Thursday, July 28, 2011

A little help from my friends

My last post, the one about my mind being a dangerous neighborhood in matters of health, got more comments than anything else I've written. Last evening I asked my sister to read all 30 comments (hers was the first post). Her response was, "And I thought we were the only ones."

It's easy to think I'm alone in the world in what I think about and what's happening in my life. Unless I tell my friends. Then I get a little help. No. A lot of help.

In our blogging community, friends are close by. If they have opinions they usually comment. In the case of my health issue, I heard recommendations for everything from getting a second opinion, to going to physical therapy, to getting out of my head. I heard from people who spend too much useless time in their own minds, and from others who "don't pay it no mind." Everyone responded with compassion. Not just for my back issue, but for my dangerous neighborhood. I got a lot of help from my blogging friends.

One evening this week I went to my writers group. We're three to six women who met several years ago in writing classes at a University of Washington extension program. We started out meeting as writers - and some of us still write - but we have become more of a bonded group of friends. In our conversation this week, one of us talked about a recent family trip and a current business challenge. One talked about the recent death of her father-in-law and the role of women in marriages to men who travel extensively. One talked about an upcoming sale of her family home and a move to a condo. We know we can trust each other. That we can talk and others will listen and respond, or just listen. I get a lot of help from my writer friends.

I write this post on my computer, in my house, looking out at my deck and the alder and cedar trees on our property. Physically I am alone, but mentally and emotionally I feel surrounded by friends I've met and friends I haven't yet.

Today I feel connected. I get by with a lot of help from my friends.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My mind is a dangerous neighborhood

My mind can be a dangerous neighborhood, a place where you shouldn't go alone. Usually, my mind is busy with projects and activities and plans and operates normally. Now and then, though, it seizes on an issue "like a dog on a bone". Almost always, that issue has to do with my health.

My mother never talked about her "ailments". She said no one was interested in hearing about them. And she certainly wasn't interested in hearing about anyone else's. The outcome was silence on issues of health when I was growing up. So my sister and I, independently, developed a tormenting mental dialogue on each health issue we developed. We still have that dialogue.

Ten weeks ago today, while vacationing in the Black Hills, I sat down in a chair lower than I expected. Two hours later my feet started tingling. I saw a chiropractor that day in Rapid City, drove home, and have continued to see my own chiropractor. He tells me a disc in my back is impinging on a nerve root - or something like that - and that nerves take a long time to heal. I have no pain in my back at all, but the sensations in my feet are prime subject matter for the dog on the bone in my mind. My feet are feeling much better than ten weeks ago, but they're not back to normal yet. Sitting triggers an increase in the sensation, and if I sit in a hard chair - like I did yesterday for two hours - my back/feet protest for nearly 24 hours. If I wear a shoe with an elevated heel - like my walking shoes - it feels like I have wet sand inside my socks.

All well and good. The body takes time to heal. And apparently an older body takes more time than a younger one. I had an SI joint injury several years ago that took seven months to heal.

Here's where the dog on a bone gets me in trouble. I think my back should be healing faster. I wonder what else it could be. Something terminal, maybe, that I should be seeing my GP for. Even though my rational mind knows the GP would say, "Well, we could order an MRI, but that would show what we already know - that you have a middle-aged back with some degenerative disc disease and a disc out of alignment that's pressing on the nerve root. And we could give you muscle relaxants - which wouldn't help, because the muscles aren't the problem - or Xanax so you wouldn't worry about your back." Which I wouldn't take.

So I don't go to the GP because I know what he will say. But what if he said something else?

What are the chances, do you think, that I would have a serious terminal issue in my back that showed up two hours after I sat in a too-low chair?

See how my mind works? I talked to my sister this morning. She reminded me, as I have reminded her in the past, that we go into the dangerous neighborhood of our minds when we haven't got enough drama going on in our lives.

So bring on the drama!

And when I go to my noon meeting today, I'll take the back-support cushion I bought last week for times when I'll be sitting in a hard chair. My sister reminds me our mother carried a cushion with her for the last 25 years of her life. I had forgotten.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Then and now

Last year at this time I was full of plans and excitement. I blogged several times a week. This year, I'm still full of plans, but the newness of my post-work life has worn off. When I got online this morning I though, well, I should post a blog entry but not much is going on. Then I looked back over the last week and realized I was mistaken. Change of perspective, I guess!

I took a basic mediation (NOT meditation!) class in late June, and there was a take-home final exam for those of us wanting to continue with the training to become certified mediators. The instructions said typed, double spaced, not to exceed 40 pages, due by 30 days from the completion of the class (the end of this week). I thought I'd have plenty of room, but ended up with 36 pages. The training manual was available to use, but it still took me about 15 hours to complete the test - two or three hours a day, every day last week. It's been a while since I had a project with a deadline. Even with a subject I'm very interested in, spending that much time on it meant setting aside other things. Not something I've been doing much of, now that I'm not working - setting aside other things!

We belong to a couple of online groups where travelers can post that they need a place to stay for a night or two (see and We have had several guests, as well as using the groups when we took our road trip to the midwest this spring. The room we had available was my younger son's bedroom, which up until last Saturday was a conglomeration of unused dressers and beds, with a variety of colors. On Saturday I shopped with my son's girlfriend Keri and then we put the room together, rearranging furniture and putting duvets on comforters and accessorizing with inexpensive items from Pier 1. I'm so happy with the room now, I can hardly wait for the company! I'm grateful to have an "almost" family member with a good eye and a willing heart.

Yesterday I spent the day with a blogging friend I'd never met - her blog is Rose has a goat farm and posts pictures and videos of her creatures. I took the bus to Seattle and Rose and I walked about four miles in Seattle, taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Light rain fell all day but it was fun anyway, walking and talking and eating. I'm grateful for the variety of friends I've met in the blogging community, for the ferryboats that run in the Puget Sound, and the ability to walk a distance, even with a back injury that is taking longer to heal than it would have 20 years ago.

I've picked at least a quart of strawberries every day for the last week. We grow them in half a dozen earth boxes (see which we've used for a number of years now. They're self-contained and we have no slug or insect issues. Plants love the system. We've had a raised-bed garden for a couple of years now, but we still use the earth boxes for the strawberries. I'm grateful for summer, when we work in our garden and then harvest the fruits and vegetables. The peas are ready to eat this week and I'll get out there this afternoon to pick some. I'm grateful for the garden and how it gives back to us.

I've gotten into the habit of walking to the library, which is about half a mile away. Sometimes after picking up or dropping off a book or two I walk to our little Greek-Italian restaurant and have lunch. I like the owner and his staff and they know us. It's lovely to live in a small town (even though it's really a Seattle suburb and is connected to four other towns). I'm grateful to be able to order books online and get an email when they're ready for me to pick up, and for an excellent restaurant so close to home. I've got two books to drop off today, and one to pick up, so that may be something I do today.

We'll be spending 10 days on the Big Island of Hawaii in early December. We invited one of our daughters and her husband to join us for part of that time. Today we heard they'd like to do that. They'll be scuba diving, and we'll do some snorkeling, and I expect we'll take an overnight trip to Volcanoes National Park, where they haven't been. I'm grateful that grown offspring are okay with hanging out with us.

We're still planning to spend February in Ecuador, so I'll be getting back to the Rosetta Stone Spanish course. I'm grateful to have a sunny winter location to look forward to and that we have the financial resources for the language program.

Still busy, I guess, and still full of plans. I still have trouble believing sometimes that I don't have to go back to work! And I'm extra grateful for that.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My corner of the world

We took our granddaughters back to Roseburg, Oregon last weekend. Faced with removal of my iPad from the back seat, there was scarcely any bickering on the seven-hour drive. I'm hoping they'll make one more trip up in August before they start MIDDLE SCHOOL!

On the 4th we attended a buffet dinner at Seven Feathers, a casino in Canyonville, Oregon. The Cow Creek band of the Umpqua tribe hosted the dinner to honor veterans. My husband Art was in Viet Nam in the 60s, and the military people returning from that war were not received as heroes. So every honoring event we can get to now, we go. At this one, Native drums heralded the arrival of the flag and flag bearers. Later that evening we watched the festivities from the Capital on TV. Our hostess Jeanne told me that being at the Capital on the 4th is on her bucket list. So we're making plans to do that next year. Jeanne is in her 70s so she'll want the company, and it will be a fun quick trip for me.

This is Strawberries week in our garden. Each day I've gone out there and picked a quart or two. We're eating strawberries like crazy. Yesterday I froze some for winter. When I see our garden thriving it almost makes up for our weather!

I'm working on the take-home final exam for my mediation class. It's been two weeks since the last day of class, and I have 16 days to complete it. Time goes very, very fast these days. I have to finish the test before I pick up the Rosetta Stone Spanish course again.

Our daughter Laura is engaged! Laura lived with her dad and me when she was a teenager. She joined the Navy when she was 18, spent eight years in the service, and earned a degree in nuclear engineering at night before she got out. She's now living in New Jersey. Laura and Brian came out for a wedding in May and Brian asked Art for permission to marry his daughter. Lovely! We kept Brian's secret for over a month until he proposed to Laura in Bermuda last week. So we may be traveling to Mexico sometime next summer for a beachfront wedding. We are beyond delighted for Laura and Brian.

Today I filed for Social Security. I'll be collecting a pension starting when I'm 65, but since I didn't pay into Social Security when I worked for that pension, my Social Security check then will be very small. But between now and then (a little over two years), my check will be small but respectable. When I was planning our retirement finances last year I had a feeling I was missing something. This was it. The idea of collecting a larger Social Security entitlement until my pension kicks in hadn't occurred to me. Oh, well!

We're planning a trip to Ecuador for February 2012. Today we decided to forego the side trip to the Galapagos. It's quite expensive, and the Galapagos aren't on either of our bucket lists. But New Zealand and Australia are on Art's, so we're beginning to plan for that adventure which will most likely happen in February and March of 2013. The Galapagos money can be used for Down Under instead.

There's not much else going on this week in my little corner of the world except for naps!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A week of granddaughters

My twin granddaughters will be 11 on Sunday, and they've been visiting since Monday. Here's what we've done:

1. Grandma set up and enforced a screen time of two hours a day. Mary and Malayne kept meticulous records of their time on the refrigerator whiteboard.

2. Grandma borrowed a pair of jeans from a small neighbor and they fit Mary. The weather is cooler than Mary expected when she packed several pairs of shorts.

3. On Monday, Grandma sat at the picnic table and read while Mary and Malayne ran and shrieked with the neighbor kids. At dusk, Grandma and Mary and Malayne and neighbor kids Kaela and Jesse went to the city park for a "walk in the forest".

4. On Tuesday, Grandma and Papa John (ex husband, who brought the girls up on the train) took Mary and Malayne to the library and each girl checked out eight books - cartoon books, a few chapter books and a few "how to draw" books. Papa John commented on the ethnic diversity in the library - quite different from small town Oregon where they live.

5. On Wednesday, Grandma and Papa John took Mary and Malayne to downtown Seattle where they explored the Pacific Science Center for three hours.

6. On Thursday, Grandma took Mary to the eye doctor for her first appointment ever. Mary is farsighted, it turns out, and has to work hard to focus when she's reading or drawing or at the computer. Mary's new glasses will be ready in 7 to 10 business days and will be shipped to her dad's house in Oregon. Mary chose black frames, which are apparently very cool these days.

7. On Thursday, Grandma sat on metal bleachers for an hour and a half at the Lynnwood Recreation Center pool while Mary and Malayne mastered the water slides, river and diving board.

8. On Friday, Grandma, Mary and Malayne took Larisa the Designer Cat to the vet for her annual rabies shot. After four days, Larisa is no longer hiding.

9. On Friday, Grandma, Mary and Malayne got their hair cut. All three of them have wavy or curly hair and Grandma's hairdresser is very, very good at cutting it. Grandma called Rebekah, the girls' mom, to make sure that would be okay.

10. Grandpa Art (current husband) cooked corn on the cob with dinner every night.

And here's what Grandma learned: that 11 year old girls are growing up and can have conversations; that Mary is allergic to pollen and loves to put calamine lotion on itchy legs; that both girls get up around 8 for breakfast but don't want to talk until after 10 (like Grandma!); that 11 year old girls still don't want to go to bed and have mastered the stall tactic around showers and brushing teeth; that Grandma has not lost the art of going about her business even with lots of noise in the house (she raised a number of children, after all); that Grandpa Art really prefers to be a silent presence rather than an active participant, except for cooking (which Grandma already knew but somehow hoped would be different this time). And most of all, that girls can have a good time even if Grandma isn't a crafty person and doesn't bake cookies.

We all leave tomorrow for Oregon. We'll take the twins home and then spend the 4th with friends. Grandma will probably take some naps.