The New Protected Blog Posts

The email invite to the new protected part of the blog with the password has gone out, which will contain my health updates. If you didn’t get the invite, we missed you. Please comment here, or email me, and we’ll send it. I’m happy to have you walk with me. I just don’t want the nut cases.

Some of you prefer to email me privately, and that’s fine. I’ll respond as I can. I have some degree of aphasia, which makes individual conversations hard for the moment. Some of you have asked to call. Honestly, that’s not possible right now. Hope it will improve.

Sara and friend Louise and I went out to breakfast today. Lowfat yogurt and blueberries and black coffee are out. Thin Swedish pancakes, bacon, and buckets of strong coffee are in. 🙂

There is always a glimmer of great at the edges of life’s hard moments.

Good Scotch too. 🙂

Conscious Aging: June 20 #2

Last week on the way to the hairdresser I was on track for a 100,000 step week. Today, inside, I have 527 steps at 9:30am. Bolix.  I will have more by end of day, but I am not happy at my progress. You get old lady saggy looking legs awfully fast.   🙂

Conscious Aging: Day 5 – Biopsy Day

The admonition to “get a good night’s sleep” didn’t work well.  It’s 5:30am. They should come in about an hour. Sara and Matt will be here all day.

I’m thinking about what I can live with. They will shave a big patch on one side of my hair. If it were winter I could wear a wool watch cap and no one would notice. A ball cap will help some. I don’t care much if people stare. The hair will grow back.

I’ll be naked briefly while they change me from hospital gown and Sara’s classy Cathay Pacific first class air pajamas to what you wear in OR. That’s OK too. I have an older woman’s body. I’m used to it.

They’ll cut a hole about a dime size in my skull. That’s a bit edgier. I can’t help think of Rosemary Kennedy. Joe Kennedy authorized two surgeons to muck around in her frontal lobes and destroy her cognitive function. None suffered any professional consequences – bastards. Nor did Rose Kennedy suffer publicly for failing to protect her daughter. She still went to Paris twice a year to buy the latest fashion. My surgeons aren’t going to do that. They will use computer technology and a thin needle to take tissue samples. A friend here welcomed me to the Hole in the Head Club. Who knew people had this done enough to be a group.

They’ll cover the hole with a titanium plate and sew up the skin. I’ll wake up, and we’ll see what we have. The mass is near my speech center. I’ll mind if my words are lost.

I don’t waste much energy wishing this things that have to happen shouldn’t happen. We have a plan. We have to know what the mass is. This hospital has great neuro surgeons. I say let’s roll and see what we have by end of day in terms of function. Actual diagnosis will take a few days – no shooting from the cuff today on initial impressions.

Maybe if I can eat, the kids will go out and get me Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough for supper.

Conscious Aging: Day 4, Update 2

My seven year old grandson told his Daddy he hoped what was wrong with my brain is ADHD, because he could help me and teach me what to do. He told YaYa that ADHD isn’t so bad. You get in get a little trouble at school but the rest is OK.

Honestly, I am incredibly blessed with the people, young and old, who love me.

Probably no update on Monday, biopsy day.

Hope for Tuesday.

Hang in there with me.

Getting to Know Seattle: Firsts of the Season

I’m a warm weather person, so the joys of spring, summer, and even fall far outstrip any pleasures that winter might bring. I can look at pictures of snow and be just as happy as having it outside my door.

The first local strawberries came in this week here in Seattle, and I’m in heaven. There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly picked local strawberry — so different from the tepid flavor of Driscoll strawberries available year round in the plastic clamshell container. One of the vendors at our neighborhood farmer’s market has strawberries into August, and I enjoy them all summer long.

Spring also means WNBA games, which aren’t quite as thrilling as my beloved Tour de France, but which I follow religiously. The Tour runs July 6-28, and it’s the only time I have the TV on for four hours a day. WNBA season began May 24 and ends in late September or early October, depending on how many playoff games there are.

Spring in Seattle also means leaving jackets behind, entering the dry season where watering gardens and plants is essential, more easy sources of food for the raccoons so they aren’t ripping up my lawn to find grubs, summer music festivals, cookouts and time at the pool with my family, more outdoor entertaining at my house.

To that last point, one of the best things about renting Sara’s house is my back deck, which is just off the kitchen and my small family room. This pic is early morning, but think of the deck awash in afternoon sun. It stays light here in Seattle until almost 9:30 pm at this time of year, so think of me enjoying the deck in many forms, including on my own with a glass of wine or cup of tea and a book. 🙂 Appealing, no?

The Neat and the Wild

I like order around me, always have. Part of deciding to put in cedar fencing in my yard was to manage the fact that my  neighbors — who are great guys and good neighbors in all respects that matter — have wildly overgrown, unattended yards. They were most accommodating about my ripping out foliage rooted in their yards but over-growing into mine in order to install the fence. But it would have been quite another thing to ask permission to get their wild bushes in order. Maybe they like them the way they are.

A visitor asked how I feel about the crazy intertwined bushes that give something of a chaotic backdrop to my fence, wondering if the disarray bothers me. Actually it doesn’t. It’s not my disarray. More to the point, these thick bushes are home to many, many songbirds who come into my yard to drink at the birdbath. Hummingbirds emerge in order to eat seeds from the red hot pokers. Robins peck the ground looking for worms. Bluebirds do battle with the other birds, chasing them away.

When the guys were ripping out the foliage on my side they found evidence that the raccoons were living in the most overgrown part of the bush. I think we’ve torn enough away so that’s no longer true, although clearly the raccoons have stayed in the neighborhood. I wish they were gone entirely, but oh well. My grass seems to be rooted enough so that rolling it up is no longer so easy.

I think I have the best of all worlds.

Conscious Aging: Random Exposure to Measles

I probably had measles as a kid. I know I had mumps and chicken pox. But at my age and given that our immune systems are less effective in older years, I look dimly on being exposed to anything that can be avoided. One of my news feeds remarked that travelers who passed through an airport in northern Virginia last weekend might have been exposed to a child with measles. I wasn’t in Virginia, but I am in random airports now and again, and there are lots of children in airports.

Anti-vaxxers fall into a number of categories, ranging from the trendy to the easily duped to those with religious objections — no matter how misguided. Mainstream religions don’t teach that children shouldn’t be vaccinated. Under “trendy” I include a woman — also in my news feeds — who has a Vitamin C based remedy to cure autism and to obviate the need for vaccines. She has a number of followers, and 2000 children are undergoing  her regimen.

I don’t know what we do about this. We can prevent unvaccinated children from going to school, but we can’t prevent them from walking through airports, or going to a local restaurant or drugstore or library. We only have to look at countries where vaccines are not widely available to know the danger for unvaccinated children and by extension, adults. A few years ago Panama had a swine flu outbreak — most people there don’t get flu shots because the vaccine isn’t widely available. A global health group donated 1M doses of flu vaccine, but the infrastructure isn’t in place to administer vaccines quickly and across large numbers of people. Because of that, many people — the very old and the very young — died.

There have always been a small number of anti-vaxxers, but the number seems to be growing along with the growing distrust of science, facts, and truth. It’s a bad trend.

Conscious Aging: A Good Listener

I’ve always been a good listener, because I’m naturally curious about how people think about things, how each of us makes sense of our lives, why we do what we do. Sometimes being a good listener has gotten me in trouble, as people have equated “listening” with “agreeing” and assume that I think whatever they’re saying, especially a political opinion, is something I believe too. I’ve learned to give earlier signals that while I’m hearing and understanding a person’s heartfelt belief, I don’t agree.

Sometimes what people share is way TMI, and I steer those conversations toward a quicker end. Sometimes people have an endless need to talk and no capacity to listen back, and I don’t feel the need to oblige a bottomless pit of attention-seeking. But I’m struck, and often moved, by the small personal moments people share simply because as human beings, we need to be witnessed.

I had such a moment yesterday, listening briefly to someone who’s working really hard — and at some cost to herself — to do the right thing even though the family members she’s helping aren’t grateful and nobody else much cares either. We can tell ourselves that we’re doing the right thing, but sometimes it matters to have someone else affirm that “this is a choice you’re making, and only a good and decent person at heart would do it. ”

I really meant that, and although nothing changes the basic situation, I hope our shared moment mattered.

Conscious Aging: Diversifying My Travel

Making an extended winter stay in Panama my primary travel priority was not what I first thought of when I sold our financial planning business in 2004. With that business gone I started a consulting practice. I reconnected with Minga and her family in 2009, after a hiatus of forty years, as a result of a consulting job that sent me to Panama City. That reconnection was so rich and deep I did decide to return to Panama year after year, one time staying for three months.

What I originally thought I’d do is rent a flat for a few months in a city somewhere in the world, like Barcelona, and go live there — shopping, eating, doing what people there did in their daily lives. I’d go to a different place each year.

In addition to finding Minga, my life changed in other important ways: both of my adult kids moved to the same city — in 2010 I moved here too — and I became a grandmother. Being away for months at a time became less of a draw.

I had picked deep connection over variety of travel.

Minga’s death does change things, although I have now also formed strong bonds with her large extended family, and with Gloria’s family.

I’ve just booked a fall trip with Elderhostel to see several Civil Rights sites in the deep South: 16th Street Baptist Church, Edmund Pettis bridge, the new museum which honors lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama. I’d loved to visit Money, Mississippi, where Emmett Till died — although that’s not on the tour. The general store where he supposedly disrespected a white woman is now derelict and abandoned, and Money is a small forgotten town. I’d like to bear witness anyway.

I want to go to VietNam this year or next. I plan a short trip back to Rochester to see friends, sometime before winter. And a dear friend, formerly from Rochester, is coming here.

I’m not sure yet what all of this means for Panama in winter of 2020. Lily’s visa to travel to the U.S. is still good until 2023, and she would love to come back. I’d like to bring her for an east coast tour this time, perhaps with Miley if we can get her a visa, or again with Gloria. They are all dying to see snow, and our winter is Miley’s long school vacation. Perhaps they might come here.

Lots of pieces to juggle, all good.