Again.

I was all set to blog an update of my injured shoulder when the news broke, another school shooting.  Another lockdown, another scene of kids running for safety, another scene of police responding, another scene of frantic parents.

Where are you now, you second-amendment God given right to own a gun owners who value your rifles and pistols above common sense gun laws that might have saved 10 lives today?

Where are you now, you lip service to caring for the people politicians who value your re-election race above enacting laws that might have saved 10 lives today?

Don’t send prayers and thoughts, do something.  Take action.  Now.

Enough already …

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One week and two days down … I’m so OVER this broken shoulder business.  It was a novel experience, a “that was interesting” experience but I’m over it.  It annoying to figure out how to do things one handed, although I am quite proud of myself in that I managed to successfully mow the yard this morning!  Granted it’s a self propelled electric mower, and I dutifully kept my left arm in its sling, but ta-da … done!  Full disclosure … I live in a townhouse and have a yard the size of a large walk in closet, but it was a step towards normalcy.

The phrase “single handed” has taken a new and personal meaning.  To do something single handed means turning a mundane task (such as mowing the lawn) into an olympic event.  Vacuuming become Everest, washing one’s hair … herculean … putting on socks … try it and you’ll see.

It’s also, unfortunately, a handy (pardon the pun) excuse for spending an inordinate amount of time on the sofa watching tv or reading.  Can’t practice the violin, or the guitar, or any of my art projects … takes away that guilty feeling of “should” and replaces it with “can’t” … at least for the next 6 weeks and 5 days.

The dangers of “Age is just a number”

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As I sit here, left arm in a sling, waiting for the extra strength ibuprofen to kick in, I mull over some old sayings … “You’re only as old as you feel” and “Age is just a number” and have the strongest feeling of deja vu.

I’ve been here before.

Last time it was the naive exuberance of a first time skier, spinning and crashing across the ski run into a fence, resulting in a couple of cracked ribs and a moment of clarity.  Age might just be a number but it was also a reality – a painful, cracked ribs reality.

Still, I kept my age blinders on, recovered, went skiing again the next season and – yes – repeated my fall and cracked rib routing.  I have been skiing several seasons since with all bones intact, although I stay within my limits and on the green slopes.

During the rest of the year, I kept to more benign activities … or so I thought.  Another saying bubbled up from the depths “… as easy as riding a bike” indicating some task or other, once learned, is a mere trifle to resume.

Perhaps …

I’ve been cycling with intent for the past couple of years, even though I’ve been riding bikes since toddlerhood.  Recently, however, I’ve taken it more seriously, upgrading over the years from beach cruiser to hybrid although I’m far from those “Tour de France” wanna-be’s that shoot past like fighter jets on wheels.  My speed and style is more akin to mom and dad towing junior behind them in that little covered carrier.  I have been passed by joggers.  Still, there’s nothing like a leisurely cruise down the WO&D bike trail … with only the birds for company.

What could go wrong?

Several things, actually.

Aside from mechanical failures, punctured tires, chains jumping of the sprockets as if possessed … there’s the ever present specter of human error.  One error in particular has been the culprit of my “age is just a number” fantasy meeting “you’re not twenty something anymore” reality.  Short of running into a car, another biker, or a cellphone distracted walker, the one thing you don’t want to do, at speed, is engage the front brake. Google Newton’s Laws of Motion.

The bike comes to a sudden and complete stop.  The rider, however, does not.  The first time it happened, I suffered only minor cuts and scrapes and the embarrassment of falling off one’s own bike all on one’s own.  The second time it happened, which was two days ago, was a tad more serious.  Added to the cuts and scrapes and embarrassment was a broken shoulder and a minor concussion.  It was as if the entire left side of my body checked out and refused to take orders from the brain, preferring instead to curl up in a fetal position yelling “Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain…”

They will likely never know how it all turned out, but the 7 or 8 (maybe less, I was seeing double at the time) kind strangers who broke from their activities to pull me and my bike out of the turn lane and onto the soft green grass.  I was less than coherent but remember stating (slurring mostly likely) I’d be find in a minute.  Fall, schmall … no need for an ambulance, ignore the pain shooting from my left shoulder and the double vision, it’s nothing.  I’ll walk it off.

Time to acknowledge reality … and accept a ride from a lovely good samaritan to the nearby Urgent Care center.  Time to admit I needed help.  Time to accept help.  Time to put aside that annoying southern tradition of “don’t want to be a bother, really …” to however many of you are standing/swaying in front of me”.  People genuinely want to help … it’s a refreshing reminder that, while we may live alone or feel alone, when push comes to shove … we are not.  When I needed help, it was provided.  I really felt God was looking out for me … it could have been so much worse.  I could have broken my wrist too, it could have been my right arm (and I’m right handed), it could have been on a lonely stretch of road with no help in sight.

I don’t yet know how long I’ll be in this annoying sling and trying to live life with only one good arm.  But I have kind and available neighbors and a bottle of 600mg ibuprofen. And, yes, once healed up … I’ll be back on that bike!  Trying to remember NOT to engage the brake unless I really really mean to!

Another march on Washington

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You may have seen it on the news … what am I saying, you couldn’t avoid it on the news.  The big march, the biggest march yet … the “March for our lives”.  Me, my neighbor’s son Tyler, and 800,000 others.  Led by children, by teenagers, by polished speakers not old enough to vote.  Yet.

They will be, and sooner than some people think.

It was an incredible experience.  I participated in the Women’s march on Washington back after the idiot-in-chief’s inauguration, and thought that march was mind blowing.  People in every directions, signs of all sizes and opinions, a feeling of camaraderie and hope that fighting back gives.

The March for our lives was all that and more.  So much energy and passion.  So many great speeches from young people – from survivors of the Parkland shooting to the grand-daughter of Martin Luther Kink, the oldest 17 – the youngest – 9.

Contrary to what some might think, the message isn’t “ban all guns” (although, if I could wish anything – it would be that), it’s ban some guns.  Guns that don’t belong in civilian hands, that have no place outside the military.  Guns who’s only purpose is massive carnage.  Our message is simple … we want sensible gun control.  You have to have a license to fish, for crying out loud, what’s wrong with having to have a license to own a gun?  To drive a car, you have to pass a test!  Why not have a gun safety test?  No one is taking away anyone’s right to bear arms … but let’s add some logic to the argument of “it’s my constitutional right”.  Let’s add something that is becoming rarer and rarer these days … Common Sense.

 

Status of things, and a goal …

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The diet … the intermittent fasting … hmmm.  Well, I suppose it’s been something on the successful side of things.  I have lost a few pounds, but just a few – as in 4ish, depending on what time of day I step on the scales.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been a little lax with the rules on some days, also not counting calories, nor exercising.  Losing weight isn’t my goal as much as getting back into shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Perhaps it’s time to reset and start again.

Crypto-currency market … here, unfortunately, I have recorded significant losses.  Not inches around the waist, but dollar signs of my investment.  The day after I plunged in, someone pulled the plug and Bitcoin tanked.  I’m playing the long game … it’s what I tell myself when I compare the $’s I started with compared to the $’s I have left.  It may be a really long game.

Rut or Groove?  Wasn’t that where this story started?  I was in a funk, a rut, the winter doldrums … searching for my mojo and that other ski glove.  Good news!  I found the ski glove but still missing the mojo.  I’d hoped with the coming of spring (finally!) my mood would perk up … my motivation would return.  There are some faint signs of life – somedays I do come home from work and DON’T head straight for the sofa and a nap.  On the weekends I’ve been known to go for a bike ride … but it all feels kind of forced.  Like I’m trying to talk myself into something.  Like that old saying “Fake it ’till you make it” except I’m tired of faking it.  It’s time to shake things up.  Time to figure out what floats my boat, what stirs my curiosity, to sift through those old memories like a gold miner panning for those shiny dreams.

Food for thought

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You might have heard of the latest “diet” – called the Intermittent Fast, where you eat within an 8 hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours.  It made the news some time back and, now that I’ve done some research on the concept, I’ll admit to being intrigued enough to give it a try.

I’m of a certain age and somewhere between my thirties and the current day, my hard won ballet body has vanished.  It was there for the longest time … a lifetime of ballet, and good genes, had produced a nice lean profile.  Weight loss was effortless.  Being a bit on the tall side also helped disguise any bit of weight gain.

Then … the thirties came and went, the forties made their way by, and I entered the outskirts of fifty-land.  Where was my lean ballet body?  When did it slip away and how could it have gone unnoticed?  Whereas before, I had a waist, I now resembled SpongeBob Squarepants.  Okay, I may exaggerate a little, but you get the gist.

I launched into power yoga, I tried running (hated it), tried vegan (too much work), limiting calories … pilates … nothing I tried had any effect, or if it did … I was putting on weight!  Now, everyone will say at a certain age, women’s bodies will change.  Fine.  I can accept that … to a point.  But, when I can no longer wear my kilt skirt (which cost upwards of $300) I draw the line.

Something must be done.

Enter the concept of Intermittent Fasting.  It’s about as simple as it can be, and isn’t really a “diet” as much as it is a lifestyle.  Fasting has been proven to have many health benefits.  It’s thought to give your body time to digest the food you do eat, so you’re less bloaty.  Some reports I’ve read indicate it is thought to lower your insulin levels and help you burn fat because you consuming fewer calories than you’re expending.  There are many MANY articles so I won’t go into detail here – you are free to research the topic as you wish.

I like the concept because I’m lazy when it comes to cooking, living alone can have that effect.  Plus, as weird as it sounds, I’m bored with food.  It’s become just another chore.  I hate having to make time for it, make a mess in the kitchen or pop something frozen into the microwave, for only one person.  Often I just forget or don’t get hungry.  But is this reflected in the bathroom scale?  NO!  grrrrrr.  It seems the opposite.  Instead of shedding pounds, my body is holding onto them like it’s a lifeboat situation!

Clearly, a lifestyle change is required.  Exercise would be a good idea, but I hate it.  Being winter doesn’t help … it is too cold and dark to want to schlep down to the gym or go for a bike ride.

So, I was intrigued by the idea of the partial fast.  Since I tend to skip meals anyway, packing the few meals I do eat into a specific timeframe seems ideal.  I’ll eat between the hours of eleven and 7:00, and fast after until eleven the next day.  Breakfast has never been that big in my life, so missing it shouldn’t be too upsetting.

All I have to do is wean myself off the Starbucks Doubleshot Expressos.  Here goes operation “get my waist back”.  Maybe I’ll be motivated to start an exercise class …

Maybe one lifestyle change at a time …

Memory Lane

I’m sitting here listening to “The Partridge Family Greatest Hits”.  A real blast from the past.  I got so silly with nostalgia, I went and ordered the complete series on DVD.  You know, there are some real dialogue gems in those episodes, especially between Danny and … well, anyone, but especially Ruben, the manager.  Sure the episodes are cotton candy when compared to sitcoms today, but that’s part of their charm.  They are simple but not simplistic … sweet but not sugary.  And the music!  How refreshing to be able to understand what’s being sung!  And the tunes are catchy as well.  I think David Cassidy was the only one doing any real singing, the other actors were dubbed – and how many kids the age of the youngest boy can realistically play the drums?  Plus, I have trouble believing Danny could manage a regular size bass guitar.  Still … with all the obvious flaws and dreadful 70’s fashions, it’s a show that never gets old, not for me anyway.  It may not burn any calories, but taking a stroll down that memory lane sure burns away the blues.

Come on, get happy!

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Diving into the crypto-currency pool …

It’s not like me. To take cold hard cash and, whoosh … drop it into a volatile and unregulated market. Cash in the bank = good, taking the same cash and basically throwing it at the wall hoping something will stick = stupid! So what happened? Why did I leap before I looked?

Well, as I said in an earlier blog, sometimes if you look too hard before you leap – you never leap. You never take a chance, you never “pays your nickel and takes your chances”. I knew one thing for sure … if I didn’t give this a try, I would regret it.

So, I did it. Took a nice chuck of change, enough to play with but not so much I’d throw myself off a cliff if it went bust, rolled the die, spun the roulette wheel and …

Well, true to form (it would seem), the moment I buy into something … the value drops. Bitcoin, which had been shooting into the stratosphere stopped and began a slow decent back to earth. After I bought in, of course.

Think long term … what goes down might go back up again (hopefully and soon!) so, don’t obsess about it. I took a portion of my fraction of a bitcoin and diversified, or tried to. I’m not techno-savy when it comes to buying or selling, and don’t understand market, margin, and other terms. So, on top of entering the wild west of finance, I’m doing it with little to no understanding of what I’m doing.

This isn’t like me at all. I like to know what’s what, the rules, the format, the structure. Entering the crypto-currency market would be akin to dropping myself into a strange city, where I don’t speak the language, without a map.

Yet, here I am … for better or worse, to sink or swim, throwing that spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks!

Culture shock

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Not arriving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  That wasn’t the culture shock … it was returning back to Northern Virginia … to the United States … to the land of plenty.  A veteran of the Haiti ministry, Genevieve, gave me this first hand observation and she was right.  While this wasn’t my first trip to an impoverished country, it was my first trip to Haiti and to a situation far removed from my daily life.

Electricity.  Safe drinking water.  Running water.  Toilets.  Convenience stores.  Infrastructure.  Good roads.  Trash collection.  So much more … we have such an abundance of stuff above and beyond the  basic structure of life.  We take it for granted, we forget it’s there.

We passed people walking, riding horses or donkeys, people packed 3 or 4 on motorbikes, crammed a dozen or so into brightly painted trucks.  They balanced large buckets or bags on their head, some hands free, some steadied with one hand while holding the hand of a small child.

As we traveled further and further from Port-au-Prince, the shacks and huts thinned out.  Fewer vehicles jostled and jockeyed for progress on crowded dusty and garbage filled streets.  There was still a great deal of garbage and trash … and the road was still in fairly good condition, with a few washouts and boulders.  The countryside has been largely deforested … valued trees being cut down for cooking or turning into charcoal.  Here and there in the distance, a think spiral of smoke rose up.  Quarries shaved into the hillsides.  Footpaths crisscrossed into the distance.

This trip was a yearly visit by the Haitian ministry at St.Timothy’s Episcopal church in Herndon Virginia.  We support a church and school in Chapateau which is barely more than a collection of huts and shacks on the side of a mountain centered around the church and school.  There are no roads.  To get to Chapateau, one must travel by boat from Cange, and then up a steep and winding footpath.  It’s rough going but the people there do it because they have no choice.

Where we stayed in Cange, electricity came and went.  Sometimes there was running water, but often there wasn’t.  We learned quickly to adapt, to plug in when the power was on – to take showers when the water flowed.  But, we never once even thought of complaining … we were too humbled to even consider it.

I realize this piece is a little chaotic … it jumps around, like my thoughts and feelings.  I think about the kids who laughed and giggled as I took pictures of the chickens running through the schoolyard, of the young people who knew where we came from and how much we had, of how hard their lives were and how uncertain their futures.  As I sit here in my air-conditioned living room, everything I need either readily at hand or a click away … it’s mentally dizzying.  One emotion barely forms when another shoves it aside.

Haitians are people, just like us.  They want what we want – education for their children, a good job for themselves, respect, acknowledgment, to be happy and productive.  We have so much in common, more so than can be counted as differences.

For more information, go to the following site:  Haitian ministry

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Instant family … two days later

So far, we’re all still alive!  The girls have eaten regular meals (albeit it from restaurants), and thanks to the farmer’s market, we have a quiche for this evening.  At the moment, the girls are spending the afternoon hanging out with some of the other exchange students.  I took advantage of the alone time to doze on the sofa while watching football.

They are very nice young ladies, pleasant and very interested in learning more about the real America.  This part, I’m anxiously eager to show them.  I want them to meet lots of “your average American” … from the venders at the farmer’s market to parishioners at church to people in the neighborhood.  I want the girls to see we’re all individuals, we’re not lockstep in line with the latest moronic presidential tweet.  Granted, I only know one trump supporter, but the world sees enough of the world presented through his myopic eyesight.  I want Luisa and Christina to meet real people, as many as possible, and to find out we all want the same things in life … to be happy, to prosper, to help others and – above all – peace.

Tomorrow we’re going to carve pumpkins and visit a nearby plantation.  Their presentation of life on a plantation has a special emphasis on the lives of the slaves and is very educational.

During the week, the girls will alternate between attending a local high school and taking trips into DC with the rest of their group.  We’ll finish out the visit with Homecoming weekend at the High School, with a parade, pep rally, football game and a dance.  That’s about as Americana as it gets!  Go Team!!