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Packing – Hmmm?

As I approached our impending three months in Brooklyn, I found myself avoiding packing. I’ve traveled extensively for business over the years. I’ve become really good at packing for one or even two weeks on the road, even when that included climates as different as South Texas and Western New York in the middle of winter. So, I figured it wasn’t about the “packing”. So, it must be about what I am packing??

JDT and I traveled to Vietnam / Singapore in October 2019. Our travel involved six or seven flights from San Francisco to Tokyo to Singapore to Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City to Tokyo to San Francisco. A lot of up/downs mostly on airlines that we were not familiar. We made the decision that the safest thing was to travel with a carry on we could put in the overhead and our individual daypacks. The consequence was we would need to do laundry twice during the three weeks. Side story – I love the immersive aspect of doing laundry in foreign countries. THIS WORKED OUT PERFECTLY!!

Back to the travel at hand. Please recall that one of our goals is to live a life centered on experiences, not stuff. This got me to thinking. They have stores in Brooklyn, right? Our “budget” has enough “room” to buy stuff, right? And how does one put everything one would need for three months in a mid-size SUV? Hmmmm?

Have I said how excited I am to experience and learn from what is around this wonderfully exciting bend in our lives?

I will let keep you posted on how this goes.

Local Travel Blog Alert!!!

Lucky me! I got to spend a couple nights in San Francisco thanks to my dear friend, Lorraine. And it was to celebrate my birthday…one more year til Medicare! LOL So please enjoy the photos of San Francisco and a few tidbits of information…and that’s it!

The photos entering the city don’t do it justice. It was a glorious sky with incredible light.

Then came the rain. Not complaining because…drought. And what’s not to love about a hot cup of coffee, a window for traffic and people watching and a good book?

Our first stop at the day was at the Salesforce building. Lorraine had scheduled a tour – rain or shine! So we were there waiting…and waiting…and waiting…No worries! We can do the tour ourselves! This was the view from our “waiting” point. It reminded me of the “OY/YO” sculpture in front of the Brooklyn Museum. And as it was pouring down rain…en”joy”ing the moment is a choice!

From Brooklyn 2020

This is the garden on the 5th floor. We took the elevator and the security guard looked at us like we were crazy. Maybe we were, but it was still fun to wander (all alone)! and admire the skyscrapers.

Loved the messaging on this building. It might have been SLACK.

Self-tour over…onward!

And this is what you do when live gives you lemons…or when your tour guide abandons you in the rain!

What’s a trip to San Francisco during the holidays without a stop at Union Square…and Macy’s? After wandering through the store (okay…there may have been some purchases), we went out to admire the festivities on Union Square. There were plenty of tourists and we also observed so many “helpers”. It was heartwarming to watch the guy in orange (some sort of official tourist helper) offering to take photos for visitors and giving advice and/or directions. The police were also super helpful. And if you’re wondering…we were pleased to see the downtown be so well cared for and busy.

We wandered to a favorite French café for some frites and a burger…plus a cocktail and ran into the gelateria that Blair and I “visited” EVERY night that we were in Paris! Who would have thunk it?

Lorraine continued to amaze me with her planning…there was a holiday festival practically right outside her door for us to enjoy!

Followed by a trip to Club Fugazi. I had NO IDEA what to expect. We’d been there years before for Beach Blanket Babylon – the classic SF revue, but I had not heard a peep about its replacement, “Dear San Francisco”. I’m not going to say any more than…GOOOOOO!!!!! It was an incredible 90 minutes that flew by. It will be closed for 6 weeks or so and then reopening in February. Did I say…GOOOO!!!!!

So after a full day and night of rain…this is what we woke up to in the morning…Perfect day for a walk in Golden Gate Park.

This view never gets old. Best kept secret in San Francisco…and free.

In the photo below, the view is from the top of that building. The art in the foreground of this photo encircles the Francis Scott Key statue that was toppled on Juneteenth 2020. The sculptures are known as “The Ancestors” and they represent the 350 kidnapped Africans who were the first to be brought to “America” in 1619. What we know as “The Star Spangled Banner” was a song written to the tune of a British drinking song. The rarely sung third verse urged sending uprising slaves to their graves. Key was the District Attorney for the City of Washington who “defended slavery while attacking abolitionists”. His brother-in-law was the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision.

Across the park from the (removed) Francis Scott Key statue is the Spreckels Music Temple that has recently engraved “Lift Every Voice” across the top. (Sorry, no photo.) This is the title of a song (actually Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing) written in 1900 by civil rights champion, James Weldon Johnson. The song is also known as the Black National Anthem.

Our current national anthem was only adopted in 1930 and to me, as a nation, we should rethink our choice as it clearly does not represent the entirety of our society. It’s past time that we learn (in school) that our history is complicated and sometimes brutal. Our understanding of history is incomplete and leads to false beliefs. While I’m a serious traditionalist and I love ritual, I won’t be singing our national anthem now that I know its history and understand its lyrics.

I love an impromptu concert.

It’s hard to read, but since Golden Gate Park has closed its roads to cars, there are a lot of murals painted across the roads. This one says, “We Are On Native Land”. Someone used a can of yellow spray paint and added “Stolen” above “native”. I think it’s important that we continue to think about our history more realistically and from all angles.

And…yes…while there were serious moments, being in The City was joyful and I’m so appreciative of my kind and generous friend, Lorraine who made my birthday such a special 3 day event!

Hmmm…where to start?

And this is where I get confused…Is this blog a journal? A diary? (Are those two things different?) A travel blog? Just some drivel coming to my (our) brain? Clearly, we haven’t been traveling so currently this isn’t exactly a travel blog – though we do live in a beautiful area and there are plenty of opportunities to see new places and have new experiences even close to home. And a diary, which to me means a daily notation of life, is not at all of interest to me. Which leaves me with either a journal or drivel and those might just be where this blog meets!

We last left you with a couple posts from Glen sharing a few details of his journey back…both literally and figuratively. Clearly, since we’ve been home, our two paths have been different as we have re-entered “normal” life in “The Creek”.

I’ve had my regular Monday morning hikes in the Open Space with Lorraine, Mike and Dug,

trips to Costco and Trader Joe’s,

Didn’t buy it…

walks and gatherings with local friends, Book Club “meetings”,

My pick for our December meeting.

walks in the neighborhood with Blair and Dug,

a trip to visit my dear friends Marie and Bill,

Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of them, but they do live in the beautiful foothills off Hwy 49.

fun exploring Berkeley with Carol,

enjoyed the Lafayette trail with Cherisse,

had fun teaching about the Gold Rush with my “life partner”, Diane in Emily’s classroom,

and a trip to LA to visit my mom.

Here she’s enjoying her first “meeting” with her great-grandson, Brodie.

Plus, you may remember there was an election so I was involved in getting out the vote and working the polls.

I’ve also discovered my new love – Make It Home! Thanks to my cousin, Randy and his wife/my “new” sister, Allison, I’ve been volunteering at this great non-profit and I LOVE it!!! More to come on that in a future post.

I’ll let Glen share about his forays back into life at home, but I will say that he has been addressing his health issues from all angles which means lots of appointments with health care providers of all sorts.

Together we’ve journeyed to Chico for a couple nights to enjoy our work with the incredible leaders of Chico State,

If you know, you know.

Sunday dinners with Niels and Blair, Saturday college football marathons and now the World Cup, a trip to have dinner in Los Gatos with my aunt and cousins,

a visit here with Glen’s college buddies Galen and Steve

and another from Janet and Galen (Galen was our best man in our wedding)

I didn’t take a picture of the four of us, but this blast from the past (1991) is fun! We were heading to Charleston for our first vacation without kids after we’d all become parents. Galen brought down a treasure trove of old photos.

and of course, our family Thanksgiving Day gathering.

The reason we enjoy staying in places for months at a time is because we like to become “residents” and experience the place as the locals do. I’ve wondered why we treat our life here in The Bay differently. We fall into our habits of living very local rather than getting out and exploring more like we did in Brooklyn or New Orleans. So…

We had our first local “outing” with the idea of testing Glen’s ability to get back out exploring the world. We rejoined SFMOMA and went to see the Diego Rivera exhibit. We drove to BART on what turned out to be a holiday (weird how when you’re retired you sometimes miss those “minor” holidays) and found the parking lot vacant and free. Bonus! We hopped onto an almost empty train and glided through Lafayette, Orinda, Oakland/Berkeley and poof! before we knew it we were in San Francisco at the Montgomery station. It was a beautiful fall day and while I would have loved to walk around the city – maybe head over to Yerba Buena Gardens…this trip was about testing the boundaries for Glen and as we exited BART, it was apparent that his back was already acting up.

We walked to the museum and headed straight upstairs to the exhibit. That’s the great thing about joining a museum, you can take it in small, targeted doses. We usually would purchase the headphone tour guide, but again…we were just testing the boundaries. I was remembering one of the first signs of Glen’s worsening health issues was when we were in Brooklyn and he found he couldn’t stand in one place well – so that bagel line, that ticket line, waiting for the subway, admiring the art at the Met or Brooklyn Museum…all proved a challenge. Walking distances also became painful. Here we were back in that mode – how would he do? The first thing he asked as we entered the exhibit was – Are there chairs with backs in the galleries? Nope. One thing he noticed in Europe (at least at the smaller museums) was that their rooms had chairs in them (they were really for the docents/guards, but they all generously offered them to visitors) so he could stop, rest his back and admire the art. Not so at MOMA.

So while he made his way around the rooms quickly, I took more time and still scadaddled through. Remember, we can go back. (Well, not to the Rivera exhibit as it has ended.) Glen was as always, encouraging me to take my time, and I needed this trip to be successful.

I did take the time to go out the patio by the café. I love the architecture, art and view.

We walked straight back to BART, caught a train and about halfway home as I was reading on my phone, Glen said, “It’s BART”. Huh? “It’s BART.” He realized that the jerky movement of BART was what was triggering his back pain. Ahhh…if he can isolate the triggers, maybe he can address the roots? And we can find ways to avoid the triggers. That’s progress.

Have I mentioned that while we are on a trip/vacation, we have the habit of dreaming/brainstorming/talking about our next trip? Lately we’ve been doing that at home. One of us mentions a place or a mode of travel and then off we go into researching our next trip. As previously discussed…there will be changes in how we travel. How far can we push our physical boundaries? How can we accommodate the changes? Let’s find out…

Next week, Glen will be joining me on a road trip to LA to visit my mom. Then later in December, we will be making our first full trip, catching a plane to visit our dear friends, David and Mary in Birmingham, Alabama. Glen is figuring out the logistics of “eating” every four hours on the road and in a new destination, including transporting the equipment and supplies that he needs and…as he says…We’ll figure it out.

So…let’s “get back out there” and explore the world, explore our relationship with each other, with ourselves and keep learning, adjusting, engaging…living.

And yes, I’m grateful.

August 23, 2022

August 23, 2022 was the day we started our two day journey back home from Europe. The photo below was taken by Joyce in the Nice airport. I believe Joyce was reluctant until she understood my reasoning.

Have you ever been sick, really sick, while traveling? I’m a big whiner when I am sick. We flew home first class the whole way. We had Black Tie Limousine take us from San Jose Airport to home. And I pretty much whined my whole way through the two days. Joyce somehow found a way to get away from me at times and mostly ignore my whining.

I had an abundance of time to myself over the last few weeks in Europe. My health got progressively worse and my weight kept dropping. My mind did anything but see the possibility that I could get appreciably better. I imagined chronic pain and ever dwindling strength.

I love the photo below. Not because it is in any way endearing. Heck, the look in my eyes is a bit pathetic. I’m emaciated. So, why do I love the photo? No, I am not that emotionally twisted. It helps me remember. My biggest regret from my journey with cancer in 2008 is not creating more of a photo journal. I have so few photo reminders of those days. I wish I had more. Why? To have a reminder of one of the best parts of myself. The part that weathered the storm. The part that endured. The part that spent the next ten plus years rebuilding my body and my self into a version that was so much better than the version before cancer.

So, when I asked Joyce to take photos of me, it was my way of hoping that I would be able to look back and reflect.

Yesterday I went out and walked in the Walnut Creek open space for the first time in nearly two years. I walked for 33 minutes of mostly flat with a bit of up and down. I reflected on my late 2008 walks there. It is a place I treasure. I was tired and full of hope.

It Has Been A While

I believe my last post was August 18th, nearly two months ago. Too Long! In that post I told you we were heading home from our European adventure. And head home we did.

Joyce has told you a little about the last two months. I won’t go into any great detail about it in this post as I am still sorting much of it out. And please know, while I am not yet fully recovered, I feel better than I have felt since late 2021.

Frankly, I have been dreading making this post. In one of Joyce’s posts she talked about the “Help Prayer”. She said it so beautifully that asking for help is acknowledging failure. Coming home early from our European adventure represents failure for me. I own that. And I am doing my best to learn from the failure and incorporate the learning into living my best life.

So much has happened in the last two months. I promise to share, likely over a series of posts. In order for me to do that fully, the posts will mostly focus on what I have learned. And while these will be very personal to me, and sometimes Joyce, I think they may also apply to the broader context.

Writers

There’s something narcissistic about being a writer. Something egocentric or self-centered. I mean…it’s weird thinking that my thoughts put to paper would interest anyone. Why would people read our blog?

Our “travelogue” posts are just a small portion of our posts and some of the most read posts aren’t really about travel. (I can’t believe we’ve published 186 posts.) I understand the interest in the posts about travel because if our readers are anything like me, they live to travel.

But my posts about my thoughts? Weird.

I get reading someones writings about their travels. Some of my favorite blogs that I follow are travelers who literally travel the world full time. It’s their job. They travel in a motor home with the occasional flight to somewhere far away and they blog about their travels. Lots of photos and great stories. (Look up Thunder.Panda.Adventures on IG , or TravelwithKevinandRuth.com (they’re a little dorky, but I do love the photos), or The Chouters and Bijou on Blogspot. These bloggers inspire me and feed my “itch” to travel to new places. I’ve “seen” so many places through their eyes that I didn’t even know existed on our earth. I happily anticipate their next posts…

I’m also a reader. I’m currently reading The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. It’s the October book selection for my 20+ year book club. I’d never heard of this book and therefore had no expectations for it. One description of it says that Twain “humorously chronicles his Great Pleasure Excursion on board the chartered vessel Quaker City through Europe and the Holy Land in 1867″. As I’m reading it, I’m thinking…this is just an old version of a travel blog! By THE MARK TWAIN – aka Samuel Clemons 😉 !!!

I’m only at the very beginning of the book, but as Twain describes the daily routines onboard the vessel, he writes about the evenings in which many passengers sit down in the saloon and “under the swaying lamps for two to three hours wrote diligently in their journals.” He laments that so many of the passengers wrote thousands of words, but likely their journals came to a “lame and impotent” conclusion. Lucky him, his journal turned into a published book! But all those others? Likely they’re in someone’s cabinet somewhere, if they exist at all.

As a writer (not that I am one, but some writers say…), I’ve heard that it’s true. Most writing ends up being read by a party of one. The writer. I find myself thinking about my audience, my readers. In 1867, who would have been the readers of those thousands of pages written in the evenings as the passengers sailed around the world? Seems sort of sad and futile.

Twain wrote about a lad, Jack who wrote every day…or at least started out writing every day. When asked what he found to write about Jack said – latitude and longitude, how many miles they’d sailed, the games he’d played, the whales and sharks and ships he’d seen, etc. Perhaps not the most titillating travelogue?

And that makes me wonder about my own early writing. On my five month trip to Europe in 1978, I filled two spiral notebooks with my daily (?) recollections of our trip. And I don’t think I’ve ever picked them up to read again..Hmmm…where are those notebooks? Were they just a litany of facts? Did I tell any stories? Who was my audience? Party of one?

Look what I found!!!
And it appears that I was thinking about my audience way back then!
These are my travel companions – my cousins Dan and Fremont and their friend, later Dan’s wife of 32 years (?), Mary-Lynne.

So with all of that rolling around in my head, I feel the need to update you on the non-titillating details of our life in Walnut Creek. You’ve traveled with us on our journeys, stayed with us in our dwellings and now that we’re home…after our slightly traumatic re-entry…what are the boring details?

Glen waiting to be checked out of the hospital…he has the patient of a saint when he needs it.

After Glen’s 16 day stay at UCSF, he came home to figure out how to live his “new” life. There are changes to consider and new habits to create. There are lots of follow up doctor visits and he continues to get stronger. I feel like this is really his story to tell so let me just say…life goes on.

Well, of course, there’s Dug.
I made a quick trip to LA to see my mom. Note the guy in the background. Too funny!
We made our first post hospital trip together to Chico. If you know, you know.
Though we went on this trip together, we each had our own meetings.
I got to hold a piglet at the Chico State Farm!
I’ve been on a few hikes in the Open Space.
And I don’t have an updated photo, but here we are back in our “natural habitat” enjoying some sports on tv, Sunday dinners with Niels and just enjoying being together.

And as we continue to look forward to more travels, more dwellings and navigate our new reality…I’m thinking…”Can We? Will We?” You betcha.

We are.

And thanks for reading and sharing our journey…

seasons aren’t the only things that change…

Change is a constant. It’s the one thing that we can count on.

In junior high, I remember some of us whining to our PE teacher, Mrs. Bruce about having to run around the track asking her “Do we haaaavvvve to…?”. I’ll never forget her response, “The only things you have to do in life are pay your taxes and die.” I think she followed up with something about the effect on our grades should we choose not to run the lap. So we ran.

Weird the things that we remember. Well, Mrs. Bruce, those were impactful words at the time, but now, 50 years later, I know that you forgot something. You forgot something important. Change. Throughout our lives, we have to change. Some changes we can foresee, others we cannot. Some changes happen to us, other changes we create. Some we welcome, others we avoid. Change is a constant in life.

I remember a conversation that Glen and I had before Niels was born. We were “yuppies” at the time; living life large. We owned a house, we traveled, we ate out, we exercised (Glen ran half marathons!), we had “disposable income”, we were busy. So as we made our plans to welcome our first baby, we vowed that this addition to our life would in no way cause us to change our life. We were going to continue to live our life the way that we had built it…We were going to continue to live the good, yuppie life. No baby was going to cause us to change. (You can stop laughing now.)

The years passed and we encountered and responded to the many changes that came as our children grew, as our jobs morphed, and as other circumstances changed. We had some intense changes, such as the ones that resulted from Glen’s (near death) experience with his cancer treatment.

We weathered the change caused by our “children” moving out and going to college. We had a VERY brief empty nest period and at that time, we paused to look back on our years when we had raised our kids. We fondly looked back on all those changes that we had gone through, remembering that at the time, we thought we’d never make it “to the other side”. There was definitely some sadness as those busy years had flown by all too quickly. So much had changed over the years. We had changed over the years.

My retirement caused a major change…one that I wholeheartedly embraced. COVID’s entry into our lives quickly changed the trajectory of my transition to a life of leisure. In a nano-second, our life changed as one afternoon, three family members came into the kitchen lugging their laptops, monitors, and other equipment behind them. They “tagged” their “office” space around the house and all of a sudden, I wasn’t living the life of leisure in an empty house, I was happily back to my “mom” role planning meals and keeping the house running so that they could do their jobs. I learned to navigate through all the changes that came as a result of living in an era of COVID.

I watched my dad go through the changes caused by Alzheimer’s. What a horrible disease. I can’t even bring myself to describe the my dad’s slow and brutal transformation caused by that horror.

I’ve watched my mom weather the transition from taking care of my dad in their home to moving into a retirement community alone. When she first moved in, I teased her that she was finally experiencing the “dorm” life. There were happy hours in the hallways, dates to go to art class, lunch in the café. She was living the high life in her 90s. As the years have gone by, I’ve watched the changes that have come as Mom’s health has waned. She’s less engaged with her “dorm” friends as she can’t remember their names. She does frequently attend the nightly happy hour and she clearly enjoys herself, but it’s all exhausting.

She loves it when family visits even if she can’t quite place them or connect them to a memory of where they belong in the family tree. In June when I was there, Blair came with me. When we walked in the door, Mom exclaimed, “Joyce!” as soon as she saw me. I immediately pointed to Blair and said, “Look, Mom! I brought my daughter, Blair with me!” Mom looked at her and said, “Well, it’s always nice to meet new family!” Gulp. (We now kid Blair – telling her that she’s the “new girl” in the family.)

And today it happened. Change.

Just three months after my last visit, I walked in my mom’s door and there was no “Joyce!” She was happy to see me, happy I was there. She knew she knew me. But as our conversation continued, she clearly connected me to someone from her past…as in 70-80 years ago. A contemporary. Not her daughter.

After a few minutes she asked me where I had come from and I said, “Walnut Creek”. She thought for a moment and then said, “I know someone who lives in Walnut Creek. I just can’t think of who it is”. I said, “I think it’s Joyce.” Mom said, “Hmmmm…..That rings a bell…”.

Change.

To me, after death, change is the only other thing that’s guaranteed in life. Thanks, Mrs. Bruce for warning me so many years ago. Even if you did forget the “big” must do in life…change.

Stardust

You know how you don’t think that you’re thinking about anything and then realize that some thoughts are coming together and maybe there’s a blogpost forming in your mind? Yah. Me neither. And yet I find myself having thoughts…

Glen and I have belonged to “The Next Big Idea Club” (NBIC) for years. It’s a group of thinkers who curate non-fiction books (self-help/growth/thought/improvement). The curators are Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain and Adam Grant – all prolific thinkers and authors themselves. Every quarter, they send out two books and then there are various methods of connecting with others in the “club” to discuss them. I have utilized the NBIC podcast and Facebook group for this purpose.

On the NBIC Facebook page the other day, I read a blog post by Julie Harris, a fellow NBICer who was inspired by Susan Cain’s Bittersweet to walk alone for 12 hours…completely unplugged. She spent her time listening. And wondering. She shared her awe of the world around her. She learned that throughout her walk, she found herself enjoying the humanness of the people she met – the kindness that she exchanged as she passed young mothers and old couples; the connectedness that she experienced as they passed each other. It made me reflect on all the walks that I take with earbuds in my hears keeping my brain busy on the podcasts or music that I’m listening to, instead of listening to the world around me or interacting with the people I pass. I always smile, but do I engage? Do I allow myself to mindlessly let my brain wander? To just think? Hmmm…Here’s Julie’s blogpost. You might enjoy it.

Thinking about all that walking reminded me of my friend Kathy and her husband Jim (and a friend), who are currently walking 500 miles on the “Camino” from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Am I right? Did she say 500 miles??? Kathy is brilliantly sharing their incredible journey in her blog, Andherewego.blog. Recently, her post was about all of the people that they are meeting on the camino – fellow peregrinos (pilgrims) and the people who live in the villages that they pass through. It truly does take a village to accomplish an adventure like that. I am in awe of their journey and what they’re learning and experiencing along the way. Here’s the link to the post that introduces her readers to some of the people they’ve met along the way. And I’m definitely begging forgiveness for sharing her blog before asking for permission! xo KFlo

Then a couple days after reading Julie’s blog about her unplugged walk, I was watching The Beat with Ari Melber and he had Neil deGrasse Tyson on his show. As usual, they talked about all kinds of things emanating from Neil’s latest book, but eventually they moved on to the universe. At 13 minutes, Ari asked Neil a question about what we should do with the information that we are now able to see more of the galaxy than ever before. What does that information mean for humans in our day to day lives? Neil explained that we might look up at the night sky and think, I am small and the universe is big. And he said that it’s a true thought. AND he went on to explain that incredibly, we humans are made of the same atoms as the stars.

Wait. What? We are made of the same ingredients as the stars. We are literally stardust. All the stars, near and FAR (aren’t all stars FAR???) – the stars are literally alive within us. So when we look up to the night sky, we can say YES!!! The galaxy is huge and we are small, but we must also know that we are the universe and the universe is us. Wait. What? We are all literally related to the stars. We are all related! We are all stardust.

So that BIG thinking will have me pondering some new ideas on my next walk and it brings me to a big gratitude…

For twenty+ years, I’ve been a part of a book club. We are a group of women who came together while our kids were roaming the halls of elementary school and we were sitting on the sidelines of the soccer and baseball fields cheering them on. We’ve literally read 100s of books together, shared more bottles of wine and more recently cocktails than we should admit to and many, many delicious meals. We’ve shared so many laughs that I blame my “laugh lines” on them and we’ve shed more tears than I might want to remember. We’ve shared our hearts and souls and still last week when we met, I learned deep things about these friends that surprised me.

So before I close, I must share my deep, heartfelt gratitude to these women who during various recent challenges, have provided me so much care and love – I can’t imagine getting through these times without them. xoxox

And finally, I want to remember that as I journey through life – walking, thinking, listening, talking, looking at the night sky…I want to remind myself to always have an appreciation for my humanness, for my weaknesses, for my strengths and for the importance of all the connections I have to all the people in my life because…

we are all stardust.

Five-Sixteen-Five

Remember “normal”? Well, this is about as normal as it gets at the Thomas house.

“Hope is the last thing you lose.” José Alcaraz

Five –

Home from Europe for 5 days. Hope. Hope that Glen can gain some strength. Gain some weight. Feel better.

Sixteen –

UCSF for 16 days. Hope. Hope that the doctors can help him gain strength. Gain weight Feel better.

Five –

Home for 5 days. Hope. Hope that the magic of UCSF has done its work. Hope that the feeding tube will help Glen gain strength. Gain weight. Feel better.

At Cambridge (my place of work for 22 years), we often said, “Hope is not a strategy”. And yet…there are times when you do everything that you can until all you have is hope (or some might say faith). You have to let the experts do their work. The other day, when I told Glen about José Alcaraz and his quote, he said something about him being 19 years old and what does he know about life and hope? Well, it’s all relative.

I never lost hope. I never gave up hope. And going back to Annie Lamont’s prayers – Help, Thanks, Wow…plus Grace…we’ve lived them all and are now full of hope and gratitude.

Paradox – Paradoxes – Paradoxing

Sunset from the hospital parking lot

My high school friend, Kevin responded to my last post saying that he appreciated the “courage” it took to write about this journey. At that point, I didn’t really think of my posts as particularly personally courageous, but this post might change my thinking as it doesn’t show my better side.

Glen taught me this word – paradoxboth things can be true. (Glen has taught me many things.) Disappointment and hope, for example. Fear and hope. Dislike and hope. Annoyance and hope. Read on to understand my thinking about these paradoxes.

For the past few days (four?) I’ve woken up with the hope that today would be the day. Today would be the day that Glen gets to come home. The day when he could be in his own surroundings with visits from friends. When he would be comfortable in his own bed. And…the day when I wouldn’t have to face the bridge traffic. When I wouldn’t sit in a hospital room with all the sights, sounds and smells. Ugh. The smells.

But let me back up a bit. We’ve known for years, that a feeding tube could (would?) be in Glen’s future. During cancer treatment he fought HARD not to get one. It’s never been on our priority list of “must dos” during our lifetime. (Yes, that’s snark.) And here we are grateful for this life-saving tool.

Now I’m going to back up even more…There’s a reason I didn’t go into the medical field. I hate medical stuff. Okay, maybe hate is a bit strong, but I am really uncomfortable with it and don’t like to be around it. Over the years, Glen has put me through the medical wringer many times for many days/weeks/months. I know that sounds very self-centered and self-involved because literally he’s the one in the wringer, but let me have a moment, if you will…

So after experiencing long treatments and recovery for meningitis and cancer, there came a day when he needed some sort of a stint or something in his neck. (Seriously, I can’t keep track of the details of his ailments.) So we both remember that as I stood over him in the recovery room, watching him come out of anesthesia…I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said…I’m done. Next time you need some procedure or a trip to the hospital, you need to find someone else to do this with you. I’m done with you in hospitals. Now, I hope you know that those were empty words, yet they were sincere.

And here we are…15 days into his next hospital stay. I’ve been here for 14 of those days for 10 hours a day (Glen will note that that’s not completely true because sometimes I was late) watching him, watching the nurses, and thinking to myself…WTH did I do in my past life? How do I deserve this? I must have done something truly horrible to someone. Yes. It sounds like a self-pity party. And I have my moments of feeling sorry for myself. AND I also think that I mostly rise to the occasion, to the need, to my role of attendant. I won’t say nurse – will never say nurse because as I have stated over and over and over…I AM NOT A NURSE/CAREGIVER!

So back to where I started this post…hoping that today is the day for Glen to come home. He needs to be home to recover and reassemble his life. And here’s the paradox. Or a paradox because there are actually many. While he’s in the hospital, I’m an extra attendant. The responsibility is not mine. I can advocate for him and help him, but ultimately, it’s not me. You see, as the extra attendant, I can push this lovely red call button and when pressed…voila! The real nurses or caregivers arrive and take care of the patient!

And when he comes home…well…there’s no red button.

So as our blog title states – Can we? Will we? I’m going to say that in this case…I can. I will. But it doesn’t mean that I have to like it. I’ll be paradoxing because…both things are true.

Sunrise from our yard this morning.

Normal

Does anybody really know what normal is? Does anybody really care? (You should be singing a Chicago song as you read those questions…)

I spent many of my professional years working with my friend, Diane and hundreds of teachers to raise our capacity to successfully teach students learning English as their second (third or fourth) language. The specific training was called “Project G.L.A.D.”. One of the things we learned about was how the brain worked and a key strategy to increase learning was to connect new language to emotion.

Since learning that idea, I’ve often reflected on my own learning and life experiences and I’ve found that it’s really true. Emotion plays a large role in learning and in memory. Thus, I have a clear memory of this specific moment in my life though my childhood friend, Cindy, will confirm that my longterm memory is horrid. (She tells me stories from our early years and it’s like I wasn’t even there.)

This memory is clear and it involves another childhood friend, Janice. Janice, my mom and I were standing in our kitchen. I can picture it clearly…the kitchen cabinets were stained green. My dad surprised my mom and lovingly sanded and stained them one summer while my mom was with my sisters on a high school youth group trip. It took him the full ten days that they were gone. As soon as he got home from work every day at 6:30, he changed clothes and went to work in the garage until late into the night or early morning. It was a labor of love. The 70s kitchen look was completed with its yellow tile counters, lovely speckled linoleum floor and copper-colored appliances. The family room (really a family “corner”) had large orange and yellow flowered wallpaper, an orange chair, a console-style tv, and an “antique green” kitchen table.

So back to the memory…The three of us, Janice, my mom and I were standing in the kitchen and I made some dumb teenage comment about something not being “normal”. My mom reacted quickly by “snapping” me on my cheek with her fingers and asking me, “What IS normal?”

Huh? She shocked me physically and emotionally with that snap. Thus the event and the question stuck in my memory. And I remember my 13-year-old self thinking – it’s just a word…sheesh – lighten up. But it obviously caused me to do a little more thinking about the word. I mean…”normal” is just me-my world, my realm. It’s my life. My friends. What kind of a question was that? Normal is me.

Clearly, my mom made an impact on my thinking because here I am, 50 years later, reflecting on her question, “What is normal?” And who gets to define it?

No need to perseverate on a metaphysical, moral, or emotional definition of “normal”. And I’m not going to go to the dictionary like I usually do. For today, I’m just going to think about it in personal terms. I’m going to say that Glen and I will be learning how to live in our new “normal” world. His feeding tube will change how we live. It will create a new “normal” for us. And it will be OUR normal. Not yours. Not theirs. Ours.

I don’t think Glen would mind me inviting you to join us in the journey of learning to live in our new normal. Some of the journey will be shared here on the blog. And Glen really meant it when he invited y’all into our home. So please…join us as we redefine our new “normal”. I can assure you that there will be some bumps along the way. It just might be a wild adventure!

And finally…Thank you, Mom. Thank you for “snapping” me into questioning my thinking. For making me stop and examine life from the viewpoint of others. For being ahead of the times.

Normal. What a weird word.