My Long Heart of Longing

In the late summer of 2020, during the throes of covid and quarantine and trying to adapt to the reality that it wasn’t going to be over in a few weeks or months, I turned 65. The best part of turning 65 is Medicare and Social Security. My 50 year-old self would do a big eye roll in response to the importance I now give to those words —Medicare and Social Security. Seriously? Medicare and Social Security? But I stand by those words now. With the enrollment of Medicare came a physical, much more thorough than the ones I’ve had in the past, including baseline tests for physical and mental agility. The best part was it cost me nothing. As with every physical, there was blood work and with that came the bad news about my cholesterol, which is higher than my doctor wants it to be. I’m used to this and have gotten a pass over the years because my lifestyle and my other numbers are good. Still, I always feel let down when all the dietary changes I’ve incorporated along with considerable daily exercise, barely sway the needle in the right direction. This is the part of the physical when I say,
“Can we return to talking about my blood pressure?”

My blood pressure is what I like to lead with — numbers that almost always elicit a compliment by whoever is taking it. It gives me a cushion of confidence before the comments on the cholesterol numbers begin, which are always disappointing. My doctor decided she wanted me to have an aortic scan and if it came out without plaque, she would be willing to overlook the cholesterol numbers (at least my good cholesterol is high making for a good ratio, but the bad is still bad).

A few weeks later, I made a trip into Denver for the scan. I had not had an aortic scan before so everything was new and out of both nervousness and curiosity, I asked the technician a lot of questions. He was more than willing to answer. It was a slow day.

After the scan, I asked him if some people ever struggle with the 30 second breath hold. It felt long to me, although do-able.
“Yes, they sometimes do, he answered, but the fact that you have a long heart helps you. It allows for deeper breathing capacity.”

“My heart is long, I asked, as in not short??”
“Yes, long. People have long hearts and short hearts. One is not necessarily better than the other. Yours just happens to be a long one.”

What? I have a long heart? I’ve never heard of such a thing. How was it I had lived 65 years and someone is just now telling me the shape of my heart? Fortunately, the scan of my long heart turned out fine and plaque-free but thoughts of what the technician told me lingered.

The very nonchalant manner in which the news of my long heart was delivered kept me from worrying about it, but I was curious and did what most people would have done once I got home. I put Google to the test.
“What does it mean to have a long heart?”
Nothing. Enlarged hearts, symptoms of heart attacks, scary medical stuff and broken hearts, but nothing about a long heart. I was intrigued, curious and beginning to wonder exactly how much training, education and experience the technician who shared the information with me had.

I love thinking about the physical attributes of my heart, barely a side note when compared to the amount of time I spend thinking about its emotional qualities. Did it become long because of all it holds? Of course not, but I like thinking about my newly discovered attribute in this manner. The muscle in my chest that gives me life with its constant beats needs more consideration than I had been giving it. Clearly, I gravitate more to thinking about my emotional heart rather than the physical, but now that someone was actually able to give me a brief description of my heart, I can’t help but envision a long, pumping vessel, that looks stretched while trying to hold far more emotions than what it was designed for, like a knit bag that has grown long with the weight of its contents. Whether or not the technician, who started this whole ordeal, was giving me an observation based on trained eyes or just a quick and possibly not accurate conclusion, I carried those words home with me and now, 2 1/2 years later, I’m contemplating them again.

Does my long heart still hold the shape of a valentine? (I know hearts don’t actually look like the valentine shape we associate them with, but it is how they’ve been represented historically). Has the record of my emotional life actually changed the shape of my heart? Clearly, I’m not done with this subject. I googled it again, this time resulting in cardiologist, Sandeep Juahar’s Ted Talk, where he addresses “the mysterious ways our emotions impact the health of our hearts—causing them to change shape in response to grief or fear.”
He spoke of examples where hearts actually did change their shape after being subjected to periods of stress and or grief. Ah ha! Now I’m getting somewhere. Maybe, just maybe, the stress, the fear of the unknown, the loneliness of a solitary quarantine that happened just months before my scan in the unforgettable year of 2020, really did change the shape of my heart. Or maybe I was born with a long heart instead of a short one or one that simple resides in the middle measurement.

My long heart and all it carries — the love, so much love, the hopes, the desires, the fears, the dreams, the memories, both the good ones and the bad ones, the very essence of my being and the creative and curious element that has made writing such a necessary part of my life. It is the most precious of packages. It needs more attention.

The very same long heart that ached for months after I saw my dog get hit by a car when I was in the 3rd grade is the same heart that only recently felt the pain of learning that a former classmate of mine had died. Metaphorically, there’s a lot of expansion going on in my already long heart. It makes me think of the umbilical cord that I’ve written about that emotionally still connects me to my three children, all living in different parts of the country. The physical feels easier for my mind to grasp with visions of three cords that originates with me, and stretch out to the other side of Boulder, to Portland and to LA. That I can visualize. That I can understand. But it’s the emotional aspect that is out of my grasp. All that enters the heart — first loves, bad break ups, the birth of my children, moments of ecstasy and joy, heartbreaking sadness that is so deep it is felt physically, are all mingling around together in the space of my heart. Maybe they are organized into groups, I am a virgo after all.

All of this, including the shape of my heart, I had forgotten about until I was going through a stack of my many notebooks looking for inspiration. On that day in August of 2020, after googling “long heart” with no success, I wrote brief notes in one of my notebooks and underlined “long heart.” I always think I’ll remember, but always right things down, just in case. I didn’t remember being told that I have a long heart. Thank goodness I write things down. Thank goodness I never throw notebooks away. Today I feel more curious and more intrigued than I did in 2020. I had other concerns then, such as how to maneuver through this new masked-life doing my day to day chores, while trying to remain healthy and covid-free.

Sandeep Jauhar ended his Ted Talk by saying,

“The emotional heart intersects with its biological counterpart in mysterious ways.”

I give that intersection a lot of attention, heeding both the advice of the medical community I surround myself with, and an acute awareness to the emotional life I hold in my heart. My heart may be long in its physical appearance, according to the young man in the light blue surgical scrubs, but it’s what it holds that has me returning to this subject again, 2 1/2 years later, with continued interest. Maybe it’s the longing inside my heart and not the length of my heart that holds the power — the longing to make sense of my world by organizing it into words tucked away in notebooks — notebooks that have held what I thought my mind would, but didn’t. But my heart, that long heart of mine, has never forgotten.

Two Pink Lines – You’re Staying Home.

Covid. Round two. It’s surprisingly similar to round one that I had almost exactly a year ago. Last year two days after my return from Key West in late Jan., I tested positive. This year, two days before I was supposed to go to Key West, I tested positive. Key West in January may be off the table for me – at least until next winter when I’ve forgotten about my Key West/covid connection. I had a hunch I’d see the two pink lines, but remained hopeful. I had just come from Portland where I helped with my son, Thomas, daughter-in-law, Brooke, and two granddaughters, under the age of three, make their move from Boulder. Two days into the trip, sickness started spreading through the group, starting with Brooke, then the girls, and finally Thomas. I felt fine throughout, cautiously nervous, but fine. As was predicted by the medical community, this winter has become a rough one for families with kids because of weakened immune systems – a result of two years of social distancing and masking. Kids need germs to strengthen their immune systems, their parents too for that matter, which they are now getting with every cough, sneeze and fever their kids are gifting. I was surprised when Brooke brought the covid tests out, I’m not sure why, but it felt like it had been so long since we were getting the boxes of two tests out and reading yet another set of instructions because none of them are the same. But she was smart to do so and neither she nor my son were surprised with the two pink lines showed up immediately on their tests. Thomas told me to “save myself” and suggested that I might want to quarantine in my room at our Airbnb for the remainder of my stay. It was good advice because I had a trip to Key West booked five days after my return to Boulder. Knowing that there was a three year-old and a six month-old in the room, who both stretched the limits of cuteness, made quarantining in my room, even if only for a few hours before bed and another few in the morning before my exit, very difficult. At that point, while trying to do my best to not catch the covid germs that were permeating the rooms of our airbnb, I hadn’t thought ahead to the next morning when long hugs with tears because my kids and their kids would now be living in Portland and not down the street from me in Boulder, would not be an option. Waves at a distance would be the stand-in goodbye. I also wouldn’t be giving hugs to the person who would be driving me to the airport because it wasn’t my son, but rather an anonymous Uber driver and having the masked woman in the back seat reach forward for a goodbye hug, would have just been awkward. Instead, I would catch the middle-aged Uber driver glance back at the me as I sobbed all the way to the airport. I think he wanted to ask me if I was OK, but also didn’t want to intrude on my privacy. I’m sure he’s seen it before. Airport runs usually follow tearful goodbyes. It was painful. So painful. Thankfully my mask muffled the sobs.

Once checked in and settled in at my gate with lots of time to spare, because unless I’m at least an hour early, I’m late, I realized that maybe, just maybe, not being able to hug goodbye had been a blessing. How do I hug a three year-old who knows I’m leaving but can’t fully understand what that leaving and moving to another state really means? The same three year-old who now refers to her dad when she’s around me as “your son” as in “do you want to sit by your son at dinner?” also told me that she loved being my “neighbor” and we will still have lots of play dates even though she wouldn’t be living in Boulder. I agreed, then added I would need a little more time to plan those play dates. How would I have kept that hug, like all the rest of the rest of our hugs, happy and affectionate, while trying desperately to not show my sadness? Hugs don’t come with tears after all, or at least not when you’re three. At that point, my mind was still swirling around departures and my sadness of leaving. Meanwhile, covid was sitting by patiently, waiting on the bench to be called into play.

I got home in the evening and did as I always do when I get home from traveling late in the day. I left my suitcase in my front room, where I’d unpack it the next day, taking the dirty clothes downstairs and the remainder upstairs, where I’d finish unpacking and begin my repack for my upcoming trip to Key West. I’m never in a rush on the unpacking. It’s my way of extending my trip just a tiny bit more. Besides, I’m usually tired and my waiting suitcase always looks like a lot less work in the morning.

The next morning, for safety’s sake, I did a covid test. Holding onto the comments Thomas and Brooke had made about my strong immune system, I was proud to see a negative. And so I unpacked, and began to repack my bags for Key West, feeling relieved that I had emerged covid-free after being surrounded by it for a day, or at least that I knew of. The next day, I tested again, because I wanted to be safe. As soon as the two pink lines showed up on the test, which was pretty fast, I did the math. Then I did it again trying every which way to make it work. No matter how I counted the days, there were not enough of them for me to get to the other side of covid and still be able to make it to Key West. Even if I felt OK, I wouldn’t be safe. My head began to hurt, my body ached and I felt feverish. It was almost as if the two pink lines were the signal for the symptoms to begin. I unbooked my flight, called my sister and went back to bed. Two days of feeling like I had the flu with the addition of a headache, made for a pretty good 48 hour pity party for me. Every time I’d walk into my room, I had to walk around the already re-packed suitcase, filled with clothes I had so carefully chosen for 5 days of fun in Key West with my sister and brother-in-law. I’m still walking around that packed suitcase, on day eight and have decided to leave it packed until the day after I would have been coming home. At that point I’d be emptying it anyway.

The thing with covid that’s hard, or one of the many things I should say, is that once you start feeling better, you still have a few days left quarantining, or at least you do if you’re going to be a good person. On day seven, my daughter, Emery, and grandson, Arlo, brought me flowers and arnica oil for my wrist and just like in 2020, I stood just inside the doorway and they stood several feet away in my yard. Deja vu. I realized they were the first people I had seen in seven days. Quarantining alone is strange. How quickly I had forgotten that I had done it before. Almost three years ago and for seven weeks, not seven days. But back to the visit from my daughter and grandson…Arnica oil you may be wondering? What’s that and what’s it for and what happened to your wrist? Arnica is used to speed up healing, especially with bruises. It was an appropriate gift. The day I got back from Portland, when I was still thinking I was covid-free, I went out for a walk in my neighborhood. We had had a lot of snow that was only partially melted, leaving icy patches on the sections of the sidewalks that hadn’t originally been shoveled. I put my micro spikes on my boots in anticipation of those icy spots, but after about a mile of walking, all on dry sidewalks, I became very self-conscious by the sound my boots were making – like tap shoes on the side walk. The sound reminded me of my sisters and my leather-soled school shoes that we would attach thumb tacks to in a sad attempt at making our own tap shoes. It was a nostalgic sound that soon became annoying so I removed the micro spikes and carried them for the rest of my walk. When I was close to my house, so close I could read the numbers on my car’s license tag, I slipped on the ice and fell. Here’s the sad thing – I saw the small patch of ice and was carefully maneuvering around it when I fell. I can’t even say that I wasn’t paying attention, because I was. The fall felt like it was in slow motion and I had enough time to make a plan, which was to break it with my dominant and stronger hand – my right one. I’ve used the phrase “I don’t want to break a hip” too often in passing as an exaggerated expression for being cautious but that’s exactly what I was trying to not do – not break my hip. As soon as I was upright, which was immediately because of the humiliation of someone seeing I had fallen and would rush over to make sure I hadn’t broken a hip, I thought ahead four days and how it would be to maneuver through the airport with a hand, unfortunately my right hand, that couldn’t grip or lift. I’d manage. Then I thought about going to a quick care clinic near my house to see if my injured hand needed more than ice, like maybe a cast? Nah, I’d manage. When I got home, I applied ice, added a British crime drama to the situation, and a few hours later, went to bed. The next morning, after the two pink lines jump started my symptoms, and still with a hand that still couldn’t grip the handle of my coffee cup, I had my answer on if I should go get it X-rayed. I felt too sick to take on that task alone and now knowing I had covid, I couldn’t ask anyone to take it on with me and so I kept applying ice and crossing my fingers it wasn’t broken. My sadness had now extended into its second act with no intermission.

After a few days, I started feeling normal again, and my hand, although still sore, was getting its grip back. I was starting to feel back to normal, tired, but normal, but not done with my quarantine and still showing a positive on the test. This is the tricky part of covid – feeling ready to be back out in the world again, but if I wanted to be a decent human being, I needed to stay put. This was when the kitchen cleaning began. Actually, a deep organization is a better word because I like organizing far more than cleaning. Then the label maker came out. Now, for most, that doesn’t seem like a scary event, but when you’re a virgo, with a lot of free time on your hands and have to stay home, it can lead to a slippery slope of perfection inching its way towards obsession. By the end of the day, I had labeled each and every one of my mason jars filled with staples that line my pantry shelves and had further grouped my spices from savory and sweet into their prospective regions – Italian, Indian, Mexican and all dishes with cumin. I can do no more. My kitchen is organized to within an inch of its life. My wrist, although black and blue on one side with a slightly yellow cast on the other, is sore, but can grab a coffee mug so I’m no longer worried. My two act pity party is done. I’m bored and I’m waiting for a negative test. I’m also tired of being alone in my house, but there’s a big irony to that statement. While alone in my house and sitting in my very organized kitchen, I started researching places to rent a cabin for a week or two for a solo writing retreat. Yes, this person who is tired of being alone in her house, waiting out the clock on a covid quarantine, was researching solo getaways in a cabin in a remote place. Even though I’ve kind of just done that, and my home is my personal retreat, it’s not the same. My home beckons me to label jars and alphabetize spices and reread boxes of letters I’ve saved, instead of diving into the project at hand – writing. I still want to find that retreat, but the timing doesn’t seem quite as urgent.

This latest covid journey has been a test for me and I can’t say I’m good or confident with taking tests, but they continue to show up, regardless. It was so easy to put on the cloak of pity and wallow in the sadness of not being able to hug my kids and grandkids goodbye and having to cancel my trip to Key West, yet while in the throes of that wallowing, I heard from two different friends who were going through far more than delayed hugs and a trip to Florida. One was dealing with her mother’s final days in hospice and the other was trying to navigate her husband’s recent diagnosis of terminal cancer. Prospective. It always shows up on time and is usually bearing gifts. I still missed hugging my now Portland family goodbye and I still missed my trip to Key West, but both of these events can be done again. It’s not permanent and it’s not cancer or hospice. It’s a covid inconvenience. Does that mean I’m not sad, angry and disappointed? Of course not. I’m human. But I’ve been given the timely gift of perspective in the form of different lenses to view my situation.

It’s time to stop walking around the suitcase in my bedroom and unpack it. I’ve been reminded enough.

It’s either optimism or difficulty in accepting reality, but I needed to take two tests… just in case.

Technology, age and finding my footing

Today I was humbled by my age. I don’t think about being “old” – what’s old anyway? But I did learn that when it comes to technology, I’m far older than I realized. This was confirmed after 3 trips to the Apple store in less than 24 hours. I bought a new phone (I think the highest number, whatever that is) a few months ago. It’s new, cutting edge, and I’m happy with it, especially with the quality of the photos, although there’s one thing I wish they hadn’t messed with and that’s the security. Rather than give my phone a quick swipe of my thumb, the newest model is facial recognition and even though my phone recognizes me with a mask, if I add sunglass, my phone has no idea who I am. In Colorado, if you’re outside, you likely have on sunglasses as it’s a very sunny place. We’re all in disguise in masks and sunglasses so my phone not recognizing the disguise makes sense. I didn’t like the change and the thumb print was a lot easier, but I’m open to new ideas – keeps me young, right?

When I bought the phone the Apple sales guy convinced me I needed to get Apple care – something I’ve never purchased before because it seemed like a waste of money to me, like trip insurance, which I’ve also never purchased (until Covid). I was hedging on the add on when he told me that they’d give me a lot of money for my trade in (I’m not sure what “a lot” is), but because my screen was so cracked, they couldn’t give me anything. Nothing. Not even $2.00. After hearing that, I caved. He told me because I was buying the Apple care, I could skip on the screen protector. Bad decision.

Last week, and less than a month after my new phone purchase, I dropped my phone, as one does, and it landed on my driveway in precisely the exact spot to cause a whole lot of damage. My Apple care insurance became worth every cent. I have no problem with a cracked screen and have had screens so cracked that I had to be mindful to not cut my finger when opening apps, so this didn’t seem a whole lot different until I realized that the camera – not the camera that takes photos but the one that knows my face for security, was damaged, or more accurately, ruined. So I went to the Apple store, thankful for my Apple care and figured I’d just wait there while they sorted me out with a new screen. Well, when the new screen involves a camera, it’s more of a “come back in 5 hours situation.” So I left the store and returned home for the wait. It felt nice, and at the same time, uncomfortable, to not have my phone. What if there’s an emergency? What if my girlfriends are planning a hike the next day and I’m don’t get the message of when and where? What if my daughter wants to go to coffee or sends me a cute photo of my grandkids You know, dire stuff. Yet at the same time, it was nice to be untethered.

When I returned to the Apple store, exactly 5 hours later, there was a bit of a scramble and some hushed conversations among a handful of employees when they saw me. I was told to go over to one of the tables and wait and someone would be over to help me. Several minutes later, I was told by one of the employees that it would be a little bit longer and the store closed in 20 minutes so they hoped it would be done, but if not, I could come back the next day I’ve been patient and nice and cheerful and gracious up until this point then I got real.
“Tomorrow? No. That won’t work because I need my phone.”
It’s possible I added “for my job,” which was a total lie, but I needed to get their attention. There was a lot of going to the back room and more employees getting involved in the conversation, then the woman who I had been working with told me there was a problem. While they were fixing my screen, it appears they broke my phone and because of that they were going to give me a new phone. Normally, this would be great news. A new phone! But the phone I brought in was new and the thought of reloading passwords and the whole Apple ID situation, gave me a nothing but dread. I suppose they were trying to make the not so good situation better and help the silver-haired lady who needed her phone for her “job,” so I took the new phone, thanked them for their help, and left, the doors being locked behind me because it was closing time.

When I got home, I realized that my phone not only would not make or receive outgoing calls, but wasn’t receiving texts either. It was no longer a phone but rather, a camera and a social media connecting device. It appeared that in their haste, there was no SIM card – E-SIM or otherwise, so phone calls were impossible (just listen to me with all that tech talk… I was educated this morning…)

Four hours was one thing without being able to text or make a phone call, but close to 24 hours was another. All of sudden I had a lot of calls to make – people to talk to, plans to make, texts to send out etc. It’s when it becomes impossible that it also becomes urgent. Spoiler alert: once my phone was fixed and back in my hands, I could have cared less about making a call.

I got to the Apple store 15 minutes before opening the next morning – 9:45 sharp because I didn’t have an appointment and wanted to be seen first. I explained the situation to the front-door greeter/decides who you need to see guy, and instead of getting the expected, “Oh no! That’s awful… we’ll totally take care of it because obviously it was our fault,” I got an, “OK, I need the account number of your wireless carrier. Like I just happen to have that on me… sheesh. Fortunately, AT&T is only a block away from the Apple store so I walked over, was the only customer and was waited on by a very kind, young, outdoorsy looking guy who took care of the whole SIM card situation and also got me going on a better plan that’s going to save me $25 a month. He told me there was a big savings if I had AARP, then stumbled around his words and said, “Well… you know… if you’re old enough and all…”. I appreciated the effort on his part and the $25 a month saving to boot.

Unfortunately, there was one more glitch that sent me back to the Apple store. The old Apple ID/password rabbit hole. I know my Apple ID and I also know my password and even I’m surprised by that, yet my phone was telling me I didn’t know it. When I walked through the door of the Apple store, several employees now familiar with me, one of the nicer guys helped get me sorted out on the Apple ID issue which really wasn’t an Apple ID issue at all, but rather, was an issue with no credit card being on file (I hadn’t gotten that far on loading my phone with credit cards etc. at that point.). But before he realized that, he asked me if I was SURE I had put the password in correctly and maybe I should try it again, you know… just in case? Followed by “are you sure that’s your password?” Do you think he says that to the 24 year-old woman who has a similar problem? I’m proud to say the problem wasn’t me not knowing my password. That gave me a real sense of pride because I know the answer they usually get when they ask anyone over 50 if they know their Apple ID password.

I remember once many years ago going to a concert at an outdoor venue with several of our friends from the neighborhood. We were all in our early 40’s and although we looked every bit of 21, you had to have an ID to get the wrist band that would allow alcohol purchases. One of the women with us didn’t happen to have her driver’s license with her and her husband told her to just show her Jones Store credit card because only old people shopped at the Jones Store. Not only was he funny, but he was right. The Jones Store was always a favorite among the moms and I don’t mean MY group of moms, I mean OUR moms. That thought came up as I was leaving Apple. We were already placing judgement on our ages in our 40’s – we had no idea what going into an Apple store that is so uber hip that there isn’t even a check out counter, would feel like 20 years later in our 60’s! Humbling comes to mind first.

I thought about my parents’ frequent trips to either T-Mobile or the Apple store and my frustrations with them when trying to help them with passwords or the ever tricky Apple ID, which is a whole other story. I feel the frustrations with them that my own kids, and the nice guy at Apple, felt with me. The learning curve on technology is getting steeper and steeper and I don’t feel like I’m in the right footwear most of the time to make the climb. Maybe if they sold Apple computers at the Jones Store (which I don’t think is in business anymore…), I’d feel more at home or more confident.

I know that when that nice guy that helped me goes home to his wife or his husband or his roommate or his little brother and one of them asks how his day was – (just typing that makes it sound unlikely but for the sake of the story, bear with me), he might talk about yet another “grandma lady” who couldn’t figure out her phone… you know, the usual stuff. My go to when I’m feeling inadequate, insecure, behind the curve or in an Apple store needing help, is to want to respond to the tech’s questions that I don’t understand, with something I do understand – like yarn overs and cables in knitting, or what plants are the best for a xeriscape garden or which nearby trails offer the best views, but it doesn’t work like that. It was like when I had to answer an essay question in one of my classes in college that I didn’t know the answer to, but instead, would write paragraphs about what I did know. I didn’t answer the question asked, but would show the professor that I had studied – just the wrong stuff. I never got credit for those efforts, although I always did get comments.

I feel like my generation is the sandwich generation when it comes to technology. My kids, rather than teach me what to do, will just ask me to hand over my phone, my iPad, my computer then will go in and out of screens, type in some stuff and voila it’s fixed. I do the same with my parents, albeit on a much simpler level. My parents, on the other hand, although they use the technology they have and text and email and even wander over to Facebook on occasion, would be just as happy to get the phone call or the printed photos in an envelope in the mail rather than on their computer. I want the technology, but don’t want to have to go in very deep on keeping up with the changes. I guess that makes me sound old – like a sales rack shopper at the Jones Store. So be it. Until my phone breaks again, or there’s a glitch on my computer or anything with buttons and lights, I don’t know what I don’t know, although I can sure type paragraphs about stuff I do know, if the need ever arises.

Finding my wings…

Every flight and every hour of my flying time…. this small black book holds it all and is a prized possession. Sadly, I don’t have one photo of me in a plane, next to a plane or preflighting a plane that I flew, nor do I have any King Radio photos while on the job. Different times.

After my first year of college, I decided not to go back but had full intentions of returning at a later date, when I was ready.  At that point in my life, I wasn’t.   I was uninspired, unmotivated, indecisive and without focus.  I changed my major so many many times during that year that my Dad began to refer to it as my “major of the month.”  The only decision that seemed right to me was my decision to not return. 

My parents were on board, especially my dad, which surprised me, as he was a high school guidance counselor and part time community college counselor who promoted higher education, yet at the same time was able to recognize when a student was struggling.  If I wasn’t going to return to college, my parents said I needed to have a plan.  I wasn’t good with plans.  I wanted to see what would come my way without having to put a lot of effort or decision making into it.  The wait and see attitude was realigned when my landlord parents started pushing me to find find a job with a little more permanence than what I had shown them thus far.  I had landed a temporary job as a nanny in Chappaqua, NY  for the summer, but once back home, was in need of something more permanent so answered an ad in the local newspaper for a position as a receptionist at a nearby regional airport/flight school.  It wasn’t at all what I had in mind, but my landlord parents were happy so I said yes and started working at KC Piper.  I didn’t care for the job – answering the phone, booking flight lessons and taking money from pilots who bought fuel, but I told myself that I’d make it work until I could find something more suitable.  I felt disconnected and out of place in the place where I spent most of my day until one of the flight instructors asked me if I had ever been up in a small plane and if I hadn’t, I should definitely take advantage of the $5 introductory ride.   He, and his staggering good looks,  were my point of interest, not the 15 minutes of being airborne, and so I agreed.  It didn’t take long once in the air to realize that I was far more captivated by the act of flying than I was with the handsome pilot and before we even began to taxi back, I decided that although it was far beyond my reach financially, and I had no idea how I was going to make it work, I was going to learn how to fly, and the cute instructor that sat to my right was going to be the one to teach me.  And so that’s how it started.  For the next several months,  I begged, borrowed and stole every left seat hour I could muster, while saving every single penny of my hard-earned low wages.   I had a plan.  It wasn’t exactly what my parents had in mind, but it was a plan.

I was young, barely 20, and idealistic.  My dreams were as big as my check book was small but somehow I knew I could make it work.  Unquestioning optimism at its finest.  I was at the right place, at the right time and in that short 15 minutes of flight time,  there was never a question as to what I wanted to do.  I wanted to become a pilot.

It was hard.  It was exhilarating.  It was inspiring and I loved every minute of it. I was a good  student who became a good pilot and was often complimented on how strong my “seat of the pants” abilities were,  which I would later learn had nothing to do with how my seat looked in pants but rather, was a measure of natural judgement and instinct without the use of instruments.  Did I mention that I was barely 20 years old and terribly naive? I didn’t  even know to be embarrassed by the many faux pas I would stumble over as I truly didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Case in point, my first experience of night flying.  As I was taxiing in after landing, my instructor asked me why I was hugging the far edge of the taxiway and not in the center of it where I should be.  Was I having a hard time seeing it?  

“Oh not at all!  I was trying to avoid the light bulbs as I didn’t want to break them.”

The lights I was referring to were the ones that were embedded into the surface of the taxiway,  but honestly, from where I sat they seemed to protrude from the surface, which was why I was trying hard to avoid them.  I’m guessing he hadn’t encountered this situation before or he would had advised me ahead that I could taxi right over the lights and they wouldn’t break. A few days later, and with the same instructor,  I couldn’t help but notice that he was fixated on something outside of the airplane.  After being in the air for only a few minutes, he turned to me and with a very puzzled look on his face asked me if I had untied the tie down ropes on the plane and if so, how did I do it?  Planes are tied down to the ground with heavy ropes to keep them steady during storms and winds and when untying a plane during the flight pre-check, the ropes are untied from the wings.  Given that it was my first time pre-flighting the plane alone, I did what I thought was the right thing and I untied the ropes from the heavy ground anchors, which left the tie down ropes flapping from the wings of the plane as we flew rather than remaining on the ground where they belonged. 

I answered by telling him that yes I untied the plane and boy were those ropes ever hard to get undone!  He chuckled, kindly, so as not to make me feel embarrassed but no doubt the story had worked its way around the break room by the end of the day.   Obviously,  I hadn’t been paying attention when that section of the pre-flight operation was being explained.  Evidence that sometimes I learn things the hardest way possible.  Again, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and honestly think that bit of naivety is what kept me in the game.   My parents worried about the large financial  investment I was making, especially if I didn’t follow through to actually obtaining a license.  They had every right to think that as quitting before finishing was an established pattern for me. But this felt different. There was just something about flying that touched my soul of souls and awakened a part of myself that I had never felt before.  

After what seemed like a very short 6 weeks, my flight instructor told me it was time to take to the skies alone – time for my first solo flight. Student pilots aren’t told this ahead of time simply because of anxiety issues but I knew it was coming.  There were a lot of emotions that day, but I have to say, fear wasn’t one of them.  I was ready.  Although this is a very big deal for student pilots as there is no instructor sitting right seat for security, the initial solo flight is a short one that consists of a few trips around the airport landing pattern doing touch and goes – a touch down landing then immediately taking off again and repeating the process.  It was recorded in my log book as .4 of an hour – 25 minutes of just me and the airplane.  25 minutes of pure joy,  and tremendous pride.  44 years later and I still smile when I think of my young, very naive self in the cockpit of a Piper Cherokee 140, tail number N5606U,  chatting nervously to myself with a constantly nodding of my head up and down in a HOLY COW, YOU’RE DOING THIS!!!, manner. The tradition that follows a student pilot’s first solo flight is to cut the shirt tail off the student’s shirt, which is then labeled and displayed as a “trophy.”.   This tradition originated in the days of tandem trainers when the student would sit in the front seat and the instructor behind.  Because there were rarely radios in the planes, the instructor would pull on the student’s shirttail to get his (or her) attention then yell in his ear.  A successful first solo flight is an indication that the student can fly without the instructor so a shirt tail would no longer  be needed and so the tradition of cutting it off began. I proudly backed myself up to my scissor holding instructor, while wishing I had worn one of my own shirts and not my sisters, who by the way was more angry about her ruined shirt than she was thrilled about my new accomplishment.  It was a navy and white checked, long-sleeved, broken in with love and now damaged shirt that I wish I still had, even though it was never mine, missing tail and all.

6 months after soloing and 7 months after my introductory flight and after passing a grueling written exam, a physical exam and flight exam, I got my private pilot’s license.  The next day, I rented a plane and took my younger brother and sister up flying.  We flew to Topeka, Kansas, a mere 57 miles away, to get a coke because that was the kind of stuff you could do when you were a pilot.  My little brother got sick, but fortunately for me, my sister was wearing a bandana and as the pilot in command, I instructed her to take it off immediately so her brother could throw up in it.  I was learning that passengers bring on a whole other set of responsibilities  and worries when you’re the pilot in command, and that bandanas or maybe air sick bags would be a good thing to have on board.  The following day I flew my parents to Emporia, Kansas, farther than Topeka by 30 miles.  This journey was my debut – to show off my skills, but even more importantly, to show off my  completion of something I had started on a whim and a hope.  A start to finish completion.  Finally.

Two years later that license that I earned was far more relevant than the college degree I hadn’t  earned and I landed a job as a regional sales manager in the avionics industry.  Instead of a company car, I flew the company airplane to various airports to demonstrate, sell and basically show off the King Radio avionics systems that I had in my airplane.  The most challenging part of the job wasn’t the flying, but rather, was earning respect from the dealers who questioned who was making the sales calls every other week.  I was too young (24) and the wrong sex.  More than once I was told by a shop manager that he was just going to wait until the following week when my partner, a man, would be visiting.  There wasn’t much I could do in response but leave politely and make the note in my follow up report that I tried. I knew I was adept at selling the product and offering any customer support that was needed, but getting in the door was often my toughest challenge.  It felt like I was working twice as hard as my male counterparts before my job even began.

Management decided that I needed to adhere to a dress code as all the other sales managers did when out in the field, which I totally expected, but what I didn’t expect was that my dress code was a dress or skirt and  not the more appropriate slacks, which was what I had hoped for.  This made for awkward situations when I’d enter or exit the plane while trying to maintain a modicum  of modesty.  I never knew how I’d be accepted or regarded when calling on the avionics shops at airports for the first time,  but the one thing I could always count on was the handful of men staring with curiosity as I carefully stepped out of the short narrow doorway, onto the wing then onto the tarmac in a dress and I’m guessing, as I can’t recall, most likely in inappropriate shoes because I was 24 and that’s what 24 year-olds did.  I was the first female regional sales manager at King Radio and the management wasn’t exactly  sure what to do with me as I didn’t fit the mold they were used to – i.e. men in suits, hence the dress requirement.  I didn’t have the confidence to question why I had to wear dresses when my counterpart were wearing slacks, but I was one person, and a girl no less, going up against a company of men and I knew I’d lose so dresses it was and comfortable when entering and exiting a plane, it was not.

My daughter asked me recently if I had bigger plans when I set out to get my pilot’s license… you know, to become an airline pilot some day perhaps?  I’ve thought about that a lot even though I gave her the first answer that came to me, which was no. I did have a job in the field of aviation, just not one that held the perceived glamour of passenger carrying jet pilot.  Although I did get a lot of kudos and “atta girls” during my short-lived dip into the field of aviation, there didn’t seem to be room for a female in the all male, good ole boy network that I had become a part of,  leaving me feeling like I was always flying solo without a guide, a mentor or even a map most of the time.   I’ve saved the articles that came out in avionics magazines and newspapers that introduced me as the “first female regional sales manager in avionics” that went on to add that there was “something prettier on the runways to look at these days.”  It’s hard to believe today that those words were even written.  Even though I was still very young and somewhat naive, I was learning a lot and not just about avionics.  I had to wonder,  if King Radio was so happy to take the credit for being the first avionics manufacturer in the country to add a female to their sales force, why weren’t they willing to stand up for that female and mentor her in these new, unchartered waters?   The evening I spent in a topless mermaid bar with a group of “fellow sales managers” somewhere in the southeast, because I was told that was what sales managers do, with nary a warning or an apology to me, was the beginning of my end at King Radio.  I realized that as much as I believed in the product and loved getting to fly in an overly-loaded top of the line airplane,  I was never going to feel totally comfortable in the environment I was in,  regardless of how much I tried. I lasted 2 years then left King Radio for new horizons, packing up my ’74 VW for a move to Phoenix, where my sister with the ruined shirt lived. After a year, I left Arizona for a job in  Alaska after realizing that I really did hate hot weather, but that’s another story.

Before I worked at King Radio, flying was a time of dreaming and complete freedom for me and I cherished the moments during a flight when it was clear skies ahead when nothing needed attention except the unfettered beauty that would surround me at 3,000 to 6,000 feet above the ground.  Those were the moments – almost as if time had stopped for me simply to take it all in.   And I would.  My imagination would  soar like a Piper Cherokee with a tailwind as I scanned what felt like the entire world through the windshield of the small plane.  

It was also the time when I met Leigh, my kindred flying spirit.  She was taking lessons at the same time I was and we immediately bonded over our passion for the new hobby we had both immersed ourselves in.  We’d go to the airport at night, park as close as we could to the runway  and with Judy Collins wafting from the radio, would watch the bellies of planes  as they descended onto the runway while laying on the hood of the car.  It was our entertainment, our inspiration and a connection that remains today.  Neither of us talked about aviation as a career but instead simply embraced it with our eyes to the skies and our souls in the clouds.  We could recite every line of John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight” poem that began, “Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,”  the line that always gave us pause.  Leigh was in the very small group of people who understood what I was doing and that  we didn’t have to have a reason why or an end goal, because flying was enough. We carried our pilot’s licenses in front of our driver’s licenses in our wallets because it was the piece of paper that held more pride for us than any other and spent far too much time (or not enough?) fantasizing about piloting a hot air balloon across the country in celebration for the bi-centennial that was approaching.    It was the period in my life that I call my aviation experiment and although the last time I flew alone in a small plane was in 1979, I still crane my neck around to get a better look at the instruments when passing by the cockpit when I step onto a plane and am stopped in my tracks when a small plane flies overhead, simply for the pause to capture a memory.

Learning how to pilot a small airplane was less about acquiring a skill that could open doors for me and more about slipping my own surly bonds and seeing what flying on my own wings felt like, with or without an airplane.  I’m often asked if I miss flying and if I’ll ever get current so I can fly again and to that I have to answer yes and I don’t know.  Those wings that were discovered in the small cockpit of a Cherokee 140, are still with me, holding me aloft and giving me strength and a continually changing prospective.  I not only learned how to control the parts of an aircraft to make it fly, but I also learned how to find my own wings with the confidence that my internal compass will always direct me towards clear skies and tailwinds.

Lost and found and holding the hope…


The sign was wrapped in saran wrap, to protect it from the elements, but I’m not sure it’s going to help find kitty.

No.  I didn’t lose my cat.  I don’t even have a cat, but while walking into the grocery store a few weeks ago, this sign struck me so much that I decided I needed a photo of it on my way out.

I hope the owners of the cat haven’t lost hope and better yet, have had their lost cat returned to them and forgot the small detail of removing the sign.  It’s hard to lose things, especially things dear to you, and even worse when those things aren’t ever found.  My brother-in-law’s philosophy on losing stuff is that when you find it, you’ll love it even more than before losing it.  I’ve tested this theory, multiple times, and its valid.  It also has you keeping just a little better track of those lost and now found items, partly because you love them even more now that they’ve been found.

So as I wandered through the grocery store where I saw this sign,  I couldn’t get the “lost” part off my mind.    I seem to be spending more and more time these days looking for lost things and although I know a very big part of this is simply that I’m not present and am doing more than one thing at a time.  I suppose age is most likely a factor, then again, this behavior began when I started having kids,  so age doesn’t get all of the credit.  Distraction and multitasking are the perfect environment for stuff to get lost.

I do too many things at once, a holdover from a time when I had 3 kids under the age of 5.  My Mom once found a full cup of coffee in my linen closet.

“Oh, hey, thanks, Mom!   I was looking for that!”

No doubt I was talking on the phone, nursing a baby or putting towels away when the coffee went missing,  most likely all three.  Full cups of coffee are easy to replace.  Treasures, not so much.   I guess it only seems like it’s the treasures we lose because honestly, who cares about the other stuff, unless it’s something you don’t care all that much about but vitally need – car keys, driver’s licenses, the charger to your phone.   It’s the good lost stuff that gets search energy and although much of it I know is probably lost forever, I still find myself randomly looking under the bed or through coat pockets, always with hope.

My Patagonia hat.  The hat I actually bought in the El Calafate airport  in Patagonia when I realized it was going to be colder than I had anticipated. It’s not a color I would have ever bought, but it fit and instantly became a favorite.  I wore that hat for 4 years and then it was gone.  I actually wore it to bed when I had a bout with the flu, not because my head was cold, but because it made me feel better.  When I realized it was gone, I retraced my steps, not many as I was sick and only left the house once, but had no success.  I ended up having to make up my own happy ending for the hat to give me the needed resolve.   I took it off when I got into my car in the store parking lot  and it fell out as I was shuffling bags of groceries.  Someone who did not have a hat on that cold winter day found it and has been wearing it ever since.  That story makes me happy,  but I still miss my hat.  I’m sure I could find another just as great, just as warm, just as wonderful Patagonia replacement hat, but honestly, I’ve not even looked.  It wouldn’t have come from the gift shop at the airport in El Calafate, and that’s the part that makes me sad.

Getting ready for a glacial hike in my now lost hat.

My ring.  My silver ring with the Peruvian symbol of Mother Earth on its long rectangular front.  Gone.  And probably never to be found, but I can’t say that  I have lost all hope on that one.   It disappeared after I was at an out of town wedding and for years I insisted it was in the back seat of my son’s car (who drove to the wedding).  He insisted it wasn’t.  The car was sold last year and he insured me that he did a thorough check before letting go of it.  I’m sure he did.  I had been in his car several times since the ring went missing and every time I was in the back seat, he’d remind me that it wasn’t there after seeing me subtly digging my hand down between the seats.  So with the car possibility out, my only other sliver of hope was attached to either my washing machine or the dryer, thinking that maybe I had left it in a jeans pocket when doing the laundry.  I got my answer on the washing machine when I had to have it serviced and the serviceman told me he had found some things in my washing machines mechanism, which was the cause of the malfunction.  I held my breath with anticipation.  Four rusted pennies, a bobby pin,  and a hunk of something gross that I actually dug through with a screw driver before it was disposed of, but sadly,  no ring.  Ironically, my now son-in-law was living in Cusco, Perú at the time and I gave serious thought to directing him to the very store where it was purchased to inquire about another one for me, but I didn’t know my ring size and it was starting to feel a bit like a wild goose chase.  Besides, would a replacement really fill the bill?  I’m not sure.

I’ve emptied drawers, moved furniture, gone deep underneath my car seats with a flash light (a word of caution on that one – there’s some scary stuff under there) and have resorted to my Catholic friend’s advice of calling on Saint Anthony for help, but I still have a handful of treasures that remain on the missing list.

I just finished reading a book about a man who collects lost things (most bordering on trash) and makes up stories about their history and how they became lost. It was creatively clever and creepy at the same time, especially that he had a room in his house where he stored all of the lost “treasures.”   Reading that book had me wondering where exactly my things have ended up.  Did someone pick up my ring and wonder what in the world that was on the from of it and where it came from?   I guess my hat was kind of self explanatory.

The best way for me to deal with what seems to be a growing list of lost treasures is to simply let them go and move on and hope they have all found a nice home, but then I see a lost cat sign and rings and hats and even a lost coat come to mind as I fill my cart with groceries.

Included in the  lost item searches and the incredible amount of time I have wasted looking for them,  ( my phone being the current champ), I have to include in that time sucking list the many things I’ve looked for that don’t exist.  Case in point, one of my favorite Christmas wreaths.  After wasting a lot of time digging through Christmas boxes while muttering…”who loses their Christmas wreath????”, I remembered.  My wreath  became a nest and the home for a growing family of robins early last spring.  Those kind of finds feel good.  Case solved.  Move on and go buy a replacement.  Or there’s the time I spent far too much time looking for a bracelet that I had forgotten I had given to my sister.  Again.  Case solved.  Move on.  My sister, Susan, can attest to the amount of time and energy I dedicated to items  I “lost” while on the Camino, only to be found moments later in the bottom of my pack.  It seems impossible to lose something when you only had a dozen or so items you were traveling with, but it happened and far too often.  On one of our last days of walking the Camino, when that lost item was my passport,  I realized from her frustrations with me that this was indeed something that happened far too often especially given that none of those “lost” items were even lost at all.  By the way, after finding my passport, which wasn’t at the bottom of my pack, but rather on the counter at the pilgrim office in Santiago, I came to love it even more and take far more care with it than I used to.

On the flip side of the lost of course are the found and is it possible that if the finds outnumber the losts, the lost will remain lost?  You know, karma-wise?  Many years ago, when I was living in Phoenix,  my sister, Robin, and I found a lock box (unlocked) in a small storage shed behind our apartment unit.  It clearly had belonged to previous tenants and was accidentally left behind and from the age of it, it looks like it could have been several tenants ago.  We checked in with the manager of the apartment complex and she said it was ours now.  The box was filled with sterling silver souvenir spoons; a collection that included most of the states, along with some random ones from other countries.   At a time when we were both living paycheck to paycheck, often coming up short, that, and the high price of silver at the time, were the perfect combination and honestly, a dream come true for the both of us.  As much as I wanted to keep the beautiful set, neither one of us really could afford that option and so I started shopping around Phoenix for the highest bidder.   As I recall, the spoons brought around  $300, but it felt like thousands at the time when funds were so very tight for the both of us.  My only regret is that I didn’t save one of spoons, perhaps the Arizona one, simply for the memory.  I’ve often wondered, while looking for my own cherished items, if the owner of those spoons ever wondered what happened to them?  Did he/she give up on the search or did they simply forget about them?  If I could, I’d reassure that previous owner that the spoons were sold to the owner of a very nice antique shop in downtown Phoenix.  I chose his shop over several others because  he had a number tattooed on his forearm  arm and when he saw me looking over at his rolled up sleeve, he offered me a chair and shared his story with me.  Even the memory of that day seems so random to me —  sitting in an antique store in downtown Phoenix, selling found souvenir spoons to a Holocaust survivor with a story to tell me.   The spoons ended up in a much better place than a metal storage locker behind a garden apartment.  Those spoons became the proceeds that  bought my airline ticket to the next place I called home in Alaska.

So if karma hasn’t quite evened out on the lost and found in my life, that’s OK.  Maybe the ring and the hat are like my souvenir spoons and are helping someone else out.

Oh, and the cat?  Well, the sign is no longer hanging on the door of my grocery store, so I’m going to assume that there was a happy ending.  I’m also concluding that its owners love their cat  even more now that it’s been found, because that’s how it always works.


They left, and I missed it.

Is that nest that’s nestled in the back of the wreath still a nest if it’s no longer in use? Or is it just sticks and grass?

The babies have left the nest, and I didn’t even see them leave, which makes me sad.  And to add to the sadness, I don’t even recognize them any more.  My baby robins, not my kids.  And yes, I call them “my” baby robins because even though it was just a step stool pushed up to the door and a whole lot of observing while trying to stay hidden from a mother who was scared to death of me, for some reason, I feel like I’ve got some skin in the game and can claim some sort of accolade in their entrance into the world, if only for providing the Christmas wreath for the foundation of their nest.

My five baby robins were just days from their first flight, I’m just sure of it, as I saw them begin to flutter their wings while their mama shouted directions from a near by tree. How do I know that’s what she was doing?  I don’t.  I really have no idea.  She could have been yelling at them to tidy up that pig’s sty of a nest or just fly already and start pitching in on the food gathering, but my instincts tell me otherwise.  And I missed it.  All that time peering into the nest, while watching them get bigger and stronger and begin to open and flutter their tiny wings and I missed it. I missed their very first short flight to the dogwood tree just feet away.  Did they all make it?  Did they take turns or did they all leave en mass?  Was the first one to exit a show off or did he/she help convince the others that it was a good thing and to go for it?  I actually even thought about delaying my trip by a day but snapped myself out of that bad idea as my trip was to be with my daughter who was days away from having her first child!  Still, as I watched that morning, and saw fluttering wings, I hesitated, but quickly came around when visions of explaining to my daughter why I missed the birth of my first grandchild because of a nest of 5 robins in my Christmas wreath who were oh so close to their aeronautical debut. Yeah.  I made the right decision.  Now here I am, 5 weeks later, with a bird poop encrusted back door window, an empty and now rather disheveled nest perched in a Christmas wreath that is still hanging on my door at the end of May.  I’ve learned that robins will often return to the same nest more than once, which may be part of the reason I’m hesitating.  But a Christmas wreath on my door all summer?

The baby birds, the leaving the nest, the instructing mama, all seem so relatable to my own role as a mother.  Granted, I was a front and center witness to all 3 of my kid’s exit from the nest, and most likely their driver to take them away, but once they landed in their own nests, I had to rely on faith and good measure that they knew what they were doing and would stay on the side of safe and secure since I was no longer privy to their comings and goings.  Metaphorically, for their first 18 years of life, I stood on a stool and watched all 3 of my kids through the window of life as they began to spread their wings, and I knew, as their mother, when to reel them back into the comfort of the nest and when to give them a little push.  Again, there was a whole lot of relying on faith and good measure, which I got pretty good at through the years.  However, that was tested when my middle child came home from college for the first time and questioned why he needed a curfew because in reality I had no idea what time he came home when he was away and why would it all of a sudden make any difference now?  Well played, son, well played, but I got you on a technicality that we never addressed before…. my house, my rules, which really means, I won’t totally go to sleep until I hear the garage door go up and know that you’re home.  The hold on tight, let go, grab again while trying to loosen your grip part of parenting is hard –  on the hands, on the heart, but we persevere.  And although it gets easier with time, it is always a challenge because we watched those babies hatch, grow wings, spread them and fly, and proud as we are as parents for those accomplishments, we still have that urge to call them back to the nest.  Birds, babies… I’m grouping them all together on this one.  With 3 kids, living in 3 different spots, all at least a good day’s drive away or more, I’ve learned to set aside my worries (well, most of them) and let go as much as I can while trusting them and the decisions they’re making.  They are, after all, all adults.  Still, I’m their mom and just a tad bit of worrying seems to stick, no matter what.

While out working in my yard today, I saw more than one robin and realized that it was possible that I’m no longer able to distinguish the adults from the children.  I’m guessing they grow up that quickly.  So when I saw that first robin today and a big smile came to my face thinking about the babies in the nest and how far they had all come, I had to stop and rethink the situation.  That could have been the mom or the dad or for Pete’s sake, even the uncle or maybe, just maybe,  it was one of my 5 baby birds, all grown up and doing exactly what nature intended.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the nest, I mean wreath, and if I’ll leave it on the door with hopes that I’ll get to do this all over again with another generation of robins, or if I’ll take may chances with a new wreath next Christmas ( and a new one would be in order as this one is not “clean up-able” enough for saving purposes, but a small price to pay for the enjoyment it provided).

So, baby birds who likely look like adult birds by now and baby kids of mine who are tall and shave and drive cars and are having babies of their own and hardly look like babies either, you remind me, always, about the cycle of letting go and trusting.  My child who just had a baby a little over a month ago, will soon begin to understand this and more relevance may begin to come into play when it comes to baby birds and nests and hovering and protective mamas.  At one point, it will begin to not only make sense, but become eerily familiar…the continuous and cyclical nature of life,  both beautiful and difficult at the same time.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the many robins in my yard and am pretending to know who they are, or at least the ones I watched so intently from the step stool in my laundry room.  If I could get them to make eye contact with me, maybe, just maybe, they’d recognize my face as the one that peered down on their nest, several times a day, through the  window of my laundry room door, and whispered words of encouragement and bursts of “you can do it” when I saw the first wings begin to flutter and spread.  This.  This amazing miracle of nature and life, I have witnessed so often and whether with baby birds or my own children,  it never, ever, gets old.

Yeah, the wreath is staying. I want them to remember where they came from.

Painting my way back in time…

How many layers of paint does this make since the first one in 1941???
2009…. how many people stood next to a sold sign in front of this house, proud to be the new owners?

Three days ago, I decided to paint my family room.  I’m still painting.  My paint brush has brushed itself right out of my family room, down the hallway, into the living room and is now debating on whether it should continue its journey with a stop off in the dining room and the kitchen.  I have found the perfect shade of white, which was no easy feat, as there are endless choices for what I used to believe to be a “non-color.”   I can’t seem to get enough of the magic it is leaving behind in its wake.  It feels like I’m painting on a layer of light and bright with each stroke of my brush.  My rooms are coming alive with each brush stroke and I am as well.

My three day immersion into this continually growing project has become far more than changing the colors of my walls.  As my paint brush cuts in every door frame, baseboard,  electrical outlet and window frame, I can’t help but wonder about all the times this exact same process had been done before me in this house.  My house was built in the 1941, so I’m guessing quite a few times.  It was my antiquated electrical outlets in my living room, which accept only a two pronged plug and that I continually have on my “need to update” list, that brought that thought to my attention.

How many people have returned to these rooms in their memories?  The very same rooms that I’m now painting?   How many families have written down this address as their own and given the same directions that I have to people on how to find it?    The walls hold such a rich history of people and experiences that I couldn’t help but start to wonder about the specifics.  What joys were experienced in these rooms?  What heartbreaks?  What celebrations?  Did toddlers take their first steps here?  Did teenagers storm out the front door here in anger because of a disagreement with their parents?  Was there a Dad who sat up late in the front room that recently went from sage to white, worried and waiting for his daughter who ignored curfews?  What did his bathrobe look like?  On a side note, if anyone who lived or is living in the house I grew up in has ever wondered such a thing, I can tell them yes, often, and it was red plaid.  How many new babies were brought through this front door to ever expanding families?  How many kids have climbed out the upstairs bedroom window, as my son did several times, to sit on the roof and look at the stars?   Even though I’m in my 7th year of living here,  for the first time I’m feeling a sense of belonging and pride at being the newest member to a long string of people who were once owners that started forming in 1941.  It’s a club I joined whose members I will likely never meet, but oddly, think of often.

I have to wonder about the original owners of my house and how excited they must have been to be living in this brand new subdivision called “Leawood.” Did they get to help decide where to plant the 3 oak trees that are now massive and if so, did they wonder what they’d look like in 75 years?  And who would be enjoying their shade along with the tremendous job of leaf removal?  Who, in the long line up of families before me, decided to install a bomb shelter in the basement?  Were they afraid?  Did it make them feel safe?  Did they go to the basement to sit in their new investment just to see what it felt like while secretly trying to get their money’s worth on a fear based investment?  Did they invite their neighbors over?  Or did their neighbors have their own bomb shelter to enjoy?  When I was showing my son the house shortly after buying it, he saw the bomb shelter in the basement and was excited that I bought a house with a “sauna.”   Well, not exactly, son.   It now houses my art portfolio, several large canvases and a smattering of miscellaneous items that I don’t know where else to put and yes,  it is kind of creepy,  but it’s also become a bit of an attraction for anyone who goes down to my basement.  I’ve seen more than one workman anxiously show off the space to another workman, as if he discovered it.

There are switches that turn on nothing, outlets that predate the 2 prong models with 4 tiny holes that have been painted over so many times that they’re almost camouflaged into the wall, an exterior light fixture with no switch and a light switch that I found in the back of an upstairs closet that turns on huge vapor light in the back yard that could light up the whole neighborhood if it was switched on.  Frustrating as they are, I’ve left the quirks alone as its easier than trying to fix them.  Besides,  they add a lot to the charm of the house.

I feel a strong sense of responsibility as the keeper of this little piece of history that I call home.    The family who lived here before me called it their home for 35 years and raised their family of 6 here, which I think about every Christmas when I have an extra 4 or 5 staying here and it feels like we are busting at the seams.  I don’t know anything about the family, short of what my neighbors have said in passing, but do know that they loved the house as they sent me a letter telling me so shortly after I moved in.  They wished me the same joy from the house that they had had for the past 35 years.  I know they are still in the area and often wonder if they slow down when they drive by and what memories come to mind for them if they do.  I love that they cared enough about the house they were leaving to share that with me and think they’d be happy with the way I’ve cared for it.

Shortly after I moved in, I found a set of blueprints in an upstairs bedroom closet.  It was for the “new” addition of a family room.  Although it blends nicely with the original home, it does feel a bit “newer” with higher ceilings, different flooring,  the addition of a few sky lights and updated electrical outlets.  According to the blueprints, that “new” addition, which is what I started calling it after I moved in,  was added in the early 1970’s.  I was still living in my childhood home in Olathe, KS, sharing a room with one of my sisters and making my twin bed every morning when the “new” addition in my house was added.  I suppose it may be time to drop the “new.”  That got me wondering about the house I grew up in and who is sleeping in that old room of mine now?  Do they ever wonder about who came before them?  Do they share the room with their sister?  Did they ever want a room of their own so badly that they moved their mattress into the small closet and called it home for almost 2 days?  Did they ever climb out the bedroom window when they were grounded to make their escape on a Saturday night?  I would tell them if they asked that yes, perhaps that did happen once.  Twice at the most.

This has been an easy house for me to feel a part of and although I didn’t raise my family here, nor did I have any kind of history with this house before I purchased it, I can easily see my kids in the breakfast nook eating their cereal before school.   The energy of these walls have embraced me from day one, making me feel so comfortable and familiar that I have to remind myself that it was someone else’s childhood home and story.  Not mine.

I must admit that hours and hours spent crouched on the floor with a dripping paint brush in one hand and a container of paint in the other,  has put my mind into a full imaginative cycle that is now starting to put faces and expressions and clothing on the people I imagine wandering through my home 75 years ago.  My son suggested the idea of leaving photos behind when you move from a place for the new owners.  Oh how I wish that had happened here.  Maybe it was too many Nancy Drew mystery novels read as a child or an overly active imagination, but I want to find that proverbial  trunk filled with clothes and photos and trinkets from the past.  I thought it was going to happen when after purchasing the house, I discovered in the garage a set of wooden pull down steps that led to the attic.  Again, too many Nancy Drew mysteries, but I truly thought I had found my treasure.  Sadly, there was no history-filled trunk, but there were some old windows, stacks of wood and other building materials and decades of dust.  I have since added my own collection of things to the pile of items I no longer need but am not quite ready to get rid of.

Through this slow, tedious, yet mindful process of transformation one brush stroke at a time, I feel like I’m giving something back to this little house that has given so much to me.  It’s feels like a hug to a large group of people that I have never met and most likely never will, but whose presence is with me every day and who I’m guessing would also want the best for a home they once called their own.

Since I started writing this, I’ve added 2 more days and 2 more rooms to this process.  I’ve also gone deeper into my imagination about the people and their life experiences that this house holds in its walls, but after several days of my immersion into history with a loaded paintbrush, I’m calling it done.  There’s a very thin line between thorough and obsessive and I’m starting to teeter a bit.  Oh, and I’m running out of walls.  The process of adding a new shade of light and clean and airy to my walls has has given me a new feeling of familiar with my with this place I call home– like we’ve known each other for a very long time.

Finding my way out of the writing slump, one word at a time…


I’ve been in a bit of a slump… a writing slump, that is.  My inner critic has collaborated with my inner perfectionist, and their team work has resulted in a complete slowdown of my words making it to the paper process.  I’ve got the words, they just seem to be struggling at making their appearance.

Ann Patchett says in her book,  A Perfect Marriage,  that she doesn’t believe there is such a thing as writer’s block and that we pull those words out as an excuse for times that we perhaps aren’t being as diligent as we need to be in getting those words onto the paper, once and for all.  While in agreement, I also have to wonder why at times the words seem to flow with tidal wave strength yet other times putting together the words for a thank you note seems to be a tedious struggle for me.   It’s the same brain both times, yet it certainly doesn’t feel like it to me.  It feels like there is a bit of brain hijacking coming into play.

It’s so easy for me to lose myself in a creative project when I’m having success, but when I’m struggling, the minutes tick off slowly while my mind begins to make the list of other more pressing things I should be doing —  you know, important stuff like ordering vitamins online or sewing that button on the shirt I haven’t worn in 2 years or that bi-annual urge to clean out the garage that never looked messy or dirty or disorganized until the moment my creativity decides to go on break.  Whether with writing, painting, photography, knitting or any creative endeavor, the feeling of losing myself in the hours is blissfully wonderful and because it’s fleeting and unexpected, I feel like I’ve got to not only honor its presence, but treat it with utmost care and attention as I know this creature and I know it can leave as fast as it arrived.  This is the part about writing that I hate.  It’s also the part that I love and the part that continually nudges me to keep trying because I know how good it feels when everything comes together and I feel like I have something to say, regardless if I have someone to read it.

During my first year of college, while living in the dorm, the first thing I’d do when I had to write a big paper, was to clean my half of the room.   This always surprised my roommate, who had a more relaxed standard of tidiness, which included an ongoing collection of half-eaten meals under her bed along with an assortment of glasses and cups that once emptied, became ash trays.  Then there were the clothes… you get the idea.  I really did like my roommate and feel like I did well on the pot luck of the dorm roommate lottery,  but our ideas of what our living conditions should look like varied immensely and we both thought the other strange for her habits.   When she’d see me begin the familiar process of cleaning, organizing and re-stacking the stacks, she knew without asking that my next step would be to haul out Tippy (my typewriter with 3 legs, hence the name) and begin to work.  My sister, Susan, goes through the same routine before she cooks a special meal.  I understand this ritual completely.  In some odd way this process gives the task at hand so much more appreciation, while the freeing up the clutter and mess feels like erasing the chalk board and readying it for something new and fresh.  A blank canvas, a clean chalk board or kitchen counters that are free of clutter all seem to be a good way to begin something.  If you’ve got even a thread of perfectionist in you, this will make sense to you.  Of course Susan also cleans the kitchen post meal, but that cleaning doesn’t hold the importance or significance of the getting ready,  “pre-clean” that takes place.  That being said, I’ve cleaned and organized my space countless times the past few months and have sat behind Tippy’s replacement all ready to type but can’t seem to get past a few sentences that then go into a draft file.  I know the gig as I’ve gone down this road before, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’m continually amazed by how easily ideas come to me once I step away from my method to record them, ie my computer.  I’ve come up with ideas, metaphors, strings of words and thought provoking ideas while out hiking, walking in my neighborhood or most recently, while riding the ski lift at Copper Mountain.  I was working with a ski instructor yesterday and after a successful run with him when all that he was trying to instruct me on seemed to magically click, he told me he saw the light bulb go off on the top of my ski helmet while we were riding the lift.  He was right.  It went off alright, and it was as bright as the CO sun, but it had nothing to do with me finally understanding the tweaks he was trying to make with my form as I skied down the mountain under his observation.  I wasn’t about to tell him that though,  the him who was a good, patient effective instructor who was making great progress with me.  The light bulb went off because I had an idea of what I needed to write about… finally… and it came as such a relief to me that there was no holding it back and that light bulb moment shined right through my red helmet.  Of course once I had returned home, with my computer in front of me, the idea’s substance  had dissipated to a scattering of bits and pieces with nothing to hold them together, but it did make an initial appearance to me so I know it is in there somewhere waiting to be recaptured when we both are ready.  I once tried to follow a friend’s suggestion to carry a small recorder with me for such moments of inspiration, which I did,  eventually replacing it with the recording feather on my phone.  When I would listen to what I had recorded during those shining moments of inspiration, my words never sounded like the image I had in my mind.  Rather, it sounded more like a shopping list than an inspiration.  The energy of the words that swirled around my mind with potential,  lost most of their energy once they were put into verbal bullet points.  It is better than nothing I suppose, yet it’s not the same as having the opportunity to wrangle those ideas into words the second they form in my mind with a keyboard at the ready (said the perfectionist part of her…).

Several years ago, I heard Jacquelyn Mitchard speak about the writing her first novel The Deep End of the Ocean, and how the entire novel came to her in a dream and once awake, she wrote down the dream, literally word for word and voila!  She transformed her dream into a best selling novel!  Although I doubt it was quite as quick and easy as I’ve worked it around in my mind to be, I’m still continually amazed by her process and more than once have fallen asleep with visions of nocturnal creating dancing in my head.  I usually do wake up with a slight memory of my dreams, especially the powerful ones, and have learned that if I don’t grab onto it, the very second my eyes open, it will fade quickly into a handful of scenes that have no connection to one another, in time or in space and their irrelevance only seems to become magnified when I try to share it with someone else.   The essence is there, but the details are random and hardly worthy of a book, let alone anything more than a sentence.  It’s a gift though, when on occasion those unrelated bits and pieces of my dreams will present themselves to me at a later time when all of a sudden they make sense  and have relevance to something that’s going on in my life.  If I can’t dream up bestselling novels,  a bit of personal relevance with maybe a lesson at hand,  is the next best thing.  I had the repeated dream the week before my hysterectomy that I was pregnant and because I had had a hysterectomy and no longer had a uterus, I had to carry the growing fetus around in a basket, which looked oddly familiar to the breadbasket I use for family dinners.  If that wasn’t an indicator of stuff my mind was processing during my sleeping hours, I’m not sure what is.  It was hardly best selling novel worthy, but it did give me pause to think about what was going on in my mind that maybe I wasn’t quite ready to face during my waking hours.

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, talks about the creative process and her ways of attracting and keeping it by her side when she needs it, which is kind of all the time.  She says she’s even been known to shower, put on nice clothes and even a swipe of lipstick, that she claims never to wear otherwise, simply to get in the mood to write or to attract the creativity to her…. however you choose to look at it.  It makes sense to me.  Whatever rituals one must go through to help give the process a bit of a push forward seems like fair game to me.

With that in mind, Elizabeth Gilbert, I see your nice clothes and your lipstick and I raise you one…. one wedding dress. And to that wedding dress, who has already made an appearance in my blog several posts ago,  I say let’s get dressed up and get busy.  It’s time to start writing again.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I think, just maybe, I have accidently become a baseball fan…


6 rows from the top of the stadium, but in the stadium, no less.  This is what a 7th inning, post season comeback looks like (or perhaps it was the altitude…)
I do love this place.



And then they won… the WORLD SERIES!!



I was so excited about my new cap that I forgot to take the tag off… people I passed while out walking just hours after my purchase,  gave me one of those “Ahhh, love the cap,”  looks, or so I thought, until I discovered the tag was still attached.  I think those looks were really “Ahhh, how sad… you have no idea, do you…”


Enjoying the celebration parade for our World Series Champion team, the Royals, with 500,000 of my friends…


I’ve not written a post in over a month and I’m blaming it on baseball.  Now that the season, followed by the post season, followed by the World Series, has come to its conclusion, I’m trying to remember what I used to do with the 3 plus hours 5 or 6 times a week that I used to have before baseball filled that time.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a bit behind in their life.  Although I’ve devoted the length of one hand knitted sweater, 3 knitted baby caps, a major photo reorganization and another knitted sweater that went terribly wrong to the endless hours of baseball watching,  my participation pales compared to my sister’s.  While she’s questioning strategy and commenting on fastballs, breaking balls and change ups,  I’m commenting on beards, brows and, well, I’ve got to say it, butts.  She has earned her opportunity to wear Royals tee shirts or the whole darn uniform if that’s what she wants to do because of her unwavering dedication during the season, whereas I did the buying then started working on the earning part of the equation.  Still, we can both call ourselves fans who  without hesitation got our wallets out and didn’t hesitate to go deep to make it to a play off game, and I’ve got to admit, I’m still a bit surprised by that.

If someone would have told me when I started this blog, a few years ago,  that I’d writing a post about sports, I’d deny it,  simply because I’m not a passionate sports fan, or at least that’s what I thought. I think I may have been wrong.  Now before you start scrolling to the end, fearing I’m going to start spewing sports stats, rest assured, I won’t, although I must say,  and much to my surprised self, stats have streamed from my mouth more than once during this past month and I’m so excited when the bait is taken and a conversation ensues.  Seriously?  Who IS that person???.   In my humble, doesn’t know much about sports opinion, baseball seems to be a very easy sport to cut your sports fan teeth on.  And boy have I.

Those teeth weren’t cut on my own experiences with the sport, unfortunately, or maybe not so unfortunately given that the one summer I got to try my hand at the game, new glove and all,  the only stop I ever made with the ball was with my head.  Things went seriously south after that and I couldn’t wait for summer to be over and my timid participation with the team complete.  Robin, on the other baseball-gloved hand, was told by her teammates during her short run with the sport, to step into the ball and try to get hit as it was a sure fire way to get to base, which she found to be the easier option. Give us roller skates, or hula hoops or a bar on a swing set for skin the cats, but leave the bats and balls for someone else, I’m afraid.  I do, however, have very fond memories of baseball as a kid, but hardly while wearing that stiff leather glove on my left hand.  My Grandpa loved baseball and enjoyed playing the sport as a young man.  When I hear a game on the radio,  I can’t help but think of him on his porch swing listening to the Kansas City Athletics games on his transistor radio.  It is the sound of summer and comfort to me.

I was lucky enough to see a World Series game in 1985, 30 years ago, when I was 30,  which was all very exciting, but it paled in comparison to what I was feeling last night, 30 years later, when we won again.  I didn’t feel the connection to the team that I  feel now and have to think that the tremendous change in communication has a whole lot to do with it.  If I had a thought about Saberhagen or Brett or White or any of the other guys who represented the Kansas City Royals in the 1985 World Series, I most likely kept it to myself, or possibly shared it with those seated near me in the stands along with the handful of people that would hear my stories post game. There was no social media love, no connections to players after seeing videos of amazing plays or post game comments, but rather, a narrow window that the print and broadcast media had total dibs on, and if you missed it… well, you missed it.  It also had to be good enough information to share that you were willing to pay for a long distance call to chat with someone who didn’t happen to share your area code.  None of the current Royals players have graced my dinner table, met me for coffee or texted me their ideas on something, yet I  feel like I know them, as do thousands and thousands of other fans, simply because of what’s been shared.

In a time when so many of us are polarized with issues running the gamut from political to ethical and all points in between, it really does feel like a gift to think that most people who love or like or even tolerate baseball, all wanted the same thing a few nights ago, and that was for “their” team to win, and in Kansas City, that was our beloved Royals.  I thought about that a lot, while sandwiched in between thousands of devoted fans, most who probably weren’t even alive during our last big win, while we watched together at the Power and Light District.  So many different races, cultures, religions and political persuasions,  yet we all were on the same fan page while we celebrated our hometown team’s well-deserved victory.  There’s something about that coming together, if only for a few pages on the calendar, that feels reassuring to me.  And  comforting.  And maybe even a little bit safe.  If we can do that at a baseball game…well…

The high from last night’s win will stay with us for a long time and I know that many of us are going to find difficulty in letting it go and getting back to our lives.   We’re simply not ready to let it go… yet… and we’re certainly not done talking about it and because of that, I think I am beginning to understand the value of sports talk radio.

I like a good post event rehash, and don’t know a woman who doesn’t, yet can remember trying to get my former husband, or any male for that matter, to chime in on a rehash on any post event situation, only to get a shrug and a head shake and maybe a mumble about what the hell is a rehash anyway and is it really necessary?  For those of you who don’t know what a rehash is, it is going over and over, (often to a point of ad nauseam), the details of an event, applicable to not only big events, but the smallest and simplest as well.  It’s our outward continuation to something that we’re not internally quite ready to let go of, hence our need to linger, especially when the memory is a good one.   In other words, it is exactly what happens on a  sports radio call in show.  I have found a new landing spot on my radio dial and as of late, it has taken over the spot where NPR once claimed top billing,  and although this is a temporary adjustment,  I’m still a bit surprised by it.  Holy sports fans… I’ve become a talk radio junkie!  More specifically, a SPORTS talk radio junkie.  I listened, off and on all day yesterday to recaps, rehashes and a whole lot of reliving moments we never want to forget, case in point,  the 12th inning of the 2015 World Series game.   After a few hours of listening, even once or twice reaching for my phone to call in, only to stop myself with a quick “snap out of it” adjustment, I came to the huge realization all this calling in and replaying verbally what we all saw less than 24 hours ago, is nothing more than a major rehash.  When a man called in yesterday and 10 seconds into the conversation began to sob only to have the quivering voiced announcer try to talk him off of the emotional sports wall, but not before sobbing out a few of his own baseball memories, it dawned on me that, deny it all you want men, but you guys (and I know, I’m being very sexist in my generalization here, but it is predominately men who call in as per my observations) OWN a good rehash and I’m right there with you on all the “let’s tell it again, but use different words” analogies, even realizing that I could be a respected contributor, even if it was to suggest a baby name for the soon to be new father of our  2nd baseman.  Hey, it all falls under the big umbrella of sports talk, right?  Be proud my fellow sports fans and call it what you may, but you guys own rehashing!!

I’ve worn the exact same outfit to the last 5 social events I’ve been invited to with no apologies, have given sports radio a permanent spot on my radio dial, have spewed strings of stats to strangers and have waited for an amount of time that I’m embarrassed to admit in a line to buy a shirt that confirms our win in the World Series and all of this surprises me because call it what you want, but I’m starting to think I may have just become a very big baseball fan.  Last year, after the heartbreaking loss in the World Series, I had to wonder if getting emotionally involved with the sport was such a good idea for me as it sure was easier when I didn’t care, but I’m in it too deep to start wading over to the shallow end now.  Watching this group of incredible team players grace my TV, night, after night, after extra innings night, I’m calling myself a real life, love the sport, fan and that makes me very proud.  When the announcer on one of the sports talk radio shows today talked about  baseball as being far more than “just a sport” then going further by saying “sports ARE life,” I had to pause a moment because those words seemed to hold far more than I was willing to give them… then again, was it not “just a sport” that united groups who in other situations could have easily shown their differences with violence and aggression?  Or “just a sport” who has reminded so many of us that we really do live in a very nice, very amazing city?  Or “just a sport” that had so many of us tuned into the same show for 5 hours on Sunday night followed by celebrations that led to no arrests, no fighting, no gunshots and no cars set on fire?  Well, it’s “just a sport” that will have me mingling with a half million other like-minded fans to celebrate a team that has brought far more than the love of a game to the city of Kansas City.

Plain and simple, I’m calling this my preamble to a post game rehash, less the call in phone number.  Die hard sports fans, I know you get this…and now, I do too.

New decade, new attitude and thank goodness, a new hairdo.


Don’t adjust your dials… it’s not Bob Dylan… it’s me, still gracing my first decade.

I never really gave aging a whole lot of thought until I turned 59, then I figured I had a year…. a year for what, I’m not sure, but 60 was inching closer and it was beginning to present itself as a much  bigger milestone than the decades preceding it.  The whole decade change has always been kind of  a big one for me,  but it wasn’t turning 40 or 50 that gave me greatest pause, but rather, it was turning 30.  It was a big, damn deal because in my young mind, 30 meant being a grown up to me, which meant that the fun was going to start taking a back seat to responsibility.  This attitude left a whole lot of “finishing up” at the end of my 20’s, or at the very least, just minutes into my 30’s.  My get ‘er done in your 20’s before real life hits philosophy is evident when looking back on my time line – graduated from college (finally…), got married, got pregnant, had first child… ALL when I was at the tail end of 29 and the very beginnings of 30.  Of course now, on the eve of 60, 30 seems like puberty to me.  Fortunately,  I’ve lost the notion that life will end as I know it as a new decade comes on, but I must say,  I’ve become a bit more thoughtful when it comes to the math of the decades.

Recently, while listening to the last free concert in the park in Frisco, CO, I was standing behind an older couple who I’m guessing were at least a decade or two older than me, but in this competitively athletic  town, it’s kind of hard to tell.  The man, armed with the latest iphone (good goin’ old man),  was trying to video the band, but was getting frustrated because he kept videoing himself, even though he was holding the phone out in front of him and pointed directly towards the band, who was not all that far away from him in the small park venue.  He was on selfie mode, but didn’t realize it.  He’d make what looked like adjustments to his phone then would hold his camera out in front once again for several seconds to video, then would look at the screen and shake his head in frustration.  I was close enough to see the videos and the mistake he continued to make, but far enough away that I couldn’t hear the comments he was making to his wife….that would be the wife who had her fingers in her ears.  I guess the music was too loud for her.  I doubt I would have given the whole scenario a second look a decade or two ago, but now, now on the heels of 60, I was having a hard time looking away.  There was so much age-related vulnerability coming into play that I felt compelled to settle into the scene long enough to decide on an appropriate emotion… sadness, frustration, or depression. Although I know how to reverse the camera on my iphone, I’ve certainly done or haven’t done all sorts of things that have had all of my kids rolling their eyes and asking me to hand the phone over so they can “sort me out.”  Technology is moving at a much faster pace than is our aging, which is pretty damn fast, and given that most of this is only a few decades old for so many of us, a little behind the technological eight ball is valid and something we hold in solidarity with those in our same age group. Thankfully, attitudes of caring what others think diminish a bit, but also thankfully, not entirely.   A little bit of vulnerability keeps us humble but we traverse a fine line between pride and embarrassment when we expose that side of ourselves.

While on one of my favorite hikes a few days ago,  a hike that is so beautiful that it’s difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm, I met a nice couple quite by accident. We had been doing the passing back and forth so many times since the beginning of the hike that at the 5th encounter, I felt compelled to say something,  so made a comment to them about the hike.  He had been on it before, she hadn’t.  Each time we had passed, my eyes were drawn to her beautiful, long, silver hair,  so along with my gushing about the views they would soon encounter, I felt compelled to give an appropriate shout out to her hair and with great enthusiasm and most likely a little bit of posture adjustment, I took off my ball cap to a sisterhood of silver hair gesture and proudly said,

“Your hair is so amazing….  I’m trying to do the same thing.”

I then turned around to give her a view of the back, my confirmation to her  that it is still a work in progress as a good 8 inches of length is still brown.  Again, syncing with the sisterhood of silver hair…

Her response to me had nothing to do with my hair and my subtle (ok, maybe not so subtle) nod to our connection on a “we’re almost soul sisters because of our hair” level.   Rather, she expressed her excitement at finally doing this hike that she had heard so much about.  Well that was not quite what I expected to hear from her, but whatever.  We met again  a few switchback later, and I’m not sure if it was the lighting, my exhaustion or the altitude (when in doubt, blame it on the altitude),  or what it was that skewed my color perceptions, but her hair was not silver.  She was blonde.  Nope, not even a strand of silver in that blonde hair of hers.  And to think that I had just taken off my cap enthusiastically as a connecting gesture, only to reveal sweaty,  two-toned, not at all attractive, hat hair.  I wanted to quietly back down the mountain, never to see them again, but instead began to talk incessantly to cover up my blunder, as my correction.  She was (I’m guessing), 10  years younger than me and at that very moment, I felt like I was old enough to be her mom.  OK, honestly, her grandma.  I was the man trying to video tape the band but videoed selfies instead.  Go figure.   They’re from New Jersey.  They drove.  It took them 2 very long days. They spent the first night in Junction City.  She is kind of afraid of heights.  He’s cool with that. They might be married.  They kind of want to move to Colorado.  She has blonde hair, not silver.  Lesson learned.   Hold your enthusiasm until you’re sure you know what you’re talking about and then wait a few more seconds,  just because.  And if you mess up, really badly and don’t want to come clean, then talk.  Talk a lot.   Five more minutes and we would have been Facebook friends,  another ten and we would have had dinner together.

I’ve come to believe with each advancing decade,  that when you reach a certain age,  numbers become far less relevant than how you feel, which has become so relevant in the very physically-active state of Colorado, where I live part time.   Last winter I rode the ski lift up with two elderly gentlemen who asked me if I was alone, and if so, did I want to do some runs with them?  Yes, I was alone, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend my afternoon doing runs with two 80 plus year old men  (they shared their ages with me with pride).  I guess in the back of my mind, I assumed they’d be too slow for me, although I’m hardly a fast skier.  When they told me the runs they were doing, all bets were off… black diamond, back bowls.

“Ahhh, thanks, but think I’ll just do some runs solo… you know… alone time and all….”

In actuality, I could not have kept up with them… the them who were in their 80’s, while me, the kid in her 50’s.   It gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t need to start eliminating things, but perhaps it was time to start adding to my list as I add another decade to my collection.  I’ve got to be able to ski black diamond, black bowl runs in my 60’s if I’m going to do it in my 80’s right?

I like to be able to attach an event to each decade, the one that had the biggest impact on the 10 years for me and have to admit that I’m just a little curious as to the event that will mark my 60’s.  My 20’s were my decade of exploring, making mistakes, being fearless, yet afraid of everything, while I began, unknowingly, to begin to forge my life path.

My 30’s,  in my young opinion, were my big step into adulthood, which at the time meant finishing college (finally), getting married and having my first child.  Bing, bang, done.  My decade of change… or so I thought…

My 40’s were my decade of letting go of the lead and by default, letting my children lead.  Their friend’s parents became my friends, their schedules became my schedules and long life friend bonds were forged.  Oh, and my hair started turning gray, and while I went in every 6 weeks to cover up that secret, I honestly thought no one had a clue.  Secret’s out now…

My 50’s were the decade that changed everything and my entry into it started with hurricane Katrina.  I had divorced just days before my 50th birthday and set out on an unknown and very scary path,  which had far more forging and exploring than I had anticipated and for that, I am now very thankful.  I made a lot of mistakes, worried far too much,  and seemed to learn every lesson the hard way, with the predictable pattern of reactionary hysteria, breathing, and eventually a slow recovery coupled with a lot of talking on the phone.  Case in point, the explosion of my water heater a mere two weeks after moving into my new house and my new life.  I’m still thanking my lucky stars that all of my photos that weren’t in albums were in plastic boxes.  Nothing was lost but a whole lot was learned.  That lesson started with me in a heap at the bottom of the basement steps, my head in my hands, my strength and my courage in another room.  When sump pumps, water heaters or garage door openers go on the blink, I remember that girl that sobbed in a panic on the bottom step, not knowing who to call or where to turn.  She grew a lot that night.  Life felt unexpectedly hard, but was softened with several of Emery’s friends, armed with dry vacs and encouragement, and in the end, I  became a whole lot stronger and added a good plummer to my phone book.

So… 60….a new decade and I can honestly say, a new women who is making the entrance.  I gave myself a very impromptu birthday present this year and returned from Colorado a few days early to hear a speaker who I discovered on Facebook a few months earlier and have been in admiration ever since. Her name is Tao Porchon-Lynch and she is 96 years young, still teaches yoga and has a light and an energy that completely filled the room and had most of its occupants as entranced as I was, I’m sure.  All bets are off on the thoughts of aging I had when I woke up to today – those pesky thoughts that being 60 is inching towards being old. Today, on the eve of my odometer clicking over one of the numbers that moves the slowest, I was flooded by the youthful messages from a 98 year-old yogi.  Seriously, after being in her presence for 2 hours, coupled with the intimacy of the venue that allowed me to introduce myself to her and give her a hug, it’s amazing that at almost 60 years to her 98 years, that I’m even old enough to drive a car let alone all the other things that come with true adulthood.  Next to her youthful spirit, I feel like I’m at the beginning, and right now, with so many wishes, hopes and dreams ahead of me, it feels like the perfect place to be.  For that, Tao Porchon-Lynch, I thank you, with deep sincerity for the birthday gift that you have no idea that you gave me.

With each decade comes gratitude;  the 6th bringing a bit more than the 5th and a whole lot more than the 4th or 3rd. I’m comfortably seated on my cushion of gratitude while I continue to adjust my sails to catch the best wind to carry me forward. It’s a good place to be and I can’t complain about the view.

Here’s to 60…to those who are there, those who have been there and those still to embark.  Salud.  Oh, and when you’re 60, you can do that, wishing yourself a happy birthday, that is.  It’s a rule I made up  just minutes into my new decade because adding another year to the toll is something we all should celebrate because we’re happy to be getting older, right?  I certainly am.