Indoor Urban Camping in Tacoma (or, how to make the most of those pesky power outages)

“Oh, we never lose power in my part of the Hilltop; there’s too much redundancy in the grid.” That, is what I always tell people. Actually, that is what I used to tell people.

In my twelve years of living in close proximity to downtown, first in the Stadium District and later a mere 1 ¼ miles away on the Hilltop, I’ve never lost power. Not once-not during our regular, epic autumn wind storms which like to fall on a holiday for a memorable namesake, aka the “Hanukah Eve Storm” of 2006, the Inaugural Day Strom of 1993 or the infamous Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (I guess now, it’s the “Indigenous People’s Day Storm”) or the wicked ice storms that occasionally plague our area.

Until yesterday. As I was coming home from work I got a text message from a neighbor I had been communicating with during the day “The power just went out”.

Great.

Having lived off the grid in a cabin with no electricity in my twenties and having spent time as a backcountry ranger and river guide living in a tent more often than in a structure, and still being an avid backpacker; it’s pretty easy for me to deal with the minor inconvenience of a few hours/days without electricity.

When I purchased my home four and a half years ago, one of the requirements I had was that it not rely solely on electricity. I had never seen an all-electric home until I moved up here where hydro power was so cheap at one time. It seemed silly to me to rely on a system delivered by flimsy wires in a place with wicked storms and lots of falling trees.

While not everyone is lucky enough to have a home with the ability to burn word, propane or natural gas, there are ways to safely survive a power outage, even in very cold weather.

The first trick is to look at it as an “Indoor Urban Camping Trip”.

Those of us who backpack regularly, are already prepared. My attic nest gets pretty darn cold, so I decided to have some fun and bring one of my sleeping pads and sleeping bags up from the basement.

camp

If you have camping gear, you’re already set. If not, it’s worth picking something up at a military surplus or a garage sale.

If you have kids, it’s a great opportunity to turn an inconvenience into an adventure.

What a great time to build a blanket fort in the living room! It’s warm, fun and adventurous. LED headlamps and flashlights are inexpensive and quite efficient. I even keep a little LED light on my key chain (quite helpful for getting in the house when it’s dark) and read out loud to each other or play cards/board games.

If you’re not lucky enough to have an alternate heat source, building that blanket fort and hunkering down with your family is a good way to stay warm.

Whatever you do, do NOT burn a charcoal grill or portable propane heater inside your home. According to the CDC, over 400 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year many of them improperly and unsafely trying to heat their home during a power outage.

Every home should have a working Carbon Monoxide detector; especially at this time of year!

If you have a BBQ grill, you can use it for cooking, outside and bring the food inside to eat.

Candles and oil lanterns (safely placed so that they can’t be accessed or knocked over by pets or children) are a must.

candle lamplamp

If you’re lucky enough to have a gas stove, in all but the most modern models, you can light the flame with a match and cook/boil water. It’s also a great mini “campfire” for roasting marshmallows.  While cooking is OK, never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

cook

In lieu of that or a BBQ grill, it’s worth picking up a solid fuel “stove” (use ONLY outside or in a separate room with the door closed and windows open for ventilation if you are in an apartment with no easy access outside) for boiling a cup of water.

esbit-stove

You want to keep your fridge/freezer closed so keep the cold air in so as not to lose food. Keeping dehydrated backpacking food around, or even Ramen which can be acquired cheaply and easily at any grocery or convenience store, ensures a hot meal.

In sub freezing weather, it’s important to let your faucets drip a bit so that pipes don’t freeze since they won’t be warmed by your heaters/furnace.

I have battery operated tap lights in stairwells around my home, which makes getting around and finding your emergency supplies safe and easy. (Check the batteries in these during time changes as you would your smoke detectors)

A new “emergency” item that comes in very handy is a tiny LED flashlight that holds a couple of cell phone charges worth of power. I keep it next to my desktop computer where it charges by USB. I’m good for cell phone power for 2-3 days without having to go out to my vehicle to charge it.

TPU (Tacoma Public Utilities) did a great job last night keeping everyone informed via social media on their Facebook Page and Twitter (if you’re got that smart phone charged, you can keep up to date)

Everyone is encouraged to call their outages in so that they can be tracked. The number to report power outages in the City of Tacoma is (253) 502-8602

Check out their Website for more information on power outages and safety http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/outage-safety/

Be extra careful on dark streets to look out for power lines that may be down. If trees are down, they may have taken power lines with them.

Another great tool to have in your emergency kit is a hand crank radio/flashlight combo. It has AM/FM and weather band radio (for music and news) and a flashlight. Cranking it up is a good way to keep the kids busy.

radio-book

Last night was just a practice run. We have a long autumn/winter/storm season ahead of us, so now is the time to check/build our emergency kits and come up with an emergency plan.

Most important.

When something like this happens, please check your neighbors who may be elderly, disabled or have very small children to make sure they are OK and are not using unsafe heating methods which could result in tragedy.

 



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Life and Death… What would you do?

~
I have a lot of fun, hopefully interesting and much less serious things to blog about (and absolutely no time in which to do so), but I read something on a friend’s page today that got me thinking about this.

Said friend just got back from the hospital after a scare that involved chest pain. Nothing conclusive was shown (that’s a good thing) and returning for another test (right away) was recommended.

This got my friend thinking about what she would do if it turned out to be something serious enough to require invasive surgery such as a multiple bypass; (an uncle had one) Would she, at her (retirement) age put herself through such an invasive and recovery intensive procedure such as that, or accept that life is finite and just go on about the act of living?

Hopefully, it is tendon/muscle/ligament and/or irritation of the pleura or pericardium, perhaps/most likely something that is easily fixed by a shot of antibiotics, some mild medication or just rest and recovery and this will all be a mute point for my friend.

Since my cancer scare a year and a half ago, I’ve thought a lot about such things.  What would I do if it it was ovarian cancer?  Would I have chemo?  Would I accept localized radiation?  Or would I just tell everyone I love that I love them, live my life with as much zeal as possible and then go into hospice on a morphine drip when that was no longer possible?

I’m pretty sure that in that case, I would chose the latter. As a matter of fact, I am as positive as one can be without actually having to make that decision.

Like my friend, I do not have any children relying on me; if I did, I would most likely feel a different responsibility to them.

During that time, I also watched my close friend Houston battle stage four prostate cancer.  For a year and a half after the diagnosis (when they told him he only had a short few months to live) he was mostly confined to bed in a nursing home and was in and out of hospitals for surgeries and complications of his disease and treatment.

He fought; he fought valiantly and up to the end remained positive and determined to beat it.

With my medical background, I knew that the prognosis and the likelihood of that happening was so miniscule that statisticians would not be able to quantify it. Granted, I have seen miracles, but did not really expect one in his case.

But this was his fight, not mine, his decision, not mine, HIS… NOT MINE. As long as my dear friend wanted to fight, I would be there with him, holding his hand (even when it required a gloves, gown and a mask to do so) and would support his decision 110%.

I know death. I know death all too well. In addition to having danced with it myself on more than one occasion, I have been with people when it came. I have seen the beauty and peace one feels when ready to end the pain and pass over, I have seen and felt the horrible struggle of those clinging to life they were not ready to let go of as it was traumatically torn from them, and I, as as medical professional have had people beg me to let them die in peace with dignity when the law would not allow it. That is the most heartbreaking thing of all.

So while my friend pondered what they would do and I watched mutual, concerned, loving friends beg, plead and demand action, I remembered a choice I made a year and a half ago.

A little known fact about surgery, about general anesthesia. More people die from general anesthesia, than from the illnesses and injures that require the surgery.

When I went in for my first surgery a year and a half ago, I updated my will and my advanced directives.

The most difficult choice, was finding someone to carry out those directives.

I needed someone (and a backup) that “loved me as much as they loved their dog”

That sounds weird.

I needed someone that loved me enough to pull the plug should things go bad.

I could not choose anyone whose religious beliefs would preclude them from doing that.

We take our beloved fur children to the vet and have them “put out of their misery” when their short lives are going to be filled with nothing but pain, misery and suffering, yet only in Oregon and Washington states, do we have a death with dignity law in which we can make that choice for ourselves.

Whilst that choice would be made by only me and my doctor, well ahead of time, the idea behind it is the same.

Do you love me as much as your dog?

Do you love me enough to pull the plug and end all of our suffering?

Luckily, I have dear friends Janet and Betsy who agreed to do that for me should it come to that.

My advanced directives are clear…

WHAT! You don’t have advanced directives?

Fill them out, have them notarized, DO IT NOW!

Having worked in emergency medicine for well over a decade, I (and most, if not all of my colleagues) would prefer to just have “no code” tattooed on my chest.

Since that is not an option, my advanced directives are clear.

No respirator, no feeding tube. If I can’t be brought back with basic CPR and a zap with a defibrillator, save my loved ones and the staff the hassle of trying to bring me back from a vegetative state.

You see, the brain dies after 4-6 minutes without oxygen. You can “save” someone and get their heart beating again, but it does not mean that they will “live”

As a paramedic, I experienced this far too often.

The expectation, the legal mandate was to “save lives”.

In the absence of “no code” orders signed by the patient and the physician (and not expired), at the bedside, we were required to do what we were trained to do.

Yes, it sounds exciting and exhilarating to bring someone back from the dead and get their heart beating again.

The harsh reality is, that in most cases, they “come back” brain dead, only to code over and over again in the ICU as their family mourns their death many times over, and is driven to bankruptcy in the process, or they “live” in a vegetative state in a nursing home being fed through a tube and have their diaper changed by underpaid staff.

I cried far more often for the patients I “saved” than the ones I lost because I did not feel like a hero, I felt like Dr Frankenstein, only prolonging pain and suffering.

I am not afraid of death. I’ve been clinically dead once as a child with a severe allergy/asthma attack brought back to life with an intracardiac injection of epinephrine and as an adult made peace with the fact that the most likely scenario is that I was going to die after a river guiding accident that fractured my spine and pelvis.

and please in the name of all that is sacred to you, harvest my organs and give them to people who need them. What! You don’t have an organ donor card/endorsement on your license? If you are so inclined DO IT NOW!

What I am afraid of, is having a stroke or an accident and not having a choice, putting my friends and loved ones through hell on earth and being a drain on the system.

But back to my friend.

I fully expect her to live a long and productive life and have strongly recommended that she get back in for the tests ASAP. After all, you can’t make a decision if not given all the information you need in which to make it.

But if for some reason, that is not the way it goes and she makes a choice not to undergo something so invasive.

I support her decision.

I will be there for her.

~L



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Down to the Wire

~

Today was a big day.

It is the day that the final wire was put on my braces.

For those who have not had braces or who were good kids and wore their retainers long enough (in my own defense, mine fell out of my pocket at work, my horse stepped on it and the replacement never fit right) and didn’t have wisdom teeth come in and ruin previous orthodontic work, braces have changed a lot since the 70’s.

I can not stress this enough… wear your retainers kids, and if a dentist recommends getting your wisdom teeth out. DO IT! It’s a lot harder to deal with at 50 (OK, I was still 49 at the time) than when you are a teenager or much younger adult.

You know those videos that show dental patients happily stoned on good drugs being taken care of by their parents or loving partners?

My reality was driving myself to the dentist (so no drugs other than novocaine and a bit of nitrous gas) and hearing all the popping and crunching as the teeth were wrested from my uncooperative jaws (which I thought might unhinge like a snake’s), and then standing in line at the pharmacy with my swollen and bruised mouth stuffed full of bloody gauze while my prescription was filled.

Back to the fact that braces are much easier to deal with and way less painful than in the old days…

There is no more violent cranking on the wire. The damon braces have little doors on each bracket that close over the wire to hold it in place and adjustments are made by changing the shape and thickness of the wire. Yes, adjustments, especially those where teeth are snapped in for the first time or when there is a big jump in wire gauge to hurt for a few days, it’s nothing like the old days. As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to be able to eat solid food this evening.

I’ve got at least three months left (instead of getting my hopes up for a Summer Solstice removal which is a “best case scenario” possibility if everything goes perfectly) I’m going to be happy with July, which is way better than the original estimate of December. (and there’s always some final tweaking that ends up being done, no one ever gets them off exactly when planned)

This last wire is made of a different metal than previous wires (they all have memory which is what pulls the teeth into the proper arch/alignment) and can be tweaked by the orthodontist to move individual teeth.

Normally he doesn’t make adjustments when the wire is first put on because they’re already enough going on in one’s mouth with a new wire, but the right top tooth next to the front is annoying the heck out of both of us, so he adjusted the wire to bring it out and down a little bit. Next time will be the final adjustment for that tooth and any others that aren’t cooperating.
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The end is in sight…

So here is the latest/greatest shot of my braces. It’s a far cry from the photos of the first couple of months of braces tacked on to the end of this post…

So just for comparison… here are the braces the day I got them on….

You can see what a big pull it is on the front tooth and the spring on the bottom (probably a hint of the elastic in the back as well)

From February 29, 2012

Here they are about a month later.

You can’t really notice much cosmetically yet, but there was a lot of movement of the cross bite and back teeth (the ones that are wired)

From February 29, 2012

Here they are with the slightly thicker wire, heftier spring. The bad front tooth is pulling down nicely and the cross bite is corrected (he’s having me wear the elastics though the next appointment so it doesn’t go back before the thicker wire goes on) The bottom tooth still isn’t ready to be pulled forward (it’s tied to the wire) until the teeth on either side of it push out just a bit more.

From February 29, 2012

Here they are after my last appointment with all the teeth snapped in and things really starting to move

At that appointment I briefly got to lick my teeth after the front brackets were taken off so that they could be moved…

~L



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BadKitty’s Holiday Letter – Finally (OK, so it’s for the Lunar (Chinese) New Year)

~OK Humans,

Every year I ask for help with my out of control human, and every year my pleas are ignored. What am I going to have to do to get some help here? Come barf up hairballs in your shoes? Don’t tempt me, I’m that pissed off and desperate.

Let me tell you just how bad it’s been…

It's a day 005

She is more out of control than ever (yeah, I know I say that every year, but her insanity far outreaches imagination) So much so, that I couldn’t get her to sit still long enough to let me dictate the holiday letter until the Lunar (Chinese) New Year… Seriously? It’s the year of the snake. I don’t like snakes (or rats, or monkeys, or dogs or any of those other weird animals they use to celebrate)

The beginning of the year was fine, she was recovering from the 2nd surgery she had which included getting fixed “while they were already in there”. It’s about time, everyone should spay or neuter their human, there are far too many of them running around and they breed like rabbits, especially the stupid ones.There was some celebration about not having cancer; that’s a good thing. Someone’s got to feed me.

After that, we had a wicked ice storm which made it impossible to safely drive anywhere, so she was home a lot to pet the kitty which was perfect. She was super stressed when the huge tree in the back yard bent over and touched the ground (and laid on the house, the grape arbor, the greenhouse and the neighbor’s yard) but it sprung back to life after the big thaw. (she now calls it “the magic tree” what a weirdo)

Then she went back to work which really pissed me off. She’s working for an environmental non profit running the internship program and managing a farmers market. Do you think her farmer friends ever send anything home for the kitty? NO! Jerks! She’s still writing and photographing for that magazine too which is an acceptable activity since the writing part keeps her home where I can yowl for attention and lay on her keyboard.

She’s still bellydancing which just looks silly, although I do enjoy napping on her fluffy skits and batting around her jingly things. She’s still fire dancing too (which she actually gets paid to do. Seriously?) I secretly laugh when she burns herself. She’s also found a new way to burn herself, blowing glass… For some reason, dipping a long pipe into 2100 degree (f) molten glass and blowing into it is a big deal in this city… something about a madman with an eye patch named Chihuly who grew up here. Some people are actually silly enough to buy the stuff she makes. She’s also still playing with clay which she then glazes and fires. Seriously, what is it with this woman and fire?

She did another triathlon which really ticks me off because that means she’s spending way too much time out of the house running, cycling and swimming when she should be home petting the kitty.

She’s still playing that stupid violin too. I hate that thing. Even worse… she has friends that play instruments and they come over to the house. There was even a [gasp] accordion here the other night. She met these weirdos contra dancing. I don’t know what that is, but when accordions start showing up (the next thing you know, it will be a banjo), you know your human is hanging out in the wrong circles…

She’s still hiking, backpacking and finding any excuse she can to wear a tutu… (they are nice to lay on)

Oh, my human turned 50 in October, isn’t that super old for a human?

Shouldn’t she be slowing down? I mean really, 50 is practically dead right?

Oh, you can buy some of her glass or ceramic work by visiting her website at http://wildcelticrose.net/ (you can also read her dumb blog there) she has a facebook page too, but it’s pretty lame

You would do better to check out my facebook page

Since she was too lazy (and broke) to send out cards this year, she made a video slide show recapping 2012 with obnoxious music.

It’s badly done, there isn’t even a picture of her gorgeous feline in it.

Someone please talk some sense into my human… Please?

Don’t make me come barf in your shoe.

Happy Holidays/Lunar New Year (whatever…)

~BK (THE BadKitty)



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I got to lick my teeth!!!

~
Today was a very breif teaser of what I hope to be able to do permenently in less than a year.

I got to lick my teeth! (hey, if you’ve never had braces on, you’ll never understand what a big deal that is)

The braces were put on one year ago this week (December 14th 2011) and a LOT has been going on in my mouth.

My bite is completely corrected (actually a tad bit over corrected which is what they shoot for) so I no longer have to wear those nasty, heavy, painful elastic bands 24/7. I only have to wear them at night, and they switched me back to the super light ones. I will have so much less pain and won’t look as goofy.

I’m now entering the “finish” phase which is where things are fine tuned. Today, I had the panoramic X-ray so that my ortho could look at my roots.

There is always a danger of root resorption, where the roots shrink and bone collapses due to the movement of the teeth which can result in tooth loss. I know one (adult) person who had to have his braces removed early before treatment was completed because this was happening to him. After all this pain and hassle, I want to see this through to the end.

Luckily, my roots look great and so does the bone; which means that the braces are doing their job and correcting the gum and bone issues I was experiencing due to the teeth crowding (kids, wear your retainer and get your wisdom teeth out before they mess up your mouth or you’ll have to do it all again as an adult). I had my cleaning appointment last week, and my hygenist said that my gums look great and to keep doing what I’m doing.

Since the teeth, roots, bone and gums are all healthy, the next step was to move some of my brackets so get the teeth/roots better aligned.

I was worried that several brackets would be moved to push teeth up, pull them down and rotate them and that I’d be in severe pain after this adjustment.

I got super lucky and they only adjusted the brackets on my four top front teeth.

From Braces

I was so excited to be able to lick my teeth; they were super smooth and felt so good. It was a little preview of how wonderful it’s going to feel to have all of the brackets off less than a year from now.

Trust me, if you’d had metal brackets and wires on your teeth for a year, you’d be positively giddy if you got to lick them, even if it was only for two minutes.

The other thing he did was grind down the front right tooth which is a bit long due to a repair when the tooth was broken and badly repaired (kids… never dive into the shallow end of the pool) he also ground down a nasty chip in the tooth. There will be more finish work/repair after the braces come off so that my smile will be pretty.

So here is the latest/greatest shot of my braces. It’s a far cry from the photos of the first couple of months of braces tacked on to the end of this post…

From Braces

In additon to the good news that I only have to wear the lightest elastics at night only, I got even better news.

When I asked about treatment time and if we were still on schedule for 24 months of treatment (the original estimate) meaning that I could eat Almond Roca without putting it in a food processor first next holiday season, he said, “Oh, I think we’re way ahead of schedule because of how good you were about wearing your elastics.”

The new estimate is 18 months instead of 24, which means I cut six months of my treatment time by putting on my big girl panties, sucking it up and dealing with the inconveneint, painful things (kids, wear your elastics even though you hate them).

I could get these things off my teeth as early as June. How awesome would that be?

On a related note, I was trying to decide if I should buy mistletoe for the house this year; No one seems to be interested in kissing a 50 year old woman with braces so it seemed like a waste.

Then this little guy showed up in the mail today… I decided to hang him up and see what happens 😉

So just for comparison… here are the braces the day I got them on….

You can see what a big pull it is on the front tooth and the spring on the bottom (probably a hint of the elastic in the back as well)

From February 29, 2012

Here they are about a month later.

You can’t really notice much cosmetically yet, but there was a lot of movement of the cross bite and back teeth (the ones that are wired)

From February 29, 2012

Here they are with the slightly thicker wire, heftier spring. The bad front tooth is pulling down nicely and the cross bite is corrected (he’s having me wear the elastics though the next appointment so it doesn’t go back before the thicker wire goes on) The bottom tooth still isn’t ready to be pulled forward (it’s tied to the wire) until the teeth on either side of it push out just a bit more.

From February 29, 2012

~L



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Things it took me 50 years to learn

~_
A few weeks ago it arrived.

I knew it was coming, but nothing prepares you for the day you open your mail box and…

BAM!!!

There it is, your AARP card.

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“Stuff” just got real.

Prior to this in your face reality check, I’d already been doing some serious reevaluating of my life after all of the stress, life circumstances, female issues, cancer scare and recovery from surgeries that slowly drew me away from the things that were important to me.

When faced with the possibility of ovarian cancer, my priorities became extremely clear to me. (honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me)

Some things would need to wait until I had recovered from surgery such as backpacking, hiking, cycling, running, etc…

Others, were easy fixes (OK, quitting my lousy, unfulfilling, high stress job working with miserable people when I thought I might have cancer was anything but easy, but I took the risk anyway) getting away from people with unhealthy habits/too much drama who had somehow migrated into my life when I became less physically active and getting serious again about what I was eating and drinking. (my forced sedentary lifestyle and inattention to my dietary habits whilst super stressed out and associating with those who ate like pigs and drank like fish on a daily basis created some weight gain which I worked really hard to get rid of)

I made art a priority in my life again and when I was physically able, dance… (dance, a life long love and art form for me, had been gone from my life since the marriage due to an extremely jealous husband)

The ceramics studio I’ve wanted my whole life… is now almost completely set up in the basement. I also found a new love of glass blowing (its’ a gritty Tacoma thing) and I’ve recently been considering singing again.

I’ve reclaimed virtually everything that was important to me sans one thing, my music-my fiddle and guitar. I learned late in life, despite the fact that everyone told me you can’t learn to play an instrument as difficult as the violin as an adult (I was 41) It was the instrument I was drawn to, I always picked that part out when listening to a musical selection, once I finally picked it up, it made sense (bonus, I actually have good intonation)

I was just moving to an intermediate level where I was beginning to perform. Then one of my band mates died tragically and I almost died in a car accident a few days later. Due to the fractured shoulder I sustained in that accident, I could not place the instrument on my shoulder (I did force myself through one final performance at Summer Solstice in honor of Michelle whilst heavily drugged on pain killers and grief).

Once the shoulder healed, I still had nerve damage and my fingers would not work correctly. Soon, I lost the muscle memory and then I lost the music in my head and the fiddle remained on the wall, a sad reminder of something I lost/gave up on.

The next time I started back up (even went back and took lessons) all the drama with my mothers illnesses, surgeries and suicide along with some bad work drama shut me down just as I was beginning to make progress. Then came buying, moving into and restoring the house, then came the health issues and cancer scare then recovering from all of that.

My last step of this process, the last stage is reclaiming my music and I will do it this time.

As 50 approached, I’d been talking to two of my dearest “biker scum” (aka cyclist) friends, Julie (just turned 53) and Leo (just turned 60) about a discussion they’d recently had about how you enter your 50’s sets the tone for the 2nd half of your life.

Their assertion is that the physical shape and mindset in which you enter your 50s sets the tone for the rest of your life.

I think they’re right.

In honor of turning 50, some good friends and I went on a hike. My first official act as a 50 year old was to climb a tree. (to those who know me well, this makes perfect sense)

arboretum 10-24-2012 032

Part of the week long Lisa turns 50 celebration also involved running (the streets of Tacoma, in costume) with the Tacoma Runners, attending and throwing a Halloween party wearing an age inappropriate red riding hood costume with a very short skirt, and a 50 for 50 bike ride from Golden Gardens to the RedHook Brewery which still needs to be rescheduled due to weather.

Why yes, I am planning on being an extremely eccentric old lady, and I’m starting now. I come by it honesty enough, I like to joke that my maternal grandmother ran with wolves before it was fashionable to do so. Well into her 70’s she consorted with artists, writers and bohemians, keeping a sleeping bag in the back of her car for spontaneous trips to Baja; she lived alone in the desert collecting glass and digging for gemstones which she turned into works of art/jewelry.

One of the many joys of being 50 is that I don’t have to care as much about what people think I should be and do; I don’t have to worry so much about appearance. I know who I am and what I want.

Some people dread turning 50 (or 40 or 30) but for me, it’s freeing and empowering. It’s a time in my life where I can concentrate on things that are important to me.

Having been 50 for a few weeks now, I’ve had opportunity to look back at what I’ve learned (especially over the last year) and to honestly say that I think I’m in a pretty good place in my life. Yes, I’m damaged, a bit rough around the edges and will always be a work in progress (aren’t we all?) but I’m pretty happy with where I am and more importantly who I am right now.

So what has it taken me 50 years to learn? Way more than I could ever cover in a blog post or even a book, but I’m going to try to summarize some general highlights here:

Challenge yourself, try something new; step outside your comfort zone.

Take risks, big risks, small risks, take them; they help you feel alive! So what if you fail? you will have learned something and will not have those “what if” regrets (for me, stagnating and being unhappy is a much bigger failure than not trying)

Learn something. Read a book, sign up for a class, take up a new hobby, be interested in the world.

Don’t live in the past. Your past does not define you, it merely strengthens you. Learn from it, then move on and live in and enjoy the present.

LOVE, love freely. It does not have to be romantic love; there are all kinds of love; love for friends, family, pets, community…

If you are not happy with/by yourself, you won’t be happy in a relationship.

The saying that you “are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” is true. Seek out those who are filled with passion, joy, inspiration and energy; those things are contagious (so are yucky things like negativity, jealousy, gossip, drama and being a perpetual victim)

If you don’t feel valued in a relationship, be it personal, romantic or business, it is not where you belong.

If you feel that you need to change to be loved/accepted, you are in the wrong place/situation/relationship.

If someone continually makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s not you, it’s them. RUN do not walk away.

Your body is your temple, treat it as such fill it with good food, regular exercise and adventure.

Be grateful. Every day, especially when you are sad. Think of at least one thing a day you are grateful for and say it out loud. You’d be amazed how this practice can change/improve your sense of well being.

Art, books and music are important to our sense of self, well being and the world around us.

Find some way to “give back” to the world; it doesn’t have to be an expensive or grand gesture. Sometimes the smallest kindness makes the biggest impact on someone’s life and world.

On a more personal note:

It is not my job to “fix” people. Yes, I grew up in an abusive alcoholic home and am a classic “care taker”. Put a fork in me, I’m done. Yes, I’m happy to help people in need and everyone has their bad times and needs support, but I’m done allowing myself to be treated badly/putting up with bad behavior because I somehow tied my self worth to taking care of others to my own detriment.

Being a martyr does not make me a better person. I’d like to think that I do at least one thing a day that in some way makes the world a better place or makes someone’s day a bit brighter. I don’t have to sacrifice myself and my happiness to be a good person. I deserve my own happiness and maybe, just maybe to have someone support my hopes/dreams/needs once in a while.

I am an artist, a bohemian I don’t necessarily think and act the same way everyone else in our society does (or has been told they are supposed to) and that’s OK. People can appreciate that, or they can go along their merry way. Trying to dress me up in high heels (ridiculous things for anything other than costuming) and makeup (which is fine for performances and special occasions, but really? Since when is it required to paint ones’ face in order to be able to be seen in public on a daily basis?) manicures, expensive hair treatments every two weeks, or stick me in a cubicle in the corporate world is like putting a wild creature in a small cage. Yes, I work hard, function in society and pay my mortgage, but that doesn’t make me the same as everyone else. I’m not only OK with that, I’m learning to embrace it.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention as of late to the people I am drawn to and why…

I was asking myself just the other day why I was not attracted in a romantic way to a gentleman who was a perfect match “on paper” but have found myself attracted to someone else who might fall outside of one or two of my self imposed “parameters”.

When I really cut it down to bare essence, there is a certain “spark” in a person that draws me to them… passion, joy, zest for living… a light in their eyes and on their face.

The people I want to be around (in all areas of my life), are those with that “spark”.

I hope to kindle that same spark within myself.

~L



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Long Overdue Update

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and phone calls asking if I’m still alive because I haven’t been updating my blog or sending out email updates.

So today’s blog will not be tagged to appear on feedtacoma.com and will instead be of a more personal nature.

When last we left our intrepid heroine, she was attempting to transition from recovering from two surgeries (after a cancer scare) into two new jobs, a workout schedule and heavy art/performance schedules.

You can see where this is going can’t you? I’ve been way too busy to even consider a blog post or email update.

I am fully healed from both surgeries, although I have been told by numerous sources (medical, trainers and those who have been through it) that full recovery including regaining my full energy/endurance will likely take up to a full year.

I do get tired sometimes, but I think pretty much anyone would get tired doing what I’m doing each week. At least I’m never bored.

I currently manage 19 (yes NINETEEN) interns at my job for Puget Creek Restoration Society. I will likely end up with a few more before the summer is over. In addition to working with the interns (focus group between 15-21, but I have “2nd career” interns in their 40’s) I occasionally get out for field work, am creating training videos, staff booths at career and or school environmental fairs, work on environmental education programs, arrange monthly seminars, handle social media and write grants. This job is about 20 hours a week.

Here’s a day that I got out of the office to help install cork line across Puget Beach to protect the Eelgrass beds from boat props and anchors on 4th of July.

preparing cork line to protect the eelgrass beds at Puget Creek during tomorrow's Freedom Fair

I also manage the Proctor Farmers’ Market every Saturday. It’s a long day getting up at 5:00 AM and finishing up tear down (ideally) by 4:00 PM. There are also several hours each week of bookkeeping, volunteer and staff recruiting/hiring/management, outreach, vetting vendors, committee meetings, grant reporting, board meetings, special events, arranging cooking demos and musical acts, putting out fires, resolving disputes/conflicts, handing social media and general juggling of jello and herding of cats. This job is about 25 hours per week. Oh, and two weeks ago, we had our all time record sales day.

It’s SO nice to be working with passionate, dedicated, positive people who you actually still want to hang out with after work rather than escape from… Here’s the scene after last Saturday’s market.

now THIS is the way to unwind after a long day

Mind you, both of these jobs are for non-profits, which means that there is always some volunteering that goes on as well. Needless to say, I’m pretty darn busy with work. The good thing is, I love both jobs.

No matter how busy, stressful, crazy or over hours it gets, it is SO much better than the stress, negativity and [shudder] people I had to deal with at my last job.

On a very cool note, I get to accept an award on behalf of one of my employers on Thursday night. Since the official announcements are not being made until then, I’m not spilling 😉

One of the many things I wanted when I was ready to go back to work was to be here in Tacoma with no nasty commute and to be able to ride my bike to work.

I’m riding the bike to work/work related meetings on average of four days a week. I’m having to drive the truck on Saturday because of needing to haul large heavy totes and cash/tokens which need to be secured during setup/teardown, but other than that, I’m on the bike.

Living at the top of the Hilltop and working downtown means that I have a pretty wicked climb to get back home which although not a long ride, is a pretty intense workout.

I started dragon boating again, but due to schedule conflicts have had to miss a lot of practice. I’m hoping that things settle down a bit so that I can take advantage of that awesome upper body and core workout.

I’m also running again, and have signed up with some girlfriends to do the Great Kilted Run 5K. My friend Michealene and I did this one several years ago and it was a blast. This year we’re brining our dogs (I need to fashion a wee kilt for Frodo)

Here we are the last time we did this race…

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I’m running 2-3 miles a day four days a week and am hoping to start increasing my long run distance/time. I’m trying to be careful to not increase my mileage too quickly, so that I don’t develop another raging case of ITBS (Illiotibal Band Syndrome) like I did when I was over training and over racing back in 2003.

The fact that I have scar tissue and arthritis in my previously fracture pelvis which got much worse during my medically induced inactivity is apparent. The tendons that attach down to my hamstrings are pulling on both ends and creating a lot of discomfort in my hip, my piriformus hurts like heck and I can tell that if I’m not careful, I’ll end up with ITBS again. Slow and steady; it’s frustrating, but it’s more frustrating if I end up injured.

Frodo the Wonder Corgi has been an awesome little running buddy who is doing fabulous not only at keeping up, but at not tripping me. The only problem is that three miles doesn’t even come close to wearing him out. I’m just creating a stronger faster monster. (he’s moved from naughty puppy to obnoxious teenager to “super obnoxious frat boy”- this too shall pass)

today I am grateful for a morning run with my favorite training partner

I’m still performing with fire, but not at the crazy, breakneck pace that I was last year when it became no fun. I’m working with orb, staff, wind rings, poi, fans, levi stick, palm torches and hula hoop. I’ve been bellydancing as well.

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Here are a couple of videos from one of my more amusing venues… Cheryl the Pig Lady’s Farm-it looks cooler when it’s fully dark, but farmers don’t stay up that late in the summer (not quite a luau, but it was a pig roast 😉

and my first time choreographing to country music…

I’ve taken up glass blowing (because I just wasn’t getting quality thermal burns dancing with fire, so I needed to add a 2300 degree furnace to the mix) and have been taking classes at Tacoma Glass Blowing Studio. I’ve been making some fun stuff.

Here I am with Billy showing me how to do wraps.

doing a wrap

My home ceramics studio is almost completely set up; I’ve been taking classes at Throwing Mud Gallery and will be setting up an online shop soon.

out of the kiln at Throwing Mud

out of the kiln

My house and garden have pretty much gone to heck (weeds, dog hair and clutter) but I’m hoping to get better at managing my hectic schedule and to being some order to my home/yard.

At least it’s still producing yummy food.

today I am grateful for cherries

So that’s why you haven’t heard much from me lately 😉

~L



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Back to the Boat and Remembering Ben

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On Sunday, I went back to dragon boat practice for the first time since November of 2008.

I realized while out on the water, that I had not set foot (or rather butt) on a dragon boat since he died.

His death wasn’t the reason (per se) that I didn’t go back. In addition to the triathlon training, about the time I thought I might be able to go back, I was dealing with the illness, mental issues and traumatic death of my mother.

While out on the water, I thought about Ben; I thought about him a lot.

I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to go back, but I did. I don’t know if I will ever want to steer the dragon again (that is just too intimately tied to Ben and can’t imagine anyone but him coaching me to do so) but it was good to be back.

We do this drill called “hookey”; Despite the fact that someone different was calling it out, I could hear Ben’s voice. (he was so funny when calling it out)

I wanted to laugh and I wanted to cry. (I have tears streaming down my face as I type this)

Today, I finally sanded, dragon decaled and varnished my dragon boat paddle, a project that Ben and I were going to do together.

It was November 10th of 2008, while driving back from Eastern Washington that I got the news that my friend and Dragon Boat Steering Coach Ben died the Saturday before.

He was steering the boat at practice when he had a massive heart attack. They were very close to the dock and the paramedics arrived right away.

They could not revive him and he was pronounced dead at the hospital an hour later.

I can’t imagine how terrible it must have been for my friends, my team to watch one of our most beloved members and coaches die.

I think I hurt for them the most.

I felt guilty for not being there. Although it was said that the heart attack was too massive for anyone/anything to help, I still felt guilty for not being there to do my medic thing and even more so, because I was not there for my friends.

Between the ten hour shifts and commute and training for my triathlon and the STP, dragon boating was the part of my life that got let go. On the week days that I actually got home in time for a practice, I was too exhausted to go. Weekends were spent logging long hours on the bike, swimming or running.

I kept saying that I was going to find the time/energy to go back, and each time I didn’t.

Ben certified me to steer the dragon boat and at one time when I was having a melt down because I did not feel experienced enough to handle a task I was given (in the conditions location it was being held in) and be responsible for the safety of the crew. I had Ben take over my boat and I left the event in tears feeling that I had failed everyone. He gave me a couple of days and then let down his gruff exterior and let his true loving nature show.

Ben was only 61 (at least I think so-the article I wrote on dragon boating last year listed him as 60)

Ben had an infectious grin and made everyone around him smile and laugh.

He was a good coach, and good friend and a good person.

He will be sorely missed.

I was told that at the following Sunday’s practice, the other association’s team paddled alongside our boat (which was three deep in each seat rather than two) out to the flagpole at the end of the waterway and both boats did Bens “salute” with the paddles.

Later, there was a memorial event for him on the water, dragon boat teams from Portland Oregon and Seattle came to Tacoma to participate and honor Ben, who touched the lives of so many.

Once again, life reminds me that we never know when our last moment on this earth will be.

We never know when we may see someone for the last time.

We should treat every day is if it were our last and love and cherish those we care about.

Paddles up Ben.

Paddles up!

~L



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Full Circle

Six months ago, I was faced with the possibility of cancer, and had surgeries scheduled.

It became apparent that I was not going to be able to heal while dealing with the corporate job I was working at the time.

So I did the insane (but only sane thing I could do) thing, paying for COBRA insurance and turning in my two weeks notice.

It was a very scary, stressful time even before adding in two surgeries and recoveries.

I often doubted the decision I had made, doubted myself, and wondered if I’d find work in this economy once I was ready to look again.

There was a time, late in the winter when many, if not most of us battle Seasonal Affective Disorder when I was in significant pain, during which I battled some mild depression. (this is when I started posting my “daily gratitude” each day, which helps a lot)

What it boiled down to is that I had to trust in the universe; I had to trust in myself. I had to take that risk, because nothing will show you what does and doesn’t matter in your life, like the possibility of losing it.

I also made other changes. Changes in my diet (getting off the holiday food and back to healthy real food) not going to alcohol centered events or hanging out with people who habitually drink to excess, avoiding people who added unreasonable stress to my life, getting back to my art, learning new arts, and of course (once healed) easing back into a regular workout schedule.

When I was finally healed enough to consider working again, I made my intentions known to friends (and the universe) as to what I was looking for.

I did not want to be back in the corporate world, nor to deal with unhappy/unpleasant people stuck in a cubicle all day. I did not want to commute, I wanted to work right here in Tacoma again so that I could spend those wasted commuting hours with my animals and in my garden/farm. I wanted to ride my bike to work.

Most important, I wanted to do something that I loved, not something that I put up with because I thought I needed a certain amount of money/benefits, and I wanted to work with nice, happy people working towards a common goal.

First, an environmental non-profit organization that I have volunteered for over the years contacted me about a part time job they had just gotten a grant for. It was a perfect fit. I am now working with students and interns at Puget Creek Restoration Society helping to conserve and protect one of three salmon bearing streams in the city of Tacoma, and preparing them (the students and interns) for jobs in the environmental science field.

Next, I was made aware of another opportunity to “manage” (I like to refer to it as coordinating) the Tacoma Proctor Farmers’ Market, another part time opportunity doing something that I feel strongly about; promoting sustainability and supporting local farmers, healthy eating and building community.

So here I am, with the best of all worlds. (and full time work to pay the bills)

Educating, protecting/restoring the environment, and promoting sustainability, fresh healthy food and local farms.

I am riding my bike to work (well, OK…. not on days that I have to schlep booth displays around). I’m working here in Tacoma-no nasty commute wasting time I could be spending playing with my dog, working in my garden or creating art.

I am working with great people who love what they do and are passionate about it; and I feel good about what both organizations stand for and what they do.

No, I’m not going to get rich doing this, but since I’m big on living sustainably, am willing to be a bit more frugal. (and if I want extra cash, I’ll just have to pitch more magazine articles and/or do more performances)

I did not reinvent myself.

I decided to be true to myself.

I came back full circle, and couldn’t be happier.

I want to thank those who kept their eyes and ears open for opportunities, those who provided references for me, and most of all, those who supported me and held me up when I doubted myself.

~L

Getting Braces As An Adult

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It’s not that uncommon.

Many people get braces for the first time as adults; more often than I imagined, they get them for the second time.

In my case, I had braces when I was 15 and had them removed when I was 17.

A horse stepped on my retainer, the replacement didn’t fit quite right and I eventually just quit wearing it. (very common story, except for the horse)

Several years after that, my wisdom teeth came in and jammed my teeth together in my freakishly narrow jaw and my teeth became very crooked and ugly. I’ve hated my smile since my 20’s; that never stopped me from grinning like an idiot, but still….

I went years without orthodontic insurance.

When I finally had the insurance, I used it on braces for my step-daughter because that’s what you do when you’re a parent.

When I left my last job, I paid for COBRA benefits and made sure to take advantage of all the dental work I needed done. I had three crowns and some periodontal work.

Part of the reason for the periodontal work was the fact that trying to properly clean teeth that are so jammed together is difficult verging on impossible and eventually leads to gum disease (which can lead to heart disease).

After the crowns (a more painful procedure than one might imagine) and the root scaling, which IS as bad as it sounds, considering that a sharp, whirring, vibrating, cold water squirting device is jammed under your gums to scrape the roots of your teeth I got the added (surprise) bonus of my dentist and orthodontist deciding that my wisdom teeth (yes, all of them) needed to come out before I could get the braces put on.

After all of this was done, I was cleared to get the braces on.

Thankfully, they have come a long way since the days of full bands, brutal tightening, and [shudder] headgear which was the bane of all kids in the 70’s with an overbite.

The braces I have are Damon System braces which have the advantage of being “self ligating” meaning there are no wire ties to poke and cut the inside of the mouth or elastics that can trap food, bacteria and encourage the growth of plaque required to hold the wire to the brackets.

The brackets have little doors on them and the wires can slide freely which eliminates a good load of the friction and is supposed to be more gentle and faster than old traditional braces.

Instead of having someone grab the back of your wire and twist/crank until it feels like your teeth are going to pop out of your mouth, “tightening” is merely a new thicker wire. These wires have memory and pull the teeth into position.

It wasn’t bad having them put on. The staff at my orthodontist office told me to eat a good meal, as I wouldn’t want to eat the next day.

Yowza were they ever right!

Oh, I forgot to mention that after my wisdom teeth were removed, my back teeth no longer touched each other so “chewing” was a hilarious exercise in futility.

It was a miserable two weeks eating very soft food and cutting any solid food into teeny tiny pieces that I could shove into the back of my mouth as the front teeth hurt way to much to allow food to touch touch them. In addition to the front tooth on top that was jutting way out, being pulled back in, I have a spring on the bottom wire to push teeth apart to make room for a tooth that was forced up out of the jaw and back.

I have a rubber band running from the back teeth on the top of the left side of my jaw to the bottom in order to pull it out and correct a cross bite. For a little teeny thing, it sure causes a lot of discomfort. Chewing on that side is out of the question, so the only place I can put tiny cut up pieces of food is in the far back of the right side and “chew” on the farthest back two teeth which aren’t tied into the wire yet (the first two wires are too thin to withstand the pressure of eating without breaking)

Yeah, it’s been “fun”.

But it’s going to be worth it.

While having a smile I actually like again will be wonderful, I did this because I was going to lose teeth to gum disease if I didn’t take care of the crowding. I know a woman who is exactly my age here in the neighborhood who has full dentures. No thank you.

I’ll need to have some chips in the front teeth filed down; but after that, a good cleaning and maybe some bleaching, I think they’ll look pretty good.

More important, they’ll be real..

Here they are the day I got my braces on.

You can see what a big pull it is on the front tooth and the spring on the bottom (probably a hint of the elastic in the back as well)

From February 29, 2012

Here they are about a month later.

You can’t really notice much cosmetically yet, but there was a lot of movement of the cross bite and back teeth (the ones that are wired)

From February 29, 2012

Here they are with the slightly thicker wire, heftier spring. The bad front tooth is pulling down nicely and the cross bite is corrected (he’s having me wear the elastics though the next appointment so it doesn’t go back before the thicker wire goes on) The bottom tooth still isn’t ready to be pulled forward (it’s tied to the wire) until the teeth on either side of it push out just a bit more.

From February 29, 2012

I’m back to soft food for a few days because the new wire is making everything sore again.

This was considered a very gentle adjustment as the first wire was the thinnest one they have and the one on their now is the next thinnest.

At the next appointment the wire is going to go up several gauges and the bottom tooth will be wired in.

and that’s gonna hurt.

I’ve seen adults and kids with braces refuse to smile for the duration.

Not me, I’m grinning like an idiot.

Doing something for my health is nothing to be ashamed of. (and as much as I paid for these things even with insurance, I’m not about to hide them)

Besides… They take a few years off my appearance 😉

From February 29, 2012

~L



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