Preparation

 

In about 12 hours I’ll be going to Cambodia again. It is always a surreal experience for me, as I am such an unlikely candidate for such far away travel. I’m old enough to be a grandmother and never had expectations of going farther away than the edges of my own country. I don’t necessarily have a yearning for travel and can’t imagine why it has happened to me (for the fifth time now!) except to say that an unseen hand must have picked me up and dropped me on the plane.

 

These days preceding the flight have been filled with hectic activity, not leaving much time to think about the trip, but when I have thought about it…

  • How different will it be for me, doing it alone this time?
  • I don’t have suitcases full of toys, crafts, and medical supplies this time. What am I supposed to do with all that room? Take clothes?
  • What will I do with those 26 hours of travel time if there are no good movies? if it’s hard to get up and walk around? if I can’t sleep?
  • I hope I don’t break the hot pink headphones I borrowed from Gracie.
  • At last I’ll get to be that person at the airport looking for someone holding a card with my name on it.
  • I wonder what the taxi fare will be – have no clue. I should have handled more of my own money matters on trips before.
  • I wonder if I will remember the children’s names, or even recognize them after two years. They’ve grown so much. I wonder if they will remember me…
  • A real hotel this time, not a guest house with known hosts. The Double Leaf Boutique, at the exorbitant price of $40 per night. Times have changed!
  • I wonder if my aging computer will make it through the two weeks. And my phone’s camera…
  • But I’m not going to take as many pictures (haha – I say this every time). I’m just going to put new dates on the old ones.
  • I’m not going to buy anything at the markets. No, not a thing. I don’t need anything.
  • I’ve seen their chickens. How am I ever going to stay on my paleo diet?
  • Two weeks without my favorite pillow, should be interesting. I’m tired already. And beds in southeast Asia are mostly hard in my experience.
  • I shouldn’t have cut my own hair – this is how they are going to remember me forever. There will be photos…
  • How has the country changed? I wonder if the roads have gotten any better.
  • How many hours of TV will the husband log while I’m away?

It’s the last few hours and I’m making myself finish packing. I’m hoping that once I get there the long trip will be forgotten and I will regain my enthusiasm, but for now, I have to admit I’m lacking in that category. I’m asking God to show me, definitively, why I am doing this. And I know he will.

Looking Up

Recently we spent several days at Bayou Hammock on Longboat Key, Florida. It was a “forced” vacation due to fumigation of our house, but a nice respite in any case. One of the hallmarks of our time there was the chance to become familiar with a pair of nesting osprey.

20170527_075933-1-1

The “bayou” part of Bayou Hammock is a shallow finger of the inland waterway as it curves into Longboat Key at the northern end. From the dock where we view it, it looks like a river and we can easily see the opposite bank. This is a populated area with houses and docks and boats. Because the water is shallow and warm, we often see fish jumping, ducks and other water birds, and occasional manatees. Mangrove thickets line the shore along the property where we stayed. Banyan, juniper, sea grape and Norfolk pine are further up in the yard. It is the Norfolk pine, situated just outside the pool cage, that drew our attention.

This tall, narrow tree sticks up far above the rest of the canopy and has on its top a messy nest, almost like a crown. I can imagine that the view is great from up there. But it was the frequent whistles and calls that drew our attention skyward. A pair of osprey had set up housekeeping and were actively flying to and from the tree top. Think of an osprey as a “fishing eagle”. They are large birds and have a diet, almost exclusively, of live fish.

They are well designed for fishing. Get this, the average time fishing before they catch something, is twelve minutes. What fisherman wouldn’t like that! They have one reversible claw on their feet enabling them to put two claws on each side of their catch. They can only do shallow dives, up to three feet, but their rate of catch is 70%, which is admirable. They can carry a load of one to two pounds, and interestingly, they align their catch head first when flying to decrease wind resistance.

Our pair of osprey were easily identified because of their white underbelly and chest.  Another trait is their wing position when flying. They have a bent wing, giving them an “M shaped” profile when flying. We thoroughly enjoyed living alongside this interesting part of God’s creation and wish them well in raising their brood.

20170527_080145
Coming in for a landing
20170527_080130
The “bent wing” characteristic can be seen here

Dealing with it (termites)

Encountering the twists and turns of life is an inescapable part of being alive, of sticking around, of aging, of “dealing” with it. I’ve been dealing with it all day, “it” being my own restlessness first, then the selling of property that has been kind of a millstone around our necks for years, add in the rain and wind outside, a couple of difficult emotional relationship dialogues, and preparation for the fumigation of our house starting Friday morning. I feel old and numb.

But I’m not going to cry. Instead, I’m going to write about our termites.

I discovered them when I was in the storage room looking for things to give away. Some boxes next to a wall were covered in termite evidence, looking a little like a pile of pepper. When the inspector came he found the tiny holes in the wall where the termites had been pushing out their tiny balls of … poop, feces, whatever you want to call it. One small corner of one small room has only one HUGE remedy.

Our property consists of two houses designed for generational living, connected by an enclosed breezeway. We have no generations willing to live with us at present so we rent out the other house, and use the breezeway for storage. The wall that the other house shares with the breezeway is where the termites live. Or maybe it’s only one of the places they live because they hide and generally chew very quietly so there’s no way of knowing where else they are. They are dry wood termites and eat very slowly, but having discovered them we had to do something. We are thinking of putting our house on the market and an inspection would undoubtedly reveal their presence. They are not a positive selling point.

The big (HUGE) remedy is fumigation. Do you know what that is? It’s a unbelievably large tent that will cover both houses and garages. It’s made with tarps held together with supersized clothespins and held in place at the bottom with weights. It holds in deadly gas that is pumped in and left for 24 hours. It’s a gas chamber for everything living inside. The workers have to be so careful that no people or animals are in the house that if there is one door, one closet, one chest, one refrigerator that they can’t open and check, then they can’t continue the procedure. Once ready, the whole house is locked up so no one can get inside. When it’s over, no one is allowed inside until tests show that the gas is gone (and I’m kind of wondering where it goes? And why are we not worried about that?)

My job today, and probably tomorrow, is readying the house, mostly the kitchen. All food that is not factory sealed in glass, plastic bottles or metal cans has to be double bagged with special bags provided to us, or removed from the house.

20170524_195925-1
It’s a mess here, no kidding.

I suppose this is a blessing in disguise, kind of a dry run for packing to move.   As the minutes turned into hours today, it really did help to give the job that redeeming feature.  At first reckon, I could imagine filling three bags from the cupboards, another two for things in the freezer, one for the refrigerator and maybe one for medicines and vitamins. I was only wrong by about a dozen bags. I’m not done yet either.

Oh my goodness, I decided to throw away the yucky protein powder from five years ago and the slightly rancid smelling flour.  I combined the three partial boxes of salt, the two bags of sugar and the multiple boxes of tea and hot chocolate. I threw away the jar of candy sprinkles (where did it come from?) and the half melted 50th birthday candle. No one is going to be fifty again in my remaining cake baking years. It’s strange how I keep finding more food too, in strange places. I can’t even talk about it.

What if I forget the candy bar in my back pack and it harbors deadly gas and I find and eat it next month and die? Yeah, what if? See why I’m a little restless today?

But I have one more day to deal with it – tomorrow, well, that’s after we go to the husband’s early morning doctor appointment, and after we sign papers with the realtor, and after I find a place for the husband and I and the cat to go live for three days while the termites are being gassed. Life… just sayin’.

On Having a Library

20170520_090522
Books by old, dead guys (no disrespect meant), some still wrapped in cellophane…

Many times, when not tending to the urgencies of my life, I turn back to the job of paring down, preparing for the coming stage when there will undoubtedly be less space. This week I came to an important conclusion which I hope will help me. I had to ask myself the question “do I want to have a library, or do I want to read?” Some clarity is needed here, because they are not the same.

Over the years, the husband and I have moved six times. Each time our library has grown with our changing interests, filling boxes and boxes of books, taking a lot of storage space. We have seldom done anything to diminish the load. We did sell our Encyclopedia Britannica set when it became apparent that there was better, more current information available on the internet – that’s about it.

I went through a period when my primary furniture interest was bookshelves. I bought them with visions of having a real library in our home, where shelves lined the walls and comfy chairs begged us to sit and read. That didn’t happen, but we did end up with bookshelves in every room but the kitchen (actually there were shelves for books in the kitchen too, sorry).

I have come to some useful observations, one being that I have not read a majority of the books I own. They are not interesting enough for me to want to read them NOW. They are “someday” books, waiting for whenever. The most embarrassing example of this is the set of classics we bought, again with the Encyclopedia Brittannica, in our second year of marriage. Quite a few of them still have the cellophane wrappers around them, having not even been opened in 40+ years. I know I’m probably missing out, but I seldom get the urge to read Socrates, or even Freud. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Another useful observation that gives me some direction for the future, is that a lot of my pleasure in books is that I like to look at them. Even the ugly ones, old and tattered, please me when they are lined up on the shelf in just the right way. I could pretend that they speak of my eclectic, intellectual interests, but no, I like their color, their geometric forms, their two or three word messages printed with a variety of interesting fonts looking at me down the row. And for my visual pleasure I probably need only five boxes of books, not thirty-five.

You see, the important question came clear to me yesterday, as I took another load to the used book store. The question is, do I want my own personal library, or do I want to read? The answer is that I want to read. But with few exceptions, I don’t want to read what is in my own library. I want to read the book I heard about on the radio, or the book one of my daughters wants me to read with her, or the book that tells me how to cope with life here and now.  I want to read it slowly, note the parts I like, maybe write down some quotes, and then I want to give it back so I don’t have to cart it around and dust it for another 40 years. If it’s one I think would be valuable to read again (and if it looks pretty) it will go in one of the five “keeper” boxes.  Just sayin’, it’s time to lighten the load.

 

One of the things about retirement that I’ve noticed is that a lot of my retired friends have asked for recommendations of good books. I’ve had to think of my favorite reads and be able to name them. I’ve also been looking for good writing. As my interest in writing grows and I wonder how I might express things I want to write, I look for books that captivate me, stir my desire to be moved by words. When I read, I’m also thinking “Do I want to write like this?”, “yes or no?”.

 What have been your favorite, most valuable reads? Whose writing inspires you?

For Mother’s Day

20170512_162317-1Hi Mom,

It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I can’t be with you – seems we’re hardly ever together this time of year. I wish that was not the case. I’ve been thinking ever so hard about what I could do or say to show you how much I love you, care about you, respect you and enjoy you. Nothing I think of quite fits the bill. We should talk sometime about what things make your heart glad so that I won’t be wondering.

I guess we all like to know that we’ve accomplished worthwhile things, helped others, added to the well-being of society… all that sort of thing. Do you wonder what you have done? I ask because I think we all have those alone moments when we are uncertain we’ve mattered in any way (I have them). Even if we think we have done our job, we’re not sure anyone else would second our opinion, ha ha. So I’ve thought of a few things you’ve done for me and will try to express them in a thankful way.

One of the most important things centers around the idea of contentment. There are so many people who are not content and are difficult to be around. They can’t even voice a statement of fact without it sounding like a complaint. You, on the other hand, are able to express even things that trouble you without complaining. I can’t imagine you whining about anything. You’ve shown me it’s possible to be this way and that it is a good choice. I’ve seen that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for me to be content. And because you are content in so many situations, it is a pleasure to be with you. I want to emulate that so that people will want to be with me as well.

From you, I’ve learned that pleasure can be pursued in many small ways – anyone can do it! (Should do it!) The pleasure of coffee in a special cup, a favorite meal (even though it be fast food), a preferred morning ritual, a favorite view of the neighborhood, a pleasurable activity (even though it be thought of as work) – are all the kind of things that should be included to make life happy.

20170512_162339-1

You’ve shown me that grieving and joy are not mutually exclusive. You’ve accepted loss as a part of life and don’t let it spoil the present or take hope away from the future. That’s huge.

You’ve been a champion of humor, of adventure, of seeing new places and doing things differently. I guess I would call that bravery. Sometimes it is brave to laugh when you could cry. It is brave to go, to join, to do, when you could sit home and do nothing. It is brave to choose “different” when we suddenly find we can no longer do “the same”.

There is much I’ve learned from your gracious way of stepping back from things too. It’s not always about saying “yes”. Sometimes it’s necessary and right to say “no”. I say you do it graciously, because you do not make others feel sorry for you, or make them feel guilty for their own choices. I guess that ties back in with being content and showing it to others.

I am more and more aware that there is no avoiding the process of aging (at least no desirable way) and am so thankful that, in you, I have an example that I want to emulate. You are the leader, you are showing the way, and you are helping me to not be afraid. Thank you.

Other miscellaneous things you’ve taught me:

  • Never stop drinking coffee.
  • Never stop digging in the dirt, gardening in some fashion.
  • It’s just money.
  • Being clean can make things almost like new, use Oxiclean.
  • Never pass up a colorful piece of cloth.
  • Always be reading something.
  • Let people know you like them.
  • Never assume you have it all figured out, or that you even should.

20170512_162358-1

 

 

 

 

The Wind

Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.   Christina Rossetti

It is a noisy morning here – blowers, saws, vehicles coming and going – and out on the street emergency trucks are dealing with the downed electrical wires and traffic is down to one lane, taking turns going east and west.

20170505_064219
Emergency vehicles converge on a dark morning

Last night it started to rain. I was awake and heard it intensify, hitting the metal roof. The main gust of wind was frightening and I remember being thankful we were in a cement block structure. It was short and quieted down immediately after. The intermittent beep of the smoke alarm, like a low battery signal, was all I heard until my daughter got up and took it down. The electricity was off, but we went back to sleep without a clue to the chaos we would see at daylight.

20170505_064459

The beautiful farm where daughter Julia rents a small house, sustained heavy wind damage in that storm.  Our view of the main house, out her front door, was obscured by the giant oak that had fallen. Oh, the trees, it makes my heart sick – anyone who has read my blog knows how I feel about trees. Just last night we had the sad job of burying Rodgey the cat in a garden area next to several beautiful trees, on a mound with a swing attached to them. The garden is now invisible and covered with the limbs of those trees that were ripped off. A large cattle feeder from an adjoining field was deposited under what is left of one of them. Oddly, the swing is still there.20170505_095601

There are several areas of downed board fencing, a couple of them right on the road. A herd of mini horses that were kept in that field evidently left through the break and came back in again in a different place. They were racing around loose in the back of the barns when Julie found them.  Her own horses were safe and in place, but the shelter in their field was dismantled and distributed all over the pasture to the north. The fence was gone there too.

 

20170505_07010720170505_070116

The owner of the farm has come to survey the damage. She is a businesswoman who has a construction company of some kind and has already dispatched many of her workmen to the farm to clean up the damage. Indeed, there are already blowers and chippers running everywhere and loads of limbs being hauled off. “It will look better by the end of the day,” she told us. But it will look different than it did before the storm.

20170505_08075520170505_064334

As we look around outside, it is very obvious that we were spared loss of life, and even serious property damage. It’s a strange sort of day here.

20170505_074329-1
Dr. Julia taking Rocker and Fea to a safer paddock.

North Carolina Hiking

20170502_151347Today was a good day. I accomplished two things. I tested out a new pair of hiking boots and I stretched myself physically to see if anything was going to break. So far, nothing has.

We are visiting our daughter in North Carolina. I have been looking forward to this visit for several reasons – one of them being the hiking terrain that’s available there. Today was Julia’s day off from work so we went looking for some mountains.

About an hour from Greensboro is Hanging Rock State Park and there are mountains there very similar to other places on the AT that I have hiked in the past.  The rock outcroppings at the tops of these wooded ridges are so dramatic. I couldn’t help but thinking of the violent seismic forces that must have pushed them up at such angles. And what a beautiful ride there! North Carolina is all leafed out and green, fields are planted, and rhododendron is blooming along the roadside as you get to higher elevations.  The sun was shining and there was just enough breeze to keep us cool.

The state park has no admission fee so we drove in, parked near the visitor center and got a trail map. The girl manning the information desk marked out a trail for us. I told her we were ambitious and wanted some up and down time, so she suggested an 11 mile route that visited five outstanding spots. We honestly had no idea how this was going to feel for us, and I was glad there were several optional places to quit our route and get back to the car.

20170502_134333
Photo op after peeling off first layer of jackets

We set off around 1 pm, Julie had Tess the dog with her, and I carried the backpack with water and snacks. We soon peeled off our first layer of jackets, mostly out of embarrassment as we passed people in shorts and tank tops, and partly because we started climbing and sweating right away. The main feature, Hanging Rock, was first on the list. We saw lots of people on this trail, all ages and hiking abilities. There were benches at convenient resting spots.  The trail is well maintained but it is rocky in places with uneven footing. It’s sometimes steep, but the view at the top is worth the climb. The rocky outcroppings allow one to see wide expanses of the valleys on both sides, east and west. Although there is ample room at the top for people to spread out and rest awhile on the rocks, there are no barriers anywhere and the vertical drops are scary. (What I’m saying is that if you had carried your young child up there, you would want to hold on to them. Every. Minute.)

20170502_135905
Tess was so good on this trip, but she was on leash up here, for sure.

We had a snack and then doubled back on the trail to the next outcropping, Wolf Rock. It and the next two, House Rock and Cook Wall, were reached along the next five or six miles along a ridge. Ridgewalking is somewhat of a relief because it has fewer steep climbs or descents. This trail is forested and shady except on the outcroppings. The path varies from soft forest floor to tangled root stair steps and ragged rock slabs and boulders. You spend a lot of time looking down for safe places for feet to land. There were fewer people to share the trail with us after Hanging Rock since the other features are visited less. However, they were all worth seeing.  We decided to head back without going to Moores Wall, the last on our route. Our feet were beginning to feel the rocks and over eight miles (five hours) of unaccustomed hiking were making my legs feel a little rubbery.  Besides, the dog was really tired.

20170502_162513
A gorgeous spot along one of the ridges

It is true that the descending path can be harder or as hard as the climb up – you feel the strain in other places though. The last mile was mostly level ground that followed a clear brook, spilling out of Magnolia Spring and emptying into a beautiful lake.  I saw there a sign for a trail I hadn’t heard about before, The MTS or Mountain to Sea, not that I need another trail to add to the list.

20170502_152038
Julia, with a milkshake on her mind. Can you tell?

Julia is a wizard at finding her favorite treats and evidently a milk shake had been on her mind for the last few miles of the hike. We found one of those at the Milk Bar in Walnut Cove. It was the perfect end to a great day of hiking.

 

 

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Z

Zzzzzz’s (okay, sleep)

I used to think that missing sleep was not a big deal, if I could make it through the next day all right. I’m learning differently, and it’s a little scary.

A good sleep pattern, something that’s habitual, can make the difference between being healthy and active or falling prey to (are you ready for this?) brain fog, memory loss, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Prolonged poor sleep habits are a factor in all of those things THAT YOU DON’T WANT!

I’m especially concerned about my brain as I age, specifically I want to avoid dementia of all kinds. Good sleep enables the brain to clear out damaging proteins and carry out several other physiological chores that cut inflammation and bolster the immune system. Sleep apnea,  a common condition these days, has been shown to be a factor in the cognitive impairment that can precede Alzheimer’s disease. I’m not saying that my husband is cognitively impaired yet but he says he’s worried that he is.  What I hear, a few minutes after he falls asleep, is snoring. After he is fully relaxed his airway closes and he doesn’t breathe for a much longer time than normal – which rouses him suddenly just enough to start the cycle over again. Neither one of us sleeps very well through this.

The good news is that he has finally gotten around to visiting a sleep specialist for his sleep problem. Yay! I have been telling him that it could be causing some of his other complaints, and after getting the explanations from this doctor, he is starting to believe it. He’s eager to get on with his night time sleep study (polysomnogram). There is a whole field of medicine devoted to sleep disorders, and it’s about time since we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, or trying to.

Sleep, good sound sleep that leaves me feeling refreshed, is a memory from younger years I’m afraid. I usually look forward to getting off my feet and lying down, but after a few hours of hunting for a position that doesn’t hurt something, somewhere, I’m am looking forward to getting up again.  Tried a “sleep number” bed. It didn’t help. Tried “My Pillow”.  Didn’t help either. I’m defying the odds. But every once in a while I hit the jackpot and get a really good sleep. It is so sweet, and definitely a favorite.

20160422_115958
The kind of ridiculous, good sleep I’m waiting for…

 

I’m addressing my sleep deprivation from several angles, trying lots of lifestyle alterations that help. There’s lots of interesting information out there! How are you sleeping these days?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Y

52d4d-20130122_133521
This pelican has nothing to do with the post subject but posts are better with pictures and I’ve always wanted to use this one.

Yes.

I have spent many years being very fond of the word “yes”, except for a brief period around two years old when I was probably practicing “no” more than “yes”. It has been not only a joy to have said yes to many things but it has been the source of adventure that has made life rich. It is hard to go through life without any regrets, but I can’t think of a single “yes” that I would take back if I could. (Perhaps that’s just the blessing of selective memory? Perhaps. ) You know the results of the things you say yes to. The times you answer “no”, you always wonder… what if I had said “yes”.

When I was very young, I said “yes” to God, which was about the only thing I had a choice in. Kids aren’t aware of all the choices they have because they don’t really seem like choices. Should I obey? Should I lie? Should I hide? But the chosen answers do start the formation of character.

As a young adult, I’m glad I said “yes” to the hard work of schooling, to marriage, to employment opportunities, to children.

I’m glad I said “yes” to travel experiences in a faraway part of the world. I’m glad I spent time camping on the Appalachian Trail. I’m glad I said “yes” to riding a horse across Florida.

I’m glad I said “yes” to all the beginning conversations that ended in long time friendships. I could really have missed out there. I’m glad I stretched myself to come alongside some who were in need. I’ve been repaid for those “yeses” as they have given me a sense of purpose and a chance to share burdens with others without going through the hardship myself – vicarious learning.

I’m glad I said “yes” to writing – years of corresponding with friends and family, years of journaling, and years now of this blog. It is my record of life.

To be fair, the word “no” is not bad just because “yes” has been good. “No” finds its rightful place more often now and it feels more like wisdom to say it. I am only content in saying it because of all the times I’ve said “yes”. (No, I don’t want to go waterskiing. I’ve done that and I have no desire to have my arms pulled out of their sockets today. Thanks.)

There is a whole world of “yes” out there, still to be explored, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.  Think about it.

 

What unregretted “yes” pops into your mind as you read this?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things X

X it out – Delete!

I am on the 60th page of 139 email pages, 10 emails per page. I glance at the senders, select all, and delete. I do this about every week, trying to clear out my mailbox before I get the message that they aren’t accepting any more emails.  This is one of two email address accounts that I have. And don’t get me started on paper accumulation from snail mail.

20170428_110207
Tremble, tremble…

I am watching closely as my WordPress media gallery gets closer and closer to full capacity. I had fun deleting photos once last year – many of them weren’t important by themselves – until I realized that they were also being removed from my posts, where they were important. Time to upgrade, they tell me.

My Verizon cloud is full, they want money. My JustCloud is past full and they want money. They won’t even let me see what’s in that to determine if I want anything. My iCloud is full and messaging me regularly. Delete. Delete. Delete. XXX.

It’s true that some of these storage accounts were ones I didn’t ask for. They came with “the device” but I’m finding that the weight of them is stressful.  I keep looking for the place where I can unsubscribe and be rid of them but I don’t find that option, oddly (or not).

Many times I write, think, write, think, then delete and start over. I’m thankful for the X and how it stands for the freedom of crossing out and starting over. I’m often thankful for the things I did not write/say. The X usually turns out to be a better way.

2017-04-28 10.55.42
One of my handiest (and most often used) keys.

There’s a big spiritual side to this concept too. Everything we feel bad about, are angry about, grieve over, and struggle with can be and will be X’d out. Our responsibility for these things can be lifted. We can’t get through life without some of this baggage – God knew it. He made a way to delete and sign on a different plan which he pays for in perpetuity. I signed up and can tell you it works as described, and I’m really starting to like this analogy. The next thing, someone will be marketing the God Ap, or maybe it’s already out there, I don’t know.  We people just can’t help ourselves.

Back to taking things out of my life – I made a big trip to the donation center again yesterday. Less is better, and now I have less. If I ever have to move I want it all to fit in one trailer and done.

Where does the concept of deleting, X’ing out, find itself useful in your life?