Category Archives: Back Home

Up, up and ‘no way’.

Remember the Pixar movie, Up? I swear this house and story is the real life version of it.

I’ve been shopping at Trader Joe’s in the Ballard Blocks shopping center ever since we moved to Seattle and wondered what the story was behind this house and the complex that built around it. I just saw this article in our local city blog and thought I would share. Like Ed Asner’s character Carl in the movie, the house was owned by a woman named Edith Macefield and at age 86 she refused to sell her home for $1 million when developers came knocking in 2008.

The story is so similar to the movie that Pixar even tried a short-lived PR stunt when it came out.

While so many things in this world change quickly and move forward, Edith wanted to keep her beloved home as it was. She wanted to spend the rest of her days there and all the money wasn’t going to change her mind. I have to admire her stubborn nature and refusal to give in. Long story short, Edith did pass away in her house while all the construction was going on and I believe it went to another person who sold to a different company for far less, but said they were going to preserve it and even raise it two stories. I think they are planning to even rent it out in March 2013 once renovations are complete.

Edith managed to inspire the community and even a local tattoo shop created a special tattoo in her honor.

I don’t know why this house just makes me smile. It’s not like I’m not going to shop here out of protest or anything–have you ever had Trader Joe’s graham crackers? Helloooo. I just think it’s refreshing to see someone that isn’t motivated by money and the easy way out. It’s a subtle protest against The Man (whatever form it takes for you).

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I’m going home now.

What did you do this morning?

Chances are, it was a little less thrilling than Felix Baumgartner’s morning today. Jumping from the craziest balloon craft at 128,000 feet kind of trumps finishing that full stack of blueberry pancakes at IHOP.

If you happened to miss this incredible human achievement, you can watch it here:

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To understand the background of this jump you should also check out the first person to do this jump in 1960 and hold the record for the longest freefall (over 4 minutes)! USAF Col. Joe Kittinger is now in his 80s and was the one in the control center talking him through the whole mission. Col. Kittinger made this jump without the help of all of today’s fancy gadgetry and technology so while Felix jumped from a much higher altitude, I still think Joe has a leg up on him. To learn more about Kittinger’s jump, click here.

Regardless, both are incredibly brave and maybe a touch insane for daring to make such a leap. All the careful planning, the no’s they had to overcome, the fear of even jumping, or worse, the fear of failing…it’s incredible. I have to say I got a little teary as I watched him make that jump. If you watch Felix, he tumbles head over feet it seems like a million times before he reaches an altitude that he can gain more control and get into Delta position. I can only imagine how terrifying that must feel. The fact that he didn’t throw up is achievement enough.

It’s just another little story outside our little world that reminds us that anything is possible.

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We’re just raindrops on a windshield.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.

After taking a blogging sabbatical, I decided to just post this silly little video that doesn’t involve backpacks, blistered feet and gorgeous vistas abroad? How dare she? Relax, there is a loose connection to this funny little series by Jerry Seinfeld called, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”.

Connection #1:
They are on a road part of the time.

Connection #2:
They drink coffee.

Connection #3:
Stories are told by characters of all sorts.

Hey, I did say this comedic series and my blog are loosely connected. Anyhoo, this is for Uncle Tom and anyone else who hasn’t discovered these funny little videos yet. Jonathan and I were even at the same little shopping center/coffee shop in Malibu recently – so there, connection #4! No celebrity sightings though. Hope you enjoy.

Click the link below to watch:
Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards — Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

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Happy Independence Day America!

This is one of my favorites. Marvin Gaye sings it best from the 1983 NBA All Star game.

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The mountains are out.

And so is the sun!

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It’s all relative.

I find myself measuring distances and relating them to those I walked on the Camino. I recently went back to Colorado to visit my mom and friends and found myself doing this on the drive to Boulder from Longmont. I’ve driven these twelve miles a million times but I never have walked them. I used to think it must take cyclists forever to commute the same route everyday. On the Camino, we would walk twelve miles (19 km) in three hours if my feet weren’t horrible. And an additional 2-8 miles before stopping every day for 33 days. 

I look at the Flatirons and the Front Range and remember seeing the mountains in Spain. At first I would think it would take days to get there. Before I knew it we would be there. Maybe even the next day we’d climb over those mountains.

Driving minutes to cover what would take hours to walk is far easier of course. But far less memorable. A thoughtful friend gave me a book on mindfulness. It has exercises that are little ways to integrate awareness and living in the present into our busy lives. Things like using your less dominant hand to brush your teeth, or eat without distraction. Everything we do is about efficiency and maximizing every minute and capturing every experience. In doing so we forget to breathe. To really take it all in and just be present.

When my friend asked if I would still recommend walking the Camino to anyone based off our weather and  my feet-challenged experience. I said I would and that everyone has a different Camino and like anything challenging, it was greatly rewarding. (More so in hindsight.) I think one of the great things about it was that you had three or four things you had to worry about each day. Fixing feet, finding a place to stay the night, where to eat and occasionally laundry. It was the essentials of living. Only what you needed to do to continue on and nothing more.

Of course real life is complex and filed with responsibilities and obligations but the Camino is a good exercise in slowing down, turning off and breathing. Of being mindful in our own lives. Maybe the Camino will speak to you, or answer whatever questions you ask of it. And maybe the Camino is just a good listener. You never know until you walk it!

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Happy Feet: In search of some on the Camino?

Anyone who’s walked a week on the Camino de Santiago or maybe an avid runner knows—happy feet are hard to come by, but something you’ll do anything to pursue.

For some, their mental toughness can block out  the constant pounding and wear and tear. And for others, like myself, my mental toughness would take a siesta about eight  miles in. Sometimes 20 minutes in if it was raining. No matter how much I would envision fluffy slippers, feet massages and wheels my reality was to push on.

Before embarking on our journey I anticipated that there would be blisters and discomfort. I had walked two Avon Breast Cancer two-day walks, surely I was no stranger to this. And no offense my dear Aunt Leslie who walked them with me, I figured my feet were pretty resilient in comparison to her delicate tootsies. So yeah, I got this. Pack a sewing needle and thread and some band aids and I’m good to go.

Silly me.

It’s amazing how many tips and tricks we heard from others. I refused to believe or put many into practice. I was the skeptic. Surely, they were crazy or it only worked on their feet and would not be suitable for me. Like Jonathan’s duct tape method. Psshhaw! Not for me! Where in my family did I inherit this stubborn side? hmmmm…

Had it not been for my crazy hook toe and poorly chosen shoes, I think I would have been able to make it further and in far less pain, but combined with the torrential downpours starting Day 2 of the Camino, it was the perfect storm. Unfortunately, there is little time for healing on the Camino. Yada yada yada.

First Method: And fail (for sort-of-happy feet)
– Bandages of all shapes and sizes
– Blister cushions (These are the worst things ever. If you like keeping skin on your feet, don’t use these.)
– Alcohol Disinfecting Wipes
– Needle and thread: depending on size of blister the idea is to thread it and
leave thread in the blister for a few hours to drain it without exposing the skin or tearing it
– Multiple sock changes

Second Method: Partially successful. (aka, the Marabel method)
Backstory: We stayed outside Pamplona in Cizur Menor at Albergue Roncal. Great stay by the way. Marabel Roncal and her family run the albergue and she told me to come back after we settled in and she would look at my feet. I thought she would give me some crazy tiritas (Basque=bandages) and send me on my way. Instead she brought out this huge medical bag. She could’ve performed amputations for all I know with that bag. She pulled out a wrapped medical syringe and some iodine.

What?! I hate needles. I close my eyes when I get acupuncture even. I said to myself, it can’t feel worse than I already did. Surrender. At first I couldn’t watch, but then she said I needed to learn how to do it myself. She drained the fluid out of one blister and it filled a syringe the size of the image attached, not once, but twice. She went in once and then discovered another “Oh a double!”. It was disgusting but it was business as usual for her. I apologized repeatedly. She did two of my worst ones and then showed me how to disinfect the needle with the iodine. She said “only for you to use”. No worries there. It’s incredible the things we do to get through the tough times. By the end of the trip, I’m sure I could’ve become a certified nurse. This gave instant relief but also helped things heal enough to put shoes back on the next day. I used it so often, that the needle became dull, so I had to get another one from the Pharmacy.

Final Method: The ‘good as it’s gonna get’ combination.
– Marabel method at the end of the day
– Saturating your feet before and after and repeatedly with Alcohol de Romero.  (Rosemary Alcohol)About €2.50 and sold in the pharmacies. It has an antiseptic quality and encourages cell rejuvenation. This was a Jonathan tip from back in the day and his first Camino. It’s seriously amazing stuff and we converted several pilgrims along the way.
– Elevate the feet, 600mg ibuprofen and rest.
– In the morning: tape, tape and more tape. Yes, Jonathan even made me use duct tape which actually worked! (which we found surprisingly in the China Bazaar stores pretty cheaply). First, I would use the gauze, Neosporin and tape for a couple really sensitive spots or toes, then first aid tape over any bandages and extend beyond a little bit to hold things in place. Then for my heels I would put duct tape over the first aid tape. Only the edges would be on skin and it just kind of was another barrier against friction. I never had a tough time getting it off my feet at the end of the day.
– And the areas that weren’t covered by tape I used the Second Skin stick. It looks like a small deodorant stick and is a thin smooth lader that would glide on over my toes and feet. It sort of is similar to the Vaseline method that some people did. I didn’t want my feet sliding around all gooped up with Vaseline and two pairs of socks though. This was less messy and effective.

Bottom line is: do whatever works for you and your feet. It took me a while to get there but the method above and easier terrain helped my feet make it through the day much easier and faster. Sometimes, you don’t know what will work until you try it all, so I wouldn’t go to crazy before the trip stocking up on expensive methods. We stopped in pharmacies or restocked every couple days. You don’t want all that excess weight when you know it’s usually available in the next day or two.

As for post Camino? My feet still are slowly recovering. I wish I still had the alcohol de Romero. I will have to make my own I guess. They still feel bruised on the soles and I have calluses all over my feet like I never wore shoes in my life. Some toenails are greyish but still with me at least! Keeping active helps. And my acupuncturist turned me on to Kinesio tape which is miraculous! I really wish I had this on the Camino for my knees. I guess athletes use this stuff all the time. It really works.

And keeping moving helps too. Putting one foot in front of the other and repeating. Just in better shoes!

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If only this dog was on the Camino…

This story comes your way thanks to Jonathan. The dog ran 50-60 km a day keeping up with these cyclists! If Xiao Sa was on the Camino maybe we would have finished a couple weeks earlier. Amazing.

A dog with no home has run 1700km with some cyclists on their way to Tibet, after befriending them when they gave him a drumstick.

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We walked the Camino and all I got was this piece of paper.

We sure didn’t walk for the fame, the glory and definitely not fortune. That would be very un-Camino.

While I questioned my reasons for walking at times, I never questioned the desire to see it to the end. I cherish this simple piece of paper. Jonathan liked to point out that there is no Latin translation of Lindsay so he feels his compostela is better than mine. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t leave me by the roadside, means that he gets “an extra special place in heaven”. Oh, sweet husband. Whatevs, my awesomeness needs no documentation. This paper is a testament to never giving up and finishing what you start. I always can use the reminder.

It’s been fun to go through photos we took on the Camino. I realized taking pictures while you’re walking doesn’t result in very sharp photos, so there may be some blurry ones. I couldn’t stop. Jonathan wouldn’t let me out of fear I would never start back up again. I’ll have to get more descriptive on each, so I remember where they were taken, but that’s more time than I’m willing to devote at the moment. If you want to see a link to an abbreviated “best of” photos you can find them here.

I also put together a list of all the places we stayed. The pilgrim credentials were helpful since we got stamps at each place. I like to point out that my credentials wear the Camino well with the watermarked pages which I think happen to be symbolic of our rain-soaked Camino, aka “Rafting Trip 2012”.

Some people believe true pilgrims only stay in albergues and that somehow makes your pilgrimage more authentic. Kudos, if you are one of these pilgrims and choose to do it this way. This wasn’t our Way. We had some good stays and some not so good stays. In the end we were most successful with the private rooms in private albergues. I think the weather we endured could’ve earned us 5 star accommodations the entire way in my opinion. While I think it is important to experience the albergues, I think it’s more important to sleep well so you can make it through the next day successfully and maybe even enjoy some of it. Plus, with all the crazy things I had to do with my feet private rooms were more appropriate. I also think had it been nicer weather where you could spend more downtime outside, the albergue experience would’ve been dramatically different. We can count on one hand the number of times the weather allowed us outside at the end of the day to drink cervezas with pilgrims or enjoy a cafe con leche in the morning sun.

I won’t write descriptions for each (email me if you want more specific info), but this is where we stayed:

  1. St. Jean: Hotel Ramuntcho
  2. Roncevalles: Albergue (it’s huge, but not sure of the official name)
    The newly remodeled albergue is a must stay for any pilgrim. Just don’t expect the rest to be as nice. Bunk bed cubicles in groups of four. Hot showers. A little noisy, but nice.
  3. Zubiri: Zaldiko (Priv. Albergue)
  4. Cizur Menor: Albergue Roncal(Priv. Albergue)
    This is where magical Marabel lives. She runs this albergue and is a magician with feet. She showed me the best way to care for blisters which I’ll post on later. I’m glad we stayed here instead of Pamplona. On a nice day everyone was outside reading or doing laundry. Decent facilities but the highlight was the turtle pond.  
  5. Puente la Reina: Hotel Jakue
    Spent two days here to heal feet some. Worth it for the buffet alone. Nice stay. 
  6. Estella: Juvenil Oncineda (Muni. Albergue)
  7. Los Arcos: Casa de Abuela (Priv. Albergue)
    Great private room on the top floor. Nice kitchen. Near the church which is pretty incredible inside.
  8. Viana: Andres Muñoz (Muni. Albergue)
    Winner of the worst albergue we stayed in on the Camino. Bed bugs, gross laundry room, triple decker bunk beds, stuffy room, screaming neighbors, rude hospitalero.  
  9. Navarrete: (Priv. Albergue)
  10. Azofra: (Muni. Albergue)
    2 bed cubicles were a treat. Seemed newish. Co-ed bathroom. Laundry. During summer, the courtyard would be really nice with the fountain. Nice people running it.
  11. Castildelgado: Hostal El Chocolatero
  12. Villafranca: Hotel San Anton Abad
    Nice bathrooms. Private room through the bunk room which was a little awkward. Really nice pilgrim’s meal. The ladies running the place were so incredibly nice and accommodating. Geese outside.
  13. San Juan de Ortega: Alojamiento Rural-La Henera (Casa Rural)
  14. Burgos: Hotel Velada
    Where Martin Sheen stayed part of the time when filming The Way. Really great deal on a nice room. We had to do laundry here and they had it done in 2 hours!
  15. Hontanas: El Puntido (Priv. Albergue)
  16. Boadilla: En El Camino (Priv. Albergue)
    Family run operation. You can tell they enjoy what they do. Great family style dinner and breakfast. Again, in summer it would be nice with the little pool they had in the garden area.  
  17. Carrion de los Condes: Hostal la Corte
  18. Terradillos de los Templarios: Albergue de los Templarios (Priv. Albergue)
  19. Hermanillos de la Calzada: (Muni. Albergue)
  20. Mansilla de Las Mulas: El Postigo (Hostal)
  21. Leon: Hotel Paris
    Nicest room we stayed in on the Camino, after Hotel Compostela at the end. Slept great here. Good location too. 
  22. Villar de Mazarife: San Antonio de Padua (Priv. albergue)
  23. Astorga: La Peseta (Hotel)
  24. Foncebadon: Convento de Foncebadon (Priv. Albergue)
    This place was nice and clean. A little surly on the staff side but we ate the vegetarian meal at the wildly popular Monte Irago a couple doors up the hill. They were super nice there and the meal was amazing. Judith even got an hour massage for 20 euros! 
  25. Ponferrada: Hotel El Castillo
  26. Villafranca del Bierzo: Albergue de La Piedra (Priv. Albergue)
  27. La Faba: Parroquia de San Andres (Muni. Albergue)
    German run parish house. Nice man that was running it at the time. If the weather was nice, being outside would’ve helped. It was next door to a 15th century church. Worst beds though. And only 2 restrooms for 35+ pilgrims (women/men). Let’s just say we were happy that we were one of the first to arrive. After the muddy and wet day, there wasn’t any surface that didn’t have someone’s clothes hanging on it to dry. Lots of men’s bikini briefs and women’s granny panties. 
  28. Triacastela: Complexo Xacobeo (Priv. Albergue)
    Probably the best private room albergue. After a hellish day coming down O’Cebreiro this was a treat.  We had a private room on the top floor which had windows facing the hills and a small patio and spacious bathroom. Great restaurant too.
  29. Sarria: Albergue Ultreia
  30. Palas de Rei: Casa Benilde (Hotel)
  31. Arzua: Meson do Peregrino (Hostel)
  32. Arca/Pedrouzo: Albergue o’ Burgo (Network Hostel)
  33. Santiago: Hotel Compostela
    Great location and value for a nicer end hotel. The AC didn’t work in the first room we had and with the doors open we didn’t sleep with the partying going on until 5am. They upgraded us to another room with a private balcony which was even better. Only 5 minute walk to the Cathedral and steps from the historic district.  
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Strong woman award goes to…

…my stepmother, Merna.

You may think walking 500 miles is the ultimate measure of strength and determination, but you would be mistaken.

I would like to dedicate all those miles to Merna. Little did we know soon after starting the Camino that Merna had a stroke and had lost a lot of mobility on one side of her body and greatly affected her speech. It sounded like very scary and trying times for her and my Dad. Through love, prayers and the support of family and friends she has come a long way. She is a trooper and committed to all her therapies that have helped her regain much of her mobility and improve her speech.

It must be incredibly frustrating to not be able to do what your mind is telling your body to do. I know she doesn’t feel quite like her old self yet but am so proud of how far she has come. I am so thankful she is doing better and can’t wait for both her and my dad to get back out on the road of retirement.

Stay strong Merna!

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There’s no place like home.

While waiting at the airport in Barcelona I started to think back on the last six weeks we’ve been in Spain. I was a peregrina for five of those weeks, and a visitor for the entire six weeks. As with anyone traveling abroad you immediately find the cultural differences and maybe even long for the comforts of home you left behind. While I love to travel and learn about life in the rest of the world, Spain is not my home. I’d like to think I now know the country a little bit better than when I arrived, and maybe take all that I’ve learned to make me a better visitor to the next country or city I travel to. It’s a good feeling to want to come back home and I’m thankful that home is the United States.

There’s no way I can recap all that I saw, people I met, and every experience but I occasionally think of a few observations I had along the way. Let me say this here first – these are my observations based on my own experiences. They may be considered generalizations and not representative of Spain in its entirety. Just like not all Americans sound like George Bush and are obese. I apologize in advance if I offend.

While in northern Spain (or specifically, the Camino) I noticed the following:

  • Many people do not cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
  • Soap and toilet paper in public restrooms is a nice to have but not standard practice. I tried not to think about the people handling your food using the same restrooms and not washing their hands afterwords. Let’s just say those two rolls of biodegradable toilet paper we bought at REI, were gone by the end, and we restocked with imitation Wet Ones towelettes several times.
  • Spaniards tend to speak loudly and closely. ¿Como se dice ‘space cushion’? I don’t think they are trying to be rude, but it just is part of being so social.
  • Spaniards know how to party. Many are quite social and boisterous in groups. With a daily siesta and late sleeping and eating schedules, the Spanish lifestyle is about family and friends and not ruled by timelines. I think Jonathan read somewhere that the Spanish sleep one hour less than other Europeans.
  • Religion is important. Even the tiniest of towns were built around the church. Old and new generations seem to respect and grow up with Catholicism and even churches that seem modest from the outside are rich on the inside; whether architecturally or by ornamentation. I’ve said this before, if Spain needs money, they need not look further than the church.
  • Dogs and cats are not pets per se, but usually are functional and serve as security or ‘free agents’. As an animal lover, seeing dogs chained up or left in the cold rain without food and water  or shelter nearby was difficult to see at times. In the rural areas this was really evident. I know some of the larger cities definitely embraced the little ‘handbag-sized’ dogs as pets but it was quite different from the US. Sometimes it was cute though. Like the time we watched this little dog help the farmer herd this cow. The cow looked so annoyed, but the dog was definitely the one in charge (or the cow at least let him think that).
  • Smoking is still cool? Catch my drift? I realize smoking is wildly popular globally, not just in Spain. I think Europeans seem to be more accepting of smoking and smokers than here in America. Like all the cigarette machines that have pictures of people running or being athletic which is amusing. I just wish people were more considerate of those around them when smoking. You aren’t allowed to smoke in restaurants, bars and public buildings but they don’t aggressively enforce that in the more rural areas. For awhile we were always running into this older couple who were always smoking cigarettes and a pipe. Even when walking the Camino. (They were not carrying packs.) When you’re wet, cold, tired and trying to get ready to walk another 15km you really don’t enjoy having smoke blown in your face. Or we’d get to the top of a long, steep climb and there they’d be in the one place you could sit and rest, puffing away–downwind.
  • Food is simple but good. We Americans love to add-on or accessorize our food. Whether it’s in the form of  hot sauce, spices, syrups, foams, sprinkles, coloring, etc. We like to make it our own and have it just the way we like it. In Spain, we never saw a bottle of hot sauce and if you wanted salt and pepper you had to ask for it, unless it was with the olive oil and vinegar for your salad. That’s right, there aren’t ten different salad dressings to choose from. Just oil and vinegar–why would you need anything else anyway? No mustard or mayonaise for your bocadillo. Just bread and jamon, and sometimes queso. No soy milk or hazelnut syrup for your latte. Just coffee and whole milk—and the biggest sugar packets ever. No artificial sweeteners, real sugar. I think it is so nice to have so many choices, but at the same time, it’s nice to not have to think about it. Why do we complicate things so much sometimes? It’s nice to go back to the basics every now and then. That said, I was happy to reunite with my Tapatio.

These were the observations that were top of mind. I’m sure I’ll remember more later on. I knew we were close to home when the man across the row from me on the plane starting coughing over the rows in front of him and not covering his mouth and immediately the flight attendant scolded him, “Sir, please cover your mouth!”. Ahhh…home sweet home.

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