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Friday, November 09, 2012

Head Games

It is clear that middle age is upon me.  I turned 50 earlier this year and, I must say, it's all gone to hell in the last 30 days.  I was what I thought a vibrant sort of guy.   The gym, yoga, boot camp class, treadmill, weight lifting, worked a full schedule, got up early, took fish oil/B complex/multi vitamin/aspirin, ate well, didn't smoke, drinks only occasionally, and had a (fairly) good attitude.  Umm yeah.  All of that has been placed on the back burner. 

Three or so weeks ago, the headache, eye pain, and neck ache began along with a droopy left eye.  My first thought was stroke.  But the diagnosis was Horner's Syndrome.  I'd never heard of it.  After that, the quest was to find the cause for the Horner's.  One of my two neurologists sent me for a CT scan of the brain, neck and chest which returned a startling discovery -- bilateral dissected carotid arteries.  And that was one week ago today.  Critical.  Cardiovascular surgeon was placed on hold pending my further assessment.  "You need to return to the hospital and check yourself in immediately."  The risk for stroke was high.  I spent last weekend in the hospital with LoverBoy right next to me on a cot.  I have determined that hospitals are not for resting and recouperating.  They are noisy, busy, interruptive, repeatedly answering the same questions, and listening to crazy patients in the rooms next door.  I had eight or ten doctors visit me in my room.  Excellent care and nursing staff. 

Let's talk about the cause for the dissection of the arteries for a minute.....I have no definitive idea why mine happened.  Yoga?  Gym?  Weight lifting?  Twisting my neck wrong?  The list of possibilities is long and includes: 
  • Neck extension during hair-washing at a beauty parlor
  • Chiropractic manipulation of the neck
  • Whiplash injuries
  • Blunt trauma to the neck
  • Extreme neck extension during yoga
  • Painting a ceiling
  • Coughing, vomiting and sneezing
  • Neck extension while receiving mouth-to-mouth during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
I left the hospital shooting myself in the stomach twice daily with Lovenox, a blood thinner.  This medication was accompanied by the world famous and widely prescribed "rat poison" Coumadin/Warfarin.  As soon as the Coumadin was at the proper level of thinning my blood, I would terminate the Lovenox shots.  That happened yesterday.  My blood is thin enough, but not too thin, now they say.  This Coumadin regimen will continue for the next six months -- Blood draws to check the levels every few days or a week, maybe up to a month.  I will repeat the CT scan then.  The cardiovascular surgeon fully expects that the dissection of the carotids will have healed itself by then.  I had no idea!  That was a small piece of good news in this whole mess.  I had anticipated dealing with it for the remainder of my life.  I've also visited with a Neuro Opthamologist -- a Canadian-born woman of great education and knowledge in Horner's Syndrome and the dissection.  She told me my eye was in perfect medical health, nothing to worry about there.  She discussed my condition with huge amounts of experience and made me feel much better about my prognosis. 

While I was in the hospital, they discovered a 70% blockage in my celiac artery.  Because one thing isn't enough....right?!  I was having no symptoms and had no idea it was there.  They said it could have been there a very long time, possibly even from birth.  But they'd like to do an ultrasound on it to measure the blood flow and track it again in six months to see if the occlusion/blockage has gotten worse or not.  So I had the ultrasound yesterday.  Brad, the technician, was amazing and offered me all kinds of information and medical information -- I love that stuff.  BUT, since I had the test, guess what.....I now have symptoms in the very spot where the celiac artery lies.  Just below the xiphoid process, which is on the center line just below your rib cage.  It has hurt since I left the test yesterday.  It kept me awake for about an hour in the night.  Lawdy.  Lawdy.  Lawdy.  So back to see my primary care doctor this afternoon.  Surgery is the fix for the celiac artery issue.  I can't wait. 

I'm 50.  I have already outlived several adults in my family who died in their 40s.  My own father had two heart attacks just a year or so ahead of my current age.  He eventually died at 62 from Lou Gehrig's Disease.  Both grandfathers died in their 60s, or barely 70.  No men in my immediate family have lived past 70.  This crap plays heavy games in my head.  I think about it.  I wonder about it.  I mean, I feel in some ways like I'm just getting started in my life.  Happy, (was) healthy, eating nicely, enjoying things.  But now I wonder.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Let's just say that I'm more than thankful for insurance. Oh yeah, and one more thing, I'm supposed to be working at a real live job somewhere in the middle of this whole mess. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

I Think I'll Live For Now

Take a good close look above.  That's what not one, but both, of my carotid arteries apparently looks like.  At the top of the carotid, just at the base of where the carotid enters the skull.  The above scenario is not good.  It allows for lessened blood flow and it also poses high risk for blood clots or complete obstruction causing a stroke.  Or if a clot was allowed to form and then move into the brain....well, let's not talk about that. 

You'll remember my earlier troubles and the diagnoses of Horner's Syndrome a few weeks back.  One of the many reasons for Horner's to develop is, indeed, a dissection of the carotid arteries.  I had hopes for a lesser-impactful, happier shall we say, reason.  Last Thursday and Friday, we had our entire condominium returned to hardwood floors.  There were four workers here, the entire place was in disarray and sawdust, and the workers headed home after finishing a beautiful job.  I went to Portland Providence Medical Center for my CT scan of the brain, neck and chest.  I headed home and began helping clean the condo and putting things back in place.  And the neurologist called.  "I'm advising you to return to the Emergency Room immediately..."  What?  Huh?  I feel good.  Can't I wait until tomorrow?  Or Monday when my doctor's office opens?  Before long, two more doctors had called with the same recommendation.....return to the ER at once.  You are running a high risk of stroke.  Now, I had not been too worried about this whole thing until right at that point.  I had been optimistic and pretty upbeat.  But suddenly I'm on the internet reading about emergency surgery to put in a stent.  And he said it was both sides.  And that it was significant.  You can read about the whole affair over at LoverBoy's site here.  So I showered and headed back to the hospital fully expecting emergency surgery.  I found out later from the Cardiovascular Surgeon that he had been alerted and was ready for me in the operating room.  I had very few symptoms.  And my Horner's Syndrome symptoms from a few weeks ago had improved and were actually almost gone.  The doctor's began coming in and you know how that goes.  I answered the same medical questions ad nausea for three days repeatedly.  They agreed that the surgery was not necessary at this point.  I began blood thinning medication to reduce the chance of clots.  One of the thinners is an injection that I'm giving to myself.  The other is the world-famous Coumadin, or Warfarin.  It is powerful and has to be monitored many times a week to start with.  I'll have my blood drawn 2-3 times a week and they make adjustments to the medication -- they don't want the blood to thick or too thin.  Huge risks of bleeding...externally or internally. 

My conversation with my new friend the Cardiovascular Surgeon was really a good one.  Don't tell anyone, but he likes me.  He told me so.  He said that he enjoys being around guys like me who are positive, energetic, go to the gym, eat right, don't smoke and take an active role in their health care.  And he went on to say that he fully expects that my dissection will repair itself over the next six months. Wow.  Really?  I guess I thought that I would be on blood thinners for the remainder of my life.  But the doc says no.  Repeat CT scan in six months to check it out again.  I think the tears in my eyes alerted him to how happy I was simply to be alive.  And to hear his good news made it just that much better.  He patted me on the knee as he walked out. 

So I'm home this morning.  Getting ready to shoot myself in the stomach with the needle of blood thinning meds.  No weight lifting.  Super easy, no running, on the treadmill.  And no work this week until the blood thinners have a chance to get up to speed and evened out.  I'm nervous.  I keep thinking of those two carotid arteries which are each of our lifelines to being alive.  It makes me super nervous.  I think of my family history and how I've already outlived several men in my family.  And how my father had two heart attacks at my age.  It's unsettling and I have a hard time shaking the thoughts.  But I am alive.  And I have the best pooch and husband in the world.  And the friends!  The friends!  Facebook, texts, voice mails and emails clearly indicate that I have a group of the world's most amazing friends.  And I thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.  Oh, here I go again crying.  I've gotta go. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Horner's Syndrome

Horner's Syndrome.  Have you ever heard of it?  Nope, neither had I.  Until a few days ago when a neurologist told me that he thinks I have it.  You see, I've had a headache, pain behind my eye, and neck pain all on the left side for two weeks now.  I guess that's not considered normal.  So my doctor sent me for a CT scan.  Nothing.  Normal.  All of my blood work is status quo.  And then she referred me to the neurologist who gave me the above, tentative, diagnosis.

My left eye is sagging.  Drooping.  Just like in the picture.  And there have been a few small episodes where it felt like the left eye was trying to close, or droop.  They happen most often when I'm looking down....trying to text, or read something.  And you won't believe this, but the left side of my forehead isn't sweating to the same degree as the right side.  Weird.  But that's one of the telltale signs.   And I have a strange, unusual sensation on the left side of my forehead.  Not like the right.  The left is more sensitive and feels sort of, well, I don't even know how to describe it to you.  Weird.  And my pupils.  My pupils are asymmetrical....the left one being slightly smaller than the right. 

Horner's Syndrome is nothing in and of itself.  It's the manifestation of something else going on.  An issue with nerves being blocked or pinched.  So we need to find out what is causing it and deal with that.  There are a long list of possible causes -- some that wouldn't even hardly phase a guy -- and some that are quite serious.  Things like middle ear infections all of the way to tumors in the chest, head, and neck.  Multiple sclerosis.  Carotid artery troubles.  Cluster headaches.  The list is long...you can see it in the Horner's Syndrome link here.

I'm headed for a CT scan of the brain, carotid arteries, and neck.  And possibly an MRI beyond that.  Also an xray of the chest looking for tumors.  And to see a Neuro Ophthalmologist.  Ever heard of one?  Nope, neither had I.  This person is extremely educated in the intricacies of the brain and eyes and how they work together.  Her appointments are currently scheduled several months out.  But I got in ten days from now because of my urgent referral from the neurologist.

There is a possibility that they will not discover the precise cause.  And there is the possibility that it will go away all by itself.  I've been on Ibuprofen for two weeks.  But that has lessened a bit in the last day or two.  One bit of good news, right?  So, off we go.  Into unknown territory.  It can't be any worse than brain cancer, right?  Like my mom has always said about whatever physical troubles she is having, "Honey, if this is the worst thing that I ever have to deal with, I'll be okay."  I have at least some of her optimism right now.  I think.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Boot Camp 101

Boot camp.  Do you do it?  Have you gone?  Are you sore?

My friend Matthew is just completely convinced that it is the cat's meow.  That is it THE thing to turn us into creatures of bathing beauty status by next spring.  If you haven't gone yet, it is probably one of the highest intensity workouts that you'll participate in.  A variety of workout stations set up around the room.  All sorts of barbells, dumbbells, and stepping risers at each stations.  Probably half of the room for upper body workout.  The other half for lower body.  It's a quick minute or two of warm up jumping jacks or push ups or some other pussified thing and then we're off!  To about 50 or so minutes of fast-paced, race car-speed-induced stations of exercises designed to raise your heart rate, keep it raised, and push your limits.  I would actually concur that it is beyond my limits and the limits of all but one, maybe two, people out of the 30 or so in my class.  There are no breaks, no periods of rest, other than the 10 seconds racing from one station to the next when straight Asian bodybuilder boy Sam who thinks that he's all of that with the chicks yells "Switch!"  But along with about 90% of our class, I found myself finding my own few seconds of rest.  My legs wouldn't even work.  I couldn't even raise one leg up to the riser to step up onto it.  And the squats?  Really?  Man oh man, I am sooorrreeee today.  Probably the most sore I've been in many, many years.  And that's good...right?

I have made a dedicated effort to get myself to the gym.  And keep myself there.  Let's just say that consistency is not my middle name.  I was going to yoga quite often but have eased up on it a bit....there are actually a few yoga poses that worsen my lower back pain rather than help it and I need to get that all figured out.  I've been doing dumbell and barbell curls, flying arm sorts of deals designed to work the forearms, shoulders and shoulders, tricep pull downs, chest pull downs, sit ups and other core benders until my middle-aged flab doesn't know which end is up.  And then upstairs to the treadmill.  Thirty minutes of racewalking interspersed with intervals of running -- all the while adjusting the incline up and down, the pace up and down.  That burns fat, you know.....the intervals.....not letting your body's metabolism settle in to one pace.  And I don't have a lot of fat to burn.  Just a drop or six around my midsection.  I'm not sure if you call it a jelly roll or a muffin top.  But clearly, it is some sort of pastry that doesn't need to be sitting on my store shelf.

I've been eating much better at home.  And in restaurants.  Better choices.  Better decisions.  Tons of delicious salads filled with fruits and vegetables like apples, watermelon, asparagus, carrots, peppers and grapes.   It has really been a nice change.  And I feel much better.  It seems like when I start doing one thing that is good for me, that it makes it a little easier to do others.  But getting started, and staying the course, is a challenge for many of us.  My weight was 128 pounds from 8th grade all of the way into my mid-20s.  Then it inched up to around 140 pounds where it stayed for years.  And then I burgeoned up past the 150's up to 162 pounds when I said that was enough.  No way this is going to happen.  That's when this whole gym thing started.  I had been paying the monthly membership for four years now.  But I'd been famously NOT at the gym which is complete silliness.  Not going and still paying for it is asinine.  I'm now down to 154 pounds.  It needs to stay there.  The pastry shelf in the middle is still there but looks much better.  And a little tiny baby buddha belly is cute, right?  And feels better.  And I'm happy with that.  I'll be excited to see what my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers look like next week at my semi-annual blood work checkup. 

So, whether I go back to Boot Camp or not, I'm not sure.  I wouldn't call it fun.  I didn't really "enjoy" it.  I am so not the guy that pushes himself beyond his limits.  I just don't have that competitive spirit or edge about me.  But when personal trainer turned drill sergeant yells at me that "You don't want to go home saying to yourself that you could have worked out harder!"  what am I supposed to do?  Clearly, he doesn't know me. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Testing of Peace

Isn't peace always being tested?  Mine is.  I have this stainless steel peace necklace around my neck.  It's a reminder.  Constantly.  Of my humanity and frailty. 

But I think it is time to take it off.  I feel less peaceful today than in a very long time.  And the peace symbol seems to be quite ironic.  It almost mocks me.  I have one on the tattooed on the back of my calf too.  I always said that I would always work toward peace.  But today, I'm not so sure. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

My CEO Supports Same-Sex Marriage

In case you hadn't heard, there continues to be a big old fight among our nation's lawmakers and citizens regarding whether the gays and lesbians of the nation should have the same marriage rights as everyone else or not.  Yes sir, I'm surprised too.  I looked at the calendar.  And it says 2012.  And it says that we've elected a black guy to be our President.  But it doesn't say anything about same-sex marriage.  You'd think we're back in Birmingham in 1955, quite frankly.

But there continues to be a growing sentiment among those who are rich and famous putting forth their voice of support for those of us who yet have to achieve the same rights as everyone else.  And corporations!  Yes, corporate support is on the rise too.  Plenty of companies have discovered the value of honesty and equality -- and they've put their money where their mouth is and made a full-fledged support for same-sex marriage.

In the state of Washington (I can see it from my window.....so there, Sarah Palin.....), Referendum 74 is on the November ballot.  The citizens -- the commoners! -- of the state will decide whether same-sex marriage in Washington state gets to move forward or not.  Can you imagine your neighbors and people you live around actually being permitted to decide the case of equal rights?  Only here in the greatest nation on earth.  R74 needs to be APPROVED.  If you "approve" of same-sex marriage, you need to "approve" R74.  That's their slogan.

And I couldn't be more proud of the company I work for.  My CEO and good friend Brad has stepped up to the plate with a few others and put their names behind the referendum.  They want it to pass.  They believe in the inherent value of equality for their customers and employees.  Brad gets it.  Clearly.  I admire him, I look up to not only his leadership skills but his human being skills.  He's a great man.  And I told him so just the other day.  I couldn't be more happy to be working where I do.  Check out the above link and article. Here's the verbiage: 

Senior leadership at Alaska Air Group and Alaska Airlines have announced their support for Washington United for Marriage and the campaign to Approve Referendum 74, joining a growing number of corporate leaders and businesses who understand the fundamental fairness of the bipartisan marriage law.
For Alaska Air Group and Alaska Airlines president Brad Tilden (pictured left in article link above) and his wife, Danielle, it comes down to doing the right thing. “Marriage equality is the right and fair thing to do in and for our state,” said Tilden, “From a business perspective, we risk losing qualified employees and applicants to other states which have adopted marriage equality statutes. Danielle and I are proud to support this initiative and are hopeful it will take our state to a new and more equitable place.”

Joining Tilden and his wife, is Glenn Johnson (pictured right in the article link above) and his partner Mike, who have been together for 15 years. Johnson, a 30-year Alaska Group veteran and president of Horizon Air, said, “[My partner] Mike and I have been in a committed relationship for 15 years; we take our responsibilities as a married couple to each other, to our community and to our workplace very seriously. Approving marriage equality is simply about creating strong families, like ours who live, work and love side by side with
every other family in America.”

Joining the two senior leaders in supporting the effort is Keith Loveless, general counsel of Alaska Airlines and Alaska Air Group. “I’m proud to live in a state where the legislature and governor have acted to legalize same-sex marriage,” said Loveless. “Passage of R 74 is important for customers and employees of Alaska Airlines. And it’s important to me.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Namaste? Like Hell.

Namaste?  Like hell.  I've been a yoga guy for a few years now.  And I've just recently twisted the arm of my partner to join me.  Believe me, world peace would have been easier to accomplish.  But he's a good sport.  Well, truth be told, I just wore him down over time and he gave in. 

If you've practiced yoga before, you'll know full well how difficult it can be at times to maintain focus.  To not look at the clock on the wall.  To find the stamina it indeed takes to finish out the hour class.  To put your body into yet one more pose that seemingly tries its best to put something out of joint and remind you of exactly how old you really are.  But that's all a part of the practice of yoga.  Breath control.  Centering.  Balancing.  Developing stamina that perhaps you don't have at this particular point in your life.  It is quite a workout. 

Yesterday I headed over to an atypical gym for me.  I needed to go at a different hour of the day and found a 4:30pm starting time.  With an instructor that I was not familiar with.  I was the first one in the room.  We ended up with maybe 20 folks or so when instructor Tiffany Lee came in, turned out the lights, and began her class.  She put on her audio headset microphone, started her zen-ish music and we crossed our legs on our mats, brought our hands to heart center, and closed our eyes.  Tiffany Lee placed flameless candles in front of each one of our mats.  "Wow, this might be sort of cool," I was thinking. 

And then she started talking.  Let's just say that English is not her first language.  Which is fine.  Except that I couldn't really understand her very well.  Sometimes at all.  I had to open my eyes and peek at her through the dark classroom.  I had to try and figure out what she had just said and mimic her pose.   There was no way I could keep my eyes closed and actually understand what she was asking us to do.  I was already distracted.  And the beads of sweat began to drip.  And drip.  (Did I mention the word drip?) 

And the poses.  Sweet baby jesus.  I know, I know....I've done yoga before.  Nothing should have caught me off guard.  But each instructor does it completely differently.  Tiffany Lee apparently enjoys the lengthy holding of poses.  And torture.  She enjoys torture.  My knees ached.  I had to sit down.   My lower back just couldn't keep up.  And I had to sit down.  Again and again I found myself sitting.  Waiting to restart at the next pose.  Then, Tiffany Lee cuddles right up next to me, doing her little pose perfectly.  Beautifully, actually.  I think she totally got off on putting her beautiful little yoga body next to my struggling middle-aged ass.  She brought me a block to use -- blocks enable certain poses to be done with a bit more ease.  No one has ever brought me a block before.  And then the questioning -- "How are you all doing?," she kept on asking.  I guarantee you she didn't want me to answer that truthfully.  At least not out loud in the middle of class, anyway. 

So, at 5:10pm -- 40 minutes after class began -- I did something that I've never done before.  I rolled up my mat, gathered my belongings, and left the room.  Irritated.  Dripping sweat in spite of the fact that I had spent half of my class sitting on my mat in complete embarrassment. 

And as I departed?  Tiffany Lee said to me "Thank you for coming, sir."  But you see, she was wearing that headset that projects her voice throughout the room.  The entire damned room heard her wish me a lovely evening.  And with that, I was gone. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Waning Days of Summer

As is the usual rhetoric about this time of year and others like it, I find myself thinking "I can't believe that it is the end of summer already."  Why is it that time appears to travel more quickly as adults than as children?  It has been a very busy summer.  Far more coordinating of schedules than I care for, no camping once again, no visits to Boise to see my family, and less time at the beach than I'd like.  But the good as well -- Bear Week in Provincetown with a house full of friends, just a small handful of our favorite summer concerts in the park, and a few mornings of coffee on the patio watching the sun rise. 

My work schedule has been crap.  The last three or so months I have ended up with only part of the trips that I actually ask for.  The remaining trips are assigned to me as a result of my general, default, sort of requests.  The trips at the Portland base are a changing!  We have tons of three and four-day trips typically involving Hawaii layovers and typically getting home later (me no likey).  We have very few turns left here, and just a handful of two-day trips.  All of my favorite trips are now taken by senior bidders to me.  The airline industry is, indeed, a freaky entity.  Changing.  Evolving.  Never the same.  I guess if I wanted the same old thing from day to day, I'd be sitting in an office answering telephones and responding to emails Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm.  Right? 

I've been hard at it at the gym lately.  That is one great thing I've done for myself this summer.  I've been doing yoga, the treadmill, and lifting a few sets of weights.  I've been working on my core and abs.  I've been stretching, twisting, bending.  It does feel so good to be in an environment with people who are actually doing something, something positive, for themselves.  And I've even twisted the arm of my partner to join me in yoga for his very first time ever.  And that has been years of arm twisting, believe me. 

I've only been to our clothing-optional beaches a few times this summer (deep sigh).  I created this map years ago to highlight them.  I was first taken to a nude beach in the summer of 1998.  I was absolutely horrified that anyone would possibly think that I could take off my clothes in front of anyone and wander around.   After all, as you'll recall, I'm simply not that kind of boy!  But, honestly, it happened in 1998.  And I haven't looked back.  Our beaches are both on the mighty Columbia River.  And one of them still, at the middle of August, has very high water that precludes beach goers from using the normal paths which are still under water.  Crazy.  We had one of the driest winters on record.  But we had one of the wettest springs on record.  But the scenery at the beaches and throughout the Pacific Northwest is amazing.  And so, I go.  Not as often as I'd like to, but I try. 

I've found myself being irritated far more often than I'd like.  Things set me off easily, I have zero tolerance for stupidity and silliness, and I'm finding it difficult to sit for very long without my mind wandering to politics, hateful people, my iPhone or iPad, the Internet, or my continuing struggles with toothpaste being left all over the lid.  I'm not sure if this is a product of growing older or if I have unresolved issues in my life that need tending to.  And I've even thought that my coffee in the morning doesn't do well by me -- I'm down to just a single cup many days and even that seems to add to the frustrations.  As much as I take advantage of the many technology pieces we have available to us today, I'm just as much upset with having it available.  I'm a trees and water and wind and dirt and sand and skies sort of person.  And I'm not getting enough of it. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Semi-Annual Post to Tell You I'm Alive

Apparently, this is my semi-annual post for the Spirit of Saint Lewis.  I'm not dead.  Clearly, my goal to spend less time on the internet has been achieved.  Lord. 

Things have been fine, all going well.  We've just returned from our fourth annual trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  For Bear Week.  Grrrr.  Thousands of fuzzy men from around the world were in P-Town last week for Bear Week.  It's always a lot of fun to visit with friends from around the country.  Eight of us stay in a large rented house right in the heart of town.  Easy for walking and shopping and enjoying all of the many activities that Bear Week presents.  We left there yesterday morning on a ferry to Boston loaded down with more than 500 Bears and their luggage.  Suffice it to say, that it was quite the experience.  And now we're home, exhausted, and even a little depressed because we miss our friends.  We're picking up Mason in a bit from the place that he boards at while we're gone.  And the gym -- must get to the gym today. 

And speaking of the gym, I've been quite faithful after taking an extended hiatus.  I was very ashamed of myself internally for being such a strong person and, yet, not being able find the wherewithal to actually get my ass to 24 Hour Fitness.  There has been no excuse.  I simply had not been going.  But I'm back on the horse now and enjoying it.  The human motivation, or lack thereof, still causes me to think what a crazy and wishy-washy people we are. 

I've had an undocumented goal over the past year or so to spend less time on the internet.  And, obviously, from the lack of posts here, I've achieved that to some degree.  I'm still active on Facebook -- but less than in the past.  I need balance.  I need to focus outward more....to the sky and trees and water.  Things that make me happy.  The internet is so addicting.  And leads to such a waste of time if not harnessed. 

We are completing a refinance of our condominium after many, many hoops and pieces of paperwork to make it happen.  I'm thankful.  And happy.  The summer included Bear Week which I've already talked about ..... but not much more than that.  Although we do try to attend as many of Portland's free summer concerts in the parks as possible.  There are concerts every single night of the week in a wide variety of parks during July and August.  This will be our 15th summer of making that a tradition.  We take a picnic, the pooch, and our lawn chairs and drinks and enjoy the summer evenings.  So that's it.  Nothing earth shattering.  Just normal.  Oh, listen to me using the word normal.  Please. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Beach

This will be my 15th summer at the beach.  The beach.  The clothing-optional beach, that is.  We have two of them -- in fact, we had the nation's very first one.  Here's a map that I created a few years ago.   And, may I say, that in 1998 when I made my first visit, I was scared to death.  Petrified is more like it.  Suffice it to say that those feelings have passed away.

It's always a little game each year.  The first time.  The first day.  Is the (Columbia River) water too high?  Last year the water was so high, for so long, that I actually had to wade through several feet of water holding my sand chair and backpack up above my head while traversing the Columbia River waters.  This year, we apparently haven't had quite as much water.  The path is already dry.

And you just never know what you'll see, hear, or find out there.  Some days, you see people you know.  Other times, a bunch of doggies.  Sometimes a whole pile of younger people scared to death to ditch their panties so they flounce around in their $100 designer swim suits.  Sometimes families with kids.  Or just a man and wife.  It's all over the map.  I've seen bald eagles dive for fish right in front of my face.  I've watched giant ocean-going ships pass by on their way from the Port of Portland to/from the Pacific Ocean.  I've been scared to death more than once by little tiny black and green snakes and rabbits.

I've been hit on.  I've heard people talk about being released from jail.  I've heard conversations about being kicked out of the house.....or school.  I've listened while a guy ventured on about his tale of being kicked out of "every bar in Portland....except for one......nobody likes me in this town."  Oh brother.  I've watched plenty of people smoke dope.  And the alcohol flows freely most times.  I had a pretty young kid ask me if I wanted to meet his dog.  Well, you don't have to ask me twice!  Of course I do.  And while he was introducing me to a cute little Bichon-Poodle mix, he proceeded to ask me if I wanted to see his vagina.  Pardon me?  Your vagina?  Yes, he said.  I've had a tattoo of a vagina put on my penis.  By golly, he sure had.  "Because I like both men and women," he tells me.  This is the same guy that had been kicked out of house and school, by the way.

I've overheard plenty of conversations about current affairs, politics, the latest gadgets, iPhones and iPads, cars, the long drive to and from the beach, the cops who patrol the parking lots like flies, and music.  Music.  You see, a Billy Ocean song came on.  And the guy yells to his buddy, "Hey, turn that off....that's a song for old guys.  My dad would like that."  I about decked him.  And then there is the fairly clear sign "End of the Nude Beach" that delineates the marker past which point one must cover up their bits.  And tits.

I like to go early.  And I like to go during the week.  Weekends are terrible.  The 27 mile drive is packed with families in minivans headed out to "the family section" of the beach.  People double park their cars.  Traffic comes to a standstill.  And the roadways are dotted with bicyclists vying for space on the concrete.  I like the quiet of weekday mornings.  I've been the first one out there more than once.  And I've been the only one more than once.  I go early, I leave early.  I like to walk up and down the river's edge.  Sometimes I massage the muscle in my feet on a rock or log.  And I pick up rocks and carry them around.  I wonder how old they are, how they got on that particular beach, and where they've been in their lives.  Sometimes I do a few easy yoga stretches which always feel amazing.  I've got a sand chair that has been with me for years.  And I usually take a peanut butter sandwich.  Or some fruit.  And water.  Always water.  I like to chat with people and stare.  At the river, the airplanes coming and going into the Portland airport.  And the hawks and eagles circling overhead.

It's a part of my life that I don't typically advertise.  I simply say that I'm going to "The Beach" and leave it at that.  No need for embellishment.  But if pressed, I'm not afraid to say where I'm headed.  Some folks say, "That's cool."  And others can't even imagine being in public without their clothing.  I remember those feelings and days.  They're gone now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

It Could Happen to You

You never know about tomorrow.  In fact, you don't even know about today.  Tragedy strikes whenever it wants to.  This could happen to you.  Stand up and fight.  Be heard. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Where Did It Go ??

MOTIVATION.....Where did it go?  Is it hiding under the bed next to your running shoes?

Why is it that I continue to pay my gym membership and yet never, ever go?  Why is it that I glance up at the yoga room every single time I drive by and wish, and wonder?  Why is it that every time I look at my gym clothes in the drawer and get sad?  Every time I hear this commercial, I wonder.

QUESTION:  What is the one thing that you wish you had in your life that you don't currently have?  What is missing? 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Forward! Onward! Upward!

It feels so good to finally, at last, be headed in a positive direction.  So much left to do.  But the ship has turned. 

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter Dinner

Breaded Chicken Tenderloins Atop Brown Lentils Covered with Thin Sliced Fresh Lemons and Oranges Coated With a Rich, Spicy Citrus Glaze and Crunchy Almonds

  • Boil brown lentils in water until done.  I used 1 1/2 cups (dry) which made 4 1/2 cups cooked.  Recipe on the back of the lentil bag.  My amounts above required 6 cups water in saucepan, added 1 1/2 cups lentils, brought to boil, reduce to low and cook for 12-15 minutes.  Drain. 
  • Tossed chicken tenderloins in bowl with bit of flour, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder.  
  • Thinly slice one lemon and one orange, remove seeds.  You'll squeeze just a small amount of both in the glaze.  
  • Make a spicy citrus glaze from olive oil, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, teriyaki sauce, dash of each ground cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, and allspice.  Add black pepper, dash chili powder, garlic powder.  Bit of water.  
  1. Spray 13X9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cooked and drained lentils go in the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Top lentils with breaded chicken tenderloins.
  4. Top chicken with thin slices of lemon and oranges across the whole dish.
  5. Pour spicy citrus glaze evenly over the top of the entire dish.  
  6. Top dish with chopped/sliced almonds.  
  7. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. 
  8. Remove cover and reduce heat to 300-325 and continue baking for another 45 minutes.  
I served this dish alongside asparagus spears roasted on a baking sheet in the oven.  Season the way you'd like to.  I'm thinking simple....sea salt and coarse ground black pepper.  Happy Easter-y Spring-y weekend.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

I'm Hideous......

I'm hideous.  Don't look, please don't.  I'll never be a model.  My closeups for the Abercrombie calendar will never look the same.  Photoshop will now become my middle name. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

At 50 an Old Jewish Woman Arises

I just need a bowl of soup.  Chicken soup with broth.  Kosher chicken.  Kosher broth.  And a shawl, parasol and poodle.  Oh, wait, I've already got the poodle.  So, yeah, this will be easier than I had thought.  I just need a shawl and parasol.  And then I can be the old Jewish woman that I think I'm becoming.  Mouthy, opinionated and wanting to stay within my comfort zone. 

In spite of thinking that I harbor an adventurous spirit, the older I get, I'm not so sure.  I'd like to think that I'm the backpacking type.  The kind that could travel through Europe with just me, a backpack, and a crapload of Euros.  That's a lot of Euros, in case you're wondering.  My alter ego would like to be open to sleeping in hostels instead of fancy 2 1/2 star hotels with thin towels and coffee stains on the drapes.  I'd like to believe that I'm open minded and up for anything.  Available.  Looking for new opportunities and chances to take.  But I'm not so sure. 

Chatting over Indian food with a good friend last night, this topic of conversation came up.  I'm not sure how it turned to me but it did.  I don't know if it's age.  Or even my job.  The more I fly, the more I want to be home.  Settled.  Comfortable.  I like a schedule and routine.  I want to do tasks one time.  Not two.  Doing things right the first time.  I'd like to think that I'm flexible and always say "Yes" to change and whatever others ask of me. 

But the truth is that I think I'm quite the opposite.  Or am I?  I'm not sure.  Who knows.  Is it a middle-age sort of quandary?  I find that being flexible and willing to negotiate or do things that I don't want to do is getting harder and harder.  I'd be more than happy with my iPad, a recliner, and my coffee.  Oh, and the poodle. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tallinn, Estonia -- Reflections on the Old and New

The summer of 1986 found me in Tallinn, Estonia, which was part of the U.S.S.R. at that particular time.  I wrote about my encounters with the KGB and smuggling Bibles and other items into the former Iron Curtain city several years ago and being followed by the local police.   You know, just normal everyday things!  I'd go back and read this former article if you haven't already.  It has so much to do with this current, particular post.

A few days back, I opened the New York Times travel article to discover that it was calling Tallinn "A European capital of culture....a sense of optimism in the air.....it's citizens are among the continent's most cheerful people."  Holy smokes.  That's just something else.  Who would have ever thought.  The article continues on to describe a scant 36 hour whirlwind tour through Tallinn.  Eating, touring, visiting, browsing, fashion and, of course, the past.  The dark past riddled with watch towers, KGB, underground activities and such.  Those are the days I remember.  These new days that the New York Times is describing I'm not familiar with.

I decided to check out the hotel that we stayed in while we were there.  (Again, read the above article first...)  It was the only hotel where tourists could stay at the time.  Operated by Intourist, the government agency who oversaw every single person coming into the USSR for tourism purposes.  We were only permitted to be in certain places, at certain times, with our assigned tour guide.  What I didn't know until today, was that the Viru Hotel actually housed the areas KGB listening post.  They used a secured area on the 23rd floor of this hotel for their purposes.  I can't remember which floor my room was on.  But I remember the warnings about telephones being bugged, two-way mirrors, housekeeping staff who weren't really "housekeeping staff."  Check out this article.  I was so happy to find it.  I also discovered that one of the churches we sang in housed a KGB listening tower in its spire.  Fascinating! 

I'd love to make a trip back there someday.  To reflect and remember.  And to enjoy the newfound fortune of fashion and food as well.   Oh, and I could even go and stay at the newly refurbished Hotel Viru.  I'm assuming that they have removed the listening devices from the lamps and vases.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Ignorance Is Just As Great As Your Knowledge

"The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant threat winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as great as your knowledge."  -- Isaac Asimov

Do you realize that there are people who will read the above quote and not even get it?  Not even be able to comprehend it or understand what it means?  And then I read that "In Mississippi, 52% of GOP respondents say Obama is Muslim...12% believe he is a Christian and 36% are unsure.  In Alabama, 45% of Republicans say Obama is Muslim....14% believe he is a Christian and 41% are unsure."  Dare I say that Alabama is smarter than Mississippi?  And what about all of the others -- Louisiana, Idaho, Tennessee, Georgia, Utah....shall I go on?  

We live in a nation who no longer forms opinions based on fact, the truth.  We no longer think.  We feel.  We believe our ignorance, our sources!, are more important than actual knowledge.  And that will be our demise.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation

They say there are six.  Degrees of separation, that is.  Sometimes I don't think there are that many.  And other days, I think there are about a thousand.  Today, the degrees of separation were not even in existence. 

I was working a San Francisco to Seattle 9:20am departure.  I was at the L1 forward boarding door welcoming 124 lovely folks on board.  (And their numerous oversized bags as well....did I mention "numerous"?)  When what to my wondering eye should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.  No, wait, that's not right.  I'm thinking something else......  But what was coming through the door was a very nice gentleman smiling at me and pointing.  "Hey, I know you!"  He went on with "I was wondering if I was ever going to be on one of your flights......I read your blog!"  He was as excited as I was.  And I think we were both quite surprised.  Irony.  Out of the blue.  Complete happenstance. 

And the story is made even more random because neither of us live in the Bay Area nor in Seattle.  He lives way out in the Northeast United States.  Visiting family.  Working.  But, wow, what a morning.  I was able to feed and water Bill.  A Bailey's Irish Cream and a snack.  It's the least I could do.  Bill, I loved meeting you.  You made my day!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March Madness

I've taken the plunge. I needed just one more Apple product. That's the way they operate, you know....."You just have to have it."  And on that note, I will be getting it -- my very first iPad.  The New iPad Third Generation arrives at my house this next Friday.  I'm hoping it's the right choice.  For traveling.  I'll leave my laptop at home.  But the lack of a full-size keyboard on the iPad is concerning me a little.  We'll see.  I am very excited, though.  And I've done a nice job of tempting LoverBoy as well.  He's all of a twitter and going down the "Well, I can't find a decent cover for my iPad 1 so maybe I should sell my old one and get a new one so that I can find a cover for it" trail.  Because all of that makes perfect sense.  In the Apple world it does. 

My new glasses have arrived.  My first progressives -- yeah yeah yeah, I know it takes some time to get used to them.  Btu I'n huving a ibt of a difiucullt tyme seying throussh thenm.  I think they look pretty good but you'll have to be the judge of that.  It is my first online glasses ordering.  I used a company called Lookmatic.  Great customer service.  More than happy to do whatever it takes to make it right.  I'd recommend them.  The top half for distance is great....especially at night....much more crisp and clear.  But the bottom reading half is a mess....I'm not sure if it's a matter of me getting used to them or not.  But my older straight reading specs were much better. 

The Flight Path Debrief program for flight attendants is on a roller coaster ride at this particular point.  You remember...the program the took me to Seattle for 69 nights last year.  That I devoted hundreds of hours to helping design.  Along with 23 others.  Thousands of hours and dollars to develop a top-notch grade A program is now in flux.  Do we want it?  Should we revise it?  Let's just say that I'm tired of corporate politics.  Let's just say that I'm tired of non-flight attendants thinking that they know what's best for flight attendants.  I know, I know....be flexible, nimble, open minded.  I'm trying.  But I'm more than definitely happy to be back flying full time.  Away from the office.  Away from the fray of office and corporate life. 

There's a new girl in town....and she's sitting on top of our condominium...up on the roof.  She's a Davis Vantage Vue weather system.  You can now see the weather for our area...our building!....right on the internet.  You'll see the new badge on my blog...upper right-hand side.  That's the weather for our building.  Sort of fun.  And the internet link to it is here:  http://www.wunderground.com/weatherstation/WXDailyHistory.asp?ID=KORPORTL191.

We're putting together details of our upcoming trip to Ogunquit, Maine, at the end of April.  We'll be staying in a B&B in Ogunquit and then visiting our friends Wil and Fritz for a couple of nights.  We're also working on details for Bear Week in Provincetown in July.....year four!  And I see a road trip maybe next week to Boise for just me and Mason....to see the parents and sister.  And maybe help sis get a new laptop up and running.   We saw The Descendents last night.  Great movie.  I had no clue what it was about or even who was in it.  That's the third Academy Award nominee that we've seen -- in addition to The Help and The Iron Lady.  Sounds like all movies have to begin with the word "The" nowadays. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meet My Virtual Friend Maureen Walsh

I'd like you to meet my virtual friend Maureen Walsh.  She lives in Walla Walla, Washington.  The delicious, sweet onion place.  Known for their increasing wine country as well.  I say "virtual" friend because we've never met.  But by golly, we've been awfully awfully close.  Last night for example.

We had finished a 14-day of training new flight attendants at our Flight Operations and Training Center near the SeaTac Airport and were back at the airport for our flight to Portland.  We had an extra hour so headed to the Pacific Marketplace for some delicious pasta.  Sat down.  Enjoying. And I'm staring across the table and right over to the neighboring table.  At this woman.  I knew her.  I just knew I did.  I stared and stared at her.  I think she knew it.  Man, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out where.  But more than even knowing her, I knew some story about her.  Something personal.....something about her family, crying or a heartfelt story of some sort.  But I couldn't place her.  A passenger of mine?  Neighbor?  TV personality?  Gosh.  I just kept staring and even followed behind her as she headed toward the gate areas.  It really bothered me until about halfway home, inflight.  THAT'S IT!

Maureen Walsh is a Republican congresswoman from Walla Walla, Washington.  About three hours drive to the east of us.  And I knew her story because I'd heard her story.  Recently.  A few weeks ago.  And you'll hear her story below.  She is one of those folks that I admire.  She is well deserving of honor and recognition.  For her ability to come to beautiful conclusions in her life.  For looking out for the equal rights of others.

So, I've never meet Maureen Walsh from Walla Walla, Washington.  But gosh, I was damned close.  Really, really close in fact.  I'm disappointed that I didn't take the step to walk six feet over to her and say hi.  I really would like to have given her a big old hug and thanked her.  For her life.  Her dedication.  And love.  Oh, and her inspiration too.  And her dedication to people over the task. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Good lord.  Who would have known that turning 50 would be such a crazy time.  It started out with almost 20 folks at Happy Hour on last Thursday evening.  Migrated to a quieter 6-person coffee on Friday morning.  An even more quiet and lovely 3-person dinner and 5-person movie ("The Iron Lady" which I loved).  And a 32-person bash on Saturday night hosted by our good friend Alan.  And concluded on Sunday with a 12-person brunch and a 25-person Pizza and Piano evening at our condominium.  I had phone calls, text messages, emails, "likes" on FB, and wall posts on FB (truly, about 150 of them!) -- from so many of you...and from England, South Africa, and Paris.  And I was able to have my very first, live phone call with a longtime reader of my site....the infamous Anne Marie in Philly.  She made me feel so good about turning 50!  The picture speaks for itself.  Cards, cards and more cards.  With sentiments.  And thoughts.  And reflections.  And memories.  Really good stuff.  Thanks to you all.  My friends.  I appreciated all of your attention so much.

I feel like Mrs. Rich Bitch right now with my state and federal tax returns plus our company's annual performance payout.  I've asked for it all in rolls of pennies.  It has already been nearly spent.  On things like Mason's teeth cleaning, a new home printer, and setting aside some for our annual trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, this July for Bear Week

I'm heading to Seattle tomorrow for a day of helping out in yet another brand new class of flight attendants.  I help teach the Services Training day -- food, beverages, carts, how to pour drinks and be nice to people day.  It's always a lot of fun....but oh so tiring.  And the perception is always so strange -- turning into classroom training what I have spent 17 years of my life actually doing in flight.  Strange.

The month of March will return me to overnight trips at work.  I've been mainly doing turns...where I go out and right back home instead of staying overnight somewhere.  I haven't done an overnight away in months -- probably since last November or so.  That's one of the great things about my job -- the flexibility, the change, the variety.

February is truly one of my favorite times of year.  For more reasons that just my birthday.  I love the gentle edging up of temperatures -- we hit 62 yesterday.  The crocus are already up and blooming.  And the daffodils and tulips will follow shortly.  The pink of the flowering cherry trees has been around for about two weeks already.  I really dig our temperate climate without giant extremes of hot or cold.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Big 5-0

Good lord.  50 years old.  Today at 6:20pm (Mountain time since I was born in Boise, Idaho).  I can't believe it.  But like my mother told me recently, "If you can't believe it, think about me and what it feels like to have a son who is 50!"  She's right.

The good.  And the bad.  The ups and the downs.  Happy and sad times.  Like everyone else.  I have more aches and pains than I used to.  Tummy upset from coffee or creamer or something....more than I used to.  I don't sleep as well.  I get irritated with stupidity and slow drivers.  I used to go to yoga but haven't for a while.  But I want to.  Does that count?  I'm out.  And happy.  And those certainly count for something.  I've learned that some of my ideals early in life were pretty shallow.  And I've allowed myself to age pretty gracefully, I guess.  There has been a family filled with cancers, Lou Gehrig's disease, alcoholism and drug abuse, suicide, fights and the like.  But we're still a pretty tight knit group.  I've hated a few times and I've loved a lot.  There are friends.  Facebook, virtual, and real ones in life.  I love nearly all of them.  I'm pretty simple.  Things that turn me on are the sky, trees, leaves, green grass, rivers and oceans.  Things that mean next to nothing to me are sports, big star entertainment, staying out late, partying, and being loud.  I'm far more irritated than I used to be and will be glad to tell you exactly the things I will put up with and those that I won't.  I can see those things hidden somewhere ahead of me in life that I know I need to connect with but struggle to put into practice.  My connection to technology, the internet, and the iPhone has grown.  My connection to earth, sky and trees has waned.  I don't like it.   I know it.  I've discovered what I like and what I don't like.  I'm pleased with that. Mostly. 

And I've got a partner of nearly 15 years who loves me, cares for me, and has allowed us to create a beautiful, successful life together.  He's far more than I could have ever asked for.  And there's a dog.  A mutt.  A pooch.  Mason.  He's a cutie boy.  To these two things, I say thank you.  For being there for me.  For believing in me.  Today, at 50.  And tomorrow, at 80.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Festivities Are About to Begin .........

The festivities are beginning.  I've finished an early morning SJC turn and I'm now on vacation.  Tonight kicks off an entire weekend of The Big 5-0 Birthday activities.  The cards have already begun to roll in.  And the chocolate too.  The carpets are cleaned (and they match the drapes) for the finale Pizza and Piano Party on Sunday evening.  Here's the lineup:

Thursday PM -- Happy Hour at Local Lounge a local gay-owned place that we love hanging at.

Friday AM -- Coffee hour at Three Friends Coffee House in S.E. Portland.

Friday PM -- Dinner at the Daily Grill and then "The Iron Lady" which I've been wanting to see. 

Saturday PM -- The Big Bash -- Hosted by my good friend Alan at his beautiful home.  He insisted on hosting.  I'm blessed.

Sunday AM -- Brunch!  At Hob Nob Grille....owned by a fellow flight attendant and her husband. 

Sunday PM -- Pizza and Piano Finale at our condo.  I've put together a long song list, handed it to my LoverBoy, and demanding that he play his new grand piano for me.  The whole evening. 

And that's it.  That's precisely how my 50th birthday weekend will play out.  I mean, for one on his way to middle age (ahem...) it should be a grand celebration.  Right? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heart Day

Today is Valentine's Day.  One of the holidays that I enjoy more than others.  I like this time of year.  The beginnings of slight pink flowers appear on trees.  And the crocus are already up.  And don't get me started on the lamenting of "Oh, poor me, I'm single and don't like this day blah blah blah."  I don't buy into it.  Your life is what you make of it.  Period.  In case you hadn't noticed, I'm irritated today.  It's increasingly more frequent. I find myself less connected to Mother Earth today than I was even, say, ten years ago.  I find that nasty people, irresponsible causes, and stupidity find themselves in my mind more than they should.  And that I don't put up with them as much as I should. 

Valentine's Day.  Today is the day that I was due.  Well, more accurately, today is the day that my mother was due with me.  But clearly, I needed five more days of sweetening up.  And perhaps could have used even more.  I feel less enchanted with my life today than I have for a while.  I feel a nearly overwhelming need to recenter, rebalance.  And to stick close to home.  I'm almost in a frenzy to create peace in the dark spots of my heart and mind.  It's unsettling. 

Today hubby comes home from yet another workweek in Seattle.  I've made Valentine's Day dinner reservations at a neighborhood place that we have never been to.  It comes with rave reviews.  Tomorrow our carpets are being cleaned.  Did you know that the "Chem Dry" carpet cleaning systems are actually not chemical-based at all?  Me either.  They operate without chemicals with a carbonation system -- sort of like putting club soda on a stain to get it out.  Same principle.  We're trying to get the place in shape for the big birthday weekend coming up.  And to celebrate the President's as well.... it is their holiday too. 

I remember spending Valentine's Day 2004 in Amsterdam with LoverBoy and my parents.  We stayed at a five star hotel right in the center of Amsterdam....Dam Square.  It was more than lovely.  And I remember Valentine's Day 1994 when I received a phone call at work from my mother.  My father had been taken to the hospital.  He died 35 days later. 

We have a new printer....an Epson Workforce 645.....a real gem. I love it.  Fits nicely where it needs to in our tiny condo.  Works well.  Wireless.  And with E-Print (or Air Print??) meaning that I can email any document I want to -- from anywhere in the world -- and it will print on my home printer.  And only $99.  Our taxes were done last Friday....cha' ching.  Combine the tax refund with our employer's profit sharing dollars, and we should be sitting pretty on the last day of February or so.  That is, until we spend it.  But it'll feel good for a day or two. 

Sorry kids I'm all over the map today.  My lower back is aching worse than it has in a year or more.  So much so that I can't even get my socks on without a ton of pain.  Moving quite slowly and carefully.  but today is better than yesterday so that's good.  Wishing you all a happy heart day. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are They Solid Gold ??

"Hey, can I ask you a question," he pointed up to me from his aisle seat in 16D.  His grandmother was next to him.  And his younger brother, maybe five years old or so on the window seat.  And his redneck daddy across the aisle, on my right, in 16C.

Sure, I told him.  He wanted to know if my wings were solid gold.  The wings on my uniform.  The wings that every crew member in the world gets when they graduate flight attendant training.  They are one's claim to fame.  I've had mine for 17 years or so.  No, I told him, they weren't solid gold.  I knelt down in the aisle in between him and his dad across the aisle.  I told him they were some sort of heavy metal but not gold.  But that they weren't plastic either.  He asked if he could touch them.  Sure. And he did.  He loved that.

He then asked about the small pin that sits just above my wings.  I told him it was my years of service pin.  He said, "Are those diamonds?"  Why, yes, yes they are.  The kid apparently has a good eye for the finer things in life, even at age eight or so.  He wanted to know what those meant.  I told him that meant that I'd been here for between 15-20 years.  And that when I hit 20 years, they would switch to rubies.  Wow.  That was pretty cool, he said.

I asked him what he was doing 17 years ago when I started flying.  He giggled.  His redneck papa is staring me down but good.  And not redneck in a good sort of way, may I add.  Quite clearly, daddy didn't know what to think of me.  That's a common thought when others observe me.  I asked him how old he thought I was.  "Umm, maybe 40....but no more," he answered.  Good boy.  Really good kid, I told him.  I liked him even more.

I told him that I would be 50 years old this very week.  Man oh man, his eyes got big and he pointed at me.  "You don't look over 40......45 at the very most," he clarified.  And with that, his younger brother on the window seat pointed at me and said "42!"

This is the beginning of the end of my '40s.  One week from today I will reach 50.....certainly midlife.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Letter

So, here's the deal.....I've spent a good portion of my last year helping design a project for my employer.  Flight Path Debrief for Flight Attendants.  I've mentioned it more than once here.  Honest to god, hundreds of hours.  All last summer spent in an office in Seattle.  Several hundred ideas, suggestions, "spaghetti on the wall" as we've called it -- tossing out ideas and thoughts and what may or may not work.  It's mandatory training.  The morning portion is all-employee -- 150 employees from all work groups.  The afternoon sessions are broken out into one's own division....mine being Flight Attendants.  And it's the afternoon Flight Attendant piece that I've helped design and am now an occasional facilitator.

It's playing out very, very well.  There have been a lot of laughs and plenty of tears as we FAs learn things about other areas of our company.  Things we don't typically know or are a part of.  There are some parts that are introspective....from both a professional and personal level.  Examination.  Looking inside.  I like it when people are functioning at their best as human beings.  And that's where this program is designed to take us.  It's part historical.  Part motivational.  And there is this little section that we've called "The Letter."  It's no longer being used.  But we tested it with a wide variety of test groups for many months.  We modified it, changed it, softened it, soothed it.  We changed our facilitator notes and what direction it was that we wanted FAs to "go" in their minds and hearts.  Honestly, it was a great piece.  A prodding piece.  A poking piece.  Made to make us think, consider.  And I like that kind of thing -- that keeps me well rounded, thinking, using my head, and propels me forward.  But clearly not all FAs like that sort of thing.  I've already made it clear that we are an unusual group.  Set in our ways, don't like change, demand flexibility, picky, get irritated by things like "I'll have a black coffee."  Only to be met three rows later with a wave of the hand and a "I'll need a cream and four sugars."  Those things continue to confound the wise.  We exist in a world of shallow talk and chit chat with passengers.  Nothing overly indepth.  Surface.

So when a piece like "The Letter" is presented, we're taken aback.  Shocked.  Surprised.  Which is exactly what the piece was designed to do.  But it was intended to lead us in a positive direction.  Not a negative direction.  The section played out quite powerfully in a positive way to most.  "Life changing, powerful, really made me consider, etc" are a few of the comments.  But then there is this group of folks who are stuck.  In the past.  With what has happened to them over the years.  The victims.  With having been down this "company kool aid" trail before.  They don't like management.  They don't like people with good attitudes.  They don't like coworkers who are friendly or go out of their way to help others.  They live with an "Us" and "Them" mentality.  And for those folks, the letter incited rage.  Upset.  Anger.  Two wild extremes depending upon the type of person The Letter was presented to.

The Letter was a fake letter which explained that our company had been purchased by an investor.  Assets were to be liquidated.  Employees could reapply if they cared to.  No one's jobs were preserved.  It said nothing about "You're fired" or "You're a bad employee."  But, you see, that's how we FAs work.  We think we know better.  We exist in a land of rumors and half-truths.  We are not well connected to an accurate line of information.  The funny thing is that about 95% of the negative comments came from those who had not even attended the program yet.  Rumors.  What they thought they knew.  What they had heard from others.  That's what they based their reactions on. And that I do not respect nor place any value on. 

Really?  Seriously?  You haven't even experienced it yet and you're already red faced and irritated?  Is that really the type of human being you are?  Umm humm.  It is.  The Letter was designed to encourage a "What Would You Do" sort of dialog.  What would you do tomorrow if this happened to you today?  Who would you tell first?  Do you have a plan?  Are you prepared?  It was to encourage ideas and thoughts from others.  To help us get ourselves in line if we are ever purchased, or merged, or or or.

So, I made a Facebook entry the other night saying that I was facilitating Flight Path the following day and how excited I was to do so.  My first and only comment was from a coworker who has never once made a comment on my FB page.  But with regard to this, she did.  I didn't like the comment, felt it rude and inappropriate for someone else to be making on MY page with MY excitement about the following day.   Most of us would never do that.  But that's the way she works.  I removed it and messaged her to tell her why I had done it.  Here is the dialog:

ME:   Hi there. I removed your comment about the "Stupid Firing Letter." I felt it personally offensive. I helped develop the Flight Path program. I'm 100% invested in it. And it's tough to hear those sorts of half-cocked, uninformed comments from those who haven't even been to the program yet. I'm more than happy to chat anytime about the letter or anything else in the program. The letter had nothing to do with being fired. That's what rumors do for our lives. They create an unbalance, unfair, air of negativity that is not based on truth. Let me know if you have any questions.

HER: You weren't here in 85 when I received an unfair, negative letter to come back to work or I WAS fired.Unchanged in my opinion and what seems to be the same of an overwhelming majority of people that have gone to your mandatory program,Also a letter from our CEO (Bruce Kennedy)that we were all a bunch of ingrates and we were lucky to have a job instead of a Christmas card or bonus.You say I'm uninformed but maybe it was ____ and your team that were uninformed about how touchy this letter would be.I've run this idea by family friends that run corporations and they were appalled at this idea of trying making an employee feel grateful for their job by "picturing their life without this job. "So I feel your attack is personally offensive, as well-Respectively yours-

"Respectively yours"?  Really?  So, I went to bed.  I tossed and turned.  Upset.  By her blue-collar bully ignorance.  The uninformed who think they know it all.  Those who actually know 10% but speak like they know 110%.  And she continued to message me because I was in bed and failed to respond to her as quickly as she thought I should have: 

HERNothing?Would you like me to form it in a question? It's obvious that you have gotten alot of heat for this but do you honestly feel that none of the negative feedback is valid?

The Letter section has been changed.  Redeveloped.  And it is working just fine.  Good dialog.  Good discussion.  But definitely lacks the punch and power of The Letter.  It was just way too far to ask some folks to travel in their heads.  They just couldn't do it.  Most of us could, a vocal minority could not.

So that's how my week's gone.  How about yours?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Frantic Freezing February Follies

I will be half-a-century old in just over a week's time.  The Big 5-0.  I'm looking forward to a long weekend filled with happy hour, morning coffee, dinner and a movie (I'm hoping for The Iron Lady), the BIG official party hosted by a friend at his home, Sunday morning brunch, and concluding with Pizza and Piano at our condo on the evening of my birthday.  Starts Thursday evening and ends Sunday night.  One of my most favorite parts of my birthday month of February is that it typically brings about the very first smatterings of blossoms on Portland's flowering cherry trees.  Two days ago, I spotted the first pink!

I've been thinking a lot about those poor little children who had their necks and heads chopped by their father before he burned them to death in a house explosion.  I can't imagine their terror or what must have been going through their minds.  I'm also hoping that it all happened very, very fast.  And I'm wondering what is going to become of our humanity in the years ahead.

I have been considering that flight attendants are some of the weirdest people on the face of the earth Me included.  You'll recall that I've written about flight attendants before.  We're emotionally driven and supposed to be hired for our customer care abilities.  But when you hire any group of people and want them all to have similar characteristics, you also bring along all of their strangeties (that's a word, don't question it....) and a myriad of weird nuances.  No, really, seriously.  Many are normal.  Centered.  Happy and balanced.  And the others are crazies, freaks, driven by their "Victim" status, unbalanced, and their (our?) minds just don't seem to quite work in the prettiest of fashions.  Yes, I'm well aware, these are my peeps.  My profession.  My friends, even.  But it doesn't change the facts.  We're a weird group.

I want a new home printer.  One that doesn't require wires.  And one that doesn't jam paper.  I've been doing my research.  I'm headed toward HP.  Maybe the HP7510 or the HP8600.  I think that the 8600 is larger than I need for home...but it's on sale.  The HP versions also offer E-Print...you can print from your iPhone.  The printer has it's own built-in email address so you can send any document you want directly to the printer from anywhere in the world.  Today may be the day.......

And I want a new home printer to go along with my new birthday present from LoverBoy....he bought me a new Sony 580 wireless blu ray player last weekend!  I've been wanting one for quite a while now.  This thing whistles along beautifully.   And I love that most of the content is free.  I'm calling Comcast cable today and reducing our cable service to local/minimal channels.  We'll save about $80 every single month. 

And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on California's Proposition 8 this morning at 10am Pacific time.  I don't have much more to say.  It's crazy.  It's the year 2012.  And we have hateful people in this world.  Nuf said.

Friday, January 27, 2012

John Boehner's Crybaby Alien Lives In Me

You knew that I was related to John Boehner, right?  I think we are cousins.  Distant, far removed cousins perhaps.  But all kidding aside, I swear to god that we must have the same genes or DNA tucked away deep inside somewhere.  He has taken heat for the way in which our common thread of DNA manifests itself in his life.  So have I.  You see, we are both crybabies.  I don't know about him but I'd venture to guess that I get tears in my eyes on almost a daily basis.  Maybe every other day or two if I remain 100% out of human contact, don't watch any TV or TV commercials, and stay off of the Internet.  Oh, one more thing....if I avoid conversation with my mother.  She always makes me cry when she closes nearly every phone conversation with, "Arnie, you know I love you....I really do.  I'm so proud of you...."  Lordy.  I'm a mess.

I see an animal rescue site with sappy music playing and I lose it.  Although, admittedly, Sarah McLachlan doesn't have quite the hold on me that she once did thanks to seeing those commercials for so many years.  So there.  See, I'm a big boy.  I see stories of soldiers returning home from war and sneaking into their children's school classrooms to surprise them and my throat closes up.  Or a homeless woman on a street corner who is will into her 70s or even 80s -- and she shares the same name as my very own mother.  My heart goes out.  Or perhaps I get into a conversation about any one of life's many difficulties with someone -- how they, or I, want to be a better human being than I am today.  Umm, yeah, don't expect me not to cry at that either.  Or I see an adult who you would suppose would have their act together by this point in their life -- but they don't.  Alcohol or drugs still have a stronghold on their ability to be a good parent, son, daughter, etc.  I think of my own experiences and how these sorts of situations strike awfully close to home.  Or I watch the resignation of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords as she hobbles with every bit of might she has up to John Boehner to submit her written letter of resignation.  John cries.  I sob.

Man oh man, John Boehner's sobbing crybaby spirit lives within me.  Sort of like an alien.  Who cries.  An alien who cries.  Yeah, that's it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


He tells me that I'm peculiar.  And that I use weird words.  And phrases.  And I tell him that he could be married to an ax murderer serial killer.  Or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Rick Perry.  So there.  

He laughs and giggles at me when I use certain words.  He'll make me "Say it Again."  And then we both laugh.  And now that I'm completely familiar with the words that I know will set him off, I take my time saying them.  Really drrraaawww them out.  Emphasize them and make them worth the laughing.  For some of the words, it's that I use them at all.  For other words, it's the emphasis or accent I put on them, apparently.  Words and phrases like:

Crisps (It's the ending "P" and "S")
Residual (who else in god's name uses this word??!!)
Potato or Taco Bar
 Rolls (as in bread or rolls...maybe I spend too much time on the "oolll" part)
Meal (instead of using the word food...maybe I draw out the "ea" part). 

Just normal, old, everyday words that everyone uses from time to time.  I suppose I caught the weird word and pronunciation disease from my mom or something.  Or perhaps I do it now just to give us something to laugh about.  You do that in old age, you know.  Weird things.  Funky things that nobody else does....or would ever do.  And the longer you've been together, the longer the list is of things that go on just between the two of you.  And that's peculiar too. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

While He's Under the Weather.....

As long as he is down and out and recovering from his shock wave lithotripsy, I thought I'd go ahead and take full advantage of his drug-induced inebriation.  To make fun of him.  He knows that I'm going to.   But perhaps the drugs will keep him from remembering that I am going to. 

Yesterday while he was waiting for the anesthesiologist to come in and shoot him full of la-la drugs, he used the word clairvoyant.  Which is fine except that he used it in some weird, inaccurate way.  He does that.  Frequently.  Well, perhaps regularly is the more accurate word.  He gets so close.  And yet so far.  I don't even remember how the word clairvoyant was used yesterday except that it caused us both to laugh so hard I'm sure the nurses wondered what was going on in room #24.  And then we go off on some twisted sort of tangent making up phrases and words and meanings. 

He'll get names messed up -- maybe he'll stay "I talked to our neighbor Mark" when the guy's name is  Mike.  One of his favorites is, "Boy is that house ever dilapiTated."  Years this has gone on.  I keep on saying, "It's dilapiDated."  And one that comes into play frequently (because I'm a crybaby) is "Are your eyes welTing up with tears again?"  When he knows full well that it is "welling." 

But this clairvoyant thing.  Man oh man, what was it....???  I just can't remember what it was the other day while he waited for the dude to come and knock him out.  Whatever it was, my eyes welted up with tears in that dilapitated hospital room. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flight Attendant Boot Camp

A rare look inside my world.  This is the room, the aircraft mockups, the trainers that taught me what I know today.  And it is also the room that I now have the occasional opportunity to actually stand in front of the room and teach others how to be a flight attendant.  I hope you enjoy as much as I did.  This is where I spend my time, my energy, and efforts.  People I love and now call my family and friends. 

Flight Attendant Boot Camp Part I

Flight Attendant Boot Camp Part II

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

I just popped it.  My first pill.  Today, I felt a bit older.  I'm just four scant weeks from turning 50.  Not bothered by it.  Doesn't phase me.  Except that today I started taking high blood pressure medication.  Combined with the high cholesterol meds that I've been on for five years, and I join the ranks of millions of other folks. 

For the first time in my life, I visited with a Cardiologist today.  A fantastic guy that I met on one of my flights a while back.  He was impressed by the files I brought in showing my last years of blood work, medications, blood pressure readings, and all of that.  I had an EKG.  We chatted about my not-so-good family history.  And the fact that my father had two heart attacks within five years of my current age.  What I'd like to have is a CT angiography.   But the doctor said nope.  He's not a big fan of testing and procedures with no symptoms.  My intent was really just to be sure that I'm doing everything possible to make sure I don't end up having a heart attack.  Guess what he said?  It's time to get the BP down.  And to watch what you eat and to get my fat (yes, fat....I've gained 10 pounds in the last year) arse back to cardio at the gym.  Or, he said, you can just do what everyone else does and that means do nothing.  You may be fine.  Or you may have a heart attack.  Even then, most people do nothing.  I feel better.  Just talking it through.  And I know what is being requested of me.  But I probably knew all of that already.

You'll recall that I wrote about my mixed emotions after a recent visit to the San Diego Zoo.  The elephant exhibit, specifically.  It just crossed my mind that, perhaps, the animals were suffering to some degree from being in captivity.  But what do I know?  Except that the San Diego Zoo euthanized two of their elephants last week.  Because they were "ailing and aged."  Humm.  Here's the story that causes me pause.  I sure hope not.  I mean, I'm the first guy to NOT want animals to suffer.   But at the same time, I don't want them killed for a poor reason.  And beyond that, I hate to see them in captivity at all. 

Friday will find Hubby and me back at the hospital for his lithotripsy to remove his 4mm kidney stone.  This is his second one in just over a year.  It's a nearly all-day outpatient surgery.  So I'll be playing nurse...unless my high blood pressure precludes me from doing so....hehehehe.  Or, perhaps, my blood pressure will be SO low two days from now that I won't be able to function properly to be a nurse maid.  Oh, who am I kidding.  We're both in this together.  High blood pressure, cholesterol, low thyroid, kidney stones, and all. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Oh, listen to me....saying "back in the saddle."  Like I've ever been in one.  Well, now wait...that's not entirely true.  Once.  North of Kona...in Hawaii.  At the Kahua Ranch.  My one and only venture on a horse.  Old Sampson.  He had gas and they put me at the back of the line.  But today, I'm back in the saddle in the virtual sort of 2012 way.

We enjoyed a fantastic week-long New Year's Adventure including two evenings of The Middle reruns and another of Absolutely Fabulous reruns.  There were two entire days where we didn't dress or put on shoes.  Passed around the champagne bottle at midnight.  And wrapped up tight on the two days that we ventured outside to both Hudson and Saratoga Springs, New York.  Such great towns.  You know, everything on the East Coast is so much older than it is out here in the West.  It seems more historic.  More blue collar.  More rough, tough, used and worn.  And we enjoyed one evening with as many of our Albany, New York-area friends as we could gather.  And Enterprise Car Rental gave us a 2012 Mazda CX9 with 300 miles on it.  Rode like a beauty on the Mass Pike.  We had a fantastic week.  And now we're home.  Picking up the pooch from his boarding place this morning.  (BTW, can you even believe that there are those that believe I talk about Mason incessantly?  I've been accused of being consumed by him and, apparently, talk about him nonstop.  Psht....).  Oh, and one more thing before I go.....I watched two movies during our six-hour flight from Boston-Portland last night....Dolphin Tale and All the President's Men.  I only cried a few times (in the dolphin movie, not the president movie). 

We've got a 12th Night gathering tomorrow night, I have my very first Cardiologist appointment next week to hopefully put my adventurous mind to rest about issues that I don't even think are really there (nothing to worry about as far as I know).  I'm also back into my facilitation schedule for our company's Flight Path Debrief for Flight Attendants session and will be facilitating in all of our bases over the next year.  We are in high-level talks about our travel schedule for this year...planning vacations, crossing destinations off our list, adding others, fantasizing about others.  And, yes, my 50th half-century birthday is in six weeks.  So, we're in preparation for all of that birthday President's Day weekend (you did know that I celebrate with the President's each year, didn't you?).

I always love this time of year.  Fresh starts turn me on.  New things make me feel good.  And my mind mulling over things that need to go...and things that need to start.....