Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Just Me and the Dog" has moved

I have decided to move my blog to wordpress. The new address is
See you there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Self-Esteem at Home and in the Workplace

One thing I've been asking myself, is why do I feel confident and competent at work while my social life and love life are non-existent and my family relationships are often a struggle.

At work I have the ability to influence others. I can make my co-workers feel harassed and judged. Or I can make them feel confident and competent. In this context it is important to me to monitor my interactions with my colleagues. It is so easy to be bossy and critical or overbearing because I want stuff to be done my way. It is easy to be impatient when confronted with the attitude: “but nobody else bothers”, or seeing someone choosing the easy way out instead of following approved procedures. It's frustrating when people around you just don't seem committed to excellence. However, if I really want to influence others, criticizing and ordering them around is probably not going to change their behavior in the long term.

So what can I do to influence others to become more competent and more conscientious? One way is by example: by clearly demonstrating in my everyday actions that I stand for a philosophy of excellence and cooperation. I demonstrate the importance of serving my fellow co-workers by cleaning up an examination room before leaving it, cleaning up the utility room, and emptying garbage etc. I demonstrate conscientiousness by following correct procedures, writing comprehensive nursing reports, by monitoring patients whose vitals are not withing normal parameters.

Yet just doing the right thing will probably not influence other people – they probably wouldn't even notice. So I discuss what I'm doing and why. This may actually be the origin of the narrating that drives my children crazy, where I keep up a constant commentary of what I'm doing and going to do.

Tony Robbins says that significance is one of the basic human needs. The need to feel important, special, unique, needed. It's what a lot of advertizement is aimed at. At work I am recognized as the best mentor on the staff (mostly because I love mentoring) and also as an expert clinical nurse. I feel secure in my competence. Most of the time I know what to do to help the patient. I can anticipate what exams are necessary and what treatment is needed so that when they are ordered I have already collected the drugs or equipment and am ready to initiate it.

In my personal life, however I don't really have personal power. My children are adults – the time to influence them is over. Nor do I want to influence my children on how to live their lives. It is important to me that they feel free to follow their hearts and also that they feel comfortable confiding in me. I want to share their in their lives, not dictate them. And for the most part this works pretty well.

It is more difficult with my sister. She is my sister, yet, because she is sick and I am a nurse it is hard when she won't confide in me regarding her health, and when she is uninterested in my advice. We talked about it when I was there. Being a nurse is part of me. It is a skin I wear which becomes activated when I am around someone who seems to be in need of health care. It is the same with her. She is a teacher and in certain situations involving children her teacher's skin is activated. When your job is not just a job, but a calling, it becomes a part of who you are.

I am also often struggling with the feeling that I don't matter. And so I hide out. I avoid people. I used to have lots and lots of people that I would correspond with. I got about one letter back for every 4 I sent. I simply accepted this as the way of the world. I accepted that people didn't really care about staying in touch with me, unless I initiated the contact. I still accept it, but I have stopped reaching out. Except to the people I really, really want to stay connected to. And yet, isn't there something wrong when reaching out to family and friends feels like a chore, because deep down, you wonder if they really care about you?

I used to have friends as well. Back when I lived in Vienna, and even when I had the farm in northern Norway. There was always a sense of desperation though. I needed those contacts so badly. I don't reach out to people out of desperation anymore. I don't know what has changed. I am happier in my own company. That is certainly one reason. However, there is something that doesn't feel quite right. I long for good and true friendships. But I have no idea what to do with friends. I'm not a party girl. Parties bore me.

And as far as intimate relationships go – lets not even go there. Do I even want one? I don't know. Or is the truth that I am so afraid of failure that, as with friendships, I have shut myself away and given up on the very idea that an intimate relationship could be a possibility for me.

So basically what I'm saying is: at work I have it all together, while in my private life I am a complete failure. Why then, when all this is the case, do I feel drained by my work, and most peaceful and content when I'm by myself? Content, that is, except for the feeling of guilt that I shouldn't be happy by myself. I should be happy doing a meaningful job and when I'm in the company of the people I love.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Money Story: rags to riches - and back to rags (I hope not!)

When I was little we were a typical middle class family. My father was a food chemist for a large dairy products company, my mother was a stay-at-home mom until I was in second grade. We weren't rich, but money wasn't an issue either. We lived in Chicago and father commuted to work by train. I remember when we got our first car: a VW bus. We were going to leave Chicago and move to California and spend 2 weeks driving there camping along the way. They took out one of the seats so that we 3 kids could sleep on the floor of the bus, while our parents slept on cots outside. My parents would start driving again in the early morning while we were still asleep and then stop at a diner for breakfast. We lived in California for one year before moving back east – again taking 2 weeks and visiting several national parks along the way. We always had dogs and cats, but after we moved to a suburb of New York City on the New York/New Jersey border when I was 9, we had a huge vegetable garden and Father kept bees, rabbits and chickens.

When my father was laid off from his job as a food chemist when I was about 12, things changed. My parents had never believed in giving an allowance. They gave us what we needed, and we were expected to contribute to the family. Any extras had to come from our jobs outside the home. From that time on, money was very tight. There was a period where my babysitting money went into the family cash box and any luxuries like trips to the movies, or the Dairy Queen for ice cream came out of that. At times there was so little money that we kids paid for our parents.

When my baby brother was born, my mother lost her job as a kindergarten teacher. My parents took over the running of the community farm, and Father drove school bus on the side. My parents also took in foster children since my mother was at home anyway, partly for company for my baby brother, partly for extra money. Another source of income was renting out one of the rooms in the house, or all of them when there was a conference. I remember we used to sleep in the barn with the cows in winter and in summer in the hay loft during these conferences and at least for me, I found it exciting and fun. I was excited when we moved to the farm. When I was little, in Chicago, we used to go on vacation to a farm every summer. And I had always longed to live on a farm.

All of us worked at odd jobs in the community from the time we were about 12. My sister and I did babysitting and house cleaning, our brother did babysitting and yard work. We kids were all expected to pitch in on the farm. I baked all the bread, as well as helping with the milking and taking care of the goats. I have great memories of haying: driving the old John Deer, so old it had to be started with a flywheel, standing on the hay wagon catching the bales and stacking them. Mother bringing freshly baked scones up to the fields. Because of the farm we always ate well. Mother grew vegetables and we picked wild raspberries and blackberries, as well as apples, peaches, cherries and strawberries from abandoned orchards or “pick yourself” farms. Canning was a family activity where Father would read to us while we worked. We also pressed our own cider, had honey from own bees, eggs and meat from our chickens, rabbits and, pigs, and milk, butter, yogurt and cottage cheese from our cows and goats.

We never bought any clothes. Our school had a thrift shop and people would let us sort through the clothes they were giving away, and take what we wanted before donating the rest. I still remember the thrill of getting on my bike and driving to the mall to buy a new bathing suit, and then getting a box of doughnuts on the way home to share with the rest of my family.

Though w
e didn't have much money, but I didn't feel poor. Culture was an important value for my parents, and they somehow managed a subscription to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford Connecticut every summer and we kids took turns going with them. In my senior year, knowing that they would soon be moving further away from the city they subscribed to the NYC opera and again we took turns going with them. When I wanted to take guitar lessons I paid for them with bread and produce from the farm. When we couldn't afford family vacations anymore, I used to spend a week visiting my Grandma in Pennsylvania in the summer, as well as going to church youth camps and participating in activities of the local youth group.

I don't remember this as a time of hardship. I have always believed that not having a lot of money taught me to be thrifty, and to be conscious of my true values, since I was never in a position to spend money indiscriminately, and I learned to budget. I learned that the secret to not feeling poor is to make my needs fit my means.
Looking back I can see that I have adopted many of my parent's values, such as family, traveling, cultural experiences, closeness to nature, living off the land, and education. Enabling me to have a Waldorf School education drove many of my parents life decisions, and I too made that a priority for my own children. I also always saved money so that we could visit family in America, at least every 4 years - much as my parents did by taking us to Germany where my mother's parents and sister lived. Like my parents I have always grown at least some of my own vegetables and raised chickens. For 6 years I even had my own farm. I still try to eat local and organic food as much as possible, keep a variety of pets and prefer to live in a rural environment.

After leaving home at 18,
I continued to basically live a hand to mouth existence for the next 20 years. I had a number of minimum wage jobs in the fast food market, and even experienced being homeless and living under a bridge for 2 weeks. But I had a dog and eventually found a rewarding job working on a dairy goat farm in exchange for housing. At 20 I went to Europe with $200 in travelers checks to studying in Vienna. Somehow I survived, between house-cleaning and babysitting jobs, a small allowance from my parents and grandma, and an open no strings attached loan from a friend. I managed to explore Europe by hitch-hiking to Switzerland, Greece and Norway where I spent the summers working on a farm for room and board and a little pocket money. In Vienna, I frequently took advantage of the availability of cheap standing room tickets at the opera, the theater and at concerts. However I discovered that no matter how beautiful, how historically and culturally rich, city life was not for me, and at 22 I left Vienna to go to Norway and try my hand at farming.

I had become engaged to a Norwegian during my second summer there and together we bought a small farm just north of the arctic circle. During the 6 years of farming we never made any money, but had the pleasure and satisfaction of living off the land in an exciting climate and geographic location. The 80's were a hard time for farming. Many of the subsidies of the 70's were discontinued and the milk quota system was introduced. Farmers who were unable to make a decent living farming anymore, could not give it up because their debt was greater than what the farm was worth. My husband and I agreed on one thing. Never to have more debt than that one of us could be a stay at home parent. And so, we were able to sell the farm when we decided to give up farming. For the next few years until our divorce, with the help of careful budgeting, we spent a year in England and then another in the US, before moving back to Norway, while living on the proceeds from the sale and then on his meager teacher's salary.

I was 35 when we divorced and I found myself a single mother of 4 children aged 3 to 8 years of age. My income was about 2/3 government support and 1/3 child support from my ex. Like my parents I had a vegetable garden, berry bushes and chickens and I sold eggs at the children's school. Above all I wanted my children to go to a Waldorf School, and I was granted a substantial scholarship. Still each month I had to decide which bills I could pay in full, which I could only pay in 2-3 month installments and which had to be postponed and I would make phone calls to make the arrangements. I belonged to a food coop and saved the percentage that they give you back at the end of the year so that I could take the kids to visit their American relatives, which we managed every 4 years or so. 

No matter how carefully I budgeted, I was still running at a loss and I still remember once having been recommended to have the social welfare office look over my financial situation in case I was qualified for social welfare aid. I sent in the detailed application and was told that according to their calculations I was probably losing about NOK 6000 pr year. In fact I was losing only NOK 2000 pr year. They also said that to qualify for welfare I could not have a car and my children could not be in kindergarten. Their calculations did include a TV license, which was several thousand NOK pr year as well as clothes. Also any money I made selling eggs for example would have to be reported so that they could deduct it from the welfare check. So basically they were saying that to get welfare I would have to live in poverty, without the means to get an education (car, child-care) and without the opportunity to augment my already minimal income. So I declined aid from welfare, cancelled my life insurance, thereby reducing my expenses and decided that I wanted to choose what to spend my money on. Like my parents, I never had a clothes budget. The children wore hand-me-downs donated by neighbors and parents at the school. And I neither had nor wanted a TV. I did however need a car and child-care so that I could go to college and get my nursing degree, and then get a job and start supporting myself. 

The combination of having a proper profession and sharing living expenses with my second husband gave me my first taste of financial freedom. For the first time in my life I experienced the joys of travel that wasn't combined with family visits, the pleasure of spa treatments, eating out, being able to afford organic foods. After my separation from my second husband it has been difficult to adjust to having less money. My credit card debt keeps creeping up, and I have had to borrow a substantial amount of money from one of my sons. I can't seem to go back to turning each penny. I have this feeling that it shouldn't be necessary. As a nurse specialist I get paid quite well after all. I think really it is mostly a question of figuring out what are my most important values and putting my money there. 

Right now, I feel the lack of time more acutely than the lack of money. I still want to support organic agriculture as much as possible. I want to be able to travel frequently. To live in a rural setting with a garden, and pets. I want to get out of Norway in the winter – it is just too dark and cold for me – and to this end I sold my home in Norway and bought a home on the Greek island of Crete. So that is where I am now. I am getting by, certainly not living from hand to mouth, yet not experiencing the financial freedom that I would like.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Have fun and enjoy life!

The other day I was doing an online market research survey, and one or the questions asked about the importance of various values in my life, such as environment, culture etc. One of them was having fun and enjoying myself. I was about to check the box for not very important, when I thought: "Hey, wait a minute! This is all about living in delight! No wonder I am struggling. I need to make this the most important value in my life!"

And that is what I am determined to do. Then and there I decided to put having fun and enjoying myself in first place - above the environment, above culture, above helping others etc. It feels weird, but I have decided to trust that this will not make me an inconsiderate monster - because helping others is fun. Music and dancing and theatre and a good movie are fun. Fresh air, healthy, wholesome food, sunshine, snowflakes, clean water, woods and fields and mountains and deserts and rivers and lakes and the ocean are sources of exquisite enjoyment!

And as I am embracing this concept I am finding that life gives to me abundantly, and everything I desire is given to me. I want to have fun and enjoy myself at work. Walking from the parking garage to the ER, I reflected that I have the most fun when I am mentoring new employees, when I can keep the ball rolling for my patient when it seems that it is about to grind to a halt, when caring for the critically ill patient and knowing the right things to do. And I enjoy myself most when my patients express their feeling of being in safe hands, when colleagues thank me for the shift we had together, and when doctors express confidence in my ability and judgement. And then I went on to have the most amazing work weekend, and experienced so much appreciation from both colleagues and patients, so much satisfaction at being able to serve and help and teach. 

Today, on my day off the magic continues. The day started with a dentist appointment and for the first time I was given an explanation for why they want me to come in and get my teeth cleaned twice a year. Apparently I have peridontitis. However my teeth turned out to be in pretty good shape in spite of my having delayed the appointment by 4 months. On my way back to the parking garage I realized that I had forgotten ot pick up a free parking ticket. The fine is $100 - yet when I got there, I found no yellow fine notice under my windshield wipers. It is as if I were leading a charmed existence. 

People talk about bliss, about the world being magical. I never understood what they meant. I never thought it was for me to experience. Yet now I am. Suddenly the world seems magical, and exciting adventure I can't wait to begin. I feel that I am living in a state of joy, knowing that life is blissfully beautiful!

Not everyone feels the same however. As I was leaving work on Sunday, I had forgotten to bring and empty gurney down to where they are cleaned and was apologizing to the service staff, when a nurse from the neighboring observation unit came with a gurney. 
I said: "Oh, maybe this is the one I forgot".
To which she replied:"I wouldn't bring down a gurney from the ER!"
"Oh", I said, "I do it all the time. If I'm bringing down a gurney, and there are others standing there, or if I'm passing one that's ready to go and I have the time, I take it down, whether it's from the ER or the observation unit. It's all about helping each other to get the job done, isn't it?"
Well she got so mad. She sent me away from her. The conversation was making her too uncomfortable. Perhaps when she thinks about it, she will see that I wasn't so much criticizing as demonstrating an alternative attitude. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Delight is the Means - Connectedness is the End

We're reaching the end of January and I still haven't written a post about my New Years Resolution. Last year I made the attempt to formulate my resolutions in relation to how I wanted to feel. The following is a bit of the same, though the resolution is only for the next 4 months, at which time I will evaluate and rephrase my resolution based on where I am then.

On December 19 I began mentoring with a psychic. She very accurately identified an overriding theme that has been a difficulty throughout my life. She then spoke to me about how my past life history that has contributed to this theme, and how weaknesses in my energy field (aura, chakra system) are perpetuating this issue.

The issue is this. Throughout my life I have been a bit of a loner. When I was a child I often felt that I didn't really belong. This was certainly the case in both first and second grade, which I attended at different schools, and again in the school I attended in 4th through 12th grade. I did have friends whom I'd visit after school and at whose house I would stay over and yet I wasn't popular. I was a dreamer. More interested in the stories I made up and the books I read (I was an incurable book worm) than in playing with other children. I used to hide my book under my jacket and find a place to sit and read outside during recess. As I got older, I fit in less and less. I wasn't really interested in boys, clothes, movie stars, rock stars and makeup. In high school I was bullied. The girls excluded me from their confidences and I wasn't invited when all the rest of the girls went hiking. The boys were downright mean: teasing, kicking, tripping me in the halls etc. By about 11th grade I had given up trying to fit in and started looking for friends among the adults in the community where we lived.

I remember the summer when I was 14, having helped my mother harvest the garden and a great sadness washing over me. A premonition that the closeness I felt that I shared with her was ending. Six months later it seemed as though all the joy left my life. I spent the 4 years of high school trying to get a handle on this inexplicable feeling of not belonging, of deep, penetrating loneliness that filled me all the time, in spite of family outings, participation in the community youth group, the church youth group, and writing to about a dozen pen pals from all over the world. I sought help from our family doctor, from trusted teachers, from priests. Nothing helped at all. I didn't feel taken care of at home either. My parents had financial difficulties and needed a lot of help with the farm, and with my little brother who was born when I was nearly 14 and the foster kids. They didn't really seem to understand that I was struggling to find my way in the world as a teenager while at the same time trying to live up to the conflicting expectations of home and school.

The loneliness and craving for connection led me to compromise my values in a number of ways and so after leaving home at 18 self-loathing was added to the mix. I got engaged at 22 for two reasons. 1) I wanted children and 2) I had finally found a guy who was willing to commit to a long-term relationship and I didn't think I'd get another chance. The fact that he treated me badly, practically from day one didn't give me pause. I believed that love and commitment would and could change my partner and that any relationship was better than no relationship at all.

At 40, about 5 years following my divorce after 12 years of marriage, I finally reached the stage where I was starting to enjoy my own company and though I still wanted a relationship, I didn't necessarily want to live with the person. One thing led to another however and suddenly I found myself engaged and then married again. I'm not sure what happened. I wanted to be loved and he seemed to love me. But he also needed me. In fact I felt that he probably couldn't survive without me and so I figured, what the h---, we may as well get married. So it wasn't really a relationship based on freedom. After nursing college I got my first job since I was a teenager and again found the theme of non-connectedness arising. My children went to the Waldorf School, which is traditionally a close knit community based on shared values regarding the education of children, and yet I did not make any friends or close connections among the teachers or parents there. I knew hardly any of my neighbors where we lived, though I was friendly with the couple across the street. Yet when they moved into town they never got in touch and so what I had thought of as a friendship dissipated. At work I never really connected with my colleagues. I would watch them making friends, but like when I was at school, I felt mostly like an observer. When I sold my house after 17 years I could count my friends on 2 fingers.

It felt more fitting in a way to move to an area where I knew nobody. And I have to say that I actually do feel more connected at my present workplace. Connecting on the professional level gives me a certain amount of satisfaction, and makes it easier to feel connected on the human level, and even experience the first tender shoots of potential friendship. I am separated from my second husband and living alone now. It feels right. Not that I am living a life of bliss. I still haven't a clue what that feels like. But it feels more congruent to live alone when I feel alone. I am no longer filled with self-loathing or even loneliness really, but I wonder sometimes what it would feel like to have a healthy love relationship, true friends, or a spiritual mentor. When I do experience connection it is generally with my children, my siblings and parents and yet too often this too seems to be a struggle.

So not feeling connected and being alone is a major life conflict for me, as well as a feeling of flatness and emptiness. A feeling that my life lacks meaning, that I can't find my life purpose. The advice I was given to resolve this is to focus on the essence of Delight in my life. Delight in my individual creative expression. Delight in the pleasure and beauty of sensory impressions. Delight in the knowledge that life gives to me abundantly and that all I desire is given to me. Delight in finding out who I am and what I desire, and being who I am unapologetically. Delight in believing that “in every job that must be done there is an element of fun” (Mary Poppins) and finding that fun and turning every job into a game. Delight in being a woman, and feeling good in my body, feeling comfortable in my skin. Delight in intimate relationships. And finally, delight in knowing that the world is magical, an exciting adventure I can't wait to begin.

Apparently if I focus on the essence of delight for 3 or 4 months, I will become more connected, more prosperous and more able to experience my life as meaningful. And so this is my New Years resolution. To spend the next months indulging in delight. And also to blog about it.

Sunset in Oceanside, California by Roland

Monday, November 24, 2014

Travel Plans

It is decided. In a week I am travelling to California to spend some time with my sister. I had good conversations, both with her and with my younger brother this weekend. She looks good, sounds optimistic. She is out of the hospital, back home in California, in the environment that she loves. She does need family help and support though and my brother and I will be taking turns giving her that.  I am so grateful that I can go there now, before things "get serious", as my brother puts it. 

Part of what my brother has been doing and what will be my job as well is keeping the health care ball rolling, which is in itself a major undertaking. It is something that I do all the time at work: checking with my patients to see if things are moving along, and if they seem to have ground to a halt get them started again. But I expect it to be a challenge, doing it as a family member in a country that doesn't have uniform systems in place.

The past weeks as I have been waiting - waiting to hear news, waiting to connect with her -  I have become more and more clear that I want to go see her now. I can always go back later - in fact I probably will, maybe a couple of times. And just in case I got all my christmas shopping and baking out of the way while I was waiting. 

But there is a lot to organize: time off work and care for my critters being most important. At first I thought I would just take Lucy with me, but for one thing it turns out to be outrageously expensive - easily as much as having her in a kennel for 2 weeks, and then there is the thought of her being cooped up in a crate for 17 to 19 hours. So I decided to scrap that idea, and have arranged for a very nice kennel for 10 days, after which my ex will bring her to my oldest daughter who will keep her til I come back. As for the cats,  I already brought one of them to my oldest son last weekend when my daughter and I went to Trondheim to celebrate a vegan thanksgiving with him and his partner. My ex and my neighbor will take turns taking care of the other 2 cats in my home. Luckily the farm where I live needs my ex to work so that he has some reason to be here. But I am so grateful for my neighbor, my ex, my kids - especially my oldest daughter, for all their help and support, and for my supervisor at work who made 6 shifts go away. I have 6 shifts during the time I am to be away and she has given me compassionate leave for 4 of them, and is letting me make up the other 2 at a later time. 

One tricky thing is how to get to the airport. There is no train early enough, but I can take the airport bus at 3:30. Except how to get to the bus station? My neighbor and I usually drive each other to the bus or train when one of us is travelling, and in fact I will be taking her to the bus on thursday, however she isn't coming back until later on the morning of my departure. We finally figured out that if I leave my car at the busstop then she can drive it home when she arrives. Good solution! So slowly but surely everything has been falling into place today. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Do Less (and achieve more?)

I've been following a blog that has been running a series on doing less. I always have a to do list that is much longer than is realistic to fit into the day. The idea of having "nothing to do" stresses me beyond belief, as does the thought of all the things I want to do but can't get to. :P

I KNOW that I need to practice stillness and listening. This blog even has some practical tips which I intend to try out. Such as drinking my tea while staring out the window. This is not one of the tips from the blog, but lately when I walk the dog, I find myself succumbing to the urge to just lie down in the moss, or sit with my back against a tree and stare at the sky...

Another suggestion is sitting with uncomfortable feelings. My sister is very very sick and she is in a time zone 9 hours different from mine. This situation is overwhelming and frustrating and brings up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings: feelings of (anticipated) loss, irrasjonal feelings of rejection, envy and jealousy of the people who get to spend time with my sister everyday.  Feelings it is not easy to live with, even to admit to having. Dealing with  uncomfortable feelings reminds me being pregnant and nursing. Even though I didn't seem to be doing anything, the state itself demanded a lot of my energy and I needed more sleep and had less energy. That is how grieving, dreading, worrying and reaching out but not being able to connect is affecting me. It takes an awful lot of energy.

And one of the things I have been inspired to do because of this "do less" blog series is to cut back on the amount of stuff I am trying to fit into my day, which included a number of spiritual practices. I have cut back to 2 practices: a daily yoga practice and a chakra cleanse meditation - but am doing these religiously. Other than that I am trying to cut myself some slack and not demand so incredibly much of myself. I have stopped taking on extra shifts, and I need to give myself permission to sleep more, and even to escape into the world of books and movies/tv-series and mindless puzzles now and then without beating myself up about it.

I don't know about sitting with uncomfortable feelings. I think it is necesary to acknowledge them, and maybe tapp on them. But what I really want to do is focus on the unconditional love that I also have for my sister, on the happy memories thoughout the years, the desire to comfort and support her in what is most important to her. And that seems to be her teaching and her music. This may seem a strange way to do it, but my sister is a gifted educator and enthusiastic musician  and so I have been listening to and singing along to "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins", as a way to connect with her, when the 9 hour time difference and our respective proffessional commitments make it impossible to connect in person.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Walking in Yorkshire: Summary

I must say, I am enamored of this form of holiday making: each day started with a splendid breakfast after which it was spent outdoors, walking for 6 or 7 hours, surrounded by spectacular scenery, with about an hours break for lunch at some cafe or pub along the way. When, at the end of the day I reached my lodging, tired and sweaty, my suitcase had " magically arrived". I would take a hot shower or bath, massage my feet, and if there was intenet download some pictures to facebook, before going for supper to a nearby pub. By 8:30 to 9pm I crawled between the sheets, and slept like a dream until 6:30 or 7, so that I could do 20 minutes of yoga to stretch and limber up before breakfast.

Lucy adjusted quite well to the change in routine. I doubled her food, feeding her both morning and evening and carrying dried fish to give her at lunch time. After her evening meal she went straight to sleep and didn't move until she saw me preparing for our day's walk. Then she was all excited and tried to pull off my clothes as fast as I was putting them on! As the days progressed she was less and less inclined to bother about people patting her, or dogs coming over for a sniff. Maybe she was tired. Maybe she just realized that everyone was friendly.

I need to spend a few minutes describing the "full english breakfast". It is a meal that makes anything but a very light lunch superfluous. It starts with fruit, cold cereal with either milk or yogurt, orange and/or apple juice, coffee or tea, and toast with butter and jam (one place had nutella and honey as well). Then comes the hot breakfast: fried eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms. Sometimes there are also beans, hash browns, and black pudding. Or you could have kippers, a kind of salt herring, and if you didn't want cold cereal, they were happy to make oatmeal porridge for you instead. The fruit was prunes, grapefruit, melon, strawberries, cherries or a combination of these. one place had fruit salad. The breakfast was always delicious and it was invariably a feast!

And though I walked alone, I kept meeting others who were walking the same path or a similar one. Sometimes they stayed at the same lodging, other times we met on the road or at the cafe which was generally strategically located for lunch. That first morning at breakfast, I met the younger english couple with the black dog, whom I was to meet again and again along the way. The second night and a good bit of the third day I spent in the company of a group of 5 australians. There was also another older english couple whom I met again and again. Then there were the 2 elderly gentlemen from the Netherlands, and the couple from Colorado. And so, though I mostly walked alone, by my own preference, there was almost always someone familiar to talk to over breakfast and sometimes over supper as well.

I am certain that this was just the first of many long distance walking holidays. The Cumbria Way in the lake country has been warmly recommended, and then there is the coastal path of Cornwall. i would dearly love to explore Ireland and Wales as well...

Walking along the Yorkshire Coast

The last 2 days of my walk went south along the Yorkshire coast from Saltburn by the Sea to Skarborough. Actually I only walked as far as Robin Hood's Bay where I had left the car, but because Mickledore had been unable to find accomodation there for me with the dog, my last night was in Scarborough. But more on that later. 

The landlady at The Victorian Guest House had taken a real shine to Lucy and after my delicious breakfast where I only ordered the eggs and bacon but skipped the sausages she said: "You should have taken the sausages as well and let the dog have them!" 

The first day was a day of cliffs and beaches and historical landmarks. We were constantly passed by runners walkers and other dogs. Lucy isn't bothered anymore. I forgot to put on sunscreen and got sunburned. 

The charm bracelett. A tribute to iron mining that used to go on in this area.

This farm facinated me, the way it sat isolated at the edge of the cliffs, far from any neighbors, with sheep and horses grazing in the fields around. I would love to live like this!

Straithes where I had lunch, a delicious salad sandwich and banana smoothie at an outdoor cafe near the harbor. 

My last day was the longest day of all - and the sunniest. Luckily I remembered to put on sun screen today.

I had spent the night at Runswick Bay. The couple with the black dog whom I had met several times along the route were in the same accomodation. I had been a bit envious that they could let their dog off leash as it just stayed glued to their side. Today I learned of the foibles of their dog. While I could just leave Lucy in the hotel room and go out on my own for dinner and for breakfast in the morning, they could not leave their dog alone because it would scratch on the doors. Anyway, the walk from Runswick Bay started along the beach and we had been told by the landlady that the tides were good for walking in the morning. Apparently at high tide it is impossible to cross the beach without getting wet feet. However when we left, the people with the black dog and I with Lucy, the tide was out. And here I let Lucy off the leash for the first time on the beach and it was great to see her frolic about, and play with the other dog. When we left the beach I took her back on the leash however, where she stayed for the rest of the walk.

Whitby, of Dracula fame, is a fascinating town, and the Cleveland way takes you right past St Mary's church, and the Whitby Abbey ruins, which I took the time to visit. Other than that the path followed the cliffs, where there was the constant sound of breakers, and sea birds wheeling in the air. Sheep and cattle grazing on the cliff-side meadows. Now and then the path would dip into a little ravine where a stream - or beck, as they call it here - cut it's way down to the sea.

Celtic cross outside St Mary's church.
Whitby abbey seen through a whale bone arch.

After 7.5 hours of walking, as well as 1,5 hours sightseeing in Whitby, I was hot and tired when I got to Robin Hood's Bay, and found my car parked where I'd left it 5 days ago by the village church. A half hours drive took me into Skarborough where I was lucky enough to find a parking space very close to Robyn's guest House where I would be staying.  The landlady was very friendly and took me up to a room at the top of the house. After a shower I went to eat at a sweet cafe called "the coffee pot" just down the road. Though this B&B had the best internet of all of them, I went straight to bed when I got back from dinner. Lucy had gone to sleep already, under the bed.

I was wakened at about 5 am by a dog fight in the street below. I had left the window open because I wanted to hear the sea gulls. I ended up drowsing away another 2 hours while listening to the cries of the sea birds.

At 9am I pulled out of my parking spot, armed with the driving instructions which my landlady had printed for me. 5.5 hours later found me pulling into Harwich International Port.

The voyage was uneventful, and my trip ended with the 8 hr drive home through Denmark and Sweden. And then my first ever long distance walking experience was over.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Walking in Yorkshire: the North York Moor

The first 3 days were spent walking over the north York moors, gradually heading toward the sea. 

Day 1: I rose at 6:15, had breakfast at 7:30. Met several other walkers at breakfast: an English couple about my age who also have a dog, a couple from Colorado, and an older English couple. Also the man who let me in last night and his father. They are walking the Coast to Coast trail, as are the Australians. 

Stations of the Passion on the way to Lady Chapel

Lady Chapel
I left at 8:10. There are 2 places worth visiting near Osmotherly and I detoured to visit both of them. First Lady's Chapel. The Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Grace was founded in 1515 by Catherine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII's six wives. It is now a popular place of pilgrimage as evidenced by crosses marking the stations of the passion of Christ as you approach the lovely little church.

Mount Grace Priory Manor House and Gardens

After visiting the church I went to visit Mount Grace Priory. To get to it I had to go through a farm and some fields and pastures in which cows and sheep were grazing. Then through a bit of woods. Mount Grace Priory which was founded in 1398 was a Carthusian Monastery. The monks, under a vow of silence, were housed in small individual cells where they lived, ate and prayed. Each cell had a square hole in the wall through which the monk received his food, yet it was so angled that he could not even see the person who brought the food. The monks lived at Mount Grace Priory for 140 years until Henry VIII closed them down. The ruins here are supposedly the best preserved Carthusian ruins in England, However they are situated behind a manor house, with lovely gardens and a sign that dogs are not welcome. It was also closed. So all I got was pictures of the manor house and gardens from the tarmac. On my way back to the Cleveland Way (that being the path I am following), I met the couple from Colorado coming down. The Priory was just opening so they were in for a treat. I saw them later in the day as well, they had visited the priory and gardens, and caught me up. As they disappeared ahead of me it was the last I saw of them. I think they must be doing twice the distance of everyone else per day. 


Back on the Cleveland way, the path went first through farmland. Lucy,was excited about the rabbits and pheasants.  Where I entered the first moor there was a bench where I rested and had some chocolate, giving Lucy a piece of dried fish. The trail led over a moor, then along a farm track until it turned off into a forest, where there was forestry going on. It was sad to see the huge stumps and hear the crash of newly felled trees. Eventually we entered the moor again, a long stretch this time. 

Lord Stones Cafe

One of the Lord Stones

When we came down to the Lord Stones cafe at 1pm it was definitely lunch time. I had a wonderful chicken salad (free range herb fed chicken), a glass of fresh pressed orange juice and a cafe mocha. Then I went to look at the Lord stones before continuing on my way. They are the boundary markers where the lands of 3 lords met. Afterwards it only took 20 minutes to climb up to the stone seat, from which I had planned to make my way along local footpaths to my accommodation. However it seemed to early for that, so I continued along the moor instead: steeply down, then steeply up again, through a large rocky outcrop, with bronze age carvings, known as "the Wainestones" and along the top until the path again descended steeply to the road. 

Me and the Dog at the stone seat 

View from the stone seat. Somewhere down there is my accommodation. 
Stone wall

Here I phoned the landlord from a car park and he came and picked us up. Myself and 3 Australians. The Australians were met at the accommodation by another Austrailian couple who were going to walk the last 3 days with them. The accommodation is a converted farmhouse. When we arrived we were offered tea and shortbread in the living room. My room is huge with 3 beds. The doors have no keys, but there are only 8 guests, all walkers. Besides the 5 Australians and myself, there was the younger English couple with the dog. After tea, I showered, and massaged my feet and Lucy's paws. Then, since we were located in the middle of nowhere, we were driven to the closest village which has one pub, The Black Swan,  where we could have dinner. I was invited by the Australians to join them in the dining room, which was very nice of them. I had duck, mashed sweet potato and salad. Our landlord sat in the bar watching the football game. England lost to Uruguay (I think) that night, but drove us back to our lodging when we were done eating. The couple with the dog ate in the bar, where they could have the dog with them. This is apparently generally accepted in England. I had left Lucy asleep in our room. Later I learned that their dog who could walk off leash most of the time, could not be left alone in a room without scratching at the door.

26 km. 6:50 hrs. 3.82 km/hr

Our room at Drumondby Bridge Bed and Breakfast
Day 2: Slept like a log and did some yoga in the morning to stretch my tired muscles. Breakfast was at 8 am  and then we were driven back to Clay Bank and started our walk. I walked just in front of or just behind the 5 Australians until our paths diverged. The moor today was not as dramatic, but there were a lot of sheep which excited Lucy greatly. Also saw a WWII fighter plane doing loops aver our heads. 

bronze age burial mound

One of many wierd stones


Eventually I caught up with the couple who have the dog and we walked near each other all the way to The Kildale tea rooms where we had lunch. They left the tea rooms before me and I didn't see them again today. I had a brie and tomato sandwich on thick slices of fresh brown bread, salad and chips, fresh juice and a latte. The tea rooms were cute. Obviously a family business -  there was a sign on the door saying how they close early on mondays to take their daughters to their ukelele lessons after school. Only the father was there when I arrived, he had sent his wife home because business was slow, and got caught alone in the lunch rush. He was sooo stressed, rushing around like a chicken without a head.

Glebe Cottage Tea Rooms in Kildale

Approaching Captain Cook Monument

View from the Monument. The large village is my destination.

The rest of today's walk was through farmland and forest to the Captain Cook Monument. Captain Cook seems to be a big hero around here. At the Monument I left the Cleveland Way to take local footpaths through forest and farms down to Little Ayton and then the road to Great Ayton, where I was booked in at the Royal Oak inn. My room here is pleasant and there's a bathtub. So the first thing I did was have a long soak, before having vegetarian Lasagne for supper downstairs, while Lucy went straight to sleep. My feet are hurting like the dickens and I wonder whether I have taken on too much with 5 days. 

22.5 km, 6:30 hrs, 3.45 km/hr

Royal Oak Inn in Great Ayton
Day 3: Delicious breakfas this morning, but way too much. it was my first chance to try black pudding, but I was dissappointed. I found it to be very dry. The sausages I wrapped in a napkin to give to Lucy later in the day. The older english couple were at breakfast today. The couple with the dog must be staying somewhere else. The landlord was very sweet. He drove us all to the monument car park after breakfast. As we arrived he pointed to a pond and said a set of his car keys were there somewhere. He and his children had been playing hide and seek and he'd lost his keys. He had had to run back to the town to get the spare keys. Before leaving he gave hugs all around. 

Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping

My first goal was to climb Roseberry topping, a distinctive hilltop that I have seen in the distance throughout the last 2 days. There were a lot of people with dogs coming and going there, and Lucy has given up picking fights. She's also been more relaxed about strange people and didn't bark at all at horses,cows and sheep which we passed.

The Cleveland Way continues toward the sea

The hikers whom I keep meeting up with: the older English couple and the couple with the dog. 

View of Skelton, Skelton Castle and the sea

A beautiful wood approaching Saltburn

An artistic bench in the woods/park approaching Saltburn

My feet didn't hurt so much today. I mostly feel it in my legs. Its been a hot and sunny day with little wind. Lucy was tired by the time we got to Skelton and kept trying to go up the walk to various houses, hoping it was our accommodation for the night I think. At Victoria house in Saltburn we got room on the third floor a view to the cliffs where I'll be walking tomorrow. Victoria house has a fantastic Victorian atmosphere, the pictures, knick-knacks, furniture, even a grate in my attic room. I had a wonderful shower, massaged my feet and Lucy's pads, then had some tea and sweets before going out for dinner.

Our room at Victoria House

Had an absolutely fabulous dinner at Jadoo Indian restaurant.: first papadum, a crisp flatbread with yogurt mint sauce and a mango sauce. Then lamb in a mild nut curry with pieces of fresh pineapple and mango. The vegetable rice pilaf turned out to be white rice coloured pink, orange, yellow and white ( by different vegetables). For desert I had coconut and honey nan. All with Indian pop music playing in the background.

20.5 km, 6:20 hrs, 3.3 km/hr