Reflecting on a Year of Loss, Inspiration, and Hope ~ 2018

When another year draws to an end, as 2018 is on the threshold of, I look back on each experience with gratitude and forward with hope and anticipation. This year is no exception, as I reflect upon all the blessings that we were given, one of the most significant our incredible trip to Patagonia earlier this spring, a journey into a rugged world I had dreamed of exploring for decades. I am truly grateful that we continue to be healthy enough to embark on these trips and am hopeful that we have many more in our future.

Hope, like a candle burning in the darkness

As I sat watching CBS News Sunday Morning earlier today, and the depth and breath of the many public figures who left us this year scrolled across the screen, I found myself reflecting back upon the considerable number of people we have said farewell to in our small community where we winter – 16 according to my count. This does not include the number of family members we have lost this year, whose numbers also seem to be higher than the norm. Extending beyond that, there are several in our community who are dealing with chronic health issues as I write this post – a remarkable woman (and friend) who continues to fight back from a serious illness early this year, a new-found friend with a chronic health issue who is awaiting a much-anticipated life-changing call, a long-time friend who recently was taken aback when a somewhat common medical procedure resulted in something much more serious, a childhood friend’s baby brother who left a wife and family much too soon, a blogging friend who lost a lifelong companion, just to name a few.

Whenever someone passes who has touched my heart or a friend is dealing with a challenging health issue, I find it a gentle nudge to not squander any of these precious days we have remaining. But this year (perhaps it is the sheer number of deaths we have heard of this year) has me moving beyond that less than subtle reminder, reflecting instead on the courage and the grace I have witnessed time and again, both with those who faced their own mortality, those who were left with the gaping hole these beautiful souls left behind, and those who have persisted mightily in their quest to regain their health. I am continually inspired by these remarkable individuals who have touched my life, those who have shared some of their more “real” moments with me.

My sincere hope is that we all find a path forward that allows us to embrace each day, amidst the trials, and that this path provides us with intense moments of happiness, many beautiful experiences that create wonderful memories, plenty of reason for laughter, and an abundance of love. For those who are struggling with the loss of a loved one, may your memories soften your grief, and for those dealing with chronic illness, may each day bring new healing.

Here’s to a new year filled with moments of deep gratitude.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”  ~  Denis Waitley

Photo courtesy of http://www.sacompassion.net

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Creating Stress-Free Travel During the Holidays

I have never been one to enjoy flying the friendly skies during the holiday season, trying to avoid long security lines and schlepping luggage through crowded airports at all costs. This has never invoked a sense of peace in me, and even less so in hubby, whose looks during the times we have ventured onto airplanes during this joyous season would keep anyone at arms’ length. 😲

After a lengthy autumn road trip to visit family and friends and before the frigid weather descended upon the Midwest, we opted to take a more laid-back approach to the holidays this year and still escape from home. We found ourselves getting back behind the wheel three short weeks after we arrived home, this time not to hopscotch across the country but with a single destination in mind – Albuquerque.

We have recently discovered the joy of housesitting, something I have read about and questioned others about for many years. I always seemed to push it to the back burner instead of doing the research necessary and developing a profile for ourselves. This year I took the time, did my homework, and jumped in with both feet. We have completed three sits and are now doing a fourth, spending the holidays in a beautiful setting, looking forward to visiting friends, and immersing ourselves in the local culture, of which there is plenty.

Housesitting is not something you would want to consider if you don’t like getting lots of slobbery, grateful kisses, but is especially rewarding if you need a fix of the furry 4-legged variety.

Since we are still doing lots of traveling, we have opted to not have a pet in our lives right now, so for us this has been the next best thing. This type of adventure has also put us in position to explore areas new to us, which always broadens our lives.

While we settle into this lovely Albuquerque home and prepare to enjoy the sights, sounds, and aromas swirling around us this festive season, we are grateful for the time shared with family and friends this year, as well as the friends I have met in the blogosphere. You have all enriched my life more than you can know. I will be forever thankful for all the wisdom you have imparted, the beautiful images you have shared, and the intriguing destinations you have added to our travel list.

May each day of this holiday season fill you all with a sense of wonder and awe and find you looking forward to a new year with a daily sense of gratitude. We wish you the happiest of holidays and a 2019 filled with countless new adventures, good health, and lots of love!

Fear’s Tipping Point

Bruised sky, heavy clouds… As I peer out the window I muse that this day feels like the mood of our nation right now.

Fear…we’ve all experienced it. Fear of creepy, crawly things, fear of heights, fear of the darkness, fear of not being liked. Commonplace fear, although uncomfortable and that which can stop us in our tracks, is not what I am referring to. The type of fear that seems to have gripped our nation right now is irrational, rage-filled, a hatred so red-hot it feels one could be scorched just being in its presence. Has it always been here? I imagine it has. It seems someone or something has cracked open the door and given it oxygen to grow.

“Fear is the most debilitating emotion in the world, and it can keep you from ever truly knowing yourself and others – its adverse effects can no longer be overlooked or underestimated. Fear breeds hatred, and hatred has the power to destroy everything in its path.”  ~  Kevyn Aucoin

It is inconceivable to me that the leader of this country, a country whose ideals embody the strength of a democratic society, is that someone who has breathed life into this fear-based monster. It appears we have become an intellectually lazy society, choosing to believe whatever we see on social media, no matter how outrageous, so it shouldn’t surprise me that we are at this tipping point. Sadly, a constant barrage of lies, vitriolic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and lack of moral character seem to be the framework by which the man who was elected to lead our country lives his life, and many of us seem to ignore what is happening around us.

Next Tuesday we in America have a choice, really more a civic duty, a duty to vote our conscience. It is time to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to live in, and perhaps more important, what kind of country we want our children and grandchildren to live in. This is so much greater than what the stock market is doing, this must go beyond our own personal needs.

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”  ~  Pema Chödrön

Fear…yes, I feel it. I’d like to think mine is rational, the fear of the hatred that could continue to escalate in this country if we don’t choose wisely next Tuesday. It is time to find the courage to speak out, to speak with our vote the kind of country we wish to live in, the kind of example we want to be for our children and grandchildren. How many more lives have to be lost at the hands of those who fear individuals of different color or religious values? How many more bombs must be sent to those with differing views before we remove our heads from the sand?

“Our enemy is fear. Blinding, reason-killing fear. Fear consumes the truth and poisons all the evidence, leading us to false assumptions and irrational conclusions.”  ~  Rick Yancey

Please vote your conscience next Tuesday. Please vote as if our democracy depended upon it, because it does.

Header photo courtesy of exploringyourmind.com.

Hot Summer Daze

The long summer is drawing to a close and for me, hot summer daze seems to best describe this season spent in Southern California. I realize that as I grow older I tolerate hot weather less and less and find myself dreaming of crisp fall days, days when I step outside and become intoxicated on autumn air. Knowing I was grounded for the summer due to a minor medical issue, I vowed to explore the beauty right outside my door, but as temps creeped into the triple digits I fell short of that goal many days as spending time outdoors could result in an irascible, sweaty meltdown. So when this outdoor kinda gal found herself trapped inside, gym fitness and reading became my go-to activities. Nothing wrong with that, I might add, especially when I have a wise, beautiful friend who recommended a special book to me, knowing I might find myself in an introspective mood from time to time. She couldn’t have suggested a book more conducive to the kind of year it has been and is one we would all do well to read, “The Five Invitations”. I can’t thank you enough Erin.

This year has created an interesting array of emotions for me, bringing to life a trip I have longed to take for decades, that being our Patagonian adventure. Coming home with what I thought was a minor finger dislocation became that plus a ruptured volar plate, detached collateral ligament and fractured knuckle. This week I graduated from hand therapy with parting gifts of various torture devices…yay!

Even with 12 weeks of therapy my injury does not even make the list of the tragic turn of events so many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced this year. The list of those we know who have passed this year has now grown to double-digits, not to mention all the public figures whose journey in this life has ended – Aretha Franklin, John McCain, Barbara Bush, Winnie Mandela, Stephen Hawking, just to name a few. Beyond this, we have friends who have had significant medical events and are still struggling with major illnesses, some where hospice has stepped in to provide comforting care. My thoughts are with all of them as they traverse the next phase of their life journey.

The author of “The Five Invitations”, Frank Ostaseski, a contemporary scholar of ancient Buddhist teachings, had me reflecting upon what death can teach us about living, how embracing our impending death, whenever that may be, can allow us to be more fully present, more alive, living each day to its fullest.

“Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight, helping us to discover what matters most.”  ~  Frank Ostaseski

Although my thirst for wandering wasn’t quenched this summer, I am grateful for the insights gained as I practiced being more present each day. We head out for some autumn adventures soon and I hope to carry my lessons learned with me. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the blogosphere once again.

Rediscovering the Virtue of Patience

We have settled back into our part-time home at Jojoba Hills, where memories of our Patagonia trip may have faded a bit but revisiting photos can put that smile right back on my face. One of my more vivid memories of Patagonia was our hike to the Three Towers in Torres del Paine National Park, as this is where I experienced firsthand the “knock-you-down” winds for which Patagonia is noted. This is where I learned to fly during a rainstorm, albeit it briefly, as I made the steep ascent to the towers. This is where a rogue gust threw me off a boulder and, although I didn’t get the iconic shot of the towers that day, I remain grateful that I didn’t suffer a serious injury.

The iconic shot I was hoping for, courtesy of cascada.travel.

An x-ray, a consult with an Argentine doctor, and a splint in place and the next day I was on my way to our next adventure. Although I was told to keep the splint on for three weeks and I should be good as new, I suspected, once ‘sans splint’, that something was amiss. My knuckle looked weird and the more I exercised my finger, the stiffer and more painful it became.

By the time we arrived in the Atacama, weeks later, my finger was red, warm, and not at all happy with me. I worried about an infection, but there was no one to consult in the small village of San Pedro, so I buddy-taped it again and tried not to think about it the last few days of our trip. Out of sight, out of mind, right? We couldn’t return home anyway as our airline went on strike; our flight was canceled; and we couldn’t get out any earlier. The best I could do was schedule an appointment with my doctor back home, so I tried not to let it interfere with the last few days of our trip.

Navigating the healthcare system back home was frustrating as I waited several weeks to see a hand surgeon and get an MRI after my initial x-ray, which revealed a fractured knuckle. The first hand surgeon I visited confirmed the avulsion fracture and a ruptured volar plate (the thick ligament that secures the knuckle and holds the two bones in place in the finger)and when asked what treatment he would recommend, he replied that it was bad and he couldn’t help me. No physical therapy, no surgery…what the heck? Needless to say, he is not my current hand surgeon.

Should you ever have the joy of dislocating a finger, here is some of what I have learned:

  • Splinting should be done for no more than one week and gentle manipulation should begin immediately after the splint is removed, even with an avulsion fracture. This probably won’t be much fun as the finger will still be swollen and painful to the touch. My accident was three months old when I saw my current hand surgeon and was splinted far too long so my situation was a bit more challenging.
  • Aggressive range-of-motion therapy can be an option, and was for me. I see my therapist twice weekly for 12 weeks. She is an angel, even though she often hurts me. 😢
  • If hand therapy doesn’t work, surgery would be a next option. I have found a great hand therapy specialist and she doesn’t see surgery in my future. Yay!! Finding a good therapist who will customize a program for you is a must.
  • Be prepared for slow progress. I wake each morning feeling like I am starting all over again, which I am told will probably be the case for the next six months. Patience definitely is a virtue at times like this.
  • Finger dislocations take a minimum of 8 months to heal. It is no wonder my finger is still swollen and stiff, along with other fingers as well.

I’m sad to say that our summer plans for Yellowstone National Park have been disrupted as I focus on getting my hand back in shape. I will be living vicariously through all of you and spending more time discovering the beauty right outside my door. Sometimes we just need to slow down a bit to find that beauty.

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