "glitchy" and I'm hoping nothing was torn on the inside.  Hub doesn't think so and he's sort of expert at knee stuff both professionally and personally, so I'm believing him.  Tylenol and Aleve have been my friends and I'm still so grateful not to have been injured more severely.

Also bruised, though, is my Ego.  I pride myself on my balance and flexibility from years of yoga practice.   I can probably be a bit insufferable about crediting yoga for everything good in my life, especially physically.  Hub thinks I should still credit it for the "muscle memory" of balance causing my body to fall in a way that resulted in minimal damage.  I could just as easily have completely lost balance and tumbled head over heels; I quake at the damage that might have ensued from that scenario!

But I am also humbled.  I have a home full of stairs.  I have always known we are one accident, injury, or illness away from not being able to easily navigate this house.  Sometimes I use the stairs as a workout opportunity, eschewing the handrail going up the stairs to ensure I'm not pulling up with my arms instead of using my quads to keep my forward momentum.  I typically use the rail going down, but not always, and definitely not when I'm carrying those bins of holiday decorations from the attic down to the living room.  Duh!

I'll be much more mindful from here on out.  Believe me, I've had a death grip on that handrail.  And my soft-soled inside boot/slippers are always on my feet when I'm navigating the stairway.

It was a wake-up call that accidents happen in a split second.  There is really no margin for error when it comes to carelessness.  My concern is whether I have to report this at my annual Medicare physical when they do that whole "Fall Assessment" thing.  I really don't think this was an aging issue. It was a stocking feet issue; a hardwood floor issue; a Karma issue...

Earlier in the day our almost 3 year old granddaughter had gotten her feet tangled in the Princess dress she refuses to take off (going on 2 months now) and tumbled down a few of our carpeted stairs.  She was so funny when she popped up and said, "I wolled and wolled!"  She wasn't hurt at all, so my laughter wasn't really cruel.  I just thought it was funny how she said it (the r's sounding like w's).   I was NOT laughing when I took my own tumble  -- until much later when I asked Hub, "Did I woll and woll?"

Karma is a bitch.

At least, that's the view from her.©

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NOT HOLDING MY BREATH

It's election day for local races in our area. There is a woman I'm supporting for Mayor and a young man I'm supporting for City Council.  They are both progressive, with ideas for moving past the stodgy good old boy network here and bringing new life and vitality to city government in our city, which is growing in exciting ways, full of urban challenges, and still in some ways stuck in the last century.  I hope they will win.  And I'm not holding my breath.

A year ago, I was dressed in my Pantsuit Nation pantsuit, planning my election night victory party.  About this time in the afternoon a year ago I was euphoric about what I knew was just hours away...our first woman president and a woman I supported and admired at that.  We all know how that turned out.

There are days (OK, every day) when I am still suffering from shock.  I feel like my life turned inside out last November.

Everything I believed about my brother/sister Americans was proven wrong: Millions of them are perfectly OK with a sexual predator, racist, money-grubbing, corrupt, malignant narcissist in the White House.

What I thought I knew about my country was proven wrong: Patriotism doesn't extend much beyond flags and songs; voting is optional and some citizens bothering to educate themselves to be informed and not influenced by obvious media manipulations is rare.

The idea that even if lawmakers disagree on policy, but will definitely come together for the good of the nation when our ideals, norms, and even laws are disregarded to the detriment of the majority was a naive belief:  Partisanship and donor-pleasing is way more important than democracy.

No more starry-eyed optimism for me.  The past year has been a daily horror show of disappointment, disgust, and dismay.

So, I identified myself with the Resistance and wrote my letters, made my calls, marched in my marches, waved my signs, gathered with other activists for encouragement and strategizing.   I did as the Resistance instructed and got involved locally in races that actually effect my everyday life in my city and county.  But dirty political shenanigans have turned up here as well and I have to wonder how many will not bother to seek the truth, will buy the line of bull they see online, will just sit this one out.  (Voter turnout for the Primary for the election today was 24%.  Yep.  24% bothered to care a whit about who would run their city for the next four years.)

I'm going to my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction meditation class tonight (read all about it on my Yoga blog) and when I get home, I'll flip on the TV and catch the election results from across the nation and in my own backyard.  I hope the good guys win.  But I'm not holding my breath.

At least, that's the view from here...

P.S.  I WAS WRONG!!!!!!!  Tuesday Night's election results were heartening and even joyous in many races across the country in cities, counties, states north, south, east, and west.  Get this...
women ran and won -- including a woman who decided to run when (and she beat him!) an incumbent Tweeted that he hoped all the women in the women's march would be home in time to make dinner.  B-bye, asshole.  And a transgender woman won, beating the guy who introduced and touted the "bathroom bill" which outlawed a transgendered person from using the public restroom of their choice.  Another transgendered woman won in her race, a Sikh man (first ever) won in his race, black men and women won, an anti-NRA, gun safety advocate beat a pro-gun guy.  Seattle elected a Lesbian mayor, and Washington flipped the only district where a Republican gave the Statehouse a majority, and now we join Oregon and California to form the "Blue Wall" on the west coast of states who have Democratic Governors, Statehouses, and Attorneys General.

In my local races, alas, my first-timer City Council candidate lost, but my incumbent won.  The Mayor's race is still too close to call, the two women separated by a mere handful of votes.  The worst result was a neighboring town electing the Trump equivalent as Mayor over an imminently qualified, experienced, and fine woman who happens to be my friend and yoga studio owner where I practice and write my other blog.  She has been on the Council for years and has served as Mayor there and it stymies me how his lies and innuendoes and dirty campaigning won the day....reminiscent of last November. Still...overall, my pessimism was proven wrong in a sweep of national activist voting.  Resistance Rising!

At least that's (the morning after) view from here...©

Thursday, November 2, 2017

GROPING AND GRABBING IN THE HEADLINES

There's suddenly an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault!  Hollywood and Washington DC, especially, seem to be headline-blaring hot beds of lust-crazed men groping and grabbing.

Or...wait...maybe there is a slowly building, hopefully not short-lived, tendency (I can't make the parallel "epidemic" argument) toward people believing women (and some men) who are accusing men of harassment and assault.  It's been a long time coming and I have to wonder what caused the tipping point right now.

Could it be the collective disgust that our current president so brazenly bragged of the same harassment and assault and was still elected president?  Did the nation grow a conscience?

I swear, I don't know.  I'm stumped as to why, at this juncture, we are hearing of decades-long behaviors among prominent men and that there is some "news" in this.  Are we supposed to be shocked?

I'm not.  A handful of well-known men do not represent an anomalous cohort.  What's truly epidemic is the prevalence of this behavior and what any woman can tell you is, it happens all the time.  Studies show 1 in 3 women is sexually harassed at work; 1 in 5 sexually assaulted in college;  1 in 10 (fewer in some studies) raped in their lifetime, most often by an intimate or known partner.  So, yeah, there's that.

I did a little life review in light of all this recent revelation.  My journey of harassment and borderline assault started in junior high, grades 7-9.

I walked a mile to and from school and many times was whistled at, lured to get in vehicles, and followed by adult men.  My best friend encountered a man exposing himself sitting in a car near her home every day for a week.  We told our parents; they said to be careful and/or take a different route.

An 8th grade math teacher was known to leer and encourage girls to bend over in front of him to pick up an 'accidentally' dropped textbook.  We made a game of avoiding him.

A boy in my 8th grade science class leaned over one day in his stupid Madras plaid shirt and said "You're not much from the chin up, but from the neck down you're gangbusters!  Nice tits!"  I gotta think he heard or read this somewhere, but still, I took it to heart and from then on believed that my body was my only asset.  I can still hear him...and from that day I believed I was not pretty.

I was groped in the city swimming pool one summer almost every time I went.  I stopped going.

In high school there was more of the drive-by luring/jeering behavior (by adult males) as I walked every day to a friend's house after school to await my parent pick-up.  I don't even count the times teen boys grabbed and flirted and made suggestive comments and invitations, because that was so commonplace as to just be "normal" for the late 60's.  I started to feel like a target and started to feel afraid at times.

One school dance date night I found myself pinned to a sofa (after many, many rebuffs on my part) being told "I love you" and "let's do it" over and over.  I pushed him and kicked at him and he finally stopped, but was mad at me.  So, I apologized.  Then went to dinner, which I didn't eat, then jumped from his car in my driveway and cried myself to sleep.  I was disgusted, afraid, and furious.  I had no idea how to handle something like that.  I never told anyone.

At an after school job I worked in a small office with one older woman and three salesmen.  I typed and took dictation (poorly).  One day the woman was not there and two of the men wanted me to take dictation and laughed at me when I couldn't keep up.  When I stood up to leave they commented on my short skirt and "great legs".   I cried all the way home, embarrassed and ashamed.  I quit the job.

After high school,  I worked in a large office, as an assistant to a product buyer, where a man from a different department routinely walked around flirting with all the young women.  One day he came to my desk to chat, and asked me to stand up and turn around so he could see if my outfit would look good on his wife.  I did it, and then he laughed and said his wife wouldn't fill it out like I did.  I was humiliated and embarrassed, knowing the whole thing had been a ruse.  I avoided his future approaches.

I worked later in a small clinic where I learned to process x-rays in a darkroom.  The boss took many opportunities to supervise my work, leaning over me from behind, his body touching mine as I tried to squirm away.  I needed that job.  I put up with it.

At the community college I attended nights, I once found myself in a stairwell with a male student, who chased me down the stairs and grabbed my butt before running on ahead of me.

I recall going to a party with my husband where one of his medical school friends asked me to dance, then groped my breasts.

At the medical center I had a boss, an MD, who told me stories of his "open marriage", asked questions about my marriage and sex life (I didn't answer), tricked me into undergoing a bogus physical exam, lured me to a hotel room, and belittled me for rebuffing all his advances, then told me I should thank him for proving to myself that I loved my husband by not going along with him.  I told my supervisor and others, who were sympathetic but passively patted me on the back and shook their heads.  Nothing happened.  I quit that job.  (I've written about this in more detail in a previous blog post).

My mid-20's feminist awakening empowered me.  I was less naive and more savvy.  I learned to protect myself with street smarts and intuition.  But, still, too often I  felt like a target and I began to feel that any man was a potential rapist.  I was afraid too often, always searching for safety in my surroundings, how to get help if I needed it.  This is no way to live!

In my 30's, with motherhood and age, all of this seemed to calm down.  My life was lived mostly in groups of women and children and decent men who were respectful.  Later, my career in social work was in a female-centric workplace.

I guess I am lucky I was never truly physically injured in an assault, nor was I ever raped.  (I didn't go  away to college, but completed my undergrad degree over many years as an adult, so I don't have that experience to add to my story.)  But psychologically I was wounded just the same.  For much of my late girlhood and young womanhood, I felt like meat, like I didn't exist or have value beyond my body, that I was always in jeopardy, that my breasts were my best asset, that my sexuality was for the pleasure of men.  And that I was a prick tease, because flirting seemed to imply consent,  but I could not be promiscuous.  I still had a modicum of respect for myself, that finally feminism celebrated.   Feminism was such a relief.  And if I was angry a lot, and hated most men as a gender for awhile, that was a necessary part of healing the wound too.

So, yeah, I'm delighted all these guys are getting their comeuppance.  But it's a drop in the bucket.  Ask any waitress, Target checker, secretary behind the desk, schoolgirl, nurse, doctor, lawyer, teacher, writer, baker, executive....you get it.  Ask any woman anywhere.

We've all got stories to tell and there won't be any headlines or multimillion dollar settlements for us. And most of our harassers will never pay any price at all for the damage done.  They might even be elected President.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit: REX.Shutterstock Harvey Weinstein.






Monday, October 30, 2017

DON'T SHOOT!

Friday night Hub and I went to the first play of the season at the theater company here in town.  We love that we don't have to commute to Seattle to experience excellent professional musical theater.  The show was "Into the Woods".  I was disappointed not to love it, but regardless of the plot and book; I have to praise the actors and stage/lighting designers.  Top notch every time.  We didn't leave the theater until nearly 11:00 -- pretty late for us these days.

Driving home, we noticed our street was filled with cars and a few people walking around.  "Party", we both said, and just kept going.

I was tired, so I went to bed shortly after getting home.  Hub decided to stay up a bit longer.  I had fallen asleep but not deeply so, and at one point I heard Hub talking.  It was disorienting.  Who in the world was he talking to on the phone after midnight?!?  I called down to him from upstairs asking if he was OK.  "Yes, just called 911. I think I heard gunshots!"

What?!?!  That woke me up fast!  Immediately I heard sirens.  Hub came upstairs to our bedroom where we have a good view of the street and we both watched as police, ambulance, and some sort of armored truck (SWAT team, we thought) converged on the corner 1-1/2 blocks from our home.  Hub said he'd seen people running down the street and cars peeling away shortly after the gunshots.  Now we saw people milling about as the police cordoned off the street 1/2 block from us.  Shortly, two officers raced by our home on foot being led by a police dog on the scent.  It was all quite surreal and we had no idea what was going on.

The neighborhood email list serve immediately lit up and I followed the comments of other neighbors who had heard the shots and called 911 also.  They said a partygoer had shot another and the shooter was still on the loose.  Nervous Nelly that I am, this was not welcome news.  We continued to watch for awhile, but really couldn't see all that well.  Hub got tired and came to bed, soon falling asleep.  But I was awake until after 2:00 a.m. watching the red lights flash on the walls of our bedroom until eventually I dozed off and awoke around 3:00 to a quiet street, all evidence of the police and the incident gone.

In the meantime details have emerged that the party was at an historic house originally belonging to a lumber baron back in the day, but has had several owners since we've lived here.  Currently it is owned by a development company seeking to subdivide the property and build more homes there -- not something we are happy about since it will destroy the historic nature of the property and the stately mansion will be surrounded by modern homes, but such is progress I guess.  In the meantime, it is being rented to some college students in their mid-late 20's.  The mother of one of them lives here in the neighborhood too and vouches for them.  Her son has written an account of the incident to the neighbors on the list serve.  He says it was a gathering of friends and co-workers that was going fine until an uninvited group showed up and started to cause a disturbance.  He told them to leave, which they did, but once in the street, shots were fired.  He said none of his original guests were involved, only the group that showed up and were unknown to him.  A 15 year old boy is in serious condition at a Seattle trauma center hospital.  The shooter is still to be identified and taken into custody.

It's all very unsettling, but plausible.  Parties have a way of getting out of hand, I know, when people spread the word and strangers show up.  I'm sure my sons were at plenty of college parties where not everyone was known to the host.  As to those who showed up and ended up shooting one of their own group....what's up with that?

What's up with any of it really?  I am sickened by how common gun violence is.  I could go on and on about my abhorance of guns and the prevalence of guns and our lax gun laws...yes, on and on.  It's a national tragedy.  Maybe I'll devote another post to this topic, but for now, I am stunned that this happened so close to home....and at the same time I have no illusions that any of us are safe from gun violence no matter the relatively affluent, historic nature of our neighborhoods.

We try here to be good neighbors. We keep our houses painted, our lawns mowed, watch out for each other, helping when we can, staying in touch on the list serve...AND lots of folks have alarm systems and security cameras.

I woke up scanning the thickly treed greenbelt behind our home, wondering if the shooter may have taken temporary refuge there.  Into the Woods, indeed.  Troubling times.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit:  Pixabay.com

Sunday, October 29, 2017

CROSSROADS

Last weekend Hub and I joined the other 10 friends in a group we affectionately call "The Tribe" at our second annual weekend retreat.  We've been meeting together monthly since February 2016 for socializing, a potluck, and intentional sharing time in Circle, where we sometimes have a topic to explore that allows us to be self-reflective, and sometimes just a time of sharing deeply with each other about what's going on in our lives.  It goes beyond small talk by creating a safe and trusting space to be vulnerable.  Hub and I generally facilitate this since we have done this type of "personal growth" work in our own lives and have some experience facilitating these discussions.  But we also participate fully and gain as much from the time together as anyone.  It's a gift of love that gives back.

We planned a retreat for last year and we all loved it so much, we decided to do it again.  This time we rented a huge and beautiful home in the mountains on the edge of a little town that is very touristy with a Bavarian theme, but is surrounded by natural beauty.  The home sat on the edge of a river lined with trees in full fall regalia.  It looks like a fake photo; it's not.  We were in awe all weekend as all the windows of the communal rooms faced this view.

Our theme this year was "Crossroads" as we explored what our gift might be that we desire to bring forth into the world, but for whatever reason have held ourselves back from realizing.

We identified the "gift" and we studied and had fun with a personality construct called "The Enneagram" which is similar to Myers-Briggs in identifying certain characteristics of personality types.  Then we did a process which Hub masterfully facilitated for 11 people (and me for him), over the course of 5 hours.  To hold space and energy for emotional work that long is exhausting...he was a rock star!  But aside from my pride and awe of his facilitation skill, was the deep appreciation I had for each person stepping into their lives deeply and with great reverence.  As each walked the timeline of their lives, identifying 2-3 significant events, Hub was able to guide them in seeing how their life experiences and their personality types had both shaped their gift and also perhaps held them back from sharing this gift widely.

As each reached the "crossroads" they could take a step forward, recognizing they are already on the path and just need to take the first step into making their gift to world manifest.  Or they could veer left or right, realizing the path they were on needed to detour into a path more suited to their desire.  Every person stepped forward.  All realized they are already living their gift in some ways; they just needed clarity about the next step.

At the end each was given a slip of paper where I'd written the sentence describing their gift and the next step they will take within the next 30 days.  A duplicate of this was drawn anonymously by another Tribe member to hold that person "in the light" until we meet again and reveal who had been their Champion for the month.

Creating this experience was work, fun, interesting, and enlightening for Hub and me.  It was based on something Hub has done with his men's groups over the years, but was new to me.  I added the identifying the gift part (through a guided visualization) and the Enneagram stuff and we are delighted at the result.  Everyone seemed to gain from the experience.

This work of the heart and soul has always been important to me, and more so as I grow older.  Too often we assume we've done everything there is to do; "can't teach an old dog new tricks"; "it's too late to change direction" or to follow that heart-dream we've always had.  This limiting belief system is so detrimental to our psyche!  In growing older there is still room for growing.  

As for me?  My Gift Statement is "I find creative ways to connect and communicate with others to inspire and empower them to live confidently and boldly."  It's always a bit grandiose to state a gift or life mission in such confident terms, but looking at my adult life, I see this is actually exactly what I love to do.  I've done it in so many ways, successfully and less so, and it continues to be my passion.  I think it is especially dear to me because it's a gift I also give to myself.  I too want to empower and inspire ME by being in community with others who value this work as well.

Right now, I'm hoping that I can empower and inspire through my writing.  So my "first baby step" is to commit to sitting down at my computer two days a week with the sole intention of writing...no FB scrolling, no email answering, no newsfeed reading -- just working on a writing project.  My blogs will always be priority and I'm looking at other avenues for writing for connection as well.

What is your gift to the world?  What holds you back?  Are you on the right path or are you at a Crossroads?  Now is the time to take the first step...

At least, that's the view from here...©



Monday, October 9, 2017

SUNDAY, SUNDAY...SO GOOD TO ME...

I used to love Fridays the best, especially during my years in the paid workforce, especially when I was younger and TGIF held more promise than a night of binge-watching Netflix in my Jammie-clothes.  Fridays always felt like a party and often ended in one.  Friends gathering, Happy Hour, Date Night...all that stuff felt spontaneous and fun and vibrant and carefree.  Friday had just turned 21!

Then kids came along and my TGIF meant I was no longer single parenting, when Hub was generally home with us and not at work or other evening obligations, and I had some help with the boys who had run me ragged all week.  It was pizza night or movie night or family swim night with friends and their kids.  I was still "working" but not alone on the job.   Friday flirted with being a Partier, but was much more tired and a little more tattered.

Later, Friday was a respite from a calendar chockfull of evening obligations to attend groups and meetings.  We were involved in so many things in the community, our church, personal growth events that nearly every night of the workweek was scheduled.  On Friday we took a breath.  Sometimes.  Friday was middle-aged and trying to just keep time until Monday when it would all start again.

After retirement, Friday still has a burnished glow, a reminiscence of old times with the feel of a holiday, but it's not the beacon of light and relief it once was.  It's not all that different from the other nights.  We bid out granddaughter goodbye and clean up the house of all evidence of a two year old having taking over on Thursday and Friday on our Papa-Care and Granny-Nanny days.  We high-five each other for having made it through another week; we cook dinner, we watch Rachel Maddow, we watch some TV show or movie we've recorded earlier in the week, we go to bed at 10:00.  Friday is growing older; getting quieter, but still up for a laugh or two, if not a full guffaw.  Definitely not a party; more like a deep sigh.  I like Fridays, but...

Now, my favorite day is Sunday.  There are no expectations of Sunday.  Sunday dawns with no plan and no commitment.  Sunday is a blank slate.  Sunday is there to make and mold and become whatever I decide it will be.   Since I left my church two years ago, I don't even have to get up and make myself presentable for public view, don't have to be somewhere at a certain time, nor stay late for a social gathering or committee meeting.  Sundays used to be "half-days" since by the time we got home it was 1:00 or after.  Now I get a full, long, luxurious day to .... do nothing much at all.

So, I don't have much to show for my Sundays -- by design.  I give myself permission to be flat-out lazy.  In the fall, like now, I throw on my Seahawks hoodie with a pair of yoga pants, grab a cup of coffee, read the paper, scroll through Facebook, meditate.  Then I might make some pancakes - a Sunday treat - and chat with Hub over late breakfast.  By early afternoon we get snacks ready and watch the Seahawks game together.  Then I might read, crochet, decide when to watch our Sunday night programs -- choosing among our current Sunday night line-up of Outlander,  John Oliver, Parts Unknown, and returning next week, Good Behavior.  We don't watch them all, of course...we save some for mid-week.  But the point is, Sunday is a day of slovenly rest for me (but a workout for my DVR).   Sunday is chill.  Sunday is contentment.  Sunday is me being in the flow of "being" with no agenda.  I guard my Sundays with a pit bull's intensity.  My calendar rarely has anything scheduled and if so, it's with some reluctance and regret at times.

I remember the excitement of Friday -- like the wind in my hair on the back of a motorcycle.  But for now, give me a Sunday -- a mug of coffee, a warm blanket, and my remote control.

At least, that's the view from here...©


Friday, September 29, 2017

THROUGH THE BRIAR PATCH

I have an ENORMOUS resistance to writing in this blog about the national political scene, even though it takes up an inordinate amount of my time, emotional and psychological energy, and thought.  I scarcely know where to start and have nothing substantive to say that hasn't been said, and excellently so, by commentators coast to coast.  But I also can't seem to bring up the energy to write about anything else either.

So, politics:  There is so much I could write about the every day erosion of our norms, values, and laws; about the dismantling of government departments and oversight; about the attempts to silence our media and the intrusion into the private lives of citizens; the lawless responses to immigration and racial tensions; just the abject ignorance of the man who is president and the boorish cronies who surround him; the sometimes dangerously ignorant and often vile people who support him, as well as those who's selfish self-interest is such that they are using him for personal gain, those less privileged be damned.  I've run out of adjectives or "cute-sy" monikers to refer to him.  I don't want to stoop to his sophomoric level by calling him ridiculous and insulting names, but in my head I call him the most horrific things I can think of and they don't begin to touch the depth of disdain I have for this person.  I have never felt this way in my life.  Ever.

I've tried so hard to be positive, to let love guide me, to be compassionate and understanding, to focus on what needs to be done, to fight the good fight, to resist and never give up, to make my calls and do my marches and write my emails and postcards, to read and be well-informed, to try to see things from another's perspective, to post copiously to social media, hoping to educate and inspire others to take action.  To practice gratitude.

And it is exhausting.  This week I decided not to post anything political to my Facebook page.  Some miss my daily line up of commentary and re-posts, others are likely relieved.  I know in the past I've felt some FB friends were 'one note wonders' of only posting about their pet irritations or projects and I just wanted them to give it a rest.  I get that others may feel similarly about me.

I've done some thinking this morning about this experiment in stepping back just a little bit.  The first couple of days were excruciating.  I white-knuckled the urge to hit "share" on the best of the best of the commentators who speak and write the words I wish I could put together.   I composed posts in my head that never got posted.  I shut the lid on my laptop and left my phone sitting idle on the kitchen counter, just so I could walk away from my obsession with posting -- the unhealthy "need" I had to try to keep motivating others to action.

I recognize a pattern here...my desperation to do everything I can to right a wrong once I take hold of a cause.  In this case the "causes" are so plentiful and varied that I'm having trouble focusing and everything seems to be of equal urgency.  I realize I don't trust others to do their part (hello, Ego) and I get all judge-y about those who seem to be able to turn it off -- those who turn away and say they have no time or energy for it.  I'm envious, in a way.  I want to turn it off too.  I can't.  At least not for long.

So, I'm trying to at least find a lesson here.  I'm watching what really is going on for me and I've come up with a list, rudimentary and fledgling at this point -- 5 days into not discussing politics online.

 My feelings:
1.  I feel relieved about taking a break online; also concerned; also like I'm shirking my responsibility.
2.  I realize others really are also stepping up; I'm more mindful of friends' political posts; I'm not alone.
3.  I'm still judge-y about those who are silent; I hope they are taking action in their off-line lives.
4.  Rage; helplessness; fear have not abated.

I notice what really punches me in the gut:
1.  Hypocrisy
2.  Sexism/misogyny/racism/ageism...every time somebody denigrates another for who they are
3.  Narrow and one-sided definitions of patriotism
4.  Bullying; taunting; acting from blind privilege
5.  Cavalier heartlessness.

What I've gotten quiet enough to realize:
1.  White privilege and the insidiousness of racism -- so much to learn and understand.  For example, all my whining about the past year, including in this post, is NOTHING compared to generations of this shit aimed at people of color!  I have been wrapped in a nice soft blanket of white privilege that continues to this day in spite of my current dismay.  Do I have a right to my feelings about the current political situation?  Yes.  Do I have a right to compare my plight to that of those who have suffered the inequalities, outrages, struggles, pains, fears, and deaths others have endured due to having skin of a darker hue?  No.  No.  No.
2.  Yes, being female has provided me with experiences of discrimination.  And, I'm still white and straight and financially secure.  How can I use those privileges to best effect?

What I've lost in the past year, since the conventions and election:
1.  Naivety -- No, good does not automatically conquer in the face of evil.  Sometimes evil wins -- for awhile.  Sometimes the "good guys"  (or "good enough" guys) will not step up and act from a place of care, compassion, truth and justice; sometimes self-interest wins at great cost of human suffering.  The US is no freaking utopia of freedom for all.
2.  Optimism -- See above
3.  Energy  --  I'm psychologically and physically tired much of the time.
4.  Creativity -- Writing has become a chore, not a joy, most days; the effort to sit down and create something good and positive is covered by a patina of restless exhaustion and hopelessness, such that nothing I write feels authentic, certainly not anything "frivolous".
5.  Humor -- Oh, I still laugh...a lot!  Or I'd wither and die.  But often, my laughter is tempered with tears, with anger, with grief, and confusion.

In spite of all this sounding like I'm again in the throes of depression, I'm not.  Thankfully!  Cuz, Lordy, that would be a mess!  But I am in the throes of discernment -- taking time to REALLY think and feel and sort out what has happened to our country and to me, so I can find a way forward that is less overwhelming, more hopeful, less exhausting, more energizing.

This week has been a healthy experiment in breathing through compulsions; in feeling the fear and rage instead of dispelling it with written vitriol;  in quieting my mind and body just a little to start to feel (normal???) again.

I don't know where I'm headed; the path seems blocked by thorny briars right now.  But I'm driven to move forward, in fits and starts.  There just has to be a sunny meadow at the end of the trail.  Wow...that sounded downright optimistic!

At least, that's the view from here...©

PS  No sooner had I hit "publish" than I came across this by a blogger I admire:  https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/07/02/missing-america-never/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=John+Pavlovitz

Thursday, September 14, 2017

LESSON NOT YET LEARNED?

I've overextended myself.  My September calendar is chock full of commitments I've made to social engagements, political activities, classes, fundraisers, social justice events, volunteer gigs, grandkid sleepovers, family birthday celebrations, a rock concert, a garden going to seed...plus the Seahawks season has begun and Outlander Season 3 is on TV.

I learned this lesson years ago...not to schedule my life every waking moment.  But something went awry this month and I slipped back into "Sure, I can do that!" mode.  Almost every empty space on my "old school" paper Day Minder calendar has something written in.  I'm reminded of my post from last month where I talked about not being able to answer sufficiently when someone asked me what I do to "keep busy".  I need to send her a photo of my September calendar.

I love having a full, abundant life with lots of friend and family time (grandkids, childcare, family dinners, birthdays, gallery outings, coffees, breakfasts, lunches, craft days, Tribe gathering of we 12 who sit in circle together monthly, facilitated by Hub and me, so some prep work goes into it.)

I love being involved in social justice issues -- re-joining and attending a Physicians for Social Responsibility event (climate justice) and a Housing Hope dinner (homelessness/affordable housing).

I love political activities -- candidates' nights, hosting a house party for a city council candidate, and the usual Resistance work of contacting members of Congress over the latest policy outrage, attending "Together", A Womens' Empowerment Event with my SisteResistors.

I love my yoga classes, including the series of five one-on-one classes I'm taking with a Yoga Therapist who is helping me with my alignment and core strength to address some back pain from my mild case of scoliosis.

I am following doctor's orders to get moving more often on the treadmill or aerobics class.

I'm starting a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class (8 week series, plus full day retreat next month) to address my Demon Anxiety.   It's something I've wanted to do for years and finally it's offered here in my own community.

I'm still volunteering for my old foster care agency and wondering if I should contact the second grade teacher for my granddaughter and see if she can use a grandparent classroom volunteer.  I so loved that last year.

I love it all....and realize I'm barely keeping up.  The first 10 days of October look similarly booked, until we head to Chicago for a week.  After that, things clear out and I mean to keep it that way!

I've heard we keep repeating ourselves until the lesson we need to learn is truly learned.  Mine has to do with finding so many varied aspects of my life worth pursuing to the point of barely being present to any of it as I prepare for the next thing.  Here I am again, in an old familiar place.

The good news is, I've caught myself in time. I've at least learned to breathe through it all and find moments of calm and quiet in the midst of "too much to do".  I'm flipping the pages on my calendar seeing mid-October through the end of the year with lots of white space.  I'm in charge of keeping it that way.  I'll keep you posted.

At least that's the view from here...©


Saturday, August 26, 2017

THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE 2017 -- EPILOGUE


I guess you have to scroll down to see the 3-part blog posts I did on my Eclipse Adventure.  This post is written several days after returning home:

I've been home for five days now.  I've seen and heard of others' accounts of the eclipse and by now, as things do these days, we've all moved on to other topics of contemplation and conversation.  That whole eclipse thing is "so last week"... or nearly so.

But I'm still basking in the experience.

I've heard some say they were glad they didn't brave the crowds and were satisfied with the "partial" view they got from areas outside the path of totality.  I've heard some say they thought it was no big deal and "over-hyped".   Some observed it with thousands of other people, talking, cheering, and toasting together.  Some really did get caught up in massive traffic snarls.  Some were blown away by it.

As with anything, we all bring our own expectations and intentions to any event and then our interpretations vary accordingly.  There are as many nuances of subjective experience as there are people.  Why did it have such a profound impact on me in ways that it didn't on others?

I know that going to the path of totality days early allowed a time for shifting energy away from the hustle, bustle of every day life to a slower pace, time in nature, eager anticipation, a shared excitement with others who slowly trickled into the area.  I loved feeling a part of, and apart from, the gathering of folks at the lake -- dropping in for daily visits to see and chat with visitors from all over the area, astronomy buffs, photographers, tourists, hippie-types, families, and people whose  languages and accents were German, French, and Spanish -- then retreating to our private camp area. I know that I really did think of it as a celestial event that was beyond human interference and this was a welcome perspective at a time when my involvement with (and dismay over) the current political debacle has overwhelmed me with human concerns.

Had all the dire predictions come to pass, I might have had a totally different experience.  But they didn't.  It was nearly perfect in spite of my pre-trip fretting.  Even this relief likely contributed to my open heart, calm mind, and relaxed body on the day of the eclipse.  I also loved that my companions and I saw it as a time for silent observance and not a "woo-hoo!" party excuse.

Not to take anything away from another's experience, but I believe seeing the eclipse in totality had to be a profoundly different experience than seeing it in partial.   In my mind's eye, I still see the sun disappear, go dark, and reappear.  I can still feel the same sense of awe, of fear, of joy I felt in that meadow. I've returned to that image over and over this week to ground me, to remind me that all of our human cares are but nothing to the greater Universe.    And I also feel that vision and those emotions motivate me.

Humans, so far as we know, are the current pinnacle of evolution.  We have a responsibility to further the journey, not halt it.  How many before us have gazed at the heavens for inspiration in dark times?  I am them, finding my way by the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars.  In the moment of the eclipse I felt a death and a rebirth.  I felt an overwhelming sense of Love for this creation that pulls us all forward, ever into the light.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo: Sunrise from my dining room window



THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE 2017 -- PART 3

On Eclipse Morning we were up early and had pancakes on the griddle when I peeked out of the camper to see a friend's car parked just outside our "gate".  On one of my cell reception hikes I'd posted about where we were and our friend from home turned out to be very near by. He found us!  He had made the trip in the wee morning hours from his stopover in Hermiston, Oregon, 150 miles to the north.  He reported steady traffic, coffee-stop back-ups, and many cars pulled off the side of the road to sleep for the night.  That was the same road we'd traveled on Wednesday, which at that time was nearly deserted.  Things had changed since then!

We welcomed him with a cup of coffee and chatted away while gathering our chairs, cameras, cooler, and eclipse glasses to hike to our meadow to set up Eclipse Camp.  Still amazed that it was only we three there -- along with butterflies, woodpeckers, chipmunks, and a couple of shy deer we spied through the pines -- we settled in to wait.  We took photos of each other in our goofy glasses and wondered aloud what the experience might be.  We'd read and heard plenty about what to expect, but here we were...eager to see for ourselves.

Over the next 90 minutes we watched as the moon began its travels over the sun.  Hub took photos of the progress at various intervals.  We looked around the meadow to see how the light was changing.  I'd describe the nature of it as one might experience a room's lamp being adjusted with a dimmer switch...from full on bright to ever so gradually getting dimmer and darker.  At one point we all agreed that looking around the muted surroundings was rather like blocking bright sunlight with a pair of sunglasses.  There was a "shimmer" quality.  We also noted the temperature shift from mid-morning hot to slightly, then dramatically, cooler -- guessing about a 15-degree drop.  We went from shirtsleeves to sweatshirts in about a 15 minute span.

Everything grew gradually quiet.  Birdsong ended, ground squirrels stopped chirping, our industrious Pileated Woodpecker took a break, butterflies alighted, no car engines could be heard anywhere.  Man and nature were silent. (Except for the momentary annoyance of a small plane overhead, likely trying to get a closer look.)

Near the time of the totality the sky darkened dramatically from deep sky-blue to indigo.  The grasses waving in the breeze were no longer luminescent in the sunlight, but cast tall shafts of shadow.  The pines moved from green to black.  There was an eerie unreality about it, as if something had gone horribly wrong.

Watching the last sliver of sun disappear was one of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring sights I've ever seen.  On a planet dependent on that bright star for life itself, to see it disappear and all around the darkness descend upon the once bright morning was disorienting, a bit terrifying, and altogether amazing.  We ditched our glasses and looked straight on at the moon covering the sun.  Venus shone brightly above us.  It was starkly beautiful.  The corona itself still emitted enough sunlight that the landscape was reminiscent of a full moon night; not completely black, but nearly so.  I remember reaching out for Hub's arm on one side and our friend's on the other. Hub leaned over and kissed me.  Tears welled in my eyes, and I whispered, "Oh my god...Oh my god..." a prayer to whatever Universal Presence may have created the heavens.  I felt completely insignificant and blessed by this witnessing.

As we sat awestruck, that brief moment in time flew by.  In two minutes and seven seconds the very first infinitesimal sliver of sun reappeared.  It was if the lights had come back on in an instant.  We all simultaneously exclaimed, "It's back!" almost in disbelief.  Did we, like the ancients before us, think the sun had been forever blotted from the sky?  Of course not...intellectually.  But on an emotional level there was a confusion of wanting it to go on forever and also celebrating the joy of knowing normalcy was returning.

We watched the moon move away and the sun reappear over the next hour, but it felt like the light returned much more quickly than the darkness had descended.  In no time at all birds came alive again, butterflies fluttered around us, and we could hear cars, trucks, and campers traveling down the mountain road in the distance, eager no doubt to beat some of the traffic surely congealing the roadways leading out of the path of totality.  Our friend would be one of those travelers, so we soon hugged him goodbye, wishing him safe travels.

Hub and I had decided to stay over one more night, so the rest of the day stretched ahead of us at a leisurely pace.  We talked about our experience for awhile, grateful to have shared it together.   Words seemed inadequate though, and we wished for the silence we had experienced to go on a bit longer, so we sat in meditation together.  We heard the wind through the trees and appreciated the dappled shade protecting us from the suns's hot rays -- now returned fully to heat and sustain our earth, our home, our life.

I will never forget it.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photos:  Ours.  There are more professional ones out there, many altered and enhanced or maybe just taken by more experienced photographers, but these (among many others!) are ours.  They do not do it justice.

THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE 2017 -- PART 2

To see the eclipse, Hub had scoped out a place in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon, smack dab in the center of the totality swath: Magone Lake Campground in Malheur National Forest: twenty-one campsites, no reservations, first come/first served.  He figured if we got there four days early, we might snag a site in the mid-week lull.  If not, turns out you can camp anywhere in a National Forest as long as you are no more than 300 feet off the road and no closer than 30 feet to a body of water.  In a fit of overcompensation, I suggested that if four days was good, five was better....

So, we left on Wednesday August 16 and drove 8 hours to our destination.  Guess what?  NO TRAFFIC!  Hub chose a route to eastern Washington, all interstate, then south into Oregon, also  interstate, then a winding, scenic two-lane state highway that we had almost to ourselves.  I was shocked.  Where were all the back-ups?  We stopped at a little mom and pop place at a crossroads town and, as advised, "topped off" the nearly full tank in our Silverado.  The friendly proprietor was a wealth of  information, very happy to see the area make some money from eclipse tourists, and allowed that yes, her little two-pump joint would likely run out of gas with no way for the tanker trucks to get to her in time to refill her reservoir.  Still, she was good-natured about it.

We got to the campground mid-afternoon to discover it had been full since Monday, so my five days early suggestion seemed excessive since it was no better than four.  On to Plan B, a "boondocking" experience off-road somewhere in the forest.  Our truck camper is totally self-contained with a generator, a 55 gallon water tank, propane-fueled fridge, stove, and heater; we also have an air conditioner, microwave, oven, and even a little toilet/sink/shower bathroom. We can go about anywhere as long as the propane and water hold out and can run the generator occasionally.

We weren't sure where to head, so we drove down the paved road leading out of the campground, on the lookout for a likely spot.  I was sure we'd end up on some narrow, dusty logging road in the middle of nowhere, but in only about a mile we saw a turnoff that seemed perfect.  It was a big gravel pull-out in front of a gate blocking vehicle access to an old fire trail road.  The site was perfectly flat, partially shaded, and plenty big enough for our rig, plus our canopy, table, and a couple of camp chairs.  And...it was FREE!  We very soon realized that we had the very best off-road spot for miles around and it would have been snatched up within an hour of us finding it, judging by the slow-moving, envious gawking we witnessed as other campers drove slowly by as we settled in.  I was back to being glad we'd left a day earlier than the original plan.  I took full credit for our good fortune.

Once set up in our sweet little haven, we decided to explore.  Well, no.  That's not accurate.  First I started to worry.  It all seemed too good to be true.  For the first couple of days I was sure there must be a reason the spot was open -- as in "not legal to camp here."  With every car or truck that went by, I was sure they were either: A) Forest Rangers who would tell us to move or,  B) one of those road-raged travelers who would insist on sharing the site with us because, by god, they were tired and hungry and had to pee and we were taking up a space that another could easily squeeze into with us.  I envisioned gun-totin' Eclipse Pirates ready to storm our camper, demanding to be let onto "our" property -- or else!

One remedy I thought to address this concern was to create a "gated community" of one.  Reasoning that no one would drive over or around a felled tree, I cajoled Hub into helping me move a dead, bare-branched 30 foot tall pine tree, that was lying next to our truck, to a spot 20 feet in front of the truck, thus blocking entry into our space.  This is what worrywart introverts do to feel safe.  I credit this smooth move with keeping the pirates at bay.  As for the Rangers, they all smiled and waved as they drove past and the one who did stop to inspect a nearby dry streambed agreed that we had the best spot going.  No problem.


Now on to explorations.  The morning after our arrival we walked up the road to the lake.  The campground was full, but midweek all was quiet.  The whole area was actually a delight of silence.  Living in the city, I'm accustomed to ambient light and ever-present noise.  But in the forest there is darkness and silence.  The only sounds were winds moving through the trees, a rustle in the underbrush, birds chirping and calling; at night a blanket of stars reached across the nighttime sky.  At the lake we noted the splash of a muskrat, a few ducks quacking, the occasional car door slamming or someone slowly driving through hoping for a spot to land.  The people camped there were quietly going about their lazy afternoon business of reading, setting up solar panels, or opening their hoods to discourage ground squirrels from entering under cover of darkness to gnaw on electrical wiring.  (Learning this, we were eager to get back our truck and open the hood!)  We walked the quiet trail circumnavigating the 40 acre no-motor lake.  It was peaceful personified.

I basked in this respite with my book while Hub did a side hike that I assumed would mean some elevation gain that I didn't want to tackle.   I watched the few people near me and noted the unusual scene of folks NOT looking at their cell  phones.  They spoke quietly, took in their surroundings, lay in the sun, snapped photos.  As for me, we had lost cell service 24 hours previously and I was feeling the effects of withdrawal.   Then Hub returned with amazing news....

He found cell service!  The trail he was on was not long, nor very steep, and about halfway up his phone started dinging and voila!  I was glad for this opportunity, given that the political situation had been on full-boil when we left home.  I know I should sing the praises of being off the grid, but really, not so much.  Over the next few days, I found that the two-mile hike from our campsite to the hillside near the lake where we found cell service served as as both a carrot and a stick.  It was sort of just right, actually.  I couldn't check my phone compulsively, but I got to look forward to doing it once a day.

Back at camp Hub, the intrepid, decided there had to be a way to get to the lake by route of the back-country rather than up the asphalt road.  He took off to explore.  Just when I was about to finalize my plan for walking a mile up the road in the dark to get the campground hosts to call in the Search and Rescue team, he showed back up at the camper delighted in his success.  Yes!  We could get there from here!  From that point on, we no longer walked up the road to the lake, but went "the back way" through the forest.  We never saw another soul on these journeys, heard only the sound of bird call and the crunch of pine needles and cones under our feet; also the occasional expletive I uttered every time I scratched my calf on another log I had to step over.  After four days of this route, however, I was able to anticipate the thorniest of obstacles and with my hiking poles for balance, mostly made it through the thickets unmaimed.

The fire trail road ended up being the entry to other grand adventures in National Forest Service hiking.  Surrounded by pine forest, thick with birds, ground squirrels, and deer, but no sign of cougars or warnings of bears, even I (a city girl who thinks nature is rather malevolent) felt safe on the trails.  We discovered enormous Ponderosa pines, felled trees blocking our way that we had to navigate over or around, hidden meadows, and a crisscross patchwork of other trails intersecting here and there.  It seems like it would be super easy to get lost in the forest.  I hear that happens...everything really does look alike.  Our best find was a private meadow only about 100 or so yards from our camper.  Surrounded by sheltering pines, this open area of tall grasses afforded an unobstructed view of the sky, which given our whole reason for being in the forest at all, was essential.  We went there to be sure the sun was completely visible between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m, the hours of the eclipse viewing with totality to be at 10:24 a.m.  Sure enough, the sun shone brightly overhead and we had our viewing spot all picked out.

It's funny how quickly a routine is established, but then Hub and I are creatures of habit.  We got up each morning at a leisurely hour, drank coffee, made breakfast, did dishes, talked, meditated, walked to the meadow for Qigong, came back and packed a lunch, hiked our private back route to the lake, ascended the trial to our "cell spot" where I sent texts from Eclipse Central to friends and family.  Hub generally took a dip in the lake (too cold for me) and then we walked back to camp, prepped supper, ate, read, star-gazed and/or watched a movie in the camper. (Yes, we have a TV and DVR too.  Roughing it.)

For a woman who bemoans camping, hates hikes, and is generally an "indoors girl",  I was surprised to find I was having a more than pleasant time.  Perfect weather.  Lots of exercise that was just the right amount of challenging.  Delicious, healthy meals.  Long meandering conversations; important insights.  Cozy confines; comfy bed.  Complete privacy.  All shared with the man I love. What could eclipse all that?

I'd find out...©




THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE 2017 -- PART 1





Officials Across The US Are Issuing Emergency Warnings About Massive Eclipse Crowds

From emergency declarations to deploying the National Guard, states, counties, and towns along the path of the total solar eclipse are preparing for the worst.
Posted on 
It was Hub's idea to go; not mine.  In fact, until he mentioned it, I had no idea a total eclipse was even happening in our area on August 21st.  Since COSMOS went off the air, I've not followed astronomy closely.  But Hub thought it would be an amazing sight, and so close to home that we should be sure to be there.  So a few months ago he started researching the path of totality and where we might find a place to camp away from the hordes, how soon to go, and how long to stay.  I basically left the logistics up to him...as I am wont to do.

As the date grew closer, I became less and less enamored of the whole plan.  Do NOT put a person with anxiety disorder anywhere near Armageddon!  To heed the considerable caution the media started to broadcast would cause any rational person to have some concern.  An anxiety-prone person would want to get as far away from the path of totality as possible!  Here are some of the dire warnings that started to keep me up at night:

1.  Traffic woes: Fifty mile back-ups on the interstates and state highways as people make their way to their preferred viewing destination (a 70-mile wide swath of the United States, arcing from the Pacific coast of Oregon to the Atlantic coast of South Carolina).  Cranky drivers all hoping to get a hotel room or a campsite, possibly devolving into the worst road rage riot in history.

2. About those campsites and hotel rooms: FULL.  People who pay attention to such things had booked their accommodations years ago!  And enterprising capitalists would recall something about "supply and demand" from their Econ. classes and skyrocket rates into the cosmic stratosphere:  camp sites reputedly going for $300/night; Motel 6 charging more like $600; farmers harvesting their crops to clear the way to opening their fields to RV-ers, charging who knows what fee for a side-by-side parking space under open skies.  Love your neighbor.

3.  Gas shortages:   Many millions of people descending, on rural communities especially, would put a strain on resources.  Warnings were issued to be sure to top off your tank every time it started to dip much below full.  Motorists were sure to be stranded, running on empty.

4.  Food and water shortages:  Those highway back-ups would mean being stuck in your car for hours, not daring to leave the roadway (and in rural American, or in mountain passes, where would you go anyway?)  Pack plenty of extra water and food for the road.

5.  No ambulance:  Be in good health and take care not to break a leg or have a heart attack.  Those clogged roadways would also mean emergency vehicles would not be able to get to  you.

6.  Fire:  Speaking of emergencies, here in the great and very dry eastern regions of Washington and Oregon, August is wildfire season.  Forest fire danger would increase exponentially with the millions more heading to national forests and big open high desert grasslands.

7.  No cell service:  Some places in the path are off the grid on a normal day; others would be so overloaded that cell reception would be compromised and partitioned to use by emergency first responders only.  (Apparently this is a thing...who knew?)

8.  Also, not on the news, but I wondered...if I'm stuck in our truck for hours on end, where would I pee?  Just askin'.

9. Blindness:  Reports of Amazon having to refund mega dollars to folks who bought from a rip-off vendor on their site had people terrified of having obtained ineffective eclipse glasses the would not offer the requisite protection needed to avoid permanent eye damage.  Everyone was warned DO NOT TO LOOK AT THE SUN EXCEPT AT TOTALITY!  Duly noted, but still...pretty scary.  I checked and double-checked our vendor's reputation and ISO registration number.

10.  Just stay home:  Some heeded all warnings and rolled their eyes and shook their heads when I said I was going.  The event in Seattle would be 92% complete, which most said was fine for them.

It all had the makings of a Lord of the Flies experience and being averse to chaos, conflict, and confrontation, I started to wonder if it was worth it.

Hub, for his part, began to tire of my constant warnings and forwarding of dire prediction articles on the internet and finally told me to just stay home...but that he was going.  Non-Anxious people make these kinds of adventure decisions with an optimistic outlook that all will be well.  I don't get it.  But I did decide to go along.

Let the adventure begin....©

Headline Credit:  BuzzFeed online story 8/3/17




Sunday, August 6, 2017

WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP BUSY?

I'm on a mission.  I feel I need to figure out once and for all what the hell I do with my time...my life.

Hub and I had dinner the other night with folks we don't see too often, so of course I was asked, "What have you been up to?  What do you do to keep busy?"  This woman is recently retired and working to find a new rhythm and purpose to her life, so naturally she is wondering what people do with their days when they are not in the paid workforce.  For some reason I never wondered that.  I always felt like I had about ten times as much "to do" than there were hours in the day when I was working for money, so when I retired I felt liberated, not lost.  But it's a valid question nonetheless.  What do I do?

Actually, when she asked me this, my mind went almost blank. What DO I do?  I stammered out that I go to Yoga two-three times a week.  I write my two blogs.  I watch our little granddaughter two days a week.  That's all I came up with.  Weird.  Because every day whizzes by and I guess I don't have much to show for it.  Not much "accomplished".  No one thing that summarizes my everyday life.

I love my time with friends -- lunches, breakfasts, coffee dates, art museums, craft fairs, movies, and marches.

I love scrolling through Facebook -- the introvert's favorite social connection to those near and far.

I read online articles and commentaries and blogs in a variety of publications.  I have new glasses now so I can go back to reading actual books and magazines.

I watch TV with Hub at night.  A lot.  Done apologizing for this.  Love it.

I take a shower now and then.

I clean my own house, although I'm about to ditch that because it's tedious and one of my friends has a great housecleaner I plan to contact.

I host our family for dinner once/week, but Hub does the cooking, so not sure that counts.

I do laundry, but how hard is that?  It's not like I'm beating my jeans against a rock.

Hub does the grocery shopping, but I do all the gift shopping when gifts are needed, which isn't that often, but still.

I go to occasional classes and workshops.

My doctor tells me I have to do more aerobic exercise, so that's popping up to the top of the list, along with the regular yoga I mentioned.

I balance our accounts, pay all our bills, and keep a spreadsheet of our expenses.  That takes a few hours twice a month; could be less if I didn't have a math disability and number dyslexia.

I volunteer for a few hours at my old job monthly and in my granddaughter's classroom weekly.  I crochet baby blankets for a social service program that provides layette supplies for moms-in-need.  And of course there is my two days/week of Granny Nannying, chasing a two-year-old around.

I plant stuff in the garden and stand and watch for it to either die or grow.  I mostly insist it all thrive on benign neglect.

Sometimes I wander around the house visiting all my years-long-in-residence house plants, as if they are old friends, and being amazed at how healthy and happy they are; this now seems like a weird thing to do and to admit.

I am also currently trying to save the Republic from ruin, so all those phone calls and letters and rumination (mostly rumination) take time.

I don't know what the hell I do.  Certainly not anything that can be summarized in a simple declarative sentence.

And maybe that's the beauty of retirement that she will discover.  You don't have to "do" anything!  You just have to "be" in the world  -- alive, curious, open.  You can say "yes" or you can say "no".  Your life becomes one you can control and create, if you have the health and means to be the master of  your own fate in whatever way that manifests.   She will find there is plenty to "do" and even better, hopefully, will learn the art of how to "be".

What do I do to keep busy?  I stay alive.  I live.  I just am.  It all unfolds and I watch with wonder at how my life and choices shift with the changing tides of need and opportunity.  And I realize how content I can be with long days of doing absolutely nothing of consequence.

At least, that's the view from here....©

Saturday, July 22, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK -- PART 3 -- FAMILY & FRIENDS

It hardly seems fair to "blame" family and friends for my dearth of writing time and energy lately.  They certainly aren't making unrealistic demands on my time.  In fact, far from it.  I'm happy to spend time with the people I love!  And I do.

We do Granny Nanny (and Papa) Care for our two-year-old granddaughter 2 days a week.  Throughout the school year I volunteered a morning a week in our seven-year-old granddaughter's classroom.  About once a week or so we host a family dinner at our house for our sons and their partners and the Grands.  Last month we all went on a Family Vacation together for 3 days at the beach.  We just completed a 3 night/4 day "sleepover" event with the Grands while their mommy and daddy had some away time together without kids.  We'll do it again in September, a week after also providing before and after sport camp care (and chauffeuring) for our seven-year-old granddaughter's first soccer/baseball/football experience.  We celebrate birthdays and holidays together.  We absolutely love that our family lives nears us and are so grateful that they want to be part of our lives and invite us to be part of theirs.

I feel equally blessed by my friendships.  I have spontaneous coffee dates aplenty; a standing breakfast with one friend weekly and with another a regular lunch date.  I travel with friends, celebrate birthdays, holidays, and retirements.  I sometimes host a "Girls Movie Night" at my house and recently a "Garden Yarning" event for knitting and crocheting blankets for refugee centers.  Hub and I stay in touch with old friends who've moved a bit further north with an every other month Happy Hour date and see other friends as well when the occasion arises.  Monthly, for the past 18 months, a group of twelve close friends gathers for a meal and a sharing circle in each other's homes.  Hub and I facilitate the discussion.  We are planning our next group weekend retreat in the fall.  We are so happy and blessed to have this abundance of fabulous people in our lives!

I try to keep space on my calendar for "open time" too.  I used to schedule every day, almost every minute.  I don't do that anymore.  I've learned to say "no" even to things that sound like fun, because I need my quiet, recharging time.

I have always marveled at the likes of J.K. Rowling and others who say they wrote "in their spare time":  after the kids were in bed, sitting in their cars, waiting at the doctor's office.  I just have never been able to really write on demand.  I'm practicing a bit now, though, with the yoga blog.  Since I do get paid for that I sometimes "make" myself come up with a topic and a blog post and it usually works out fine.

Perhaps a bit more discipline for this blog is called for.  I'm using the excuse that time, energy, and attention span due to a busy life are the culprits.  It could be my tendency to procrastinate and wait for vast expanses of time to access the muse and get an idea down in print.

Just writing these three posts about why I don't write has been instructive for me.  I see where my time and energy go and it's not always to a good place. (Hello, wallowing in political despair!)  July is nearly over and August soon upon us.  Maybe I'll make an August Resolution to embrace the Nike tag line:  JUST DO IT!

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit:  pixabay.com


Saturday, July 15, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK - PART 2 - BODY & SOUL

Hub is a saint.  I'm sure there are times he wants to throttle me.  I am just the type of patient he didn't want to see in his exam room.  Lots of vague complaints, skeptical of medical-pharmaceutical complex, non-compliant about taking medications, a little lazy about sweets consumption and aerobic exercise, but totally reliant upon, and demanding of, the health care system to keep me healthy and vitally alive until 2057.  (I have decided to live to 106 with fully functioning mind and body until some night that year when I fall asleep and forget to wake up.  This will not happen during Seahawks season.)

I have not been writing so frequently lately and we've already covered my preoccupation with politics as one distraction.  Let's move on to hypochondria.  NO!  I am NOT a hypochondriac!  Every moment of ache and pain, queasy, "weird" sensation, headache, muscle ache, joint ache, heart palpitation, ear ringing, itchy patch, and blurred vision is REAL and is likely a precursor to something truly awful, and which will cause me tremendous suffering until that blessed moment of release into the endless purgatory of trying to pass a math test to get into Heaven.  (I know there must be a test.  I hope its spelling; pretty good at spelling.  But probably it's math.)

The thing is, there is nothing much wrong with me.  Physically I'm in good shape.  No chronic anythings.  Slightly elevated blood pressure; slightly high cholesterol.  I take low doses of drugs for those.  That's it.  But my overactive imagination that conjures up a litany of "what ifs" has been diagnosed and is pretty chronic -- "generalized anxiety disorder"with the subset "health anxiety" being the most predominant since some unexplained fainting episodes a few years ago, the memories of which still haunt me.

So, I do spend a lot of time fussing about this or that "symptom" and imagining the worst and bugging Hub to explain what it could be and what I should do. He used to take all this rather seriously and would conscienciously try to help.  Now he tells me to call my primary care provider.  He does triage me though, so my poor doc isn't inundated with Nervous-Nelly calls.  Hub listens to me while he's reading the paper and I'm sure he's concerned enough to rule out everything but those symptoms which might be truly alarming, but he also knows that most of what I complain about is normal body stuff that everyone has, they just don't carry on about it.  In fact I know people with real, potentially life-threatening conditions who seem to go about their lives with nary a care for the Grim Reaper.  I am amazed.  My anxiety keeps me stuck on the sofa, scrolling through Mayo Clinic and WebMD sites when I'm at my most distraught.  I am definitely NOT booking a flight to Madrid.  Lately I've been focusing on some out-of-the-blue joint and muscle pain and morning headaches.  Also memory loss.  Is constantly forgetting names (or getting them mixed up) normal?  How about sort of forgetting where I'm headed when I get to the bottom of the hill on my street and take the automatic right when I should have turned left?

And... what happens when we die anyway?  I have a vague notion of my spirit returning to the Source, or whatever, and I know a couple of people who are Mediums who report that they have contact with those who have taken a step into the Parallel Universe on 'the other side'.  (I should ask for the answers to the math test.)  I dunno.  But what I do know is that in spite of all my neuroses, I love my life.  I DO NOT WANT TO DIE!  I have written about dealing with depression and yes, I've had moments of Demon Depression trying to talk me into ending myself, but I always win that argument because I've learned that Demon is a big fat liar and I'm also so curious about the future.  I want to see what happens next, even when I'm at my very emotionally distraught worst.  What new tech innovations will there be?  Will there be Game of Thrones spin-offs?  Super Bowl repeats?  Impeachments?!?  I want to see my sons as old men, my grandchildren grow up and have children.  I want to get another cat someday and outlive it.  (I recently read an article by a woman who measures her life in terms of how many dogs she will be able to have before she dies.  She now figures her age at "half a dog"; that her dog's lifespan is likely double hers.  Now that's putting a point on it, huh?)

At my age, in spite of our absolute vow that it not be so when we were all younger, many conversations with friends revolve around physical ailments, terrible diagnoses, and fears of mental and physical decline.  It's impossible to deny, avoid, and put off.  These things are real and for my age cohort are often the answer to "what's new?" because dealing with all of it can be all-consuming. It seems everyone has had a joint replacement, a case of shingles, or an errant organ.  Everyone's waiting for test results.  A friend and I went visiting the other day to the homes of two other friends who we don't see frequently.  They are lovely, smart, funny, creative women.  We had a blast catching up.  Yet, in the course of that day they both independently brought up the idea of suicide as a totally valid and hoped for response to dementia or debilitating illness.  This is what we talk about over coffee and cake these days.  It's not depressing really, just weird to find myself at this stage where these conversations are not ironic, but deadly serious.

So, I think about my eventual decline and demise too.   I think about it too much.  I get nervous, frightened, terrified.  I spend a lot of time trying to stay strong, balanced, and flexible with yoga classes, strength training, treadmill walking.  I try to challenge my brain to grow new neurons by reading and doing "brain games".   I have enormous gratitude for the fact that  (I'm knocking on every piece of wood I can find right now) I'm, so far, healthy and able.  My anxieties are controlled by yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices (also time-consuming), and by shifting my thinking from negative to positive, when I remember to do it.  So, instead of assuming the worst, I'm working on assuming the best.  I will live with fully functioning faculties to the age of 106, then perhaps die the night after Hub and I cheer on the Seahawks as they bring home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XCI.  Boom!

At least, that's the view from here...©

PHOTO CREDIT:  Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_aihumnoi'>aihumnoi / 123RF Stock Photo</a>