My Head Trip

I used to be an extrovert.

Now, I consider myself an introvert with some extrovert added to the mix. I have a hearing loss. One ear is deaf and the other partially deaf. I feel like I have an invisible veil separating me from others. 

Two years ago, after struggling to hear with friends, travelers, servers, family, salespeople,I checked into getting hearing aids. Each time, I felt frustration as technicians told me: “they should work.” They did not work for me. It began a path towards partial isolation and frustration.

I visited specialists at Kaiser, my medical group After test results, my doctor said, “You have a brain tumor which has damaged your auditory nerve."

“Hearing aids won’t help.”

“What?” My mind raced to thoughts of my grandfather who died of brain cancer. The doctor continued, “Good news: it is not cancer. Bad news: Permanent hearing loss with residual symptoms.”


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Take a Trip—Get A Life

by Nancy King

The phone rang, a welcome break from correcting student essays. “Want to take a road trip to New Mexico?" asked my son. “I’ve got five days off and I haven’t seen you in a while.”

My son. The southwest. Five days of fun. "Of course," I replied. 

We spent four days of our visit driving around northern New Mexico, enjoying chile-infused food, appreciating the vast expanse of sky and the changing colors of rock formations sculpted by the wind. The fifth and last day began innocently enough.  My son sells houses so our host suggested he visit some properties with a real estate agent. “Want to come?” he asked me. 

"Of course," I said. I had no idea of what was to come. 

The first house the realtor showed us was old, ugly, and expensive—mouse droppings everywhere.  “Good thing I’m not planning to move to Santa Fe,” I thought. The second house looked so forlorn it needed anti-depressants as much as it needed paint. A third house had mirrors everywhere—even on the ceiling in the kitchen. Who would want to live in a place that looked like a brothel? 

As we drove away, the realtor said, “There’s a house that just came on the market two days ago. If the owners agree, would you like to take a look at the house?" My son nodded yes.  The realtor looked at me. I shrugged. What did I care? Just one more house to look at.

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Breaking Through

by Nancy King

Paul, the young landscaper I had hired to redo my irrigation system asked, “Would you mind if we dug up a small area of the flagstones? It would make laying the new irrigation lines a lot easier.”

“Yes, I mind,” I responded, enjoying the surprised look on his face. “I want you to get rid of that whole flagstone and concrete path. For years I’ve hated looking at it.” He nodded. “And,” I added, “while you’re at it, I’d like you to take out all the concrete between the house and the garage and in front of the garage.”
He was laughing too hard to say anything but I was on a roll and not about to stop. “And, please get rid of the trellis—it’s a heavy pressure-treated wood eyesore that’s overbuilt and expensive to maintain.” For years I’d been resenting the money it cost to keep the outside of my house looking moderately appealing and the timing was perfect. I was heading off to hike in the Grand Canyon and Paul could work his magic in my absence. 
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The Philippines: New Life, New Priorities

by B.J. Stolbov


Mortgage, insurance, car, cable, gas, electric, water . . . drowning in bills, bills, and more bills . . . money going out and out . . . oh, what to do. . . .  What to do?

Two years ago, I joined the Peace Corps.  I sold or gave away most of my stuff.  (Don’t worry: stuff is replaceable.)  I took a suitcase and a backpack, a whole lot of trust and my little bit of courage, and I moved to the other side of the world.


Now, I have two suggestions for you. 

Suggestion #1: The Philippines.  I live in northern Luzon in a beautiful province called Quirino.  It is a quiet, peaceful, rural province.  The place reminds me of Northern California, only with palm trees and fresh bananas.  The people here are warm, friendly, and hospitable.  (Hospitality is THE cultural trait of the Filipinos.)  The Filipinos will invite you their homes and will treat you like family.  You will not go hungry here, we eat as often as six times a day, and the food is simple and good.  The living is relaxed and basic.

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Now Playing in Paris

by Dorty Nowak

Several years ago my husband and I moved to Paris.  Although I was an avid student of French culture and cuisine, my knowledge of the French language was minimal.  Freshman year in college I dropped out of French 101 because partying was much more fun than memorizing vocabulary, a decision I’ve regretted ever since.  Over the years I had accumulated several “French for Travelers” texts, some Berlitz tapes, and enough rudimentary vocabulary to get by on my occasional vacations in France. 

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The Reluctant Shaman

Rachel E. MannI could write about my two trips to the former Soviet Union, the first during the time it was being speculated by the old Sovietologists that Andropov had died because he was no longer showing up in Politburo photo shoots, and the second the summer of the coup when a drunk Yeltsin danced on a tank in front of the White House in Moscow.  These are among a number of outer trips in my life.  But for me, the outer journeys are just juicy manifestations of a bigger and far more important inner journey that led me to becoming a reluctant shaman.


Just declaring in a public forum that I am a shaman takes the breath out of me. To say that my life is a trip may actually be an understatement.  I mean, I think it’s a truly crazy trip when you realize you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and a chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia and simultaneously you suddenly find yourself meeting spirits who come to help you, or you are wandering in the Underworld where you meet and retrieve lost parts of yourself, and you encounter the traumas of your ancestors and even the world as a whole. In the process, I have met some interesting and amazing men and women, in this more ordinary realm of life, some of them whom I call the “new shamans” of the West.

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