Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hearing loss

John is wearing eyeglasses and earglasses
Of course, hearing loss is inevitable (isn't it?) as we age, but some people get a whole lot more deaf than others. My friend John is pretty darn deaf, and after I would get annoyed with him over and over when he'd say "what?" he agreed to go have a hearing test. He found that yes, indeed, he's got significant hearing loss, but the cost of hearing aids meant he wasn't going to be able to afford them.

So, just for fun, I went on Amazon thinking that maybe I could find one of those old-style ear trumpets that I could bring in for a joke. Instead, I found this online: Earglasses. I bought the set of two and brought them into the coffee shop. John is wearing them in the picture. Basically, they work the same as if you cup your curved hand over your ear. He said they amplify his own voice just fine, but they don't help much otherwise.

Interestingly, he applied for hearing aids through his supplemental Medicare insurance, and they said he might qualify. Well, he does, and soon he will actually be fitted for real hearing aids! Hearing loss is serious, and it will be really interesting to see how it works for him.

If you would like to see how your hearing stacks up, here's an online test you can give yourself. There are others, but this one appealed to me. I just found it a few minutes ago, so I'm off to test my own hearing right now.
P.S. My test: Not too bad for my age, but left ear misses high tones.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Moving into the fall harvest

Blue skies and sunflower
I took this picture yesterday when it was very hot here in Bellingham. We broke a temperature record Thursday as well as Friday. Yesterday was the hottest of the two: it got up to 88°F, which might not seem like much to those used to scorching hot temperature all summer, but we are fragile Pacific Northwestern flowers!
From my front porch just now
But look at it now! Grey skies, lots of clouds, a cool breeze, and it's twenty degrees cooler out there. I went walking with the ladies this morning, and we were all feeling the chill but enjoying it, too. Nobody was complaining.
Volunteer vine taking over the garden gate
I went out to the garden just now to check things out, and I noticed that this volunteer squash vine is spilling out across the fence and snaking its way up the gate as well. It's sort of pretty, but I suspect we'll be cutting it back soon.
Keith's pumpkins and other goodies
I noticed also that my garden neighbor Keith has grown some pretty good looking pumpkins, along with some yellow squash I don't recognize and other unidentified veggies. I just peeked over and didn't wander around. You can see that the vines are beginning to wither, exposing the fruits. It's that time in the garden when we are getting close to harvesting these plants.

I should probably be out there while it's nice and cool to weed my own patch, but instead I'm going off to the movies with my friend Judy. We will see Hell or High Water, a modern Western shoot-em-up, with Jeff Bridges in the lead role. It's gotten great reviews, so my expectations are high, although it's not my usual movie cup of tea. I'll let you know if it's worth seeing. (NB: Yes, go see it; it's wonderful!)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Heliotrope Ridge 2016

Chris, Linda, Ward, Victoria, Carol crossing one of the streams
Today sixteen Senior Trailblazers went on our annual hike up to Heliotrope Ridge. Although we are limited to 12 in the wilderness, one group of six decided to go up faster and higher than the rest of us to help keep us legal. If all went as planned, we, the slower and larger group, would be able to cross the final stream and get a closeup view of the glaciers on Mt. Baker, while the other group would go up the steep climber's route to the base camp. It's where those making an ascent of the mountain camp stay before their climb.
Al, with a magnificent waterfall behind him
The trail isn't very long, but it climbs steadily until we get to a junction, one which goes up the climber's route and the other that goes to the glacier overlook. But the one problem today was the final stream we had to cross: it was roaring like I've never seen it.
Al checking out the stream for a place to cross
Al spent some time looking up and down for a safe place to cross, but even those of us with water shoes decided it wasn't for us today. If we were somehow able to get across, the return trip would be even scarier, with the warm day causing the glacier melt to increase. Carol took a video, which I'll try to share with you. It's only 24 seconds long, but the roar of the water will give you some idea of why we didn't even try it.

Anyway, we decided to turn back to the junction and go up the climber's route until we had a good view of the glaciers and Mt. Baker. We had a new hiker with us today, Victoria, who was certainly strong enough to go up, but she was unwilling to go very far along the steep trail.
Victoria and Carol a short distance up the climbers' route
The rest of us slowly made our way up the steep and rocky trail, with a few of us not wanting to keep going but being seduced by the view. We saw the glaciers on Mt. Baker come into view, with lovely wildflowers abundant everywhere.
Roosevelt (upper) and Coleman (lower) glaciers on Mt. Baker
We didn't expect clouds, but I was very happy for their presence, because it made us much less uncomfortable as we hiked ever upwards. And it was steep, let me tell you. Maybe you can get an idea from this picture, as you look at the hikers above us.
Relentlessly up
Some of the group went on farther, but when I saw Peggy sitting alongside the path, Linda and I pulled ourselves up to join her. I knew the others were somewhere ahead of us, but by that point I just didn't care to go farther. Two were below us, having lunch together, and the three of us were happy where we were. I kept watching Mt. Baker to see if I might get a view of it without clouds.
Mt. Baker with clouds
This was the best I could capture, and you can see the glaciers off to the left and the numerous streams heading down the steep hillsides. It was even a little cool once the breeze blew and the clouds blocked the direction sunlight. And we had all been expecting another really hot day. The breeze helped to keep the flies at bay, but they did make it necessary to keep applying repellent. But compared to how it could have been, we were all very happy with the way our day unfolded.
Flowers and glorious views
Looking directly opposite of Mt. Baker, we had this incredible view of the valley below and wildflowers everywhere. The clouds made for some interesting shadows as well. We headed back down to the junction, and soon the rest of our group had joined us, so we made our return trip to the cars.
A day well spent in the wilderness
Once we had reached the trailhead, we wondered where the other group of our fast hikers might be. They showed up just as we were piling into our cars. And by the time we had our ice cream at Graham's, it was time to make the hour-long drive back to Bellingham.

Although we only covered somewhere under six miles, we had climbed a good bit and had plenty of adventures to boot. I am feeling pretty good, realizing we are all now home safe and sound, and ready for a good rest!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Internet is changing everything

Oh, how the world is changing
My little grand-niece Alicia is proficient with her iPad at sixteen months. Unfortunately for her mother, this particular iPad is now toast, since Alicia decided to see if it would float in the bathtub. I just learned from my sister Norma Jean that Alicia already has a new one, this time with a waterproof case.

In many ways, I don't feel a huge need to dash down to Florida to visit my sister, since we talk every other week on FaceTime, and it's simply wonderful to sit down with this technology and have a good long face-to-face exchange. Phone calls aren't the same at all. How much I look forward to these visits!

I also do all of my banking online and don't even have a physical place nearby. The number of checks I write in one year is in the single digits; everything else is electronic. The only thing that bothers me is my complete dependency on the digital world and the internet. I surely do hope that the People In Charge (whoever they are) are also cognizant of our need to keep all this going.

Does it scare you? When Delta Airlines a few weeks ago lost their internet connection, things were chaotic for days. What would happen if it happened on a larger scale? Sometimes I think about things like this and really wish I wouldn't.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Three-day heat wave

My toes in the icy water of Lake Ann
Today is the third day of unusual heat here in the Pacific Northwest. We are just not used to this kind of weather, but today, Saturday (the third day), it's not as hot. On Thursday, when we were hiking in the sun, it got to 88°F here in Bellingham, breaking the record of 85° set in 1965, and then yesterday it reached 90°F, breaking yet another record. Today we won't break any old records, which makes me very happy.

When I took my shoes and socks off and stuck my toes in the water on Thursday, I was shocked at how icy cold the water is. My hat is off to those two who actually went all the way in. I think my heart might have stopped!

This morning I went walking with the ladies, and we went almost nine miles! My GPS tracker actually said it was a full nine, but we had others showing a shorter distance, but not by much. I'll always take the higher number. It was cool and delightful for the walk, and now it's almost 4:00pm and the temperature is 79°, just right! I just cannot imagine how those of you who deal hot temperatures daily manage to get by. Oh, right, you have air conditioning. We don't usually need it.

The days are getting shorter, so the hot days are numbered for this summer. I couldn't be happier about it. Stay cool; ice cream helps.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lake Ann 2016

Lake Ann 18 August 2016
Twelve Senior Trailblazers gathered at the Senior Center to hike the Lake Ann trail on a very hot day. This hike doesn't have much shade once you leave the trees in the forest during your initial descent. This hike is rated hard because, as one wag said, it's uphill both ways. In other words, you descend into a valley and then climb up almost the same distance you went down at the beginning. And then you return the same way, with an uphill climb to the cars.
Sylvia and Mel on our ascent to Lake Ann
It was very pleasant to start out, with plenty of shade and a cool breeze, but by the time we had reached Swift Creek and were ready to start our uphill climb, the hot sun beating down on the endless rocks made it tough on many of us. Not a cloud in the sky. I really prefer hiking in cooler weather.
Our lunchtime view
We found a nice shady spot to enjoy our lunch, looking to the south, with the backside of Mt. Shuksan to our left and Lake Ann to our right. In the above picture, the snow in the upper right is on Mt. Shuksan.
Lower Curtis Glacier on Mt. Shuksan
Here is a picture of the state of the glacier on Mt. Shuksan today. I've been looking at it for eight years now, and it's noticeably smaller today, but still glorious. Instead of hiking closer to the glacier, we decided after lunch to take a nice stroll around Lake Ann. Two of our more adventurous Trailblazers went skinny dipping in the lake, while three of the rest of us took off our shoes and socks and treated our toes to an icy dip.
Lake Ann in front, Mt. Shuksan behind
I got this picture, my favorite of the day, of the lake in the foreground with a reflection of Shuksan's glaciers. It was a really nice place to hang out, but we needed to return on the more than four miles and plenty of elevation that had gotten us to this lovely place. And it was getting late.
Mt. Baker
On the way down, I saw this scene of Mt. Baker with the first leaves of the mountain ash beginning to turn in front of it. In a few weeks, the color display will be astounding, but for now, it's just beginning. Mike hustled me ahead of the others to show me a spot he thought would be a good one to take of our group, so here it is.
Doug, Dick, Rich, Ellen, Sue, Chris, Mel, Kirk, Sylvia, Al, MIke
He was right: the lighting and the scenery were all pretty spectacular. After I took this picture, we just put one foot in front of the other for the return journey, making it back to the cars a little before 5:00pm. We still had quite a bit of time in our cars before arriving in Bellingham, but of course we all stopped anyway for our ice cream at Grahams in Glacier. It's a tradition, and it also tasted simply wonderful.

So that's why it's now almost 8:00pm and the post is just now being finished. Now that my task has been completed, it's into the shower for me, and making my way into horizontal mode. It's been a wonderful day but I'm done. And I get a massage tomorrow! Yay!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My garden and the heat

Leaf detritus
Outside my coffee shop, I saw these ash leaves that have begun to fall in earnest from the trees above. It's mid-August and summer is more than half over. Thinking about my Tuesday post, I figured I could show you what I'm seeing around here, and give you a little update on my garden.
Collards in front, blooming broccoli behind
I'm watering every other day, usually early in the morning before the sun hits the plants, but everything is still very dry and should probably get a drink daily, but I'm falling behind. Plus we have plenty for the two of us. Those broccoli plants started to flower while I wasn't looking, and since the bees are really enjoying them, I decided to just let them go. The collards have been harvested three times already and are ready for another snip.
The kale looks like trees
My kale has been harvested six times already, and when I cut the leaves off, new ones come up above where I cut the last ones. So now they look more like kale trees than kale plants, don't they? They will grow back again and have already started making new leaves. I'll probably let them go awhile longer now, though.
Fellow gardener gathering beans
While I was out there, my friend Hedi came out with a basket to gather green beans and had just started when I took this picture. Beans and tomatoes are coming ready now, and of course the zucchini has been giving the entire lot of us plenty to eat. Fortunately we can give away what we don't want ourselves.

I've been very happy with the harvest this year, but it's getting to be time to starting thinking about what I might do differently next year. This is the fifth season I've had a garden, and now I cannot imagine what I did with my summertime before then. While it's a lot of work, nothing can compare with the tasty organic delights we've been enjoying.

And we have a mini-heat wave coming, starting Thursday. Forecasts show we will probably break some heat records in our area, and unfortunately my Thursday hike will be a hard one in full sun. I'll be doing everything possible to stay cool, such as dipping my handkerchief and hat in the mountain streams, and taking some electrolytes to keep from heat exhaustion. My next post will be about the Lake Ann hike. Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Nice perch
When I went to the post office this morning to check the mailbox, I kept hearing the plaintiff squawk of this gull. When I finally located him and saw the sky behind, I whipped out my phone and captured this picture. I wonder if he was calling for his mate. Two squawks and then apparently listening, over and over.

Last week when I went walking with the ladies, there were 23 of us. Today, only ten showed up, and we walked hills and trails for more than five miles and then went our separate ways. I sure do enjoy this time at the beginning of the weekend as a way to set the day's exercise on the right track.

I heard a distressing statistic yesterday while watching PBS, which had a short segment on the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, which now has its own flag and anthem. When they walked out during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, they displayed little flags with the Olympic symbol of five interlocked rings. A non-profit group called the Refugee Nation commissioned artists to develop a flag and write a national anthem. From that link:
The flag is a banner of bright orange crossed by a single black band—colors that evoke the life jackets so many refugees have worn on their journeys to safety. “If you’ve worn a lifejacket as a refugee, you will feel something when you see this flag,” says Amsterdam-based Syrian refugee Yara Said, who designed the flag.
Refugee Olympic team's flag
 For more information about who is on the team and how it was founded, read the Wikipedia page about them. What I also learned from that piece on PBS, is that there are now an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world who have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. These statistics are from the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

I was simply stunned when I heard these statistics and thought I had heard wrong, but no, this is really happening. One out of every 113 people who are alive in the world today is affected, and more than half of them are from Syria. The UNHCR receives most of its funding from voluntary contributions, as well as the European Union.

The Refugee Olympic Team may not be winning any medals, but they carry the heart and soul of many countries as they compete. I am humbled by their courage.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fabulous Scott Paul trail

Blue skies and incredible views
Today nineteen Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to drive the long distance down to Schreiber's Meadow trailhead and begin our hike on the Scott Paul trail. It was forecast to be sunny (it was) and hot (not so much), so when we got ready to carpool, Al suggested that we would stay with our car group and eight (two cars) would hike this loop trail clockwise, and the rest (three cars) would hike it counter-clockwise.
Steve, Ward, Linda, Rich, Peggy, Sylvia, Kirk
front: Chris, Carol, Mel (I took the picture)
Here's the group I was with, and we had a wonderful day in just about every way. Many of my fellow hikers had not done this loop hike before, and I have to say I think it's the only time I've actually seen the views, since it's been overcast or foggy on previous trips. That's Mt. Baker in the background, viewed from an angle I rarely see.
Checking out the view
I had heard that the view from this vantage point is pretty spectacular, and now that I've seen it, I have to agree. That is Mt. Shuksan on the left. Once we returned to the trail and began to hike again, we continued to have some pretty incredible views. As we hiked along, Mt. Baker would come and go from view, but suddenly I saw Carol behind me, with the mountain rising up behind her.
Mt. Baker behind Carol
With her yellow shirt and red visor, and the shadow on Mt. Baker, I thought this was a picture I will cherish for a long time, and you also get to enjoy it. Everything came together to make a wonderful shot.
Our lunch spot
When we finally stopped for lunch. we commented that not only had we not seen many people on the trail, we wondered where our "other half" might be. We thought we should have seen them by this time, but once we finished and started out again, not more than five minutes later we saw them finishing up their lunch! If we had had cellphone connections (which of course we didn't), we might have enjoyed our lunches together.
Railroad Grade from Scott Paul
As we hiked along, we were treated to views, such as this one, of other nearby destinations, such as the one called "Railroad Grade"because of the steep vertical moraine that makes it so distinctive. I've hiked it and what you see from here is the steep drop on this side, but there is one almost as steep on the other side, making it a walk on a knife edge. We could see people on it.
Lupine and mountains
The wildflowers were abundant, but not as much as I've seen in previous trips. It's such a beautiful place, but every season is different, and a difference of one week can make a huge variation in wildflower display. You can see plenty of lupine plants in the foreground, but the blooms are sparse.
Suspension bridge crossing
And then it was time for us to cross the suspension bridge across the raging stream below. I was already across when I took this picture of Sylvia crossing (we went one at a time), because it swayed not only from right to left, but up and down as well. Exciting!

After that, it was just a slog of a couple miles back to the starting point and our cars. My feet hurt but the incredible views, the amazing company, and the completion of our hike of more than seven miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain and loss was behind us.
Me in front of Mt. Baker, taken by Mel
As I was riding back home in the back seat of Rich's car, I received this wonderful picture on my phone from Carol, which was sent to her iPhone by Mel. I frankly love it, and I can't keep myself from sharing it with you. It epitomizes the day for me, all sunshine, smiles and incredible views. Am I happy? You bet!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My adventures in yoga

From Yoga for Healthy Aging
I will soon be starting my fourth semester of Iyengar Yoga at Yoga Northwest. Some of you might remember that, about a year ago, I decided that I needed to look into finding a yoga class that could help me with my back issues. Plus I'd become aware that my lifelong flexibility was beginning to leave me.

Just this past Sunday, I learned to do this supported shoulderstand. When I was in the process of looking for an appropriate class for someone who is no longer young, I heard about a Gentle yoga class at this studio. Immediately I signed up for the upcoming semester and was hooked. There are actually two levels of Gentle yoga (see the class descriptions here), and I started taking two classes a week and found that the Gentle II classes were more to my liking. So in the second semester I left behind the easiest class and took two classes of Gentle II. Then in the third semester, I signed up for another Gentle II and (gasp!) a Level I class.

In Level I, my instructor has been teaching us, a little at a time, how to get into a shoulderstand. Frankly, I thought that the days when I could do that pose were far in the past, but no, Iyengar Yoga helps you to use props such as blocks, chairs, and belts to help you get into the pose.

In trying to find a picture of this pose on the internet, I ran into this wonderful website, Yoga for Healthy Aging, and found not only the picture, but a step-by-step guide as to how to get into it. I remember that in class it was a little scary to try to get there, but once there, it was delightful! If I saw this on somebody's blog (such as I'm doing right now), I don't think I would have attempted it. But as of now, I've done it twice at home, each time a little bit less afraid.

For the next week I won't have any yoga classes at the studio, because they are having a five-day intensive and classes are canceled until next Monday. Can you guess what I'll be doing here at home? Yep, my very own yoga class. And I must remember that without someone to correct my technique, I need to go slow. I will, really!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Some movies and the Saturday walk

Whatcom Creek 7 August 2016
We had a very large group this morning when we ladies met for our walk (21). We kept up our usual brisk pace and went a little more than five miles and then enjoyed coffee together. Or at least a few of us did; others went off on their own pursuits. When we crossed over Whatcom Creek on the walk, I noticed that a few of the leaves are already beginning to turn colors. And the water level is way down, too. We are well into our normal drought period, with the lawns turned brown and summer more than half gone already.

Some people really hate to see summer go, especially up here where we rarely deal with really hot temperatures, but I don't mind a bit. We are fortunate to have such moderate weather, year round, that winter doesn't bother me, and fall is my favorite time of the year.
Tima's gift of a a glass sculpture
One of the Saturday women brought this by while I was out having coffee, a beautiful glass sculpture that she created. Several of my blogging friends also make these, but I have only see them in pictures before now. I'm not sure whether I'll use it as a plant stand, put some pretty pebbles in it, or even put water in it for the birds. I sure do love it, though!

I have seen two movies at our local independent theater in the last few days, both of which I enjoyed very much. The first one, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, as you can see from this Rotten Tomatoes link, has a 99% freshness rating. It's a delightful offbeat New Zealand comedy that kept me laughing and entertained.

Then yesterday I went to see Captain Fantastic, a completely different kind of movie. It's about a man who decides to raise his kids completely off the grid and teach them survivalist techniques. Their mother is in a hospital when the movie begins, and I won't tell you exactly what happens, but Viggo Mortensen is just incredible as Ben, the father. (He played Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.) Warning: there is one moment of full frontal nudity.

This movie was my favorite of the two, because it really made me think about what is happening to our society. A friend told me, who works as a volunteer at the Pickford Theater, that everybody has come out loving the movie, except for a few who walked out after a few minutes, declaring that this is no way to raise children! They missed a really good movie because of their prejudice, I believe.

If you see either of them, I'd love to know what you think.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Skyline Divide very late

Our first view of Baker
Boy, what a day! We had 22 Senior Trailblazers wanting to make a trip up to Skyline Divide, with a limit of 12 in the wilderness area. What to do? We decided to break up into two groups, a slow group and a fast group. After a long trip on a very bad gravel road with potholes, we finally got to the trailhead, all of us. I was in the slow group, which happened to be all women.
Dewdrops on the lupine leaves
As we climbed, we realized that it had rained here recently, and all the plants were covered with dew. It was lovely, and we knew it wasn't going to be around for long, so I captured this lupine leaf.
Having a quick lunch at the top
By the time we reached the top, after struggling up 1,500 of elevation in two miles, we stopped to have a quick lunch before taking off after the fast group. It's not the end of the uphill/downhill once we reach this spot, but we now had views that went on forever. I asked a young man, another hiker, to take a picture of us, and he used the panorama feature, which I don't use but just love!
What a view! And great company, too.
We followed the Skyline Ridge towards the faster group, but we knew that we would see them when they were ready to return, and we would join them too. It was just lovely walking along the trail, and finally we saw the other group ahead of us. The views were incredible, and we enjoyed the light breeze and full sun for the entire day.
A scary crossing
We had a couple of places that I remember from previous trips, when it was important just to put one foot in front of the other and not look down. This was one of those spots.
And then we ran into the fast group and decided to break up into groups by respective cars, and return to the beginning. The number of cars in the parking  lot and all the people we saw on a Thursday were simply unbelievable. As we piled into our cars and headed back down the long road, we couldn't believe it when we ran into roadworks that kept us immobile for more than an hour.

So, finally, I got home and it's now after 8:00pm and my post is almost done. I am really tired and hope I did a half-way decent job in writing this post. Now it's time for a shower and getting horizontal! I already finished my wine.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Type 2 diabetes is not inevitable

He's lost a few pounds
My sister's son Peter, my nephew, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a few months ago and told in no uncertain terms that he needed to start taking medication immediately. He was in pretty bad health and had gained weight, although he worked out hard. His workouts were mostly in the form of construction jobs, out in the hot sun and during long days of maximum effort.

Instead of starting medication, however, he decided to lose weight and began curtailing his calories, with plenty of motivation to keep going. He simply didn't want to start down that path of taking medication for one thing and then another to counter the side effects of the first. His blood sugar was off the charts, but once he started losing weight, although it was really hard at first, it took very little time before he started to notice a difference. In fact, he said he didn't realize how bad he was feeling until he starting getting better. His last visit to the doctor shows that all his numbers were normal, no diabetes at all.

And then the other day I saw this heart-tugging video, which is about a man, Eric, who had Type 2 diabetes and was expected to die of his illness, until he adopted a rescue dog that simply changed his entire life. I began to realize that there are other options to medication, not easy ones, but still.

I have watched and shared this video several times, and every time I see it I cry a few tears of happiness. Anyone who has ever loved a critter will see themselves in Eric. Enjoy!