White Privilege – The Elephant in the Room

Last January I attended the Annual Borrego Springs Film Festival. It begins on Thursday and ends the following Monday. The films can be anywhere from a few minutes long to an hour. You buy your tickets in blocks. At the end of the block writers, producers, actors, and more come to the stage and the audience can ask them questions about the movies. Some of the films are unique, others just OK and then there is a film that will leave a significant impact on the viewer.

Brooklyn in July” -“It is the summer of 1945. The War is all but won. The U.S. is riding a wave of triumph even as the undertow of unresolved issues roils beneath. Frank, like so many other African-Americans of the time, is drawn to New York by the promise of a better life only to be confronted by the same realities, fear, and hatred he hoped he had left behind. He is a man scarred by a past that is lurking skin deep.” This film is about the racism that most people of color endure on a daily basis, then and now. It was horrific and sad and very moving.

The movie was approximately 20 minutes long. It was one of the more uncomfortable 20 minutes I  remember enduring in a long time. At the end of the block, I discovered that it was an uncomfortable moment for this mostly white audience. The questions that were posed to this writer and producer were around this discomfort. Did he realize how uncomfortable this film was for his mostly white audience? What did he hope to achieve? What made him write this? Who were the actors and how as people of color did they feel in these rolls?

The writer and director stated that if it made us feel uncomfortable, then he had done his job. He had chosen the north to write this film because many people believe that racism did not exist in the northern states. He stated that racism in the northeastern part of the United States was not acknowledged. This type of racism can be stronger and more powerful and dividing than what we can blatantly see in the south. He mentioned that “White Privilege” continues to exist today. If we are white we experience “White Privilege”. This statement immediately made me experienced discomfort.

This topic has continued to be a part of my thought process since January. When I returned to San Diego my friends, Cynthia and Ward are studying,  Sacred Ground A Film-Based Dialogue Series on Race & Faith through the Episcopal Church. Since I am now sharing their space we have discussed this subject more than once.

“White Privilege” has made me feel uneasy. I don’t like the term and I especially don’t like this term in describing me. I am part of the white race and so I need to find a way to comfortably address this discomfort. There is no more important time than now to address this Elephant in the Room.

I have done reading on white privilege and institutional racism since January.  It remains an uncomfortable topic yet maybe a bit less so since I have been researching and exploring it.

White privilege is—perhaps most notably in this era of uncivil discourse—a concept that has fallen victim to its own connotations. The two-word term packs a double whammy that inspires pushback. 1) The word white creates discomfort among those who are not used to being defined or described by their race. And 2) the word privilege, especially for poor and rural white people, sounds like a word that doesn’t belong to them—like a word that suggests they have never struggled.

This defensiveness derails the conversation, which means, unfortunately, that defining white privilege must often begin with defining what it’s not. Otherwise, only the choir listens; the people you actually want to reach check out. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled. Many white people do not enjoy the privileges that come with relative affluence, such as food security. Many do not experience the privileges that come with access, such as nearby hospitals.

And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.”  (from the article: What is White Privilege Really)

I experience white privilege every single day of my life. I have the freedom to move around as I please (except now due to Covid-19). I can move through the world and know or expect that my needs will be met most of the time. Books, even Children’s books usually have white characters.I don’t have to look in special sections of a store for hair or beauty products. I am less likely to be followed, interrogated, or searched by law enforcement because I look “suspicious.” My skin tone will not be a reason people hesitate to trust my credit or financial responsibility. My skin tone will not be a reason to look at my admission to institutions of higher learning as unique or impossible.  I can be comfortable in my world most of the time. And these examples are just a few of many. The more I have explored this topic the more I have come to realize that White is everywhere Color, well, not so much.

Institutional racism has been responsible for slavery, settlement, Indian reservations, segregation, residential schools (for American Indians), and internment camps. While most of these institutions no longer exist, they have had long-term impacts on our society. As a result of institutional racism, racial stratification and disparities have occurred in employment, housing, education, healthcare, government, and other sectors. While many laws were passed in the mid-20th century to make discrimination illegal, major inequalities still exist.” (from the article Definition and Analysis of Institutional Racism)

This past weekend has been painfully necessary for this country. In the 1960s Institutional Racism was addressed in many of the same ways it is being addressed now. This is a wake-up call for all people, no matter the race. It is time for us to address Institutional Racism and move towards equality for everyone. It is time for us to ask our police to treat lives as if All Lives Matter and to recognize that All Lives Matter only when All People of Color Lives Matter. It is time to address the Elephant in the room.

What can I do about this? The first step is to educate myself so I can learn what it may be like for someone else to live in a world that is not as comfortable to live in as mine. When I talk to my friends or even strangers of color I will stop, and really listen to what they have to say. I will remember to listen, really listen. When people of color speak to their experiences of oppression, it’s important for me not to question their experiences. I can use my privilege to make these voices heard and help create change.

I would like to recognize the times when I should speak up. All people need to take the lead on anti-bias work. All people need to intervene when something offensive is said. If I hear racist remarks, I will speak up. If I see opportunities to educate fellow white people about race, I will. As an ally, my privilege can be a tool to reach people who may be more likely to listen to me or relate to my educational journey.

I can stand up for inequality, in whatever way I can. I can acknowledge that it is OK for me to feel uncomfortable and move ahead anyway. I will support education and learning. I plan to explore more tools I can use to more comfortably address this elephant.

Although I am not actively protesting(Covid), I support those that are. (Please understand I support peaceful protest, not rioting) I have watched some of the protests on television and admire these groups for their stand. It is time we come together as all people, dialog, and create change. Then, maybe then I will become more comfortable with the term White Privilege and it will no longer be an Elephant in the Room.

Anything that is highlighted in Orange, you can click on and it will take you to the appropriate article or page on the web.

Bicycling in the Time of Coronavirus

“Janet, I just read your latest entry and it made me think. In our conversations we skirted around the afterlife, and spirits, and much more. It makes me think, now more than ever that spirits do exist. Not in the ghostly, rowdy, animated Hollywood way, but truly they do exist. How well you knew him shapes your thought processes. How much you loved him gives you strength and empathy for others. He is always with you. As we spoke, I began to know your Jim. We never met but I began to know him, to hear from him. I began to see you in ways that maybe very few people have seen you, though I am certain Jim did. In some way he guided our conversation. Not as a “medium” casting voices into my head, but with his spirit I felt him come to you through our conversation. You love him deeply and he loves you. There will be many more times he will come to you through others. His generosity may be shown through the acts of others you may not even know yet. His kindness will aid you in your endeavors through the kindness of others. His thoughtfulness will allow others to point the way through conundrums large and small. As we talked I felt something of his love for you and his insistence to be helpful to you. He will continue to do so as long as you are open to him through others. Bless you, Janet, we all love you.” J.P.

The one activity, bicycling, that Jim and I did together, is one I continue to fully embrace and enjoy as a solo. As many of you know about three weeks ago I had my Jamis Road Bike stolen. It was heartbreaking to see that bike disappear from my life. It had been my ride for many years, Jim bought it for me and I had to let it go. It has not been easy.

Carbondale M300 Mountain Bike

Shortly after this event, within two days, I became the owner of a cute blue Carbondale M300 Mountain Bike. A fellow local tour guide, Jay gave me the bike. It has since been cleaned up, had it’s maiden ride and is ready to go. I am cautious about mountain bikes, my history with them has not always been a positive one.

The first time I was on a mountain bike, I was biking to Point Reyes National Seashore, hike, and bike camp with a friend. I met up with a boulder, flipped over the front end of the bike, the bike came over on top of me and as I was laying on the ground trying to figure out where I was wounded, my friend came up to me and said, “Wow, Janet that was really cool”. I couldn’t be angry with him as I bet it was really cool to watch. He made up for it by taking me to Calistoga Hot Springs to recover. I ended up with whiplash to my neck. I have tread carefully around mountain bikes since that experience. Now, several years later I hope that the ride will be smoother and safer.

Even with a new mountain bike, I knew I wanted another road bike. I began the search. I looked at new bikes, fancy, clean, and smart and expensive. I contacted a friend of mine whose husband “does bikes”. He asked me questions:

  • How tall are you? This helps to size a bike.
  • What did I want it for? I wanted it to ride.
  • Did it have to be new? No.
  • Was weight important? Yes, at least a little. I need to lift it on and off my bike rack.
  • How much was I willing to spend? As much as it took to make me happy with my ride.

Don began to look for road bikes. The day after our conversation, he sent me a link to a road bike on Craigslist. It had everything I wanted. It was the right size, it has great components, and is lightweight, weighing in at about 14 lbs. The price was within an acceptable range. My friend Ward and I went to look at the bike. It was in very good condition, the ride was smooth. I needed time to think. Edwin, who was selling it, recommended I take a few days to think it over. That was a very kind thing to do.

I went home and began to consider whether this was the bike for me. I contacted another friend, John, who knows a lot about road bikes and he agreed the bike was a good option. Then I asked Jim, my deceased husband. He loved bikes. I know it sounds odd to ask a person who is no longer here yet I did.

I  met up with my friends, Jim and Rhonda, in the desert this past winter. At the beginning of this post I placed a quote that was the continuation of a conversation Jim, Rhonda, and I had when we met in January. I was struggling to make a decision regarding my treatment for thyroid cancer. The conversation we had helped guide me to make the best right decision to follow through with treatment. The question “What would Jim say to you?” helped me find the answer I needed. I too believe that my Jim continues to help, love, and support me in odd and interesting ways. Remind me sometime to tell you the story of lost items being found when I have asked Jim for help. He does continue to shape who I am. There are many times I am thankful for that invisible support.

K2 Mod 5 Campagnolo Road Bike

I did ask Jim about this bike. I strongly felt, even though it was the first bike I looked at, it was meant for me. I believe that Jim (my husband) was pushing me towards this bike. It was a clear and insistent message.  A week later I contacted Edwin, we bargained on the price and now I am the proud owner of a carbon and aluminum frame  K2 Mod 5 Campagnolo racing/road bike. I have been riding it and it rides like the wind. It is a beautiful bike, well taken care of, and my new ride. I am definitely happy with my choice.

And….I get to buy new accessories as several of mine disappeared with my Jamis bike. Sigh. Shopping for sporting goods ranks at the top of the list of types of shopping I enjoy doing.

Jim, my husband

It is a good time to bike. Roads that are often filled with cars are free and wide open. The city of San Diego has been repaving so the rides are smooth. I wear my mask and have begun to learn where I really need to wear it. There are certain areas where people tend to congregate. Wearing a mask has been a learning experience when exercising.

I really enjoy the sense of freedom my bikes offer me. I am ready to ride.

Jim will always be with me. I choose to let him continue to be a part of my life. I like that I can reach out to him when I need clarification. I do believe that he reaches me through others. He certainly did that day this winter, speaking through my friend Jim. (Whoa there are just too many Jims) I can keep moving forward and still have him with me. And trust me he is a great finder of lost items.

 

 

NextDoor

I have been staying with friends in Bay Park, a community in San Diego since March. Yes, we are still getting along. We are all healthy and “sheltering in place”. This has meant that we get our groceries and other necessities delivered to the house. I have not been inside a grocery store for over two months. Wow.

Why are we doing this, well, we are in the demographic that needs to be careful (67 years young), I was treated for thyroid cancer in February and Cynthia is recovering from foot surgery. We have all felt it is best to stay away from the stores.

Since early March we have been diligently trying to find disinfectant sprays that are recommended for Covid-19. Do you know how hard they are to find? Some stores have it but you have to go to the store and pick it up. We continue to choose to social distance from others.  Amazon delivers on-line but they are “out of stock”. Walmart, CVS, Riteaid, Target, Home Depot…..Out Of Stock!!

Enter Nextdoor.com. I have had experiences with this social media platform since Elsie the Cat disappeared from my rig, November 3, 2019. The people in the community of Santee have been amazing and continue to be so. When I posted my lost cat on Nextdoor, I met Tanya. She is all things animals in the east county area. Although I have never met her I feel like she became a friend. And, to this day the Santee community is keeping an eye out for my now, 15-year-old kitty. I am so thankful for their caring, for a little lost kitty.

I noticed that as we began to “shelter in place” the communities on Nextdoor reached out. They have reached out to their neighbors, to seniors, and to anyone in need. Some people even set up tables near the street with extra items. People would come and pick up something they needed and drop off what they had in excess. They also shopped for people who could not go to the store.

When I moved to Bay Park I signed up with Nextdoor in this area. Out of frustration and running extremely low on disinfectant spray and toilet paper I posted on Nextdoor and offered an exchange of paper towels for anyone who had what we needed.

Within a very short time, the answers started coming in. I was told what stores had toilet paper. Then the offers started. Thanks to Emma, we now have Lysol disinfectant and TP. She even threw in some Clorox wipes. Thanks to Howard we have enough TP not to worry about running out. Today I got another offer for TP. I turned the offer down and told Bobby to hold onto it until the next person in need surfaces. I have now experienced another amazing Nextdoor community and I am grateful.

Nextdoor has shown me a sense of community. The kindness of people has shone through. The willingness of individuals to help others continues to be a wonderful experience for me. It has shown me the kindness of others, and the willingness to help, no matter what the crisis is. People care about their neighborhoods and they care about each other. They may not always agree yet they continue to support and help each other. They create strong communities through this social media platform.

Besides communicating and pleas for help, Nextdoor also had a market place where you can shop locally for free or sale items. Because it is local all one has to do is drive somewhere in the neighborhood to pick it up. Local Businesses, Real Estate, Lost & Found, Events and more are listed. I have to admit I have not taken the time to explore it in depth. I do know that Nextdoor will remain a part of my life wherever I roam in my little RV.

I will always be grateful to those who reached out to me and my friends when the plea for supplies was posted. Thank you, Bay Park, thank you, Santee, and for all those communities that are out there helping, supporting and caring about each other.

Tour Guiding-A Stolen Bike & A New Bike

Guiding at Torrey Pines Golf Course

In 1997 I quit my career as a nurse. After taking a year off, going back to school and having fun,  I began a search for a new career. A small ad in the local newspaper guided me into a career that continued until I retired. For fourteen years I was a Tour Guide in San Diego and a Tour Director, taking seniors and other ages, on tours throughout the United States, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, and South America. It was a great job and one I was well suited for. Often I was the one who stood at the front of the bus with a microphone in hand, giving tours, maintaining a sense of humor, and guiding everyone to have a good time.

What makes up a good tour guide or director:

  • Knowledge. One has to be willing to research often on the places they guide. Guests expect you to know every rock, tree, flower, and more. In San Diego, I took avail of any local tours, refreshing myself on the local facts and lore. I read books and asked lots of questions. When I was planning an outbound tour, I was often busy for up to six weeks before a trip, preparing and refreshing my knowledge.
  • Humor. When all else fails a good sense of humor will push one through the roughest of patches.
  • Kindness and Caring. What made me so well suited for this job was the fact that I really cared about each person, even the difficult ones, on my trips and tours around San Diego. My goal was to make sure everyone had the best experience possible. I always hoped there might be a “wow” moment for each individual.
  • A willingness to lose sleep. Long after my guests were off to dreamland I was up studying for the next day. If someone was ill in the middle of the night, I was up with them.
  • Flexibility and no I don’t mean that I can touch my toes. When things go wrong on a trip or tour, a good tour guide or tour director needs to be able to change things on the fly.
  • Generally, we need to know how everything works. Where do we meet guests at the airport? Where can the motorcoaches pick up and drop off? How do we register these guests for a conference? What roads do I take to get from point A to point B? The list goes on.

What really made this job worthy of my time, especially on a local level was the sense of community among the local tour guides. Part of work, was meeting up with the other tour guides. I looked forward to seeing everyone I worked with. The tour guides in San Diego are a tight-knit group. We all know each other, we lament with each other, share the joys and gossip, and enjoy hanging out with each other. I love the local tour guides.

My sweet red bike

A few days ago my beloved road bike was stolen. Sigh. As with almost everything I own, it carries a story with it. It is a fast little red Jamis road bike.  Jim, my now deceased husband bought it for me. I loved that bike. I loved riding it with him. After he died I found that riding my bike was the type of sport I still loved the most. When my bike disappeared I was heartbroken and at a bit of loss about what to do.

I immediately discovered grief, again. I know I have to grieve for the loss of this precious bike. Life is about impermanence and this is being taught to me again. Sigh.

I know that I will get a new road bike. I love riding too much to be without one. Until then what was I suppose to do? I went on Facebook (yes I know some of you are not fond of social media) posted on my personal page that I had my bike stolen, and was wondering if anyone had a bike I could borrow until I could buy another bike. Within an hour, yes an hour, a fellow tour guide, Jay, posted on my page that he had a bike that was given to him by another tour guide, Bev, and he wanted to give it to me. I went to his house which is very close to where I am staying, took it for a ride, and came home with a Cannondale M300 mountain bike.

My New Ride

How incredibly cool is this? How kind and caring. The tour guide community in San Diego is strong. Even though I have retired from guiding, I still meet up with guides, catch up on all the gossip, and know that if I need anything at all, I can reach out to most of the guides I know and if they can help, they will. I want to thank Jay for stepping forward and being generous and kind and caring to my need. It is not unusual that people will step forward in a crisis (big or small). It brings out the best in most of us. It certainly brought out the best in Jay and I will be forever grateful for to him and to this blue mountain bike, currently getting tuned up.

In a few days’ time, I will be out on my new bike, learning the ins and outs of a completely different style of bike. It will help me gain new knowledge and skills. I am anxiously waiting to ride it around the bay. I am anxiously waiting for my first ride.

Today and each day I ride that blue Mountain Bike I will be grateful for Jay’s gift to me. I will be thankful for a job that gave me the opportunity to meet and know such fine people. Today and as always I am grateful.

Thank you, Jay. You are the best.

 

Looking for Acts of Kindness, Faith & Hope

At a time when life has changed and we are all learning to “shelter in place”, I have been looking for the good that continues to reveal itself. I have been looking for hope and faith.

Several times a week I take a walk around the neighborhood, and I find the innate goodness of people all around me. As we walk by each other, at a safe six-foot or more distance, people say hello, give a wave and a smile before we continue. I wonder in our hurried world pre-Covid 19, how many would be taking the time to say hello before moving on.

On my walk yesterday I found a neighborhood art gallery that someone had created next to the sidewalk. It is a unique way to encourage creativity and share it with the neighborhood. All ages are welcome. One simple act helps each of us feel a bit less isolated and alone. It helps foster a sense of community in a neighborhood.

Social Media helps me not feel isolated in this novel time. Facebook has helped me stay in contact with my friends scattered throughout the United States, Canada and further abroad. The Coronavirus posts I look at occasionally, however,  if there is news of family and friends I read it. It is a good reminder that we are all still out there in this big wide world. I am also enjoying all the funny videos and cartoons people are posting. It is good to laugh a little every day.

Via the Nextdoor App, I am reminded of the generosity of others. People can be generous in unique times. If someone makes a plea for hand sanitizer, paper towels or toilet paper, Nextdoor neighbors respond. people are shopping for the elderly. Yesterday someone was looking for a cap and gown to borrow so she could take photos of herself for her canceled graduation from college. Within the first few minutes, she had over six offers. When humans slow down and find themselves in unique situations they exhibit kindness and thoughtfulness that are often forgotten when we are hurriedly moving from one place to another. And…those folks on Nextdoor are still keeping an eye out for the ever-elusive Elsie the cat.

My Great Niece, Arden

Zoom, a meeting app, offers me the opportunity to say hello to my sisters, welcome a new great-niece into the world, take a Scottish Dance class with other dancers from all over the world, practice yoga with one of my favorite yoga teachers, and so much more. Zoom, Facetime and other communication apps, allow my world to remain large.

I do not need to look far for an example of generosity. My friends, Cynthia and Ward have opened their home to me. They have opened their arms and invited me in. I have my own bedroom and a big, real shower. And the view from my bedroom is lovely. We have been getting along well and enjoying each other’s company. It is good to be with others. Even I would grow tired of my own company.

I will continue to search for the unique in this very unique time. I am grateful for continuing signs of faith and hope small and large. I am encouraged by the kindness of strangers and friends. Today I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Am I Doing? How Are You Doing?

Give it a week or two, a day or two, an hour or two and all of our lives change. I never would have guessed that I would be in lockdown due to a novel virus. I would never have guessed that I would have to figure out how to self-quarantine in a tiny motorhome. I would have never guessed that I would not have to live alone in my rig. I would have never guessed.

I am doing well. Just days before the Coronavirus became overwhelming, my friend, Cynthia, had elective surgery. Her right foot was operated on and she is non-weight bearing on her right leg for five weeks. I had offered to help her and her husband, Ward with the recovery. I was moved into their home and then the Coronavirus hit. These good and kind friends invited me to stay for as long as need be (or until they are weary of me). So, here I am isolated in a nice home with two good friends. We chat, play games, watch Netflix or Prime and wait it out. When we need alone time we all go to our corners, my bedroom, Ward’s office, and Cynthia is in the downstairs of the house. So far we are making it work with ease.

Fanita Ranch

My rig is in the driveway so I can visit it. It also gives me a wee bit of freedom to find alone time if I need it. I can drive to a view and sit in my rig and enjoy the change. The other day I drove to Santee for a possible Elsie the Cat sighting. The cat did not pan out, however, I had the opportunity to walk out on some open land, Fanita Ranch and enjoy the spring flowers. I was the only one there.

For most of us, we are in an unknown state. As a nation, we are trying to figure it out. We are struggling to do what is right. Doing what is right takes a bit of “moral muscle”. On a beautiful day in San Diego can I really not go to the beach, bay or mountains? Yes! It is hard to stay away from places I love yet, for now, I will remain distant and wait. I will need to continue to ask myself the hard questions about what is right, over what it is I really want to do. Hopefully, the answers will remain the correct ones for each given situation.

I am concerned about my friends who are living single. I am very aware that I have found myself in a fortunate situation. One of my solo friends stated, “I am an introvert, I like to be alone, but I like being able to get out and visit with friends”. What do you other singles do to help with true social isolation? What are the unique things you have found to keep yourself entertained and patient? I reach out with phone calls or texts because this is the best I can do at the moment. This morning I discovered Zoom and was able to visit with one of my single friends where we could see each other and talk.

I have been learning new skills and reactivating old, unused ones. Since Cynthia is non-weight bearing on her right leg, I am the head chef in the house. I have great instructions (Cynthia) and cookbooks to guide me in my cooking. I have not cooked so much in years. And there are so many cool tools to use in this kitchen. I have found that the right tools make the job so much easier. Last night I made broccoli soup. It was delicious. I have cooked chicken a few different ways, created lunches and more. Cynthia helps out where she can. It helps that the freezer is stocked and we can order home delivery for veggies and fruit. Ward and I have figured out how to help each other in the kitchen. It is more fun to cook for others. Cooking for one is often a disappointing affair for me.

I wonder how my friends and others who follow my blog are doing? Please let me know. I hope you are all well and working on thriving in this very odd situation we find ourselves in. Know that I think of all of you, the world and the people within it, often with love and kindness.

Still finding small and large reasons to be thankful.

It has come to my attention, recently that some of you would like to receive notices of new posting on my blog without access to Facebook. All you need to do is scroll to the link on this page titled Follow My Blog (it is underneath the pic of my rig), click on it, and add your email to the link. That way you don’t have to find them on FB and can receive a simple notification via email when a new post is published. If you find this is not easy to do let me know and I can send you an invitation. 

Dollhouses, Kayaks, Moving Forward

An Example of a Queen Ann Style Dollhouse

Years ago, more than I can remember, Jim (my husband) and I decided to build a dollhouse. A good friend of mine had mentioned that she would love to have a Queen Ann style dollhouse. Sharon is someone we both loved. She wanted a dollhouse and so we built her a dollhouse. This was not just a wee dollhouse, it was at least 2-3 feet tall. We shingled, wallpapered, carpeted, painted it and more. It was an adventure we enjoyed together. I don’t remember how long it took us to build. It was months by the time we finished it. It was a labor of love. Every moment we worked on was rewarded by Sharon’s reaction when we presented the finished product to her

Building the first one was so much fun that we decided to build a second one for Jim’s niece. This second house was just as much fun as the first. After it was completed it went home to Chris.

Once the second dollhouse was complete we decided to move onto a much larger adventure. Jim and I had been planning to buy kayaks for some time. It was Jim’s suggestion that we try to build our own. After much research, we narrowed our search to two companies, Pygmy Boats, and Chesapeake Light Craft. Chesapeake Light Craft became our company of choice. Did we want to use their blueprints or build from a kit? What was the difference between the two? The blueprint meant we would have to find the wood, cut it into the shapes we needed and find all the components that were needed to put it together. The kit came with all the wood pieces cut into the shapes we needed. All the screws, nails, rolls of fiberglass, epoxy glue and more were included. We decided on the kit.

We were both working full time. The kayak building was done on weekends and nights. We were busy. Jim was certainly the lead on the building, I was a very active second in command. In approximately six months the first boat was complete. We painted her red and named her Whistling Woman. I was reading a book titled A Whistling Woman is Up to No Good. This book showed women of the ’90s how to express their wildness, describing how they can get in touch with their true natures and express themselves in a sometimes-disapproving society. The first kayak was mine.

It took us six more months to finish the second kayak. We had learned a bit from the first kayak so the second one was easier to put together. It was five pounds lighter. When it was complete it was painted forest green and named Ronin, after one of Jim’s favorite movies. The second one was Jim’s.

After launching them successfully on Mission Bay, in San Diego, our kayaking adventures started. We took classes through Aqua Adventures and an independent boating store. We learned how to capsize our boats, turn them over and re-enter them. Learning to come in through the waves on the ocean was a challenge. It was fun to get wet. Kayaking into a strong wind also presented us with new challenges.

The kayaks were frequently out on the water. Early, Sunday mornings often found us back on Mission Bay. We would kayak until the other boat traffic would get heavy, then retire to a coffee house to enjoy the rest of the morning. As we became more proficient with kayaking, the learning curve is quick, we ventured further afield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took them camping on the lower Colorado River, on the back bay at Newport Beach. When we finally felt brave enough we went camping and kayaking throughout California, making sure to spend time on the lakes and bays. It was fun to combine our love of camping with the joy of kayaking.

After Jim died I continued to kayak. My tactics changed. First I had to figure out how to get my kayak on the roof of the Subaru Outback. Then I had to figure out how to get it off the roof. I got very good at asking others for help. Kayakers are a nice group of people and I never had to search far for assistance.

Three years ago I started my nomadic full-time existence in my Roadtrek RV. I sold my house in Southern California, moved what I wanted to keep into storage, including the kayaks and began my full-time traveling adventure.

I have been thinking of the kayaks often over the past year. I have held onto them for emotional reasons. Jim and I built them. They were a precious reminder of our life together. They were a reminder of this very loving and unique man I married. Over the past year, I decided these kayaks needed to find a loving home, where they would be used and cared for. Keeping kayaks in storage is not the best use for any boat.

October 2019, I decided that I was OK with selling them. I had a few requirements.

  • They need to go to a loving home.
  • They need to be used.
  • I need pictures of them once in a while so I can see they will be enjoyed and loved.
  • They are not to return to a storage unit.

With Elsie’the Cat’s disappearance the kayaks, once again were put on the back burner. Trying to find Elsie was the number one priority. Unfortunately, Elsie is still missing.

Early in March, I decided to proceed with the selling of the kayaks. I spiffed them up, took pictures and after advertising them to friends, I put them up for sale on Craigslist, Nextdoor, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace. The offers started coming in. How was I going to choose? Just as I was preparing to sit down and sort out all the offers, a friend contacted me. He wanted to buy both kayaks and I would get visiting privileges. That, is a sweet deal. They will be going to someone I know. I have no doubt they will be loved and taken care of. Any time I want, I can ask Jon how they are doing. Maybe I will get an occasional picture. And…I have visiting privileges.

On a blustery afternoon in San Diego county, three of us loaded them on the top of Jon’s truck and off they went to their new home. It was hard to see them go, yet I know that it was the right thing to do. They weigh in at 40-45 pounds. I no longer have a car to haul them. They are 16 feet long, making them to long to fit in or on the back of my RV. The bottom line, I want them to be used and not just sitting and waiting to be used. It is the best way to honor them and to honor Jim.

I am content. I can look at this as a sad farewell or another step forward in my life. Maybe I can find a smaller kayak that will fit my needs better (12 feet sounds right to me). Maybe I can manage without one at all. Or maybe I will just decide to build myself another boat. the opportunities are endless as my life moves forward, one step at a time.

 

 

 

 

How I Am Doing, Friendship & More

Last Wednesday I took the Radioactive Iodine pills and immediately went into isolation. Everyone said it was easy. I would have no problems and I would be fine.

Here is what I want you to know. This Has Not Been Easy!!!!! Here is what happens when I have no thyroid hormone in my body. I took the pill at 10:30 a.m. By 4 p.m. I developed a ringing in my ears. It was more like a high pitched squeal. And I bottomed out. I have been exhausted and lacking in energy. But the ears are a big deal.

Finally, on Friday my endocrinologist ordered me back on my meds a day early. Hypothyroidism can create tinnitus (ringing in the ears). My squealy friend is still with me and I am exhausted often.

Sunset Over Mission Bay

I am patiently waiting for the tinnitus to go away. I continue to drink lots and lots of fluids and I push myself to take a short walk every day. Tonight I got far enough to see a beautiful sunset over Mission Bay. That certainly picks up my spirits.

This too shall pass. I am not complaining, I just thought you might like to know how I am doing.

I really can’t complain. I am camped at the end of a culdesac or driveway. It is private and pretty when the afternoon sun shines through my rig. I am slowly getting my taxes together and I finished and mailed in my California ballot. I am getting things done.

My friends, Cynthia and Ward, have gone way beyond being good friends and hosts. They designated a downstairs bathroom to me so I did not have to worry about using my bathroom in the rig for the past 5 days. I often slip through the front door with my key and they don’t even know I am in the house. It has worked out well.

This is a sign of true friendship, really true friendship. I am overwhelmed and grateful for their graciousness and caring for me. They have let me slip into their lives without a second thought, as far as I can tell. I am grateful for friends such as these.

Ward & Cynthia the day we took Jim’s Ashes to Sea

I met Cynthia and Ward through Scottish Country Dancing. I have known Ward since I moved to San Diego in 1985. He is a teacher for the San Diego Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. I have known both of them for many, many years. Cynthia and I have become good friends since Jim, my husband, died from cancer seven years ago. I have enjoyed getting to know her. I have been grateful over the years for their ongoing support. She is a very talented crocheter and stitcher. I have renewed my crocheting skills with her encouragement and teaching. It is a fun and ongoing relationship.

I will remain here for another week so I can recover at a snail’s pace if need be. I am aiming to recover a bit faster than that but my body will decide that point not me.

Tomorrow I can go back out into the world. I have to attempt it because I need to take care of my rig and get more propane. Life continues. on.

What is next? On February 28th I get a full-body scan to set a baseline. I am a bit nervous about this. I can do this, though. Nerves are just a part of the whole game plan. I get nervous every year when I get my mammogram. Cancer has a way of doing this to a person.

My ultimate goal is to get through this moment in time and move forward with my life. I know I will be in the San Diego area for a while. I need to make sure I am on the right dose of Synthroid (a synthetic thyroid hormone). It takes time to build in the body. My next labs will be in five weeks. If it is OK then I am good to go. If not, they change the dose and I wait another five weeks to get my labs drawn again. I may not have to wait here but if I do, it is not too much of a hardship to be in San Diego and surrounding areas.

I can do so much more with all your support. Today I am grateful to see another sunset. Today I am grateful for all those who love and support me. Today I am grateful.

Getting Ready to Glow

This past Friday I returned to San Diego. I am getting ready for the next part of the treatment for thyroid cancer. I needed to be in the city early for lab work.

Happily, at the moment I am parked south of town, on the bay. I love the convenience of the Bike the Bay Trail from here. It is a flat and often windy ride. I had plans to bike the whole thing but then I remember the horrible disrepair of the streets around Imperial Avenue and decided to bike the better section down and back. It is a great trail, mostly off-road and takes one around the south end of San Diego Bay and up The Strand to Coronado. It is a flat and windy ride and very pretty. On The Strand, the bay is on one side and the Pacific Ocean is on the other. As you arrive in Coronado there is a beautiful view of the Hotel Del Coronado, one of the grande dame of hotels built in the 1800s. This time I biked it without too much of a headwind, it made for a nice ride.

Tomorrow I leave here and move into my friends’ driveway for several days. On Wednesday I will drive to Kaiser, alone, take the pill and semi-isolate myself for approximately a week. My little home on wheels will become my sanctuary for this time.

sag wagon summer

Who knew my Roadtrek would ever be needed for this purpose. EmmyLou has been a sag wagon for a summer, driven friends to spend Easter with the family, and an art studio, and more. Now it is going to shelter me, continue to keep me from harm, and safe until this is over. She is definitely a wonder mobile.

I am a bit nervous and overwhelmed about this whole thing. I am putting this nuclear medicine into my body. It is a scary thing.

On the day I began a low iodine diet, I started reading a book titled Radium Girls. It is about the introduction of radium onto the world stage. Very shortly things started to go south for the women who worked in the watch factories where they painted radium onto the hands of the watches. I woke the morning of the diet and stopping my meds in sheer panic. I couldn’t do this. I mean, these women were dying from radium poisoning.

Thankfully I was staying across from Jim and Rhonda. I walked over there still panicking. They calmed me down, suggested that I return the book to the library (which I did) and then we talked it through. Jim reminds me a lot of my husband Jim. He was calm and insightful and asked the right questions. The final question he asked was “What would Jim say to me?” I looked at him and I said he would be compassionate and understanding and then say move ahead, get it done so we can move on with our lives. After all, there are adventures out there that are waiting.

It took a few more days for me to make a final decision to move forward. Once that was made, then I could enjoy my time in the desert with friends and sleep better at night.

Here are a few things I know. I choose not to die from cancer. After all the years working as a nurse, loving Jim through his disease, cancer is not kind. If I can, I want to remain cancer-free for the rest of my life. I know ultimately we don’t always have a choice yet there are some ways we can encourage that route not to occur.

Head and neck cancers come back. They are known for this. Not everyone experiences a second round but many do. Jim did. I choose to do everything within my knowledge to help prevent that from happening.

Once the radioactive pill is taken I know there are certain things I can do to help my body survive radiation treatment and I will diligently do all that is required, drink a lot of water, suck on hard sour lemon candies and stay on the low iodine diet for a few more days. I will be a very important part of the team that is assembled to help me through this. These people do not only include all the medical people, they also include my friends and family.

I am getting ready to glow and move forward. It is too bad I can’t become a superhero for a week and use this opportunity to fight for what is good and right. Oh wait a minute, I can do that without radioactive iodine.

My current mantra is:  “Get Through February”. Many of you ask what is next and although I know you are curious, it causes a bit of anxiety in me. Why? Because I don’t know. I need to get through the end of the month and the first few weeks in March and then, hopefully my world will open up a bit and I can explore what may be next. Currently, I need to get through February.

The desert helped me to feel strong physically, mentally and spiritually. I am in the best shape I have been in, for quite some time. For now, I want to take this forward and focus on today. Tomorrow can wait.

Getting ready to Glow.

 

 

 

 

Another Next Step

Two days ago I returned to San Diego from the desert, dragging my feet all the way. It was finally time for my appointment with the Radiologist to discuss the next step regarding the treatment for thyroid cancer. I have been very good to this point of compartmentalizing the whole issue. Now it is time to bring it back into focus again and deal with it.

I have received questions from some of my friends wondering when the next step would happen. This morning, along with my good friend, Cynthia, I was off to my Nuclear Medicine appointment. The Doctor was a very nice man and extremely patient as we reviewed the preparation for this upcoming procedure. The preparation appears to take more effort than the treatment with the radioactive iodine.

This morning the doctor and I discussed how I will live for the week of being radioactive. It looks like I will be able to stay in my rig. I will need to be mindful of being too close to people and avoid children and pregnant women. There are certain things that are part of RV living. One of them is managing my gray and black water (waste). After speaking with the Doctor this morning I am feeling a bit more comfortable regarding that management issue. It is not always easy not having a permanent home.

I am scheduled for treatment on February 19. Two weeks prior I start on a low iodine diet, stop my medication to begin to prepare my body to receive the RAI. I want to starve any thyroid tissue remaining in my body so it is eager to receive the RAI. The week after ingesting the RAI I will be radioactive. Unfortunately, I will not gain superpowers or become a Marvel Comics character. Shoot, wouldn’t that be cool?

It all sounds so logical and easy. I am dealing with emotions. At this appointment this morning, I discovered more emotions than I expected. I found I was weepy and a bit scared. I am worried. I have had cancer for a second time. I don’t care if it is a very treatable cancer, I still have had it. After Jim had head and neck cancer, I swore that it was the one type of cancer I never wanted (not that I want any other kind), and here I am with head and neck cancer. This appointment was in the hospital where Jim was treated and spent the last two weeks of his life. I did not present my best self this morning. Thank goodness for tissues.

After my appointment, I went for a bike ride, a long bike ride. Exercise helps gets my emotions back into some semblance of control and order. And now I am writing this. I am at the moment emotionally exhausted. I am working my way towards acceptance. Acceptance of treatment, Acceptance of needing to rely on friends since my family members live far away, Acceptance that I will need to be in and out of San Diego until the end of February. Staying put too long, makes me think I am missing something somewhere else. 😀 Always the intrepid traveler.

During my three days here I have successfully sold a desk and file cabinet from my storage locker. It was a bit of an adventure getting both pieces into the buyer’s SUV. With great persistence, we were able to get both pieces in, and off they went. Bernadette and Tom are a very nice couple and I feel like two more “Jim and Janet” items went off to a good home. Next, the kayaks. This will be another tale for another post.

Tomorrow I will return to the desert. I am looking forward to it. I am driving into a meetup with good friends that I see yearly, in the desert and sometimes other places as well. Sandy and Pat are such a delightful couple and I look forward to meeting them again. I am ready to hike. I am ready to relax and get on with a normal life for a little while. The one thing I do not want to do is wait. I want to get on with life until the middle of February. Winter is desert season and I am off to enjoy it, in all its glory.

Getting ready and getting moving.