Looking back, looking ahead

This survey pretty much accurately reflects my personal 2017.
- I spent about 15% of my time this year worried about our country, something I spent maybe 1% on before.
- I also got to see a lot of the country: California, Nebraska, Idaho, Texas, Arkansas, New York, Missouri, and Oklahoma. And we went to Iceland!
- I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather was murdered - and that my great-great grandfather took revenge.
- Book-wise, I worked on two great books: Run, Hide, Fight Back (2018) and The Lonely Dead (2019).
- In my personal life, there have been challenges, but those have also led me to a great support group and more of a spiritual practice than I have had in years.
- In the middle of the year and hours from home, my car broke down, which cost thousands of dollars and stranded me at my brother's house for a week. But that meant I got to spend more time with him and his family than I have in decades.
- And a recap of the best and worst of 2017 wouldn't be complete without mentioning Brazilian jiujitsu. It doesn't make any sense that I love it, but I do.

As for the first day of 2018, I always like to start off the New Year the way I want I want it to go. So today I will run, write and pay attention. I've decided "Pay attention" is my phrase for 2018.

What to pack for Iceland

We just got back from a week in Iceland.  I read a lot of blogs before we went, and packed accordingly.  Here's the feedback I wish I could give my past self.

Great ideas of things to bring

  • Rain pants. I almost didn't pack these, planning to just rent a pair for our glacier hike.  It rained SO HARD several days. I saw many tourists in soaked pants. I bought a used pair from REI on ebay and they were perfect.

  • Rash guards, like these from Lands End.  These pack small, don't wrinkle, and can give you another layer to keep you warm and keep something you might want to wear more than once from smelling.

  • Snacks. A lot of time, when it came time to eat lunch, there was no place nearby, or we weren't very hungry, because of the filling breakfasts served at most hotels.  I brought cashews, almonds, Jif to Go, Nutella to Go, Clif bars and Kind bars.  We didn't end up using the Jif, but I still think it was a good idea.

  • Collapsible water bottles. Iceland has wonderful water and it seems a crime to buy bottled water that comes in single-use plastic.  I'm packing this for future trips.

  • Eddie Bauer daypack. This packs down small and tucks in your luggage. I used this every day, and now plan on taking it everytime I travel.

Things I wish I would have brought

  • Dry phone cover.  I used my phone in the rain, and later the volume icon started going up and down on its own.  It's finally stopped, but I'm pretty sure it's water damaged.

  • Lotion. We stayed at nicer hotels, but not a single one stocked lotion.

  • Water-resistant shoes. I bought one pair of sturdy shoes and another pair of tennies. When I wore them around Reykjavík they got wet enough that my dark socks actually dyed my toes.

Things that were a good idea that I didn't actually use

  • Headlamp

  • Binoculars

Some things I figured out

  • We got a GPS with our car but it seemed a bit out of date. It did not have our built-in-2016 hotel. It also had an Icelandic keyboard, but we had an English guidebook that has an approximation of the Icelandic, since the letters are different. The words are all long and look alike, at least to me. Twice our GPS had a different idea about where to go than the right one. We started using Google Maps on our phone as a supplement to the GPS.

  • If you think you might need to go to the bathroom, do. Restrooms are few and far between. There's actually a category of Youtube videos devoted to tourists deciding to go to the bathroom in public places. And don't bitch about paying a dollar to go - it costs money to put them up and run them.

  • It's probably a good idea not to let your tank get lower than half.

  • Know the pin for your credit card. You need to enter it on the gas station pump

  • Icelanders are pretty hands-off. They don't baby you. If there is a warning sign, heed it. Don't step over the rope to get a better picture of the 200-foot waterfall.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - an amazing book!

This week, three books I had had on hold for weeks or even months all showed up at the library.  What to do?  Each must be returned within three weeks, and they are all so popular that I can't renew them.

I decided to start with Gin Phillips' Fierce Kingdom, which is about a mother and her four-year-old son who are trapped at the zoo when a shooting breaks out. Oh. My. GOD.

What a great book! It has been forever since I fell headlong into a book. Reading it was like a fever dream. I didn't edit in my head, didn't question word choices. I just loved it. It was like being a kid again, when books were pure magic and I didn't even know there were tricks tucked in sleeves.

And I did something I haven't done in years: I decided to stay up as late as it took to finish it.

It was totally worth the lack of sleep.

Here are some examples of her writing (some are screen shots, some I typed in):

Check out how repeition makes things more powerful.

​"This girl's bones feel like china, like blown glass, like handles on teacups. The girl feels like all kinds of precious things."

"People say she's a nice girl. She makes mostly A's and B's. Hardly ever C's. She saves her money in the bank. But now she wishes that she were the kind of girl who set things on fire instead of the kind of girl who proofreads her work. She wishes she knew how to scare people. She wishes she had worked yesterday instead of today, and she wishes she carried pepper spray like her mother has told her she should, and she wishes she had an Almond Joy, cold, and she wishes she were home in bed and her pillows were fluffed, and she wishes she had grabbed that little boy Lincoln and run with him and saved him, and she wishes she were a woman in a video game with pistols on her hips and cleavage .  She wishes her father could still pick her up and carry her, but she is too heavy."

And I love the rhythm of her sentences - long galloping ones followed by short declarative ones.

This was a five-star book for me!