Archive for April, 2013

Just a quick note to say I began my Camino yesterday. My friend S. and I, after being warned not to do the Napolean route due to snow — and after signing away any liability — chose the Valcarlos route.

For those unfamiliar with the Camino Frances, that’s the lower route, essentially rolling hills around mountains rather than up and over. I found it very beautiful and don’t feel I missed out on the higher views, especially with the heavy cloud cover. My knees are thanking me also.

I don’t know that I will post a lot while on my journey, partly because the majority of my photos are on my camera, not the phone I’m currently using to post. We’ll just see.

Here’s a photo of the snow I would have had to walk through:


Here’s the snow I encountered at my elevation:


Adios for now!


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I turned 50 years old this year, and one of my goals is to read 50 books.

I’m also currently sitting in a lovely gete in France, the night before embarking on my Camino. So I’ll post this when I get access to wi-fi, or when I remember!

And I’m basically writing this just to keep track of what I’ve read. I’ve got a long way to go until my goal of 50 books is realized, so I need to give myself credit for everything!!!

Before I left home, I finished The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center. A book about a woman who’s fiance leaves her the day before she goes into labor.

Then, on the plane and trains, I read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. A book about a former foster child who uses the Victorian language of flowers to convey meaning.

While I liked both books, the first one was definitely a lighter read and I always had a sense that the protagonist would land on her feet. The second book, I wasn’t so sure!

The Language of Flowets includes some horror stories about the foster system. I am also quite sure that I don’t have the skills necessary to deal with a child exhibiting the same behaviors that main character Victoria did.

I was also distressed to learn that one of my favorite herbs, basil, means hate! I’m still going to plant it, though, with the intention that it bring joy and deliciousness!

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A week from today, I’ll begin walking the Camino de Santago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrimage trail in Spain. I’m flying out Wednesday, then arriving in St. Jean Pied a Port on Friday. I’ll take another day to acclimate, then begin the 500-mile journey on Sunday, April 28.

The photo above is a card with a drawing of the Camino shell, signed by my co-workers, all wishing me well on my adventure. As much as I was ready to leave the job, I’ll definitely miss all the wonderful people with whom I worked!

The backpack has been packed, the house readied for MamaNell’s imminent arrival, and the garden weeded (though it will be a mess by the time I get back). All I have left to do was look over my Camino guidebook. There are several out there, but I chose the one written by John Brierley.

In the beginning chapters, he talks about what to take with you and how to prepare physically. Then he talks about the spiritual preparation. On page 38, he states:

While pilgrimage can be a way of breaking through resistances (releasing blocks and realizing insights as to what prevents us from being all that we are) it is wise to start off with a relatively balanced state of mind. If you feel you need psychotherapy, counselling or other help, seek it. It will be disturbing enough when previously dearly held belief systems start to break down. A mental and emotional checkup might be useful, even necessary, before you start embarking on an inner quest.

Oops! Too late for me to make an appointment with a counsellor!

To be honest, though, I am at a transition point in my life, and awhile ago, I talked with a shaman about ways for me to best use the trail’s energy. So hopefully that advice will do the trick!

Going back to the guidebook, Brierley lists a set of questions to ponder both before and after the journey. The questions have to do with life purpose and identifying what might be holding one back (if one is indeed feeling held back).

I won’t put my all my answers here. But basically, what’s holding me back is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of screwing up so royally that I can never recover financially. Fear of repeating the past, fear of creating a new future, fear of being noticed, fear of being ignored. Fear of following my heart, fear of staying put. Fear of risk. Fear of change. Fear…fear…fear!

Funny that all this thinking about fear reminded me of something the shaman told me: rather than focusing on a life without fear, I might contemplate diving right into life, following my heart and living boldly.

So I’m hoping my time on the Camino will help me make friends with my fears in such a way that they no longer rule my life.

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I turned 50 years old this year and one of my goals is to read 50 new books. The latest book I finished is The Quilter’s Legacy by Jennifer Chiaverini.

This is another book in the author’s Elm Creek Quilts series. I had recently read an earlier book in the series, Round Robin, and was hoping to read the series chronologically. However, the next few books in the series weren’t available at the library, so I skipped ahead to The Quilter’s Legacy.

This book focuses on Sylvia, the owner of Elm Creek Manor, as she searches for her mother Eleanor’s quilts. Unfortunately, she recently learned the quilts were sold off by her older sister years ago.

Sylvia’s friend Summer posts descriptions of the quilts on a missing quilts website. Meanwhile, Sylvia is going on a cross-country trip with fiance Andrew to tell his grown children about their engagement. As she travels, Summer calls her with locations of quilts that match the posted descriptions.

The book goes back and forth between Sylvia’s adventures looking for the quilts and stories about Eleanor’s life. As you may have guessed, the quilts represent important times in Eleanor’s life.

To be honest, it took me awhile to understand all the players in Eleanor’s story, even though there’s a family tree at the beginning of the book. But once my sleepy brain could remember who was who, I was hooked. I ended up really loving the stories behind the quilts!

This will be the last of the Elm Creek books for awhile. I’ll finish one other book before I leave on my trip. Then who knows how much I’ll read then.
But I’ll look forward to picking up the series again when I return.

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image courtesy of Amazon

image courtesy of Amazon

I turned 50 years old this year, and one of my goals for the year is to read 50 new books. Book number 9 was Everyone is Beautiful, by Katherine Center.

This book is about a young mother, Lanie, who moves across country so her husband can attend graduate school in Boston.  Her husband has an exciting new life, going to school and teaching.  Meanwhile, she’s at home alone, without support of friends or family, with her three young sons, two of whom are extremely active and one of whom is not yet walking.

Not long after the move to Boston, Lanie takes the boys to a park, where she meets an old high school friend, Amanda.  She also meets a woman who asks her when her baby is due.  Problem is, Lanie’s not currently pregnant!

That comment, plus the feeling that she’s losing herself to the care taking, gets Lanie to a gym.  An hour a night, after the boys are in bed, becomes her lifeline.  She’s getting her figure back slowly, but mostly she’s doing something for herself.    As the book unfolds, Lanie begins pursuing another hobby that rekindles her creative passion.

Yes, this book is about a young mother struggling to find time for her own passions while also hoping to rekindle the passion in her marriage.  However, I mostly found it to be a book about motherhood and the funny (or not-so-funny) things that young children do.  Throwing the new phone in the toilet, falling in a creek after being warned to stay away, repeating inappropriate things they’ve heard (like calling the neighbor a “mean witch.”)   I got the biggest laugh at Lanie’s oldest son, Alexander, who thinks that telling his mom she’s plump is a compliment.    Being a good mom, though, Lanie takes the comment in the spirit it was meant and doesn’t get offended.

This book provided lots of laughs and smiles, and I now have a greater appreciation for MamaNell, who also had stair-step children and no help.  However, I’m pretty sure MamaNell would have tore our hides up if we had thrown a phone in the toilet.  But that’s another story…



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Two weeks from tomorrow, I’m leaving for my Camino.

The bills are on auto-pay, the house is readied for the sitter, and the packing is complete.

Granted, the packing itself wasn’t that hard. Rather, the difficult part was deciding how little I could take, since I’ll be carrying all my belongings on my back for 500 miles.

My packing list was gleaned from the advice of others who have walked before me. Honestly, I had planned to take a bit more, but my pack weighs in at 17 pounds without food or water.

Experts say one should aim to have a pack weighing 10 percent of one’s body weight. Unfortunately my pack exceeds this amount. But I’m not sure I can get it any lighter.

Here’s what I’m taking:

Osprey Aura 50 pack*
Two pairs Ex Officio hiking pants
Two pairs Ex Officio short sleeve shirts
Two sets Ex Officio undies
Three pair REI merino wool socks
Two pair sock liners
One pair silk long undie bottoms
One Danskin lightweight, wicking long sleeve top
One REI puffy wind jacket
One Turtle fur hat
One pair gloves
One bandana
One sleep mask
Travel size toiletries: baby shampoo/wash, sunscreen, petroleum jelly, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, a few each of various medicines (i.e. allergy, ibuprofin, probiotic)
Half a bar laundry soap, handful of big safety pins (to hang clothes), travel clothes line
Two travel size packages of Kleenex, a handful of wet wipes, moleskins, bandaids
Lightweight sleeping bag
Medium travel towel
Altus Atmospheric rain poncho
One pair gaiters
Panasonic Lumix camera and battery charger
iPhone and charger
Plug converter
Spanish dictionary, Camino guidebook
Swiss army knife, can opener, Spork, a few plastic baggies
One pair Tevas
Sun hat
Duffel bag to protect backpack on airplane since the pack must be checked
Hiking poles

* Note that the pack itself weighs 3 pounds. If I had it to do over, I’d buy a lighter pack. But I’ve had my pack for over a year now and I’m pretty attached to it.

I’ll also take a paperback book for the plane, then download some other books to the Kindle app on my phone.

There are several items I had initially planned on taking that won’t make the trip, including protein powder, a long underwear top, a bathing suit, and contacts. Also, even though I tend to have dry skin, I’m not packing body lotion. If necessary , I can buy most everything I need in Spain.


So the bag is packed and I’m ready to go! I can’t believe that, after two years of planning, the trip is finally here!

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image courtesy of Amazon

image courtesy of Amazon

I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year was to read 50 new books. Round Robin, by Jennifer Chiaverini, was a very sweet book about friends who come together through thick and thin, and quilt through it all.

Round Robin is the second in a series of books about a group of women called the Elm Creek Quilters.   The first book was not available in the library, so I started with this one.   In checking out the author’s website,  I note she says that she never meant to write a series, so each book was written so that it could stand alone.  Perfect!

The book begins with members of the Elm Creek Quilters deciding to make a round robin quilt.  The quilt will be a gift for their fearless leader, Sylvia, who, along with her friend Sarah, runs a quilt camp at Elm Creek Manor.   For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t),  a round robin quilt starts out with a center block made by one person, then the block is passed to another person, who adds a border, then another person, and so on.  The quilt keeps passing hands until all participants add a border.   As I understand it, the center block influences the rest of the borders, in color and style.  However, in this instance, the quilt begins with a blank block, as Agnes needs a lot of time to work on the center block.   Agnes will not tell the others what she’s making, she only suggests certain colors to use.

Meanwhile, each quilter finds herself facing personal challenges.   Sarah has a contentious relationship with her mother; Diane is having difficulty with her teenage sons,  and Judy hears surprising news about her estranged father.   Bonnie and her husband hit a rocky patch in their relationship, while Gwen and her daughter Summer are at odds about Summer’s future.   Each of these challenges influence the borders the women make.  And in the end, the quilt comes together beautifully.

I loved that the women have strong friendships and are there for each other, even if they don’t always agree with each other’s choices. And when Sylvia needed their help most of all, they rallied and kept the business going while she faced a medical challenge.

This book also made me want to learn to quilt.   Not that I’m going to do that anytime soon, but it’s on my bucket list!     And I look forward to reading more of this series.




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