Saturday, February 24, 2018

Give me a Break

If there is one trip-prep of which I can be certain, it is that my trekking shoes are getting broken in.

Each time I wear them, they feel better and I feel better knowing that all the quirks can be worked out long enough in advance.

I took my feet, in those shoes, to New York City for a few days this week.  It was school vacation and my daughter fulfilled a promise made two years ago, of more "family" trips. The girls are at a reasonably good age now and I know that in a year or two it may become "Nonni who?" so I jumped at the chance when it was offered. 

Our trip into the city was flawless.  No traffic either way.  The car got parked in a garage near our hotel and we logged on miles, literally, walking most of the time.  Our hotel, one I have used in the past, did not disappoint.  If you ever want a good valued, Euro-style hotel, right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the Roger Smith is it.  Where else in that city will you be addressed by your name by the front desk staff for instance? 

Starting on Monday afternoon, we covered all of the highlights, the things that as a New Yorker, I always took for granted but this time, allowed myself to see in new eyes, those of a set of pre-teens who were determined to make as many memories and as many Instagram posts as time would allow.

Wednesday brought us a special gift.  The outside temperature soared to 76 degrees.  On February 20th!  A nice break from Winter. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

No Further Explanation

The decision to take on the challenge of walking part of the Camino de Santiago in April was an important one.  I had a good long time to contemplate how and why to celebrate a milestone birthday.

The reasons were obvious to me. I've worked hard on getting my body ready for a new life.  Right now, I can say with confidence that I have lost at least sixty pounds of unwanted weight since last year and will, in fact, be celebrating a year since my bariatric adventure began.  Within that year, I also celebrated my seventieth birthday.  Both events, I reckon, are worthy of being marked by something extraordinary.  

People walk the Camino for various reasons.  The full Camino, done by pilgrims for centuries, stretches over 500 kilometers.  The Camino de Santiago known in English as The Way of Saint James among other names,is a network serving pilgrimages to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The town of Compostela, is in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried here. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. Others, simply for exercise or the challenge of having completed something that they find to be life-altering, no matter the reason.  The modern-day "pilgrims" come to the route from all parts of the world, all cultures, all ages, and all shapes and sizes.  Some only make it part of the way, stopping their journey for reasons that they may not have anticipated when they started out.  For most of those who enter the route, backpacks and hostels become their way of life for at least thirty days.  

For people like myself and my husband, the last one hundred kilometers will suffice.  We won't be backpacking, nor will we be hosteling, but we will "qualify" for the much-desired "Compostela" when we arrive at the end of our journey.  At that point, we will have to present proof of our having completed the route and we will have to state our intentions, whether they be religious or otherwise.  At this point in our journey, the days before our departure, we find that we are called upon to state those same intentions, by curious friends, acquaintances, and family members.  When I'm asked, I'm never quite sure what to say.  I know, in my heart, what the answer is, but I am not always willing to share those innermost thoughts.  But, I will tell you, that when thoughts have been shared, the responses have not always been, shall I say, thoughtful or even sensitive.  Both my husband and I have been told that we're "crazy" or that the choice would not be his or hers. 
We've been "warned" about blisters, foot problems, lack of stamina, difficulty.  You name it, we've been "advised".  As if we don't already know all of that!  As if we are looking for an easy way to spend a week in the Spring.  

I've decided to stop trying to make other people happy.  I've decided to look deeply into why we are doing this in the first place.  I'm not going to answer any more questions regarding our motivation.  It's like the old saying....."if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it". 
So, perhaps my future blogs will reveal some answers.  Perhaps, not.  This is MY Camino and My journey.

But, I did look for some help and found it in a forum.  A woman of my same age, who, incidentally, is doing her second solo Camino, when summarizing her motives, simply says that she doesn't want to die without having done this.  Buen Camino!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Now it Begins

I'm cold. All the time.  Feet, hands, nose and big time, my neck.  It's a side-effect of my bariatric surgery.  The one that will have its first birthday in two weeks. So, I have joined the throngs of people who are looking for signs of Spring, hoping that the worst of the Winter has passed and that we soon will be enjoying warmer weather and brighter days.  This means that April can't be that far away, can it?

The very fact that people are talking about April brings me a tad bit of fear along with the excitement. It means that we have to, in earnest, start getting our bodies and minds ready for our Camino.

My trekking shoes have been purchased and the breaking in phase is well under way.  The sun hat is waiting and some bits have been put aside, ready to be stricken from the list of those things that we now think may be important enough to make it into luggage.  Back packs are ready to be packed. Socks have yet to be purchased as are Joe's shoes.  In other words, things are well under-way.

The Camino walk that we will take is known as the St. Francis Way.  It isn't the toughest of the walks that make up the Camino Santiago, but it does qualify us for the certificate that will prove that we have undertaken 100 kilometers, some 63 miles of the Way.  For us, it will be just as challenging as it will be for those who bravely take on the entire route, all 500 kilometers.  They will have an experience that I am sure, will differ in many ways from ours.  For instance, most of the "pilgrims" on their route will be staying in hostels every night.  We will be staying in hotels, already booked by an agency.  The only snoring I will have to hear will be my own husband's.  We'll have our own room, our own bathroom, and the luxury of not having to haul everything we own in a heavy pack on our backs as we walk every day.  Our luggage will be moved from hotel to hotel along the way.  We simply are not "young" people any longer.

So, it's time to start the process, to get serious about the big "challenge" and to not second-guess ourselves.  The Camino awaits and we'll be there.

Tomorrow, it's shoe fitting time for Joe!!  We're heading back to REI in Hingham and we better come home with those important first steps......

Monday, December 4, 2017

Just Because

For the past ten months, the question of how I would most like to celebrate my January milestone birthday, has come up many times.  Becoming seventy is a huge deal, especially when one is fortunate enough to have pain-free hips and knees, not to mention totally good health.  I blew it for my sixtieth birthday.  I had so many fantasies about how to mark the occasion and, a the time, was still in the working world which allowed me to listen to co-workers who were also planning their own celebrations.  Dancing the tango in Argentina, going on safari, running, leaping, jumping.....I worked among some highly energized and may I say, well-funded people in New York City.  I knew that my plans would never hold a candle to their plans but it was nice to think that I could carve out at least twenty-four hours to call my own. After all, I had artfully arranged a special trip, complete with good friends at our side, to Italy in celebration of my husband's same milestone birthday.  One day would not be asking the world.  So, the day came and the day left.  I resorted to making my own cake (a gesture that did not go un-noticed by my aged parents who essentially mocked my efforts) and finally, inviting a good friend out to dinner (she had no idea why) because....the day belonged to a husband with the flu and a grand-daughter who was turning two.  Another baby on the way was also a huge pre-empter.  Okay, so it wasn't about me.  I've got so much more to be grateful for in my life.

Well, now, a decade down the road and things are going to be different.  Or, so I hope. If you're following me, you must realize that there is another milestone birthday in the pipeline and it's rapidly approaching.  I do not intend to make my own cake and if the flu hits, I'm heading for a hotel. The way I figure it, this is possibly the last milestone that will allow for frivolity.  The next one, I may simply choose to ignore.  Time will tell.

So.  Here's the plan.

On my "list" of things I considered for celebrating, the word "challenge" came up more than once.  For my seventieth birthday, I want to be challenged.  I want to celebrate all the things that I have done to change my life.  I want to reward myself, just this once, for good behavior, for good choices made, for kicking a few potential health problems in the butt.  If this sounds self-absorbed, I could not care less. If checking off one thing from that list of life's to-do's is what I will have ta-done, then I will consider this coming birthday as the best ever. Please, God.

For this birthday.....drum roll......

I'm taking a walk. A very long walk.  In the Spring.  After flu season.  After snow season.

Not the entire stretch  Just the last 111 kilometers.  Just a week.  Just because.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Opportunity Knocks Early

Part of the magic of the early morning is the time that I have totally to myself.  I fully embrace the Danish invitation to practice the art of "Hygge" and many posts ago, I wrote and explained that this is not a "thing"; it is a way of living.  "Hygge" pronounced hu-gah, and cozy are very similar but the Danes take theirs more seriously and there is more of an effort put into creating the lifestyle than there might be to creating a cozy something-or-other.

So, I live my mornings at this time of year in my Hygge capsule, filled with candles, just the right mug for my beverage, and just the right accouterments.  I find that surrounding myself with the things that calm and enrich my life is not such a bad idea.  Books easily fill that bill and I always make certain that I have those handy wherever my spirit might land me in the hours before sunrise and shortly after.

This morning, I picked up one of the current reads.  It's a book that can and should be read slowly, with intention.  I don't know where I got this one.  Maybe at the Swap this Summer?  Let's just imagine it found its way into my hands, ready for Hygge season.  The name of the book is "Rediscover Jesus...An Invitation".  I like that.  Not a command.  Not a demand.  An "invitation". So, I take up the invitation every couple of mornings.  Short chapters are what I have found to be especially appealing.  All of the chapters end with points to ponder, verses for contemplation and calls for action. 

I loved the chapter I read this morning.  It was simply titled "Invitation".  Good start.  Now, I'm not going to preach here, I'm just going to allow myself to publish my thoughts and get out.  We're leaving for a long weekend and it's almost time to get into the shower.  But, this will run through brain all day and hopefully, for a long time to come.  The little prayer at the very end of the chapter asks that we make the journey of re-discovery and not squander the opportunity. 

The words "squander" and "opportunity" jump off the page and sing to me.  Life is short.  Each moment that we live is important.  Every person, every place, every thing that we encounter along the way is important.  Seek opportunities to make it everything count.  Don't squander one single thing.
Get up, get moving.  Make friends.  Make memories.  Most of all, make time. 

Get up earlier. I guarantee, you will have so many more opportunities if you allow yourself to have so many more waking hours.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bowl of Stress

Today is Wednesday.  Yes, I'm up early.  I'm up early every day.  This used to be a huge problem for me, one that I tried many, many remedies for.  Nothing, including the drug Ambien, will get me more than six hours of sleep collectively. Those hours do include at least one trip to the bathroom followed by a stretch of wakefulness.  I no longer consider this to be a problem and accept it as a fact of my life instead of complaining and trying to fix it.  I'm productive in the hours before what is considered to be an "acceptable" waking time, getting things done around my home, reading, thinking, planning.  It's all done by seven or eight and I'm filled with energy throughout most of the day.  It works for me.

 What used to be a challenge, sleeping, is no longer.  It's been replaced by many others.  I love a good challenge or two and seem to seek them more as I grow closer to age seventy.  This is not a time of life to sit it out.  Nor is it a time of life to make oneself look like a self trying to be something other than that self.  Nothing worse than an old fool trying to not look like a fool.

I'm not placing an order for a Mustang any time soon.  Nor am I taking up bungee jumping.  I have already met some challenges, especially those associated with body-betterment-for-more-enjoyment-and-better-overall health.  I'm looking forward to planning an adventure in celebration of my birthday in January, but trust me, it won't consist of any time travel.  I'm going to stay the course and act like a lively older woman  at all times during the crossing over process.  More about that later.

So, what's going on in my world of challenge lately?  What's totally scaring me?  What's causing stress and making me feel cowardly and not in control?  What is it that I swear I will conquer if it does not take me down?  What is it that I must perfect before I give it up?  You might well ask.

It's BOWLING.  Bowl-ing??? I used to do that all the time.  Up until the time I didn't do it anymore, like somewhere in my thirties.  I even had my own ball and baby blue shoes.  Every week I would show up at the alley, toddler girl in tow, and I would join other mommies who also deposited their toddlers in the on-site nursery for two precious hours a week.  I did fairly well.  The balls were big, the pins were merciful and I rarely threw a gutter-ball.  It was relaxing and fun.  So....when  my friend Judi told  me about her current bowling team, naturally I asked to join and did. Of course there were a few things I had not considered.

First of all, the "Flower Shop" league that I was signing on to as a "sub", was huge.  At least forty women of all ages show up.  Next, they take their game seriously.  Scores mean "placement" and every team is revving up to be in that choice First Place spot.  There are Zinnias and Daffodils and at least four other flowers represented by this eager group.  The median age is seventy.  One of the better bowlers it turns out, is ninety!!  And then, there is me.  I had never, in my entire life, which including lots of bowling as a teenager, thrown a ball in a game of "Candlestick" and that, to my shock and horror is what I had signed up for!  Do I have to tell you how scary this was...and still is?  Do I need to say how bad a bowler I have become after many years of absence?

There is some saving grace.  All those years ago, at the same location, my friend Franny was a team mate.  She and her little girl at the time Laura, spent many happy hours with me and my little girl.  Great memories.  I'm sure they both hours on-end spent together in the play room at the bowling alley, the library and our houses. Well, on Day One of this new adventure, in walked Franny and our friendship took up right where it had left off when I left the Cape years ago.  I nearly cried with joy when I was asked to officially join her team due to the resignation of another member. They clearly were desperate to fill that spot!  And fill it, they did, with the Queen of the Gutter Balls.

Candlestick pin bowling is very, very different from what I had done in the past.  It looks and feels unique and it's very hard to get a score about seventy or eighty in a game.  Each week, we play three games.  Each time I get up to throw (yes, you literally throw the ball onto the alley, not roll it), there are two groups of women, both opposing teams, sitting on the edge of their seats, hoping that I will knock at least one pin down.  Good thing my rear-end is a bit smaller as the result of a different challenge, an easier one as it turns out!  All eyes are upon the "new girl".  Their disappointment is easy to read but they are encouraging and friendly and having time each week with Fran makes up for the pain. I try to recall, with each stressful turn I take, that they asked me to join as a permanent member.

I'm going to master this. I won't dread Wednesday;  I'm  going to pull up my all-important average.  I'm going to come out of this with my dignity and self-esteem intact.  I'm going to meet the challenge head-on.  That's what it is all about, this journey of life, isn't it?  Meeting obstacles along the way, finding goodness and opportunity in the smallest of things.  Savoring the moments.  Coming out with dignity and self-esteem that no gutter ball can take away.  One pin at a time.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dinner Party Talk

The first cold, cold evening of the Fall season found us at a dinner party, hosted by friends we hadn't seen in a while.  They own a lovely home, not far away, but they also have active "senior" lives and we allow too much time in-between our times together. So, it was a much-anticipated visit.  We love dinner parties, especially in the after-season, when Cape Cod once again becomes our own.

Other than our lovely friend Barbara, we did not know any of the other guests who were selected by our host and hostess in their belief that we would all have some basics in common and would become a compatible group soon after being introduced. This is an art-form.  It took all of five seconds for me to bond with one guest, recognizing his name from his place card at the table.  My brain, which can't produce for me the title of the book I am currently reading or the name of a restaurant that serves seafood on Cape Cod, will allow for strange recollections of names without instantly letting me in on the secret of why I know the name. Slowly, like the hint of fruit and exotic spices in a glass of red wine, the file cabinet in my brain opens and I have a classic Ah-ha moment.  It takes skill in putting together a group of strangers, knowing all the while that these moments will happen.

Last night then, we had the pleasure of spending time with people who affirmed my belief that Cape Cod is a haven for smart, talented and interesting individuals.  Our conversations were lively, not one political reference surfaced.  We talked about travel, literature, food, history and science.  We were writers, college professors, fitness experts, artists and lovers of the Renaissance.  One of the group has just returned from a six week trip which was built around a three-week intensive language course in Trieste. One is the originator of the library system that is used Cape-wide.  One, the past owner of a newspaper that was widely read on the Cape.  Our host taught four years at the American University in Beirut and has traveled extensively with his wife and family, through the Middle East. Our friend Barbara, who can tell you anything you want to know about anything that has to do with Renaissance art or literature, can also build you a house.  My husband, a man who re-invented himself years after so many others had already given up, and became a senior fitness expert,can name almost every muscle in the body and tell you facts from Italian literature in the same breath. I can tell stories, oh boy, can I tell stories.  I'm not too shabby myself!

The dinner was great, the conversations, as one can imagine, fascinating.  We dined, we talked, we shared, we communicated.
And, not one Smartphone invaded our beautiful evening.  No texting interrupted our discussions and Alexa, she was not invited.