It’s been about 12 years since I became a runner…relatively late in my life. Since the start of the PanDamit I have used running as therapy for my mental and emotional health. Along the way it also helped me lose and maintain the loss of thirty pounds. And when I had major diverticulosis surgery in April, I found a way to incorporate running for recovery into my wellness plan.
During the early lockdown days of the PanDamit I ran constantly from my home base in Washington State, as well as during our little close-to-home sanity staycations. From May 2020 to April 2021, I trained for and ran a total of five half marathons.
My last half marathon was on April 18th, two days before I underwent my diverticulosis surgery. I took about six weeks off after the surgery from running, and then very slowly started back at it. And I mean very slowly. It was amazing how much that surgery took out of me. Even now, nearly five months from surgery, I am slower and struggle often to keep my pace. But she persists! I hope I will eventually get back to my pre-surgery running self. And if I don’t, then I will live with my new post-surgery running self. I intend to keep running at whatever level I can as long as my body allows it.
Return to Running
Meanwhile, since my slow return to running in June, I have been once again following Hal Higdon’s half marathon training program. This is the absolute best training program I have found. It’s easy and safe and flexible…all things I need in my fab fifties (sixties) life.
So this week I will run another half marathon. An organized run that supports the local organization Race for a Soldier, a non-profit close to my heart. I’ll be slower than before. I might need to walk part of the 13.2 miles. But I will cross the finish line with a smile on my face. Because running for recovery is my answer to all things that life throws at us in 2021; surgery, lockdown, stress and the never ending PanDamit.
Be healthy my friends.
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I can really identify with Joel Burkhardt. It’s easy to identify with the emotions you encounter when you first retire and are struggling to find what’s next. Retirement can have you looking for focus and passion in a new unknown period of life. Neither of us are the first to step into retirement and feel a bit lost. But for lifelong Gig Harbor resident Joel, he is finding some solace in a passion for creating in wood.
Post Retirement Focus
After 32 years in the Coast Guard, when Joel retired in April he foundered…his entire identity was wrapped up in being a Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard. One day he was. The next day he wasn’t. He admittedly felt “weird” while he searched to settle into his new identity. A cancer diagnosis didn’t help, and so Joel found some comfort in working with his hands and a passion for creating in wood.
“People don’t realize what’s going to happen when they retire,” Joel said. “After 32 years in the military, it’s hard to justify in my head that career is over.” Joel wondered who he was now that he wasn’t in the Coast Guard. He turned to friends and the VA to help keep him focused. And he turned to a new hobby of woodworking.
A New Hobby
Joel had dabbled in woodworking a little before retiring, making a bell for his unit (see photos) to use for ceremonies and call to assembly. But when his mom needed a cutting board, he told her he would make her one. His wife Kelly posted pictures of the cutting board and then someone else wanted one. I saw the pictures and I wanted one too. And now, Joel creates beautiful, one of a kind trays and cutting boards in his shop near Wollochet Bay where he is finding his passion for creating in wood.
Every piece Joel makes is unique. Clients can choose the wood (his favorites are walnut, mahogany and purple heart) as well as the design and the size. Joel has a distinctive process of doing fractal burning on some pieces and can add color to the burn. It makes the wood look like it’s been touched by the hand of Zeus himself.
Joel also loves to work with resin, and depending on what the wood piece is going to be used for, a resin finish is often added. Resin can also be used in many artistic ways and he is enjoying getting creative with this substance.
“Wood prices are finally coming down,” Joel told me this week from his shop. “We can get exotic wood like zebra, black palm, leopard and highly marbled walnut.” Joel finds his wood at shops in Tacoma and Everett and sometimes even from Amazon.
Dancing Ghost Woodworks
Joel named his new wood working business Dancing Ghost Woodworks and you can find him on Facebook. He looks forward to working with clients to pick out the wood and design. He then gets busy matching the grains, planing and finishing. If you want a design or logo he can do that too, free hand with his palm router.
The cutting board Joel made me was made from end cuts and it is so clever and beautiful. It looks awesome in my kitchen and I love it. Not to mention I use it daily and it is solid and sturdy.
Want to shop local, thank a dedicated veteran AND have a one-of-a-kind piece of art? Contact my friend Joel. You’ll be glad you did.
Not everyone is ready yet to travel….and not every country is ready to accept international travelers. But after 13 and a half months stuck in the USA, we are ready to go. So many of you have been asking about our plans, so today I thought I would share with you how we are restarting the Grand Adventure.
The Grand Adventure which began in 2016 has evolved over time and will continue to evolve as we mitigate a new world. We may never again be able to flit from country to country the way we did before, but with planning, caution and ingenuity we think we can have a travel life full of adventure and intrigue.
Restarting The Grand Adventure
After abandoning our travels mid-itinerary in spring 2020, this week we embark on our first international trip. During our time in the USA we have done a lot of travel to eight different states. But this will be our first trip out of the USA since April 30, 2020.
We fly this week to Iceland for a two-week adventure. No tour, just on our own, using the Rick Steves Iceland Guide. Our visit includes three days in Reykjavik, then nine days in a camper van exploring the island. We have visited Iceland before, but only for two short days so we have always wanted to go back. Iceland seems like a safe place for restarting the Grand Adventure.
Summer and Fall
After two weeks in Iceland we will return to Washington State for the rest of the summer, as summer is the best time of year to be here in the Pacific Northwest. We have a couple of short excursions planned within the state as well as a trip to Maine in early September.
On September 20th we fly back to Maui where we will stay in the apartment of a friend who will be off island for six weeks and then two additional weeks in an Airbnb. Then we fly to Los Angeles before heading on to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. Next we have a trip to Mexico City for a Taco Tour (no joke, a whole week of eating tacos with a guide) and on to Oaxaca before returning to Washington to spend Christmas with our family.
2022 Away We Go
January and February will be spent in French Polynesia. OMG yes it will. First time there so I’m really excited. We will spend two months on the island of Moorea as a big step towards restarting the Grand Adventure.
March is still unplanned but we tentatively hope to fly back to Washington, say hi to the fam, repack and reorganize and then, embark to Israel and restart the itinerary we abandoned, almost two years to the day in March 2020. We have not booked that yet…we will wait and watch and keep our fingers crossed that the world will find its way and we can find our way back to the retirement life we were living and had always dreamed of.
I plan to continue to blog until its not fun anymore so keep following and we will tell you what we are doing. Finding us on Instagram is a great way to get daily updates and beautiful and fun photos and videos. We love your interest and are grateful. Cheers to all of you for your continued support!
I’ve learned a lot of things from living in the PanDamit, mostly to be more patient and flexible. Additionally I’ve learned there are a lot of crazy people and I just need to keep my head down and do the things I believe in, without judging even when I am being judged. Like I’ve said before, I absolutely refuse to be a victim in all of this. Instead I am searching for the learning opportunities and growing each and everyday from this life we are handed. It is still a fabulous life. And if our adventures help others make the step forward cautiously into the brave new world, then our work here is done.
In our travels we have been blessed to visit a lot of gardens; botanical gardens, native gardens, home gardens, arboretums…even sculpture gardens. Fun and educational, I always look for these places in cities and countries as we travel. So today I will share with you My Favorite Gardens Around the World.
I sat down and tried to remember all the gardens we have seen. Because I enjoy gardening back in my home state of Washington in the USA, I always want to check out gardens in other places. My husband also enjoys looking at gardens, especially ones with native species we may not be familiar with. Lately Arne and I have become amateur bird watchers, and my favorite gardens around the world are always a great place to see birds.
My Favorite Gardens Around the World
As I have been working on my own tiny garden this spring I’ve been dreaming of starting to travel again and some of the world’s most beautiful gardens have been floating through my head…and thus this idea to blog about them has bloomed. I don’t have photos of all my favorite gardens around the world, but I do hope in your own travels you can find your way to some of these enchanting locations….some big, some small, all beautiful.
In no particular order, here are my favorite gardens around the world.
Phoenix, Arizona – the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix is not large but it is laid out beautifully and makes a beautiful and interesting garden to stroll through.
Portland, Oregon – The Portland Japanese Gardens is one of the most unexpected gardens I have ever been to. A hidden gem right in the heart of beautiful Portland Oregon
Seattle, Washington – Volunteer Park Conservatory. I have only been here once, and it was on a blustery cold winter day, and stepping into this warm and alluring conservatory was a perfect activity for a winter day. I loved everything about this place and hope to return soon.
Spokane, Washington – Manito Park and Botanical Gardens is one of my most favorite things to do when visiting Spokane. The sprawling park offers so much plant beauty, including a Japanese Garden and a beautiful Rose Garden.
Boston, Massachusetts – Boston Public Gardens is the oldest botanical gardens in the USA and offers 24 acres of beauty to stroll through in any season. One of my favorite Boston sites in a town full of amazing sites.
Bainbridge Island, Washington – practically in my own back yard, Bloedel Reserve is a 150 acre historic property and gardens whose mission is to enrich people’s lives through a premier public garden of natural and designed Pacific Northwest landscapes. Timed entrance tickets available online.
San Marino, California – The Huntington Botanical Gardens is so much more than just spectacular gardens. This historic site is home to an Art Museum, Library, events and lectures…and of course one of the most beautiful gardens in the USA.
Victoria British Columbia – The Butchart Gardens is one of the most outstanding gardens anywhere in the world. No matter the season, it is a jaw dropping and magnificent 55 acres to behold.
Montreal Quebec – Jardin Botanique de Montreal was not on our radar when we set out to visit beautiful Montreal, we fortunately just stumbled upon it. We were there in the fall and it was truly first class, one of my favorite gardens ever.
Sydney – Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney we only had four days to explore the beautiful city of Sydney and we made the most of our time from beach to hiking, performance and food. But one of our favorite discoveries was these phenomenal gardens, home to both flora, fauna and feathers.
Singapore – Gardens by the Bay. Amazing. I could have spent a week in this place, an astonishing futuristic garden in one of the most astonishing cities in the world. The super tree structures and skywalk were incredible (especially at night) but my favorite was the cloud forest and flower dome. Worth a trip to Singapore just to see this.
Pamplemousses – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens. Often referred to as the SSR Botanical Gardens, this beautiful garden is named for Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Mauritius’ first Prime Minister and a leader in Mauritius independence. The gardens were begun in the late 1700’s during the French occupation and today incorporates fruits, flowers and trees from all over the world in its 33 hectare site.
Kandy – Royal Botanical Gardens. Our visit to Sri Lanka was so wonderful and this country remains one of our favorites. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy is one of three botanical gardens in the country – each unique. This garden was beautiful, very large and home to a great many species of trees, flowering plants, orchids, birds and bats.
Shanghai – Shanghai Botanical Gardens is the largest botanical garden in all of China. It encompasses more than 81 hectares and includes beautiful strolling paths and water features as well as thousands of trees, flowers, shrubs and more. Shanghai is a beautiful city, so different from Beijing.
Haifa – Baha’i Hanging Gardens this was a surprising place in the heart of Haifa. These gardens aren’t actually “hanging” but the crawl up the hill and present a spectacular site for many vantage points. The gardens are the home to the shrines where the founders of the Baha’i faith are buried. A site to see.
Touring gardens when you travel provides a peek into local culture and customs, while also enriching with beauty and education. I encourage you to support these beautiful places everywhere you go.
Zach Tanner loves coffee. That may not seem that unusual, especially in the Pacific Northwest where coffee is a cultural phenom. But Zach doesn’t just love to drink coffee. Oh no. Coffee is so much more; an inspiration; a fascination; a hobby turned small business. Zach has a passion for coffee in Gig Harbor.
As many of you know I am a coffee-lover. In fact when I travel, tasting coffee around the world is one of the highlights for me; exploring the big wide and diverse world of rich dark coffee. Check out the blog I wrote last year My Favorite Coffee Around the World to learn more.
So when I heard about Zach and his passion for coffee in Gig Harbor I was intrigued. Then I tasted it and I was amazed.
After graduating from Montana State University Zach Tanner spent a number of years living the California film industry dream. But eventually Zach and his wife made their way back to the Pacific Northwest to start a family, settling in a private oasis rural home in Gig Harbor. While working at the Gig Harbor YMCA and being a dad, Zach found time on the side to have a tiny little coffee roaster and play with roasting and observation of beans and flavors.
Then came Covid. Zach lost his job and turned his focus to home-schooling his kids. And roasting coffee. A bigger roaster, more research, a computer program, lots of experimentation, trial and error, more evaluation, a brainstorm session for a business name and boom. Milkman Coffee was born in Zach’s garage.
Zach gets the “green” beans from four different vendors, only organic non-pesticide beans. How the beans are sourced is really important to this coffee aficionado, and when possible his passion extends to women-run coffee bean co-ops in places like Ethiopia. Zach uses beans from many parts of the world including Uganda, Guatemala, Columbia, and Ethiopia.
Usually Zach’s roasts are single origin, but he will blend beans from multiple sources to get just the right flavor profile he is looking for. Don’t misunderstand though…these aren’t flavored coffees. But Zach approaches the taste and aroma of the beans and the final cup of coffee similar to a wine connoisseur; pointing out natural flavor notes in each batch such as vanilla, tobacco, fruit and mineral. Each bag of Milkman lists Zach’s flavor notes.
While Zach continues to put his dad duties first, he hopes to expand Milkman Coffee. Short term goals include a website and social media presence. Long range goals include getting into small markets and farmers markets. But right now this one-man operation hand-delivers the beans to customers in the Gig Harbor area who sign up for regular delivery. Roasted beans are $15 a pound or $20 for a pound and a half.
A passion for coffee in Gig Harbor. Hand-made, delivered fresh and full of flavor. That’s what Zach Tanner is all about with his small coffee roasting business Milkman Coffee. Want to support small business and drink some incredible, organic coffee? Shoot Zach an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been one year today since we arrived in the USA after two months locked down on the island of Cyprus. One freaking crazy year. Even now, after all this time, I sometimes have trouble believing this has all been real. That Pandamit (oops I did it again…Pandemic), really changed absolutely everything, didn’t it?
We hope to travel internationally again soon. However we also know that our international travels of the future will never be as carefree and easy as they were during our four years of the Grand Adventure. But we definitely plan to get back out there.
Meanwhile, 365 days in the USA has given us time to appreciate this beautiful country and all it offers.
Prior to the Pandamit, we had already visited all fifty states. But that doesn’t mean we had seen all the amazing beauty of this nation….not even close. So slow travel in the USA became our new mission. And so far it’s been an amazing journey.
So for today’s blog post I thought I would share A Year in the USA in Pictures – some of my favorite images from our year stuck in the USA. I have no regrets.
Despite it all, it’s been a year of unexpected adventures. We visited Idaho, Colorado and Oregon. Maui was awesome and we enjoyed our time in the Coachella Valley,California and Arizona. Of course our home state of Washington in the summer is a wealth of beauty and adventures. Learning new things, getting healthy,loosing weight, time with family and staying positive have kept us in a good frame of mind. I just absolutely refuse to be a victim in all of this.
People keep asking us what we plan to do next? But, if the Pandamit has taught us anything, it’s don’t make plans! But planning we are, in spite of it all. We will spend 12 days in Iceland in June (fingers crossed). We will return to Maui again in the fall. And we hope to visit Colorado and Arizona again. Mexico is a possibility. We have now been vaccinated and I got my dreaded surgery out of the way, so there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel – but that could be a freight train barreling down…cause these days, you never know!
Meanwhile, we are here and that’s just fine – USA you are just fine and we are grateful for all you offer.
I hope you enjoyed our review A Year in the USA in Pictures.
Note – thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers. I am doing well.
It was six years ago that I ended up in the emergency room due to extreme pain in my abdomen and was diagnosed with acute diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is a flareup of the large intestine due to a disease called diverticulosis. The intestine creates pockets that become inflamed. This is different than polyps often discussed in the colon. The pockets occur for reasons unknown, usually in people over 50 years old. Most develop the pockets in the lower left quadrant of the large intestine. Diverticulosis is the name of the disease, and diverticulitis is what the flareups are called. A flareup can happen at any time and no one knows why.
Some studies have shown obesity as a cause as well as a low fiber diet. Diets in the Western world that are low in fiber and high in carbohydrates create a high number of cases. Usually people who are fit and do physical exercise don’t suffer from this disease. And then there is me.
The day I was rushed into the emergency room I had spent the entire day in bed unable to move or even get up. I couldn’t even walk. It was a horrible pain and it frightened me. On that day I had no idea what diverticulosis was. I was grateful to get a quick diagnosis and begin to understand some of the things my body was saying to me.
After diagnosis I realized that I had suffered from at least two, and possibly three diverticulitis flareups in the past. I had powered through those, but the one that sent me to the hospital was the worst.
Multiple “Episodes” Since
Over the past six years I have had seven additional attacks (episodes) of diverticulitis. Many of these while I was traveling abroad. An attack puts me to bed, makes me constipated, creates a loss of appetite and makes it difficult to move or even walk. The pain is that extreme – it feels like a knife to the gut, over and over. While traveling I carried Ciproflaxin, an antibiotic, and diagnosed and treated myself when necessary.
This past summer while we are on travel pause in the USA we got a new doctor. He provided me some new insight into this disease and showed a deep concern for my future health. He told me that most people require surgery after just two attacks and I can count 8-9. He also talked to me in-depth about the danger of continuing to throw antibiotics at the problem.
No one had discussed surgery with me before. I thought this was a disease I just had to live with. I clearly had more to learn about what is diverticulosis. So on receiving this new information I began some extensive research and met with two more doctors for more opinions.
Although there is much information out there about treating diverticulosis with dietary cleanses and changes, I knew my diet to be very healthy and high fiber. My research provided me a clear picture that my current diet and my lifestyle was not the problem. I lead a healthy life.
So following all my study I decided it was time to do the surgery. It made sense to do the surgery while I was stuck here in the USA, even though I was not very excited about spending time in the hospital during the time of Covid. I originally scheduled the surgery for last December, but again Covid was raging. So I postponed until this week.
Over the past months I have made sure I continued to eat healthy, exercise and keep my weight down to be at my optimal health for surgery. Even so, while traveling in the American Southwest over the past two months I have suffered from almost constant pain. So, no more waiting to deal with this problem. And now that I have been vaccinated, I am more confident about spending five days in the hospital.
I had the surgery earlier this week. I am extremely tired but feeling ok. My doctor tells me I will feel totally normal by end of May, although I can’t start running again until June at the earliest.
Making the Decision
If we had not been forced into travel pause due to the PanDammit, I probably would have put this surgery off a few more years. My doctor worried that a future flareup could result in a dangerous perforation of the colon and spreading bacteria to surrounding tissue, which would require emergency surgery. I definitely did not want to find myself in that situation in a foreign country. And the emergency surgery can be much more invasive than the laparoscopic elective surgery. It can also be more dangerous.
I think I made the right decision for me. But each person needs to review their own situation, do the research and talk to multiple doctors. Each case is unique. If you suffer from this ailment I am happy to tell you more of my story if it can be useful to you. But most importantly, talk to your doctor.
I expect a full recovery, although it will take some time. Thanks for your concern.
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