Into the Desert and Back Again

As the new year unfolded I departed San Diego to drive east to the desert, and the small town of Borrego Springs. I spent a great part of last winter in this community and liked it enough to return for another year. It is close to San Diego so I can return for appointments when needed.

Another attraction for me is seeing my friends Peggy and Roger again. They winter here and so do I. When they leave, they are going on a cruise, I will certainly venture a little further out into the rest of this very large state park.

I love the desert. I appreciate the quiet and the slowing down that seems to be required to stay here. It is a process to quiet and slow down. It doesn’t happen automatically.

Phase 1

When I first arrive here I am itchy. I want to hike. I want to bike. I want to go into town and find out all the things that are happening. I want to be busy.

Phase 2

After a few days, I find I am getting slower to start. I like to lay in bed and read and play computer games. Uh oh, I am beginning to relax.

Phase 3

Phase three started last night. I had been out bicycling during the day and did not remember to drink enough water. By evening I was exhausted and tired and recognized the signs of dehydration. Instead of going to my friends I chose to stay in. Read and go to bed early and drink, drink, drink.

Early bedtimes make for early risings. This morning I awoke just before dawn. I started to read. It is a good book. I reminded myself to look out the window to see what the sunrise was like. I immediately sprang from my comfy bed, grabbed the camera and went walking. A beautiful amazing sunrise can wake me instantly.

Ah, I am getting to the desert point of view. The desert is marvelous in the cool and quiet mornings. The animals and the birds are still about. The breeze is soft on my skin and there is still a chill to the air. It is so quiet and peaceful. I feel like I am the only one in the whole world, awake and enjoying this moment in time. I have finally arrived to that desert state of mind.

Next week I have to return to San Diego for an appointment. I can already feel myself dragging my feet. Shoot I just got settled in and now I have to go to the big city where everything is so much busier. Retaining this quiet when I am somewhere bustling and big is still a lesson I need to learn. Yoga helps. Meditation helps. Seeing friends helps. I don’t mind this too much when I know that my return to the desert will be soon, really soon. It will be good to see friends. It will be good to finally get the last phase of the treatment for thyroid cancer in order.

I can make plans and then return to the desert once again.

The Next Step

Friday marks two months since Miss Elsie took a walk. I decided to give her two months. I stayed in the back of the campground where she disappeared and waited. I walked the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, put her on all the different sites I could find, went to the shelters one to two times a week, and still no Elsie.

I recognized a few weeks ago that I was going to have to wean myself from my campsite and this park. I decided that the best thing to do was to move to another site within the park for 3 nights so I could adjust to not waiting and experience something a bit different. Currently, I am camped on one of the lakes and it is quite lovely. I enjoy being near the water and watching the ducks and birds.

Taking the next step into the New Year has many different meanings for me and for most of us. Just because the ball drops at midnight doesn’t mean that our lives start fresh. My life continues to move on to a few new steps. The first next step is obvious, moving away from my campsite and getting ready to move on with my life.

In the middle of the whole Elsie debacle, I continued to recover from my second thyroid surgery. Neither of these surgeries, the one in April and the one in October, was a hard recovery. I did some alternative healing modalities to quicken the process. The scar is barely noticeable (thank goodness for a few wrinkles). I try to remember to massage my neck often. I want to keep the scar tissue at a minimum. And, I remain positive.

The next step in this process is deciding whether to move forward with the radioactive iodine treatment (RAI). My endocrinologist is really encouraging me to follow through, yet I have been hesitant. You may wonder why and so do I. There are no real clear answers to this hesitancy. I have decided to go forward with the next step, which is an appointment with Nuclear Medicine. This is when I will get the definitive details on the whole process. I also know that I can stop the process at any time.

Taking the pill is definitely a process. First I have to switch medicines, that has been done. Two weeks prior to the ingestion of the RAI, I need to go on a low iodine diet, so that any thyroid tissue that is left will be thirsty for iodine. Next, I have to isolate myself from the general public for a week to ten days. That is the hardest part. I need to be eight to ten feet from the closest person. Can I stay in my rig? What precautions do I need to take?  How do I manage the daily chores of living in an RV? How, what, when and where? Yes, this is what I ask myself.

I belong to two thyroid support pages on Facebook. The people on these sites have been extremely helpful and supportive. When something happens in my life these support groups are a lifeline. I am sure others feel the same. I also have been accessing another web site, Thyroid Cancer Survivors. This site is loaded with information and knowledge and a cook-book. The best support is being supported by others who have already gone through what I am going through now.

I know I have a lot of support out in the big wide world, yet when it comes down to this week in my life, I am in it alone. At times like this, I miss Jim. I miss having someone to bounce everything off of. I miss having someone to take care of me so I can go into retreat for a week. I miss someone being there to make it easier. Yet I will endure and it is only a week of my life. Well, that is not too bad.

The desert at it’s best

Tomorrow I leave the campground. I am visiting a friend in the mountains, cold but not too cold. I come back into San Diego for an appointment mid-week and then I am driving east. It is the desert season. I plan to arrive in Borrego Springs and Anza Borrego State Park by Thursday at the latest. I have friends there and I am looking forward to catching up. With boots and poles in hand, I am looking forward to hiking the hills and washes.

The nice thing about the desert being so close at hand, I can easily drive into town the night before my appointment on the 23rd and when it is done, turn around and drive the two hours back east. At the moment I realize I need to be flexible. I want to move forward with my life even while I wait.

It is important to remember to take one step at a time. Too many steps all at once increases stress. I don’t like to do stress so I will take it one step and then the next. It is all any of us can do. And look for the positive in each given moment.

Taking the next step.

 

Changing My State of Mind-Feeling Grateful

This morning I woke up feeling a bit sorry for myself. I miss Elsie, I miss Jim, I miss having a permanent home (sometimes-Oh wait isn’t my RV a permanent home?), I miss, I miss, I miss. Isn’t that a pleasant way to wake up? Not!

Once I climbed out of bed I decided I was going to look around me and find things I am grateful for. It is way past time to walk away from the “oh woe is me” thinking. After doing this, the sorries are gone and I am back on track, ready to take on another day.

What did I see that made me grateful and happy, if not, content?

I live in a pretty amazing small space. When I am cold I can turn on the heat. I am warm and dry and comfortable. I have a very comfortable bed, one I have been creating for as long as I have been fulltiming, to make it just this comfortable. It is hard to get out of comfort in the morning. This is a complete home, minus the cat, that fills my needs just as much as if I had a permanent spot on the map. I am so grateful for this little home on wheels.

Recently friends of mine, Helen & David, told me that the latest research shows that coffee may be good for a person. When I left their home in Nebraska this past fall I left with a filter, coffee filters, coffee, and a scoop. About once a week I indulge myself in a rather weak yet good cup of joe. Every time I pull out the filters and coffee I immediately think of my friends. It reminds me of how loved I am by them and so many others. Funny how just getting out the makings for a routine cup of coffee can remind me of such good friends and make me grateful.

Zentangles

I look at the front of the cabinets and there are small Zentangles that were drawn by a very long-time friend of mine. It reminds me of how the two of us have gone through so many changes in our friendship of close to thirty years and we still endure. I am glad I have Nancy to go to when I need an in-depth and hopefully honest conversation. We have helped each other over the years. Again I am reminded of friends near and far who love and support me, even when I am not at my best

Last night I had another potential Elsie sighting. I am so grateful to the people on the Santee Nextdoor App. More than likely this will not be Elsie, the description is wrong, yet I am so grateful for all these unknown people out there who have been supporting me through this hard process of trying to locate my lost kitty. They have been amazing and I will remain grateful for this community for the rest of my life. You might want to check out Nextdoor and become active in a different way, in your community.

I take for granted that I have clothes on my back and when they get dirty I have the money to go to the local laundromat to wash them. There are people who struggle to have one pair of shoes. As I look toward my sleeping area I see two pairs of shoes there. Today I am grateful I can have my pick of shoes and clothes and food and well just about everything else that makes my life a bit easier.

Have you ever noticed how unique and incredible the people around you can be? When I get up in the morning I usually check my emails, and then social media. It is not unusual to read a little of people’s lives on Facebook in the morning. I know that most of the time we present the better side of ourselves to the world, but, what amazing people I know. One couple is very involved with the San Diego Maritime Museum. They are always doing the coolest things with the ships that are a part of the museum. Their interest in the museum has even led James to a part-time job working for Scripps Institute of Oceanography, helping to captain their research vessel. How cool is that? Pretty darn cool, I think.

Others travel and learn. I have had friends who have hiked the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. I follow them with interest and a bit of desire and take pride in knowing them and sharing, even vicariously, in their achievement.

Ginny

My family is becoming more and more important as I have grown older, not old. I love the moments when I talk with my sister, Ginny, on the phone. We don’t often talk of anything important, though sometimes we do, it is the talking and sharing that is important. I follow my other sister and nieces through Photo Sharing and Facebook. I can share their joys and sorrows, if not directly through all these forms of media that keep us connected across the miles. My one niece is expecting a new baby in March. Yes, I am excited, although an absentee Aunt.

Everyone continues to teach me about love, acceptance, being human and more. I have friends who stand by me through thick and thin. Others, thank you Cynthia, teach me new and old forgotten skills such as crocheting. It is not just the skill that is important, it is the gathering and conversation and sharing that is. Each friendship expands my world and teaches me value.

And lastly, there is Elsie the wandering kitty. I had fourteen years of her company. Her toys are still out and her blanket is still on the front seat. She may come back and she may not. I have been slowly working my way towards acceptance of the latter part of that statement. I am grateful for every moment I had with that little darling kitty. She taught me a lot and was quite the reluctant social butterfly. Because of her, I have met so many people in the Roadtrek and RV world. People have become my friends and I am grateful she was my introduction to some of them. Not everyone came to my rig to meet me, but because of her presence, I have met kind and wonderful people.

Now I am feeling stronger and better. Being grateful is always a good thing. Some days, like today, I need to start out small and look about me, be thankful and get myself back on track.

The wind has died down and it is time to get on that bike and ride.

I wish all of you a very Happy New Year. May it be filled with adventure and gratitude. See you next year.

 

 

 

Conversational Narcissism

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”                      Epictetus

Sunday I took myself out for a late breakfast at a restaurant near where I am camped in San Diego County. The Trails is becoming a favorite of mine. The menu is good and even though it is often crowded and there is a wait, as a single I get to sit at the first come first serve counter. I love sitting there. I never know who is going to be sitting next to me.

The first time I went I met a young man who shared with me all of his favorites on the menu. We had a delightful conversation. Since then I have seen him again. As I walked in he was walking out. Yesterday I met Dan, an older man, an author, and quite the conversationalist. I spent almost two hours chatting with him, learning about his unique and interesting life. For two whole hours, I left my cell phone ignored on the counter, and when it did ring I simply set it to message. I don’t do that often enough these days. It is definitely something I would like to do again and a bit more often.

Lately, I have had some sites cross my Facebook page regarding the topic of Conversational Narcissism. When I reposted it I was amazed at the responses I received. It appears many of us saw a little bit of ourselves in the related post: The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend. This article and further articles I have researched on this topic have made me very aware of my human fallacy when attempting to support and listen to my friends and others.

“Conversational Narcissism was coined by sociologist Charles Derber and describes the tendency to turn a conversation back to yourself. Conversational narcissists tend to keep the focus on themselves, so you’re getting attention but not giving any away. It invalidates the other person and what they’re trying to share. The problem is, talking about ourselves is natural, so it’s hard to notice when you’re overdoing it.” (Marissa Lalibert)

I have experienced this with Jim’s death, my own experiences with cancer and currently with the loss of Elsie the Cat. Many times the conversation was turned around to the person who was attempting to listen and support me. There are times that this made me feel unacknowledged and uncomfortable. Never, please never tell someone to move on. Need I say more.

Part of being human is recognizing my own frailties and learning how to change and grow from this recognition. I recognize that I have also been the one turning the conversation to myself. I hope that it happens less now. I am more aware of this conversational tendency and I can catch myself, take a deep breath and turn the conversation back to the person who is needing my support and love.

In my twenties and thirties, I studied medicine and spirituality with the Native American culture. I valued the “Talking Stick”. The Talking Stick is a tool used in many Native American traditions when a council is called. It allows all council members to present their point of view. It is passed from person to person as they speak and only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk during that time period. Using an object, any object is a visible reminder to those of us not holding the stick to be quiet and listen, really listen. The person holding the stick is able to complete a thought or idea. The speaker feels his opinion is respected and valued and considered.

The Society of Friends, more commonly known as The Quakers also practice this art of listening in their Silent Meetings for Worship. “During worship, a message may come to us. Friends have found that messages may be for our personal reflection or for sharing on another occasion. Or they may be led to stand and speak. Friends value spoken messages that come from the heart and are prompted by the Spirit, and we also value the silence we share together. Following a spoken message, we return to the silence to examine ourselves in the Light of that message. Meeting for worship ends when one Friend, designated in advance, shakes hands with his or her neighbors. Then everyone shakes hands. No two meetings are ever the same.”

Back to Dan at the restaurant on Sunday. He was a delightful man with a very interesting past. The longer I sat there, I realized he never asked me anything about myself. For almost two full hours Dan spoke of himself and his life experiences. Dan never even asked me my name. Although I enjoyed hearing of his life and the history of Los Angeles, where he grew up, and what he had achieved in his life, he never once asked me about myself. What was I doing there? Where did I live? The usual conversation openers when people meet for the first time were not present.

In certain circumstances, maybe Conversational Narcissism is OK. I learned a lot from Dan. He was a storyteller and wove the stories of his life in an interesting and ear-catching way. I had a delightful two-hour conversation with him. I did not feel devalued or left out. Even recognizing that he never asked me anything about myself, the two hours were delightful. I had no expectations just a good breakfast companion.

I also think that what we see as a one-sided conversation, maybe contributed to loneliness. Dan lived alone, I live alone. Sometimes when I am around others I will tend to talk more than when I shared my life with Jim and even Miss Elsie the Cat. Yes, I do get tired of my own company. Yes, there are ideas I want to share. I do try to catch myself when I feel like I am talking too much. I believe I do better at this today than when I was younger.

I am sitting in a coffee house as I write this. My ears are a little more tuned into conversations around me. The art of conversation is hard. Unless we have taken classes in the art of conversation, all of us struggle just a little with the whole idea of communicating with others. I was not taught how to converse as I was growing up. You just did it. Sometimes it was successful and others, well, not so much.

As we approach the holiday and we gather with family and friends, our conversational awareness will be tested. The family often is the ultimate test of conversation. They can be the most critical and the most supportive. As I approach Christmas day I hope that I can remember to take a deep breath and truly listen to the joy of others in the celebration of this day.

 

The Power of the Web

I have been learning a lot about the power of the world wide web in the past month. When Miss Elsie disappeared I immediately started to put her information out the best way I knew how. I made flyers and posted them in the closest neighborhoods.

The most effective alternative was to get her posted on as many sites on the internet as I could. I started with the San Diego Humane Society and expanded spreading her information from there.

Did you know that you can log on to almost any Humane Society site and see who is lost and who is found? In a large county, like San Diego, it helps me not to have to travel as far as often. I also was able to post her information into their system. The Humane Society updates their website every fifteen minutes.

nextdoor.com-This is my favorite site. You put in the zip code of the neighborhood you want to connect with and then you can post messages. Why is this my favorite site? The people in the surrounding community have been amazingly helpful. Some of them have gone above and beyond to help me find Miss Elsie. I may not have found her but the care and support I received from total strangers has been amazing and comforting.

pawboost.com-This site is connected to the Humane Society. They create fliers for you and post this on their facebook page and their website as well. This is another group of people that have been supportive and kind. You can also increase your search area by purchasing additional packages. Flyers get sent to the local vets and shelters. This all happens while I go off and search for her.

findingrover.com-Finding Rover is connected with the humane society as well as other sites. They search for animals all over the United States. You post a picture of your lost pet and it scans your pet and then shows all found pets near and far away from you. The first ones are close matches to the pet that is scanned.

petfbi.org-Yep, there is such a thing. This is a fairly new organization. They let me post for free. If I wanted to upgrade there are packages to increase visibility.

petamberalert.com-This site sends out automated phone messages to the surrounding area where I lost Miss Elsie. I received one so I know they work.

lostmykitty.com & lostmydoggie.com-This site lets you post your missing dear one and they post your missing animal report on their web site.

petfinder.com-This is another site that broadcasts your lost animal to the wider web.

nokillnetwork.org-No Kill refers to the shelters that have a no-kill policy. This broadcasts Miss Elsie to all the No Kill shelters in the United States.

I still visit the nearby shelters a few times a week. I like saying hello to all the kitties and doggies. I am not able to touch them. My fingers itch to touch them but alas I cannot. I want to pick them all up and snuggle. Instead, I talk to them. They seem to like the attention.

Even though Miss Elsie has not returned, I feel like I have done my best to locate her. I miss her so much. It just isn’t quite the same without her presence. Slowly I am gathering her things and putting them away. Each step is hard yet necessary.

Slowly my life is expanding outward again. I am enjoying the holiday events and other people’s company. It takes time to get over the loss of a close companion. I am trying to remind myself that it is OK to grieve and enjoy myself all at the same time. I am glad for close and not so close friends who have taken the time out of their busy lives to love and support me.

Today as always I am grateful for family and friends and for those many people I don’t know yet have become a part of my world wide support network.

 

 

 

 

A New Month-Moving Forward

December third will mark a month since Elsie took off. There have been sightings. I have answered every one. I have met some very nice people and seen some sweet kitties, yet all of them are not my cat. Sigh. I have become intimately familiar with the shelters in the county and the numerous web sites that help people find their animals. Cats and dogs go missing and so do parakeets, bunnies, geese, and pigs.

I know you all wish me well. I know that all those good thoughts and prayers are being sent out to support her return and to support me. I want you to continue to do this, yet what I need now is to not dwell on it so much. The longer she is gone the less is the likely-hood of her return. I need to get my life organized as a truly solo person. Could I ask you to continue to pray for her and me without letting me know with each blog post or a facebook post? Each time I see that someone is praying for her safe return or to support me, it puts me into a sad place and I need to go there less. I need to look ahead while hoping for her safe return.

I am staying in San Diego for another month at least. I still have doctors and dentists appointments to contend with. Most of them are complete and I still have some major decisions ahead. Yep, that is correct, the rest of my life is moving forward, just minus my little kitty.

Janet & Pat

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I was given a surprise visit by a fellow Roadtreking friend. Pat lives on the San Juan Islands off of Washington State. She is on a several month drive-about of the west visiting family and friends. Knowing that she would be close, she decided to come and give me a pick-me-up and a diversion. It was delightful to see her and her two pups. We talked and caught up and broke bread together. I am glad she thought enough of me to rescue me from a serious case of the doldrums. It was a good couple of days.

I successfully made it through Thanksgiving. I had some interesting offers come in for my plea not to be alone for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had to say no to some, as they were not local and I have made a commitment to myself and Elsie to give her two months.

I actually had three Thanksgiving dinners. Santee Lakes, where I am camped, had a potluck on Wednesday night.

On Thursday I went to dinner at my friend and one of the best yoga instructors around, Lisa’s home. Along with 19 others, I celebrated in an intimate delightful setting. We feasted well. The food and the company were warm and receptive. I am glad I stretched myself a bit and enjoyed this holiday with others. Thank you, Lisa.

Yesterday saw my third helping of turkey served at a good friend’s house here in San Diego. Cynthia and Ward had a full dinner with all the fixings. Dinner was followed by a movie and pumpkin pie. Their home is always welcoming and open to me. I am glad Cynthia and Ward are friends.

Christmas is next. I am going to remember to breath my way through this holiday. I gave up giving presents many years ago. That took a lot of stress off my plate right away. No more late-night trips to the stores so I could go shopping when there was not a hoard of people around. No more calling my family to ask what they wanted for Christmas and then buying them gift cards. All of this has allowed me to breath more and stress less.

It is so much more joyful for me, during this month, to take time to enjoy people’s company. Going on a hike or walk, strolling along the waterfront, enjoying a good meal and conversation is a gift I can really enjoy. Would you care to join me? It would be delightful to catch up with close friends, fellow tour guides and acquaintances. Let’s take a walk or get a cup of coffee. I am open to unique suggestions as well.

And for all of you who are further away, I will carry you in my mind and heart. That is sometimes the closest that one can get. I look forward to future visits to those far away places.

Today I am thankful. This month I am thankful for friends and family, for those, I have met and for those, I will meet. Always, I am thankful to breath.

 

 

 

Into Africa

What do I do when I have time on my hands? What do you do when you have time on your hands?

Over the past three weeks, I have been waiting for a little cat to make an appearance. What should I do with my time while wishing and hoping?

The last ten days of my trip to Africa this summer I spent on a Photo Safari. Each day we would go into the bush and take photos of everything great and small. At the end of the day, it was not unusual to return with over one thousand frames shot with my trusty Canon DSLR.

Prior to Safari, I spent six weeks in Zimbabwe and South Africa traveling independently with my friend, Phyllis. Oh no more pictures. I was not taking quite that many photos per day on this part of the trip. Still, there were photos and more photos.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to delete and edit and figure out exactly what is worth keeping and what needs to be tossed? Spending time at my rig has offered me the golden opportunity to dive into all of these pictures and create some order to the madness.

For those of you who do not “do” Facebook, I decided to add my slideshow to a post on my blog. I must warn you, it is long-about twenty-eight minutes worth. I like how it turned out. It is not too professional but not one of those campy home movies.

Enjoy the show.

And no Elsie has not shown up.