Getting Ready

Disaster preparedness is a funny thing. When we got news that Florence was predicted to hit the NC coast and then storm its way across the state, I went to the grocery store. I wandered up and down the aisles, thinking, “What would I want to eat in a storm?” And then had to amend that with, “…that doesn’t need to be cooked/warmed/refrigerated?” I bought some canned foods, some peanut butter, a few apples, and some snacks. Snacks feel like a treat. I don’t usually keep them in the house (popcorn, potato chips, candy) and I quickly realized why. I work from home. Every so often I’ll wander into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. And then I’ll see snacks in the cupboard and think, “Oh! Snacks!” and then I’m staring at an empty bag of potato chips. So, basically, each day of sunny, gorgeous weather requires another trip to the grocery store to replenish hurricane snacks already eaten.

Having lived in San Francisco for so long, it’s second nature to have flashlights/batteries/candles/waterproof matches within reach. So I feel good there. I bought some bottled water and placed it strategically around the house. I’ve charged all my electronics and unplugged anything that doesn’t need to be plugged in.

I’ve cleaned – washed all the sheets, towels, clothes. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea before a storm, but it’s almost like company’s coming. I’ve made extra pitchers of ice tea. I’ve taken out the trash and vacuumed the floors. “Gotta get ready for Florence! She may be here a couple of days!”

One of the nicest things, though, is how many friends who are not in the area have reached out. It feels funny to be talking about storm prep when it’s 75 degrees out and sunny, but I know the weather can change at any point. And it’s been lovely reconnecting with friends and catching up. So, thanks for that, Florence.

Abundance

Today I turn fifty. I’m not really sure what I expected fifty to feel like, but I don’t feel much different than before. In no way was I dreading this birthday; I’ve loved birthdays that end in “0”s in the same way that I’ve loved birthdays with the same double digits (11, 22, 33, 44, etc). They feel more special than the others. I love that my birthday is the same day as Loving Day (and off by just one year from the actual pronouncement). I like to think that I was born of a generation that recognized equality for all (I know that we haven’t, though). I’m saddened that two years ago my birthday was the day of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida. For the past three years, it’s made me reflect on how much work we still have to do with regards to gun control, tolerance, and acceptance. These feelings mix with each other in a fabric that can only be described as human.

The overwhelming feeling that I’m feeling this year, however, is grateful. So incredibly grateful.

I moved back to North Carolina in September last year. I looked forward to moving to a smaller city after living in San Francisco for twenty-five years. I looked forward to quiet, to calm, to a slower pace of life, and to being closer to mountain trails. And I’ve found all of those. And more. I’ve found community, and kindness, and friendliness. As I planned to move, though, I did think to myself, “I’m kind of sad I won’t be in San Francisco to celebrate my 50th birthday.” San Francisco is where my friends are – the ones who I’ve known for twenty plus years. When I was moving, I envisioned having dinner at a nice restaurant in Asheville by myself on my birthday. A lovely birthday, but perhaps a lonely one.

Yet that’s not what happened.

Earlier in the year, a few friends said that they wanted to fly to Asheville to celebrate with me. I was taken aback. Flying to Asheville isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s a tiny, charming, regional airport with very few direct flights to anywhere. So I planned a few events – a lunch at a favorite local restaurant, Rhubarb, an evening at Biltmore to see Chihuly’s work, a bbq at my house. And the weekend so far exceeded any expectations I could have imagined.

Friends from college met friends from San Francisco met friends from Atlanta met friends from New York met friends from Asheville met friends from water aerobics class met family. Everyone loved getting to know each other. There was amazing food (hello, bbq!) and engaging conversation. There were bouquets among bouquets of flowers (my absolute favorite gift in the world). And there was love. So much love in the air.

A local friend told me, “Just enjoy the present moment. You never know what will come next. But you can love, and appreciate, what you have right now.” Great advice not just for birthdays, but for every day. 

 

Beautiful Banff

We met in San Francisco in the late nineties/early naughts. We formed a fast friendship, even when one, then another, then another, then another moved away (then one moved back). We met up in new homes, on vacation, on work trips around the world, keeping in touch via group texts, Facebook, and occasional calls. When we met up it was usually in twos or threes, rarely all four of us in the same place. This year we decided to plan a long weekend away together – all four of us. As we started planning, we aimed for a spot none of us had been and decided on Banff, Canada. From the moment we landed in the airport (“Yes to YYC”) to the moment we left, Canada delighted us. Highlights of the trip included:

  • scenics drives along the Trans-Canada Highway
  • free admission to Banff National Park (Happy Birthday, Canada!)
  • an extraordinary dinner at Three Ravens
  • stunning views from our lodge (and it had a fireplace!)
  • waffles and bacon for breakfast
  • a hike around Lake Louise (I never knew water could be so breathtakingly blue) and up to Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse
  • hot tomato soup, crusty bread, and hot chocolate at the Teahouse
  • dusting of snow
  • a hike in Johnston Canyon to the Lower Falls, Upper Falls, then on to the Ink Pots
  • Thanksgiving poutine (turkey and stuffing and gravy over french fries? be still my beating heart…)
  • a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs at dusk
  • late night and early morning conversations in jammies
  • four fabulous days with three dear friends.

This really was a great idea.

Surgery – a Play in Three Acts

Act I
I didn’t think it was that serious. I fell while hiking and figured I had sprained my ankle. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Repeat. After two weeks I couldn’t flex my foot and each morning I would wake up to find it more swollen than when I went to bed the night before. I went to a doctor, then a specialist. She said, “See how your ankle is moving like that?” I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” for some reason thinking that was a good thing. “It’s not supposed to move like that.” Oh. An MRI and x-ray revealed I had torn all the ligaments in my ankle, as well as chipped part of the cartilage. Surgery was pretty much my only option.

I had multiple pre-op appointments and learned that after the surgery I wouldn’t be able to travel for a few weeks. That I should keep my leg elevated to reduce swelling. That I should apply ice, and that I may be nauseous afterwards from the general anesthesia. That I’d be in a cast for approximately six weeks, with three of those on crutches. We talked about the procedure, who would perform it, and what I could expect afterwards. I was feeling pretty optimistic.

Act II
I groggily woke up after the surgery, somewhat disoriented, and finding it difficult to form words. My friend Warren picked me up, drove me home, and explained to my parents (who were in town visiting) all the doctors had shared. I slept.

I woke up a few hours later. Oh, my goodness. Doctor, I think you buried the lede. We talked about a lot of things pre-op, but never did you mention “You’re going to be in excruciating pain. For days.”

Maybe this seems like common knowledge, but for someone who has never had real surgery, the kind where they cut you open, it seems like kind of an important detail. Knowing I would be in pain wouldn’t have prevented me from having surgery, but I wouldn’t have questioned my sanity as I woke up every 43 minutes during the night from searing pain, wondering, “Is it normal that I’m about to go Incredible Hulk on this cast and bust out of it?”

Act III
The pain subsided around day five post surgery. Not disappeared, but subsided to the point where I felt somewhat normal again. And grateful. Being on crutches has slowed me down. I notice more details. I’m more deliberate about decisions. I appreciate, more than ever, having a small apartment. I notice so many acts of kindness, both large and small. I love that my parents left homemade chicken soup in the refrigerator before they left. I am appreciative that strangers hold open doors for me and that Uber drivers help me in and out of their cars. I love that friends stop by in the evening, just to say hi. Or to make dinner. Or to do the dishes. It’s lovely to open an email with movie or book recommendations. Or open the door and find an Amazon package there, someone sending well wishes. I look down and smile at the brightly colored scribbles on my cast, artwork by friends’ children. This isn’t so bad after all.