I’ve had a quiet, cozy Christmas day, and right now I am enjoying a cup of hot tea as night falls over the snowy landscape outside my window. I imagine there will be more adventures in the year to come, but there is no rush. Just being here with my family, in this moment of grace, is enough for now.

Word-art with an eagle that says, "Merry Christmas."

I’m sharing this image because it reminded me of a real encounter with a bald eagle on the river, a few years ago. Right next to my husband’s single scull, an eagle swooped down, talons wide. It was quite a startling sight while rowing! The eagle had spotted a fish, which it grabbed neatly out of the water.

Wishing a very merry Christmas and an adventurous New Year to all!

December 22, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The weather forecast—extreme winds, temperatures suddenly falling overnight, and ice and snow—was alarming enough that I went to get groceries early this morning, for fear the supermarket would be so mobbed that I wouldn’t be able to get much. As it turned out, everything was fine; I found almost all of the items on my list, and there was very little wind and only a light drizzle. Because it was a dark morning, I chose an image of holiday lights for my digital art display.

Picture of a jar filled with Christmas lights.

I had in mind to brighten things up, in much the same way as the ancient pagans with their candles, warding off the dark—or, perhaps, to bring my family good luck with regard to the more modern issue of the power staying on, whenever the howling winter winds finally get here. Wishing a cozy, warm, and safe home and the blessings of family to my readers also!

My daughter, who lives in Cleveland’s snow belt, is currently working in Hawaii as a travel nurse and enjoying the warmth and the beaches. As an unexpected adventure, she also got to see the eruption of Mauna Loa up close, and she sent me some photos on Monday. Here’s one of them:

Photo of erupting Mauna Loa volcano at night.

She is a neonatal intensive care nurse, and a few years ago, she worked at Cleveland Metro. Then she discovered that travel nursing paid more, plus the costs of travel and housing. Adventure and more money, what’s not to like about that? And of course, as more nurses made the same discovery, hospitals lost more staff and relied even more heavily on temps from the travel nurse agencies, digging themselves into a hole that I can’t see them getting out of any time soon.

Somewhat related to the hospitals’ woes, I’ve noticed a few alarmist articles in the news recently about the Federal Reserve’s string of interest rate hikes, aimed at cooling off the economy to get inflation under control. Doomsayers warn of recession and job cuts. I think that’s overblown, and as supply chains improve, I expect the economy will do much better. I don’t foresee many jobs being lost other than in the construction and finance industries, where raising interest rates effectively put a stop to housing speculation.

Now that we live in a world of persistent labor shortages, interest rates don’t have nearly the impact on unemployment that they had a few decades ago, when large numbers of workers in the baby boom cohort struggled to find jobs that could easily be sent overseas. We’re never going to see an economy like that again. Employers are realizing that they need to hold onto talent, as I am sure the Fed’s policymakers are aware. Workers also know that their skills are in more demand than in past years.

Of course, the rate hikes are in part intended to make consumers get uneasy and spend more cautiously. Monetary policy has as much to do with mind games as with economic facts. But overall, I’m not worried. Higher borrowing costs are not going to cause short-staffed employers to lay off workers that they desperately need. Workers likely won’t be deterred from job-hopping in search of adventure and better pay, either. We’ll see what happens, but I expect it won’t be anything dramatic.

February 16, 2022 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My daughter came to visit, as always with her little dog (now almost eight years old). Today’s weather was quite warm for February, though dark and windy. With thoughts of sunny spring days, we brought an old bicycle up from the basement for her to ride and attached a pet carrier to it.

Small dog in a carrier attached to a bicycle.

We haven’t actually gotten out to ride bikes yet, as today was a workday and we all had other things to do; but the dog seemed to enjoy looking it over anyway.

This morning I ran the Turkey Trot, which has become a family tradition; we’ve done it for almost 20 years. Before we started the race, I told my husband that I was just going to take it easy. I still felt somewhat tired and achy from training so hard to get in better shape for rowing at regattas, and also from sitting in the car for hours on long road trips to those regattas. It was a good year—we both had much better rowing speed and endurance, and we won more medals. There’s no doubt our online coach, Christine Cavallo, did an excellent job of improving our fitness; but it was exhausting.

My husband ran next to me all through the Turkey Trot and set what I thought was a nice steady pace. I had no trouble keeping up with him and did not feel tired. As we got close to the end of the race, I thanked him for being my “pace car” for a comfortable race. He was being kind, I thought, in staying with me instead of running on ahead, when he would have preferred a faster pace. I felt that I was slowing him down and that I was not putting much energy into the race.

We ran the five-mile course in 49 minutes. Then I made sure to walk around for a while to cool down, although it was raining and there was a chilly wind. It wasn’t until after we got home, when I started looking online at past results, that I realized this was my best time ever for the Turkey Trot. There had been years when I got close to 50 minutes, but never below it. I also felt pretty good after the race; the cool-down walk was good for keeping my joints loose, and I did not seem to have any new aches or stiffness afterward.

As far as I can tell, whatever tiredness I still have is more mental than physical. I’ve read about research studies that suggest the brain is always subconsciously calculating how much effort to put into each activity. This can cause feelings of exhaustion not because the body is in fact overworked, but rather because brain circuitry detects a risk of overexertion and sends a “this could be too much, it’s time to slow down” warning. I’m guessing that those risk-detection circuits got put on heightened alert when I exercised much more this year than in the past.

So, I’ve been left with a few questions: How do I update my body image to match my improved fitness level? What amount of rest do I need to (1) actually keep my body well rested, and (2) persuade those Nervous Nellie brain circuits that everything is fine now and I’m not on the brink of collapse? And, on top of all that, how do I sort out what’s true and what’s not in the cultural messages about slowing down with age?

After considering it for a while, I decided to ask Fannie, my imaginary 119-year-old future self, for advice. Fannie is short for Fantastically Adventurous, and I envision her traveling a much-changed world in her trusty flying car (named Hildegarde) while staying healthy and full of energy.

She wasn’t in the car when I created a mental picture of her, though. Instead, she was walking beside a river on a sunny autumn day. As usual, her robot poodle, Maxie, trotted along with her. Maxie gave a friendly, welcoming yip when I appeared on the scene. Fannie smiled and motioned toward two chairs overlooking the river, which looked like a good place for a conversation.

Photo of two chairs facing a river.

(Photo credit: Elizabeth Wallace)

We settled ourselves comfortably in the chairs, with Maxie at our feet. Although the breeze coming off the river felt just a bit chilly in the shade, both of us were dressed warmly enough that it didn’t bother us at all.

“I seem to have gotten my subconscious mind in a bit of a tangle,” I confessed. “Although my fitness is better than in past years, I’ve been feeling that I am more vulnerable and need to be careful with myself. I have been wondering what you do to avoid such worries. You always look so confident, about your health and everything else. Do you ever feel like this?”

Fannie considered the question, gazing out over the river as a few leaves drifted slowly by in the current. Reddish-gold reflections danced across the water’s smooth surface.

“Those feelings used to be part of what was called a midlife crisis,” she observed, “way back before people started living long enough that the idea of midlife lost its definition. But yes, however it might be described now, I still have such worries in the back of my mind. No matter how much the world changes, we can’t ever get completely away from the culture we grew up in. Medical science has advanced enough that it is now possible to be healthy at a much older age than mine, but still, there are moments when I feel as if I’m living on borrowed time.”

She reached down to pat Maxie’s furry black head.

“I wouldn’t really say that I avoid those worries,” she concluded. “They’re just going to come up at times. What helps, I’ve found, is to give the mind more possibilities to explore, so that it can keep on expanding its maps instead of simply assuming things must be the way they’ve always been.”

October 5, 2021 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

The recent grocery shortages have disrupted my husband’s routine. He likes to drink Coke in the evening, preferably from cans because they are less likely than plastic bottles to tip over when placed on the desk, and caffeine-free Coke Zero to avoid getting too much unhealthy sugar and being kept awake. Unfortunately, caffeine-free Coke Zero in aluminum cans disappeared sometime last year. It was available in bottles for a few months, but soon the bottles vanished too, and he substituted Diet Coke in cans. Then the aluminum can shortage got to them also. Diet Coke in small bottles usually could be found until last month, when it was only available in 2-liter bottles, and those were in short supply and dwindling fast.

So, the last time I bought groceries, when I saw there were a dozen cartons of caffeine-free Coke Zero in aluminum cans, I put them all in my cart. But then they didn’t ring up properly at the checkout. The cashier had no idea what the problem was. Another employee arrived on the scene and told me that there was a limit of six cartons and that I had to leave some for other customers. Of course, there hadn’t been any signs in the aisle about a limit on purchases. I paid for the six cartons, brought them home, put them in the pantry, and told my husband I’d been caught hoarding.

Six cartons of Coke Zero caffeine free

The six cartons should last for a while, and this incident was really more laughable than annoying. To put it in perspective, when I said something about grocery shortages to my mom last year, she started telling me about butter rationing in World War Two. Even with all the disruptions from the pandemic, we are very lucky to be living in modern times.

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I did not go on an exciting vacation. Instead, we spent much of the weekend doing yard work. Even though I wrote a blog post last year about why it would be good to think of gardening as play, like a child would, there was so much to do that I wasn’t having any success whatsoever in not thinking of it as work.

My poor sad backyard willows, which do best in cool rainy weather and have been dying back for the past few years because of hot and dry summers, had a lot more dead branches this summer. That was kind of depressing, and I didn’t even want to look at them anymore. Usually it’s my chore to do the pruning with a hand saw, but it felt like too much to deal with, and I didn’t get to it over the summer.

Thankfully, my husband came to the rescue and bought a pole-saw attachment for his trimmer, which made short work of the dead branches on Saturday. We stacked them in the side yard, rented a big utility trailer on Sunday afternoon, and piled it full of dead branches to take to the county dump, which had holiday hours on Monday morning. We had time to go rowing afterward, though we made no effort to row fast.

The backyard looks much better now, and I’m glad that we took the time to clean things up, even though it wasn’t fun. Because the long weekend was so notably lacking in adventures, I put a colorful image of waterfalls on my art display today.

Waterfalls under colorful clouds.

I have no idea where that picture came from or if it’s a real place, but it does look like somewhere that would be fun to explore while on vacation.

March 4, 2019 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My husband and I finished ahead of our daughter in last week’s Fitbit step challenge. Although she craftily contrived to start with a day’s lead, as I mentioned here, I was able to get ahead of her on Friday because that was her travel day, while my husband and I were the dog-walkers. I couldn’t quite manage to catch up to our son-in-law, though, mainly because he was sneaky enough not to sync his Fitbit all day, so I didn’t know how far ahead he was. Of course, my husband totally crushed the rest of us because he is the most disciplined about regular workouts, so I came in third.

The weather has been wintery here, so we’ve been walking the dogs in the snow while their owners enjoy a warm, sunny Florida vacation. I have to confess to a bit of jealousy; but going for a walk is healthy even in the snow, and—as the dogs evidently know—there’s always plenty of time to laze around on the couch.

Two dogs looking comfy on the couch with blankets and pillows.

More doggie lessons about being happy in the moment—life is good with regular walks and a comfy couch!

February 26, 2019 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

On Friday evening, my husband challenged our daughter and son-in-law to a weekend Fitbit step competition. The weather wasn’t good enough to do anything outdoors, not only because it was cold, but also because we had strong winds most of the weekend. So we worked out at our local Rec Center both days. Of course, my husband’s manly pride required him to get many more steps than me, so he also went to the Y early in the morning. I decided that I would rather enjoy my sleep.

Fitbit with small purple band.

We both got more steps than the young’uns, and our daughter complained that it wasn’t fair because she had homework for her nurse practitioner program. So she got revenge by inviting us to a workweek challenge, but not until late Monday evening, after she already had enough steps to start in the lead. By then I had gone to bed, so I found out about it this morning. Of course, I didn’t see that coming and just sat around on Monday resting my feet, so they were all far ahead of me before I knew what was going on.

I went for a walk this afternoon and got some fresh air before the sun went down, but it was chilly enough that I didn’t stay out for more than half an hour. Then I swept the kitchen floor and some other areas, which didn’t count for a lot of steps, but needed to be done anyway. Meanwhile, I’m sure they were all at the gym feeling confident they had left me in the dust. Overconfident maybe? We’ll see.

February 5, 2019 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Sunday afternoon was unusually warm for early February, so my husband turned on the self-cleaning cycle on the oven because we could open the windows enough to air out the house. While he was opening windows, I noticed that the wood blinds in the great room were dusty. This time of year, I like seeing the brighter morning sun through the blinds as the days grow longer. So I cleaned them while my husband went to the Y to work out on a rowing machine.

Wood blinds with sunlight behind the windows.

Although it would’ve been nice to get in some real rowing, last week was so cold that even though Sunday afternoon felt like spring, the river still had some ice and was not at all rowable. That was okay, though, because we spent some family time together anyway, when the cleaning got done, and we’re not far from spring now. On Saturday there was so much snow and fog, it’s no wonder the groundhog didn’t see his shadow; just getting out of his burrow must have taken some effort!