Undetermined Hiatus

In all honesty, I just haven’t been feeling the blog thing for the past few weeks. And, I can’t say why (maybe because I hate summer? maybe my post-surgery self has other priorities? maybe the Schneebelis want this to be over with? No idea…) I’m a little fractious and frustrated. Also, I have to say, the demise of the Daily Prompt was like, “OK, stop doing this now.” I was impressed that people wanted to pick up the baton, but I also thought “Why?” Still, ultimately, I let people down after volunteering to post prompts for Rag Tag Daily Prompt.

It could be that after five years and nine hundred million blog posts, I’m just finished and have nothing more to say. I really don’t know. But I’m not able to maintain my own rules as a writer and a reader at the moment.

Other bloggers have stopped — I know because there are three whose absence I STILL notice even though it’s been a while. Others have shifted to writing when they feel like it. I don’t know what I’m going to do or where this will take me, whether I’m finished or in a transition.

All that being said, I really cherish the friendships I’ve made here over the years and since most of you have other ways of contacting me and being contacted, I hope that just because I won’t be here any more won’t mean we lose contact with each other.

Saluté!!!

Slogging Along

Since my hip replacement roughly two months ago, I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m at the point with my Blessed Airdyne that I’m riding 10 miles in about 30 minutes, and I do intervals which is challenging and keeps it from being completely boring. Since the biggest problem I’m contending with now is a knee as bad as was my hip — and the non-surgical solution to that is weight loss (and I’m absolutely willing) — I did some research to find out what I have to do to make the Airdyne a weightloss tool. You know, besides, basically, ride it. 🙂 I have arthritic knees which makes a bike (stationary or otherwise) a perfect tool for rehab and fitness especially as I HATE the other good exercise, swimming. I even found a video of some buff guy working out (doing intervals) on a machine exactly like mine:

But when I researched how FAR I need to ride to lose weight, I got useless information. “Ride 60 to 90 minutes five days a week for weight loss.” This means NOTHING. A person can go 1 mph and that’s not going to work. The question is HOW FAR? (Or, alternatively, how fast for how long).

A long long time ago when I was a kid I had like a baby science book. In that book was an illustration of two chairs, both nailed to the floor, each with a feather on the seat. In picture one, a guy (in a toga, no one knows why) struggled to lift the chair off the floor. Sweat sprayed from his face and body (ah, that explains the toga; it helped show how hard he was endeavoring to lift the chair). The other toga-clad lad had lifted the feather from the seat of the chair. THAT was the physics definition of work. He had succeeded in lifting the feather and transporting it somewhere. That stuck in my mind.  The first guy struggled; the second guy worked, so when I googled “How far should I ride my bike for weightloss” in other words how many miles (real or virtual) do I need to move this feather if I hope to lose weight. I got,

As you get comfortable spending more time in the saddle, schedule longer rides during the week. If you do three cycling workouts each week, complete one short ride (30 minutes), make one ride a moderate duration (45 minutes), and set a goal to ride one longtour (60 to 120 minutes) each week

I kept googling questions involving “how far” for both stationary and actual bicycles and kept getting the same answers. No mention of “distance.”

Therefore, to lose body fat, you want to burn as many calories as possible during your stationary bike workouts. Increasing your workouts from 30 to 60 minutes is ideal. According to Harvard Health, a 155 pound person will burn about 520 calories per hour of bicycling at a moderate pace. The stationary bike is not the most effective cardio activity to burn calories, so longer workouts are more ideal.

Added to that absurdity is the phrase “more ideal.” Ideal is the, uh, ideal. There’s nothing above it.

So… long long ago I remember learning an equation that 1 mile walking is roughly equal to two miles riding a bike AT ANY SPEED. Because what matters is how far you take the damned feather.

Soon I’ll be taking the real bike out of the garage and riding it. It’s pretty boring to ride a stationary bike all the time. My dog walks aren’t going to be very far for a while, and I really really really want to put off knee surgery as long as I can.

The other slog is the Schneebelis. I spent part of the morning describing their log cabins and gardens. I have to say this about my upbringing. I grew up out here in the last frontier (other than space)  and log cabins are still common sights everywhere I’ve lived (except downtown Denver and San Diego). All I have to do if I want to see a log cabin is saddle up Bear or Dusty and head across the golf course, so there is a dirth of excitement in this writing about log cabins and pioneer kitchen gardens, but I’m doing it. It must be done and after it’s done it will be edited (yay!) so perhaps readers will not have to slog as I am through the historical remnants of Schneebelian life.

Oh, the cabin in the photo up top was built by one of my ancestors, a guy named Jacob Leber. He was from the mountain area near Lucerne. It was built in York County, PA but moved in the 1980s. He built it over a stream which was apparently a common thing to do. All I can say is the streams back east must be a lot more predictable than the streams out here.

Slogging is OK. I just requires patience and faith. Also the understanding that maybe it won’t work, but at least you don’t have to live without having given it a shot. I’ve gotten pretty skillful at slogging by now.

As for the word of the day? Forgive me but I have no clue what to do with clew in any of its meanings. At least now I know it for if someday I need it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/rdp-38-clew/

Vanity…

Just got home from the supermarket and I am tussling with vanity and reality. And I want to punch a self-important little gay kid in the face and say, “Dude, when you’re 66 you see how it is for you, you little faggot!” I know he’s gay because — besides the obvious — he’s wearing a very conspicuous rainbow ring and speaks with the kind of lithp one might pick up from TV or movies as part and parcel of the identity. I have nothing against gay anybody — one of my most beloved boyfriends also happened to be gay — and a person’s gender preference is none of my fucking business (and vice versa) BUT we’re talking major advertising.

OK everyone’s shocked but here’s what happened.

I pull into a lane to check out my groceries. I’m behind an extremely obese man about my age in a motorized cart with his groceries in front of him as one who uses such a cart is likely to do. He’s fine. He’s typical. He’s got on a blue and white gingham shirt, red suspenders and a c’boy hat.

“Are you with him?” asks the child wearing the store badge, the rainbow ring, a Roger Waters moustache and is clearly a checker.

“WHAT?” I ask a question that means many many things beyond “I didn’t hear you.”

“Are you with this gentleman? Because if you aren’t, I’ll check you out on lane 5.”

“Cool,” I say and follow him to where he can do his job briskly and as he was trained including annoying the shit out of the people behind me by explaining to me my receipt (because I’ve never seen one before?) “If you give me a review you’ll get extra fuel points.”

You don’t want my review, child. You do not want what I would say.

I would like to meet ONE woman who EMBRACES being old, who loves gray hair and a body that responds to neither diet nor exercise, who thinks walking with a limp is the be-all and end-all of human experience. Who KNOWS that no matter WHAT she does, she is never going to look all that good. She might look fine. She might look “attractive for her age” or “that color is great on you” but (with rare exceptions) she’s never going to be pretty (except for her age). My Aunt Martha, for example, was a 9 — maybe even a 10 — for 80. Except, maybe, for the chin hairs.

How in hell would I be with a grotesquely obese old man? And why did I feel insulted by the kid’s assumption? And why didn’t he just say, “I can help you on number 5. ‘Hubby’ would’ve come along had that been the case.

And what about hubby? How did he get there? Broken back? Farming acccident? War wound? What right did I have to be insulted by the kid’s assumption? That’s the part that bothers me most. Yes, the kid had poor social skills, but I’m a superficial bitch.

With whom WOULD I be if I were with someone? That’s a moot question. I wouldn’t be with anyone. I’m not and it’s (pretty much) by choice. Mr. Right probably DID come along but I’ve never been Ms. Right. Too emotionally warped. And am I so superficial that I am insulted that this little twerp would think someone as spellbindingly lovely as I would be with a fat old guy wearing red suspenders shopping from a motorized wheelchair? Yes. I am that superficial. Exactly that superficial.

And I feel bad about it — and that’s weird, too, because how many times was I NOT asked to dance in bars because I wear glasses and, though pretty, nothing flashy or glamorous? I can tell you. I was NEVER asked to dance back in the “what’s your sign” days.  As a friend said of me once, to a guy she wanted me to meet, “You won’t notice her when she walks into the room, but after 20 minutes, you won’t see anyone else. Martha is THAT interesting.”

Maybe the guy in the wheelchair is interesting, too. I don’t know.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/rdp-37-embrace/

Aunt Jo

In the photo above is my Aunt Jo, my cousin, Linda, Linda’s mom, my Aunt Kelly, and my mother. This was our kitchen in Englewood, Colorado, so I’m guessing it was Thanksgiving 1958. I would have been six.

Literally two minutes before I lost contact with the world last week because wild-fires burned down microwave towers in the mountains, I got an email from a cousin telling me my Aunt Jo had died. It was no surprise. For a long period in early spring/late winter she’d been in hospice care AND she was 95 years old. Then the internet went down and my phone went dead. At first I figured, “24 hours” but it just went on for five days. I worked on my novel and attempted to use the WIFI at the library (it worked once) then I gave up until my neighbor told me about free WIFI at the park.

But even then… I didn’t contact my cousin — my Aunt Jo’s son —  or anyone. I meant to but what I had to say was something beyond words. When I finally did text my cousin I said I was happy that now he had his freedom. That may sound cold, but the past 7 years have been a long haul for him caring for a woman with whom he had a complicated relationship and who also had dementia. That’s families for you. I understand. I was raised by a woman who didn’t like me, and I was stuck at the end with her, making arrangements and taking her verbal abuse. It’s not all happiness in family life and, finally, even the sorrow isn’t clear.

 

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Aunt Jo showing her grand-daughter, Monica and my niece, Andrea, meadowlark eggs

I loved my Aunt Jo very much and we were close, good friends. She gave me something I needed very badly and that was the truth about my own mother and her treatment of me. Anyone who’s known or been in a relationship with a sociopath KNOWS that they have the ability to alter your perception of reality, and I grew up knowing something was true and yet unable to believe it.

One night a few years after my mom died, my Aunt Jo (next in line in the family birth order) sat me down and talked to me straight about it, how it appeared to her, to my Aunt Dickie and my Aunt Martha. It was a moment of intense revelation to me because I KNEW the truth inside me, but was not able to believe it. An example, let’s say I had an appointment with the school counselor (something that happened every year for every kid). The morning of that event my mom would say, “I know what you’ll do. You’ll make up some story that I beat you.”

In fact, she didn’t exactly BEAT me but I could count on a fair share (nice use of irony?) of face slaps, arm bruises, shaking and so on. Her tendency was more toward psychological sadism than physical abuse. Usually all the school counselor wanted to talk to us about were our grades — but my mom’s defensiveness about her behavior and fear that I might tell someone is pretty interesting in retrospect.

I never knew until that night with my Aunt Jo that anyone noticed. I NOW know that her sisters closest to my mom in age had noticed everything, and all of them tried in their own way to mitigate the hurt

Beyond all that ugliness was a lot of wonder in my Montana extended family. There were seven sisters, and my Aunt Jo was the second to youngest. She was outgoing, could tell a good story, liked people, worked hard to earn money working at the school cafeteria, then a gardening shop, went to florist school, worked as a florist, worked in the hospital gift shop. She grew apple trees and beautiful gardens. One year — 8 years ago — she and my uncle planted three little cherry tomato plants in a big, red wagon and named them “the kids.” They moved them to the sunny spots in their yard all day.

My brother and I stayed with them for a few months in the late 1950s and during that time I learned an important lesson in my life. My two older cousins (boys) teased me constantly and some days (like the one they hung my Tiny Tears doll from a noose in a cottonwood tree) were awful. That day, after dinner and dishes, my Aunt Jo took me out to the front porch and taught me to count my blessings. She went first. She said, “I don’t have a little girl of my own, but I get to have you as my little girl for a little while.”  I don’t remember mine but I guess it was that I was grateful that Uncle Hank made the boys cut my doll down from the tree. We had to come up with ten blessings and we did this every night after supper.

What a life skill!!!!

I know a lot more about the lives of my mom and her sisters now and how they grew up. I don’t know if counting their blessings was part of it, but it seems to me it might have been. I do know that right now though I’m sad that I will never see any of them again I am grateful that I knew them and that even without my knowing it, they looked out for me. I am grateful for the years — the Christmases and summer weeks — I got to spend as an adult with my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank after my mother died. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have known them — all of us as grownups —  for all our conversations, for the jokes and for the love and understanding that we shared

 

Milk Can!

Five days without Internet were good, interesting, would’ve been fine if my phone and internet weren’t connected. That was a little scary. Learning I could use free wifi in the park was good — once a day, check in and make phone calls while I watch people walk their dogs and have picnics. I don’t like that park much — one side of it is along the highway and there is no fence. If I were building a park there I’d sure put up a fence along that side anyway, but I’m not in charge.

I learned how much time I WASTE online. Incredible. I started wondering what is the point of Facbook? I’m still wondering that. I wondered about my blog, too. Every single day. In five years, I have written more than 2000 of these things, and while some say something, most don’t.

During this interval, I also learned about radio in the San Luis Valley — several Christian stations with strong signals, lots of country music with strong signals, a couple of rock-ish stations that have to offer something for everyone so mix up hip-hop with Tom Petty (make my teeth itch, both extremes). And there’s PBS which has always been far too earnest for me. It’s like (for me) listening to Eeyore. BUT I got fire updates with NO national news (imagine!!!!)

I made progress on the Schneebelis writing every morning while Dusty waited for his coffee, time usually dedicated to this blog.

The smoke smell is strong today. The firelines that were doing a pretty good job yesterday were mocked and ridiculed by the fire over night and we’re back to zero containment. Really NOTHING is going to do anything to that fire except humidity and rain. There is a marginal probability of rain this afternoon so anyone so inclined please pray or dance for rain in Southern Colorado. This is supposed to be the beginning of the wet season but…

Meanwhile, Bear and I discovered the golf course was closed for the fourth of July so we had some independence in where we walked. We left no trace; it’s our secret. I’m now teaching myself to walk up and down hills. There are some small ones at the high school. Rehab takes a lot of time and patience and the other day at Physical Therapy I had a short sinking spell that maybe the problem isn’t my joints per se but that I’m old and there’s only one fix for that.

In two weeks the entire slough is open for walking and I look forward to that.

As for my blog — I’m not sure. My books are (on the relevancy scale of the Universe) only a very small positive number, but they matter to me. My blog is a slightly larger positive number, but I’m not sure about it, either. I might be running out of things of pith and moment to share with the world.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/05/rdp-35-trace/

Fire!

About two weeks ago I was driving over this road in happy anticipation of bringing home Dusty and Bear. I’m in no danger from this fire. It’s more than 80 miles to the east up in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and I’m not heading that way.

We had a very dry and warm winter, and as I headed over the pass I thought, “Wow, it’s so dry this year, the grass didn’t even turn green.” It all looked like tinder to me. Fire is part of nature’s usual occupation, but the size and frequency of these wildfires has increased since the 1980s and I don’t really give a rat’s ass whether you “believe” in climate change or not. To me, these fires are proof. The other side of that proof is that it snows less and hurricanes are more vicious. Whether humankind “caused” this is perhaps a debatable issue, and I know that there have been major climate variations throughout history, but I also believe that we should do whatever we can to mitigate any effect we MAY have had. Scientists generally agree that humans have affected the change in the climate and I am proud to be in a place where there’s a direct effort made to generate energy from sources other than coal and gas.

We are not all living in the same historical moment but I guess that’s always been the case with humanity.

The somewhat up-to-date statistics on this fire are:

2

Last year Montana, California and Washington were burning. This year is our turn. The terrain is very rugged (it’s the Rocky Mountains) and bark beetles (who LOVE drought) have killed a lot of pine trees over the past decade, so there is lots of dead wood up there for the fire to enjoy.

My feelings about fire are mixed. I have been through one — in 2003 I was living in a small mountain town in California when what is now the second largest fire hit. I was evacuated from my house for ten days. The fire was not completely out for more than three months and it burned the southernmost rain forest in North America. By the time the fire was fully contained, it had destroyed 2,820 buildings (including 2,232 homes) and killed 15 people, including one firefighter. We were traumatized — naturally — and the other night when the smoke from the Spring Fire wafted in this direction, I woke up suddenly, my heart pounding. I could almost hear the sheriff as I had heard him that night in 2003, “You must all evacuate to Mountain Empire High School. Good luck.”

In many circumstances, “Good luck” are two of the grimmest words in the English language. If all you have to count on is luck, you’re fucked.

Because I lived in those mountains, I got to see what happened next. It was fascinating to watch the resurrection of that wild world with plants that had little opportunity with the tall trees keeping them from the sun — chokecherries, wild lilac, and, naturally, the very beautiful fireweed thrived in the fertile ground left by ash. Some seeds need fire in order to germinate (redwood trees, for example). As I hiked around I thought about fire and nature — it’s not fire that’s the problem. Fire’s necessary — the problem is the SCALE. I wasn’t the only person who had this idea, I guess, because in the ensuing decade when I still lived there, firefighters routinely and carefully burned small fires to cut down on the underbrush and make it more difficult for another massive fire to blast through another several hundred thousand acres.

Did it work? Not really. Last year an even larger fire hit California along with several other very large fires.

Another fire currently burning in Colorado, in the area of Durango, has been burning for nearly a month and firefighters don’t believe it will be extinguished until the snow falls.

So that’s where I’ve been for the last five days — no internet, no phone, did learn about free internet at the local park and made some use of that. A very pleasant experience, too, sitting on a bench watching people walk their dogs. I can’t take mine there (it’s boring anyway) but it was sweet to see all the people doing their laps on the little track (3/4 mile) and to hear and see the family picnics.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/rdp-34-resurrect/

 

“Are we THERE Yet?”

Milestones are important for kids. You see them on bedrooom walls, doorways, closets. “Look, mom, I used to be only THIS tall!” But even old folks such as myself have some good milestones. Monday will be the 8 week milestone post-op from my hip replacement. That actually means something in terms of what I can do. I don’t know what yet, but I’m sure someone will tell me.

I’ve had a lot of those types of milestones in the past two months. The milestone of no longer having bad bones in my hip, the milestone of not needing to wear TED hose (my fave), the milestone of being done shooting myself in the abdomen with blood thinners, the best milestone of bringing the dogs home from the boarding kennel.

Right now the mountains to the east of me are burning and they are burning fast. People live up there — some people I know — so that adds to the fear. The fire has grown quickly — from a few hundred acres two days ago to tens of thousands of acres this morning. These are milestones no one needs.

I am bewildered again by humanity and particularly the leadership in this country. That fuckhead in the White House is more worried about us understanding there was no “collusion” than by the fact that the southwestern part of the nation he allegedly leads is in a desperate drought or by the possibility that people could do something to mitigate the change in climate that I, this one little person, this tiny irrelevant self, has witnessed in my lifetime (his lifetime, too.) I know there have always been forest firest. I KNOW it’s part of nature’s way, I know there are trees (redwoods for one) that need fire for the seeds to open and germinate, but NOT on the scale we witness now. Not just that — walking the dogs yesterday, soon after I hit our little trail I stomped out a still burning cigarette butt.

So the mountains burn — several fires in Colorado right now just as there were in Montana, Washington and California last year — and peoples’ lives displaced and humanity as thoughtless as ever.

In other news, I spoke with the woman who’s helped me edit two of my other novels about where to go with The Schneebelis Go to America and it was a GREAT conversation. Now I have direction and it looks like I might reach the milestone of finishing it in a way I can live with. 🙂

Here is my “milestone” for next Monday (hopefully).

 

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Short hike to Elephant Rocks

 

Up top is my milestone for marking “You’re not really much of a cripple any more.” Hiking along San Francisco Creek. Who knows how far, but it’ll be fun.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/29/rdp-29-milestone/

“You look great!”

“You’ve lost weight! Maybe ten pounds!”

“Yeah, well, so would you if you had surgery, ended up with a horrific case of thrush from the antibiotics so you couldn’t eat, then got fifty-million different opioids that killed your appetite. It’s a done deal.”

“No, really, you’re leaner and straighter.”

“You’d be straighter too if some guy cut you open and sawed out worn and crooked bones and replaced them with extra parts from the Tin Man. You’d be straighter.”

“Good job. Sometime tell me how you managed to reduce so fast!”

And this, folks, is how some (not all!!!) people actually do listen to each other. Cracks me up.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/28/rdp-28-reduce/

Pain and Pleasure

Yesterday at physical therapy I was standing there doing tug-o-war with my therapist. Yeah, it’s an exercise. I’m supposed to hold still while he attempts to move me away from my center by pulling in one direction or the other. It’s a hip strengthening and stabilizing exercise. The tool involved is stretchy. Once that was finished, we moved on to his pulling me (using the same stretchy tool) from the front. I was thinking about how great it’s been to be able to safely do so many things I want (and more that I don’t want, like yard work) so quickly after surgery thanks all the physical work I did before the surgery, the miles and miles on the bike-to-nowhere, the dog walks that were often excruciating.

“You need to give me a challenge,” I said to Ron, grinning. “I’m pretty strong.”

“You are,” he said. “You know, I think you’re ready to walk on uneven ground.”

“I have been.”

“Where?” I told him about our walks out at Shriver/Wright Wildlife Refuge with the heat the the horseflies, how beautiful it was, how silent and empty (because who wants to walk in heat with horseflies? Only a dedicated idiot stoic like me, I guess). “It’s mostly flat, but there are some little — very little — hills.” My new thing is finding hills. Not big hills, but hills.

I had been thinking that I’m now able to walk my dogs at the slough and do a lot of other things because of the way I was raised. I felt grateful to those “cowboys” who raised me to be tough and to have a sense of humor about it. There wasn’t a lot of indulgence in the Kennedy household. In my mind’s “ear” I heard my mom say, “Quit yer bellyaching,” followed by a slap across the face as enforcement.

I literally grew up expecting pain. One friend a long time ago called me a masochist, but that’s not it at all. A masochist LIKES pain. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t surprise me. What has surprised me is NOT feeling pain. That’s amazing.

I wonder how I would have raised children to expect both pain and pleasure and take neither for granted, to understand pain enough to know that it may be transitory but maybe not; it may need to be dealt with. Still, it’s universal to all people and so should inspire compassion. I would want to raise them to understand pleasure is also transitory and somewhat random, but can be the fruit of their kindness to others — which is intentional and which they can choose and can ameliorate a lot of the pain in the world.

All in all, the cowboy stoicism with which I was raised seems to have been a good thing, though I could’ve done without the slaps. It looks like I’ll be doing that mountain hike two months earlier than originally projected. ❤ Thanks mom.

Stoicism: an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/rdp-27-indulgence/