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Who knew that bringing in the newspaper Monday morning would change my life. It was just an ordinary morning, arriving home from my daily dog walk and reaching into the newspaper receptacle as I do every morning. What looked like an innocent stack of leaves instantly turned into a sled on top of slick water once I stepped on them. They were still damp from periodic rains we’d experienced, much appreciated after our 7-month drought. Today, for some reason I lost my balance and toppled onto the street, twisting my ankle on the way down. Crack. There it was, loud and clear. And in that instant I fractured my fibula.

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As a child I broke my ankle after falling off of somebody’s shoulder on the playground and lived in a white cast for weeks, I think. The only thing I remember about that experience was the extreme immediate pain and then total inconvenience for, what seemed like, an eternity.

brokenankle2This time, a boot stuffed with soft fleece and fastened by super Velcro will live on my lower right leg for 6-weeks. Can’t put any weight on it or drive for the duration. What a difference life can bring when living on one leg.

Our first floor has been rearranged. My bathroom is now downstairs and handicap equipped. The guest room is now my sleeping quarters and pants that can fit over a big boot have become my clothes of choice. Rugs have been rolled up. One slip on shoe with a rubber traction sole is all I can wear. Getting in and out of bed as well as on and off sofas and chairs are new challenges to be mastered. This boot is heavy and lugging it around over a broken ankle is not for the misty eyed. It’s a lead weight so I’m learning to flex my foot, charge my thigh and engage my core before lifting that leg. Who knew?

After day one I was convinced those nasty crutches were not my solution to getting around. So ingenuity had to prevail in a number of ways.

Aha! The rolling chair in my office could serve as a make-shift wheel chair with my left leg as the engine and my arms as the navigators. Multi-tasking is a must. So when I go to the kitchen I envision everything I’ll need for a meal, dump it on my lap and wheel to the counter. When I strategically position myself, I can stand up and reach 80% of what will be necessary for that meal. Sometimes a couple of chair trips will finish the task. Believe it or not, it exerts a lot of energy to stand up, sit down and motor around on one leg – all day. I’m “feeling the burn” as they say, in my left thigh and glutes as though I’m working through leg rotations in the gym. But on just one leg.

As a yoga practitioner for many years I understand correct body alignment and the need for stretching to avoid injury so I’ve figured out how to stretch my hamstrings and do hip openers. On both legs! Extra precaution is taken on my right side to keep my lower leg stabilized. But, surprise, I can also do thigh lifts so I’m not too weak when I get that leg back. I want this sucker off as soon as possible – with my knees, thighs and back aligned and intact!

Bathing is now mastered, while also keeping that durn right boot dry. Laundry was my new challenge today. My husband helper brought all the dirty clothes fit to be washed to the laundry room. The rest I can do! Wheel, stand, wheel, stand – load, unload and fold, slowly. In fact everything now is much slower. It takes twice as long to accomplish tasks I took for granted on two legs. As I write I’m sitting on our back deck enjoying a 50-degree, beautiful sunny day. All by myself I’m proud to say. How? Ha! Loaded everything I needed onto my lap grabbed my crutches and wheeled to the patio doors where I stood, lifted one wheel at a time over the runners and sat down on the other side. Whee! I have my chair outside and my crutches inside the door – just in case I happen to need them. Victory!

I’m learning that slowing down is not a bad thing. Reading for longer periods at a time is good for my brain. More frequent meditation is healthy for my soul. Taking late afternoon naps to restore energy used up in my daily motoring is refreshing. I’ve read that slowing down inspires creativity. It does.

I also have utter empathy and compassion for all the long-term disabled people whose lives were also changed in an instant. I’m lucky, in 6-weeks I’ll have two functioning legs again. Those people won’t. I’ll resume hiking, walking my dog, practicing yoga, enjoying water aerobics and driving my car again. Most of those people won’t. I feel accomplished when mastering new methods for mundane tasks. Their challenges far surpass mine. And yet those people often master extreme challenges exerting much more effort than I have to.  I’m most fortunate.

Now, though, it’s time to maneuver back into the house, through the living-room, down the hall and into the laundry room to unload the washer and load the dryer. Wheel, navigate, stand. Wheel, stand. Wheel, stand. And this is day 4. But who’s counting?

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The perfect antidote to the election debacle blues is being part of a group of humanity volunteering to help come back from the catastrophic fires that consumed thousands of acres of Smoky Mountain wilderness, devoured homes and stole the lives of people and animals, while creating homelessness and unemployment. Helping others restored my spirit today.

packing1People helping people is the gift of disasters, if there could possibly be one. My heart swelled with admiration at the hundreds of people who labored today to be of service.   We unpacked bags, built boxes, sorted and stuffed necessities into the new boxes and helped to traffic them through to those in dire need. We were a human assembly line that had one purpose in mind. Get it done quickly and efficiently so it all can be used.packers1

The first stop is registration at the volunteer center where we filled out forms, showed official identity and were then given numbers and assigned to locations. I am #04016 sent to the distribution warehouse.

titanicSurrealism begins when we pull into a warehouse provided pro-bono by the owners situated across the street from the “Titanic” attraction in this popular tourist city of Pigeon Forge. It’s the honky-tonk Vegas of Tennessee, part of the triad of visitors’ destinations that includes Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Or most recently known as the home of the devastating fires.

The National Guard is here in their military attire. shrinkwrappalletsThey’re the transportation system of the highly organized operation at the warehouse. They’re the guys unloading the trucks filled with donations and sending them through to the warehouse. Then they pick up the finished sorted goods, take them out to reload trucks then sent to the “department store” building for a deeper re-sort into children’s clothes, men, women, warm weather, winter, food, necessities.receiving

Our jobs in the warehouse are to unload the bags and sort the contents into food, beverages, toiletries, used and new clothes and winter clothes. Dave somebody is in charge of the warehouse and he’s a volunteer who’s turned that warehouse into a well-oiled, efficient assembly line of stuff and volunteers.

packers1 createboxAll our materials have been donated, including the building centers of organization. Then there are pallets, boxes, dollies, tape, magic markers and food for the volunteers that are plentiful. Since this disaster has not been officially declared a disaster area, there’s no money to spend. So generous people are rising to the occasion. It’s truly awe-inspiring.

My friend Jo and I first taped together boxes. And when there were none left we joined the groups who were filling the boxes with sorted materials. First beverages and food and then on to clothing. These groups were all self-gathering. We just went to the marked areas and started working, strangers becoming friends united by a cause. Newly stuffed and marked boxes get stacked on pallets and when the stack gets about five feet high, National Guardsmen shrink wrap the pallets and take them outside to be loaded into trucks. In it comes through the back, and out it goes from the front. I talked to a man from Cincinnati who used a week’s vacation time to work in the center. He’s been coming to Gatlinburg since he was a kid and he felt driven to participate in the restoration. Companies sent their employees to help. Private citizens gave their time. We were all equal in this mission to serve.packers3

packer4I am overwhelmed by the generosity of neighbors. No partisanship, no religious affiliation, no discrimination. Just compassionate humans who recognize that there but by the grace of circumstance go I.

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MY 94-year old father was released from hospice care today because he’s just doing too well to qualify for that designation. His life in the nursing home will continue as usual, only now there’s no extra nurse, aide or social worker checking in. I get it and I’m actually rather hopeful that the doctor is adhering to the rules of Medicare and the spirit behind those rules. Although nobody can predict how long my dad will actually live, they also can’t limit it to the 6 months required by the Feds. I’m hopeful because the news is filled with too many stories of Medicare and Medicaid fraud it worries me that the health care marketplace is fraught with tricks and loopholes to bleed money from the government and us taxpayers. It’s nice when I see the law adhered to.

So my father is off hospice but still stuck in the nursing home he hates. Now I’m talking about a gold star nursing home with amenities to match. Book clubs, sports groups, activities, musical concerts, religious services and beautiful grounds that he can see from his private, spacious room. He’s stuck because that’s how he sees it. He’s no longer able to walk to the parking lot, get in a car and drive home. And none of his kids will do it for him. He doesn’t participate in any of the activities other than services and the periodic entertainment.

He’s been there for more than a year and I really don’t think he hates it anymore. He’s adjusted, knows the people, enjoys some of the food and complies with the regimens. He’s clean, is well groomed, has gained weight and is the epitome of robustness for a 94-year old man who’s been disabled by a stroke 25 years ago. Left to his own devices, which he desperately yearns for, none of that would be true. It’s the rules and the regs that bother him the most. He feels like he’s in prison, and he’s right. He’s being held somewhere against his will and that’s the ultimate in lack of control, especially for a very controlling person who’s quite macho and has always been in charge.

He’s sad a lot and lonely and that makes us, his children, equally hurt for him. We can’t fix it. We’ve sent in a social worker and rabbi to see if they can help him adopt a different attitude. Sometimes it helps but only temporarily. We’ve explained how he requires the care of skilled people more regularly than he can receive at home. And how he’s actually less lonely than he was in his bedroom where he interacted with many fewer visitors and just his TV for entertainment.

My father thinks his daughters have betrayed him, that we’ve turned our backs on him now that he needs our help. That he financially and emotionally supported us as children and provided a comfortable livelihood so we could enjoy what we were provided. He is unable to consider different points of views outside himself. His heart won’t allow it and his pride won’t release. As he sees it, he is the rooster and we are the eggs and we need to do what he wants as he did when we were children.

That makes us sad too for we haven’t betrayed him. Quite the contrary. Each of us plays a role in my father’s life at the nursing home. One sister closely monitors his care there and takes care of his domestic needs. One overlooks his finances. The third sister researches the law, his business history and gives him feedback and the last cheers him up, makes him laugh and brings him her delectable dishes. He knows it, and doesn’t notice it. That’s just a given; we’re his daughters.

It’s a learning experience for us all. He has to accept life as it is and we have to live with the knowledge that we’re keeping him where he doesn’t want to be and doing our best for him in the background.

Sigh …

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I’ve been struggling with some newly learned information today from a close friend. It’s put me in a funk while I search my brain trying to understand her reasoning. Understanding and reconciling are different from acceptance. I accept what she’s doing but my system is out of sorts with it. To say the least. I’ve been consumed by her decision all day.

My close female friend is voting for Donald Trump. I hyperventilate typing that sentence. She’s an intelligent, kind, talented, lovely person with high emotional intelligence I’d say. I often gain a different perspective of things when we talk. But not today. Today I’m flummoxed, deflated and depressed.

She’s a devout Christian, one who participates in Bible study each week. And she believes that Jesus chooses broken people when he wants his work to be done. And that belief allows her to vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. Yup.

I’ve tried to counter that argument, haven’t and won’t succeed. After everything she knows about what kind of person he really is – how he cheats, scams, avoids taxes, demeans women, forces himself on women, cheats on his wives – not to mention his temperament, bullying, lying viciously, multiple bankruptcies, lawsuits, knowing absolutely nothing about economic and foreign affairs and not having the patience, or interest to learn – she’s voting for him.

So now it’s my problem to handle. I’m a person fiercely driven by principles. While I’m not sure I could ever have an abortion, I absolutely believe that others should have the right to make that choice themselves. I’m not gay or a transsexual, but that doesn’t pre-empt my feeling that those gender identity people have the same inherent rights I do. I think that’s what Jesus taught – love, compassion and forgiveness.  I know she feels differently. She’s a bible literalist I think, though I’ve never been to her bible study group. And it’s those issues and other “family values” that’s driving her vote. Never mind that Trump is not Christian and that he’s the antithesis of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing noble about that man. And yet he will get her vote.

This election season has agitated my constitution. Other than Trump’s cult members I can’t understand why anyone would think he’s fit for the highest post in the world. Donald Trump? Are you kidding me? Would the same people vote for Charles Manson if he ran on the Republican ticket? Or Hitler? Even the Republican brass is renouncing him as their choice.  Where have we gone as a country?

Alas, this is my problem, the need for people to look at the facts, objectively. Maybe if we had a less divisive opponent, someone other than Hillary, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for people to take their heads out of the sand. I won’t go into why there’s such hatred and distrust directed at Hillary – just suffice it to say that the smear campaign lasting years and years has been effective.  Forget all her years of family and children activism, and her successful track record.  The haters hate.

I put this out to the universe from the depths of my soul….

Please let the vast majority of people and delegates elect Hillary. The planet is in peril otherwise and the rest of the world knows it.

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housebegoniasI sit here on my deck amidst dense trees and window boxes lush with flowering red begonias. The wind is blowing gently and there’s a faint rustle in the air. Life is good here in the woods. I’ve missed you.

Gone is the endless hustle bustle of the city. The traffic racing past, cyclers, skate boarders, runners, horns blowing, sirens shrieking – whew! The sounds of nature once again fill my psche and renew my soul. I’ve become a country girl. 20 years of living like this has changed my constitution, literally. Everything inside me has slowed down. I can once again hear myself think, sense my intuition and feel joy. I’m not racing anymore.housewoods

Some people thrive on the hectic and energetic lifestyle of a city. I used to. Back in the day when I lived in Pittsburgh I longed for a more active environment. When asked if I liked living there I’d say I don’t intend to die there. I was after more action. And later in Chicago I got it. Though we didn’t live in the city I was there every day and many evenings after work. I loved Chicago. It was rich in all categories: sports, theater, food, shopping and entertainment.

woodsneighborhood1Moving to Knoxville, TN was a culture shock – for years. But we bought the right house in a perfect neighborhood and it’s been home for 20 years now. And I’ve come to realize that it’s the woods that my body craves. It’s very much alive in different ways than the city. There are birds that sing and insects that talk and squirrels that bark if you get too close. woodsneighborhood3And the rain sounds delicious, rather than bothersome. I’m home here, and though I truly love Boston, I’m not home there anymore. I used to be. I used to get off a plane, smell the salty air and smile from ear to ear. I still love that city and the whole of New England.woodsneighborhood2

But one thing I now know for sure. Though I don’t have to always live in Knoxville, I do need to live within nature. It’s become who I am. Ahhhh…. I’m home.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe it’s my age. There’s no way I’d bike in heavy traffic without a helmet and casually meander out of my bike lane into one filled with cars. Oops, a horn on my tail, sorry mister, I’ll casually wander back. I look at those kids (and kids they are) and shake my head.   Their parents would plotz if they saw them.   If any of you are somewhat familiar with the Mass Ave Bridge or Beacon Street or Comm Ave you’d know what I’m talking about. Boston drivers are a mess unto themselves. cycling2Put a 20 year old on a bike cruising in from of them and that cycler is lucky he or she doesn’t go flying ass over teakettle. Maybe some do; I don’t know the injury rate – death rate – of those cyclers on city streets. I know that 35+ years ago my husband was one of those casualties, landing him in the hospital with a concussion and lots of cuts and bruises. He was lucky; except for about 5 years later when he needed a tumor removed near his brain stem which docs think may have been caused by head trauma. He doesn’t ride bikes anymore and I only ride safe greenways that are far away from speeding traffic.

It seems that everyone on Boston streets is a dare devil, even in the evenings. When I walk my dog at 9pm there are kids on bikes, also no helmets, no lights and no regard for traffic laws. Hit me if you dare. Or maybe they think they’re invincible. Even at 20 I had a healthy respect for safety and my mortality. At my university in Pittsburgh I walked everywhere, maybe because of all the hills but also because it just felt safer. This city is teeming with colleges and thousands of students, even in the summer. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the school year. Maybe they keep the hospital row ERs in business. Drive down Longwood & Brookline Avenues and you run into Mass General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s, Beth Israel, Children’s Hospital and the medical buildings associated with them. Those are big Harvard hospitals and streets are packed with people going every which way they please. Cars are incidental. And bike lanes are in the middle of the street packed with cyclists who also pass the cars! And nobody seems shocked, except for me. Am I the country bumpkin?

esplaade&bikesI walk Bella down at the Esplanade where there are long stretches of grass on either side of paved asphalt paths filled with skate boarders, cyclers, baby strollers and roller bladers – everyone weaving in and around those of us walking. On the dirt path by the river we have to move out of the way of dirt bikers racing each other. Nobody even calls out when they whiz by. Luckily she’s adjusting and doesn’t seem fazed. Maybe that’s because I pull her out of their way. We have to abide by traffic and safety rules; they don’t.EsplanadePeople

Boston is a great biker town; it’s flat and you can get anywhere. You can also rent a bike at many street corners if you don’t have one of your own. Pick it up at Beacon at Mass Ave and drop it off in Brookline for class. It’s a great system and a novel entrepreneurial venture that’s hugely popular here.

bikeRentalsIn the next day or two I’ll get on my bike too. But I’ll be riding the asphalt path next to The Charles River, safely away from traffic, with my helmet nestled on my head. I’ll likely make it to Harvard Square for a visit to the Coop for coffee and book perusing and then continue on the Cambridge side along Memorial Drive, again on the asphalt path. Call me an old fogy. And alive.

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bostonBikesIt’s hard to believe we used to live here in Boston. Oh, the scenery is, mostly, the same (though construction sites are always changing) and everyone is as active as I remember – from college on up it seems that everyone bikes, runs, skateboards, rollerblades, rides Segways, strolls, & walks dogs and babies. Everywhere. And the traffic is still crazy busy, especially where we’re located, on The Charles River at the Mass Avenue bridge into Cambridge. Our living room and dining room windows offer sweeping views of the river and Cambridge beyond. That’s the same. roofview

The trees on the Esplanade are bigger and more lush and the Pru and Hancock Tower beyond are as grand as ever. BostonBikes2PruThe energy is electric and that’s infectious. But my sensibility and stimulation electrodes are on overload. We’ve been gone long enough for my innards to have slo—w—e–d down. I feel like a country girl taking on the big city again. I’m in ramp up mode, slowly adjusting to city sounds instead of chirping birds, crickets, and wildlife noises. My brain is speeding back up, but until my batteries recharge my nerves are on edge. And my soul screams for woods and solitude. And yet I love Boston as much as I ever had. It just takes some getting used to.

MadisonBostonOur cat Madison has surprised me. She’s been on an adventure since we left home, staying in three different places before settling into this fourth and last abode until the end of summer. Our shy and reserved beauty has been car riding very well and has been adjusting quickly everywhere she’s taken. She shows no signs of stress and does very little hiding. She eats, sleeps and finds her litter with no hesitation as though she’s enjoying this unique trip without her feline sisters and brothers. Maybe she feels like the chosen one. Who knows?

BellaRiver1It’s Bella, the dog who has to learn the most. Here there are city rules to abide by. No more meandering on or off leash, no more wandering up to every person and dog to say hi or to provoke into play. Lots of new sounds – honking horns, trucks and cars whizzing past, people dashing by, lights to stop at—whoa “where am I?” her expression seems to say. But I’m proud of her progress. Each day breeds more familiarity with the unexpected. Even our daily walks on the Esplanade are finding her (periodically) off leash and obeying commands. We’re both becoming more comfortable in the “new wild” together and we’re both enjoying our morning ritual more. She’s teaching me patience, never my strong suit. And I’m teaching her discipline, never her strength. And we’re falling in love again here on Mars.

Our latest challenge is the 6am pee and poo time. At home in Knoxville we have pet throughs and a fenced yard for her to accomplish her business without my help. Here we have to board an elevator down 5 floors, out the front door and walk a block (or 3) to the nearest large patch of green. 6am! She wants to casually experience all smells and sights along the way. I want to get the job done and go home. I just rolled out of bed without coffee, after-all! Lately she’s been picky about WHICH patch of green is suitable! I have to convince her that this early piece of business IS business. Get it done and leave! We’re arguing about that. Grrrrrr! My next strategy is to try training treats for a quick potty time. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Wish me luck. I’d like this event to be a non-negotiable.

More to come as I rediscover Boston.

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