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...©