Scatter my ashes here...
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Nancy Stordahl is a blogging sister I met through the cancer community. She holds a yearly Blog Hop- a blogging challenge for other bloggers to share their work. I haven't blogged in months and her prompt to do this always motivates me. I see that I somehow missed last year's blogging challenge, but then last year was a blur.
Nancy posted the following questions for this year's challenge, so here it goes. I'm a little rusty so forgive me.
1. Who are you? What is your genre, how long have you been at it, who or what inspires you or whatever you want us to know.
I am Alene, a 57 year old Australian Shepherd mom to Velcro and Gypsy, partner through marriage to Dennis, oncology nurse now working in cancer research/data/technology, ultradistance runner, currently occasional writer/author/blogger/artist, and now recovering overachiever. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado.
I've been blogging since early 2008 at Journey to Badwater. I started the blog to record and share my ultrarunning adventures and somehow it morphed into a catch-all politicalish commentary on the state of nursing and healthcare.
I am inspired by people who speak their minds unapologetically and act in the interest of the common good.
My life has been transformed in many ways related to cancer. I have been fortunate to not have had cancer myself as of this point in my life, but our family seems to attract leukemia like a magnet.
My dad, who was being treated for a type of chronic leukemia, and no sooner did he get in remission than he promptly was diagnosed with Parkinson's, died of Parkinson's on October 14, 2020.
As if that wasn't enough, my stepbrother just went home a few weeks ago after having a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), after being in the hospital and healthcare facility for 107 days after his transplant. So far doing well, fingers crossed.
So as you can see, I have been dealing with a few things on top of COVID and the political unrest in this country. It's been quite difficult and traumatic in our family. I'm just now starting to have days where I feel slightly familiar with myself again.
2. What's been your biggest blogging roadblock this year and did you come up with a way to get around it?
This was the question that really got me going, thanks to Nancy. I haven't blogged in a long time. For the past few years, maybe since 2018, I've struggled with self-expression through my usual media. I haven't written, painted, spoken, or really interacted that much with people.
Of course all this has been exacerbated by COVID and social distancing, but it really started after I finished writing my book. Maybe it was a little burnout, too.
It seemed like even the thought of writing or expressing myself in any way led to an exacerbation of the grief and traumas of the past year or so, and triggered past traumas, and I couldn't face it anymore than what was already coming my way on a daily basis.
In a nutshell, I dealt with it by avoidance. I did have a major meltdown in April (the last time I posted on my blog). Since we were still in pandemic mode, I did a few online counseling and griefwork sessions, and tried journaling to stare all the pain in the face, and it did help a lot. It's amazing how quickly I felt better.
I'm not saying I'm done with the grieving or healing and there are still layers of pain under the surface that will have to be dealt with, but I'm not worrying about it now. I'm just following what I need on any given day. I have taken active steps to make my life simpler, and it's a process, having been a lifelong overachiever.
3. What's something you accomplished with your blog this year that you're proud of?
This is going to sound really weird, but staying away from it until I was ready to say something meaningful and not angry, has been a success. Now I'm trying to figure a way to revive it and turn it into something different. I'd like to keep it going.
4. What are a couple of your best blogging tips?
Don't worry about what people think of your writing. Just say what you mean, even if it comes out intense, angry, or as written therapy. You set the theme and purpose of your blog. And if it changes, so be it. If people enjoy your writing, they will stay.
Add pictures and links. Just make sure they open in a new window so people don't lose the original point you were making.
5. How do you handle negative feedback or comments?
Well, that depends on what they say. I don't have to be right and I don't claim to know it all. As long as someone makes a coherent and halfway intelligent argument, I'll respond. If they are just plain insulting or out in left field, I dismiss it with the delete button. The spam comments are really the worst. I still can't figure out why anyone thinks penis enlargement is a viable enterprise.
6. Share a link to a favorite post you've written RECENTLY (since last year's challenge perhaps) that you want more people to read.
I don't have any posts that I wrote recently, but here is a fun post I wrote a long time ago that gives the essence of what makes me tick. It might make you want to read more of my blog. And if it doesn't, that's okay too.
Thanks, Nancy for keeping the Blog Hop and blogging challenge going!
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Running- my own sort of therapy to buffer against everyday life's injuries-is not something I find myself NOT doing. I am in a very deep hole. I'm having a difficult time organizing my thoughts, focusing and concentrating on things.
I'm not sure exactly what triggered it. Last month we had the big snowstorm that made the weather and conditions difficult for running. And then there was the Atlanta shooting, followed by the Boulder shooting, which was about the beginning of it for me. And I never bounced back.
Since March, I've been unable to function normally. My brain has been a mess of fog. I feel numb. It's been all but impossible to work full days. The work I do is very detail-oriented and requires accuracy and focus, with a lot of switching between tasks and keeping track of where you are. I'm good for about 3 hours in the morning and then it all goes to hell. I was going along, doing my thing, things were fairly smooth, and then BOOM! I was down.
Talking with my stepmom, she said it sounds like grief. I'm sure she's right.
We lost my dad six months ago, actually this coming week will be the six month anniversary of his death. I never have processed my feelings around the loss. At the time, I was trying to help my family and was worried about my stepmom, plus worried about my stepbrother who is facing a life-threatening illness, and I had recently started a new job and was busy learning how to do it. Not to mention a pandemic and everything that went with that.
Thankfully I have a supportive workplace. I'm able to take the time I need when I need it. I have taken a few first steps to get help and I'm looking for a grief support group.
There is so much to unpack here. I need some support to get my ass outside, moving forward, climbing upward, and on the trails again. I need non-judgment, someone who can move along in silence when needed and listen without inserting their own world into my angst. A therapist, basically. And no one wants to do that. I wouldn't want them to do that. I wouldn't want to do it. There is so much need for mental health services these days that I bet someone could make a good living at being a running therapist.
I've been stress eating, drinking more alcohol than I should, unable to get myself out on a regular basis to put a decent workout in, feeling my clothes get tighter by the week, spending a lot of time tuning out and obsessing about what's happening in the world, and not sleeping all that well.
I have all these plans, I'm going to Mexico in November to climb the big volcanoes. I have a whole list of 14ers and hikes I want to do this spring and summer. But right now I can't even get my ass out the door to walk sometimes on a gorgeous 70 degree spring day.
I do need someone to adventure with. That would help. It's hard to reach out or make plans when your brain is grief-addled.
One thing about my choices of outdoor recreation is that it's hard to find matches to my ability and interests. Nothing new.
When I started running ultras, there were very few women so I had to run with the guys. That worked well back then because I was faster than the average woman and it wasn't hard to keep up, the men often had to keep up with me.
But now I'm 57, I'm a little over a month past my last hard workout, a good 20 pounds overweight, and feeling like I'm doing the chasing, except there's nobody in front of me or behind me. I'm at the back of the pack- and no one is waiting to let me catch up-it seems. This might just be grief talking, but this is how I feel. I'm an aging extreme athlete.
Everyone who does the things I do is much younger, fitter, faster, and unwilling to slow their pace for this straggler, but most people my age and pace aren't interested in 14 hour summit days and carrying heavy packs full of contingency equipment for any conditions. And it's hard to find people who can go out on the weekdays like I prefer, to avoid the crowds. Colorado's backcountry is not the same as it used to be. And I'm more hesitant, maybe smarter, at my age, to go to some of these more risky and remote places by myself.
But I'm in Colorado. There must be other people like me out there. I just don't know how to wrap my head around finding them because of my sluggish brain.
So... that's where I am. I'm working on it. I really hope I can dig myself out of this hole soon and start climbing mountains. Because right now, instead of being on the summit, I feel like I'm at the bottom of the crater and about to be expelled in a giant belch of ash.
Friday, February 12, 2021
I am infuriated at the sociopathy that seems to have spread like COVID across the country. It's so hard to understand why people think this is okay, that it's okay for elected officials to lie and disrespect the laws and Constitution and allow a deranged psychopath to get away with literal murder, and just "move on".
I hope that all of these outspoken Senate hypocrites: Cruz, Rubio, Johnson, Hawley, and Graham, and all the other 38 or so silent ones get voted out of office over the next two or three election cycles. Six years is the most we'll have to deal with Graham, who just got re-elected, and is being investigated for election interference now.
I don't expect a conviction at the impeachment trial. There's no way a third of the GOP Senate will change their votes, they are all too afraid of the rioters from their home districts, and for good reason- they are murderous nutjobs.
There's a serious personality disorder in this country that is contagious, and there's no vaccine other than the truth, but these people are anti-vaxxers when it comes to that truth serum.
The thought of my Representative, Joe Neguse, hiding out on the floor of the House with all the other members of Congress, in fear for their lives, wondering if he'd ever see his baby daughter and wife again, being a target of these crazed hateful shit smearing supremacists, gives me chills.
I am in utter disbelief that anyone in this country thinks what happened on January 6th, or anything that was done to lead up to it, is okay. All the lies, excuses, squirming, and weak fingerpointing are also made up of words. The false equivalence of words is another symptom of that sociopathic contagion.
I so want to write about fun things, good things, but I can't do it right now. I'm sorry. I hope you'll stick with me, because I do have adventures on the horizon. Right now, though, it's all just too much for me to bear. I have no more words.
Be well, get your vaccines as soon as you can, and don't take anybody's bullshit.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Now that it's the middle of November and the election is over, the fires are out, Coronavirus is still raging, I've lost my Dad, restructured my life around a full-time job, and streamlined my former business into a low key hobby, I'm ready to look forward to whatever life has to offer after this bout of insanity that we've all shared.
The answer to the obvious question here is, yes, I am still running. I've participated in a few virtual events this year, and I have to say it's been more enjoyable than I thought. I feel like I am retired from formal ultrarunning events with one exception: Across The Years. That one I will continue to do, except for this year with the COVID problem.
Yes this year has sucked very much, even with some good things in between all the madness. I would have to say that the best two things that happened this year were starting a new job, which I love, and being able to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park every week this past summer until mid-August when the fires started.
I love my job. I can't talk about it in too much detail, but suffice it to say in a nutshell that I work on data quality in cancer research. It's very mentally challenging and intense at times and it's extremely cutting-edge. I am learning a ton. Plus it's remote so I always work from home, pandemic or not.
The really sucky parts of this year were: first, my dad died from Parkinson's disease on October 14th. I was able to go down there for a few days in early October visiting him and spending time with him, and helping my stepmom get him set up on hospice. He was still able to talk and joke about things while I was there, so it was a good visit. He was ready. He had almost no quality of life anymore. He told us he was done. And he was. I miss him. Parkinson's is a sucky, horrible disease and I'm glad he's not suffering anymore.
And 2) the civil unrest that really blew up after the George Floyd murder, and there is so much to say about that and everything that's happened between then and now. It's terrible that it took until the George Floyd incident on video to get people to wake the fuck up about what's been happening forever in this country, and the sudden interest in anti-racism is a good thing even though it's so long overdue, and I hope it doesn't disappear from the forefront like so many important issues do when swallowed up by the next distraction. As far as I'm concerned, this inequality of justice is the most important problem facing our country, and it hurts us ALL. Including fearful white people who are scared to death of change and have a death grip on keeping us in the dark ages and/or the 1950's.
I am not going on a rant about politics, this year has been filled with that. I have to admit I am scared. I am scared that 72 million people voted for the orange orangutan. I do not understand the logic-free, fact-free, reality-detached world in which those 72 million people live. I am scared that if we don't make some very necessary changes in the way our government operates, we are screwed.
I am hoping to be here for at least another two and a half or three decades and I really don't want to move to another country, but I just do not understand how people could not want things like healthcare or equal justice or affordable housing or quality education for everyone. I just don't understand the whole attitude of, "It's my right to do whatever the fuck I want and screw everybody else".
Enough politics for now.
I have an announcement to make. I am about to get my toes wet in a new sport. I don't know where this new path will take me, but for a very long time, I've wanted to climb the volcanoes outside Mexico City. I first heard about them 30 years ago, about the time I started doing ultras. The past year or so I've become somewhat obsessed by them and I am starting to plan to climb them once this pandemic is over and we can travel safely again.
On December 5th this year I'm signed up for a mountaineering basic skills course where I will learn rope travel, ice axe self-arrest, and how to walk in crampons. I need to learn how to do that before I can do those climbs. I'm looking at a late 2021 (unlikely) or 2022 (much more likely) trip to climb Iztaccihuatl and Citlaltépetl, the two highest volcanoes in Mexico.
And there is always Diamox if needed, which I have never tried before, but will definitely have on hand before I go any higher.
Next summer, COVID and permit process permitting, I have a plan to climb Mt. Whitney with a friend, which will be a good opportunity to carry heavy packs and get up as high as possible without traveling out of the country.
Again, it's been a while. I've been unable to write, just sort of paralyzed and overwhelmed by all that's going on around me. Writing has so often been therapeutic, but for the longest time this year it felt like I was re-traumatizing myself by writing about 2020 and the orange scourge, because it was all I could think about most of the time anyway. Somehow just knowing that things will change in a matter of weeks, 66 days until inauguration day, is so comforting, even though I realize how difficult it's going to be until then and beyond.
I'll check in when I can, as this winter progresses. Be well, be safe, and find SOMETHING to look forward to.
Sunday, June 21, 2020
|Wouldn't this look nice with some clay pigeons, beer cans, and off-road vehicle|
tracks,with some jet skis and speedboats on the water, with gunshot sounds?
- their hate
- their beliefs of superiority
- not change behaviors or attitudes
- not learn new information
- ignore facts
- never admit mistakes
- endanger other people's safety and lives (e.g. carrying guns, spreading infectious disease)
- not have to think critically
- live in their own little bubble as if nothing they do affects anyone else around them
- not contribute anything to the public good by paying taxes based on a fair system
- special treatment or service when and how they want it
- buy and consume goods and services without consideration of who might be harmed by their production
- take more than they need, and accumulate wealth in a way that takes away from others' ability to survive
- pollute, litter, and harm the environment
- property rights as if they were a license to destroy and harm the planet and other living beings
- drive violently
- disregard the suffering, pain, lives and well-being of their fellow citizens
- leave an indelible mark on the earth as a testament to their existence
Saturday, April 11, 2020
I've been plagued (no pun intended) with people posting things to my social media pages and sending me memes about God Bless Nurses, nurses are angels, heroes, etc. People send me all kinds of thank yous and stuff about nurses on the front lines and risking their lives in the current situation.
I wish they would stop. Not only does it show that they don't understand the wide range of work that nurses do, it borders on the obsequious when they send that stuff to me personally.
I'm not on the front lines.
I don't have to worry about wearing a mask at work, because I don't work in a hospital anymore, or in direct patient care. I work in my home office, a tiny 100 square foot space where the dirtiest thing I have to deal with are muddy paw prints in the spring. So please, don't call me a hero, angel, or any other superhuman. Save that stuff for the nurses who deserve it, or want it (I doubt 99.9% of them are in it for the praise), and who are out there daily, risking their lives, health, sanity, and dignity to keep working for a system that doesn't care about them or the patients they take care of.
Not only does it tug at my sense of guilt about not being there helping out because deep down I really do feel like somehow I still have that bedside nurse in me (with my decade-long absence from ICU to boot), but it's really not deserved. I haven't started an IV in seven years and I haven't touched a ventilated patient in ten.
I chose to leave hospital nursing in 2013 because I felt the conditions were abusive, disrespectful, a waste of human talent, and I wasn't willing to subject myself to a bunch of lying, gaslighting, insecure, self-enriching, mediocrity-enhancing people with low self-esteem thinly disguised behind suits. I still experience some PTSD-like symptoms, or responses, to certain stressors as a result of it. As much as I hope I will never ever have to go back, there is still this deep down pang of duty that I feel when I hear how hard they are all being worked.
But seven years later, here we are. It's all being exposed. Daylight has finally broken through, and unfortunately, it took a pandemic to do it. And I cringe, shudder, and feel nauseated when I think about the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this situation, now, and the toll this will take on their mental health. Our country hasn't done a good job in the past of caring for veterans who came back from active combat, physically or mentally. And I have no doubt that the mental and emotional toll this pandemic will take on healthcare workers will become a crisis in itself.
I am still an oncology nurse now. I now work in research and technology around oncology care and treatment. And I have no desire to take anything away from the nurses who are working at the bedside in this horrible situation, saving lives and comforting those they can't save, to the best of their abilities.
But cancer still goes on. It doesn't stop because there's a public health crisis. And people with cancer, even if they have been treated and have no evidence of disease, are very vulnerable to infectious diseases. The disease process of cancer, depending on what organ systems it's attacking, as well as the treatment, not to mention the associated stress, goes on. So I hope all of those people with cancer, who are out of treatment, currently or recently in treatment, know that there are people out there who have your backs. We're not all dropping everything to work on COVID-19.
Right now it's hitting home in our family, my stepbrother is just getting started on a very scary and nebulous path to get treated for a blood cancer that rarely has good outcomes. His treatment was already delayed because of waiting 8 days to get COVID 19 test results. And he's getting the runaround of the healthcare system, which I strongly suspect would happen even if we weren't dealing with this pandemic.
So remember, please, yes, this is a dangerous time, it is a dangerous disease, especially for those who have additional health issues, but there are other things that are too important to lose track of.
Cancer still sucks as much as it ever has. And it's just as important now as it ever was.
So please save the accolades for the front line workers. I'll happily stay on the back end of this and keep plugging away at cancer. I'm don't want to be anybody's hero or angel, and I'm not.
Please, if you're looking for something to praise or adulate, go above and beyond in a different way. HELP NURSES! Do everything in your power to support those front line healthcare workers and don't forget them when the dust settles and we get to go back and resume our lives. Three things you can do:
1. Write your representatives in Congress, and your Senators, and tell them how important it is for healthcare workers to be taken care of both now and after this crisis is over, and that this should never ever happen again. And tell them you will vote accordingly.
2. And then, keep your word and stick by them after this crisis is over, so we can reform healthcare and make going to the hospital a less deadly experience for everyone, whether you are a patient or you work there.
3. And dammit, wash your hands and wear a mask when you go out! (Thanks to a former ICU cowowrker who reminded me to add this in...)