Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Soltice

Jack Frost decorated as only he can in preparation for this, the shortest day of the year.

The Shortest Day

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.”
~Susan Cooper

We are in the midst of Christmas preparations.  
I just lit the Christmas tree,
 some candles, 
and I sit in anticipation of the arrival 
of my daughter and her children.
We plan to "drive the dark away" 
by eating pizza,
visiting the Broadmoor to ohh and ahh 
over the fancy decorations
and beautiful lights.
We'll drink a bit of hot chocolate, I'm sure.
Maybe, when we get home,
we'll make a few cookies.  

Tonight, 
 we will give thanks,
and hope for peace
as we celebrate this, the shortest day of the year.  



I hope all is well with you and yours as Christmas fast approaches.




Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Arrives and It Is Good to Stay Home

Winter arrived today.  Well, technically, the calendar states that it is still autumn.  What I really need to say is that it snowed today, and it has been very cold.  It feels like winter.  On days like today, retirement is appreciated more than ever.  I spent the day working at my desk.  As I gazed out the window all I could see was white.  The earth and the sky seemed to have blended into one color.  The sameness of the scene outside my window was disrupted as I noticed a huge buck walk past.  He was covered with snow and seemed to just be out taking a walk through the neighborhood without his entourage of doe.  I guess he wanted a bit of peace and quiet.  

I admit I get a bit jaded and cynical when it snows.  The news stations only seem to report one story after the other about what to do if you are out in the snow.  There are stories about how to drive in snow, stories about making sure your pipes don't freeze, and stories about keeping the sidewalks cleared.  I want to say, "Come on people, we live in Colorado. We are in the mountains.  Learn to drive in it or move."  

I recently wrote on facebook that I was grateful that my father taught me how to drive in the snow.  We lived in Leadville, Colorado when I learned to drive.  Leadville has an elevation of 10,152 feet.  According to wikipedia, Leadville has an average of 142.7 inches of snow in a year.  I've seen it snow on the 4th of July in Leadville.  So, living in the mountains of Colorado meant that it was essential to learn to drive in the snow.  

When I was in college, my father was once driving me home on roads that were snow packed and icy.  With no other cars in sight, he stopped the car on a patch of black ice.  He then told me to get out of the car, walk to the driver's side, bend down and touch the ice, and then take over as driver.  He wanted me to see just how slick the black ice was.  He wanted me to remember that I should expect black ice when I was driving in winter conditions.  He also taught me how to navigate mountain passes in snow by using my gear shift to slow the vehicle down.  He insisted that I learn to drive down a mountain pass without using my brakes.  His words of advice about never relying on my brakes when driving in the mountains still ring in my head when I drive mountain passes.  I think his advice has saved my life a few times when I have driven over what seemed to be totally impassable snow covered roads.  

A few years ago, my husband and I were caught in a terrible snowstorm on Monarch Pass.  When we started up the pass, we knew a storm was on the way, but I hoped we could get over the mountain before the thrust of the storm hit the hardest.  I insisted on driving since my husband does not drive in the snow.  Unfortunately, we were caught in the worst of it.  As we ascended the pass, the thick driving snow made it nearly impossible to see more than a few feet ahead of us.  The storm hit fast and hard.  Soon, I was forging my own path through the snow.  Beneath the thick blanket of snow, the road was covered with ice which made the travel even more treacherous.  Trucks and cars were sliding backwards as they tried to climb the mountain.  I shifted the automatic transmission into low gear and keep on going.  I loved my trusty Subaru that day.  

This photo was not taken by me, but it was taken on Monarch Pass.  This give you an idea of the conditions I am describing with this post.  
My husband sat beside me wringing his hands.  Occasionally, he would make a sound that would startle me.  With my heart racing from all the adrenaline I had running through my system, I turned to him and said, "Stop making me nervous.  Don't say a thing.  Don't make sound.  Just shut-up and let me drive."  I wasn't very nice, but I needed all my concentration on the road with no interruptions from my passenger.  

Finally, we got to the top of the pass.  The snow was at least two feet deep in places, and the wind was blowing.  It was hard to find the road.  I pulled off to where I knew a parking lot should be and stopped the car and rolled down the window.   My husband asked what I was doing.  I said, "I am cooling down and calling up my courage so I can drive us down the other side of the mountain."  In someways, I felt more confident going down the mountain than I had been while going up the mountain.  Going up, the sheer cliffs on the side of the road seemed very scary when I saw the cars around me sliding backwards.  Going down, I felt I would have more control over my traction and speed by using my gear system.  Whispering a little thank you to my Daddy, who had passed away a few years earlier, and who had taught me how to drive in snow and in the mountains, I pulled out onto the highway and headed down the mountain.  

We made it home safe and sound.  I made a promise that day to myself.  I promised myself that I would never again knowingly put myself in the position of driving over a mountain pass in the snow.  I had done so for over forty years as I traveled back and forth over the Continental Divide to be with either my parents or my children during the holidays.  I made up my mind that I was getting to old to do this kind of driving anymore.  

Unfortunately, I haven't kept that promise.  There was a trip to Utah in a snowstorm across Wyoming a few years back that made me wonder if I had lost my mind for heading out when a storm was on the way.  We made to our destination that time also.  I wondered if we would at one point as we slid sideways across an icy bridge in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  As I began the drive across the bridge, I realized too late I was driving too fast.  It was covered with black ice.  (I forgot my father's teaching for a moment.)  Other cars were sliding all around me.  The bridge began to look like a bumper car area.  
There was nothing I could do but slide along in the car and hope we didn't get hit, didn't hit the side of the bridge, and that I didn't somehow roll the car on its top or side.  Cars on either side of me seemed to just move out of my way as I slid out of control.  To this day, I have no idea how the car came to a stop, but it did stop just before it would have hit the bridge.  I was able to again head the vehicle in the right direction, and drive off the bridge in one piece.  Perhaps it was an answer to the prayer I screamed out asking that angels surround us and protect us.  I'm pretty sure it was an answer to one of those "foxhole" prayers that I shot up.

So, today, it has been good to sit in my nice warm house and not venture out when the snow flies.  As I said, I am grateful for retirement.  While I know how to drive in wintery conditions, it would take an emergency for me actually take to the roads and travel out of town when the weather gets snowy and icy.  I had to laugh when I saw this quote by  Kelly Armstrong regarding winter:  

“It reminded me of what Dad said after every snail’s crawl home from
Albany when snow hit.“It’s New York, people. It’s winter. We get snow. If you aren’t prepared
to deal with it, move to Miami.” ~ Kelley ArmstrongDangerous

I'm not moving to Miami.  I'm not even moving to Phoenix even though at times I would like to.  Instead, I will stay where I am: inside.  It is nice to be an armchair expert on being prepared for winter at this stage in my life.  Tomorrow, if it remains snowy and icy, I plan on doing much of what I did today:  read, write, cook a tasty beef stew, bake cookies, and give thanks for a husband who braves the snow and takes the dog out for a walk.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Today ~ The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Where were you at the at 1:00 p.m., Central Standard Time, on November 22, 1963?  

At about 11:20, Mountain Standard Time, I left my freshman level United States History class at what was then known as Colorado State College (now University of Northern Colorado) to head back to my dormitory room in Wilson Hall.  I was scheduled to work lunch duty in the dining hall and was happy to get out of class a few minutes early because we had been shown a film that day that ended before class was normally over.  It was a Friday, and I was looking forward to going on a date that night.  I was also happy that it was nearly time to go home for Thanksgiving Vacation which would occur the following week.

As I said, at just before noon, I had been attending my freshman history class, a class I greatly enjoyed that was taught by one of those professors able to make history come alive.  I still have a copy of the book we were using:  The United States to 1865.  I kept it thinking it would be a good resource in my teaching career.  Now, after all these years, I think I also kept it as a tangible piece of my own personal history.  I carried this book with me as I crossed campus that day fifty years ago today.

With the quarter drawing to an end, our professor had nearly finished teaching us the course.  Just days before, it had been noted that it had been 100 years before that Lincoln had given the Gettysburg Address.  On this day, November 22, 1963, at around 11:00 a.m. MST, my classmates and I watched a film about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.  Our professor talked briefly about the assassination and the film before he showed the film.  He talked briefly about the hopes that Lincoln had for his second term in office.

 I quote from this textbook some of the words that our professor spoke about as he introduced the film:
In the spring of 1865, when the lilacs opened early and the dogwood spread its pure white blossoms in profusion  Lincoln was hoping that the nation's second birth would be free of complication.*  Our professor did not want us to miss the hope that Lincoln had for the the future of our country when he was tragically killed on April 15, 1865.  

I will never forget that just before the film started, our professor placed a trash can next to the classroom door that led to hallway outside.  He said, "This is for your kleenexes.  The film is very realistic and will cause some of you to become emotional."  He was right.  At the end of the film, I was crying.  I continued to walk across campus with tears in my eyes thinking of that great president who had been shot nearly one hundred years before.  

As I crossed campus, other pathways began to fill with students emptying out of other classes.  I tried to get my emotions under control.  Just as I came to the crosswalk near Gunter Hall and Bru Inn, I saw students coming onto campus from the dorms.  I noticed that those coming on campus were crying.  Finally, I stopped someone and asked what was going on.  I was told that they had just heard that the President had been shot.  "No," I said.  "You probably heard someone talking about the film we saw about the assassination of President Lincoln."  I was told that the news was spotty and the sources not specific, but that it did indeed appear that President Kennedy had been shot.

I continued on in my state of denial.  "This just could not be true.  Presidents don't get assassinated in our country."  I continued walking the short distance to my dorm room and climbed the three flights of stairs to my room.  After I changed into my uniform that I wore to serve in the dining hall, I stood at the window and stared to the ground below as I listened to the news on the radio.  There seemed to be such confusion over what had really happened.  I was all alone in my room.  I heard Walter Cronkite announce that President John F. Kennedy was dead.  I was overcome with grief and disbelief.  Soon, I had to leave to go to work in the dining hall.  I still remember that we were served tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch that day.  It was a Friday.  We were not served meat for any meal on Friday.

I remember I went out on my date that night.  I don't remember who the date was with.  I don't remember who else was with us.  I only remember we went to get pizza, but none of us were hungry.  We were too upset to eat.

I remember I just wanted to go home.  My youthful idealism had been shattered.  I remember that for days, before we all could go home for Thanksgiving Break, all of us sat in the student lounge, the only place where a television set could be found,  and watched the days that followed Kennedy's death unfold on the television screen before us.  Those images will stay with me forever.

Reflections:

In 2007, my husband and I spent the day at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. We were enthralled with the exhibits and totally overcome with emotions as we end our visit that day after we watched the newscasts that had gone around the nation on the day Kennedy was shot.  We felt as if we had gone back in time as we viewed artifacts from the 1950's and 1960's.  We felt the years fall away as we remembered those time.  Viewing all of the newscasts made it all too fresh for us again.  We both wept.

I was a young 18 year old college freshman when Kennedy died.  Away from home for the first time in my life, my letters from that time reflect a young girl who was trying to make the transition from high school to college, and trying to move from carefree teenage days into a more adult time of life.  In reality, I was woefully unprepared for college and for adulthood.  I was extremely idealistic.

JFK represented a new time in American History for those of us who were born just as World War II was ending.  I had been raised in a family of longtime Democrats.  My paternal grandparents were as dyed in the wool Democratic Party as you could get for the time.  They were active in local politics and served on many committees.  My grandmother was president of the Jane Jefferson Club in my hometown.  Grandpa was an Adlai Stevenson man.  When Kennedy was chosen to represent the Party in his bid for the Presidency, I have not doubt that they supported him because he was loyal to the party.

To me, Kennedy was a bit of "fresh air."  He was not like the politicians that my grandfather talked about.  Kennedy had the "cool" factor.  He was young, handsome, smart, had a great accent, and of course, I adored Jackie Kennedy.  I listened to his speeches when I could, and I felt the hope for the future that he seemed to bring to our country.  I had hope that he would bring great progress to the Civil Rights Movement.

Our country was so different then.  We had a sort of innocence about us not found in today's society.  I have always believed we lost our innocence as a Nation that day when JFK was assassinated.

Now, we know so many things about Kennedy that are not flattering.  In 1963, I believed in Camelot.      I did not see the Kennedy family as royalty, nor did I believe that they should be treated as such, but I did believe that Kennedy spoke of vision, youth, and optimism. At that time, I did not know that a young girl, just about my own age, Mimi Alford, had been his secret mistress.  I did not know that he treated this young girl just months older than I, so despicably and exploited her youth and her innocence. Trying to reconcile the Kennedy that was a womanizer with the Kennedy that the public saw is no easy task.

In the end, I choose to remember the vision that he seemed to transmit to those of us that were young when he lived and died.  I am grateful I was born and came of age in those times that spanned the end of World War II until the day, November 22, 1963, when Kennedy was shot.  I take a line from Kennedy's Inaugural given on January 20, 1961 and say, "Yes, Mr. President, you were right.  I would not exchange places with any other people of any other generation.  Thank you for inspiring us with these words so many years ago.  I believe these words still burn deep in the hearts of many from my generation.

I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.  ~ John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1964.

*References:
Kraus, Michael. (1959). The United States to 1865. United States of America: University of Michigan Press.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Autumn of My Life

Is it because I am in the autumn of my life that I hang on to this season so fiercely? 
I seem to want to embrace the season so deeply that it cannot easily slip away before I have fully experienced every bit of its beauty.
Perhaps, the lyrics to September Song are subconsciously planted within my brain and I am reminded over and over again that my days are dwindling "down to a precious few."
This song, September Song, could be the love story that parallels my life with my husband.

I've known my husband since those youthful days of May over 50 years ago, but like the foolish girl in the song, I tossed my curls and refused my young man's offer to spend a lifetime together.
We spent those years of planting, building, and producing married to others. 
We didn't even live in the same states during those years.
One day, 30 years after I had last seen this great love from my youth, 
we were reconnected and soon
"as time came around
she came my way."

Now, at this time in my life, I am grateful that during these autumn days my husband and I have each other for these our golden years.

Here is a recap of how we spent this fall season.

While the fields were still filled with pumpkins ready to picked to create Halloween jack o'lanterns,
or pumpkin pies,

we made sure we gathered in some of our favorite harvest foods:
honey crisp apples from Canon City, Colorado,


and Pueblo peppers, fire roasted and ready to be frozen so we could add them to our favorite dishes.  (Click on the link to learn more about these wonderful peppers and to see some recipes that call for the peppers.)

One other fall day, both of us feeling well and fit, and also very grateful that the days of back pain for Jim and the erratic beating heart days for Sally, were behind us, with Boston by our side, we walked the mile and a half uphill from our house to the beautiful sanctuary that is Mount Saint Francis.
Mt. Saint Francis sits an altitude of 6875 ft.  
We climb nearly 300 ft. as we walk the mile from our home to this beautiful site.
I had to sit on the rock wall and rest a bit when we reached our destination.

The day was glorious.
The sky so very blue, with only a few wisps of clouds to give it interest, provided the backdrop for
the vignettes of beauty I saw everywhere I looked.
The uniqueness of the rock formations just above the buildings below begged to be photographed with a border of gold provided by the trees.

This autumn, we celebrated the one year anniversary of moving into our new home. On that same day, we celebrated Jim's 70th birthday.  
Boston joined Jim for his birthday portrait.

The days of this autumn have been filled with many walks "under the sun."
I have loathed thinking of the days these colors would be gone.


Instead of picking up leaves from the ground and pressing them in a book as I might have done as a young girl, I have photographed them as they cling to the trees.

These leaves, complex in color, shape, and texture,  also seem to loath the day that they will fall to the ground to become pulverized to dust under the feet of those who walk under the bare trees.  
Their beauty of each leaf screams out to me for recognition. 
"See us.  Really see us before we are gone."

On another day, and on another path,
the trees appear nearly naked.
My beloved, and his dog, walk ahead of me on the path.
We are walking in the neighborhood where I lived when he and I were dating twenty plus years ago.


These trees, these old cottonwood trees,

have been here longer than I have been alive.
They were here when my grandparents walked these streets.
They shaded this street when my mother and father were first married just blocks from here.
These bare branches and limbs, soaring toward the blue, blue Colorado sky,
have shed the last leaves of this season.
They are entering winter.
They remind me that we too will soon be entering winter.

As I gaze at these tree limbs, I think how they represent the deep connections to my roots I feel in this community, my hometown, the place where my family has lived for five generations.
I think of my parents and grandparents.
I think of the seasons of their lives.
Except for my mother, all from the generations before me are now gone.
I am very aware of the season of life where I now reside.

The lyrics of the September Song come back to me.
I am keenly aware of why I wish to hang on to these autumn days.
Oh the days dwindle down to a precious few,
September, November.
And these few precious days I'll spend with you.
And the wine dwindles down to a precious brew
September, November


And these few vintage years I'll spend with you.
These precious years, I'll spend with you.*

I am truly blessed to spend these precious days with you, my beloved husband.

Enjoy Tony Bennett singing "September Song" by clicking on the video below.


*Words from "September Song were written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

To Blog or Not To Blog?

In December of 2008, I posted the following blog post.  I was new to blogging.  I had not one follower.  I wasn't sure if I should continue to blog or not.  Thankfully, I did continue to blog, but I find it interesting to read what I was thinking at that time.  Perhaps, you will too.

Reflection on Blogging from December, 2008

Of course that is the question...I started this blog, and sometimes I wonder why I continue to keep it. Do I write for an audience? That is a question that just appeared on Jim Burke's ning. It is a question that I am asking myself as I write this blog post. It is a question that does not have just one answer.

I have always enjoyed writing and have kept various types of journals over the years. I kept sporatic journals when my children were small as an attempt to just try and keep some sort of record of what life was like during that period of my life. I didn't really have an audience in mind when I kept those journals, but they were often more than just some sort of daily log of experiences. I wish I had been more disciplined in my journal attempts during those days because now I do have an audience for what I wrote during those busy, hectic times: myself and possibly my children.

Many young moms are blogging these days. They create fabulous blogs full of wonderful pictures of their children. They are pretty blogs filled with flowers and flowing designs. They represent the technological gifts that this generation of moms have developed. I envy these young moms and their blogs because they will have a precious record of their lives with their children. What a gift and a blessing. What I wouldn't give to have the same type of archive of my childrens' activities when they were young. I think these moms must have a permanent camera in their hands to capture all those adorable photos. They also must be incredibly organized to be able to produce these wonderful blogs, cook the meals, do the laundry and clean the house.

When one writes, the audience does not always present itself immediately. We wrtie because we have a need to record our lives. We write to express our dreams, our needs, our disappointments, our heartbreak, our insights, or even as a means of trying to make sense out of what is going on around us. Writing is intensely personal, and for that reason, we are sometimes hesitant to put down our most intimate thoughts and emotions on paper because we fear an unknown or known audience. Audience can intimidate us and cause us not to write or not to write well.

As a teacher, I now see I might have confused my students when I taught about audience and writing. I would tell my students that they did not need to consider audience when they wrote in their journals. In fact, I encouraged them not to think about the reader while writing. I told them that they were just to write. They did not have to worry about punctuation or spelling or any other grammatical rules as they wrote in their journals. I just wanted them to feel free to write without being intimidated by feeling that they must write perfectly if they were to write at all. I told them to focus on developing voice.

Many of my students would write stunning journal entries. They would amaze me with the uniqueness of their individual voices. I would get glimpses into their true selves through their journal writing. Sometimes, I would be heartbroken by what they had to share. Sometimes I would be alarmed. Always, I was grateful that they trusted me enough to write transparently and honestly when they knew I would read what they wrote. I was their audience, and they trusted me enough to write honestly.

Othertimes, when the students had a writing assignment, I would teach about audience. I would remind them that they should consider their audience when they wrote. Unfortunately, many times, these formal writings lacked an ability to touch any type of audience. They became stilted, boring, and seemed to only represent some sort of stylized writing that came about from trying to follow the form style writing that they had been taught in previous years of schooling. This writing would lack life. It might be perfectly representative of a five paragrah essay, but it lacked true meaning. The concept of writing for an audience was difficult for many students to grasp.

When my father became very ill and was hospitalized just days before he died, my students took a quarterly essay test that I had to grade before I could leave to drive over to Grand Junction to be with him. They had to respond to Li-Young Lee's poem, "The Grandfather." They knew they were writing for me - their teacher. They wrote mostly to get a grade. They clearly understood their audience. Interestingly, after all the responses were read, the grades were assigned, and I had left my role as teacher to drive to my father's bedside to become a daughter who only had a few more days to spend with her father, I found that my focus as an audience who had read assigned poetry responses shifted. I found myself recalling the poem, and even more importantly, I recalled the responses my students had shared with me about the poem in their tests. Their words began to comfort me. They gave me strength.  They allowed me to peacefully surrender myself to the moment I found myself in. I realized the power of the written word in a unique way. The freshness of my students' youthful responses that spoke of the value of caring for the elderly grandfather while treasuring his final stories spoke to me. We don't always know what response our audience will have to our writing.

Now, I find that I question the appropriateness and usefullness of my own attempts to write by using a blog. One of the most freeing lessons I embraced during this summer's writing project, was the concept that "there are not final drafts; there are only due dates." I can hear Katherine Frank's voice in my head whenever I repeat this saying to myself. I also embrace Anne Lamott's quote about some writing being a "shitty rough draft." The problem with a blog is that those types of drafts are immediately published! Horrors! What was I thinking???

Blogging is certainly the new "in thing" to do. I have so enjoyed our family blog. It has kept me smiling when I read the funny responses my children post. It has been a place where we can share our pictures and update our lives with each other. In today's world, so many of us have children spread all over the place, so it is nice to have a place where we can connect. The blog has been that place for us. It almost reminds me of the old round robin letters that my grandmother's family would circulate.

Blogs that are successful, seems to require audience. One would not continue to blog very long if one did not have some sort of audience. The beauty of the blog is the ability to have a place where one can post something that can generate an immedite response.

As of today, the jury is still out. I am not sure of the benefit of this blog except for serving as a place where I can create a bit of a history of what is going on in my life at the moment. I am newly retired. I struggle with my new status at times. I miss the academic life, and yet I am also happy to leave the daily demands of it behind. I miss my students. I miss the interaction. I miss my audience. That is one thing a teacher always has - an audience. As I used to say, "Just give me a stage!" But, I also like to think that my classroom was a place where we were all learning together. I like to think that I created a more generative, constructivist type of classroom. It wasn't just like the classrooms where I went to school most of the time. It was interactive and interesting. Certainly, if a blog is going to be successful, it must be all of those things too. At the moment, I think my blog mostly serves as a place where I can contemplate and explore where I want to go with my life as as a retired teacher. I don't necessarily need an audience to do that. I only need a place where I can record my thoughts and activities so I don't get lost. So, for now the blog continues.

A Short Reflection on Blogging from 2013:

And, now in November of 2013, I wonder what my life would be like if I had not taken up blogging.  I am grateful for the richness that blogging has brought to my life.   What are your thoughts about blogging?  Why do you blog?  Has blogging opened new doors in your life you did not even realize were there?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reasons to Celebrate

It has been a crazy few weeks.  A week ago today, on a Thursday afternoon, I met with my cardiologist to go over the results of the cardio testing he had done the week before.  The testing had been done because of recent bouts with extremely low blood pressure, an irregular EKG, and chest pain.  The PET stress test showed some low blood flow that could indicate narrowed arteries.  The physician assistant had attended me during the testing, and he was the initial person to go over the results. He suggested that the next step should be a heart catheterization.  Stunned, but trying to keep my wits about me and evaluate my options in a rational state of mind, I listened to all he had to say about the test.  I then told him I would not elect to have the procedure.  I didn't think it seemed necessary given my personal and family history.  He didn't disagree with me, but said I had to talk to the doctor who would be in momentarily.  He then excused himself to talk with my doctor.

Soon, my dear cardiologist, a man for whom I have great respect, admiration, and affection strode into the room, came directly to my side, put his arm around my shoulder and looked me in the eye while he said these words, "Sally, we're doing the heart catheterization." I guess my mind had been changed!  He next asked me when I was going on that vacation where I was doing that blogging thing with my friends.  (I'd told him about my trip the week before when we'd met before the testing.)  "I'm leaving tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m." I said.  "Ok, you can go.  When are you coming back?"  "Monday," I said.  "I want you in here next week for the heart cath,"  he said.

And so, on Tuesday morning, after a wonderful trip to Vashon Island to meet with my blogging friends, I arrived bright and early at the hospital for the procedure to check on those arteries in my heart.  

I must admit that I was anxious at times throughout my entire trip to Washington.  I had a horrendous rush to get from one gate to the next when I landed in Denver to fly to Seattle.  This came after being restricted from any exercise for three weeks.  "Oh great," I thought, "I'm going to have a massive heart attack at DIA."  I didn't.  I made it.  I made it through the flight, and landed safely in Seattle.  Once I was with my blogging buddies, I felt like I was surrounded by companionship, support, and understanding.  

I walked into this comfortable, inviting main living room at Lavender Hill Farm, and felt like I was back at a much loved home.


I was tired, so tired, once I arrived at our destination.   Linda (Bag Lady in Waiting) and DJan (DJanity and Eye on the Edge) had safely navigated the task of picking me up at the airport, finding the ferry, and found a place for us to eat.  Thankfully, I didn't have to do all of that.  I just sat back and went along for the ride.    Once the three of us were inside the farm house, I sat down in that chair that Jann (Benchmark 60) is sitting in on the right sided of the fireplace, snuggled up in a blanket and fell asleep.  


Soon, Deb( Catbird Scout) and Sandi (Flying Into the Light) arrived, and it was time to hang out in the kitchen while we helped (a little) Sandi make dinner.  Who can be anxious and worried around these two?

As the weekend progressed, I made up my mind that I was going to put that dreaded procedure that was awaiting me when I returned home on the back burner.  I was not going to let my fear and anxiety rob me of enjoying this trip.

Deb found a few places for us to explore, and so after breakfast on Saturday morning, we took off to see what we could see.  The path of our first trek, a walk in the woods, was covered with leaves.  


I'm a Colorado girl, so I'm not used to seeing ferns growing up along side the pathways,

or orange mushrooms, 

or trees covered in moss

or leaves the size of dessert plates, 

or sights like this.

At sea level, I could have walked forever it seemed.  My heart was calm, no fluttering was going on, no rushing, and no chest pain was felt.  "Maybe, I need to move to a lower elevation," I thought.  I was surrounded by such beauty, and support, Jann helped down the slippery slopes, and such friendship, that I honestly felt the healthiest, and happiest that I'd felt in many, many months.  It was true, this day, this trip, was good for my heart in every way.

From our walk in the woods, we went to the shore.  

We saw an eagle in flight.  I collected rocks and sea shells with Deb and Sandi.  I don't think DJan picked up any rock or shells.  I think she is not one to weigh herself down with such things.  If she filled her pockets with rocks and sea shells, how could she hike those high mountains and jump out of airplanes?  

On our walk on the shore, we found a large dead jelly fish.


Jann and Linda kept watch from the stairs leading to the shore.


I felt like a young girl again as I explored the surrounding with my girlfriends.  My heart felt light.  My spirit of adventure and excitement seemed to be returning after a long absence.  

Last year, I came home from Vashon Island with a reminder of the weekend: a gift from Deb.  She had found this heart shaped rock at the shore where we walked a year ago.  This heart shaped rock, a reminder of Deb, sits in a place of honor on my desk where I write.  It reminds me of the hearts that are knitted together because we are bloggers who bonded in a sisterhood of understanding and support.


This year, before we left, we were all given another treasure by Deb.  This is what I found on my breakfast plate on Sunday morning: a beautiful new heart.

With these all these memories stored carefully in my heart of flesh, I somehow went into that surgical procedure on Tuesday morning with no anxiety or fear.  I was perfectly calm, and that was before they gave me the drugs!  Actually, during a cardiac catheterization, one is awake.  I was given versed, but I remember most of the procedure and found it not to be that troublesome.  At times, I would feel something and the nurse would say, "They are looking around in your heart dear, you will feel that."  

Now for the good news:  my arteries are "as smooth as a baby's bottom."  That is a direct quote from the doctor.  He said I will live to be 100 with the arteries I have.  When I told him my mother is 97, he said, "You got her genes."  

I still have the occasional rapid beats, and the arrhythmia that can sometimes throw me off balance, but for now, those problems are also under control without medication.  

I spent the last two days recovering from my trip and my procedure.  I've done a lot of reading, and taken naps, and been pampered by my hubby.  I am doing very well.  Thanks for all of your good wishes, dear blogging friends.

I know I have much to celebrate: good friends, a heart that is free from blockages or plaque, good genes, a supportive and loving husband, loving children and grandchildren, and much improved medical reports in all areas that have been troublesome in the past year.  I now must get in even better shape if I'm going to be around for another 30+ years.  


Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Weekend to Remember ~ Time With Blogging Friends

I began blogging in November of 2008.  I thought perhaps my mother would read my blog, but beyond that, I didn't think anyone else would ever read it.  I decided to blog because I wanted to practice the discipline of writing.  Little did I know the worlds that blogging would open to me.  Little did I know how important my blogging community would become to me.

My very first blog reader was Jann from Benchmark 60.  That's Jann, in the photo below.  She is dressed in green and sitting in the middle on the left side of the photo. Back in those early days of blogging,  Jann commented on my blog and then encouraged me to write more blogs.  I owe my blog presence to her.  In time, in the mystical way that is the way of the blogosphere, I began to read the blogs of many other bloggers and form friendships with the blog writers.  

A year ago, two of the ladies in photo below met and decided that the rest of us should meet and spend the weekend together.  We all rented a house on Vashon Island in Washington State and spent a fabulous weekend getting to know each other.  I wrote about it here:  Vashion Island 2012.  That weekend was so magical and special, that we talked of meeting again in a year.  We decided you can't improve on a perfect location, so this past weekend, we again met at our wonderful destination spot, Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island.  


Breakfast out on Vashon Island
I flew in from Colorado on Friday.  We spent Friday afternoon and evening, all day Saturday, and this morning together.  We talked, laughed, read, ate, walked, and just had a wonderful time catching up with each other.  This year the weather was cooler than last.  We spent a lot of time in front of the fireplace.

The "glow chair" was moved from its spot by the window 
so we could sit together in our new favorite spot.  
The sun did not shine on our wonderful yellow chair this year.

We could not see Mt. Rainier.
We did not see blue skies.
We saw fog and mist.
It was all beautiful.

We were also rewarded with beautiful fall foliage.



The view from the porch was stunning even if it did rain. 


The lavender bed are not blooming, but lavender is always beautiful in any season to me.

Orange is the color I will carry home with me.






It seemed to punctuate every landscape
as we visited the Farmers' Market,
walked down the main street,
and 
hiked in the woods.

I have wanted to store the colors of this fall in my heart this year. 
Since the leave just began to change, I've wanted to drink in the colors every chance I got.

I was especially blessed to see the rich colors of fall in the beautiful northwest this year.
I won't forget the red, the oranges, and the vibrancy I felt on this special weekend.

These two feed the soul and the body.
Deb, in pink, just saw some wonderful bird outside the kitchen window. I was able to capture the look of awe on her face.


DJan, the adventurer, in the sky and on the shore, led the walk we took along the shore, and took my arm and helped me walk up the steep hills.

There is so much more I want to write about, but I must get some rest.
Tomorrow, I fly home.
The doctor cleared me for this trip.
My friends said he had to let me come because the time would be
good for my heart in every way.
It was.  Indeed, it was.
Thank you dear Vashionistas for another wonderful time together.
I can't wait until next year.

I will arrive home Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday morning, at 7:30 a.m.,
I will be meeting my cardiologist at the hospital.
He gave me a reprieve, for a few days, but as soon as I get home,
he will be doing a heart catheterization on me.
I am worried about the procedure because no one like to have medical procedures.
I am reassured when I consider that the doctor did let me go on this trip, so he must not be too worried, just worried enough to check everything out.  

In the meantime, I will trying to take this advice:
Keep calm 
and
Dream On.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trick or Treat or Smashing Pumpkins?

This morning as I was driving out of our little village, I saw a man standing next to his parked car taking photos of a herd of deer that were munching on the manicured lawns in our neighborhood.  "Must be a tourist," I thought.  Those of us who live here see deer in our yards all day long.  It is quite commonplace to walk around our block of homes and see a herd of five to ten deer grazing near the sidewalk.

I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with these creatures.  At times, I am enthralled with watching them.  This spring, as I awoke one morning, my first sight of the day was of a few baby fawns scampering across the back lawn.  That is a delightful way to start the day.

Then, these creatures eat my flowers, and I am not a very happy lady.  I become determined to keep them from eating my delicate blooms by spraying everything with Liquid Fence.  Learning what plants they really don't like to eat, I concentrate on planting these.  Gardening is a challenge here.

During the spring of the year, we mainly see the doe.  At the beginning of spring, they appear to be quite thin except for their bulging midsections.  Soon, there are reports of one or two of them giving birth to baby fawns in the back yards of various neighbors.  

I must admit it is fun to watch the fawns grow and develop.  As summer progresses, it is interesting to watch the young bucks sprout antlers.  These antlers begin as little buttons and grow a bit bigger day by day.  Soon, these outgrowths are covered in velvet.  

Then, in early fall, the large buck suddenly appear.  I have no idea where they have been since late last fall.  The entire dynamic of the deer population seems to shift.  Life seems less carefree among the herds.  I notice a few of the doe begin to follow a large buck as he proudly and arrogantly walks through my back lawn area.  I also notice that the bucks claim a certain territory and begin to strip the plants of foliage that the other deer have mostly left alone on summer.  I finally give up in protecting my plants.  In fact, I pulled up all the remaining potted plants and placed some pumpkins on the porch as fall decorations.

Imagine my shock today when I glanced out the front door and saw this:


I was actually speaking to my husband on the phone when I noticed this big buck eating one of my pumpkins!  I had no idea deer liked pumpkins.  For some reason, I was pretty upset about this buck thinking he had the right to come up on my porch and claim this pumpkin for his dinner.




I tried to scare him away, but he just nonchalantly licked his chomps.


As you can see, I made quite an impression on him didn't impress him at all.

video

I hope you can watch the video.  If you can, notice how this creature is biting through that pumpkin.  I was quite intrigued with the power of those jaws.

Each month brings new sights in our neck of the woods.  It is October.  My neighbor asked me today if we get any trick or treaters.  I told her "no."  Last year, I didn't have one trick or treater on my doorstep.  I need to call her tomorrow and revise my answer.  We had trick or treaters early this year.  We had a buck on the porch who went beyond smashing our pumpkins.  He ate one!  

P.S.  I just mentioned to my husband that perhaps we should make sure we throw away the piece of pumpkin the buck left behind.  I don't want Mama Bear to come around and eat that!