Gearing Up for Iceland

I’ve already purchased the most important parts of my gear for my upcoming trip to Iceland…hiking boots, socks, and my geologic field book. I’ll wear the boots every day, hiking around volcanos, geothermal pools, and fault lines. The socks are also key. I got the best, warm socks with no seams which are knit to conform to your foot. The notebook was prescribed…a waterproof, bound book with geologic references in the back. Next up? Layers.

I bought my boots at REI. I don’t know what it is about them that drew me there, but I couldn’t even think of another place to go. Once there, I was surprised to learn that they are a co-op and that membership of $20 (which goes to local trails) gives you entrée to discounts and more. In my first trip, I got my boots, socks, and water shoes. The water shoes will be nice for the hostel shower, but I really bought them for fording streams (don’t you just love the adventure in those words?).

My second trip, I was in search of rain gear…my outer layer. The weather will be between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I will need to go out for the day with clothing that protects me from rain and snow and sun. I could head out in a snow squall, spend hours making observations in the rain, and then find myself at a geothermal pool ready to swim. The sun will be up for 20 hours and in twilight-mode for the other four hours. What to wear, what to wear!

The helpful folks at REI helped me find a rain jacket and rain pants. For some reason, the woman helping me thought I was going to Iceland with my husband, despite my correcting her multiple times. I told her I was traveling there with a class. Finally, she got it and apologized. Then she told the next associate that “the teacher” needed help finding a waterproof pen. I let that one slide. Yes, I am a 52 year old student…being mistaken for a teacher is an honor!

In the end, I chose the low-end products for my outer layer. You can spend a fortune on this stuff, but I’ll only need it for a couple of weeks. I need to buy bigger sizes so that I can wear a light jacket and pants over at least two other layers for warmth. When the associates tried to get me to buy other layers, I demurred. I have tons of running gear and I’m pretty sure that I can fill my suitcase with my winter running tights, running jackets and long-sleeved T’s. I don’t need backpacking-specific clothes when I already have similar gear for running.Buff

I did succumb to something called a “Buff”. This turned out to be $20 for $5 dollar worth of fabric. I bought into the concept of a lightweight loop of fabric that I could wear around my neck and use to warm my neck, face, and/or head just by shifting the fabric.

In the end, it’s not about fashion. It’s about flexibility. I’m not ready to pack yet, but I am thinking ahead to when I will. I need a few new things…hopefully things I can continue to use after my trip. In the meantime…

Find the Joy in the Journey…and remember, you can’t go wrong with layers!




Getting My Second Adulthood Started: Back To School

When I first decided that getting a (third) masters degree was my path to late-life happiness, I thought I was unique and that I’d get a lot of odd looks and serious ribbing. Surprisingly, I found a lot of support and many similar stories.

I really only need look to my own mother and father to see examples of   growth after fifty. At fifty, my mom was pursuing a Doctorate (something that I am obviously not cut out for…Masters degrees are my “thing”!). My dad, since turning fifty, has published a book, written two memoirs, become a certified financial planner…and, I can’t fail to mention, jumped out of a plane and gone to Spain to run with (or watch) the bulls. (What happens in Spain, stays in Spain!)

When I started to tell my own peers, however, I really was surprised. All in their fifties, I’ve found such similar stories to mine. There’s a friend who shattered her hip in her late thirties and now wants to get a Masters in exercise science. Then there is the friend who found that by going to a personal trainer during a difficult time of life,  found a life couch as an added benefit and now wants to pursue both. Even my big sister is now pursuing a Masters…one which, like mine, draws upon her unique background and points her to an interesting and unique future.

Here I am, 26 years into a corporate career in purchasing, starting a Masters in Environmental Science. I started out completely bored in high school, looking for the most difficult college degree I could find. I looked to either aeronautic or chemical engineering. I ended up with chemical. It was a real challenge, one for which my high school didn’t fully prepare me.

When I graduated, in 1986, OPEC fell apart and the demand for chemical engineers plummetted. I got my MBA instead of a job. From there, I ended up in purchasing. With less than a year under my belt, I found that my company would pay for me to get a masters…so I got a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering. Why not? Degree in hand, I found a position working with my company’s suppliers to improve their manufacturing processes.

Years later, I find myself drawn to water. There are water crises everywhere…too much, too little, too polluted…but where I live, there is 20% of the world’s fresh water…The problems and solutions are unique to each location…moving fresh water around the world is not the solution.

I am at an age and at a point in my career where I just want to follow my passions…but I really want to make a difference too. For me, the answer is a new Master’s degree…for others, it’s something different. For all of us? Following our hearts!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and may your personal journey fulfill your personal legacy!

Legacy Night And Questioning The Food I Eat

Tonight was something called “Legacy Night” at my daughter’s school. This is a middle school event (seventh and eighth grade) and one we’d apparently missed last year, probably due to softball and/or basketball conflicts. I had a vague idea that this was about all the time the class had spent on an organic farm during the school year and that my daughter had to “dress up”. As I dropped her off at school, she told me that I was supposed to pick her up after school and bring her back for the six o’clock event. I told her I’d try, but I had meetings all day up until 5 o’clock. She then told me that she’d brought her dress-up clothes and could always go to latch-key after school, but that she did want dinner.

In the end, I didn’t get out of work in time to bring her home nor to bring her dinner (although I did put a granola bar in my purse in case of emergency). When I arrived, she seemed surprised. She asked why I’d come if I couldn’t take her home for dinner. I told her I was there for the event and she told me I didn’t need to attend because it was going to be “boring”. Hmm. I was there, as were all the other parents, and I intended to stay. I am so glad that I did.

There were ten teams of four to five students who presented. They spent two days at the farm each academic cycle, totaling about five times throughout the year. Each team had a project to do and was also responsible for some non-academic aspect of their stay such as meal planning, clean-up, team-building, etc. Some of the projects were about erosion, water quality, soil quality, use of alternative energy, etc. Other teams had record-keeping responsibilities to document their work.

I was impressed with what the students had learned and how well they worked together. I did see a bias towards a pro-organic, anti-GMO viewpoint without a serious effort to document the contrary view. I did agree with most of their conclusions, but they were weaker for not having an equally strong review of the opposing viewpoint. It was good middle-school work, but definitely not high school-level research.

I was moved to tears by seeing how well the students worked together and enjoyed their time at the farm, their respect for the farm owner and farm-workers, their presentation skills, and their sincerity. My daughter may not appreciate the education she has received in this Montessori school for the last five years, but someday she will.

What really got to me, despite no citations to back up their assertions, were the descriptions of “factory farms”. Chickens that never see the light of day and are injected with hormones to cut the time to grow in half and effectively make them incapable of walking. Piglets taken from their mothers at four weeks so that the mothers can be impregnated again. Cattle whose tails are cut off without anesthesia so that their stalls can be just that much smaller. They had many stories and none of them were pretty. I started feeling sick about the meats I eat and wondered if I should just become a vegetarian. In the end, I did decide to be more conscious of my eating. I prefer Amish chicken, and I am sure I’ll be buying it at the grocery instead of the cheaper, now-suspect chicken. I don’t eat much beef, so that is less of an issue, and they didn’t talk about fish, so I’m focusing on my chicken consumption for the time being.

Mindfulness and education are important to me. I have no problem with eating meat, but I do have a problem with systematic cruelty towards food animals. We are long past the days of The Jungle…or are we? Something to think about.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when it’s time to question your path!