It is Christmas morning and I am camping on St. George Island off the coast of the panhandle of Florida.
I am snuggled under a folded over quilt and a folded over down comforter. The little space heater I use in Lilac has been working hard all night. It is still cool in the camper outside my bed so when my alarm goes off. I lay there and wonder why I should get up. I mean, really, it is too cold to go out and walk or ride. It is Christmas afterall.
But then I remember how wonderful the starry night was on Christmas Eve. How beautiful the sunrise was the previous morning.
I remembered that it would be fun to send Steve a sunrise picture or two. I pull the covers off. I am already half dressed in two long-sleeve shirts and a light sweatshirt and long underwear.
I turn on the coffee maker and finish putting on many more layers. Ending with a wind breaker because these days the wind blows the cold right through to your skin.
Sleep - A Senior's Dilemma
I have the alarm set for six a.m. each morning. It is part of my sleep-hygene program.
When George got the dementia diagnosis I began to go to workshops to get support and learn more. One place I went I met a man who was conducting research on caregiver longevity. His theory was that if he could help caregivers sleep better maybe they would survive. The statistics he explained were that caregivers often die before their loved one passes. He was studying caregiver sleep and hoping to improve their ability to get good sleep. He was conducting the research program through a University in Florida.
After many tests that monitored my sleep and tested me for sleep apnea, they issued a report. I was averaging over seven hours of sleep! I was surprised at that. It felt like so many nights I was laying there not passing into unconciousness.
They then started teaching me about sleep hygene. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Even if you go to bed late for some reason or have trouble sleeping one night, get up at the same time. So I set my phone's alarm. A pleasant little tune that slowly gets louder and repeats until I tell it to stop.
Other sleep hygene instructions were:
- If you lay awake for 20 minutes. Get up and do something like read until you feel tired again. Then try again. Repeat all night long if you have to.
- Don't look at a phone or computer screen or TV screen for at least an hour before bedtime and don't look at it if you get back up. (This is the hardest habit to give up for me.)
- Keep the room a bit cool.
- Create and follow a bedtime routine; like brush your teeth, lock the doors, do a few stretches.
My friend Regis said if he had one wish he would wish to be able to sleep every night soundly through the night. Those of us over 60 often talk about sleep problems. So I hope the information I shared above might help at least one of you get a good nights sleep.
I have another pointer if none of that works. A bit of blackberry brandy. But use it only when you are despirate... it can be very addictive if you do it too often.
Back to Christmas Morning
I bought some rechargable handwarmers a while back and they have come in handy for warming up the bed a bit before I get in, and for taking with me on mornings like this one.
I grab a headlamp, but I don't use it. There is enough light, even without a moon, to see the road and its edges. I walk to the beach in the dark and wonder when it was I stopped being afraid to walk in the dark outside like this. I have been doing this often enough it isn't scary... as much. I do keep my hand on the flashlight just in case and watch for critters crossing the road. I see none.
I reach the beach at 6:45 and the light in the east is already causing the stars to disappear from view. The big dipper is right over my head. I do my 10 pushups in the sand, pause and watch the sky, do another exercise, pause and watch the sky. The wind is brutal, I move closer to a sand dune where I get some protection. I get to see a small meteor for a brief moment.
A melody on my phone tells me I have an incoming text message. I smile, I know it is Steve and he is wishing me good morning, and he may be out on the dock looking out at the sunrising over the lake in his neighborhood.
I check my phone, it is him and a picture of his sunrise. His power is out, he says. During his working days he was a line man and remembers holidays spent fixing a crisis instead of being home with the family. He feels the workers' pain on this cold Christmas morning.
I send back a picture of my sunrise. If only I could have sent pictures of the starry night last night. He would have loved that. His appreciation of the night sky has enhanced my love of looking up at night.
I learned recently that Potts Preserve is a dark place close to Inverness. You may recall that Potts Preserve is where George and I got lost on the trails and ended up spending a cold night in that preserve in early 2016.
But now I have learned it is a designated dark place for viewing the night sky. This would be something I would never do alone, but Steve (who can read a compass, ha ha) makes it not only possible, but much more desirable.
This is the time of year (when daylight is short) to enjoy starry nights and sunrises.
Before Christmas Day
It is hard to believe a whole month has gone by. I saw the last time I wrote you it was just after Thanksgiving.
I have not been at St George Island by myself.
First Steve joined me at Newport Campground near Crawfordville, FL. The campground is right across from the entrance to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. We had a wonderful time there. The first time we kayaked there it was sooooo incredible. I don't remember ever having such a beautiful awesome view while kayaking or anywhere. Look at the pictures and you will say, "WOW!"
Shortly after we started kayaking we saw five dolphin circling a school of fish and the fish (large ones) jumping. What a thrill!
We saw an American Oystercatcher on one of the many oyster beds in the area.
We went kayaking a few times after that in different places, but none could compare. Both times the wind blew and it was cold. Another time we saw a couple dophin but it wasn't as action packed.
Steve said, "If you don't go experience the uneventful or even bad ones you will never get to the really great ones." So true. Forest Gump... "Life is like a box of chocolates..."
We hiked several times. Once we heard the endangered cockaded woodpecker but didn't see it. Once we stopped in the Nature Center and Steve bought several childrens books for his daughter's classroom. His daugter is a grade-school teacher in New York. When we got to the checkout I teased him that he didn't get the one about the Armadillo. He said he couldn't buy them all. And the volunteer there told him the Armadillo book was one of her favorites.
Most popular State Parks in Florida you need to make your camping reservation 11 months in advance. I had planned to camp over Christmas at St. George Island with my friends, Regis and Cindy. We had made our reservations last January. About a week before Steve was able to book three nights at St. George when I would be there.
I enjoy being with him alot, I still am very careful to hang onto some me time and to keep him also independent of me.
At St George Island we biked into town and walked many miles. But the sunsets and star gazing were out. It was cloudy all three days he was with me there.
Steve had memories of being at the island with his family. We took an exploritory bicycle ride into the business district. Steve showed me the house they had rented on the beach. I stood there trying to imagine what Steve was feeling with all the fun memories from his time there. It was strange, looking back at happy times. Living in different happy times. It was kind of surreal.
On our last night together we went to Paddy's on the island and had fish tacos and listened to live music. Fun!
The next morning, on his way out of the campground, Steve stopped by my trailer. He dropped off the brocolli cheese soup he had made and a pizza he had made. Thank you, Steve! I was going to need easy foods because I wouldn't be using my outdoor kitchen in the freezing cold days that were coming.
Later, my text bell went off. It was a picture of the Armadillo book! He had stopped by St. Mark's Nature Center and bought it afterall! I laughed out loud.
In the evening that same day I was sitting at my computer when I got a text.
It was Cindy! She said, "I didn't know we got a spot right next to you."
I looked out my window and there was their van and trailer, they had pulled in and set up without me even noticing!