This drives me nuts about my own culture!

I cannot stand the way we act like drinking alcohol is so fun and funny. I should admit up front that alcohol is not and has never been my own drug of choice. I just don’t see how this killer of those who partake and those who get murdered by drunks, is so accepted and the source of so many laughs.

“Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink.” 

CDC Fact Sheet on Alcohol Use and Your Health

Somehow I don’t find the death of millions funny. Where did we get the idea that this nasty habit is fine and even funny, especially when we have recently determined that it also causes cancer:

The CDC’s Long-Term Health Risks from Alcohol Use:

Over time, alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

    • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.6,16

    • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.6,17

    • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.6,18

    • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.6,19

  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.6,20,21

  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.5

Yes, alcohol use is fine, normal and completely socially acceptable while the use of THC in marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, a federal law which states that THC has no medicinal value and high potential for abuse just like other Schedule I drugs like heroin and cocaine.

deaths from alcohol vs marijuana

So glad that alcohol is so medicinal and holds no risk of addiction! If THC is so deadly, how come millions aren’t dying from its use? It has been in use for centuries all around the world. 

Today THC is regularly prescribed in Israel and other countries for a number of serious illnesses. Israeli research over the past ten years has led to a rediscovery of our endocannabinoid system, the largest receptor system in the human body. As it turns out, our brain produces its own cannabinoids — compounds that stimulate the body’s receptor system.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health believe these compounds could alleviate dozens of illnesses, including schizophrenia, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.

WTF?

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A Photo Life Review: Adventures with Laura!

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961

Dad and the kids.  The junior world explorer is in red, 1961

Recently I have been on a protracted trip down memory lane. Last night I started looking at all of my photo books, that’s six thick albums! I’m slowly working up to possibly reading my many volumes of journals back to age 14.

original_photo_Thailand_1973cropped[1] (2)

Near the Bridge on the River Kwai, northern Thailand 1973

As I viewed many old photos, one thing struck me. I seem to have forgotten exactly how adventurous my life has been. From 18 on I traveled the world. I started out in Mexico, Bangkok and northern Thailand, then spent months in Taiwan and Hong Kong, traveled up through Malaysia from Singapore, and right before we moved here, the Andes and Cuenca in Ecuador.

Cuenca washing clothes in the Rio Tomba

Yes! Women still wash clothes in the Tomebamba River in Cuenca Ecuador!

Wuzhou

Once, before China was officially open to American tourism, I took a trip up the Pearl River in southern China on what I called “the People’s Ferry.” We arrived in Wuzhou, what appeared to be a town made of mud, and much to our surprise there were PRC government officials there to escort us onto a bus to Guilin, but not before the citizens of Wuhan surrounded us to point and exclaim, “What is that? A foreign ghost!” They had never seen a European or American before.

caribbean blueI visited the Caribbean a number of times, and did a couple island-hopping sails with my first husband, a windsurf instructor and sailboat captain from USVI St. John…

Canyonlands

Locally I started out at Colorado College on a backpacking trip to Canyonlands my freshman year. Half of us got lost and I did flyovers with the rangers until my friends were found. Unfortunately the rangers mixed up our names and called my parents saying I was lost, a fact NOT appreciated by my parents. I then spent years exploring Colorado and Utah. So many hikes, backpacking, ski and river trips.

My first professional library job was in Salt Lake City. Luckily I found the BEST group of friends there, including Roy Webb, who took us on a number of fantastic week-long river trips on the Dolores, the Green, the Colorado, Desolation Canyon, etc. He has been a famous river runner for decades now, and the author of many books about river history.

My first husband pretty much insisted that we go hiking, skiing or backpacking most weekends. Those trips included a number of trips to southern Utah like one memorable backpacking trip down into Escalante Canyon to enjoy “some of the most outstanding hiking opportunities to be found on earth.”

sking

I climbed a few fourteeners in my time, and skied from I-70 up to Shrine Pass (11,089 feet) and then into the tiny town of Minturn twice. I never forgot the glisten of fresh snow on that eleven mile trek.

Mtns and wildflowers

So many great memories, so many wild times…

Now I see how fortunate I was to tackle these physical challenges while I could still breathe well above 7,000 feet. I’ve had bronchitis regularly for decades and in some of the most exotic places! With a recent diagnosis of COPD, alas those days are gone. So happy I spent my youth exploring the world near and far when I could handle long flights, driving long distances and the general risk and chaos of getting off the beaten path.

Mike at home

Now I find myself  in this lovely “soft place to fall” with Mike and Rasta, where I can appreciate how profoundly fortunate I am to have done most of what I wanted to do for most of my life, and I even enjoyed most of it!

Midlife: Begin To Trust Your Crazy Ideas and Then Expand Your Comfort Zone!

Now for something completely different!

Lately I have been observing how generational our belief systems can be. For example, as a middle boomer, born in 1955, most of my life I have taken a narrow view of what a good work ethic looks like. Most of us were raised to believe that being busy each day and having something to show for your efforts, especially MONEY, is a job well-done.

writing and moneyThat is exactly how I approached my new writing career back in 2005, when I began freelancing. How much I made each year was my measure of success, and I fought very hard to make some bucks. But in the long run, this way of thinking wore me out. As I learned more about the history and importance of this marvelous time called “midlife,” I wanted to teach others how life changing it can be. What I was learning was more important than money, it was life saving for some who struggle with self-respect and self-doubt as they age.

This is what I learned from changing my perspective on the ways we choose to spend our time as we age:

Midlife and especially retirement is your time to learn something just because you have always wanted to. It’s time to follow your fantasies and dreams for once in your life, while releasing expectations and, of course, guilt.

Be grateful each day that you now have the time and money to do something completely different! How many individuals in the history of mankind have had this privilege? Very few. Most previous generations didn’t live past 60!

After taking my writer fantasy for a spin for ten years, we decided it was time for my husband Mike to experiment with one of his childhood fantasies. He had always wanted to construct a passive solar home positioned just right for fantastic views of the mountains. In the process of planning this new adventure, I found a great cartoon in New Yorker Magazine that shows a man visiting a guru at the top of the Himalayas.

IMGP7536The guru’s punch line? “The meaning of life is having a  spectacular view.” 

After we created our new passive solar home, I was then able to construct another lifetime fantasy of mine, a foothills garden full of xeric plants that love this high, dry landscape as much as we do. As I wrote this, we got our first snow fall! Yippee!

Because of what I have learned about midlife and the amazing experiences we have had in the past 15 years, I can highly recommend that you ask yourself today:

What perhaps irresponsible, but joyful dream or activity have you been fantasizing about forever? Time’s a wasting! Do it TODAY!

Life is too short to wait!

What does following what may seem to some like one crazy dream feel like?

I share all of that in my latest book: A Memoir of Retirement!

Life without ready access to the Internet

Spring Fire evacuation June 30th 2018

How long has it been since you didn’t access the Internet everyday? Since we experienced a wildfire in the mountains west of us and were evacuated around the end of June, we have had no access at home. That’s about a month now!

At first, after the fire fear was over, it really bothered me that I couldn’t jump online at any time and check everything. Habits die hard. But now, a month later, I am missing it less and less.

garden scene outside my bedroom door

I have to drive into town to use my friend’s laptop a couple times a week, and the rest of the time I simply forget about it. Yes, it is possible in this day and age to space out the Internet. Instead I focus more on my garden, exercising and on my life in general. It has helped to bring me out of my post-fire slump and return to my daily goals.

So why don’t we have the Internet yet? Because the local company we prefer, lost a key pole up in the mountains west of us, and they can’t even get in there to fix it yet. The area was destroyed by fire, in some cases the soil was even sterilized and the roads impassable. Providers are limited out here and we don’t like our other options, so we’re going without.

It has been an interesting experiment for me and I’m beginning to see the benefits of never having the Net to turn to when bored or uncertain what to do next…

This seems to bring the focus back to me and what I need right now!

Creativity and Memory Loss

I heard the most amazing statistic the other day on the PBS News Hour:

Creative artists experience 73% less memory loss and Alzheimers than others!

I believe it too! For me, creativity has been the key to maintaining the memory I have left after a traumatic brain injury ten years ago and 2 or 3 concussions.

IMGP7191

Photography, writing, interior design, and gardening are the areas I love to explore in a creative way. Creativity seems to truly relax my mind and let it flow in its own way.

The wonderful monsoon rains we have been experiencing since our Spring Wildfire the week of the 4th of July have done my garden a world of good! Plus Mike has been helping out building retaining walls in the garden.

cloudy Spanish Peaks with snow and garden

Our yard is right on the edge of a hill facing the Spanish Peaks, so we have to build it up or it will all wash away eventually.

nice garden scene at comanche drive

I’m now working on rebuilding the garden after the terrible drought we had here all winter and spring. I took another trip over to see my friends at my favorite hangout, Perennial Favorites near Rye, Colorado. They pointed out a few plants that seem to not interest the deer around here, so now I have a lavender Hyssop plant, Russian sage, only the yellow yarrow not the other colors, etc. They were so kind. They gave me two free plants because of our evacuation situation.

With all of the the rain we’ve been getting (over 3 inches so far this month!) and the cooler temperatures I enjoy working outside again. I have new garden hope!

BEAUTY is the GARDEN where HOPE grows!

Wildfire and trauma

I have been a student of the psychological affects of trauma ever since I performed my counseling internship at a rehab hospital in 1994. There I had the opportunity to treat those who had lost limbs in accidents, suffered devastating strokes, and life-changing sepsis. But it is somehow quite different to experience your own life-changing emergency. How has this experience changed me?

Spring Fire evacuation June 30th 2018

Last picture taken before leaving our home behind on June 30th 2018

First of all, I will never forget that one last look at our brand new home as we drove away possibly for the last time. As smoke billowed above our home and ash started falling down on us, we left with two cars full of a crazy mix of things plus a cat and a dog, not even knowing where we were going.

We were so lucky that a dear friend in La Veta took us in and La Veta did not have to be evacuated. I now call our week in La Veta our emergency slumber party, because Cheryle made it as fun for us as she could.

By Tuesday I was totally stressed watching the mountains west of our home burn. I could only reassure myself that the firefighters would hold the line at County Road 520, which they ultimately did.

The next memorable moment was the evening of the 4th of July when it finally cooled down a little in La Veta and even rained a tiny bit. It felt so good out on the back porch doing our own version of a rain dance, as the TV rang out with patriotic music and fireworks.

But the real fire stopper was the gigantic rain we had up at Cuchara and here in La Veta on the evening of July 5th.  I have now learned from firefighters that that extra inch of rain saved both Pinehaven and Cuchara. Mother Nature comes through BIG TIME and saves the day!

In retrospect, I suffered some trauma. I will have dreams in the future about losing everything so soon after building it to perfection. There are many among us who have lost so much.

Please do not minimize or belittle the suffering of those in our community no matter what they have experienced. One thing I know about trauma, it so often brings up previous losses in extremely unpredictable ways. Respect the feelings of everyone you meet. If they are suffering, it is real for them.

What is newsworthy? Local heroism!

It is obvious from watching the national news since our county almost burned down, that kids in a cave in northern Thailand are all that matters to us. Listen, I do get it. Between listening to our president berate everything and everybody and watching a human interest story about some kids in a cave, I would choose that too. But the fact is, we don’t need to go as far as Thailand to find the highest level of bravery and heroics in this world. I have never been the witness to a more newsworthy story than what happened here last week.

spring fire

The mountain behind our house…

Our nation missed  an uplifting and encouraging news story of bravery and selflessness when our own firefighters and their support teams saved this small rural county in southern Colorado from total destruction. More than half of our county was burned or at least affected by the Spring Fire, started by some Danish idiot in the county west of us. And even if the national news chose to ignore us, the entire western part of our country is on fire right now. In response to this national emergency we get a big fat “Who cares!” from the national news media.

The local TV stations have at least attempted to cover this third largest wildfire in Colorado history. KOAA in Colorado Springs had a great piece called “Saving Cuchara” on recently.

I would at least like more Americans to know that thousands of government employees risk life and limb everyday, breathing in toxic smoke constantly, with little sleep or any other creature comforts on 12 plus hour shifts, so that you and I can still go home to our house tonight.

Heroism is everywhere this summer, not just in Chiang Rai Thailand!