Tornado, Tornadon’t…

She was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Hiding behind her mother’s legs when i came to the door with boxes of food, the little girl was wearing nothing but a diaper. Maybe 2 years old. One of three children living in the small apartment with their mother, they’d been displaced by the tornado outbreak that knocked my city on its collective ass about eight weeks ago.

i’m not a fan of disaster porn pictures, but you can get an idea of what happened at this link, and some images from one neighborhood here. Over a dozen tornadoes blew across the western part of Ohio in a single night – some fairly small, knocking shingles off of barns in the country, but a couple large ones hitting population centers.

this used to be a gas station

used to be a gas station

The biggest of the lot (with winds between 166-200 miles/hour) was on the ground for about 30 minutes, covering about 19 miles – and it hit very densely populated neighborhoods, including the apartment complex where this young woman and her children had lived.

Tornadoes are nearly perfect in their randomness – one side of a street demolished, the other having only a few limbs down. Some have moved on from the recovery support already – “Why didn’t they have renters insurance? Why can’t they get to the food bank?” Because they could barely afford rent! Because they don’t have a car, and are now living across town, away from family and friends who used to help with transportation.

Immediately after the storm, i hauled cases of water to anyone who needed it (as did many, many others in town). Food, snacks, diapers… someone called it the “Ratchet Red Cross – don’t wait for rescue, we’ve got to save ourselves!” After returning from the Canadia-land holiday, i found a small group of grass-roots warriors still responding to the evolving needs of the community – people who fell through the cracks.

Spending a few days a week working out of a donated warehouse, with no electricity and no lights, i began delivering food to people who couldn’t get to the food banks. More recently, my efforts have included moving overly abundant provisions (adult undergarments, toothpaste, toothbrushes) to other relief efforts who need what we’ve got. Sorting donations, throwing out expired food. Organizing. Renting a trailer and hauling furniture donations.

A few things i’ve learned along the way:

TornaDO: Ask what is needed TODAY! The supplies and needs ebb and flow. Yesterday it was canned meat, but today it’s cleaning supplies. Bring THAT.

TornaDON’T: Donate things you just want to get rid of… like that toilet repair kit, lawn sprinkler, the martini glasses, Christmas tree. Clothes? Ask first – but if you do donate clothing, make sure you don’t include used underwear, or fucking pantyhose. Please.

this cow - if no one claimed her she was going home with me

This donated cow – if someone hadn’t claimed her, she’d have gone home with me!

TornaDO: Offer transportation – either taking things to people, or people to things.

TornaDON’T: Offer transportation – and fail to show up.

TornaDO: Use the opportunity to ‘Kondo‘ your condo! Housewares, small appliances, dishes, pots and pans will ALWAYS be needed.

TornaDON’T: The bag of toys was a nice thought – but perhaps check to make sure there aren’t petrified cat turds in the bag before you drop it off…

donated - case and manual from a TI-30 (1980's) calculator

Donated TI-30 calculator case/manual from the 1980’s. Without the calculator…

TornaDO: Hygiene items are a hot item – shampoo, deodorant, feminine products, shaving cream, razors? Great donations!

TornaDON’T: If you go to the trouble to package up individual hygiene bags? Please consider putting in more than two tampons… maybe just donate the box?

TornaDO: Graciously offer to assist the nice woman dropping off a carload of supplies at the warehouse!

TornaDON’T:  Say “Can i give you a hand?” just as you notice she is missing one! Yeah. That was me… i caught myself in time, and managed to eek out “Can i give you a… help with that?” at the last minute. i was tired…

While i have moments of grumpiness, and i’ve come home pretty beat up some days, i’m encouraged by the number of people who are still working hard to help. But i keep thinking about that sleepy little girl, her entire world disrupted… Wondering how things are going to work out for her.

suckers and roses - for the survivors

Suckers and a rose go home with those coming in for help… 

These efforts are basically putting band-aids and boo-boo kisses on people who are suffering multiple organ failure…

For now, it’ll have to do. It

 

Surface Interval

SCUBA diving is a complex endeavor. The human body was not designed to thrive under water for extended periods of time. Nitrogen presents one of the biggest risks – the pressures at depth drive nitrogen into the body (this is bad). To avoid decompression sickness (“the bends”), divers must ascend slowly – allowing time for the nitrogen to outgas from the body. There is also a necessary surface interval between dives – this is to make sure the body has time to release the extra nitrogen pushed into the cells while underwater.

For the past six months, i’ve been gone more than home – swimming in a virtual ocean of experiences. By design, i am home for five glorious weeks! A surface interval to give myself time to reflect on all that’s happened, all that’s planned, and to take care of doctors appointments, contractor visits, and general life maintenance!

The short version/travelogue:

February – Three weeks in Thailand! A SCUBA trip, spending one week living aboard a Junk diving in the Andaman Sea. We spent the second week on the island of Koh Lanta, and followed that with a week on our own in Chiang Mai. i love my Dive Tribe – people of all shapes, sizes, politics, and backgrounds chasing “experiences over things.” Saw my first Peacock Mantis Shrimp! Visited an Elephant Sanctuary. Learned to say “Two more beers, please” in yet another language.

March – Long weekend in South Dakota visiting my son and his family. Had to schedule around two blizzards, but we made it. Making the offer “we can watch the kids for a night if you guys want to go to a hotel…” and not being able to finish the sentence before they were packing overnight bags! They work hard (both working full time, going to school part time, taking care of two small children), and appreciated a night off. We enjoyed a night of chasing littles…

April – The Girl returned to work after her extended maternity leave. Studley and i spent the month living in Turkey, doing Gamma/Opie day care! Babies! They are A LOT of work! This one is exceptionally charming, but we were worn out in the evenings. Threw in a weekend out in the country (by train) to get our adventure fix, but it was mostly bottles, diapers, giggles, and naps!

May – Stopped in London for a weekend on our way home from Turkey, then turned around and headed to Alaska. Studley’s daughter, Pixie, earned a part in a local theatrical production. We decided to surprise her on opening night – and we did! Didn’t really think through the logistics of hiding in a fairly small Alaskan town for a day, but she had no idea we were there until she came out after the show was over – delivering a classic spit take when she saw her father standing in the lobby!

June – Just home after spending three weeks camping our way across the Maritime Provinces of Canada. We’ve had our little camper for almost two years, and it was time to put some miles on her! Five thousand miles, to be more specific. We saw bears, moose, whales, porcupines, and all manner of northern critters. Eaten by gigantic mosquitoes. Hiked some of the most gorgeous terrain i’ve ever seen. Made very few concrete plans, or campsite reservations, choosing instead to wing it most of the way. Added in a couple of visits with old friends and family members. We didn’t smell very good at the end of it all, but had a blast!

What’s next? i’m content to focus on getting my patio deck stained, complete some home renovation projects, and scratch my bits in my own space for a few weeks. The road has many lessons – and i’ve learned that one of my favorite places to go is home!

The Surface Interval. It is quite necessary…

Generation Gap

After six weeks living with my daughter and her husband while they welcomed their new squab, i have had an odd transition home this time. Re-entry after a long trip often has challenges. Beyond time zones and jet lag, it’s re-learning which way to turn my sink fixture to get hot water, reacquainting myself with where i keep the utensils in my own kitchen, and reestablishing the muscle memory to get me from my bed to the toilet in the dark of night.

But this time? Also feeling the distance. The experience was intense, the relationship with my daughter and her husband stronger and closer. And that little human? How do we not attach when they first start focusing those little eyeballs on our faces? i am not one to go squishy-gooey over babies, but they have a way of stealing hearts if you spend a little time with them.

Another feeling that has also taken me by surprise? The sadness that my parents were never able to see both of my children become parents. That they didn’t have the chance to meet these adorable spawnlets. They also didn’t get to see my surprise transformation into “Gamma”.

It’s a by-product of being born the youngest child of older parents. Mom was 34 when i was born. Dad was 39. Even though i was a young mother – dropping my daughter when i was only 24 years old – my parents were still pretty old when i became a breeder.

My kids were high school age when Dad died in 2001. They remember him, and know him through my stories, but didn’t have as much time with him as they did with my mom. Many happy hours spent talking shit with her over friendly games of poker (she showed no mercy) provided a foundation for their relationship. Their favorite side hustle with her? “Tell us more embarrassing stories about Mom when she was little”.

She happily obliged. The more embarrassing, the more she’d embellish the tale.

The next generation of my clan – these three little critters – will never know my parents. Maybe if they show interest in genealogy when they’re a little older, i can share some direct lore with them. Go through the endless silly pictures. The primary school projects on finding your roots sometimes tease out a few tales.

thoughtful bebek

i barely remember the tales my mother told me of her grandparents. There are bits and pieces written down, photos in black and white with spidery handwritten notes on the back. Eastern European names without many vowels. Tired farm women surrounded by a dozen unsmiling children. My father’s family history is much less clear – his parents were dead before he married mom, and he was an only child of immigrant parents. Not much written down.

And so it goes…

christmas critters

i will do what i can to teach these new little humans about their ancestors. But it’s just a little sad that they will never get to meet in person.

 

 

What to expect when you’re expecting abroad…

The arrival of a baby is a big deal in any culture. That magical combination of expanding a family, cementing a bond between parents, and good ol’ biological survival of the species. As expected, we found some cultural differences when The Girl shelled out her progeny abroad!

Two hours after the baby was extracted, The Girl, her husband, Metin, baby Ada and i were getting settled into the hospital room. The Girl was mostly naked, with the new baby laying across her chest.

fresh bebek

The first visitors arrived – two close friends who are also expecting a baby in the summer. Just a quick “hi”, hugs, and they were about to leave when the next wave of visitors arrived. Metin’s mother and father stopped by, followed by his oldest brother, his two teen children, his younger brother and his wife, and their 3 year old daughter. It became a party!

Meanwhile, another friend (American ex-pat) showed up with a bag of snacks – cheddar cheese may seem like a strange thing to bring to a hospital room, but it’s hard to find good sharp cheddar here! It was a thoughtful gift…

i was a bit boggled at the number of people now crammed into a fairly small hospital room. In addition to the three of us and half-pint, another 11 people were in the room, some spilling into the hallway. It was at this moment a nurse told us the larger room they’d requested was ready – time to pack up mom, baby and gear and move to a different room – on another floor of the hospital!

During this transition, i expected some people to leave – silly me! Two more friends showed up! As we tried to get settled into the new room, the baby was crying, and a first time mother was attempting to nurse a brand new, fairly confused newborn.

The Girl and i exchanged a few glances – “This is bullshit!” she said (knowing that most people in the room wouldn’t understand it). The baby continued to cry. People were still gathered while she attempted to put the baby to her breast – most of the menfolk staying in the hallway. i told Metin that a little privacy would be fucking awesome!

Turns out, in Turkish culture, this is expected. If friends and family do not immediately stop by the hospital for a brief “Welcome Baby” visit, it means that they don’t care. We explained that in the US, groups of people visiting people in the hospital after the birth of a baby would be quite inconsiderate.

Lesson acknowledged, and compromises proposed. After returning home the following day, The Girl asked if the family and friend visits could be done in smaller groups – maybe 5 – 6 people at a time. Metin agreed, and visits over the next few days were done in smaller doses. It worked out pretty well…

official grannies

Other observations:

Attack of the Random Grandmother: During the first hour in the hospital, trying to change a tiny diaper on a squawking baby, there was a knock at the door. It was a woman visiting her own family, who had heard the baby crying, and stopped by to make sure the baby wasn’t in danger. “What’s wrong with your baby? Why is it crying?” When The Girl and Metin took Ada to her first pediatrician appointment, there were plenty of other helpful grandmas telling them that the baby was too cold. The Girl is perfecting the smile that says “Thanks. Fuck off.”

Thermal Management: Layers upon layers upon more layers of clothing are required to keep an infant alive in a fairly temperate climate. While The Girl was in labor, a nurse came in to the room to inspect clothing brought to get the baby home. She looked at the three outfits, shook her head and said “That’s it?” If a baby sneezes, it’s not because she’s clearing her nose after a feed. She must be freezing. Their pediatrician laughed – he said it is always easy to spot babies of non-Turkish mothers! He said it’s perfectly fine to not bury the baby in too much clothing and blankets. i suggested they get this in writing to ward off overly helpful street grannies…

Three weeks into the new family venture, and Ada is thriving. Parents are gaining confidence and comfort, and we are all starting to get more sleep. The days have a battle rhythm. Metin returned to work this week, i’ve been focused on meals, cleaning, laundry and making sure The Girl gets showers, plenty of fluids, and sleep.

ada

i’m sure there will be more culture clashes in the future. But for now, they’ve got this…

 

 

 

 

 

We’re captive on the carousel of time…

Seven years ago, The Boy and i hopped a plane for Istanbul to spend Christmas with The Girl. She’d accepted a job in Izmir the previous summer, and at the age of 25, moved here in July, 2011.

We spent Christmas Eve in a hotel, building the most beautiful Christmas Tree from beer bottles collected from the executive lounge. This year, my own tree is once again nestled in a box in my garage, five thousand miles away. That is perhaps the only similarity between that holiday and today.

2011: She knew no one when she moved here. She had made a few friends, was sharing an apartment with another English teacher at her school, and had a 45 minute commute to work via public bus.

2018: Her collective of friends is glorious, many couples including Turks and ex-pats. They surround her with love and support. She met and married a good man, bought a home, and continues to thrive as an English teacher in a private school.

2011: She’d studied Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at university. Not Turkish. Giving herself a crash course in the language during her first few months in country, she’d become conversant, and was able to take care of her personal business, connect with her students, and serve as an able tour guide.

2018: Fluent in the language, she can generally do rapid fire translation for me in real time. She has no trouble conversing with her in-laws, and has built friendships with vendors at the local shops. Unlike Europe, the vast majority of Turks speak no English, so she learned this by necessity.

2011: The Boy was 23, still attending university full time, and fighting The Demons that led me to believe he might not live to see 25. We were close, but i lived in constant fear of That Phone Call.

2018: He is married, with two children. After a stint in the Army, he’s made a home in the great plains, surrounded by extended family. A good government job, a fierce and gorgeous wife who has managed to tame the wild beast… When he and i were here seven years ago, this was an unimaginable future.

2011: i learned enough Turkish to order food and beer. To find a toilet. Navigate an airport or two. It wasn’t pretty, but i could generally pantomime my way through a transaction.

2018: After several visits, and over a year of online studies, i probably have the conversational skills of a small child – animals, colors, numbers, food. No problem with food/beverage, or shopping. i’ve even managed to have a few short conversations with my son-in-law’s family! They are probably more surprised than impressed, but are very supportive.

Christmas 2011

2011: The tree that year was beautiful. All that mattered was that we were together. The Boy and i were outside our comfort zone, traveling for a holiday in order to spend time with The Girl as she charted a new course for her life.

GammaRay with Bebek

2018: The tree this year? Pretty gorgeous. Seven years ago, this was also an unimaginable future. A gentle reminder from the universe that we really don’t know where we’re going…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Hello Baby!

3 a.m. It’s always 3 a.m.

After a week of lounging, walking, watching movies and Netflix, there was a knock on the guest bedroom door at 3 a.m. “It’s time! We are going to the hospital!”

The Girl had packed a bag. i was in my night shirt, but quickly threw on clothes, tossed my phone charging cords/brick into a small bag along with my toothbrush, and met them at the door.

A week past her due date, with a known big baby trying to make an entrance, the labor didn’t progress enough before there were minor signs of fetal distress around 2:00 pm. We were all a bit astonished by the speed of the staff as they whisked The Girl off to an operating room.

Her husband and i waited – only about 15 minutes later, a nurse arrived with a tiny bundle of squawk! All the fingers, all the toes, and an expression that said “Screw this! It’s cold out here!” Weighing in at 4 kgs (9 lbs), she’s almost outgrown her newborn clothes!

It was just over a week ago (on the 14th), but it seems longer. When i delivered my two spawn via c-section, i was in the hospital for about four days. The Girl was released 28 hours after delivery – high quality health care here!

For the past week, Mom, Dad, and baby are all getting used to each other. That dazed feeling of “We made this?” and “It doesn’t seem real!” and “Holy shit! We are totally responsible for this tiny human and we have no idea what we’re doing!”.

Welcome Ada

When the last grandcritter arrived, i had a fairly well defined job. Entertain the 3 year old big brother, cook/clean and take care of household stuff. This time, i had more of a ‘front line’ involvement – The Girl couldn’t lift or bend, and needed some help getting around. Taking the 3 a.m. to morning shift with the baby, making sure the exhausted parents get some sleep.

cutie

A week into the adventure, The Girl and her husband are gaining confidence. i only lend a hand when asked – and am focused on cleaning, cooking, laundry – with the added challenge of having only a basic working knowledge of the local language – but i’m proficient enough to shop!

There are several stories to share about culture shock and adjustments, but right now i’m operating on about 4 hours sleep. It will have to wait…

As excited as i was to welcome the new member of the clan, i’m just as excited to watch The Girl and her husband become parents. Somewhere along the way, her dad and i didn’t completely screw up… She’s got this.

perfection

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of babies – ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The hardest part…

Tom Petty got that bit right. The waiting. The countdown to “Due Date” seems to go into  slow motion during the final weeks of pregnancy.

i arrived in Turkey* almost a week ago. For the first time in my life, i bought a one-way ticket out of the country. My daughter let me know she was expecting right before i left for an extended trip to Spain in mid-April – she was about five weeks pregnant. As i trekked El Camino, i added weeks to the count as we crossed Spain. By the time we got home, she’d cleared the first trimester.

She and her husband traveled to the states in July, where we orchestrated a gathering of our entire clan – including my ex-husband and his wife. The first time we’d all been together since… well… pre-divorce (2004). When The Girl got married, The Boy was in the Army and couldn’t attend the wedding. The logistics were complicated but we were all together for a few days. It felt good.

The Band with Chorus RS

The rest of her pregnancy has gone well. Her school had hired an assistant/team instructor, so the transition to her maternity leave was seamless. She gets great medical care here – even with some cardiac issues, visits to the emergency room, and specialists in September, it didn’t cost her more than about $15 out of pocket**.

Yesterday was her due date, but Bebek has shown absolutely no interest in arriving on schedule. According to her obstetrician, “She’s very comfortable in there.” Bebek is already about 8 pounds. At the weekly check up yesterday, the doctor went through status, risks, options. The current plan is to let it ride for a week, with two check ups, and if nothing is happening, the delivery will be on Monday.

So we wait. We walk. It’s about 6 kilometers round trip from their home to the weekly bazaar. Their home is about a kilometer from a beautiful walkway along the Aegean Sea. It rained yesterday, so we wandered/waddled inside a gigantic mall.

Missing my travel buddy, who opted to stay home for this open-ended visit. We’ve discovered how much mindless fun it is to play with chat filters. We are dorks. We have enlisted the entire clan in this endeavor. They are dorks, too!

i’ve re-learned household routines, shopped, and planned meals to keep them fed. Put together a stroller that has more bells and whistles than my first car! Figured out their washer and dryer so i can assist with laundry.

Seeing her and her husband work through the preparations… Watching him help her put on her boots because she can’t bend over much… i’m excited to watch them become parents! They’re going to be amazing!

The waiting… Damn… It’s going to be a long week!

waiting

* The country, not the poultry.

** She gets 20 weeks paid maternity leave. Her husband gets two weeks. Paid. Her health care has been stellar, with very little out-of-pocket expense. She is a US Citizen, working and living in Turkey. The US has GOT to get its shit together on health care and family leave…

Rings a Bell

If you’ve been on board for any portion of my Trailer Park journey, you probably know that my relationship with my siblings has had many moments of “what the actual living, breathing FUCK?” After Mom died in 2014, our relationships were further tested as we worked through tons of her belongings. As executor, i was pretty stressed – meeting the intent of her instructions to me, both legally and morally.

Spending time with my sisters earlier this month, i was reminded that we’ve covered a lot of turf in the past few years. One particular exchange bubbled up into my memory bank…even though it was not discussed during our recent visit.

~~~~~~~~~

10 May 2016 – E-mail from S to DF: Mom was adamant that each of her daughters get a diamond ring which she put in the safety deposit box. I find it funny that they have just disappeared!  The one thing that Mom wanted me to have and it is nowhere to be found.  DQ [note: DQ is sister S’s daughter, and was Mom’s caretaker] knew Mom’s wishes and she would NEVER keep them.  No one else seems to be looking for them!

11 May 2016 – E-mail from DF to S: It’s taken me time to respond because of the absolute rage I’m experiencing (still) that you are accusing me of stealing the rings. This has been the angriest I’ve been in decades… I am STILL in a rage, but only now has it cleared my head enough to respond. Mom told me about the rings. I knew where they were supposed to go. They were not in the safe deposit box, nor any of the lockboxes at home. Not once did I ever suggest that DQ had taken them. Not. Once. I noticed Mom wasn’t wearing them during her hospitalization in July. I assumed they were safe. I can’t magically pull the rings out of my ass. I can’t go back in time and figure out where they are. I am beyond insulted that you are accusing me of EITHER stealing them OR not giving you something that Mom wanted you to have.

11 May 2016 – E-mail from S to DF:  I am sorry that you are so enraged about the rings.  There is nothing I can do to make them show up either.  If you don’t have them then you don’t have them.  I just want to make sure that DQ is NOT accused of taking them. Please call me – we need to talk.

12 May 2016 – E-mail from DF to S: I don’t have anything more to say. I’m furious. You accuse me of stealing (because you are worried that someone will accuse DQ of the same), question my integrity? This is not recoverable – words have consequences. It can’t be ‘talked out’.

Shortly after i sent this, i had to get in the car and drive to a regional university – i was giving a presentation that i’d worked on for months, pushing myself into new technological territory. While driving, i started getting calls, texts. i ignored them all. Arriving at the university, i took a deep breath and read my messages from S:

12 May 2016 – E-mail from S to DF: You are correct that words hurt and sometime things are said in anger that are not truly meant.  There is NO EXCUSE for the things that I have said.  To question your integrity is totally uncalled for.  For the anger and hurt that I have caused you — I’M AM TRULY SORRY!!!  What I have to tell you is that I found the rings.  Mom had put them in a box of costume jewelry that she knew I wanted and it had a ring box in it.  I took the box but never opened it.  I already had regrets for the things I have said before I found them and this makes it even worse.  Yes – I deserve it!!  I am extremely SORRY!  They mean nothing to me any more!  Losing my sister over them was not worth it!  I will send them to you to do what you want with and hope that someday you will find it in your heart to forgive me!

She found them

That all happened over two and a half years ago…

In September of this year, S and i planned our trip to Florida to spend time with sister, T, i suggested that she bring the rings – and that perhaps it would be a good time to distribute them. As S and i were preparing to leave for the airport and head home, we put the rings on T’s kitchen counter. There was no need to bring up any of the demons around the mysterious temporary disappearance of the rings.

It was 6:30 in the morning, and we were all pretty groggy. None of us were really sure which rings came from which of Mom’s three marriages, but we let T choose first. The set of two – probably from Mom’s annulled starter marriage – came to me.

We hugged. Made plans to get together again. It was what Mom had wanted – and although it took us four years, and a shit ton worth of angst to execute, we did it. And i have completely forgiven my sister…

Mom liked getting married

 

 

 

Balancing Act

Balance. With each passing day, it becomes more important.

If i lose my balance at this age, i can break a hip. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for the elderly. As with any other skill, it must be practiced – which explains why i watch the news on TV while perching on one leg. Frequently screaming obscenities at the television when the news is particularly stupid. Balance is more challenging for me when i’m standing still.

But i have not been standing still. So far this year, i’ve been out of town, or out of the country, for 18 weeks. Given that i haven’t poked my head out here since August, here’s a glimpse of what i’ve been up to since my last post.  If you want more detail, just ask! Hoping to have some time next month to write more…

  • It’s not just about balance, but flexibility. Studley’s daughter, Pixie, moved to Alaska last spring. We decided to visit her before it became too cold and dark. Two weeks of exploring a few tiny corners of the state left us both ready to go back for an extended visit!  In two weeks we barely scratched the surface. We also deployed our small town tactic – stop by the local VFW or American Legion hall for a beer. Drink cheap, talk to locals, and find out what’s going on in town.
  • Speaking of what’s going on… We went to our first regional “burn” – like Burning Man, but on a much smaller scale. We felt quite at home among the 500 or so burners assembled at the site of a reclaimed strip mine. My days of sleeping on dirt are mostly behind me, so we brought our teardrop camper. One of the requests by the organizers was that we find a way to disguise the camper to better blend into the temporary tent city. i think we did ok…
  • Speaking of camping… We’ve been off in the woods a bit this autumn. That little metal egg keeps us plenty warm down to freezing. The bourbon helps, too.
  • Speaking of bourbon… Haven’t seen much of the extended family this year – in large part due to me being gone for months at a time. When my Florida sister, T, was selected for a significant honor this month, it presented an opportunity to reconnect. Oldest sister, S, has had a tough year – she beat back another round of cancer (Lymphoma), and finally retired. We decided to grab some cheap tickets and head south. A lot of water under these bridges, but there indeed be bridges. Baby steps.
  • Speaking of babies, i miss the crap out of these two li’l critters. Max is 3, and Ellie is now 1, and they are so much fun! But The Boy and his family are 1,000 miles away. That’s harder than i expected. Even more fun? The Girl is due to shell out her first child in a few weeks – which means i’m packing a large suitcase, and preparing for a trip to Turkey (the country, not the poultry). My third grandcritter is about to arrive – and will be living 5,000 miles away.

There’s more. So much more… but i seem to either have time to live hard, or time to write. For the moment, it’s going to be “live hard”. Operation “Speedball to the Finish Line” is well underway…

Profundio del Dia

After crossing the Pyrenees, we deliberately took it slow for the first five days of our walk. Training on the trail, we began to settle into a natural rhythm – wake, pack, walk, breakfast, walk, coffee, walk, lunch, walk, find a bed, wash clothes, nap, dinner, sleep.

20

Sometimes, we walked in silence, immersed in our own thinking. Sometimes we’d talk. Early on we’d realized that there were a lot of people walking El Camino sorting out serious life issues, seeking answers. We were out there as part of our transition to ‘retired’, but not dealing with anything particularly heavy. Still expecting some insights, self-discovery, we’d joked about stumbling upon our “Profundio del Dia” – “Depth of the Day” as we went about our walk.

36a

We met Barb on our first day. She was walking El Camino to shake off some demons, and reboot her life. She holds multiple world records for power lifting – and is quite strong* –  but still struggled with the endurance required for walking uphill.  Since we were going slow, we invited her to hang with us for a few days until she got her trail legs. We’d start off together with a rough idea of where we’d end up for the day, and then meet up along the trail – walking together, yet apart.

45

Third day in, our morning coffee stop was at an outdoor cafe. Just as we sat down, a large group of boisterous Spaniards descended upon the courtyard. Whooping and hollering, the men swamped the cafe proprietor, and filled the tables. We finished up, deciding to get on our way to get ahead of their large, loud pack.

We failed.

They were everywhere – yapping on cellphones, singing, talking at extreme volume! They’d fragmented into smaller groups, and we couldn’t get ahead of them all! Destroying any chance of a peaceful, meditative walk, we finally just gave up – stopping in a field, we waited to get the racket ahead of us.

Rolling into our destination village for the day, we spotted another outdoor cafe on the edge of town. And there they were! Over two dozen loud men – singing, hollering, and infesting the entire outdoor area like giant locusts in futbol gear!

daisyfae: If those noisy bastards are staying here tonight? i’ll keep walking! i don’t care how far it is to the next village, i’m not bunking with them tonight!

We decided to at least stop for lunch. Walking into the cafe, we found Barb, already having coffee and a snack.

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Barb: Do you see this group of men?

daisyfae: Oh, hell yeah! We see ’em.

Barb: They saved my life today! i was struggling to get up that last hill, crying. They surrounded me. That one? With the bright yellow shirt? He took my pack and carried it for me. And that one? The older man? He walked beside me, helping me keep my head up to make it easier to breathe. They don’t speak any English, but it didn’t matter! They are amazing.

daisyfae: ….

On this day, Profundio del Dia slapped us both upside the head: One man’s asshole is another man’s savior.

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* Training to lift heavy things does not include any cardio training. In fact, she told us that cardio reduces strength, and when training she would avoid it like the plague!