Boot Camp

2019-11-07T15:24:24-08:00Categories: faith and doubt, family, fitness, health & medicine, memoir, midlife, quiet, writing|Tags: , , , , , , , |

“You should write about This,” my friends say to me, as they take it all in: the bulky blue splint with its five Velcro straps, the twee roller cart, the pajama bottoms I’m trying to pass off as trousers. (They’re brand-new and navy-blue: surely it’s not obvious!) I’ve resisted Writing About This, until now, for many reasons, including: One, this is corrective foot surgery, not a disaster that befell me and would make for a really gripping story; Two, the prognosis is promising: This is not forever. And Three, I am getting all the help I need from my unbelievably patient husband. We are lucky enough to work from home, so these six weeks of being roller-cart-bound are not nearly as logistically daunting as they would be for most people. I have absolutely nothing at all to complain about. Right? Right. So I won’t. Instead, I’ll take a crack at the strangely surprising upside of it all: I’m learning like crazy. It’s all stuff I’ve never had to learn before, like: how to be helpless and grateful (especially on those first few days); how to ask for help (still learning, but getting better at it); how to be patient with the mysterious, and slow, process of healing (ditto, with occasional colossal backslides); how to be humble (crawling or backwards-scooting really are sometimes the best ways to get from A to B, especially in a house with stairs). Re asking for help, my husband—who is now an expert on getting asked for help 50 times a day—has [...]

Park Dreaming

2019-11-07T16:06:37-08:00Categories: fitness, hiking, nature, quiet, Uncategorized, urban life|Tags: , |

I want to write about parks. Seattle voters, you know we’ve got a big decision to make. But here’s the problem: there are these snapshots in my head that keep getting in the way. A woman standing in front of her wildfire-torched home in Pateros, Washington. A funeral for a child in Gaza. Bodies lying in a wheat field in Ukraine. The headlines this week, and the pictures that go with them, have been brutal. I want to write about parks. But it seems—disrespectful. I want to write about how parks saved my mental health more than once. About what a safe haven they’ve always been for me. I want to remember the Arboretum, where I could spend half a day with a pencil and notebook. I want to shout out the old-growth trees and cool summer waters of Seward Park, my refuge for 24 years. I want to remember the climbing tree in the playfield up the hill from my childhood home, where I could hide out for a while when being one of six kids in the house just got too cramped. But even though I really, really want Seattle voters to pass the measure on the August primary ballot which will create stable funding at last for our city parks, it just seems so indulgent to write about while the largest recorded wildfire in our state’s history blazes on. While both sides in Gaza report their deadliest day. While families in the Netherlands and Malaysia and a dozen other countries mourn the violent [...]

Freedom Riders

2019-11-13T16:06:23-08:00Categories: fitness, midlife, Seattle, urban life|Tags: , , |

“Freedom,” such a lovely word, is about to get its annual binge on. It will be overused, misused, badly used and, occasionally, poignantly or profoundly used. Why even try to compete? So I’m keeping my contribution simple. You ready? Freedom is a bicycle. Stay with me here. Ride with me. I live in a newly rebuilt neighborhood where many of my neighbors are African immigrants. Our home overlooks a small central park built around two enormous red oak trees. On summer afternoons, it is usually full of children. One recent afternoon, I sat at my desk, trying and failing to focus on my work while I watched the park fill with kids. They were headed towards a shining sea of bicycles parked under a big blue canopy down at the other end. It was the annual bike fair and giveaway sponsored by Bikeworks, one of the most high-energy, generous nonprofits in Seattle. One by one, thirty children were fitted with a new helmet, passed a safety test, and sped down the sidewalk on a bright new refurbished used bike. One by one, I watched them ride right towards me, smiles filling their faces. Freedom is a bicycle, I’m telling you. When you get on a bike, your feet kiss the ground goodbye. Pedaling uphill may make you sweat, but coasting is flying. One minute, you’re standing in the park; the next, you’re flying, and it’s not magic, it’s your own muscles turning those wheels and making it happen. I learned to ride a bike late. I [...]

Breakfast

2012-10-19T08:40:51-07:00Categories: fitness, midlife|Tags: , , , |

Readers: October has been a busy month here in the Restless Nest. This week, I re-broadcast a radio piece on one of my favorite subjects: breakfast. “So, how’s the Empty Nest going for you?” the Other Mom asked me when we ran into each other in the park.  Our children were the same ages: 18 and 21.   The younger ones recently graduated from the same high school. “It’s a little strange.  But I guess I don’t miss getting up every day at 6:30.” “Oh, that wasn’t an issue for me,” she responded.  “My daughter was so self-sufficient.” The implication being, of course, that our son was not: that it was his sorry lack of self-sufficiency that got my husband and me out of bed every morning. But that wasn’t it at all, I wanted to explain, but didn’t. I wanted to be there every day, just to say “Good-bye!  Have a great day!” as Nick ran out the door.  I wanted to know he had breakfast in his stomach and a sack lunch in his backpack.  I knew he didn’t “need” us to get up.  He probably didn’t even “want” us to get up.  But isn’t one of the enduring themes of the teenage years that secret feeling that no one really cares?  And when you’re having one of those dark adolescent moments, might it not help to be able to say to yourself, At least my parents get up every morning and pop my toast in for me?  At least they say good-bye when I [...]

Grown-up Brain

2012-07-12T12:12:33-07:00Categories: brain, dementia, fitness, midlife|Tags: , , |

Sitting in my email inbox is a message with this subject line: “Five memory-killing foods you should NEVER eat!” But does this email tell me what they are? No, of course not, because the spammer who sent it wants me to click on their hack-trap  link. The email is from someone named “Alzheimer Cure,” whose address is gaynell at brendy dot lookharbor dot info. Hmmmm. Clearly, Gaynell, you have not heard the good news about the middle-aged brain. Turns out I am not a), so dumb and desperate I’m going to open your email or b), on some grim downward slide that started around 25, when my brain peaked, and will continue until I keel over. Clearly, Mr. or Ms. Gaynell at Brendy dot Lookharbor, you have not read the book I just read: The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain, by New York Times science editor Barbara Strauch. This is a book is packed with good news: the kind of news that tends to slip under the radar because it is so counter-cultural and confusing to our youth-worshipping media world. Strauch’s mission is to bring us up to date on the brain research of the past few decades, nearly all of which refutes the prevailing cultural brain myth of our time: namely, that young brains work better. She does not deny the specific ways in which youthful brains have it over middle-aged or older brains, which mostly have to do with speed and short-term recall. But she paints a fascinating picture of the ways in [...]