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.  And of course there is my two days/week of Granny Nannying chasing a two-year-old.

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>


Thursday, July 13, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK -- PART 1 -- POLITICS

I'm trying to figure out why I am avoiding writing.  Every once in a while I'll get an idea, then it flits away in a fit of procrastination.  I turn on the TV instead.  Or pick up my crochet project.  Or scroll through Facebook for the tenth time as I watch my newsfeed replenish itself.  Or flip my Kindle open.

I think the thing is, I might be just a tad bit overwhelmed and don't know where to start.  There are three major issues in my life that take up most of my brain, body, and heart energy these days.  None are tidily summed up in a pithy blog post, which makes me feel like a crappy writer because daily I read the essays of others who can so articulately and entertainingly state the rambling half-formed thoughts in my own head.

So, here goes.   Maybe just starting will loosen the writing logjam.

Let's start with politics:  I've avoided writing about the clusterf*%k (See?  You can't tell what I really said in my mind, can you?) that is the American political system and our disabled government these days.  It is impossible to recount the horrors, because they have all run together.  Most of us don't even remember the daily outrages.  When I hear about something that happened last winter, last month, or even last week, I go, "Oh yeah...I forgot about that one!"   Or it seems so naive to believe that was anything to huff about given what has happened since.

We have a shit show of a president. (I'm actually enjoying reclaiming my swearing habit from my youth, but I only use it to expound on politics because it just seems so descriptive and cathartic and appropriate to having absolutely no respect for them, as they have demonstrated they have none for us -- the American public.)   He has appointed an unqualified, self-serving Cabinet of Wall Streeters and religious conservatives, and "alt-right" racists to dismantle the institutions of government.  He attacks our free media daily, calling their reporting "fake news" and characterizes our free press as the "enemy of the people".  He attends meetings with historical allies and disses them.  He withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords.  He cuddles up to authoritarian leaders as kindred spirits.  He's a compulsive liar and an unrepentant sexist.   Then there's the whole Russia connection and his collusion with them to influence the 2016 election -- now outed by his own eldest son who admitted meeting with a Russian attorney who offered to provide dirt on Hillary last June.  They are trying to squirm out of it, but there are (ironically!) emails that confirm the whole thing.

And still the Republicans are circling the partisan wagons and showing no inclination to admit their president has obstructed justice, colluded with an enemy in a cyber attack on our government and political system, daily violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution and is in general just a creep.  (Today he's in France, where he met the First Lady of France with the comment, "You're in great physical shape!  Beautiful!")  The R's are too busy ramming through a repeal and replace health care bill (drafted in secret) that will decimate Medicaid, throw 22 million people off health insurance, severely weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions and which lines the pockets of the most wealthy in the US with tax cuts.  Business as usual; treason ignored.

This craziness all started last summer around convention time, then got horrifyingly real on November 8th, then has just gone batshit crazy since January 20th.  It feels like a lifetime of awful.  This, for me,  has never been just about a difference of political party or policy.  It's about the character of the man, of those who voted for him, and of what this country has become in the wake of an unprecedented, unmitigated political disaster.  I don't recognize my country anymore, and it scares me.

On the upside -- part of the populace at least has "woke", to use the term of the day.  (Being "woke" means that one sees with complete awareness that the status quo must be overhauled, and is part of a cultural push to challenge norms and systemic injustices).   This awareness has ushered in an activism the likes of which has not been seen in decades.  New thought leaders are rising up, people are filling Congressional offices and Town Halls, voices are being heard.  It still feels anemic to me at times, but we in the "resistance" are assured that our voices are making a difference.  God, I hope so.

I've got my representatives on speed dial and am incredibly grateful to live in the "blue bubble" of a Democratic stronghold with Senators and Congresspeople who actually represent my values and views.  I have reached out to Republicans who have shown even modest moves in the right direction, encouraging them.  I call, send emails, write letters to the editor.  I post on Facebook to the dismay of some and the appreciation of others.  (Whenever I say I'll step back, I'm encouraged by many to keep on.  I'm happy to provide that voice, encouragement, and information to those who want it.  To those who don't, scroll on by.)  I go to meetings, rallies, marches, and local candidates forums.  I post yard signs.  I wear message T-shirts.  I contribute a bunch of money.  I watch probably way too much daily political commentary on TV.  I also read opinions and editorials in newspapers on social media, and in blogs.  I watch hearings and Congressional committee meetings on CSPAN.

I envy those who can turn it all off.  I really do.  But I am absolutely convinced that an informed electorate is even more necessary to save our Republic now than in recent memory.  The changes happening to us are startling, the normalization of that which is NOT NORMAL is stunning.  I hope all the various investigations lead to justice.  (House and Senate Investigations, Special Prosecutor Independent Investigation, Lawsuit in Federal Courts).  My greatest fear is that they'll get away with it -- the destruction of all that is good and right.

I've always been patriotic, but even more so now.  It's time for Liberals to reclaim the flag; to stop being called weak because we are compassionate; to stop apologizing for being rational and intelligent.  I am reading a book about Washington's Farewell Letter.  His warnings to future generations about threats to the infant Republic in his time is exactly what is happening now.  Some say it is overstating and dramatizing the situation to say our Republic is at risk.  If it was just an aberrant president, I might agree....but it's the Republicans who are defending and embracing him and it's the citizens who voted for him, and who continue to cheer him on or who sit passively by ignoring all the noise and believing the lie that outstanding investigative reporting is "fake news", that make the threat all too real.

This is already a long post and I've only scratched the surface of what is happening and my feelings about it.  See?  Overwhelm.  Bottom Line:  RESIST!

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

REMEMBRANCE

My mom died nine years ago this morning.

It was a day just like this bright and sunny July 10th.  I had been sitting vigil at the hospital for 12 hours each day since July 5 when she had a massive stroke; I had spent the night that first night, not thinking she would live until morning.  She did, although she never regained consciousness in the next 5 days.

Still, I was there, talking to her, stroking her arms, brushing her hair, holding her hand, laying my head on the pillow next to hers.  I brought in family photos for the windowsill and placed the flowers on her bedside table.  Hub was with me most of the time.  Our oldest son came home from his college town to see her; our younger son, home on summer break, held down the fort at the house, stopping in periodically at the hospital.  I called the rest of the far-flung family and held the phone to her ear as they talked to her; I didn't hear their words but I assume they expressed their love and appreciation for her.  Was she aware of any of that?  I don't know...

On the morning she died, I got off the elevator with my Starbucks mocha and had a big smile on my face as I prepared to greet the nurse coming toward me. I had gotten to know the nursing staff, the custodial staff, the Hospice workers.  All were gentle, caring, respectful, friendly, compassionate people.  This morning, though, the nurse came came to me with a look that could only mean one thing...she enveloped me in her arms and said, "She passed about a half hour ago."  I was not shocked, but I burst into tears.  I was sad and relieved.  Her 5 years of a subtle, then precipitous decline into dementia and physical weakness were over.  She did not want to "linger" and she really didn't.  Her stroke came on suddenly and then she was gone.

The Hospice harpist happened to be on the floor...she had learned of my mom's death just before I arrived.  She waited there for me and we entered mom's room together.  She played while I sat at my mom's bedside, weeping.  Truly she was an Angel in that moment.  I will never forget the sense of awe and peace her music elicited as I spent the final moments I'd ever have in my mother's presence.

I'm not sure why I needed to recount all that here, for others to see and read.  But as with any other post in this blog, my hope is that by sharing my life, I'm touching that of another.  There is reassurance in knowing that the human experience is shared.  We are not alone.

I miss my mom every single day.  Sometimes I feel her close by...like right next to me!  But other times, like today, she is only a memory.  I am honoring her in my heart today, with recollections of her love, her hugs, the firm grip of her hand on mine that last time I sat with her before her stroke, her smile, her laugh, her holding my babies, her amazing talents in undertaking almost any job, from hammers to hair cuts, from baking to painting (walls and landscape canvases!), her pride for her family, her stoic determination, her introverted need for quiet, for her tidy and organized home and the flowers in her garden.

After the arrangements were made for her cremation, there was little else to do until planning for her memorial service began.  We'd decided to hold it a month later, in Illinois, her home before she'd moved to Washington in 1996 to live near me.  So we packed a couple of bags and left town.  I needed a change of scenery, to breathe, to grieve, to heal.  We have a little place in North Idaho.  So we went.  And that is where I write from today.  It's all flooding back, even the trip to Idaho.

Here's what I know:  Unless there is crazy pathology or abuse in family relationships, you will find that in spite of any differences, disagreements, or arguments; in spite of petty squabbles, misunderstandings, or simply 'putting up with' the weirdnesses of various family members....you will miss them when they are gone.  Make peace with those you love every day, forgive the annoyances,  and celebrate the good in each other.  It's lonely to be the last one standing in your original family.  I am that.  And some days, I just want them all back, with all the flaws and flailings we all brought to the mix.  Me included.

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

DEPRESSION LITE

So, a year.  It's been 14 months since I went back into therapy after a couple decades' hiatus from the shrink's couch.  But after the horrific winter of 2016 marked by an extended visit from the Twin Demons (depression and anxiety), I needed to call in the pro.  So I did, and it worked, and I've NOT BEEN DEPRESSED for a year!  Until last week.

But it's not so bad.  A few tears; a little self-berating; a bit of reclusiveness and lethargy, but basically continuing on with the ADLs (activities of daily living).  I eat, dress, toilet, pay bills, babysit my grandkids, see friends.  I'm just operating at a lower level of energy and hope.  Hope is the thing Depression robs.  But Depression is a big fat liar, so there's that.

I'm trying to trace where it wormed its way back into my psyche.  I used to say "it comes out of nowhere!" But my therapist taught me to be on the look-out.  There is usually a trigger.  She also said I try to talk myself out of it until it's too late for an early intervention and not to do that.  This time, well, I noticed it pronto, and took action (acceptance, compassion) -- but I still hadn't seen it coming.

Maybe it was the umpteenth sore throat/cold of the fall/winter/spring.  I'm sick of feeling sick.  Maybe it was a couple weeks of a too-full calendar and no down time.  So weary!  And not sleeping so great.

Or maybe the wettest fall/winter/spring on record with the accompanying oppressive cloud cover that never seems to lift has made me a wee bit gloomy.  I put away my winter all-spectrum desk lamp when we had a warm, sunny tease last month.  I should get it out again.  June-uary is upon us.

Maybe it was (is) the constant calls to action of being in the Resistance; trying to save our democracy from a horrific President/Administration and the Republican majority in Congress who are allowing him to dismantle the norms and traditions of our Republic.  Plus they are doing their own damage.  Every single day there is a new outrage and I feel more and more helpless and hopeless, in spite of having my members of congress on speed dial.  I go to sleep thinking politics and wake up thinking politics.  The current president's name is in my head far, far too often and I cringe each time I "hear" it aloud or in my thoughts.

My Shiny Sisters were aghast today when I said I'd love to just move to another country for awhile and get some respite.  I want to live where gun violence is not a fact of life, where the government works for people, where there are leaders we can be proud of, where people don't shout each other down all the time and maybe you don't take your life in your hands driving on freeways.  We are tantalizingly close to Canada.

They were aghast because they both expressed a similar desire months ago and I got pissed.  No abandoning the fight!  No running from 'Merica, no matter what!  Now?  I'm tired.  Really, really tired of the lies, hypocrisy, undoing of all that is good.  But I'll stay, of course.   I have grandchildren here.  Not going anywhere without them.

I'm confident that whatever the reason I'm feeling down, it will pass.  I might have to slog through this as best I can, but I will make it to the other side and get my mojo back.  I'm just disappointed the "cure" was not permanent.  Still -- I celebrate a year of feeling emotionally stable (even in the face of that truly depressing election result!) and that I recognized this nemesis right away and made moves to move it along.

Do not fear -- my new motto will prevail:  Nevertheless, She Persisted.

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

7/1/17 -- It was really only a few days and I've been back on track since I wrote this post.  YAY!  Thanks to Hub for always listening, to my friends for holding me in love and laughter, ME for persevering and knowing which tools to grab when I need to "jailbreak" out of depression.  


Sunday, May 14, 2017

NO SURPRISES

It's Mothers Day, so appropriately I'm thinking of my mom, grandmother, aunts...those who contributed to making me both physically and psychologically.  I thank them for so much and used to hold them responsible for some too.  Actually, I've come to believe that holding onto "it's my mom's fault" past the age of about 30, when you really should know better, is just mean.  Take some responsibility for you own life!  See a shrink!  I can be very judge-y about his because I hung on to my resentments and blame for FAR too long and now I'd like a do-over.  I'm just glad I woke up in time to have a decade or so with my mom when we were able to really share our thoughts and feelings and enjoy each other...I wish it had happened sooner, because toward the end she had dementia and we sort of reversed roles and that was weird, but healing for me to be able to care for her.  And none of that is what this post is about....but Happy Mothers Day.

Speaking of heritage, in March I decided to overcome my fear that this fad of shipping your saliva to windowless laboratories to discover your heritage is sending it off to nothing more than DNA repositories for duplicating us in some parallel universe, having 3D printed a batch of skeletons and needing a body and face to plaster on the outside.  (I may watch too much TV -- Westworld, anyone?)

There are a bunch of options: Ancestry, 23 & Me, and Family Tree DNA were listed in an article I read as being most legit.  There are others that apparently are less so.  Not sure why.  I read about those three and got confused and impulsively just went with Ancestry.  Today I got my results!

I've never been pregnant so I don't know how it feels to pee on a stick and see if it's "yes" or "no", but I felt a little thrill over opening my results email, which might be similar.  I had spit in the tube and waited all these weeks for my results.  I was so hoping for a big reveal!  Something completely out of left field! Something no one would ever suspect, something I could claim with familial pride as I learned all about my new and exotic heritage.

Nope.  Nothing I didn't already know.  Here's the breakdown:  41% Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales); 20% Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway, Denmark); 19% Irish (Ireland, Scotland, Wales); 14% Western European (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein).  Then they gave the following "Low Confidence", so just guessing:  3% Italy/Greece; 1% Iberian Peninsula; <1% European Jewish; <1% Finland/Russia.

First of all, this isn't very specific.  I don't know why I expected this, but I thought they would really narrow down the country and then region of that country.  Now I'm going to have to take the entire Great Britain/Ireland tour and not just the Scottish Highlands Tour (where I will fall through a stone circle and meet my Jamie....sorry, Outlander obsession digression).

On the other hand, I am impressed with how my mother's very amateur and pre-internet sleuthing into family history was so on the mark.  I know my maternal grandmother and her sisters still spoke Norwegian on occasion when I was a kid.  They laughed uproariously while doing so, so I can only imagine the bawdy Lutheran humor they were sharing.  My maternal grandfather's family, according to Mom's notes, came over from England in the 1600's but perhaps originated in Wales and there was a hint of French ancestry in his line too.  Mom's maiden name has also been traced to Lowland Scotland.

When you get right down to it, does it really matter?  I'm obviously northern European/Scandinavian, with not a speck of African, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian DNA to be found.  Bummer.  (I'm lookin' at you 3% Italian/Greek, to explain my more flamboyant tendencies -- also about 3% of the time.)

So, now I'm tempted at another go at it with 23 & Me.  They also do medical predispositions.  I'm not sure I really want to know what I may have in store for me, but Hub, ever practical, said if I know then I can take action to avoid.  We'll see.  Mostly I just think maybe my sample was contaminated by the piece of dark chocolate I'd eaten a while before I spit.  The result was a little murky.  Perhaps a more pristine sample will reveal a previously unknown genetic heritage -- or just that I'd better start checking my blood sugar.  Probably.

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

GARDENING THE OPRAH WAY


I'm always late putting my garden in cuz we go to Kauai in April and by the time we get back and get everything ready to plant, it's mid-May.  But it seems to work out.  Our harvest is bountiful enough.  We are generally late with weed pulling too -- leaving us a huge late spring task to tackle.

We inherited a large raspberry patch with this property which we bought in 1982.  I have no idea how old the raspberry canes are, but I gotta think many decades and it amazes me they still are healthy and producing.  This year they are especially happy since we cut down some big trees last summer that had begun to keep that area in shade most of the day.  They, and our new lawn, are loving the sunshine!

And so are the weeds.  I should have taken a "before" photo to really do this post justice, but here's the "after".  Try to visual weeds all along both sides of the two 32-foot long rows and down the middle, in spite of that mesh stuff we laid down that's suppose to discourage such growth.  I guess it did "discourage" in some areas, but certainly didn't stop it.  On Sunday Hub and I spent several hours on hands, knees, and butt scooting along the rows digging up and pulling out errant weeds and large patches of stubborn crabgrass.

I thought of Oprah.  I had just seen her on TV sitting in her pristine California garden waxing poetic about the spiritual bliss of gardening.  Right.  I also read an article where she mentioned, "with the help of a natural resource management group, we planted an acre...."  Oh.  The Royal "We".  I think the hourly employees of that management group did the tilling, planting, weeding, maintaining.  If you Google Oprah's Garden photos, they always show her looking all earthy, holding large baskets of recently harvested and picture-perfect vegetables ready to take inside for the cook to deal with.

Don't get me wrong, I love Oprah; especially when she has no make up on and her hair is sorta crazy. But there is no way in hell she is doing the muscle cramping, backbreaking work of gardening.  She's doing the "payoff" fun part!  I love harvesting too!  It's amazing to think these things actually grow from a little seed in the dirt.  But on Sunday, I was ready to plow those damn raspberry rows under and turn the whole thing into lawn that Hub can mow.  I know that is blasphemy.  I don't really mean it (much).

Here's the thing....I really relate to Oprah's love of the idea of gardening.  I, and she, just don't want to really do all the work-y parts.  I'm going to Google "natural resource management groups" and see if I can get expert advice on harvesting without actually having to dig, weed, plant, compost, tend, stake, fence, and guard from slugs, deer, and bunnies.  I'll just head out there in August with my groovy hand-woven garden basket and pile it high with colorful veggies for Hub to cook.  That will be a Super Spiritual practice.

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

REEL LIFE AND REAL LIFE

On our Kauai vacation, I posted photos to my Facebook page almost every day.  Some people love to see others' vacation pictures (I DO!) and others do not (so "hide" me then), but I post mostly to feel not so far away from my friends and family.  I love seeing what they are up to and I assume they might feel the same about me.  I think Facebook is an interactive medium, so much so that if I'm FB friends with people who never "like", comment, or post, I unfriend them.  Why have people hanging around watching my life unfold without any commitment on their part to reciprocate or participate?

Anyway....on one post of the vacation a friend of mine said Hub and I looked like "poster kids for living the good life in retirement".  And I replied, "Remember, FB is 99% highlight reel!"  And it is. Some folks post about life's challenges, but not very often.  Most posts have a positive intention; a happy face or an educational and/or inspirational message.  Photos are usually framed to best effect and selfies can be taken over and over to get the best pose.

So, in the interest of revealing the "real" behind the "reel" let me list the ways in which the vacation was NOT the tropical perfection it might have appeared to be:

1.  Packing.  I do not like packing and I tend to pack really light.  Too light this time.  I got really sick of my clothes.  I keep notes year to year and my notes said to bring less this year, so I did. But I forgot to factor that last year we were there for 11 days and this year we stayed 16 days.  It made a difference.

2.  Flying to get to/from Hawaii.  Hate it.  Hate every single thing about it, starting with the drive to the airport.

3.  Clouds, wind, rain.  OK, it was warm even when it was cool.  You know, that stuff is relative.  I haven't had that warm breeze on bare skin feeling since last July.  But a couple days the clouds didn't lift and mist and showers and wind made for less than ideal beach weather.  In my mind I always picture blue sky, sunshine, and long, cooling dips in the pool. (Kauai is the "Garden Isle" for a reason -- it rains.)

4.  Somewhat cramped quarters.  Our timeshare is a "hotel conversion" meaning the units used to be hotel rooms.  They remodeled to include small kitchenettes with a sink, microwave, and small 'fridge, but basically it's a one-room studio apartment,  which feels smaller the more our stuff gets strewn about.  Also we have to make umpteen trips to the store for supplies due to sparse storage space.  BUT, we have an oceanfront view that is to die for.  Trade-offs.

5.  Costco trips.  I do not like grocery shopping.  Hub does most of it at home, but in Kauai it seems we combine the Costco runs with other outings so I am generally there every 2-3 days to buy more fresh fish, salads, yogurt, etc.  Our staples.  (See dearth of storage space above.)

6.  Lugging.  We could pay for valet parking and lugging assistance, but we, like 99% of guests, don't do that.  We park in the big lot and schlep our stuff from our unit to the lot (or vice verse) which my handy Fitbit tells me is 1/3 mile one-way.  This means anything we take on outings, we lug.  We lug groceries.  We lug snorkel gear.  We drag suitcases.  I tell myself "more steps!" on the daily count, but sometimes, well, I'd just like it all to be a bit more convenient, cuz it sucks to forget something in the room and have to go back.

7.  Noisy neighbors.  Generally the people here are pretty quiet.  But we had a trio of women next door to us part of the time who seemed to be on a bender of general LOUD hilarity, starting around 7 a.m.   One of them leaned over her railing one evening, drink in hand, to inform me (as I sat quietly reading on our balcony) that they left their husbands home and were here for a good time.  OK, I get that.  But not all of us have a good time at such high decibels!  With everyone having their doors open to the ocean and breeze, voices and raucous laughter carry. The walls are well insulated for sound, but we could still hear them through our adjoining wall, which is rarely the case,  so we knew they were louder than the general population.  Annoying.  The older I get the quieter I like it.

8.  People.  My introvert needs alone time.  But I didn't come to Hawaii to sit in my room.  So I have to mingle with people, observing if not actually interacting.  I already wrote about the day I saw a wife berating her husband publicly.  I also had to witness a mom repeatedly smacking her 4 year old little boy in the chest with a half-empty plastic water bottle admonishing him to "stop crying" -- the logic of which has never made sense to me, not to mention the heartbreak I felt at this scene of "discipline", which in my mind is abuse.  This kind of thing sticks with me, being the highly sensitive person I am.  (I saw lots of loving families and lovely people too.  Aloha-Spirit prevailed, mostly.)

9.  Nighttime adjustments.  Not my bed.  Not my bedroom.  I couldn't ever get totally comfortable in the bed and fought with the pillow.  I was either too hot (with door open to night air) or too cold (with AC blowing on me).  It was a bit noisy with door open (crashing waves, cars in the distance, people's voices as they walked by, roosters crowing all night long) or with door closed (AC fan starting and stopping).  The built-in nightlight in the bathroom was too bright, so I had to close the bathroom door.  The peepholes in the door seemed to create a laser light effect shining the hall light directly into my eyes as I lay in bed.  The WiFi router flashed a green light all night on the wall.  What's up with all that light???  We all have our idiosyncrasies (me = light and noise) which get amplified away from home.

10.  Homesick.  This time I actually did better than usual.  But there were a few days (the two when I was not feeling well and spent all morning in bed, especially) when I just wanted to be home in my own space.  I thought of my friends and family every day and was so thankful for texts and FB to keep me connected.  I missed my yoga studio, my coffee with friends, our family dinners, hugging my grandgirls.

So, yeah.  I realize how absolutely fortunate I am to be able to travel and to take this annual trip to Hawaii.  I appreciate it with all my heart.  But it's not perfect.  Nothing is.  Beware the highlight reel; there is real behind the camera.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

REVIEWING VACATION INTENTIONS

Well, the annual Kaua'i vacation for 2017 is winding down.  One of my intentions was to find sun and warmth.  I did.  And grateful every single day for it.  I read yesterday that the Puget Sound area set a new record for rain over the past 6 months,  just over 44 inches, which is more than our average annually.  So, it's not all been in my head; we've had a lot of rain at home.  During our stay here a few days were overcast; one cool and rainy all day.  It's not called the "Garden Isle" for nothing.  Sometimes it rains...and gives us the lush green garden of floral delights because of it.

Another intention was to find balance and peace about the political situation.  I made progress.  I am feeling more able to take action and then let myself rest.  I am still appalled; still angry; still sad.  But reality is reality.

I'm following Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin on Facebook.  She does an almost daily FB Live video, deconstructing the news of the day; explaining behind-the-scenes machinations; keeping her followers focused and motivated.  Yesterday she talked about "kicking the shit out of Option B", based on a quote from Sheryl Sandberg's book, "Option B --  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, Finding Joy", written after her husband died.   Option A (Hillary being president) is not available to us, so we need to kick the shit out of Option B -- resist this Administration's policies that are destructive and hold them accountable, and vision what we want for the future.

I'm also finding great solace in watching Rachel Maddow every night, because she's brilliant and fair and funny.  But I find it's too much to watch all the talking heads and read every news/opinion piece and watch every satire comedy show...saturation point far exceeded.  Balance and discernment.  Just say no.

I've stepped up my meditation practice too, since this trip coincided with another of the Oprah/Deepak 21 Day Meditation series.  This one is on "hope" and I have to believe this was very intentional.  They talk about finding hope in challenging times.  I guess that could be any time for any number of people, but it's definitely now for many of us too.

I wanted to feel healthy and strong and I've had mixed results there.  I've eaten healthy thanks to Hub, who has cheerfully grilled fresh fish and veggies for us every night. Hawaii's bounty of papaya, mango, and apple bananas with yogurt has nourished us each morning and complementary coffee and tea all day has kept us hydrated.  We did do a slight ice cream binge.  My vices are so few these days, I've decided I don't need to scold myself for that.

I have slacked off on my yoga practice, but we have done qigong together (wrote about that on my yoga blog, if you want to check it out:   http://circlingthemat.blogspot.com/2017/04/pushing-back-waves.html  Hub has gone for a 3.5 mile walk every morning.  I went once.  I still totally suck at discipling myself to do aerobic exercise, except in my Friday Fitness class, which is really fun.  So back to that next week!

I wanted to write and yes, the muse has been with me.  It is such a luxury to set aside all the to-do lists, commitments, appointments, schedules and just move through the day at a lazy pace, with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  When I've felt moved to write, I did.  When I wanted to sit quietly, I did.  When I wanted to read, I did.  All of this feeds my Writing Genie and she's been with me, prompting and smiling.

So, homeward bound we are and I'm ready to be in my familiar places, seeing my friends, hugging my family, planting my garden.  Hanging on to the peace and tranquility of vacation time is always the challenge.  But I have to believe a time out of the routine works some magic even when we find ourselves caught up again in the abundance of "real life".

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

TAKE ME TO CHURCH

Thinking about Jesus today.  I heard this song yesterday on the radio (Take Me to Church) and I love it so much.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYSVMgRr6pw

Then, early this morning I was surprised by....church!

Hub and I woke up to a rainy Easter morning today on Kauai.  I threw on a sundress and headed to the Terrace downstairs where breakfast is served to grab our mugs of free Kauai Coffee and pick up the newspaper  -- my morning routine.   But when I stepped off the elevator I was struck by a loud "rock" band playing something Jesus-y in the Courtyard.

I peeked 'round the corner to see nearly 200 people packed onto folding chairs at an Easter Sunrise Service.  I was greeted with a huge smile and an invitation to take a seat.  I demurred, but stood in the back, rapt with attention to this spectacle.  I watched as more and more people joined, as greeters hugged and shook hands, as the childrens' choir (preschool to teenagers) sang like angels.  The guest preacher, from Seattle!, gave a pretty standard Easter message befitting the Evangelical bent of this brand of Christianity, including the altar call to those ready to surrender their lives to Jesus.  (No takers on this Easter morning, but many likely had already done that judging by hands raised in the air during song and prayer.)  The pastor hammered home the God is Great message and assured everyone that no matter the harshness of life on earth, "the last will be first in Heaven" and "Jesus is with you!  God is waiting for you!"  This elicited some Amens and raised arms in praise of the Lord.  Everyone was smiling!  Some were crying.  The music swelled.  A local pastor stepped up to invite everyone who "wants more Jesus today!" to come to a 10:00 a.m. service at a local church with lunch served afterward -- featuring his own mother's Home Cooking!

I tell ya, I get it.  The showmanship and message of love and relief from suffering is an affecting one. I thought back to my Christian upbringing at first in the friendly Methodist church of my childhood, then the more austere brand of Protestantism of my Lutheran years after marrying into a conservative Lutheran family and being expected to become one of them.  Then we swerved left and attended a Congregationalist church for awhile, before finding Unitarian Universalism.  Easter Sunday was a favorite worship experience in all of those earlier Christian denominations.  What's not to like about petticoats, patent leather shoes, and Hallelujahs?

But "Take Me to Church" (partly about the Church's punishment of homosexuality) also reminds me of the hypocrisy, the judgements, the literal (and sort of made up) interpretations of the Bible and Jesus' teachings that turned me away from the Christian church.  When a certain brand of Christianity became intertwined with political conservatism I became judge-y too.  How could two diametrically opposed worldviews exist in one entity?  Feed the poor = cut food assistance.  Welcome the stranger = close our borders.   Care for the sick and vulnerable = gut healthcare.  Serve the poor = subsidize billion dollar corporations.

But this is Easter.  It is a time to reflect on a New Beginning.  Jesus was a new beginning in his time and I take his example as the meaning of this day.  Appropriated from the Pagan rituals of renewal and regrowth, fertility and abundance, Jesus is said to have risen from the dead.  (Maybe.  Jon Snow did it...Game of Thrones reference for the uninitiated; also a handsome guy, as all movie Jesus' are as well.)  If he did it then, I truly wish he'd come on back again now and take a look at what is being said and done in his name.  (I'd like his return to NOT be accompanied by that whole Rapture thing...messy.)  Maybe we'd find out this is exactly what he intended.  Or maybe he'd lead the Resistance, as he did in his day.

After Christian Church I joined Hub in practicing Qigong on the beach (Ancient Chinese ); I did today's Oprah/Deepak recorded meditation on Hope (Vedic tradition); I chanted along with my favorite Kirtan artists: Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Gina Sala (Tantric, Vedic, Hindu); I watched Valerie Kaur on YouTube (Sihk).

And  I will hold the lessons of the Fierce and Gentle Jesus I believe he was, and try to be more like that.  My "religion" is eclectic and curious, finding the common Capital "L" Love (thanks for that, Gina) in each practice.  With this Love as guide,  I renew my urge to find the courage to resist wrongs,  to find gratitude in every day, to see the Divine in all, and to sing Hallelujah! for this gift of life.  May we all RISE UP in Love in service to the greater good.  Amen.

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

Photo Credit: A painting by R. (Richard) Hook





Friday, April 14, 2017

EMBRACE COURAGE

Kauai feels like a long way from Washington DC, not just in miles but in psychic energy.  I read through my news sites and FB feed, I tune into Rachel and the guys on MSNBC and it all feels so distant, less immediate.  The sun shines here, the ocean waves crash, the pool beckons; most people are happy and enjoying their vacations.  Which is real?

Part of this trip for me is to find balance and focus for my life right now.  November 8th was a jolting and overwhelming emotionally devastating experience and nothing that's happened since has helped to assuage that shock and hurt.

I find myself, and others of similarly gentle and sensitive natures, dramatically impacted every single day and infused with a sense of ... dare I say it?... hatred for this president I call 45* (45th Pres.*elected with a minority of the popular vote.)  I simply don't usually hate people; I always try to be empathetic, even if I put some in the "not my type/disagree/don't like" column.  But this guy?  He makes my gut ache, my heart race, my fists clench.  Fight or flight?  FIGHT!  He represents and acts out every single horrible impulse of men who I had hoped had been neutralized by any progress we may have made in the past few decades.  It's as if the monster of misogyny, self-aggrandizement, selfishness, ignorance, and entitlement has arisen and taken over the world.  And he did it with the help of fellow Americans, many of them women, some of whom I love.  The dismay (far too soft a word) I feel is indescribable.

My Mindfulness practices are being put to the test and found wanting.  I'm having trouble meditating and staying in the moment; having trouble being with "what is" and letting go of outcomes; having trouble seeing this world as an Ego-dream and finding the inner transcendent Spirit that is "me/us".

I know people who are able to compartmentalize all of this; to set the state of the nation aside and just  go on with their lives as if nothing has changed, or at least find some psychological respite from it.  I don't seem to be able to do that.

Others live with belief that we make our own reality by what we put out to the Universe.  I get that. My reality right now is that I often feel anger and fear.  I don't want that so I have to find a way to flip those emotions into something their opposite.  Being one who also struggles with depression and anxiety anyway I have a lot of default programming to overcome.  It feels like asking me to magically turn my short, round 66 year old self into a tall, svelte 23 year old supermodel.  (I'll keep you posted on that!)

So, a couple of things hold promise for me.

Hub shared with me a short article about reconsidering Mindfulness, not as an acceptance of all that "is", but as a way of radical discernment.  The author, a practicing Buddhist teacher, opined that the Buddha would be appalled by those who used Mindfulness practices to escape or ignore the calling to make right what is wrong in the world.   Mindfulness, instead, calls us to use our powers of discernment to the greatest good -- to address the inequities that keep some people down and elevate others.  We are called to act for those who cannot; to always find the strength to rise up for the greatest good.  The Buddha, like Jesus, was an outspoken critic of the rich, the status quo.  This really resonated with me.  I have always had a problem with some spirit-seekers who seem to divorce themselves from this world into the blissed out state of self-focus.  Ego-dream or not, I believe our spirits are here for a reason/a lesson; our karma is to figure that out and act upon it to grow spiritually into greater Consciousness.

Then there's Valerie Kaur, Sihk teacher and amazing speaker, whose call to "Seva", or service, is at the very heart of the Sihk religion and of her teachings.  She moves me to tears with her gentle and powerful calls to action.  She says Seva takes courage -- and that "courage" is fear that has said its prayers.  Isn't that beautiful?  It means we don't have to be brave warriors, strong, trained, ready to do battle with the world's wrongs.  We just have to be willing; to say, "please, help me", and then do it.  Do whatever action you are called to do to be of service.  Step into life, with all our of imperfections and qualms.

And keep on, with the discernment anger sharpens and a courage born of fear, we find our voice, our feet, our hearts, over and over again.   Do not look away, hide in denial or disinterest.  We are here.  This is now.  Embrace.

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

One of my favorite Valerie Kaur talks:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCenwgheIBs

Thursday, April 13, 2017

KAUAI PEOPLE-WATCHING, GRATITUDE, RE-SET

We're baaaack.  Our annual Kauai vacation.  Home sweet, warm, sunny, beautiful home.  I haven't looked back at old posts, but I'm sure I've posted a photo like this before.  I never get over how beautiful it is.

I'm sitting on Aupaka Terrace, where coffee and "grab and go" (ridiculously overpriced) breakfast is served, overlooking the pool and beach.  Families on spring break pass by loaded down with pool toys, snorkel gear, backpacks, and towels.  Retired folk amble along often gathering in groups at large tables sharing coffee and conversation, no particular place they need or want to be but right here.  Company employees (this week a group from Google!), dressed in Aloha shirts and sundresses, smile and chat with cell phones in their hands and notebooks tucked under their arms.  Every single head swivels towards this view.  How can we not look and feel so incredibly grateful for our good fortune?

OOOPPPPS!  Not everyone is feeling grateful.  There is a family of four (husband, wife, two middle school-ish aged kiddos) sitting near me and the wife is having an absolute hissy fit!  Teeth clenched, arms waving, voice raised (but I can't make out the words) aiming wrath at her husband who sits slumped, taking it in silence, even when she moves in about 6 inches from his face with a final diatribe.  The daughter sits still as stone, staring outward, the son hunches over a crossword puzzle, not looking up. They've obviously seen this all before.  Such scenes of family strife always make me sad.  My empath goes into hyper-mode and I want to walk over there and save everyone.  But I sit here typing away, trying to tamp down my God Complex.  I can't save them.  Mom and daughter have walked away.  Dad and son sit silently, reading and writing, not talking, not looking up.  And it's only 9:30 a.m.  Long day ahead, methinks.

Hub is out for his morning walk.  I always have good intentions of joining him, but this terrace calls me.  I love the people watching (even if sometimes I have to witness what I just did) and I love the pool view and I love the proximity to the coffee bar and I love that WiFi that allows me to open my computer and scroll through my emails, my FB newsfeed, and my blog.  When he returns we'll head back up to our condo unit for breakfast, then to our chairs near the beach where we'll read, do the NYT crossword, wander to the pool to cool off or hop in the surf (more Hub's thing than mine if there are some good boogie boarding waves).  We may go up again later for lunch, then back down for more of the same until about 5:00 when we pack it in for the day; time to shower, prepare our fish for grilling, eat dinner and switch on the TV or open another book until we get sleepy.  It's a rough life.

Sometimes, even though I love it here, I am ambivalent about coming.  I have to endure flying for one thing, which I've well-documented previously how much I hate.  This time we fought, according to the flight crew, the strongest headwinds they'd ever experienced causing our flight to take nearly 7 hours from Seattle, some of it in "choppy" skies.  I tried not to think about that deep blue enormous Pacific Ocean below us.  I took extra Dramamine, so I was in a drug-induced state of "calm" mostly but still had to meditate and breathe my way out of panic a couple of times.  Also a young couple with a 20 month old son were my seat mates.  In fact the whole plane seemed to be full of toddlers.  Always such happy fliers, they. HaHa

But this time I wasn't ambivalent; I was eager to be here.  Our NW winter/spring has been an interminable marathon of gray skies and rain.  I was starting to wonder if the sun still shone.  (It does!)  Plus, the political landscape since November has kept me under a dark emotional cloud too.  I felt I needed this respite as a reset.  My intention is to find my center again; to get focused, balanced, and reinvigorated about life.  I'll keep you posted.

OMG.  Dad and son just got up from their chairs, exchanged a few words, and Dad reached over and pulled his son (a gangly 14 y/o, I'd say) toward him and gave him a kiss on the side of his head, which I thought was a particularly sweet gesture, given and received between males in public.   The boy smiled and they walked away together.  Saving each other, without me.

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


Saturday, March 18, 2017

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON A RAINY DAY

MY FRIEND IS A GIFTED PIANIST.  She used to play for the church we attended, for local high school theater productions, and has given piano lessons to children and adults for decades.  Me included.  I took lessons at the same time as Son Two when he was very young, just to get him started.  I absolutely love piano music and have a passion for listening and watching others play.  I wanted to learn.  Well.  Just like the current president and his surprise about the complications of delivering health care to the masses, I had no idea playing the piano could be so complicated!  To do it well you actually have to use BOTH hands!  Nine months of struggle was enough for me, so I went back to appreciating the talents of others.  As for my friend, arthritis has slowed her a bit, but one wouldn't know it.  I could listen to her for hours....and am.  Today.  I have two of her CDs and they are exquisite.  Perfect for a gray, rainy afternoon and a pot of hot tea.
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I AM "ON VACATION" THIS WEEK.  I have days spread before me, tabla rosa.  Well, not exactly a blank slate, I guess.  Tomorrow I'm taking my daughter-in-law to a  Seattle "multi-media" production of  "A Woman's World" ("the inspiring stories of women and girls who are transforming our world") to honor her completion of her Master's in Business Degree.  Then Monday I do my foster care program volunteer gig before going to a League of Women Voters forum on a local political issue.  Tuesday I go to Seattle with a friend for lunch and art museum gazing.  Wednesday morning I have my volunteer time in my granddaughter's 1st grade classroom.  But in and around those events and all day Thursday and all day Friday I will be able to tackle long-postponed projects, including perhaps beginning the process of turning this and my other yoga blog into books!   There are companies that do such things and it's been on my "to do" list for a long time.  I want a "hard copy" to keep and maybe share with family members.  If the grid crashes, all these stories of my life will be lost!  (These are the thoughts insomnia is born of).
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YESTERDAY WAS HUB'S BIRTHDAY.  I started dating him 2 months shy of his 18th birthday.  Nearly 50 years ago...unbelievable.  We've grown, changed, lived lifetimes together as we look back and marvel that we are still here, still loving each other, wondering what comes next.  I asked him what 67 feels like (I'll know in December, but I wanted a heads up.)  He said it feels a lot like 66.  He notes that maybe he gets a bit tired more easily in recent years -- like he used to do 8 hours of yard and garden work, but now is ready to quit after 4 (which was probably more reasonable anyway -- our sons have un-fond memories of indentured servitude to this big piece of property and its raking, weeding, and mowing demands.)

His knee has been bothering him -- old football injury come back to haunt him -- and he fears that sooner rather than later a knee replacement may be on the horizon, which could interfere with his fearless and obsessive snowboarding schedule.  Not one for groomed runs, he loves the deep powder of the glades, making fresh tracks through the trees, but which is also more challenging physically.  But in almost every other way he is as fit (maybe more so) than that 18 year old kid I went out with in high school.  He certainly is more sensitive, self-aware, patient, kind, and compassionate than back then, when gender roles and goal-driven tasks and projects -- personal,  educational, and professional -- occupied his time and focus.

The whole family was here to celebrate over dinner last night.  We are so blessed by our sons and who they've grown to be, by the women they've brought into our lives, and the grandchildren we cherish.  So, keep those birthdays coming, I guess.  We are holding the alternative at bay wth much to appreciate still present for us.
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THE STATE OF THE UNION CONTINUES TO DETERIORATE.  There is a "before" November 8th and an "after".  I am still trying to adjust to the reality of what is happening.  It's well-documented, so I won't list the litany of horrors 45* continues to visit upon our great nation.  (I call him 45 for he is the 45th President, but *elected by a minority of the popular vote.) Suffice to say, we are 100% immersed in "the Resistance" but it does take a psychic toll.  Sometimes I long to have my life back from the constant barrage of information and calls to action.

We spent all day in our state capitol on Tuesday attending a policy training and public hearing on a climate change bill that the Republicans will ensure won't see the light of day.  You do what is right anyway and just keep fighting.

We've reconnected with Physicians for Social Responsibility, a fabulous organization, a chapter of which we and others organized in our county. It feels good to be "back", but sad that so many issues now need to be revisited with even more urgency.

There are dozens of grassroots groups forming and it's hard to keep up and know which to ally with and which to ignore.  Many seem redundant and are splintering the finite number of people who can populate them.  I assume over time they will merge.  Forming, storming, and norming, as groups do.

I make my calls to legislators, send my emails, and post cards and watch the Media/Press do what they do so well -- dig, dig, dig.  In spite of 45*'s derisive name calling of them, his maneuvering to only include and speak to those conservative "alt-right" outlets that worship him, the tried and true and reliable news sources are doing their jobs.  It does my heart good.  I've always felt the Press is the bulwark of our democracy.  They are doing it again.  Rachel Maddow and her relentless tracking of the Russia connection, along with investigative reporting from the NY Times, Washington Post, the New Yorker and others may just bring the house down.  Waiting impatiently.
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ENOUGH.  The piano CD has ended and the teapot is empty.  The Outlander soundtrack has begun again on repeat and I need to plan which reruns of the TV show I will watch tonight.  So all ye lads and lassies, I bid you beannachd leat.

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


Sunday, March 12, 2017

WRINKLES IN THE BLUR

I think my failing eyesight is causing my wrinkles.  Seriously.  I never had horizontal wrinkles across the top of my nose before, but I've noticed them recently and I'm stunned.  How the hell does one get wrinkles on one's friggin' nose?!?

I think it coincides with my almost constant squinting lately.  My eyes are messed up.  And I'm annoyed by that because it's like Karmic "gotcha" in that I've been a bit braggy about my eyesight since having Lasik surgery in 2002.   I chose to do "mono vision" where one eye is corrected for distance and one for near vision (reading, etc).  I crowed about it being the best decision I ever made and was very "ooh la la" about my ability to read tiny print without glasses!  It really was quite wonderful for many years.

Full disclosure -- not so wonderful was realizing that in low light conditions --movie theaters, dimly lit restaurants, super cloudy days, night driving -- my near vision eye for some reason became dominant and I couldn't see a thing without glasses to correct for distance!  But I put up with that because of the fabulous super power ability to read without reading glasses.  I saved a ton of money on "readers" (always losing or breaking them) and reading was not only my passion but integral to my profession.

But in recent months, it seems I can see neither near nor far.  I complained about this at my last eye exam, and was given a prescription for bifocals, but they don't seem to be helping.  I can see distance fine in the mornings (best with glasses on -- so much for that Lasik eye), but if I do extended near work -- reading, computer, coloring -- my eyes go blurry both while I'm trying to see up close and even when I put the close work down and just want to see distance.  Even with glasses on,  everything is a blur for quite some time.  So, I have to be careful about how much reading I do before driving!  I spend my days squinting and trying to find the "sweet spot" where I can see best.  WTH?

So, this is becoming quite annoying and my eye doc is going to hear about it again this year at my exam.  Because not only can I not see, but all this squinting is wrecking havoc on the "youthful looking" bridge of my nose.  Don't misunderstand.  I'm not blind; I see things heading south, but I thought that one area might remain the last bastion against the effects of age, gravity, and sun exposure that seems to have caught up with my face.  But, alas, I guess not.  UNLESS!  I really don't have wrinkles but my blurry eyesight makes it look like I do!  Happy delusions!

Well, also on the health front, I've been reading, again, about how important it is to stay hydrated, so I've upped my water intake (today, anyway) and maybe that will smooth things out on my face.  I know my Fitbit is happy with all the extra steps to the bathroom.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

NEWS HEADACHE? TAKE A PILL.

I'm a little addicted to watching a few of the "talking heads" explain the latest political intrigues to me.  Around dinner time I switch on the TV and catch the nightly Rachel Maddow Show, sometimes with a bit of the shows on either side of hers.  I realize these are considered "left-leaning" and that's OK with me because they also include guests who are Conservatives, or experts in their fields, or other journalists.  I think Rachel's logic and mine are akin and I admire her curiosity and determination to "get to the bottom of this" -- whatever the topic.  She's been doing some very insightful commentary and airing some very intriguing investigative journalism lately.

Still, politics these days gives me a headache.  And a heartache.  I can easily tip into a state of overwhelm, dismay, disgust, and dis-ease about what is happening to our great Republic.  Nothing looks promising right now and I still don't understand those who support this Administration nor why.  It makes no sense to me at all.  And I've been trying; I really have.  Just don't get it.  Wired differently, I guess.

So, when I'm watching sometimes I start to feel a little woozy; a little itchy; a little nauseated.  Then  I realized it might not be the content of the program, but the ads.

In just a little over an hour, I saw a plethora of commercials for treatment of these ailments:  nerve
pain, diarrhea, psoriasis, Alzheimers, Hep C, constipation, dark spots, cold sores, dry skin, nasal congestion, arthritis, heartburn, chemotherapy side-effects, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, over-active bladder, insomnia.  I listened to the symptoms which defined each of these, how they impacted the lives of those suffering these ailments, and then listened to how a pill or medication or treatment would relieve this suffering, then to the side-effects of the medication which were far worse than the original ailment.  A steady diet of these ads and soon my health anxiety is through the roof (but not to worry, there is a pill for that.)

I've taken to recording the shows, so I can zip through the commercials because I will not be convinced to turn off the TV.  I am "old-school" that way (and judging by the ads, anyone watching is considered in the "older" demographic anyway, so I'm right where I should be) and I like switching on the "nightly news".

Plus, anyone who says (among other despicable things) that the media/press is the 'enemy of the people' is permanently on my shit list.  I have a lifelong, unyielding trust in the "mainstream media" -- those news outlets that I believe are dedicated to finding the truth, to reporting with integrity, to informing the public in a nonpartisan, non-biased manner.  I trust long-standing publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the network newscasters, the unbiased cable outlets, NPR, PBS, BBC, political magazines of long-standing, and even some newer online journals and outlets. It's easy to tell which are biased and which way.  I read the Leftist ones with as much skepticism as those on the Right.  What's suddenly wrong with being "mainstream"?  What's wrong with looking at an issue and seeing both sides and coming to an informed conclusion based on facts?  When did that become something to deride?

Maybe it's a medication side-effect.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

LET'S COLOR!

Here's a link to an article I saw online this morning about how doing art is a stress-reliever.
http://mentalfloss.com/article/81929/making-art-can-relieve-stress-any-skill-level

That explains it.

I have become addicted to adult coloring books.  (Hmmm....sounds rather racy; maybe I should say coloring books for adults?)

Here is my latest book, among the half-dozen I've already completed.  Hub gave it to me for Christmas and I made myself hold off on starting it until I finished the others.  I realize this is a bit OCD.  We will not go there; I'm already in a fragile state due to the political undoing of our country.

I've never considered myself to be a creative visual artist.  I've taken some photographs I like and feel they are artfully composed, but I can't draw, paint, or sculpt "freehand" with any degree of confidence or artistry. I like simple collage because I feel it is a forgiving medium -- until I see those collage artists who do it so masterfully and I realize my attempts are elementary and amateurish.

And then along came the adult coloring book phenomenon.  (Yes, I said it again, but you know what I mean.)  Someone else came up with the designs and all I gotta do is find the type of coloring utensil I like best and go to it!  I've settled on brush tip watercolor pens.  Oh, how the color glides over the paper!  So satisfying!  I have no patience for the fine tips, so my colors often overlap the lines, but who cares?  I also often do it in the low light conditions of a small lamp while watching TV and the next morning I'm amazed at the amount of white still showing through some areas of my painting, but again, who cares?

I fully and completely realize I am NOT doing this coloring so much to create art as to relax and de-stress.  The minute I haul out my book and dump out my pens, my heart rate slows, my breathing is deeper, and I can watch the nightly talking heads on MSNBC and CNN without quaking (too much).

I don't plan anything ahead of time, choosing the colors as I go, making intuitive choices about what color goes where and never really knowing what the final result will be.  I find I am mostly satisfied and wonder what sub-conscious part of my brain is thinking for me.  It's definitely a totally "right brain" endeavor and I'm liking making friends with that part of me.  I'm learning to trust her choices.

So, here's a little gallery of my work.  Don't look too closely...oh, hell, who cares?  No apologies!  I'm having fun and de-stressing.  We all gotta do something to stay sane as the daily craziness from Washington DC engulfs our "left brain" which mostly has taken to repeating,  "WTF is going on here?  I can't believe what I'm seeing and hearing.  I don't get it.  It makes no sense."  Poor little left brain, always trying to make sense of things.  Just grab a marker and let it flow...

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











Monday, February 6, 2017

RISE UP -- AN ANTHEM FOR THE TIMES

I'm pretty proud of a new song and video released yesterday.  I have very little right to be; I only had a small part in making it real.

But remember in December I posted this https://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2016/12/create-art-saves-lives.html   and talked about scribbling out some words and dashing them off to musician friends?  One of them took it and turned it into a song and video after reworking and adding to what I'd sent.  He then wrote the music and went into the studio alone, and then with other musicians, to record it.  Then, when it was ready, he created a video to go along with it and posted it on YouTube.

None of us involved in it are savvy enough to know how to market it effectively, so we are just sharing on Facebook and alerting a few friends who work in radio, TV, and newspapers, so, really it might just languish, which would be too bad.  He's worked hard and I think it is inspiration for the resistance!  Feel free to share widely if you like it....

And I hope you do.  Click here:  RISE UP©

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

POST-MARCH EUPHORIA

Well, silly me.  Nothing to worry about.  No Anarchists, no opposition "haters", no rowdy marchers, no danger of  being crushed or trampled by the crowd....just 130,000 smiling, happy, positive, determined women, men, and children under mysteriously sunny skies being all polite and funny and creative -- quintessentially Seattle -- in a 3-mile phalanx of humanity moving slowly toward that beacon of modernity, the Space Needle -- where all dispersed and jammed every single bus, monorail, and taxi for hours upon hours (but more about that later...)

I will say we did it in style.  One of our group had an "in" at the historic Camlin Hotel and booked us a bunch of rooms.  It has an old world elegance, updated for the 21st century, but still feeling like you step into the 1920's inside with gold-gilted mirrors and a grand piano in the lobby.  (Much classier and understated than those "other" gold-encrusted gaudy T-Towers, of course.)  Our group of 20 gathered in a back "party room" and proceeded to create signs, eat snacks, have a glass of sparkling this or that, and get to know each other.  There was a core group and then friends of friends.  Many of us were strangers from one another.  I led a sharing circle where we each spoke to what brought us to the march, what were our hopes and fears about the experience, what support did we need...and how do we get from the hotel to the starting point over a mile away early on Saturday morning:  logistics.

Some of us got up early and bussed to the park where the march would start.  Some of us decided to join the march a mile in, at an official "entry point" along the route.  We later found out that the park, which was projected to hold 25,000 was soon overwhelmed with 50,000 or more people spilling into the neighborhood streets.

 My group decided to bus to the first entry point -- a plan several hundred other people also made.  We arrived to a large, colorful, cheerful crowd awaiting a first glance at the marchers headed our way.  A large lead contingent of police cars and cops on bikes came by, then the marchers.  We soon wove our way into the throng and off we went -- part of the excitement, part of the presence, part of history.

I felt a wave of so many emotions; so grateful for my friends and sharing this with them; grateful for the positive vibe all around me and the feeling of safety, shared values, and sense of community where babies to teens joined with adults of all ages, to the very aged with walkers and canes all putting our bodies on the streets and cheering from the sidewalks all along the march route.

Pink-eared 'pussy' hats (as in cat) were the predominant headwear -- women, men, children and dogs donned the knitted hats, a nod to the infamous crude quote by the man who is now the president about the female body part he feels entitled to grab when with women he finds attractive.  We took his crudeness and owned it as our own -- Pussy Power.

There had been a call for silent march and for the most part it was.  We had quiet conversations with each other and offered words of complement and encouragement to those around us, but there were no loud chants or shouts or songs or anything negative at all!  It was a wave of love or at least good humor where satire was more effective than anger.

We reached the Space Needle, hearing that some of our original group were still almost 3 miles behind us, having taken nearly 2 hours to exit the park!  We three Shiny Sisters Ubered back to downtown Seattle and took our place on the sidewalk, watching the marchers pass until the end.  It was a moment of profound delight and pride.  Not one altercation.  No incidents of violence or discord.  And that seems to be the case across all marches everywhere around the US and the world.  I've heard of no arrests, even at the massive 500,000- person march in Washington DC.   Love Wins.

And then you have to find your way home....  We three retrieved our bags from the hotel and made for the bus station to hop onboard and head 25 miles north to home.  Not too many people at the stop, so we felt confident.  Then the first articulated bus came by jammed with people and the driver said "no more room".  Some at the stop said that was the FOURTH full bus!  Hmmm....a little discouraging.  But we waited for the next bus.  Same thing.  It was getting dark.  We were tired.  On to Plan B.  If we took a bus south to the beginning of the line, we could get on and get a seat before it did the whole route and was jammed!  Brilliant.

We schlepped our bags to a different bus stop and hopped onboard a mostly empty bus that goes underground through the bus tunnel.  We were relieved, chatting away, people watching, reviewing the day and when we emerged from the tunnel it was full dark and we were rolling past Safeco Field at a high rate of speed and onto I-90 east to Bellevue.  Hmmm....we'd missed our stop and were now expressing about 10 miles out of our way.  Damn!  That wasn't the plan!  But what can ya do?

Fortunately one of us (not me) pulled up the bus schedule and figured out how to get home from Bellevue -- only two more buses!  Once at the transit station we had to run to catch the next bus or wait an hour, but we made it.  We were finally on our way to at least be in our home county!  But alas, soon we were at a dead stop on the interstate due to a horrible roll-over accident and all lanes briefly blocked for emergency vehicles.  We broke out the chocolate and potato chips.  It was well past dinnertime.

Once past the accident and on our way again, we relaxed into knowing we'd soon be at the bus station that would get us to the bus home.  But then....the driver slowed to a crawl and pulled over on the shoulder of the freeway and turned off the bus.  Everything went completely dark for a moment.  Now what???  We have no idea. He cranked the engine and we were soon on our way, but something was obviously wrong because he was hanging in the right lane going about 40 MPH.  We made it though, got on the bus home, and nearly collapsed into the car when a kind husband met us at the station.   The trip home was nearly as long as the march, but hey, it was another Shiny Sister bonding experience where we got distracted, had great conversations, disagreed, got a little pissed, people-watched, ate, read Facebook posts to each other, and laughed A LOT.  Typical outing for us.


So, the march was much more than the march.  We were part of history, we showed up and "spoke" with our presence that we will not be silenced and we will be watching and participating in working for our values, our vision, our Democracy.  We were part of a huge community of souls around the globe (millions all over the world marched on 1/21/17!), among the citizens within a free and proud United States, members of a small community of friends old and new in Seattle, and held within a smaller knot of friends- to-the-end from our own county to the north.  Eventually each of us ended up singularly in her bed last night, grateful for all of it -- even the interminable bus adventure.  Can't wait 'til next time....WE RISE!  STRONGER TOGETHER!

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