Care in the Era of COVID-19

i’m taking it seriously, but not panicking*…

Coming back from Turkey in February, i watched Heathrow airport go from “Busy, multi-national transportation hub” to “Refugee camp” within minutes of the flight cancellations due to weather. The news from Wuhan, China was coming out, and some people standing in the lines were wearing masks, but the vast majority weren’t. Things could go from ‘normal’ to ‘extra-crunchy’ very quickly.

When i got home, Studley and i started adding a few extras to the weekly shopping cart, thinking about what we’d need to manage being stuck at home while battling the flu for a couple of weeks. We made soups, and filled our freezers. Not panicked – prepared.

On Thursday this week, our Governor announced dramatic closures across the state as a pre-emptive method of limiting the spread. Schools closed for at least 3 weeks, no public gatherings greater than 100 people. Major sports leagues canceled seasons.

More people paid attention, and then the run on the grocery stores started.

i looked for places to volunteer. One major concern nationally is that so many of our children rely on school lunches for their main meals of the day.**  With prolonged closures, the state, school districts, and community volunteers rallied to come up with a means to get food to those in need.

Going to the page for volunteers, i started to put in my info as a delivery driver. i was stopped cold by “Must be under 50 years old”…

That was the first time it occurred to me that at 57, with a somewhat compromised immune system, i’m….. uh…. i’m a little more at risk than others.

Later that day, i got a text from a young friend – Oktay and his wife are originally from Turkey. i met them at a local gathering of Turkish immigrants. We’ve stayed connected – they coach me on my Turkish, and i bring them treats when i visit!

Oktay’s text: I hope you are doing well. Please let me know if you need anything. I will be more than happy to help you. Don’t go outside unless necessary. Again, if you need anything I will go outside for you and drop it to your house. Just text me or call me!”

(sigh)

i had been preparing to call a few of my neighbors, who are in their 70’s and 80’s with the same offer…

it me

Maybe i’m going to have to sit this one out….or come up with other ways to support the community.

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*On the bright side? We’re all learning how to spell new words, like “panicked” and “quarrantine”…

**Don’t get me started on this national disgrace. Food insecurity is rampant in the US. Don’t let our obesity fool you, healthy food isn’t available to all. Processed, filled, corn-based, shit food is cheap, and has to do for many families…

Days for Girls… and Retired Women.

i’m old. It’s been many years since i’ve dealt with menstruation.* When i was new to the cycle, it was a pain in the ass – heavy, bulky, pads, anchored to elasticized belts that were all we had in the stone ages of the 70’s.

The liberation of tampons found me during high school! “You mean i can go swimming at the lake with my friends this weekend? Hell, yes!”

i was privileged. Globally, it’s not quite that simple.

Such conveniences are not readily available, and there are tremendous cultural barriers. Many girls are stuck at home – missing one week of school each month. Many are STILL forced to resort to rags, mattress stuffing, banana leaves, feathers – whatever is handy to manage menstruation.

Celeste Mergens was working with a family foundation near Nairobi, Kenya in 2008, assisting an orphanage.** She recognized that the options for dealing with periods were limited – she first tried supplying disposable pads, but that it was not viable, or sustainable. Days for Girls was born…

Kits, with cloth-based, pretty, washable, and long-lasting components — with education — were the solution. Since Days for Girls was founded, more than 1 million women and girls have been assisted, in over 125 countries world wide.

What's in a kit

Where do the kits come from? Volunteers. A global network of volunteers, organized in local groups, diligently make the kits to a prescribed standard. Other volunteers are trained to do distribution and education.

i stumbled upon a local group about a year ago. Went to a monthly gathering. Fell in love with the mission.  For two hours each month, i join a diverse group of retired women. The group leader has arranged work stations – cutting, ribbon sealing, folding, packing, grommeting. The sewing is done off-site during the month by a cadre of skilled volunteers (not me).

workstations

And now i am the Grommet Queen.

Happy chatter. “How are the kids?” “Has Marge recovered from the fall?” “Did you get tickets to the game?” But mostly we are focused on our tasks. i measure, punch holes, set up the grommet thingie, apply grommets. Repeat.

home of the grommet queen

i was happy this month – in 2 hours i completed 60 pad holders. As i make them, i offer kind thoughts and encouragement to the woman or girl who will someday use this as part of her kit. “You go, li’l sister! Being a woman should not get in your way.”

There was a time in my life where i enjoyed being in a leadership role. Helping re-start a bicycle advocacy group, being on a high-visibility board or two, being a mouthpiece for a cultural organization. What i’ve learned is that there is deep joy, and satisfaction, in being nothing more than a useful pair of hands.

i can’t fix all that is wrong in the world. All i can really do is chip away at it… one grommet at a time.

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*After breeding, i opted for a tubal ligation in 1999. Ten years later, i chose uterine ablation – a procedure which fries the lining of the uterus, eliminating the montly cycle. Back then, i was recently divorced, and decided that the annoyance of a period would be a buzzkill to my aggressive “dating”… (cough, cough). Menopause, for me, was a year of being hyper-emotional, with the occasional ‘thrash night’ in bed, due to overheating. 

** More about Celeste, and Days for Girls at their website.

A Parent…

When i left home for university, i was just 18. Other than a few weeks the following summer, i never lived with my parents again. Due to a combination of sheer will, and a bit of luck, i did not ‘bounce’ back. The youngest of the four children in my family, i was the only one who managed to make it to adulthood without a temporary return to the nest. They had worked hard to raise us all, and by the time i got to 18 they were tired. So very tired. i didn’t want to pile on heartache.

With my own children, it was a little different. The Girl moved back in after graduation, while pursuing work in the Foreign Service. She worked full time, saved money, studied for her exams. She was an excellent room mate and citizen of the household. Her cooking and baking skills were greatly appreciated (the best tabbouleh i’ve ever had). She was here about a year and a half before setting out for her life abroad.

The Boy? Bounced back a few times during The Wilderness Years*, while fighting his way through The Gargantuan State University. When he left school, to work full time on the road, he used my place as a mailing address, and would be home for a week a month. We had to revisit house rules, but he became a decent room mate.  When he enlisted in the Army, we both knew his time living with me was coming to an end – and we enjoyed each others company more than ever.

The Girl was really gone eight years ago. The Boy? Five. They are far enough away that time spent with them is rare, and quite precious. When The Girl comes home for a month in the summer, i adjust my schedule to accommodate another person in the household. There isn’t much she can do to annoy me. i know it’s brief. i know she has to go home again. The same with visits with The Boy. The chaos is disruptive, but never in a bad way.

What i’ve discovered is an ache – something new for my parental angst inventory. When they are headed home, or when i’m leaving after an extended visit, my heart simply hurts. It’s physical. It’s not debilitating, and it doesn’t last for more than a week or so… Just a soft blanket of melancholy.

It was my hope to raise independent, functional adults, living lives of deliberate choice. Clearly, in that way i succeeded.

When Mom died, i was surprised to find her calendar notes, carefully tracking my planned business trips, up until the month she died. She always asked questions about where i was headed, and i didn’t give it much thought. i think she just needed to know where on earth her kid was, even though the ‘kid’ was in her 50’s.

Looking back, i realize that the fiercely independent girl who left home at 18, determined to never ‘bounce’, wanting to spare her parents heartache failed. It can’t be avoided.

parenting - the hole truth

Source: The Artwork of Chad Knight(Digital Artist)

 

*Should be a trademark of kono over at The Asshat Lounge. If you’re not reading his blog, you are missing some of the sharpest, darkest, most honest writing on the internet. 

Trailer Park 2.0

Drinking whiskey and diet ginger ale in a sippy cup, while taking a shower on a Sunday night*, i felt something i haven’t felt in almost a year. The urge to write. Not because something was bothering me, gnawing at my innerds, driving me to hoark it up, sort it out, and blast it into the ether. Not because i felt a sense of obligation either. Just because i missed doing it.

So. Here we are.

Due to the confluence of my engagement with social media, the death of my mother, and a reduced number of active blogmates, i just sort of wandered off. i missed it (mostly the social connections), but i no longer needed it. i also didn’t have much time – still working 40 hours a week, plus travel, i didn’t have much downtime.

The more i’m learning about social media, however, the less i’ve been playing in that space. There is no doubt that we are all being exploited – driven to outrage – as a means to divide us further. Clicks are dollars, and outraged people click the shit out of clickbait articles.

Who is doing this? Does it matter? It’s happening. i want nothing to do with it.

My facebook, and instagram use is mostly for sharing travel pictures, event/charity planning and promotion, farting around, and staying in touch with those i genuinely enjoy. i love seeing my friends living their lives – my favorite days on social media are ‘back to school’ and halloween, because of the amazing pictures people share!

i’ve curated my feed to drastically reduce “outrage” posters – right, left, libertarian, or just the generally outraged. Many in my networks have culled their networks to a like-minded choir. Yes, there is comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your outrage, but it really doesn’t change anything.

The challenges i face these days are no longer complex family dynamics, raising strong-willed and/or self-destructive offspring, balancing end-of-career issues while figuring out how to retire.

What i wrangle with these days are issues of extreme privilege. “When should we plan our trip to Machu Picchu?” “Can we go to the regional burn and still be back in town for the festival we’re working?” “When will i have time to remodel my bathroom with all of the travel?”  Yeah. It’s pretty obnoxious.

Underlying this is something a bit deeper, though – planning the final season of my life. Making myself harder to kill while simultaneously preparing to die. Not a topic that lends itself to social media – unless you are able to guide your life by an endless series of clever memes and clickbait listicles.

For tonight? i’m gonna pack up my suitcase. Joining the holiday air travel scrum in the morning as we head west to visit The Boy and his family**. My grandson has already told me what kind of cupcakes he wants us to bake, and we’re going to bake those cupcakes. There is no reason you can’t have vampire cupcakes at Thanksgiving.

Max makes a cupcake

*i am, in fact, a grown ass woman. i do not judge others for wine in a bubble bath, beer on a patio. don’t judge me for my means of self care…

**A sentence that was inconceivable just five years ago.

You should be dancin’…

“There are nine members of the family – we will need two cars to get them to their medical appointment. Can you help?”

For the past several years, i’ve been supporting the mission of our local Refugee Resettlement program. The vast majority of arrivals in my city are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Most of my transportation runs are to get 2-3 family members to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for official ID cards, or taking one person to a medical appointment.

The primary language in DRC is French – and mine is pretty rusty. i’ve learned a couple words in Swahili, but my comprehension is non-existent. So i start with music – something upbeat, fun, targeting Beatles, Michael Jackson, and other international pop icons. As we get settled in the car, i tell them “i’m going to play some music!” and then we roll.

It seems to work.

Many times, while traveling abroad, i’ve been in a situation where i’m in a taxi and do not speak the language of the driver. It’s a little more comfortable if the driver is playing music, and happily bopping along. The best way to crush the awkward silence.

So i sing. i car dance.

Many arrivals from the DRC have been waiting a long time to get here. They have experienced things that i cannot comprehend. But my job is transport. i do not ask. Drive the car, and be-bop to the tunes. Assist with the paper work, pulling out the ol’ Google Translator as needed.

My SUV will comfortably transport 7 adults. For the large family transport run, it was me and 6 others, ranging in age from 4 to 19 years old. Mom, Dad, and the adorable 2 year old went with the other driver.  The oldest daughter rode up front with me, and the rest of the children were tucked into the back.

Her English was pretty good. When i said “i like to play music” she said “That’s good!” and away we went! It was early October, and when “Thriller” came on, it seemed that even the younger members of the family recognized it.

“Dance Party!” i announced – and we all hit it hard, while cruising downtown toward the public health clinic for their appointment. Smiles, laughs, expert moves, and genuine curiosity about the crazy white-haired granny gettin’ down with her bad self behind the wheel of the Ford truck!

The original plan was to have another driver pick them up in a couple hours, but i let the program coordinator know that i was available that afternoon if needed. He sent me back downtown to assist with pick up. My heart turned to mush when i was greeted in the lobby by smiling, dancing children.

We car danced the entire drive home. And i cried a little after i said goodbye.

When i first started supporting the program, i wanted to only do housing set up, or collect items to support arriving refugees. i was afraid to work directly with the clients. Reluctantly, i agreed to start doing client transport – because that was the greatest need.

Getting outside of my comfort zone has led to the most rewarding volunteer gig i’ve ever had…

Multicolored futuristic wings on white background

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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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.

37

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!