Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Return to Vietnam - journey of healing

My husband Art is a Vietnam vet with memories. In 2005 we traveled to Vietnam with a group of vets and a psychotherapist who specializes in working with vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was a life-changing journey.

When we got home I wrote a 100-page commentary about the trip. It took me 18 months. Then it sat on my computer for five years. This spring I decided I wanted to get it published, to honor Art and all the others who have served in the military. It took me six months to get around to doing the research on publication and possible publishing houses. I couldn't find any other books about vets who returned to Vietnam, or a traditional publishing house that looked like a likely representative for my book. On Monday I sent an email to AuthorHouse, a self-publishing company, explaining my subject and my publishing needs. Today I got a call back. Demond and I talked for an hour. I talked about what my goal is for the book. He told me what his company could provide that would help me achieve that goal. At the end of the conversation I signed up. I am very excited. I know this is the right thing to do.

It doesn't matter to me if I sell only 20 books. Or fewer. What does matter is that Art's story is out there.

It's not an unusual story. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps stationed at Da Nang during the Tet offensive. He saw only one day of combat. It affected every aspect of his life for 35 years.

Many Vietnam vets live with their memories of that time. They may bury them, or deny them, or run from them, or act out in other areas of their lives. Art decided to go back, to overlay the memories of the young man during a terrible time with those of a man in late middle age. It was a good choice for him - and for me. I'm hoping that if this book is out there, other vets will see it. Or their wives, or their children. Maybe other vets will return for their own healing.

It feels really good to have made this decision. I'll keep you posted on this new journey.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sliding into fall

I can tell it's fall - not because of falling leaves but because of shortening days. Here in the Pacific Northwest the days get shorter quicker at this time of year. I get a little anxious and a little blue and then I realize it's because I need to shift to my fall and winter routine. So as of this week I'm sitting in front of my light box for 30 minutes each morning. I've started taking my amino acid supplement, plus 2000 mg of vitamin D3. I'm feeling better now, looking with more enthusiasm on the shorter days.

We're starting our travel season, too. We'll be in Idaho and Alberta for ten days next month, in Hawaii for ten days in December, in Sedona and Tucson for three weeks in January, in Ecuador for three weeks in February. All those places are mostly sunny. Except for an August week in Alaska, we've been home since mid-May, enjoying the long summer days and the garden.

It's been six weeks or so since I started back into an exercise program. I've been faithful to the core strengthening exercises I do at home and the routine I have at the gym. I notice I feel energized by the daily exercise even when I head into it reluctantly. And I can tell I'm stronger.

We had a "wind event" last night, with branches down all over, including one on the power line on our property. We lost our power for over six hours today - from early afternoon until about 9 p.m. I gathered all the little stubs of candles, hoping we'd use them up today. Our other plans had to be modified - couldn't make blackberry cobbler with the berries we picked today because the oven was off. Couldn't finish the laundry because the dryer was off. I did keep up with email thanks to an iPad that doesn't rely on our wireless internet. And my neighbor said we could charge it overnight at their house and do the permanent press dryer load in the morning if the power was still off then.

I had an intensive mediation workshop on Friday - two mock mediations, each lasting over two hours, plus debrief. I'll be doing two observations this week. After that I'll have three more before I have to take the Professional Standards Evaluation as the gateway to the rest of the requirements to become a certified mediator. I'd thought I'd do this program at a leisurely pace, but then I thought I might as well head full into it, since I'll be gone a lot in the next five months. After 15 months of not working, it's not enough to sleep in the morning, read whatever I want, and relax. I've learned I like to be busy, and it's important for me to keep learning and to be useful.

I have found a tempting cruise. It's up and down the coast of Norway, on a ship with less than 700 passengers. The ships run almost every day, stopping at numerous ports - some of them very small towns - to drop off locals and supplies. The vessel has a library and a lounge and a restaurant, but it's pretty much up to the passengers to entertain themselves. I'm thinking it would be a good trip for spring or fall when we could see the northern lights. Tomorrow I'll give the brochure to my husband to see what he things. I already know what he'll say. "Whatever you think." I love it when that happens!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Turning 63

Yesterday was my birthday. I wasn't much looking forward to it except for the opportunity to talk to my sister, who was born on the same day seven years after me. It turned out to be a pretty nice day.

I'm on Facebook, and I was super gratified to receive over 55 birthday messages from friends and relatives old and young, near and far. I know all they had to do was click in the upper right corner on my name and post a quick message, but it was still a very warm and fuzzy day that way. I felt surrounded by friendship. I even got a birthday card from my cat!

I got to spend most of the day with my sweetheart husband. We walked to the gym where the owner and the trainer both wished me a happy birthday. We walked to our favorite neighborhood restaurant where I got a free bowl of vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce. I went to meet with my writers group and they bought me a frosted brownie for the five of us to share. We had houseguests last night, and when I came upstairs from checking the laundry, everyone in the room sang to me. Nice!

Still, there's a downside. Though I was actually only one day older than the day before, I now have a number one digit higher for my age. I'm aware of my body getting older - I'm a little stiffer, a little less flexible, I have a little less stamina. I think back on the 14 trips we've taken in the last 15 months and I don't think doing it again this year sounds all that tempting! And, of course, my back is recovering more slowly than it would have 20 years ago.

But when I considered my life, yesterday, as I usually do on my birthday, I can't think of a thing I want that I don't have - besides a younger body. And I wouldn't trade the wisdom, or the experience, or the memories I have now for anything in the world - including a little more flexibility and stamina.

Still - how on earth did I ever get to be 63?

Oh, well. I got here, and that's better than the alternative.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A rooster crowed!

I've been feeding and watering my neighbor Jennie's chickens all week, and collecting the eggs each day.  In four days I collected 30 eggs.  So far I've dropped one, given three away to a passing neighbor, and eaten several each day for breakfast.

There are 16 hens in the coop.  When I went over on Tuesday, the first day, three were outside the coop.  I caught two of them, but the third - a large white one with a black tail - eluded me.  It had returned to the coop by the next morning.

Yesterday - Friday, the fourth day, I was picking green beans in my garden and I heard a rooster crow close by.  I thought it might have been a neighbor boy imitating a rooster, but it sounded very authentic to me.  It was repeated three more times in ten minutes.  I noticed my Jennie's husband Jason had come home and wondered if he'd stopped by someplace and bought a rooster to join the hens.

Today when I was walking home from the library I saw Jennie in the yard.  We chatted about her trip and then a rooster crowed!  Turns out the large white hen with a black tail who escaped the coop wasn't a hen after all.  Jennie and I discussed how eggs get fertilized - something I wasn't familiar with.  As we stood there, the rooster mounted a hen.  It was very fast - like maybe two seconds - and then it was over.  Jennie and I laughed about what a quick thing it was, and how easy for the hen.  Then she said the rooster might only be practicing.  Remembering its robust crowing, I wondered.

So, for you keepers of chickens out there, is it really that quick?  I told Jennie I'd post a blog entry and ask.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Talking me down

My sister Alyx can talk me down when I get rattled.  Thank goodness.

I'm on my own this week - my husband is at the Minnesota Men's Conference until Sunday.  I'm the waterer and animal feeder at my house until then - and at our neighbors' until Friday night.  I'm also up to my usual schedule.  So I have plenty to do.

But I've had positional vertigo for a couple of weeks, which I last had ten years ago but is still as disconcerting as it was then.  I saw my doc on Tuesday and he prescribed meclizine, an over-the-counter med that appears to be working.   Unfortunately, I've also got allergies that have hit my ears from time to time for the last 30 years, for which I take antihistamines - and they give me that "my head's too big" sensation.  Then I start worrying about the size of my head, and I don't want to get in the car and drive, or take a walk, so I don't get out and I don't get any exercise.  I've posted about the dark alleyway of my brain before, so it's a little embarrassing to bring it up again.  But it's on my mind, if you know what I mean.

My sister Alyx has talked me down for the last couple of days.  She's in nursing school, and she says her conversations with me help her practice her critical-thinking skills!  Plus, she has a dark place in her brain also, so she gets it.

She reminded me of a couple of things this morning.  First, that I shouldn't take a medication that was prescribed for me for something else.  So I shouldn't be using the nasal spray at night that was prescribed for post-nasal drip just because it's also an antihistamine, unless I have post-nasal drip - which I don't now that I've changed the blood pressure medication that was causing it.  And, if I am using the nasal spray because it's an antihistamine, I shouldn't also be taking Allegra, an over-the-counter allergy medication - because it's an antihistamine also, and I don't need to be taking two.

I should have thought of that myself.  I'm overmedicating.  Another embarrassing thing.

For the last few years I've taken amino-acid therapy (Zen) for winter blues.  I take it from October 1 to March 31, during the dark times in the Pacific Northwest, along with light therapy.  This summer I found an herbal remedy for mild anxiety, which I've been taking as a supplement for a couple of months.  On a visit to the naturopath last week (for an issue related not to allergies but to being postmenopausal), she read the contents of the herbal remedy, noted it contained amino acids, and said, "Don't take this if you're taking the Zen."  I figured, well, she wasn't familiar with the herbal remedy, and I take a very low dose of Zen, so maybe it will be okay.  My sister said, "Linda, the doctor told you not to take both.  Do what the doctor recommended."

I should have thought of that myself, too.

Fortunately, I heard my sister.  So I won't use the nasal spray, and I will use only the Zen - even if it's two weeks before October 1.

And then, with less medication of any kind in my system, I'll walk to the library this afternoon and then drive to the post office.  Oh, and get the strawberry bed ready for winter.

Know what Alyx says?  That I'm retired now, and I haven't got things going on constantly that require my mental energy, even though I've got a busy schedule.  So my head comes up with things.  She may be on to something.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where did the time go?

It's not just that it's been nine days since I last posted a blog.  It's that time has gone fast everywhere!

How did I get to have an 11-year-old granddaughter with her own Facebook page, where she posts my picture as her grandmother?

How did I go to the pharmacy to ease the seasonal allergies that swells my Eustachian tubes and tell the pharmacist I found a med that worked 30 years ago, and have her tell me they don't make that product any more?

How did I get to have hair so gray that my hairdresser says it looks better now that there's not so much of my natural dark brown left in it?

How did it happen that when I made zucchini bread this week I realized it had been 20 years since I last baked it?

On the other hand, current time can be very sweet.

We're having a September heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.  It will be close to 90 degrees today, with low humidity and over 12 hours of sunshine.  How fortunate for all the garden's tomatoes, striving mightily to ripen before the cool fall weather begins and the green ones get stored in paper bags to ripen in darkness instead of sunshine.

Now that my granddaughter has her own Facebook page, I can communicate with her directly.  Yesterday she requested a picture of our cat "so I can show my mom what Larisa looks like".  She's a twin, and the other granddaughter doesn't have a FB page yet, so I get to have an online relationship with this one girl apart from her twin.  Always a lovely opportunity!

I luxuriated in a three-day read of Ann Patchett's new book "State of Wonder" without concern for reading into the night because I don't have to get up to go to work in the morning.

I attended my first mediation observation this week - one of six I have to do before I take my first practical exam in the process of becoming a certified mediator - and was able to sign up for a session in the middle of the day because my days are my own now.

We had a couple staying with us via the Evergreen Club, and we'll be able to visit them in January, in their community south of Tucson, because we'll already be in Sedona for two weeks anyway, and we have no restrictions on when we need to get back.

I note with pleasure that, when doing plank exercises to strengthen my core and my back, I can now hold the position for 45 seconds rather than the 30 seconds I started out with.  The personal trainer says I don't have to come back until I'm at two minutes.  I think I may actually get there - and in the two weeks I've been doing this I haven't missed a day.

I figured out how to create multiple calendars, with different colors, on my online iCal calendar.  I see my days are busy, and that's a good thing.

We have almost enough miles on our credit card to buy two tickets to Quito, Ecuador for a February visit.  We may even be able to fly on Alaska Airlines and its affiliate LAN to enhance our chance as MVP flyers of getting a first class upgrade.

Most especially, when I started this blog in January of 2010, I called it "Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting" because, before I stopped working, I was scared I'd be a bag lady.  Somehow, in the 14 months since I quit my job, that fear has been removed.  Time does work wonders!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Doing our part

We're doing our part this week.

1. Our vacuum sealer broke just in time for the green beans.We found the model we wanted at Costco, but it was made in China and we'd like to support the economy of the United States. I checked out all the brands on the web and found that, unless we want a commercial grade sealer (80+ bags a week), they're all made in China or Taiwan. So we bought the Costco model. But we looked around. That's new for us, to do our part to buy domestic whenever possible.

2. I decided to help my body heal from its back injury. I've been following my exercise regimen for over a week now. On Wednesday I saw an acupuncturist. On Thursday I saw a massage therapist who does isolated stretching. My back is slowly healing. I worried for 14 weeks before I saw my doctor and got an MRI. I decided this week that, from now on, I'll do that much sooner, to relieve my mind. I'm doing my part to keep my body and my mind healthy.

3. I was accepted into the mediation practicum and will be observing my first family mediation on Wednesday. I'm doing my part to be a peacemaker in the world.

4. I've been spending half an hour a day learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone. We'll be spending most of February in Ecuador, and I'd like to be able to at least limp along in the local language. I'm doing my part to be a citizen of the world when I travel.

5. I spent two Saturdays at our business, filing and watching and listening to our staff and our clients. Our business partner shouldn't have to do it alone. I'm doing my part to be aware of what's going on there, to affirm successes and to contribute to solutions.

6. I talked to one of my grown sons this week about his upside-down mortgage dilemma. I'm doing my part to give wise counsel to my children and, at the same time, to stay out of their business most of the time.

7. I hosted an artist from Iowa for three days whom I hadn't known previously. We had long talks that included collaborating on a book. I'm doing my part to promote friendships with new people.

8. We talked to some friends about parking their trailer on our property, where they'll be living when they're not on their boat on the way to Mexico. We're doing our part to be helpful to friends.

9. I talked to my sister several times this week as she started nursing school at the University of Alaska. She had a typically frustrating transition in settling in to her housing and her routine. I'm doing my part to be a supportive sibling and friend.

10. I read the news about the current political turmoil. Then I set it aside and get about my life. I'm doing my part to be an informed but not an obsessed citizen.

It feels good to be busy and productive!