Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Public Restroom: A Technological Challenge (Take 2)

I used the restroom in the new wing at the Anchorage Museum yesterday. It was all very sleek and design-y, only brushed metal fixtures, totally clean and spiffy. A thrilling 10 on my personal Public Restroom Rating Scale. I did my business and washed my hands. With soap. From a soap dispenser recognizable as a soap dispenser.

But then I was stumped: how to dry my hands?

Nowhere in all that sleekness and stone walls and minimalism was anything that resembled towels or air. I should have been warned by the motion detector light when I entered: I was entering a Smart Restroom. Actually, a Smart Inclusive (private stall) Restroom that even signaled vacancy:

I’ve had my challenges with restroom technology, chronicled here. But this was going so well: the water turned on, and the soap dispenser fairly shouted normalcy. There were even two hooks on the restroom door because we have purses and we have coats and two hooks is such a convenience and do you see why I’d give it a 10? (And, of course, the two hooks were Museum quality design.)

Behind the toilet, there was a steel plate with some kind of sensor-thing named Toto. Toto flushed the toilet. See what I mean by sleek?

Other than the motion detector for the light, there was nothing else on the smooth, stone-like walls.
I left my private Inclusive Restroom and walked out into a neighboring Inclusive Restroom, thinking maybe mine was the only one missing the hand-drying thing. Nope. It looked the same.

I took my wet hands out to the security guard and asked, “How do we dry our hands?” He said I had to hold my hands under the faucet arms.

Now, you have to tell me: would you have guessed where to dry your hands?

And in case you think the difficulty is not clear by my drawing, I’m going to go so far as to include a photograph. See? (Tim says it looks like a plane landing on the sink.) I’m just proud of myself that I didn’t think the arms were handles to regulate hot and cold.

I held my hands under the faucet arms, and a good blast of air dried them right off. But I challenge anyone – of any age, any Third of their lives – to enter that restroom cold and discover the dryer. Personally, I’d need a little sticker on the arms saying, “Dry hands under here,” but I’d guess that would disrupt the design.

Either that or I could have a lot of fun counting how many people come out shaking wet hands.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A New and Better Old Thing

In my Quest for New-ness to keep from going stale, sometimes I end up with an Old Thing Renewed. Like swimming.

It started with a free upgraded month from the athletic club, an upgrade that would get me into the clubs with pools. So while this possibility existed all along, I always concentrated on “it’ll mess up my hair color” or “my skin won’t be able to handle both winter and chlorine” or “it’ll be too crowded.” Negativity can really take hold, but in this case, the mere extra of “winning” this free month sent me into the pool.

And when I took that first plunge and swam across the pool, I felt welcomed into the water. I don’t know how to describe it except that water is my element. It relieves me of the burdens of land.

Land is my klutzy place. Land is where tree roots and cracks in  the sidewalk lie in wait to grab me. Land is where I can fall on my head (and this includes ice because when it’s hard, I count it as land, not water). Yes, I know I run, but I run vigilantly, looking at my feet and the hazards awaiting them.

This is how I start a run: “Grunt, grunt, get going. Creak, creak, get a rhythm. Just go, it’ll get better,” and it does. Eventually. After a few miles.

This is how I enter the water: “Ahhhhhh….”

How did I forget this? I don’t know when I first learned to swim, because I seem to have always done it. When the town pool was built in our town, my family got season passes. We’d spend the day at the pool, go home to eat supper, and return to the pool afterwards with my father. I even did synchronized swimming for a while.

Yes, the same girl who suffered through calisthenics in high school. You know “calisthenics” – the ’60s version of Jazzercise or aerobics or Zumba – the thing that involves rights and lefts and choreography. The phys ed teacher would start by saying, “Let’s begin. Will someone take Barbara aside and work with her?”

This same land klutz did synchronized swimming!

So now I’m in the pool again, doing laps. I count odd numbers out and even numbers back in. Eventually, after a couple of trips to the pool, I reach my ¾ of a mile length: 54 lengths of the pool or 27 laps. I get out. It’s where I always stop, where I have always stopped. ¾ of a mile.

And then one day, I decide to do 56 lengths. I have finished 54 and another out-and-back doesn’t seem so earth-shaking, so I do it.

The next day, I do 60. Then I calculate that if I did 63, and that’s divisible by 9 (just like 72), it would mean I had done 7/8 of a mile. Someone said I must have an active imagination to be able to go back and forth over and over again, and I told her I do math problems. I calculate the percentages of my laps, so figuring out – by ninths – is just one of my little games.

And then it occurred to me: I could swim a mile. I could just keep on swimming past what-I-had-always-done-and-stopped-at, and I could swim a whole mile.

So I did.

I am in my Third Third, and I now swim a mile at a time. Three or four times a week.

My hair is fading terribly (but at least the color is no longer dripping down my neck as I get out of the pool). My body takes gallons of lotion so I don’t itch, and I’m pretty sure the dark circles under my eyes have gotten worse as the swim goggles dig in right there.

But I learned a Big New Thing: I learned that many of the things I carry around are self-imposed limits. I stopped myself at ¾ of a mile my whole life. I’m not sure why, but I think it had to do with having to be somewhere, not having enough time, or just habit. But now, in my Third Third, I have the time. I just had to break my head out of its no-time-to-do-it place and consider the option to … pass that barrier.

This is mildly earth-shaking for me: what other limits are self-imposed? I think of myself as someone who likes challenges, tackles tough things, but obviously, I never swam a mile. Before.

Now I do.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

We all fall down...

I fell down and hit my head.

Now I bet you’re thinking: Age-Related. You’re not thinking klutzy-related or athletic enterprise or slapstick or ha,ha,ha or so-what-else-is-new. You’re thinking uh, oh, fragility, weakness, elderly.


So when the little toddler on ice skates got confused and bumped around and came backwards at me, I knew I was in trouble. I’m not a hockey player; I can’t turn on a dime. First skate of the season, I’m a Tin Man on skates. So I went down backwards and my head slammed into the ice.

Going down on ice takes your breath away. Slamming your head takes that up many, many notches. I’m pretty sure I panicked inside, and when I realized my jaw didn’t seem to fit in my head any more, I was … distressed.

Suddenly, people were all around me: “Do you need an EMT? Do you want us to call 911? Do you want to go to the hospital?” Tim and Sophie walked me off the skating oval, and I sat on an upside-down bucket. Sophie was worried, “You didn’t cry in Florida.”

“When was I in Florida?” (Was I crying now?)

“Typhoon Lagoon.” Oh, that’s right, I’d cracked my head before going down a water slide while we were on the National Waterpark Tour. I don’t remember that hurting. I just remember the blood everywhere. When I got to the bottom, 10-year-old Sophie exclaimed, “Mommy, all your hair dye came out all at once.”

So Friday, Sophie insisted she had to take my hat off and see if my head was bleeding. It wasn’t. She was relieved. I said, “Y’know what’s really killing me? That everyone here at this whole big Winter Solstice event is probably saying, ‘Did you hear about the old lady that fell?’”

I was on a plane a year or so ago and got up to stand in line for the restroom. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor and the flight attendants were telling me to stay there. Then they announced for any health professional onboard to come to the rear of the plane. It was all very confusing since no one else was required to get on the floor, just me.

Since then, I have learned that if you get up too fast from an airplane seat, you can faint. I guess I took down the flight attendant’s coffee pot with me. But it was the look on their faces that said not anyone can faint; only old, frail, infirm, elderly people faint. And then it’s so tragic.

When you’re 20 years old and you faint – I have low blood pressure, I’ve fainted my whole life – you get up, laugh, and people make jokes. They tell you how funny it was.

Now they look at me with Concern. I’m on the downhill slide to bedridden.

Am I being too sensitive? Do you know what I’m describing? Do we look … pitiable … if we stumble and fall?

Now, I must admit, the thing that sticks with me most about the whole event was a very kind woman named Mary (whom I’d met over at the hot chocolate station earlier). Mary stood next to me and said, “Relax into your body and let it tell you what it needs” or something like that which was incredibly calming and true, and I did it. I’d guess Mary was in her Third Third, too.

Very quickly, the daughter-with-an-iPhone looked into my eyes to make sure my pupils were the same size. When we got home, she looked at me again. She was worried because there were dark circles under my eyes, and that’s A Sign. “Or are those dark circles always there? It’s not blood pooling, is it?”

This is why we have children.

Then she said, “I just don’t want you to be a Natasha Richardson story! She hit her head, came home, hung out with her family, and died later. Do you have a headache?”

“What do you mean ‘hung out’!?! Like she was fine and then she died?”

“Only because she had a headache later.”

“But if I take Tylenol, will that mask the killer headache I might have?!?”

“Don’t worry. We’re watching to see if you deteriorate.”

This is why we have children.

Okay, it’s days later. It still hurts to brush my hair over the spot, and my jaw can’t tackle a bagel, but I haven’t deteriorated.

Hooray, I have not deteriorated!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

After the Aftershocks

I’m ready to write about the earthquake.

7.0 at 8:29 a.m. on November 30 in Anchorage. I had been up at 6, so at 8, I went back to bed for a nap. I knew it was a big one by the sound, but it was dark, so I couldn’t see the disarray. I knew things were flying. It took me four tries to punch in the numbers on the phone to call Tim. I have never seen my hands, my body, my whole self shake that much. I was an internal 7.0.

At least we had power. Only afterwards did I find out that many people didn’t. How did they vacuum up all that glass?

Supposedly, I was ready: years of conducting Great Alaska ShakeOut drills. Landing at the airport in the midst of a 7.1 in 2016, I was relieved that I wasn’t in hurricane, tornado, or fire country. I felt prepared.

Ha, ha, ha.

It is more than a week now, and I’m still not normal. Thousands of aftershocks don’t help.

This is my new normal: That painting on the wall? It could come down and shatter glass everywhere. The metal sculpture of ravens? Guillotines. Lighting fixtures? Bombs from above. Beverages in glass? Future clean-up nightmares. My world is a world of hazards, and I’m not prepared.

I thought I was. I knew to get under the dining room table and hold on. But I didn’t count on glass on the floor. I knew to have supplies, but I’d have to collect them. I knew to brace the bookshelves … but not the items on them.

And this was not the Big One. That one – 1964 earthquake variety – will be 1,000 times stronger. Moving to a safe place will be hard because we’ll be on hands and knees, doors will be stuck, stairs will collapse. Power will be out for a long time.

Facebook was full of photos of downed shelves, broken glass, demolished pantries. But everyone was Safe. Safe. One-word messages: Safe. Calls from all over the country to hear “Safe.” Things down and broken, but Safe. No fatalities: Safe. So-and-so reported in: Safe.

And in our house, the heavier seder plate fell off the mantel and crushed Sophie’s Noah’s Ark menorah and decapitated the little animals, leaving Walrus in pieces. On the eve of Hanukkah.

The next day, while Tim was bracing shelves from multiple directions to handle future shakes, I glued Walrus back together. And then I just put my head down and cried.

Did I cry because all the clean-up was stressful? Did I cry because with all the aftershocks, I hadn’t gotten any sleep? Did I cry for Walrus? Did I cry for Sophie’s childhood? For Hanukkahs past? Hanukkahs future?

No, I cried because Safe is an illusion.

Safe is always an illusion, but when Not Safe arrives with a roar and throws everything all over the place, it’s hard to ignore. When all the evidence around you – and all your friends and neighbors – are dealing with Not Safe, it’s an epidemic of Not Safe.

For a while, Anchorage was ecstatic about how it could have been worse: an amazing story of an intersection collapsed and no one hurt. But then the reports came in: two schools are Not Safe and won’t be reopened. Houses came off foundations and are Not Safe. Gas lines broke, roofs caved in.

We all have to walk around every day believing that we won’t be murdered or knifed or kidnapped, but it’s hard to believe your house won’t fall on you when some houses did. It’s hard when the earth keeps shaking. And shaking. And then you remember: life is precarious. Life is always precarious.

Pretty quickly, yes, humor appeared: my friend Connie lost a whole china cabinet and called the pile of glass “Chihuly-esque.” I looked at the bookshelves and saw new opportunities for de-cluttering and donating: why keep books to potentially fall on our heads? Kitty made a mosaic of her broken vases. And we sought each other out: spending a day cleaning up the library, gathering to tell stories, finding out who needed help.

Noah’s animals made it through another Hanukkah. They propped each other up, held candles tipping in every direction, and did what they could despite cracks, missing pieces, and rubble all around. They’re hurting, but they didn’t sink. Just like us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A New Old Thing

A pencil.

I learned to draw with Jon Gnagy. I’d wake up Sunday mornings, turn on the television, and draw along with Jon Gnagy. He’d pull out his chalks and charcoal sticks and pencils, and I’d pull out my pencil. He had a kneaded eraser, but I just had the eraser on the tip of the pencil.

But I drew.

Jon Gnagy taught me perspective. He taught me shading. He taught me shapes. All in blacks and grays (but I only had black because I only had a pencil).

I was maybe six or seven, and I CRAVED a Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw set. Just before Hanukkah one year, my parents took me out to the local art store to buy one. They were all out. I was devastated.

But when the first night of Hanukkah came, I opened up my very own Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw set! Finally, I had the gray chalks, the special pencils, the blending stick, the sandpaper sharpener, and the kneaded eraser. I was delirious! The moment is frozen in my mind as the best Hanukkah ever.

Eventually, I discovered color and moved on to pastels, to watercolor, to oil paints. I moved on to clay and wood and fabric. I had other teachers. And for the last few weeks, I’ve had another class with Amanda Saxton (who taught me watercolor a few years ago). She called this class “Drawing with a Twist,” and the twist was: it was only with pencil.

Mostly, I use pencil to outline whatever I’m going to color in. Pencil is a means to an end, not an end in itself. But what an eye-opener this was! Our pencils became the way to show light and dark and texture. And not just our pencils, but the graphite they’re made of. (If you can believe this, I actually used my original Jon Gnagy sandpaper sharpener to get graphite shavings. A de-cluttering failure turned success!)

I’m a follower of the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain school: the real talent in drawing is learning to see. And when you’re working in just pencil and black and white, and if you’re really looking, you really see a lot more. Like the white rim of reflection on the dark side of the globe.

There are things you can do with the edge of your pencil.

And then Amanda gave us white chalk and told us to draw a leaf on gray paper. So this time, we were drawing the light, not the dark.

There’s a reason why my art in this blog is more like doodling. I made a promise to myself early on that I wouldn’t sweat and fuss and re-do, so I don’t achieve mastery. But occasionally, I see on the paper what I saw in my mind, and that satisfies. And when I learn something new, see something new, light bulbs go off.

I wonder if Jon Gnagy worked with only blacks and grays because that’s all television could show? I think of him fondly; he put art in my life. Now, almost sixty years later, that endures, but I had to relearn that there’s so much color in black and gray and so much magic in a pencil.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I won! I'm rich!

Last blog post, I told you all about the surveys and questionnaires and self-tests I take, BUT I started off with a link to the Recycle It Right Tip for the Alaska Recycles Day Sweepstakes. How many of you clicked on that link?

Well, too late … because I WON! I won a $500 gift card to Fred Meyer. Thank you ALPAR! I am rich!

My tip wasn’t what won me the prize – it just got me into the drawing – but here it is:
Anything I buy (tortilla chips, pretzels, toilet paper, tissue) that comes in a larger bag — that bag is what I put trash in. I don’t have to use separate plastic trash bags, and I use cloth bags to buy groceries. Packaging is my only source of trash bags now … and with recycling, I don’t have much trash either!
It’s true; sometimes our entire trash for the week fits in one Snyder’s of Hanover Olde Tyme pretzels bag. During the summer, with composting, the bag isn’t even full. I am a relentless recycler.
Not such a relentless contest-enterer, but my friend Judith tells me I need to enter all the contests I can because I must be on a winning streak. (Does one win constitute a “streak”?) But, as I’ve noted before – in a blog post three years ago [Wow, have I been doing this for three years?!?] – I find myself entering more contests in my Third Third. As I asked then, is it some way to bring in bonus money or yet more evidence that I can waste time in ever more creative ways?

Back then, I concluded that “It’s not a way of getting rich.” Ah, but that was before I won the Alaska Recycles Day Sweepstakes and got rich!

Now, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I reflect again that I AM rich. With love and friends and family and home. And mostly, I am hugely rich only because of the sheer luck of my birth in this time, this place, and to those parents. I am so very, very lucky. And grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Survey Time

I’m a sucker for surveys. Just today, I filled out the survey for my shopping trip to Fred Meyer, sent in a Recycle It Right Tip for Alaska Recycles Day, and told my credit union what I think about them. Okay, I admit, there’s a fine line between filling out a survey and entering a contest.

I won’t do Facebook surveys or quizzes. I don’t care what my stripper stage name might be or which children’s book character I am. Well, actually, I do care, but the shame of caring outweighs the impetus to actually find out. I like my surveys to come from universities. I like to be part of Research.

Years ago, I discovered the University of Pennsylvania’s “Authentic Happiness” Questionnaire Center while conducting workshops to help younger people clarify their direction, but how can anyone resist a Survey of Character Strengths with 240 questions? Especially when they conclude your character strengths are love of learning, curiosity, and creativity?
Then I took the Grit Survey (also at the Authentic Happiness Questionnaire Center), developed by Angela Duckworth, who defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Since I equate “long-term” with “interminable” and the quest for New Things as a prime directive, I didn’t expect to excel. Turns out I have less grit than my age group but more grit than my occupation group (which, at that time, was “artist”).

I’ve also tested myself for hidden, unconscious bias with “Project Implicit” (for Implicit Association Tests). And yes, I have compelled my husband to do “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love” from the New York Times.

I’ve mentioned here that I was researching Time-with-a-capital-T. That took me to the book Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception by Claudia Hammond. She has an entire chapter called “Why Time Speeds Up As You Get Older,” right up my Third Third alley.

It’s not just that one year is only 1/65th of my life but was once 1/25th or 1/30th of it, and that 1/65th seems to fly a whole lot faster than 1/25th. It’s that the bulk of our lifetime memories take place between the ages of 15 and 25; psychologists call this the “reminiscence bump,” and “the key to the reminiscence bump is novelty.” With all the novel experiences of young adulthood, our memories are chock full, and all that fullness had to take time. With less novelty as we grow older, the blank spots in our memories don’t take up much time. All the more reason to explore New Things!

Also lurking within Time Warped was Prof. Philip Zimbardo’s Time Perspective Inventory. I like him; I’ve quoted him before. And now he’s identified Time Perspective Types, depending on how much we’re oriented to the future or the past. The Present-Oriented Person is “focused on what is rather than what might be or used to be,” but you can be Present-Hedonistic or Present-Fatalistic. Then there’s the Future-Oriented Person and the Past-Oriented Person.

Apparently, “the greatest chance of happiness … comes from a combination of past-positive and future perspectives, with just the right amount of present-hedonistic, living-in-the-moment thrown in.” Uh, oh. Turns out I’d better add a lot more hedonism to my days and a lot more perseverance to my future. (Personally, I just think his idea of having a fun day is different from my idea of a fun time, but then there is my grit problem….)

Now for the big question that Hammond poses as the essential difference in how we view time. Answer the question before reading on! 

[Wasted space to scroll down]

If you think “the meeting is on Monday, then it is time that is moving, like a constant conveyor belt where the future comes toward you [time-moving metaphor]. If you believe the meeting to be on Friday, then you have a sense that you are actively moving along a time-line towards the future – the ego-moving metaphor.”

So are we fast approaching Thanksgiving, or is Thanksgiving coming up fast?

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