Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rising waters

Apparently the glaciers on Antarctica are melting faster than previously thought and by the time my kids are grandparents Los Angeles may be under water....
or something like that was reported to me part way through my latte at 6:15 this morning. Cheers-

So, the question of the we get a "reasonably priced" sports car...

or do we make the environmentally sound decision and get a hybrid?

Fortunately there is not a looming deadline that will require an immediate decision, but unfortunately this will allow many, many...(did I mention MANY) hours of researching and test-driving and dreaming.... but then again, like most things...the anticipation really is the best part.

I have always said that before I die I want to drive a sports car really, really fast in the Swiss Alps, or on a similarly winding road. I would love to be one of the drivers in the ads where they tell you they are on a closed course with a professional driver and the windows are such that you can't see the person driving...I love to go fast and I love to take corners fast in a good car that holds the road....gee, the sports car is sounding like a good idea to me! Heather asked me once, "If you could do anything in the world and not get in trouble, what would you do?" I told her I would drive 100 MPH. The next day, while going through Woodburn on I-5 at about 6:45 AM, I did it! I just went faster and faster, and the faster I went the happier the car seemed and I looked down and I was going 100.....

It was exhilarating!

So, if we make the environmentally sound choice is it going to solve the problem of melting glaciers? Will we resent every SUV and other gas-guzzling car that goes by us, (any more than we already do)? And besides, if the water is rising and our days are numbered, maybe it makes sense to satisfy that ultimate dream.....or not.

Or do we sell everything and go find a simple stone cottage someplace in Europe and slow our lives down about 50 years and live simply and peacefully for as long as possible? (I suppose we could park the sports car in the barn out back since we'll be that much closer to the Swiss Alps.....)

So much to consider....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More scattered thoughts

Not much time to blog today so here goes...

Depression continues to lurk at the I bi-polar? I was so down, and then almost giddy for a few days, then cried and cried last night, and now I am even. I think it is probably that the happy was just starting to gel but it got shaken up a bit and I slipped down some but caught myself before it went too far. After a four mile run just now I feel a little better.

My hands are not working right. My fingers are numb, and twice within the past week my fingers have gone all white - a ghoulish white - and then when the blood rushed back in they went almost black. I looked it up and it has a name: raynaud's syndrome or phenomenon or disease. I prefer "phenomenon." The causes range from cold to stress to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis....tomorrow I go to the doctor. My goal is to rule out all the unpleasant choices...I can manage stress or cold, but I don't like the other choices.

Just in case....last night I fell asleep thinking of how I would want to spend my last days if I was dying...I saw myself on the patio at Sierra y Mar in Ferreirola, Spain....or in an ancient stone house in Spello, Italy, or at the spa on Salina Island in Italy....somewhere around then I must have fallen asleep. Spello, Italy

The spa on Salina Island

Now I am off to get my hair cut and colored...that can't help but lift my mood.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back on top again

I think I have made it! For the past couple of weeks I have been clinging to the edge of the cliff that contains the deep valley of depression. I had an intense anxiety spike and that was followed by days of thick, dark, tiresome efforts to keep going through the motions of living. I had not been in this place for a very long time and, while there, I started to believe that I would not be happy again. Dreaming of travel, or re-location helped, and I made myself run most days, but I felt like I had my finger nails dug into the side of the cliff and I was in danger of slipping off.

But yesterday I woke up and something struck me funny and as I lay in bed giggling I knew that I was back. I moved gingerly through yesterday not wanting to dislodge my fragile emotions, but today I am 100% myself again. The news around me is still increasingly dismal - the economy seems worse than predicted day-after-day - the stories of stolen children, sex offenders, arsonists, murderers, poverty and heartbreak just keep coming, but I feel like I am walking a safe distance from the edge and my head no longer feels bent towards the ground.

I have accepted that depression is just part of who I am - like my eye color, height, and inability to touch my toes...just something I inherited. I no longer "enjoy" being depressed. There was a time when I would surrender to the fog that muffled all that went on around me. I had an excuse to be miserable and I used it. I could feel myself slip and I would just curl up and wait to hit bottom. I don't do that anymore. I find no pleasure in making those around me miserable and I miss feeling alive. I am more able to look at myself and understand what is going on and I can will myself to at least go through the motions of being engaged. If I can't participate, I at least show up.

I find it puzzling when people who have never experienced depression offer advice on how to feel better. The whole "just be happy" idea is nice, but impossible for someone who is really depressed - trust me, we want to be happy, but one can squint, and squat and push and squeeze, but it just isn't going to work until whatever it is in the brain flips back to where it is supposed to be.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Enrollment and Facebook thoughts

Yesterday we had 850 visitors for our winter preview day - over 300 were prospective students and they brought along the various adult figures in their lives. We had a steady stream of parents coming through our office and most had tragic economic circumstances; bankruptcy, unemployment, divorce, illness....these really are such difficult times for so many people. In financial aid we have often relied on the recommendation that parents use home equity to cover their portion of the costs, but we are seeing many situations where the debt equals (or exceeds) the value of the home. Folks in their 50s do not have any retirement savings and families who have spent a lifetime in small, specialized businesses are now without a business or an income.

And I wonder why I am depressed? More than ever I am encouraging students to consider another alternative to this fine private education - in some cases it just is not possible and to encourage students to take on 70, 80 or even 90 thousand in student loans is unethical, and feels criminal. Fortunately no one has said (yet) that they are just going to "enroll on faith that God will provide" - I have heard that before and cringe for so many reasons.

And so we wonder what we will learn on May 1st when admission deposits are due. Will we have a class that exceeds our goal, or will we be beating the bushes and increasing scholarships to fill the class? We have over 5500 applications for a class of 450 and with the response we had yesterday it is easy to be optimistic, but these are not usual times. This photo shows happy students playing on the quad with the State Capitol in the background.

Some thoughts on Facebook....I have recently gotten re-connected with numerous high school classmates and each day feels like homecoming. I resisted FB for awhile but have finally surrendered to the allure of an on-line community. But there are still aspects I find puzzling. Today a friend announced a new relationship to me but explained that they are taking it slow, "so slow that facebook status says 'it's complicated.'" As if the status on FB is the ultimate definition of things...but it seems so for the current population of young adults. They will update their relationship status within moments of starting to date someone, or especially after a break-up. The reality that this generation lives in is so foreign to middle-aged parents. Although, when I got married last month I was quick to note that on my own profile....ack!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cupid's day

It is Valentine's so I am wearing a red fleece and red socks in recognition of the day. We just tried the champagne truffles that came with the Pinot Noir that I ordered for the day...oh my, they are really, really good! Through Facebook I have re-connected with a high school classmate who I have not seen or talked to since 1978 - he is a winemaker and so I ordered his Valentine package and we have not been disappointed!

Today we are getting spells of sun, Sam calls them "sucker holes," and during one of those we took Rocky for a quick walk. By the time we got back home it was hailing.

An update on previous posts...the webcam I have watched obsessively for a year was out of order for a week and now, started up again it is pointed in a different direction. I can no longer watch the man who comes for a beer each day - I can't even see the tables. I wonder if somehow I got found out and they moved the camera so the old guy could have some privacy!

The jeans I ordered arrived but when the website said "these jeans run small so order up one size," they did not say order up a size from what...apparently they did not mean one size up from the inaccurately smaller size that many fine stores want you to think you wear - in that case it is necessary to order up 2 sizes! So, I have another, larger, pair on the way and I am trying to stretch out one of the pairs that came the other day. I wear them until I get light-headed and then change into something more comfortable.

The kids all seem happy- salmon for dinner and tapioca pudding for dessert - a chick flick to watch later is good.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Whether the weather

Today it is cold here in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Not as cold as it is at my parents' home in Maine where they haven't seen green grass for months now, but I don't live in Maine, so I can complain about my own, relative, cold. I am ready for spring, and the daffodil bulbs have pushed green an inch or two above the ground, but the sky is gray and the cold bites. I found a photo that shows what it will look like here at work once the daffodils bloom.

One of the things I like to do (along with checking exchange rates almost daily) is to check out the weather for places I would rather be. Today it looks like the place to be is in the Alpujarras where it is 100% sunny for the entire 5-day forecast and the highs are in the mid to upper 50's. Aracena, northwest of Sevilla is also completely sunny and in the 60's. However, Peschici in the Puglia region of Italy, along the Adriatic is in the low 30's with a mix of rain and snow, (unlike how it is in this photo from October 2006) and Reggio Calabria, down at the very southernmost part of Italy is in the 30's and 40's with rain. I think that I need to spend some time south of the Equator so that this time of year I can truly fantasize about warmer days. For example, it is sunny and in the 80's in Lima, Peru today. Ah.....

Last night I didn't sleep well - when I was awake I was worrying about numerous things and when I slept, I dreamt about the things that had been keeping me awake. The new bottle of Melatonin says that it has an extra ingredient found in green tea which relieves stress and aids in sleeping...yeah. A recent magazine article promises that a foot massage before bed contributes to a sound sleep... I wish I could teach the Corgi, Rocky, to do something useful, like massage my feet.

I am expecting a package in the mail today. Two pairs of jeans for $62 and by purchasing them I have "saved" myself $265! As if....anyhow, they are "Italian" jeans (made in Poland... go figure?!), and they really are quite nice, but who would pay nearly $200 for blue jeans?

Clearly my thoughts lack focus today - I am too tired to even have much of a day-dream about being elsewhere. I'll dress up like a runner and go outside at noon and see what that does for me. I can't imagine making this tired body actually run today, but at least I can go through the motions.

I promise more cheer next time...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Finding more by having less

The tricky thing about blogging is to find a way to write un-self consciously while keeping in mind that anyone might stumble upon your thoughts, so there is some need to protect others, and oneself. Given that, I will just state that today has been a Monday worse than most.

So, to escape, I went for a run at lunch time, and while running I listened to 2 podcasts from Ben and Marina put together a number of podcasts while visiting various places around Spain. Ben is British but has lived in Spain for over 10 years now and Marina is from Spain and they met, married and now have a baby in Madrid. Today's podcasts were both done in the Alpujarras, south of Granada. The first was recorded in Lanjaron, the first village you come to when driving up into the Alpujarras. This village is known for its spring water and we drove through there in October on our way to Ferreirola. The second podcast was done outside of Orgiva at the home of Chris Stewart. Chris left England in the 1960s and settled on a farm outside of Orgiva. He has written several books about his experience - the best known is called Driving Over Lemons.

The 45 minutes or so that these podcasts lasted provided the mini-vacation that I needed. I had listened to them before going to Spain last fall but hearing them again, and being able to picture the places mentioned, allowed my mind to hear the water trickling from the springs, and through the irrigation troughs built over 500 years ago by the Moors - I could smell the damp moss and ferns that flourish around the springs, I could feel the hot sun pinning me against the barren hillsides and I could hear the goat bells echoing across the valley.

When we were in the Alpujarras it was the highpoint of our trip, and now, looking back, it provides one of my most soothing mental hide-aways. I hope we can return there someday. I dream of living there in one of the villages, among hundreds of other expats from England, Holland, Germany and probably the USA (although I don't think there are many Americans there.) Some of the white villages of the Alpujarras have stayed more Spanish than others and all retain the strong influence of the Moors who built the villages.

I really believe I could be content in those mountains, rarely needing to venture out. Everywhere is a feeling of ease, and peace, and slow, conscious living. I long for that environment and to be surrounded by people who wanted more from life and found it by having less.

Next time I will try to be a bit more present in case any readers think I am totally out of touch with my current reality.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I begin to share my thoughts...

This is my first entry and I have exhausted my creativity coming up with a name and address for my blog. I consider myself desk bound, not because I am headed towards my desk, but because I am stuck behind it. And, being stuck behind my desk, my mind and spirit frequently wander far from the financial-aid related tasks before me.

These are two of the places where I wander in order to sustain my stamina for the work that must be done. I regularly watch two webcams in Portugal:

This camera is mounted to the side of a tree at the edge of the beach in Salema, a small village near Sagres, Portugal. I have watched it for a year and visited this beach while in Portugal in October, 2008. Each day I check and there is a man who arrives at one of the tables between 17:00 and 18:00 - he always has a beer and he always brings a book to read. He has no way to know that he has a fan watching him from thousands of miles away. I like that he never seems to grow tired of the beautiful place he gets to call home. Some times he puts his book down and leans on the railing, watching the waves move in and out. Recently there was a big storm and the sandy beach is now covered with exposed rock rather than the white sand that was there in October. I am curious to see if the sand re-deposits in time, or will sand be hauled in for the tourist season.

I walked this beach and poked around and looked and looked, but could not find the camera that records the days and nights of Martinhal Beach. The point in the distance was once considered the end of the world and I watched from there as the sun set on September 30, 2008. It was a spectacular sunset, and a perfect evening. I sat there knowing that I was having an experience that I would look back on and consider perfect - I knew that it would be an evening I would return to in my mind during the long dreary days of an Oregon winter. But, even as I captured it as a place to re-visit often, I took a few minutes to be present - to hear the waves far below the cliff I was sitting on, to smell the salt in the air and to hear the gulls that circled and dipped and eventually landed on the roof-ridge of the nearby chapel, with one lone gull perched on the tip of the cross.

I will stop with this for today and soon expose some of the other wanderings and musings that allow me to live fully, even while spending 8 hours a day confined to a desk chair in Oregon.