Birthdays, Breast Cancer, & This Time of the Year

As October winds down, I am feeling relief. Relief that this month is done.

Every year since I had breast cancer (I was diagnosed February 2010), this month has been a bit hard for me. I don’t like pink, never have and never will. I feel kind support for those who walk for breast cancer, who shout about being a survivor, however I am not one of those people. I have found nothing to be grateful for, for having been through the experience of a breast cancer diagnosis. Mostly I find I have residual anger, residual PTSD, and residual everything surrounding this diagnosis. I am grateful to be alive and I would like to see this event take its place in the far reaches of my memory. As you might tell, I am still working on it.

Each year at this time I worry a little bit. Is my mammogram going to be normal? Will my surgeon and oncologist find anything? Is that weird pain in my hip cancer? Ay Yi Yi Yi.

Jim

Jim, my husband, died from cancer 6 years ago on October 17. Shall I mention that this is the day after my birthday? He went into the hospital the day before his 60th birthday (October 10) and died the day after mine. Well there is something to get through. I have not enjoyed celebrating my birthday in big bang up way. I like to be quiet now and contemplative.

I describe those three and half years between my diagnosis and his death, like a deck of cards. They were thrown up in the air the day of my diagnosis. Just as I was beginning to pick up the cards, boom, the next event happened and the cards flew into the air again. I have been slowly picking up the cards ever since. I still can’t find some of them, ergo, I remain living in my RV and drive to the next destination hoping to find another card. This has been an adventure, a painful process, a lonely one too, times of great fun and exploration and everything in between.

Here is what I am appreciative today.

  • My kind and wonderful friends from all over the world who call, email, text and contact me through social media. When I need someone to talk to, out of the blue one of these friends will call. They have saved my day, my life, my moment more often than I acknowledge.
  • I am financially comfortable. I could buy a cute and fancy RV and move in. I can afford the repairs (they don’t come often), the gas and everything that supports this nomadic lifestyle.
  • I am alive and able to go on grand adventures, both small and large.
  • Elsie the cat-what would I do without her? She is one of the most adaptable and loving companions I could have. We are into our fourth year of adventures together. She remains a delight.
  • I am glad to be able to see the sunrises and sunsets. Each day I wake, is another day to be grateful for everything.
  • The doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturist, massage therapist, myofascial release practitioner, and all those other health care workers on the broad holistic spectrum that keep me tuned up and moving.
  • My friends and acquaintances that offer me a bed in their home, whether it is a visit or house sitting. Sometimes I need a respite from my little living space.
  • I appreciate everyone waiting and giving me room to figure out what is next? No-one else is judging me. I need to stop judging and being hard on myself. You know that saying, “It is all about the journey, not the destination”-I still need to learn this.

    Jim & I flying to Baja for a week on a deserted beach.

There are three days left in this month. I don’t count them down anymore. I feel I have made progress in acknowledging this month and not feeling quite as sad or out of sorts. One of my friends asked me this month, how I felt about the “whole Jim thing”. Well there is a loaded question. Each moment of the day the answer could be different. I believe I have come to a softer acceptance of this month, of the events that transpired six years ago and I still miss by dearest and best friend. Jim saw things in me that no one else has ever seen and I will always miss this about his love for me and mine for him.

I bid farewell to October, thankfully doing a bit more than just getting through the month. I embrace and welcome November. I embrace and welcome each day I wake up in the morning and am able to figure out what small adventure I will take myself on that day.

Today I am grateful for all of my friends, acquaintances and all of the followers of my blog,  who send me messages of support and encouragement. Today I am grateful for people.

Friends & Urban Farming

I have been in San Diego for a week. My re-entry to this community is usually a bit hard. I don’t think it is the memories. I feel it has more to do with me trying to decide if this is still my home.

Last winter I rented a studio at the beach for 3 months. It was delightful to be near the beach, yet I found I was lonely. When one disappears from their friends for a long period of time, well they move on and in some ways so do I. I wondered how I would feel coming back this fall.

My month long home

Things are different this time. For the first month I am here I am house sitting for good friends in a large, beautiful home that has a feel of a retreat in the middle of a busy city. Both Elsie and I are enjoying the space. There are ample opportunities to sit outside, by the pool, looking over the canyon and a cozy, protected side deck and yard.

Having this space has offered me the opportunity to invite friends over and enjoy their company. Many of my friends are curious about my current home, so they arrive in ones or twos to visit, catch up and take a look around. And, because the house comes with six laying hens, people can go home with fresh eggs.

I am learning about chickens. When one stopped laying a few days ago, I was concerned. Like all good techies or techie wanna-be’s, I headed to the internet to read up on why one of the girls is not laying.

  • Did you know that when daylight hours are decreased hens will stop laying? Yep…so I wonder if this is the reason that she has stopped laying. Chickies need 15-16 hours of light to lay eggs. Our daylight hours are decreasing, so this might be a normal event.
  • A chicken needs around 20 grams of protein to lay an egg. In addition to protein, chickens need: calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, fat and water.  A chicken also needs a lot of protein to grow feathers; feathers are approximately 80% protein. So a chicken only has enough protein to either lay eggs or moult, it doesn’t have enough protein to do them both at once.
  • Too many goodies-table scraps and such may also cause them to stop laying because they are not getting the nutrition they need from their main food source. OK I admit it, I have been table scrapping them. This stopped yesterday.
  • If they are dehydrated they will also stop laying. Chickens will drink around three times as much water by weight as they will eat. I don’t think that is a worry as I change their water every other or third day.
  • Are their nesting boxes clean? They don’t like them damp or dirty. Guess what I am doing this afternoon?

Now, you too may know more than you ever needed to know about the urban chicken craze. I had two pet chickens when I was growing up. I am enjoying being around them again. They are funny and personable.

I am house sitting for a month and then plan to camp and visit other friends for about 10 days and then return to chicken farming for another couple of weeks. It has certainly upped my game. I am relaxed and sleeping in and am enjoying exploring my new neighborhood. It is a beautiful area. For those who know the city I am in Tierra Santa and some of the trail heads to Mission Trails Regional Park are a mile away. Sweet.

I am enjoying seeing all my friends, a little bit at a time. I still do better in small groups. Large crowds continue to overwhelming to me. For all my San Diego friends. I am back and I plan to stay until January 2019. Please give me a call or email or text. I love this time of the year because I catch up with all of those who have been part of my social community for almost thirty years. I love all of you.

Today I am grateful for friends near and far. Today I am grateful for this lovely home and retreat. Today I am grateful for chickens. Today I am grateful.

Friends &Moving West

I have many kinds of friends. I treasure each one. I have ones that have been around since high school and some that I have recently met. I treasure them all.

Helen on Fish Lake

I spent 3 days last week with a very good, long time friend of mine in Fish Lake, Indiana. Helen and I lead very busy lives. She lives in Chicago and I live, well I am not sure. We stay in touch by email, text and phone. We don’t see each other very often. Oh, but, when we do….The talking and fun ensue.

When Jim died, Helen dropped her life and showed up in San Diego after my sister had returned to New Jersey. I will always appreciate the fact that she didn’t take no for an answer and just showed up. I will always love her for that incredible act of kindness, support and love.  She is just that kind of friend. It will be an act of generosity that I hope to emulate.

On this trip her husband, Norb got involved with the merriment along with their two cats. We visited. We ate, trying out some of the local restaurants and cooking at home. We talked. We kayaked. Oh, and we watched the Royal Wedding.

Helen and I are family. Despite our faults we love each other. Isn’t that wonderful?

I am in Iowa now and heading west. I will visit the Field of Dreams movie site before I hit the back roads. Alaska looms closer each day. Elsie and I must get to another family of good friends in Idaho soon. Today I must begin the push west. Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and finally Idaho.

Moving right along.

A Day at White Pocket-Final in a series of three

 

White Pocket

There are moments in life, I believe, I will remember and carry forward with me for the rest of my life. Sometimes it is a chance meeting, Jim, or a wonderful movie or play. Often for me it has to do with nature. I love the outdoors. I love the wildness of it, the unpredictability of it. I have been known to stand in storms, watching the wildness of a very restless, big ocean with giant waves. Thunder-storms enthrall me. A perfect fall day, hiking through the woods can ease a restless soul.

When my friend and mentor, Mary and I arrived in Kanab, I was introduced to two good friends of Mary’s, Sky and Bobbie. They opened their driveways to us as well as their home. When camping there is nothing better than taking a nice, long warm shower. Bobbie and Sky were gracious and wonderful hosts. And–they gave me a day of their lives to visit White Pocket.

White Pocket

Mary and I have tried for reservations for “The Wave” several times. It is a place many want to visit for its natural beauty. They allow 20 people to hike in there a day. We were thwarted on each of our attempts to visit it. Sky suggested we visit White Pocket instead. He said that it is larger than the wave and just as beautiful, if not more so.

On a lovely fall morning I joined Mary, Sky and Bobbie for 4-wheel drive to White Pocket. The ride in was bumpy and definitely needed a high clearance vehicle to get to the formations. When I first walked into the area all I could say and think was “WOW”. It seems that this word applies to most of this back country journey into southern Utah, this fall.

A pocket is usually a small area of land, this one is approximately 1 square mile, that is markedly different than the surrounding area. White Pocket is a group of domes and ridges, white and gray being the dominant color. Doesn’t sound too interesting does it? But wait, Mixed in with the predominant color are yellows, reds, oranges and more and it is swirling. This area shows upheaval in geologic time.

Remember you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

For a photographer it is eye-candy, everywhere. Yep, you can take a lot of photos here. The formations are beautiful, amazing and just wow. We climbed up and down being careful of the fragile formations as we explored this area for approximately four hours. Sky was our faithful and great tour guide. I don’t believe we missed much.

Off to the side was a cave with petroglyphs. I love this stuff. I have for years been totally fascinated by the ancient ones of the southwestern United States. I love to sit and imagine what their lives were like many hundreds of years ago. And where did they go? Lots of theories and yet no one knows for sure.

This was a memorable day. It was one more highlight of a three week journey that had many. It was the final highlight for me. I enjoyed the company of the people I was with for this day. I believe that Bobbie and I would be friends if we lived closer. I enjoyed spending time with her in the formations talking of deep and wondrous things. These are my kind of people.

Sky

Bobbie & Cyo (not sure of the spelling)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All too soon we returned to Kanab. The ride back from White Pocket and the Vermillion Cliffs was a beautiful late afternoon ride. The photo-ops continued to occur. The conversation was fun. After spending one more delightful evening with Sky and Bobbie, Mary and I departed. She was heading north and west to Oregon and I was heading east to Durango.

The Drive back to Kanab

Departure was hard for me. I enjoyed the company of the people I traveled with as much as I did the awesomeness of the places I saw. It was hard to say goodby. Teachers come in all forms in my life. People come and go, sometimes for a brief moment and others stay much longer. I can’t thank Mary enough for being a good friend and mentor. Linda, the other travel companion at the beginning of this adventure hopefully will be a life long friend. I can’t thank these two women enough for including me in their adventures and lives. Hopefully we will travel together again. Chance meetings, Bobbie and Sky and Bob in Escalante make me feel so honored and special to have met them and even for an instant, shared their lives, feelings and laughter.

Mary, Linda, Janet

Today I am thankful for September, for the wide open expanses, for the quiet, peace and solitude of the back country.

Today I am thankful for friends.

And the Adventure Continues

As I reflect on this past month of travel there is so much I appreciate about it. I am glad that I am still in good physical, mental and emotional shape to take on adventures near and far. I am thankful for my strength and agility. It is good to still be able to lift some weight and climb those trails.

After my week in the backcountry of Canyonlands National Park, Mary and I continued our adventure in southern Utah. One thing I have learned from being a Tour Manager/Tour Guide, it that it is good to have a knowledgable guide with you. It enhances a trip. I was fortunate to have Mary as my guide. She had been to most of the places we explored before. All I had to do was follow where she led.

Now this could have been bad if she was not aware and respectful of the limitations of my Roadtrek. I did not have to worry about it and she never took me and EmmyLou, my rig anywhere that I could have gotten in trouble. A few times we left the RT safely parked at a visitors center and 4-wheeled it to trailheads in Mary’s handy truck, Sparklett.

A view from our campsite in Canyonlands, the Needles

We spent time in another section of Canyonlands, known at “The Needles”. Often, the campgrounds in the National Parks are full, yet right outside the park boundaries one can often find dispersed camping on BLM land or in the National Forest. Here is what is nice about this camping.

  • It is free. There are no hookups or water but if a person can be self contained it is a darn good deal.
  • You don’t have to park near anyone else. I love this kind of camping best. It is quiet. There are no neighbors who are playing loud music or arguing.
  • It is free.
  • The views are usually incredible.
  • The night skies are amazing.
  • It is free.

Mary and I hiked into areas that she had not seen in quite some time. One was Paul Bunyan’s Potty, an arch that looks more like a toilet seat.  We planned to hike further but those dark clouds on the horizon made us think of flash floods so we turned around, all too soon to save ourselves and Sparklett. It is never, ever good to be caught in a flash flood. Just saying.

We left Canyonlands behind and headed west. A little known fact about Janet Arnold. I love ferry boats. When Mary suggested we drive to Hite Marina on Lake Powell and take the Ferry across a section of the lake, I was all for it. Before we got to the ferry  we camped in Valley of the Gods (north of Monument Valley). Another BLM property. After doing the 17 mile dirt road drive through this area we climbed the Dugways, cool switchbacks with magnificent views and arrived at the ferry around noon.

Valley of the Gods

The Dugways

The Ferry

Lake Powell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a beautiful sunny fall afternoon we crossed Lake Powell and began our drive on the Burr Trail. What an amazing ride. We found one of the best campsites of the trip, totally isolated, cedar trees in place and the best part was a wood slatted board. With the help of our mats and my heated outdoor shower we were able to clean up. There was no one to see us. Another BLM site.

rounding up the wagons

And, you know what I like about those sites? They are free.

The following day we traveled the rest of the Burr Trail-more switchbacks through amazing country to arrive in the town of Escalante. These little towns are truly in the middle of nowhere. This town was of interest because of my friend Therese, you can read about her in earlier posts. She is a member of the Universal Unitarian Church. Two of the members of her congregation live part time in a beautiful home in this town of approximately 800. There was an art festival in town. As I wandered through the community I walked into a pop-up art gallery and the next thing I knew I was driven to meet Bob who lives in San Diego part time and makes incredible loaves of bread when he is in Escalante. It was fun. The bread was out of this world delicious.

Riding the Burr Trail

 

After spending some of our hard saved money (BLM sites) we splurged on a hotel room for a night to get out of the cold and the rain. It is sometimes good to regroup. Someone said to me once that it is not giving up, you are just regrouping. On a cold and rainy night it was good to sleep in a warm and cozy bed at the Prospector’s Inn.

Mary and I continued on towards Kanab, stopping to hike Willis Canyon. Another little known fact about me-I love slot canyons. So does Mary. This is a wonderful little slot canyon in Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. I love slots because it never ceases to amaze me that water, wind, erosion and gravity created these special places over geological time. It also reminds me that my life is just a speck of time on this planet. It is humbling.

We meandered the slot for a greater part of the day before we headed into Kanab to driveway boondock in Mary’s  friends driveway.  And here is will I leave you on this post. There will be one more in this series. I want to dedicate the last part of this back country adventure to it’s own page. I believe you will see why when I post next.

Today I am so grateful of the experiences I have had over the past month. I love seeing places of such beauty and peace. Nature has always been a very healing place for me. It clears my mind of all the “stuff” and helps me to gain clarity. I am thankful today for all those open spaces that allow me and others to get clear once again. Knowing that these places exist help me to live in the more urban areas for periods of time before I venture out into the outback once again.

Traveling the Back-Country

Today I realized it has been almost a month since I posted. Time flies when one is traveling and enjoying life, most of the time.

Where have I been? After the dentist gave me his OK, I left San Diego in early September. I was heading for a grand adventure in southern Utah.

hiking in Flagstaff

First, though, I stopped to visit a dear friend in Flagstaff, AZ. If you follow the archives of this site back to the beginning, you may find one with a photo of many intravenous fluids. The post is titled “Hating the Once a Nurse Always a Nurse Idea.” Yep, that was Sharon. She has since recovered and is leading a happy and full life with the support of family and friends around her. Elsie and I spent two nights with her. It is fun to catch up and explore each others worlds. I love my friends.

Next stop was Durango, Colorado. I dropped Miss Elsie off to visit with my friend Deana for a little over two weeks. The national parks are very limited as to where they allow animals. Elsie got to spend the time in Durango while I ventured off with friends in Canyonlands National Park.

One of the nice parts of living in my Roadtrek is meeting other people. Linda, Mary and I have become friends due to our love of travel and other mutual interests. We especially like to wander off into the back country. On a warm summer afternoon we met up in Moab, Utah.

See the white rock-it is why it is called the White Rim—–Musselman Arch

The plan was to drive the White Rim Trail. Mary and I had secured our free campsite reservations back in the spring. Linda rented a jeep and along with Mary’s fancy camper on her truck we went 4-wheel driving. This road is all dirt and definitely requires high clearance vehicles. Covering about twenty miles a day we explored the back country of Canyonlands for five nights. It was amazing, awesome, spectacular and any other adjectives you can think of that would describe this vast open space. It was filled with canyons and plateaus, hoodoos, rivers, slot canyons, water cisterns and so much more.

Descending to the White Rim on the Schafer Trail

What makes a successful trip?

  • The first thing I can think of is that we all were willing to pitch in and help each other out. I still believe in the rule “you are only as strong as the weakest member of your group”. By helping each other out we were equal and strong.
  • We planned our meals together and went shopping in Moab before the trip began.
  • When someone needed time alone, it was respected.
  • A good Gin & Tonic, glass of wine or a beer helps smooth things over at the end of the day.
  • Although we never said lets pack up and leave, all of a sudden it would just happen and everyone was ready to go at about the same time.
  • Ample time was given for photos and exploring. It helps to travel with other photographers.📸
  • Communication is key to a successful adventure of any sort.

Mary, Linda, Janet

Our trip was successful and fun. There were moments of stillness during each day to appreciate the sunrise or sunset. Although we saw little wildlife, Linda did see a bighorn sheep. I saw a bunny and a beaver.  I realized as we got to the end of the trip we had taken very few photos of each other. There was so much expansiveness that I believe we forgot to look closer, when taking photos. We did manage one selfie. (thank you Linda)

There was not one moment that was more important than any other. Every time we saw something amazing there was another amazing moment around the next bend. Linda really got into the 4-wheeling part of this adventure. It was fun to ride with her. Often the hills were done more than once.



When I think back on this week, I find I am grateful for the opportunity that presented itself. Thank you Mary. It was nice for a week, to not be connected to my phone or computer. I was still pretty hooked to my camera. I got to enjoy the good companionship of others and saw country that I may never see again. I discovered I still like camping in a tent. I appreciated Linda listening to me when I needed a shoulder.

Camping on the Green River

I hope that we will each have the opportunity to travel together again. Sadly at the end of the week Linda needed to return to Boise and her family. Mary and I adventured on for another week. Now I am in Colorado, reunited with Miss Elsie and spending time on my land.

Remember that clicking on any photo will enlarge it. It is worth the time to do that. This was amazing country.

Next post-Mary and my adventure continues.

 

Bearing Witness

For twelve years I was an attendee of the local San Diego Society of Friends, more commonly referred to as the Quakers. Bearing Witness is an important part of their belief and practice.

“Bearing witness is largely nonverbal. It is being a compassionate observer to the unfolding of another person’s life or a particular moment or event.” The Power of Bearing Witness”-Judith Johnson

We, all of us, at some point or another in our lives come upon crisis, large or small, good or not so good, it really makes no difference. When crisis or trauma unfolds I believe that it is helpful to have those around us who can bear witness for each other. Sometimes we help each other sort through our feelings. More often we become someone who listens and observes while the other person speaks freely from their heart. Some times it is a quiet role of helping to hold the space so the other person can take care of the business at hand.

Guests at a wedding are bearing witness. Any time any of us gather in small or large groups we bear witness to that event in time. 

“When we bear witness, we lovingly give our attention to the other without judgment. We comfort without smothering. We play a supporting role — powerfully upholding the other starring in his or her life. It is not about us. It is about them. Yet, we make a profound decision when we do not try to fix their pain and suffering or share in their experience by telling how we had a similar experience. Bearing witness says, “You are not alone. I see you. I witness what you are experiencing. What you are experiencing matters to me. I surround you with my love.” The Power of Bearing Witness-Judith Johnson

Recently I was reminded again of the importance of bearing witness. A good and dear friend of mine received some painful news. Most of the day was spent on the phone and speaking with others. I began during this process to become aware of my role, bearing witness. Being in the immediate environment, as a witness to this time, I held the space so that she could make the phone calls she needed to. It felt important to let her know she was in a kind and loving space and she could take care of business. When and if she was ready, I was there for her to talk with. I was bearing witness.

One of my favorite quotes is “We are just walking each other home”. I believe we bear witness or honor the other person and know we are each on the same path, even though we may have different directions to get there. There is nothing more honorable and special in my heart than to help each other through all the different times in our lives.

 

Many have born witness for me over the past four and half years since my husband, Jim’s death. My community of friends has grown stronger. I am only now, beginning to recognize the importance that their role was for me in those first few years after he died. Most of these friends began to bear witness for me and Jim together when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I appreciate now, how much each person has offered to me. Some gave me space to talk and cry. Others kept me distracted, playing games, going to the movies, seeing an art exhibit. All of this support offered me space to grieve and begin to heal. We do this for each other. Sometimes it is all any of us can do.

There are many sides to bearing witness. I have become more conscious of this roll as I have matured. Although Jim’s death was hard, I still see that time as something I am so grateful for. We were all right there in the moment. It was special, unique, sad, loving and every other emotion the world. All of us that were with him until the moment of his death were bearing witness to a very special moment in time.  I may not always be happy with the outcome yet I am so thankful for the moment.

Lately I have been having these flashes of the events of the day he died.  They arrive, quite unexpectedly and then within seconds they are gone. I am left sitting at a stoplight in wonder. I feel that I am finally able to sift through that day, those events, without pain. The fact that these moments come quickly and leave quickly is important. I feel that these moments have been creating space for me to consider such topics as “Bearing Witness”.

Today I am thankful for those who have actively and not so actively held the space for me. I am thankful for the times I have held the space for others. I am thankful for Bearing Witness.