I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Coping mechanisms

On top of Herman Saddle, Mt. Baker behind
I've been thinking for a day or two about what to write this morning, my Sunday morning ritual. Last week I wrote about technology and how it has changed our lives, but what has been on my mind most this week is how I get through difficulties. And why would that be on my mind? Chronic pain, both physical and psychological. You don't get to be my age without at least some of it, I don't think.

What brought this to the fore was a fall I took on the ice last Thursday. We knew that the trail where we would be hiking was likely to be covered with snow and ice, since we've had incredibly cold weather (for us) these past few weeks, and trails in town that are well used have turned to sheets of ice, at least in spots. Those of us who had purchased ice cleats strapped them onto our boots, and they worked really well. Unfortunately, I took them off before we ventured onto some "black ice" on the trail that was invisible to my eyes, but not to my equilibrium. I fell backwards and twisted my left knee, so hard that I wasn't sure I would be able to continue. I lay on my back, gritting my teeth, and waited for the first wave of pain to settle down.

I had ACL replacement surgery on that knee in 1994, more than twenty years ago, and it's given me pain now and then ever since. I had lost full flexion, being unable to pull my heel to my rear, even with help, and that's the way it bent. All the way to my butt, as I lay wedged between a rock and a hard place.

But I was out in the wilderness, with no choice except to get back up and try to walk. Fortunately I never hike without Ace bandages and knee braces, and after a few minutes I realized that I was going to be able to continue without having to be hauled out by my friends. My first steps told me that walking was actually the best thing I could be doing, because the tendons around my knee kept wanting to seize up to protect the injury. Eventually they calmed down, and I was walking almost normally within a short time. Not without pain, though.

It could have been worse. One Trailblazer told us of a friend who took a spill like that while skiing, and she hit her head on a rock and lost consciousness. Yes, a blow to the head is never a good thing, but especially when we are older. The woman came to and had no memory of what had happened and suffered memory lapses afterwards. And the older we get, the more we are at risk for falls. Leonard Cohen died recently after a fall, at the age of 82. Jeremy Faust at Slate wrote an article about it, The Major Fall. It's an interesting read.

I had my first yoga class of the winter season on Friday, and I was not sure whether I would be able to do the class, so I told the instructor about the knee injury and that if it hurt too much, I would simply stop, or modify the pose. The interesting thing was finding out what did and didn't hurt as I made my way through the class. One of the things we do while lying flat is to take a strap and pull the leg up and straighten it as much as possible. Wow, did that hurt, mostly on the back of the knee. I kept trying, though, and I was able to get it almost straight.

I noticed that after I did that, the pain in my knee was much less. I was able to do the rest of the postures without too much difficulty, and modified what I needed to. By the time I left the class, my knee was much better. Now I am convinced that the yoga poses are what have made my knees stronger and more pain free. If I had babied the knee, would it have been healing as quickly? Then yesterday morning I went walking with the ladies, my normal Saturday activity, and the knee was so much better I was amazed and very pleased.

I am never really pain free. It's a part of aging, whether I remain active or not. I want to maintain my ability to hike and walk and play outdoors for as long as I can, because I know the direction that we humans take as we age. I read a great article recently, by Erica Manfred on Senior Planet, called "I'm Not Aging "Well," I'm Getting Old, Dammit." She and I are the same age, and I know exactly what she means when she says,
People used to think of growing old as part of the natural progression of life from birth to death. Not anymore. Now we go directly from middle age to you’re-just-as-old-as-you-feel.
 “Old age” has been dropped from our vocabulary. “You’re not old!” people say when I describe myself that way. I’m 74 with an assortment of age-related ailments and a generous complement of sags and wrinkles. If I’m not old, who is?
Exactly. The fact that I can still accomplish all that I do is for at least two reasons: I keep at it and modify what I can do each and every day. I also pay attention to my body and don't dose myself with drugs to dull the pain. I find that if I take even ibuprofen when I'm hurting I tend to push harder than if I allow myself to feel the condition of my joints and muscles. My sister has arthritic ankles and had to give up running more than two decades ago, but she took up swimming instead and now swims a mile every day, then takes a three-mile walk for weight bearing exercise. She also golfs and at 71 is going strong, even if she's had to modify her activity.

This past year I also discovered another coping mechanism, just by chance. My friend John had both knees replaced and suffers from chronic pain. He started using marijuana tincture (legal in our state) to help with it, and I went down to the MJ store and talked with the budtender (isn't that a cool title?) about how to cope with insomnia and pain without getting high. He introduced me to a tincture that works very well, called "Crash" that is designed to help people sleep. I took a half dose to start, and when that didn't seem to affect me, I took a full 10-mg dose, and I slept like a baby. And I found another side effect: every single ache and pain in my body just went away! Some I didn't even realize I had, because I was so accustomed to them, like the pain in my hip where I broke it years ago. Gone. When I woke in the morning, they were all back again, but somehow they didn't bother me as much, since I knew I had a way to make them recede.

But, for the same reason that I don't take ibuprofen on a regular basis, I also don't take the tincture every night. Maybe once a week I'll treat myself to a pain-free sleep. And there doesn't seem to be the same effect when you ingest it as when you smoke it; at least I didn't notice any "high" feeling from the small amount I took. When marijuana became legal in Colorado, Maureen Dowd, a columnist with the New York Times, ate an entire candy bar (16 doses!) and freaked out and wrote about her experience here. She was warned that she should take a small amount and wait at least an hour before ingesting any more. She didn't listen, and it made me very convinced that as powerful a drug as this is, you must use it with caution.

Anyway, those are my coping mechanisms: exercise (plenty of it), fresh air and being in the outdoors, yoga, and small doses of drugs. I've modified my activities to fit my own situation. And I should probably add intellectual stimulation. I read a lot and I write blog posts, like this one. I have a full life and a community of friends to help as well. When I finish this post, I'll leap out of bed and start my day, with my usual latte with my friends at the coffee shop. I smile as I think of it.

And you, my dear readers. I'm aware of your presence as I sit here in my bed, keys clicking away as I write, with You Know Who sleeping next to me. I do hope that you will share your own coping mechanisms for difficulties you face with me in your comments. Please have a wonderful, pain-free and peaceful week before we meet again, right here, same time, same place next Sunday.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Our technological age

Mt. Baker peeking through 
We've had a week of clear skies and unusually cold temperatures, and it was still beautiful when we went on our Thursday hike last week. I took this picture with my cellphone, of course. I've stopped even bothering with my camera, since my phone does everything I need. I'm not a professional photographer and only need something that will help me chronicle life events and look halfway decent.

It's only been ten years since the iPhone was first released, with a camera that now seems rather dated. The new iPhone 7 is in my near future, but I'm still trying to recover from all the expenses of last month before I tackle a new purchase. It truly is amazing how attached I've become to that phone. It is with me constantly, helping me to count my steps, or get an answer to any question with the entire storehouse of human history at my fingertips. I can even use it to make phone calls occasionally, but these days that seems to be the least important aspect of my smartphone. Let's face it, I'm hooked. And ten years ago I thought it was great just to have a little tiny flip phone!

Technology marches on, and now the whole world has them. I just looked up the statistic of how many people worldwide use smartphones, and the number is now almost 3 billion! When I was young there weren't even that many people. Now we have 7.4 billion people on this tiny planet, and every day brings more and more. Is there a tipping point? Of course there is, but what will be tipped into? I don't even want to think of it.

Yesterday I went to see a documentary at the local movie theater that I enjoyed immensely: The Eagle Huntress, about a young teenager in Outer Mongolia who wanted to take up the activity of her father and grandfather, but women had never done it before. I wrote about it here. The Kazakh Nomads of Mongolia live in yurts during the summer months and move into walled structures during the winter, when it gets down as low as -40°F. I found this pictorial taken from a photographic expedition in 2015, and I am reminded that not every place on this beautiful planet is connected to the wider world. And I'm grateful for that, since the rest of us are so inundated every day with information that it has become rather overwhelming to try to keep up.

We who live in the developed world are so accustomed to the way we live that it's hard to even imagine life without electricity, roads, laptops, and the internet. This very minute, I am writing to a group of people whom I will never meet who have become dear friends, and this is because of the internet. I've been writing blogs since 2009, which doesn't seem that long ago, but how very much of my life has been altered through technology. I have a hard time thinking about what it was like before. My little nieces have never known a life where they didn't have an iPad that connects them to the rest of the world. It's a little bit mind-boggling.

I am a fan of dystopian novels written about a post-apocalyptic world, because they cause me to look around and actually see my world with different eyes. Margaret Atwood is a favorite author of this type of work; I remember reading The Handmaid's Tale back in 1985 and was hooked on her writing then. I think I've read all of her work except for her latest book. She's written several more of these kinds of books, all of them fascinating, some more gripping than others. She is just a few years older than me, and she shows no signs of slowing down.

None of us can see the future, but we certainly know plenty about the present moment, and we can only imagine what our lives will be like a decade from now. When I think back about how much has changed in the last one, it makes me grateful for the world of today. It does feel, though, a bit like standing on a precipice and looking down at vistas shrouded in fog, wondering when the air clears just what I will see. I am filled with gratitude for all my blessings, not the least of which is this laptop that connects me to you. It's been a wonderful journey so far, and I am glad to know that, whatever happens, I am not alone and will not have to face an uncertain future without help. That is true for all of us. Remember this in the days and weeks ahead.

I found this quote from Margaret Atwood:  "Every aspect of human technology has a dark side, including the bow and arrow." So yes, it's possible that when the fog clears, we'll see things that we couldn't even imagine. I am staying positive, because I can choose my response to whatever comes into my world, even if I cannot change much more than that. So, for as long as I have this venue and you, my dear friends, to share it with, how bad can things get? (No, don't answer that; it's just a rhetorical question.)

And now, it's time for me to get out of bed and start my day. I know that the coffee shop has a latte with my name on it, and that my friends are probably already there. I get a massage today and might go see another movie, but then again, maybe not. I'm due for a trip to the library to return some books and pick up some new ones. Please, dear friends, remember that we are gifts to those around us, and stay positive and loving in the face of uncertainty. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A brave new year

Yes, welcome!
I could say so many things about my hopes for this year. Hopes for a better year than the last one, and hopes that everything in my life will improve rather than deteriorate. I'm tempted to just leave my post alone, stop it right here, so that I can turn over and retreat under the covers. But no, it's time to get up and welcome in the new year. Writing this post will be the first thing I do in the new year, other than having ventured out of bed to make a cup of tea, and so it will set the tone for all the rest of it, to my way of thinking.

First of all, I need to say goodbye to those wonderful celebrities who left us last year, starting with the first one in January, David Bowie. He was dying for the whole year of 2015 from liver cancer, but I didn't know that when he made his last album, Blackstar. He had just released this disturbing video that made no sense to me but was very scary (don't watch it unless you know what to expect). I first saw it in January and watched it again last night and realize now he was saying goodbye. He was only 69 but certainly lived a good full life. He left behind a legacy like no other.

And then a few days later, Alan Rickman (Severus Snape to Harry Potter fans) died, also at 69. That began a year where we lost so very many wonderful people. Here's a list if you want to see every celebrity we lost in 2016. Many of them weren't very old, at least from my perspective. I don't think of being in your fifties and sixties as being quite ready to leave. The year ended with the unexpected deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the very next day. I cried over the loss of both and will watch both Postcards from the Edge and Singin' in the Rain again sometime soon and will marvel once more at their talent.

Well! That was last year, and we are now at the beginning of a fresh start. Of course, dying is just the final act of our time on earth and comes to each and every one of us, but we've got some living to do between now and then. "Living the dash," as I like to think of it (the time between our birth and our death), and this new year is a symbolic moment to contemplate what we'd like to see happen in the near future. First of all, I'd like to acknowledge the enormous pile of gifts that I have received: friendships near and far, health, enough monthly income to pay the rent and buy good food, and a partner to share this life with me. If I end this year with those gifts still intact, it will have been a good one.

There has been a definite change in my ability to remember things, and I'm wondering if I would benefit from some sort of program to enhance my memory. Names have sometimes escaped me for awhile, but it's getting more pronounced. I walked yesterday with a dear friend, someone I've known for years, and I can see her face, know where she lives, and as we walked I realized I couldn't recall her name. Oh well, I thought, it will come to me. But it didn't, and last night I woke with her name almost in my mind, but it would flit away just as I got close. As I sit here right now, it's still missing.

Perhaps this is simply another aspect of aging, one that happens to all of us, but who knows? It's disconcerting, to say the least. I'm wondering if the ability to look up anything at the drop of a hat is making it worse, since I don't have to search around in my memory banks when I can just ask Professor Google for the answer. The truth of it is that I am afraid of losing my mental faculties. I have some online women friends who are caregivers for their husbands who have developed dementia, and they are no older than me. It would be impossible for me to develop early-onset dementia, since I'm already too old for that. So, I keep an eye on my day-to-day activities and try to remain positive about the future. What else can I do?

I just received an email from the leader of our annual New Years Day walk that it has been canceled this morning because of the ice and snow we received here last night. I'm relieved, because I wasn't at all looking forward to venturing out and finding out whether it's slippery. I'm such a coward when it comes to driving in bad conditions. When I lived in Colorado, I didn't mind much because I was accustomed to it, but it's been many years since I've had to deal with days and days of icy conditions, and it's only January. We've got the entire winter to navigate, and I intend to ride the bus whenever I can instead of driving. Today there are no buses, but my friend John, who has an enormous truck (and heart), has offered to pick me up to take me to the coffee shop this morning, and I'll certainly take him up on that. He's a good friend.

Do you make resolutions for the new year? I have done so many times in the past, but recently I've decided that it makes more sense to have a word or a phrase to take me through the year. The word that comes up first is "Willingness." Being willing to be open to what comes, and dealing with the trials and tribulations of life with humor and good will. Why not? It makes much more sense to be willing than it does to grudgingly face each day's challenges. Yes, that's it: willingness. It even makes me feel happy to think of it as my Word of the Year.

Looking forward, I see many different ways to deal with whatever comes next. And come it will. The one thing I know is that life is not static; it moves with each day, and we can rejoice together or grieve for what we can do nothing about. Let's choose love and light and happiness for as long as we can, and remember that whatever happens, we are not alone. I feel such love in my heart for all of you, my dear readers, as well as love for my gently sleeping partner, for my sisters and brother and their families, and for those dear friends who surround me every day. If I must choose between a frown and a smile, you know which one I'll choose. I read somewhere that smiling, even when you don't feel like it, makes you and everyone around you feel better. Plus it's easy: just tip up the corners of your mouth a tiny bit.

And with that, I'll leave you with a quote from Paramahansa Yogananda: "Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts." Who could ask for anything better? Love to all of you, and may we share a very happy new year in 2017.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas morning 2016

Christmas Eve sunrise at Lake Padden (taken by Linda)
I didn't go on the walk with the ladies on Saturday morning, since it had snowed on Friday and then overnight the streets became a sheet of ice, making driving hazardous for people without SUVs or, at least, better driving skills than I have. Lake Padden is a fair distance away from my home, so I didn't go. Linda and Peggy, however, did and Linda sent me this picture as they were returning home after a virtuous trip twice around the lake. Another person, our friend Shirley, was also there, but otherwise nobody else showed up.

And now it's Christmas Day, and I sit here in my warm home and ponder the plight of all those without adequate shelter at a time like this. It's 26°F outside, dark and quiet. Where do the deer and the birds go when it gets so cold? Of course, cold is relative, as there are blogging friends of mine who live where the temperature and wind chill are well below zero, and somehow the wildlife survive until conditions improve. At least, most of them do. But I am safe, warm, and connected to the wider world through the wonder of the internet.

I will venture out at my usual time, although there is no yoga class to attend and my regular coffee shop is closed. I arranged to meet my friend John at the local Starbucks at 8:00am (or so) and figure the roads should be clear and there will be little traffic to worry about. No hills to navigate between here and there, so I should be fine. I will endure a little difficulty to get my local fix.

It's almost six in the morning here, and I know that all over the world there are children, young and old, who are waking to mounds of presents under a decorated Christmas tree, and people all over the world are celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah, which happen to fall on the same day this year. This hasn't happened in four decades. I remember what it was like to have a family that celebrated Christmas like that; I grew up in a home that always had a real Christmas tree, meaning one that started its life in a forest and smelled of pitch and pine. Every year Mama would pull out the ornaments, some of them handmade by us. The tree sparkled with lights and tinsel once it was decorated, and we would stand and admire it.

One of my favorite memories was lying with my head under the tree, looking up at the branches and absorbing the magic of Christmas. The aroma of the tree was strong and the view ignited my imagination, conjuring up images of elves and Santa and reindeer and, sadly, no images of Jesus, who was absent from our very secular Christmases. I really didn't know anything about the reason for Christmas; I grew up in a home that didn't attend church. Thinking back, I must have known something about it from school, but I don't remember. it's been a long time.

When I was a teenager, I discovered religion and began to attend the local Episcopal church when we lived in Georgia. The priest came to our house and visited, and before long, not only was I a member of the church, but so also were my siblings. We joined the choir and attended every Sunday. I well remember one Christmas Eve, which I wrote about here, when my sister Norma Jean and I were impromptu Christmas elves. I first wrote that in 2009, seven years ago now, but it's still fun to read. For my more recent followers, it will be the first time you hear the story. Think of it as a Christmas gift from me to you.

I am old and surrounded by memories of Christmases past. They swirl and dance in my head, remembering times when I spent Christmas in Arizona, jumping out of planes all day long, making formations with friends new and old, enjoying myself in a very different way than I do today. It might seem like a far cry from that life to this one, but that is the nature of time and space. Does everything that I once did still exist anywhere but in my own head? Is it possible that we really do exist in different dimensions, with the person I was still climbing outside the airplane at altitude, my entire being concentrated on exiting at the same time as everybody else? In my dreams, I sometimes find myself right there, or flying in the sky under my parachute, and it feels as real as me sitting here right now with my laptop.

But now I am old, and I've stopped doing things that made perfect sense ten or twenty years ago. However, that reminds me of another Christmas gift that I want to give you: a poem by Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland. It's only the first two stanzas, but they just popped into my head and I knew that they are perfect for this wonderful time:

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

And with that admonition, I realize that standing on my head might be just the thing to do after my latte! Please have a wonderful, delightful, and memorable Christmas. Your family might be a large extended one, or a small one with virtual friends and family, but whatever it is, I hope you cherish and appreciate them, as I do you, and my own family and friends, with gratitude for the life we share. Be well until next year, when we will meet again.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Running out of time

Mt. Ranier from the plane
I am home again, sitting in my usual spot in the bedroom, laptop across my knees. It's already ten degrees warmer outside than it was at this time yesterday, so I am tempted to believe the weather when it says we will begin our warmup and transition to rain for the coming Christmas week.

Yesterday I walked with the ladies (ten of us showed up) in really cold weather, which didn't seem too bad once the wind had died down. We did walk through some patchy ice on the trails, but nobody fell, not even me. People I know have fallen on the ice; my neighbor Lynn fell and twisted her ankle and tried to brake her fall with one hand, so she now has a sore arm and sore ankle.

Looking back on my visit to Florida, a few things stand out: the wonderful warm weather and that fabulous outdoor pool my sister swims in every morning. They seem like a mirage from here, something that I just made up in a dream, although I can imagine myself slipping into that water and taking off for my first lap, watching the bubbles as I breathe out into the water and begin my stroke. I have everything here to continue swimming if I choose, but I probably won't. Our pool is indoors, of course, and the lanes are shorter and very much in demand. At my sister's YMCA, I never had to share a lane, not once. Not to mention having her nearby was simply delightful.

I haven't had a chance to miss her or Peter (her son who lives with her), since I've been pretty busy since I returned home. I started my travels from her home at 6:00am and was picked up by SG at 6:00pm, and with a three-hour time change I realized I had been traveling for fifteen hours. Fortunately he was standing outside the shuttle bus from Seattle with my heavy coat in hand, and he then drove us back to our own warm and snug home. All the icy patches on the ground and in the streets reminds me that we haven't had a hard freeze and snow like this in years.

The next morning, Thursday, I ventured out with my car on the icy streets and found that almost everything had cleared, as the sunshine allowed most of the streets to be drivable. Even though the temperature has stayed frigid, I wasn't too nervous as I drove to the Senior Center. How many people would show up for our shortened hike before our Christmas party? Plenty, as it turned out: there were fifteen of us on the Hertz Trail on the north shore of Lake Whatcom. Afterwards, we went to Sue's home, where those who didn't hike, as well as the other group of Trailblazers, gathered for a wonderful potluck. It was the best attended in years, with more than forty of us enjoying fabulous food and company. Once I got home I wrote a post about it here.

Today I will attend my last Sunday yoga class with Laifong, before a break in the schedule and then a new instructor for Level I. I am making progress, slowly and gradually, and now can do some poses that seemed impossible a year ago. Yes, it's been a year since I started at Yoga Northwest, and I am no longer falling as often; my balance is definitely better, and I've begun to gain strength in my back and arms. And it's another community of like-minded people: I see some of the other practitioners around town and we acknowledge each other with a smile.

About the title of this post, "running out of time." Why did that come to mind first thing this morning? Partly it's the time of year, when everywhere I see reminders that we only have two more weeks in this year, with "best of" lists and retrospectives already beginning. I am only just now beginning to feel comfortable with 2016, and now it's almost gone, with 2017 on the horizon. Some years just fly by, and at this time in my life, that is the norm. The days and weeks and months no longer seem to have a simple 24 hours, 7 days, 12 months—they accelerate in their passage until I feel dizzy with the realization that I'm definitely running out of time.

No matter what happens in the remainder of my life, I've had a very good one, filled with everything that a person could desire: a happy family life when I grew up, lots of thrills and chills as I began my own journey out into the world, with love and loss and pain, just like everybody else. I had a good career and became more successful than most women I know, with a salary that seemed huge to me at the time. And I discovered an avocation in skydiving that gave me my very much loved life partner, as well as the chance to instruct more than a thousand students to safely enjoy my chosen sport.

In my move to Bellingham nine years ago now, I also discovered that it was possible to develop a daily routine that gives me everything I need in retirement to stay healthy and engaged in activities that fill me with joy. And the world of the internet, especially Blogland where we visit one another, has come to fill my need for mental pushups. I've got friends all over the world whose journey I share, and when I think of you all I feel immense happiness for our ability to know each other through our blogs. In retirement, I have managed to maintain a healthy intellectual life. I am always on the lookout for another good book to read, and my blogging friends often point me to new ones.

And then there's this particular blog, my Eye on the Edge, that reminds me that the Edge is not very far off, now that I am in my mid-seventies and, although trying hard to stay healthy, knowing that we all must find a way to make a good exit from this wonderful place we call home. We have the ability to look at the future, whatever it holds, as a possibility to extract every little bit of love and joy we can from it. Einstein once said, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

You know which way I choose to live. I hope you, too, will see the miracle of your life, the wonder of it, as a gift that you share with me. Please remember to take care of yourself during these hectic times, and savor every single last little bite. Until we meet again next week, on Christmas, be well and don't forget to hug your loved ones.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Waves of health and illness

Florida sky and palm trees
I took this picture after a rain of several hours here in Florida. Usually the sky doesn't look quite so dramatic, and I was struck by its beauty. I hoped to capture it during sunset, but by then the sky had changed completely. Usually Florida clouds resemble puffy cotton balls.

I'm sitting here in the early morning light, propped up with pillows in Peter's bed. He's been sleeping in the shed while I'm here, which he's fixed up with a bed and sound system. I could hear it when I woke last night, thinking I was hearing a faraway thunderstorm, but then it developed a beat, and I knew he must be awake in the middle of the night. I, however, woke with a severe case of nausea. The entire family here is going through what must be a norovirus attack, with my little grand-niece Lexie getting sick first, then my sister Norma Jean and Peter during the nighttime on Thursday, waking to illness on Friday. I was a little queasy and thought that whatever had felled them had missed me. Nope. Last night I spent many hours trekking to the bathroom and finally fell into a restless sleep.
From Barfblog

Since it's Sunday and I'm sick in sunny Florida, I only have one task that must be done today, and that is to write this post. Earlier in the week, I pondered writing about my days as a skydiver, and remembering the really interesting and unusual skydives I've made, but now that the time has come, that is NOT what is flowing out of my fingertips. The only thing on my mind is how my body is feeling, and wondering how long I'll be feeling so sick. Actually, now that I consider it, I'm already not as bad as I was last night. Google informs me that the duration is usually one to three days, and that there is little to do except wait it out. Food sounds horrible to me right now, and I've just learned from this link that eating anything is likely to make me feel worse. This is the same bug that caused many a cruise ship excursion to end early. Fortunately for me, I am surrounded by family (most of whom have already recovered from their own bout of this), and I don't have to be anywhere or even get out of bed if I don't want to.

Fine. Once I finish with this post I think I'll go right back to sleep for awhile. Maybe I'll feel well enough to read, but right now I just don't want to think about it. I am, however, thinking about my readers, who were expecting an uplifting post this morning and will just have to do without. It would make me feel better to know that everyone read the link from WebMD to find out how to keep yourself from getting infected with this awful bug. However, in my research I learned that it is highly resistant to over-the-counter disinfectants, so it was probably inevitable that I would get it, no matter how carefully I washed my hands and washed down surfaces with Lysol.

Well, I am obviously feeling somewhat better, as I feel the Florida sunshine coming through the window and bathing me in its healing rays, and I am resisting the urge to just pretend I'm not sick and get started with my day. But every time I get up and walk around, I realize the futility of that approach and decide I'll just wait for my usual healthy self to reemerge. Until then, I hope you'll be well and happy, and that I make an uneventful trip home so we can meet again next week at the usual time.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Uncharted territory

Melanie took this on our hike last Thursday
December and another birthday. I had to leave behind 73 and take a look at 74, on my way to... who knows? How does anybody predict the future, the days of our lives on this wonderful and precious planet? I am now older by five years than my mother, and twelve years older than my father when he died at 62.  Heart disease took them both, as well as my son, who died at forty. So there is a very good reason for me to exercise as much as I do, walking my way to heart health.

My numbers are all good, putting me in the lowest percentile for heart disease. I have my blood drawn at the first of every year to check it all out. I am also fortunate to have all my medical records on line, so I just took a look at the numbers to reassure myself that I remember correctly: total cholesterol 215, "good" HDL  cholesterol 79, "bad" LDL 124, and triglycerides 74. That gives me a risk ratio of 0.4. Anything under 1 is considered low risk. Average is 1-3. I asked my doctor if I should be concerned because the total cholesterol number is over 200, but he reassured me that the number is only high because my "good" cholesterol is much higher than normal, and gives me added protection. I don't come by these numbers naturally; I take a statin drug daily to lower it, and exercise raises the good numbers and diet helps to keep my triglycerides low.

I didn't start out loving the exercise and well remember the day in my thirties when I stood on the front porch, looked down at my brand-new running shoes, and stepped out into the street to start jogging. I had to do something, because back then my numbers were simply awful, and I was concerned. I was already taking a statin, but it wasn't helping much, and I knew that exercise could end up being my friend.

But within a week, I had developed shin splits, a painful condition that makes every step hurt, with my legs complaining constantly. I went back to the running store where I had purchased the shoes, and learned that I would probably need orthotics because of the tendency in my gait to pronation. After having gone to a specialist and gotten those custom made for my feet, I began again, more slowly this time, but I was pleased to find that I could actually run without pain. "Running" is a euphemism for the slow jog that I managed to maintain, but I was then excited about the way I felt after some time out on the streets, feeling fantastic with the blood coursing through my body and making me feel wonderful. I was hooked.

Within a year I was entering 10K races, not to compete but because I learned pretty quickly that having a goal helped me continue and increase my mileage. For many years I was running an average of ten to fifteen miles every week. But every time I tried to train for a longer run, I would get injured, so I kept myself in check by learning to listen to my body. What a concept!

Although I didn't know it at the time, my sister Norma Jean had also taken up running. I was in Colorado and she was in Michigan, but we were both jogging for much the same reason: our family history and a desire to stay healthy. When I visited her, we would run together, although she was leaner and faster than me. We had taken up the sport independently from each other but truly enjoyed our shared passion. She slowed down for me in those days. I still have to work to keep up with her longer legs, although these days we walk instead of run.

I stopped running in 2000, after the skydiving accident that shattered my pelvis and gave me some nerve damage down my right leg. The two pins that reside in my back don't give me any trouble, but I don't have full circulation in that leg. I lost a partial artery, and so I must keep moving in order to build collateral circulation and keep myself in good shape. I began looking for other ways to exercise and joined a gym and learned about step classes. They are led by an instructor who uses intricate patterns as you step up and down to get your heart rate up. I still, to this day, do a step class at the Y, and I'd do more if they had good instructors, but they have become less popular and Zumba is the current trend.

I have become a "social exerciser" and realize that the camaraderie of working out with fellow enthusiasts causes me to do more than I would alone. I have one good hike a week on Thursday with the Senior Trailblazers, and a fast walk every Saturday with the ladies, with the gym routine filling out the rest of the week. And this past year I've been taking two yoga classes a week, and now I am hooked on that. I simply love the way it makes my aging body feel, as I balance (not well) and turn and twist as I begin to regain the flexibility I once long ago took for granted.

As I age, I am realizing that I have choices to make every single day that contribute to whether or not I am happy in this body, the only one I have. The only life I have, as far as I know anyway. You give up things and take up new things as the years go by. I had a good long run as a skydiver, twenty-five years to be exact, but at 72 it was finally time to let it go. I will always have the wonderful memories of flying in the air with my friends, making patterns and then opening my beautiful parachute and flying it to the ground with (hopefully) a graceful landing. Skydiving changed my life; I met my life partner through the sport, and I've even got a world record that still stands today.

Next Sunday I will be sitting in my sister's spare room writing this post, since the day after tomorrow I will make the journey from the uppermost northwest corner of the country down to Florida. I will leave just in time to experience the first flakes of snow, due to come tomorrow, and will instead enjoy the sunshine and warmth of Florida. My timing couldn't have been better. At least that's the way it looks at this moment. I'll swim in the mornings with Norma Jean and walk with her afterwards. And more than anything, I'll enjoy being with her for a whole week, which will be over way too soon.

The uncharted territory of old age is not feeling too bad right now. I'll be glad to be with my sister and am even looking forward to the adventure of travel. Time to start packing my bags and remembering to bring all my devices. As far as clothes, it will be shorts and t-shirts and sandals! They are calling me from my closet.

Until next  week, I wish you, my dear readers, the best of weeks, and I'll be checking in from Norma Jean's home next time. Please remember at this time of year to take care of yourself in whatever fashion that works for you. The nights are long and the days short, but we can still enjoy nature every single day. I am appreciating our connection and sending you my love.