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>


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...©