Thursday, March 31, 2011

Anderson Mountain

Senior Trailblazers at Big Stump, March 31, 2011
The two other times I've joined the Senior Trailblazers for this hike up Anderson Mountain, we were able to begin here at the Big Stump, driving in on the access road. Today ten of us began the hike at the Alger road, as a gate closing off the area was closed. This added two miles to our hike. Not many showed up for the usual Thursday outing, since the weather was forecast to be, at best, "rain at times." Yesterday we had several inches of rain as a system moved through the entire state, with many of our local rivers close to or at flood stage. It was sprinkling when we started out, dark and gloomy.
It was also quite muddy over most of the trail, as you can see here, with water flowing on either side of the bridge, as well as in front and back. But we came prepared with waterproof shoes and plenty of rain gear. Don't be fooled by Mike's lack of clothing in that first picture; as many of you already know, he's our resident alien and uses his umbrella to keep the rain off while wearing as little as possible. (In his backpack he's carrying everything the rest of us are already wearing.)
As we gained altitude, we ran into quite a bit of snow. We only went another half mile or so after we began hiking on the snow, since we knew we would have little to no view when we reached the summit, and if we turned around right here, we would still have covered our usual distance. The snow is several inches deep here, so we decided to retreat into the woods for lunch before heading back down. The hike is partly on old logging roads, partly through a clearcut area, but it also has several nice sections on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Something for everybody.
The rain had stopped by the time we ate lunch, and as we walked back through the clearcut area, we saw the clouds lift a little, showing us Lake Whatcom below. It was our first view of anything all day. The white clouds on the lake are caused by the difference between the water temperature and the ambient air, making a fairytale scene. In a few minutes they were gone, so I felt very fortunate to catch this view.
As we headed back down the road to our cars, the sun began to break through the clouds and changed the atmosphere (and our moods) to one of sun-dappled smiles as we walked into the sunshine. For the day, we covered nine miles and 2200 feet elevation gain and loss. Not a bad day at all, considering what it might have been had the wind and rain continued. I'm happy to be home and ready to settle in for the evening.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eight bells and all's well

On my brother's wall
When my parents retired to Fort Worth, Texas in 1964, they moved into a house on Lake Worth that had been an old lodge or estate, with lots of outlying buildings, a dock, and is a wonderful lakefront property. A couple of pillars at the entrance had a wooden sign stretched between with the name Windswept burned into it. My parents lived there for twenty years or so, raising my younger siblings there. I had left home a while before, having married my first husband in 1961. Those youngest siblings didn't move around all the time like we older ones did.

At some point during those first years at Windswept, my father came into the possession of a old ship's bell clock that has become a family heirloom. My brother Buz inherited it, and he has it hanging in his hallway. The clock has a very interesting series of bells, because of the way maritime ships kept track of watches. I found an intriguing tale on Wikipedia of how it came about. Watches were four hours long, and every half hour a 30-minute hourglass was turned over and a bell was struck. At the beginning of the watch, one  bell was struck, with another added each half hour until eight bells were reached. A person standing watch could tell where he was in his watch by listening to the bells. Each even number was on the hour, an odd number on the half hour. Each four-hour watch had a name, such as First Watch, Middle Watch, Morning Watch, etc. As mechanical clocks were developed, this bell pattern was transferred into ship's bell clocks. At the end of a watch, the sailor would say, "Eight bells and all's well."

Last night I woke hearing the bells strike three times. I knew that it was probably 1:30 am, since it was either that or 5:30 am, and by the way I felt I thought I hadn't been asleep all night. It brought back all those times I had visited my parents at Windswept over the years, listening to the clock strike and trying to figure out what time it was. I wonder if I would ever have known about ship's bell clocks if it had not been for this heirloom. Probably not. From that Wikipedia link:
If a ship's name is changed, maritime tradition is that the original bell carrying the original name will remain with the vessel. A ship's bell is a prized possession when a ship is broken up and often provides the only positive means of identification in the case of a shipwreck.
The ship from which this ship's clock came from is lost to us now, but being here in my brother's house and hearing it once again has opened up a floodgate of memories.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gates Overlook via Chinscraper

This is part of the view from Gates Overlook, with the Olympic Mountains in the background as we look out over Samish Bay. The weather today was perfect: in the 50s with little wind and no rain, although it was overcast with a few sun breaks now and then. Twelve Senior Trailblazers hiked today in Larrabee State Park from the Clayton Beach parking lot up to this overlook, and we went via a trail called the "Little Chinscraper." I found this very apt description of the trail in a book on trail runs by Mike McQuaide:
At a "Gate Ahead" sign, find an obscure trail leading to the right and to a serious ascent. Little Chinscraper is what the trail is called; big pain is what it causes.  In 0.9 mile, this ridiculously steep rock- and root-strewn connector trail climbs almost 850 feet. So do what most trail runners do here: walk.
I can attest to the trail's difficulty, but remember we are hikers, not runners. I cannot imagine someone running up this, but I would not be surprised one day to see some animal of the human variety huffing or puffing his or her way up this... for fun. However, being Seniors, it's perfectly fine for us to pace ourselves. At the top of the trail, we drop down a bit to Gates Overlook and the lovely view you see in the above picture.
It was still too early to stop for lunch, so we hiked over to Chuckanut Ridge on our way to Fragrance Lake, and I was rewarded with this view of the Twin Sisters, which was obscured on the same portion of the hike two weeks ago. We headed down to the lake for a nice place to have lunch. Several fishermen were out hoping for a catch or two, but one fellow gave up and headed out while we ate our lunch. We might have disturbed his solitude a bit, with twelve of us parked nearby.
The day was warm with little breeze, so we spent a half hour resting before walking back around the lake and out to the cars. Even though I was looking carefully at the vegetation on the side of the trail, I didn't see much indication of the coming spring, although little green buds are popping up at lower elevations. As you can see in this picture, the ground is still covered with last year's brown leaves.
On the way down, we spied this moss-covered tree and dubbed it the Monkey Tail Tree, for obvious reasons. Nobody can tell me that the moss here only grows on the north side of the trees! In fact, any naturalist who can tell which direction is north in this picture, with clouds obscuring the direction of the sun, deserves high praise and a pat on the back.

By the time we twelve returned to the cars, of course the first thing we asked the two GPS holders was "how far how high"? We covered about eight-and-a-half miles and more than 2,000 elevation gain and loss. It was the second really satisfying hike in a row, and I'll take another next week just like this one, please!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Long line of worriers

My mama and grandma in the mid-1970s
Okay, I come from a long line of worriers, and here are two of them right here! After yesterday's post where I admitted worrying about interfering in my sister's life in an inappropriate way, I have been wondering just where in the heck I got that trait. I took this picture with a Polaroid camera when I was staying with Grandma. She was sick with what was supposed to be terminal cancer. She got better, though, and lived for a few more years after this picture was taken. Mama was visiting us, and I remember that time with a lot of affection.

Grandma worried constantly about everything, and I remember so well telling her not to worry about me, everything would be all right, and I certainly wasn't worried. She tugged at the bottom of her ubiquitous sweater, looked at me crossly and said, "Well, you don't seem to realize. I have to worry; somebody has to!"

And now look what's happened: I have become a world class worrier. Every time I dwell on any decisions I've made, I second-guess myself and begin to worry that I have once again inserted myself into someone else's life and made a mess of it. This comes from years of having done exactly that, and now I find myself feeling a little like the centipede who did just fine walking with all those legs until someone asked her how she managed. Here is the poem, "The Centipede's Dilemma":
A centipede was happy quite,
Until a frog in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg comes after which?"
This raised her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch
Considering how to run.
This poem is attributed to my old friend Anonymous.  Somehow I find myself in the unenviable position of not seeming to be able to move forward because I've forgotten how to be spontaneous! I'll work on that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Did we do the right thing?

Babe waiting for Norma Jean to come home
The last week I spent with my sister Norma Jean, I insisted that we go out and find another dog to begin to fill the incredible void in her life, after losing her husband on February 10 and her six-pound chihuahua Moose five days later. It was the reason I came to spend three weeks with her, to be able to cry and commiserate in depth. But now I'm wondering if I did the right thing. Today, it's only been five weeks since Moose was run over and killed right in front of her eyes. She relives it over and over again, usually in the middle of the night, trying to find a way to get a do-over. I call this the "what if" and "if only" phase of grief.

It was a hard choice, that of trying to help by forcing a needy creature into my sister's life, or allowing her to grieve for awhile over her losses before attempting to rescue another dog. She's always had a dog, with only a few weeks between the loss of one and the adoption of another. But this was different. Pete, her life partner, had helped her through their shared loss with each one, until now. Norma Jean is the only one left behind, and I could not bear to think of her walking through that empty house, alone, once I left to come back to my own life. So I insisted, and she didn't resist.

Babe was in need of a lot of TLC that first week, and gradually as she began to recover, it was obvious to me that she would fill an important role in Norma Jean's life once I left. And the other dog she is fostering, Chester, a 9- or 10-year-old chihuahua, is resilient and will be fine whether she allows him to be adopted into another home or if she adopts him herself. She doesn't need to decide right now.
Chester, whose original owner died
Chester was in danger of being euthanized for space in the pound. Nobody had shown any interest in him during the month or so he was there, mostly because of his age. I was captivated by the strength of his character the first moment I saw him straining against the leash, not sure where he was being taken as we brought him home. Norma Jean agreed to foster him, and for the last month she has had these two dogs as companions. Every morning she takes them for a long walk, which they all love, and when I talk to her on video chat, they are always there.

But you know, they are Babe and Chester, not replacements for the loss of another dog, Moose, that Norma Jean grieves for and still misses every single moment of every single day. She was ready to lose Pete, because they had had years and months to prepare for the moment he died, and all the necessary words and farewells had been shared between them, and his expected passing was peaceful. He even told her how glad he was that she had Moose, what a comfort he would be for her. It was not to be. In that cruel instant when he ran after a rabbit and into the path of a speeding car in front of their home, all that changed. She screamed helplessly as all the pieces fell into place and ended Moose's life.

We are all still grieving over the loss of our beloved Pete, that goes without saying. We Stewarts will gather in a week's time in Texas to laugh together and share our memories of him, and Norma Jean will be brave and strong. Her daughter Allison and her granddaughter Lexie will be there. We will all be there, but Norma Jean would have traveled to Texas with Moose in her arms and would have stroked him as she allowed the tears to fall. It was not to be.

Did I do the wrong thing by rushing the introduction of these creatures into her life, thereby skewing the grieving process? I am consumed with dread, now wondering if my desire to have my sister not be alone caused a ripple of pain in the universe that would otherwise have healed up much better without my interference.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


You may not have heard much about this movie, but I was blessed to be able to see it because of our little independent theater here in Bellingham, the Pickford. It received quite a small showing in theaters in the States for several reasons, not the least of which was because it was made in Spain, has subtitles, and because of the subject matter. Javier Bardem received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Uxbal, a "street saint," a man who discovers he is dying of cancer while being the only stable person in the lives of his two children.

I was mesmerized by the man he portrayed. Some of the reviews I read on Rotten Tomatoes thought it was just too much of a downer movie, and although nobody faulted Bardem's performance, many didn't give the director, Gonzales Iñárritu, as much credit as I feel he deserves for his artistic direction. I thought the entire movie was masterfully crafted.

Uxbal is the protagonist in a gritty, messy love story between him and his children, his bipolar ex-wife, and the people he meets and deals with on the streets. He has the gift of being able to hear the voices of people who have recently died and hearing their pleas. He's aware that he himself is dying and wants to make things work out for those close to him, as much as he is able.

This is a Barcelona that is nobody's tourist destination, and although it was a really difficult movie to watch, I would see it again in a moment, partly because it was such a finely crafted movie, well worth watching. But it would have been a completely different experience without Javier Bardem. He was the jewel. I have thought of the movie many times since I saw it, and I can only say that if you go, expect to cry into your tissues and leave the movie theater with gratitude. I did, partly because it ended so beautifully, and partly because my own life was cast in a bright hopeful light, when I left the theater and felt the weight of Uxbal's world lift from my shoulders.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Goose Rock

Twelve Senior Trailblazers drove south of Bellingham to Deception Pass on Whidbey Island for our Thursday excursion. We hiked up to the top of Goose Rock... twice. We parked in the Deception Pass State Park area, about a mile away from the trailhead, in order to make this hike a little bit longer. We are accustomed to putting in somewhere around eight miles or so, and this hike is pretty short. We could have done it in four miles round trip, but we didn't. As you can see, it wasn't exactly a clear day, but after so many days of rain and wind, it felt wonderful, although it was still a little cool and breezy. No rain, not one drop.

The trail is well maintained and receives heavy use year round. Many trails go through the park, and there are several different trails going up to Goose Rock itself. Deception Pass is named because of the incredible currents and eddies that pass under the Deception Pass bridge. From that Wikipedia link:
Deception Pass is a dramatic seascape where the tidal flow and whirlpools beneath the twin bridges connecting Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island move quickly. During low tides, the swift current can lead to standing waves, large whirlpools, and roiling eddies. This swift current phenomenon can be viewed from the twin bridges' pedestrian walkways or from the trail leading below the larger south bridge from the parking lot on the Whidbey Island side. Boats can be seen waiting on either side of the pass for the current to stop or change direction before going through. Thrill-seeking kayakers go there during large tide changes to surf the standing waves and brave the class 2 and 3 rapid conditions.
 We hiked to the top of Goose Rock and found it was breezy and a little too early to stop for lunch, so we hiked back down to the beach. We saw these whirlpools that had picked up in intensity from our earlier view.
The water looks turbulent right in the middle of the picture, and I can imagine how difficult it would be to navigate a boat through those waters. Fortunately, all you need to do is wait awhile and the currents will change and boats can travel through. In the picture below, you can see the beach where we had lunch, with Amy in the foreground showing off her green jacket, worn just for today (St. Patrick's Day). The double bridge is in the background.
Since we had only hiked about four miles by the time we stopped for lunch, Al asked if we wanted to explore some of the other trails going up to Goose Rock, and we readily agreed. However, once we got close to the summit, he asked if we wanted to "pop up" to the top again. This brought out some grumbles from some of us, since there had been no mention of going all the way back to the top. Well, I didn't ever feel that I "popped up" there, but I made my way with the others to the summit... again. We did see signs of spring on the way, with green leaves sprouting all over, and even some pretty pink flowers.
The sunshine and lack of rain made it a wonderful day, and of course I always love to tell stories and laugh with my good buddies. By the time we reached the cars again, we had traveled around eight and a half miles with about 1,800 feet of elevation gain and loss. I'm tired, but nothing like I was after last week's hike. I was actually pleased to find I wasn't the only one sore and tired last Thursday after almost 13 miles and all that elevation. Today we were all smiles as we headed back to the Senior Center.

(News flash: We thought we heard some shouts and saw an orange Coast Guard helicopter overhead several times. It turns out they were rescuing two kayakers who overturned in that turbulent water. Story on the Whidbey News Times here.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Benign nodules

Not only are the crocuses finally beginning to bloom, but I got a call from my doctor's office this morning telling me that the two thyroid nodules biopsied last Friday are not cancerous. The nurse said that the doctor suggested I have another ultrasound in six months to ascertain any changes in them, but for now, there is nothing to be concerned about! That was very good news, and then I saw that the crocuses have decided to show their beauty, several weeks later than last year, but still, here they are!

I am struggling with the time change, along with everyone else. Today on the bus, I saw at least three students on their way to Bellingham Technical College (the bus stops there on the way to town) snoozing in their seats. Since I just spent three weeks in the Eastern Time Zone and had finally begun to adjust, now this little hour time change seems to have my biorhythms mightily confused. I went to bed early and woke before 5:00 am. Shouldn't I be going in the other direction? The sunlight at the end of the day will be welcome, once we actually get some. It's been day after day of rain and wind since I returned a week ago.

On Sunday I went lap swimming in the YMCA pool. Since I have joined the Y for another year, I'll be using their 20-yard pool to integrate this activity into my workout routine. It's sure not the same as swimming in Norma Jean's 25-yard-long outdoor Olympic-sized pool. I couldn't believe how warm the water was; it was almost like getting into a bathtub. They allow snorkels and fins during lap swimming, and I was disconcerted now and then by a guy's flippers who kept diving down to the bottom in the lane over from me. The lanes are quite wide, and I shared mine with another woman who swims at about the same pace as me. Another woman asked to join us, but I have never gone in circles as they suggested we might try. I swam my 44 lengths (a half mile) and noticed yesterday that my arms were a little tired, I figured from swimming.

Getting back into my usual routine has been harder than I anticipated. Is it because of all the emotional upset I've been through lately? As my day's activities have begun to fall into place, I am still looking for the serenity I seem to have misplaced.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The butterfly dress

Did you ever have a dress or an outfit that meant so much to you that it returns to you in your dreams for decades? I did, and I called it the "butterfly dress" when I mentioned it to my sister. It turns out that a picture of that dress still exists, scanned in by my brother-in-law Pete. Most likely it was taken by my father. The dress was pink and had the most beautiful net cutout on the bodice. It might not look magical to you, but it certainly was to me. I STILL have dreams about that dress.

Although you can't see it in the picture, it was made of a soft taffeta fabric and when I wore it, I felt like a princess. I'm not sure whether Norma Jean had a matching dress, but she probably did as Mama often dressed us alike, or in the same dress except in different colors, like pink and yellow.

My hair was not naturally curly, so I suspect my mother had my hair in pincurls the night before the picture was taken. Do you remember what it was like to have your hair done up in fat curls secured by bobby pins? If you hair is wet when it is pinned, it ends up being as big and fluffy as mine is in this picture. But of course I didn't mind at all, I thought it was the height of fashion, with my patent-leather shoes and white socks to complete the look.

Another picture Pete scanned in that I had forgotten about was this other pink dress with fabric puffy sleeves, and my favorite, that see-through net on the sleeves and collar. In this case, Norma Jean and I had matching dresses for Easter. I suspect it had little pink dots on the see-through part overlaid over a nice silk or taffeta, which was of course very popular in the 1940s and 1950s, when I was a little girl. Mama loved to knit and make dresses for us, but I know the butterfly dress was purchased. She might have made this one.

When I think back about my childhood, it was a happy one, although we moved around so much because Daddy was in the Air Force and never stayed anywhere for very long. I loved being the "new girl" in town, while Norma Jean hated it. It's interesting to me how different we were, in the same environment but experiencing it completely differently.

I have enjoyed the many comments and well wishes from my blogging friends about Friday's thyroid test. You may rest assured that as soon as I know anything, you will too. It's amazing to me how comforting it is to think of my friends all around the world holding me in their thoughts, and I realize that I do the same for you, when you are in a situation like this. Robert the Skeptic is having surgery tomorrow for an aortic valve replacement, and if you don't follow his blog, you might want to check it out and send him a kind thought or two. I know it has certainly made a difference to me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ten needle sticks

From OhioHealth
Yesterday I got a thyroid biopsy at the Northwest Imaging Center. As you might have guessed, I was a little nervous because I've never had any sort of biopsy before. First I read about FNAB (fine needle aspiration biopsy) on line so I wouldn't be completely in the dark. When I was ushered into a room, I was able to have Smart Guy accompany me, which helped a great deal. Because of a second monitor in the room, he was able to watch the entire proceedings.

A nurse explained to me that I have two nodules larger than a centimeter, which is when they usually recommend a biopsy. Both are on the left side of my thyroid and in close proximity to each other, although when she showed them to me on the ultrasound monitor, they look completely different from each other. One is perfectly round with what she called an "eggshell" coating, and the other is diffuse and much harder to see. After introducing me to the doctor, they explained that they would make three "sticks" into each nodule, and another person would come into the room to examine the aspirated materials to see if there was enough tissue to biopsy.

The first stick was a bee sting-like novocaine that deadened the skin over the area. It was uncomfortable, but it wasn't too awful. Then I felt nothing when he inserted the needle, first into Nodule 1, the diffuse one, and when he got close to it, I could feel something as he pressed against it with the needle. It wasn't too painful, but a strange feeling. He was very careful and I had to lie very still and not swallow or move while he inserted the needle. Once it was inserted, he wiggled it back and forth a bit. Then he did that two more times on the nodule.

Next he went to the other nodule, which he thought might be problematic, because sometimes they can't get into one with a calcified coating like this one has, but he was able to pierce it and get cells out. This, however, was probably the most uncomfortable part of the procedure, because I felt an unpleasant sensation that I can't quite describe as the needle poked at the nodule. Three times in that one and I thought we were done. The pathologist worked in the background while we chatted. It took her what seemed like a long time and then she said she needed more from the first nodule.

So, three more sticks into the first one, this time he was much more aggressive and worked hard to get enough tissue, which was pronounced sufficient this time. It took about a hour and a half before we were finished, and I was able to sit up and was given a cold compress to hold onto my neck. I was told to expect some bruising and even some swelling and what to watch out for.

Now, the morning after, my neck is sore and tender to the touch, but there is only a little swelling and bruising. Next week I should hear the results from the biopsy, and I admit to some trepidation but am hoping for the best.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wiped out from Chuckanut Ridge

Today eight of us Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center in very dubious conditions: winds predicted to be blowing up to 50 mph and 100% chance of rain. When we started out, however, the winds weren't that high and there was actually some blue sky. Heading out to the Chuckanut Ridge Trail, we felt pretty good, ready for anything, especially rain. It had obviously rained hard sometime during the night, as the trail was squishy and standing puddles told the tale. But we remained almost dry.
We had gloomy skies and very little view for most of the hike, but we did get a chance to cast our gaze westward towards Bellingham Bay and Lummi Island at one point, as you can see in the above picture. You can see the trees are bending in the wind, and once we heard a tree crash in the forest, but we couldn't see where it was. We didn't want to be anywhere near it, for obvious reasons.
This hike is rated as being "hard" and I must say, it really was! We ended up hiking more than twelve miles and very little of the trail was level. We had more than 3,200 feet of elevation gain and loss, hiking up areas like the one pictured above. This is the most exposed part of the ridge, and right after climbing up to the top, you are hanging over at least a thousand feet of exposure, with a little tiny bit of trail under your feet. Fortunately there is a strategically placed tree to hold onto, as you can see Linda doing here.
The hike was supposed to be "only" eleven miles, but someone suggested we hike down to Fragrance Lake to possibly escape the wind, which added another couple of miles to our hike, and by the time we were limping back to the cars, every one of us was groaning and complaining of something hurting. My knees were not happy on the final downhill, but the trekking poles made it possible for me to finish the hike without injury. We saw this whimsical pile of rocks off to the side of the trail, and we added a few rocks to the pile as we stopped to catch our breath.
We escaped most of the rain with just a sprinkle or two, but the wind was almost a constant companion during the hike. The temperature was moderate, so we weren't cold, but I must say nothing looked quite as good to me as the car at the trailhead that allowed me to sit down. Now, an hour later, I am hoping to limp into the kitchen and get myself a nice glass of wine to self-medicate. All in all, a very good but very tiring day, spent in the company of some really nice people. I'm back home in the Pacific Northwest!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Travel day

All day today I'll be traveling back home from Florida to Washington state. From one extreme corner of the continental US to the other. I couldn't sleep and now it's not even 2:00 am at home. I won't return to my own bed until sometime after 9:00 pm. Makes for a very long day.

Norma Jean will be walking the dogs herself after today. This picture was taken yesterday, and I have to say I will miss her, and them, quite a bit. I don't even want to think about it, and I'm feeling more than a little emotional. My blogging buddies will write posts and I won't have my laptop, so I will be adrift, betwixt and between. Until Wednesday morning when life returns to normal, I'll be thinking of all of you and missing you, too.

It's been a good visit. I have said goodbye to Pete and reconnected with Norma Jean. We are still not only sisters of the flesh but also sisters of the heart. It's good to know that, to be reminded that life goes on after loss, and that sometimes it can herald the start of something fresh and new. Although I am feeling a little bit fragile, I can also feel that my heart is full and something good always comes from that.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Swimming laps

Norma Jean on her way to .6 mile swim
Well, this morning I swam a half mile in the Betmar Acres Olympic sized pool. After checking on line to see if I was truly going the distance, I discovered the following information:

A "Swimming Mile" is shorter than a "Real Mile." 
If you want to swim a "REAL" mile read below:
1 Mile = 5280 Feet
5280 Feet divided by 3 feet/yard = 1760 Yards
1760 Yards / 25 Yards / length of pool = 70.4 Lengths
70.4 laps / 2(Down+Back) = 35.2 laps
Since it would be odd to just swim .2 laps at the end I typically swim 36 Laps (down and back) to cover 1 mile = 72 Lengths of the pool to cover 5280 Feet

Read more:

I misspoke when I said I had swum 24 laps in my previous post. It was 24 lengths, 24 times up and down the pool. A lap is out and back. This morning I went 36 lengths up and down the pool, so I figure it was really and truly a "real" half mile. Norma Jean usually swims 42 lengths, or .6 of a mile.

It took me about a half hour to swim that far, and in answer to some commenters who think I am Superwoman because of my ability to swim that distance, I have to confess that our fellow pool users thought, when I first began swimming with Norma Jean, that they would have to call 911 before I collapsed. When I first started, I tried to swim too fast, and I was nervous about the feeling of not getting enough air.

Years ago, I swam laps for exercise, but it had been thirty years or more, and I had forgotten all the techniques I learned. Since a pool was rarely available, I moved from swimming to jogging, which only required me to have a good pair of running shoes, and I could do it anywhere, anytime. I had not been in a pool for exercise in decades.

When I started swimming two weeks ago, I could only make it up and down the pool 4 times (2 laps) before stopping to gasp for breath. I rested and tried again, swam another lap, gradually making it up to 10 lengths while NJ  swam her 42. When I got out of the pool, my legs felt like jello. My arms were sore. So much for being in good shape!

But I kept at it, since my usual exercise routine is out of reach. A few days ago, I reached a milestone when I was able to swim 24 lengths without stopping. The two things I learned in order to swim a good distance is (1) slow down, way down; and (2) relax about breathing. I like to breathe every other stroke, on my right side, but I remember when swimming long ago, I was able to take three strokes and breathe out slowly, using the opposite side every other breath. All my efforts to do that these days are for naught, since I tend to think I'm going to drown.

But, once I return home and try out the pool at my own local YMCA, I think I'll work on that. I notice that I swim differently on each side because of breathing only on the right. But today I am smiling because of the addition of yet another way to exercise, even though it's not weight bearing, it sure feels good!

We then put a leash on each the two dogs and took them for a short walk. Chester is a delight and I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I think of him alive and vital and not exterminated as an unwanted creature. (It would have happened last week.) Babe is afraid of everything: she cringes when walking across a bridge because it makes noise, and she cowers at every small change in the environment. When the garbage truck came down the road, Norma Jean picked her up and held her as she trembled. She was also targeted for the doggie Auschwitz, but I knew someone else would have adopted her, since she's young (somewhere around two). Chester's senior status makes him VERY unwanted, but that's just so wrong. Chihuahuas live a long, long time, and I am glad to have been part of his rescue.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pitter patter of little feet

Babe after two vet visits, going back tomorrow
The empty house of a couple of days ago has been filled with the pitter patter of eight little feet. Norma Jean's kitchen is hardwood, and the click of those little feet pervades the house with a very happy sound. Yesterday you met Babe (almost everybody calls her "precious" when they see her), but we like the name because that's what Pete always called Norma Jean. Babe was listless and we took her yesterday to the vet's office where she was hydrated several times.  She was also given a less caustic antibiotic for her to take after the abdominal surgery she had Monday at the pound. The very next day they put her up for adoption, and fortunately we brought her home, because we knew she wasn't doing well.

Today we took her back again, after the listlessness returned and she wouldn't eat or drink anything. They x-rayed her and found her extremely constipated, so they gave her an enema and we are to take her back to the vet's tomorrow morning to see if she's doing better. She still won't drink but we are giving her water through a syringe. The doctor said not to feed her tonight, but she hasn't shown any interest. I'm pretty worried about her, but we're all hoping it will turn out for the best. I am already very attached to the little pooch.

And today Norma Jean received Chester, a dog she agreed to foster to keep him from being euthanized. That was this lively dog's fate this week if no foster home could be found for him. He's nine years old but very smart and fit, and although this senior chihuahua might be hard to find a suitable home for, he's a real addition to this household.
Chester and Norma Jean
He's a wonderful doggie, and it breaks my heart that dogs like this cannot find permanent homes. I suspect that it won't be long before Norma Jean's heart will be captured. Heck, I think it already is! We went out for dinner and when we came back home tonight, two frenetically wagging tails and two excited doggies filled the house with joy. It makes me glad to see them here.

Now all we need to do is get the Babe healthy and well, and I'll feel just fine to head back home on Tuesday. Oh, one other thing: this morning I swam 24 laps in the pool without stopping!! Tomorrow I'm going to try for a half mile (36). If I can do that, maybe I can get enough exercise swimming to substitute that activity for aerobics once in a while.

That's all for now. What a different Thursday post from my usual outdoors one!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Home feels a little closer

Monday, Lexie and Allison headed home to Alexandria, Virginia. Allison, as a single mom with an 8-month-old does NOT travel light. Stroller holds Lexie, a big heavy bag to check, a diaper bag and two computers. My goodness! Here she is getting ready to pile everything into her rental car and head to the airport in Tampa. Little Lexie is strapped into the back seat and off they go.
She is a very accomplished person, and she approaches motherhood no differently. An Army Lt. Colonel stationed at the Pentagon, Allison knows how to multitask, without a doubt. I was so impressed with her competence. She's someone who makes her mom very proud, and this latest accomplishment (Lexie) has certainly increased her stature in my mind. It was super high to begin with.

After they left, with just Norma Jean and me in the house, it felt very quiet and empty. I realized that my own trip home is less than a week away. It is now feeling much closer, hence the title of this post. Time to get some more life in this house!

Yesterday, Norma Jean and I finally gave up waiting for all the possible rescue places to return our constant telephone calls and headed to the Tampa Humane Society. We knew it would be traumatic, but we wanted to come home with a dog to help Norma Jean through this crisis. She will still be fostering a chihuahua once we get a chance to receive him, but road blocks keep being placed in our path to picking him up. And we came home with a little ten-pound Yorkshire terrier mix, with the shelter name of "Me Too." We have been calling her "Babe" and "little girl" while she learns her new environment. So far the biggest problem is getting her to pee outside. On Monday she had abdominal surgery to repair a hernia, and perhaps that's what is causing her to be uncomfortable. This morning she vomited several times and now we are worried about her.
She is estimated to be somewhere around two and a half years old, could be more, who knows for sure. You can see her tail is going so fast it's just a blur in the picture, and she has that doggie underbite that is clearly visible. Yesterday she was very animated and took to her new surroundings quickly, but today she is listless and acting very unwell. The Society gave us pet insurance but it doesn't take effect until tomorrow, for some reason.

Nobody knows her history, but she was very easy to bring home in a car, she climbed immediately into a doggie bed and perked up every time she heard a motorcycle. Today she is acting entirely different. The vet doesn't open until 8:00 am, but I think that's where we are headed instead of going swimming this morning. More later.