Class of 1973, 50 years later

Our wearable cheat sheets…

I’m several days out from my 50th high school reunion, which means I’m still in the energetic flow of conversations I had, faces I tried to remember and hugs that took me back to times when the self that I am now was still forming. I have to grab my words before the event loses its sense of urgency and life returns to my present day normal.

Spending two evenings in a roomful of people who are the same age as me and share many of the same memories, some dating back to elementary school, is powerful and becomes even more so with time. With the exception of my siblings, my cousins and my parents, there are no other people in my life that can say they “knew me when…” and that alone gives this group of 65 or 70 people a weighty connection. Some I only talk to at reunions and others, when I see them, I’m reminded of how lucky we are that our friendships are still holding strong after more than five decades. We are not the same people we were five decades ago when we walked across the floor of our overly packed high school gym in steel blue gowns and mortar boards to receive our diplomas, but those teenagers still live quietly inside of all of us. For many of us, it’s the only age we are remembered by in this group of people.

So many of the people I surrounded myself with on Friday and Saturday night hold parts of my memories that I have forgotten. They were witnesses to parts of my life that I sometimes wonder if I’m remembering correctly or if they even happened at all. They can give me clarity — where I was, who I was with and did I look happy? They are still able to confirm my presence at the party, the dance, the sleep over or waiting tables at Denny’s. They can also tell me that I wasn’t there, even though I wanted to be, so much so that my memories may have penciled me in, because I was grounded or had family obligations. Sadly, the grounding happened on a pretty regular basis in my later years of high school. I didn’t do well with rules. I also didn’t do well with being grounded and devised my own escape routes, but that’s another story for another time.

Four of us, from four different parts of the country, all stayed with Terri and her husband, Lawson, at their beautiful farm house in the suburbs of Kansas City for the weekend. Mornings drinking coffee in our pajamas at her kitchen island, quickly rolled into afternoons, still talking, still with more stories from so many years ago. We are five women who have been friends for over 55 years. It’s a gift that grows in value with each passing year. As I sat in that kitchen rehashing not only the night before, but decades ago, there were moments that I looked around the room and we were 16, not 68. Time disappeared.

For the Saturday night event, we had name tags that had our senior picture on them next to our name. Even without the reading glasses (that most of us needed), it was easier to steal a glance at a photo than try to read a name. At the Friday night event, we only had name tags that we filled out and attached, although not everyone complied, which meant for some awkward comments of “of course I remember you” when of course I didn’t. It felt like an appropriate time to lie.

I saw a classmate who I easily recognized even though I hadn’t seen him since the last reunion 10 years ago. I approached him, called out his name and came in for the hug. He responded appropriately then discretely began to move his head to the side like he was looking for something — the something being the rectangular white badge I had affixed to my shirt with my name written on it in bold black ink.
“ You don’t know who I am, do you?” I asked him.
When he was close enough to read my name tag he said my name out-loud with surprise and gave me a big hug. There was more grace in not remembering or recognizing classmates at the 50 year reunion than at past reunions. After all, 50 years is a long time and very few of us looked like we did in high school. I had brown hair at the last reunion for starters. There were a few who hadn’t changed, or aged it seemed, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ask those few exceptions about their skin care regimens during our brief time together. Time was short. Too short.

These people, some of them friends since my early grade school days, hold parts of the stories I’ve lost and I do the same for them. For the most part, none of it matters as it’s been such a long time, but to have a touchstone to my past that is as real as the person in front of me is a gift of time that I cherish and the reason I’ve made it to every reunion so far. I came close to almost missing this reunion though and was still on the fence four days before the Friday night event. I would only be one month out from a total knee replacement the weekend the reunion was scheduled. When I told my doctor I was hoping to go to my reunion at four weeks out, and make the nine hour drive as I knew it would be too soon to fly due to the risk of blood clots, he was apprehensive. He gave me one of those “let’s wait and see” answers, which I learned growing up usually meant no. He doesn’t know me though or how hard I will work towards a goal of something I want. I had an appointment the Tuesday before the reunion weekend and he told me he was amazed with my determination and setting my sights on my 50th reunion had worked. He said it was a go, told me to have fun and not forget to elevate and ice when I had the chance. As he was leaving the room, he turned around and asked me how many years on the reunion. I proudly told him 50, then realized how old that sounded. 50 is a big number and even bigger when talking reunions. We’re past middle age, but not ready to claim “old” or “elderly,” which is more in line with my parents. We don’t know what to call ourselves.

I’m home now, after taking two days to make the nine hour drive, to make the journey a little easier on my knee. I’m usually a barrel through, eat in the car kind of road tripper (ask anyone who has ridden right seat with me), but this time I was forced to slow down and stop every hour and a half to walk around. Given that it was pouring rain for most of the journey, a lot of those walks were through truck stops, the bigger the better. I was wandering up and down the aisles with shelves lined with camo gear for so long that one of the employees asked me if he could help me find something. I told him no. I was just browsing. I looked suspicious. Who browses up and down each aisle for 15 minutes in the hunting section of a truck stop?

My house that is almost always quiet, seems exceptionally quiet now. Unlike the two nights I spent staying up until after 1:00, I was tucked in by 8:00 on the night I got home. Granted, it was 9:00 central time, but it was still early. I was exhausted and my knee was not happy with me. I apologized to Rhoda (my new knee) and reassured her I’d be more mindful of her care once home.

I miss my high school friends. There is a fragility that lingers long past the goodbyes while wondering what the next 10 years will bring. Or are we at the point, given that we’re 68 years old, that the space between reunions should be shortened? The poster with the 60 plus names of classmates who had passed was hard to look at and hard for me to take my eyes off of. We are all the same age. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered who in that room Saturday night would be added to the list of names on the poster the next reunion. Reunions are a rare visual of the passage of time and it seems like the accelerator pedal is being pushed a little harder than I’m comfortable with.

When I was 14, Terri, who was hosting me all weekend, gave me a journal. It was larger than the typical journal with 8×10 pages and a black cover with gold embossed trim. It was by far the fanciest journal I owned or had ever seen for that matter. On the inside cover she wrote, “Blank pages await your inspiration. I remember being very moved by her gesture. She knew I wrote and I’m sure I shared some of my work with her (bad poetry that makes me cringe), but it was her seeing and acknowledging something inside of me that had begun to percolate, that was so touching. I filled every page of the journal that resides in a trunk packed to the brim with other notebooks and journals filled with essays and letters. When people talk about what they’d grab in a fire, I think of myself hoisting the large trunk down 28 steps, hopefully with a knee that is stronger than it is today. Before I left on Sunday, she gave me a journal she bought for me a while ago but had forgotten to give to me. Just like the one she gave me 50 plus years ago, this one will also be filled in time. It is just one of the countless threads of connection I was reminded of throughout the weekend. Threads that have woven themselves into my beautiful tapestry of life, one memory and one row at a time. I added a few rows to that tapestry this past weekend. The colors may not be as bold as they were 50 years ago and you may have to move in closer to see the true beauty, but it’s still there in all of its glory. Row after row, memory after memory. “Blank pages await your inspiration” — for living, for writing, for life. I’m still holding onto those words.

To all of my classmates who had a hand in shaping the person I am today and showed up in person so I could hug you and share memories with you, thank you. You are my “I knew you when…” friends and that, holds a lot of weight… more with every passing year.

Left Knee, Part 3

Rhoda’s first portrait (she’s the one that looks a little brighter and shinier than the other one…)

Three and a half weeks ago, I was resting comfortably in the pre-op bed under a heated blanket with my sisters and my daughter seated across the room from me. I remember commenting on how “spa-like” the experience was given the heated blanket. The nurse told me to let her know when the blanket loses its heat and she’d bring me another one, then added that the “spa-like” feeling would be short term. Unlike a spa, I had an IV in my arm and instead of the gentle sounds of nature being piped into the background, I heard doctors being paged. And I was afraid. Afraid because I knew what to expect and the warnings of “it will be painful and the recovery is long and difficult,” were hard to dismiss. (The “warning,” by the way, came directly from my doctor). My left leg was marked with an “X” to indicate it was the knee that was getting “replaced” and below the “X” was my doctor’s signature. Every one who entered the room first asked my name, my birthday and which knee was to be operated on before introducing themselves. I know it was protocol but it became almost comical. I couldn’t help but think about what my 4 year-old granddaughter had asked me a few days before my surgery.
“What if they saw the wrong knee off?”
I told her they check and double check to make sure it’s the right knee before they do any “sawing.”

My doctor had come in briefly and went over the timeline with me, answered my questions and said he’d return when it was surgery time. He wasn’t wearing the usual blue scrubs I was expecting, but instead, had on biking shorts and a tee shirt that looked like it had seen better days. His hair was smashed and misshapen on one side, I’m guessing from the bike helmet. I asked him, jokingly, if he had ridden his bike over and he said he had, but only from a nearby surgery center. Given that this is Boulder where the athleticism is constantly surprising me, that other hospital could have been in Denver.

And now here I sit, 3 1/2 weeks later, on my couch, with my legs not stretched out, not in a massaging ice cuff, but rather, in an 80 degree angle with my feet on the floor. It won’t last very long because it’s still uncomfortable, but for now, I’m sitting like most of the world sits and am feeling pretty proud of the position.

I never knew about knee flexion degrees or angles until a few days after surgery when a physical therapist came to my house and got out her measuring device — a device I would become very familiar with. The oversized protractor, that took me back to my elementary school days and trying to remember which math device was the protractor and which was the compass, now indicates to me that discomfort is coming. When I realized the angle was going to be measured every PT visit, I became competitive (with myself) and would push to get my knee to bend just a tiny bit more than I thought possible. I’ve been told I will probably never have the extension I used to, which would be bringing my heel to touch my backside as in a quad stretch exercise, but I’ll be close. It’s hard to hear things I’ll possibly never be able to do again and I hadn’t given it a thought until the first physical therapist I worked with mentioned that 50% of knee replacement patients can no longer kneel. Really? What if I was Catholic? I’m not, but what if?? What about yoga poses that begin in a kneeling position? She also told me there would be a handful of sports I’d need to give up — basketball, soccer, pickle ball and running for sport. I’m good with that given that none of them are sports I participate in, and as far as the pickle ball goes, I will now have a valid excuse for turning down the many invites I’ve gotten. And one more — skiing moguls. Unless I want to come back in because my replacement has worn out, I’ve been told to stay away from the bumps on the mountains when skiing. I don’t care about any of those things but when you’re told you should never do something again, I’m suddenly interested in women’s soccer leagues and moguls and the Boulder Marathon that was this past weekend. Of course these are activities I never would have taken part in before, but hearing that they are no longer an option if I want to maintain a healthy joint makes me feel like I’m missing out. Even the kneeling, that I may no longer be able to do, is now suddenly appealing to me. There is weight in the word “never.”

My emotions the past three weeks have run the gamut. I’ve been thrilled with my success, discouraged that I’m not further in my recovery, proud that according to the PT’s I’m so far ahead of the game that “if it was a race, you’d be on the other side of the finish line while others are still tying their shoes,” yet discouraged because it still hurts. I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to give the pain free moments the same amount of time as the ones with pain. I’m trying.

Last week, I went to my first PT session away from my home and I drove. Small victories. Before starting any exercises, my physical therapist had me lay on the table and began removing the steri-strips that had been placed over the incision that was joined with glue. Although it had been three weeks, it still felt like the small line of steri-strips were what was holding both sides of the incision together. I questioned removing them so soon. Ingrid, my therapist, reassured me that the “cement had hardened” and the strips were no longer needed. I couldn’t see what she was doing but still felt uncomfortable with what she was doing.
“I think it’s going to bleed,” I said. As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew how ridiculous they sounded. I thought about my 4 year-old granddaughter who walked into my house a few days earlier barefoot, because she likes shoes but hates wearing them, and noticed she had a bloody big toe. I asked her what happened and did she need a bandaid? Did it hurt? Was she OK? She calmly glanced down to her her toe and said,
“Oh this? Yea. It’s fine.”
She’s 4. Be like Muna, I thought to myself while I braced myself on the table.

Ingrid reassured me that it would not bleed then gave me a towel to put over my face to give me further separation from what she was doing. When she finished, she reassured me that no tourniquets were needed (a sense of humor is a bonus for physical therapists), and she was finished and although I didn’t need to look at it at that moment, eventually I would have to look at my leg. I had shorts on (as requested) so it was hard not to see the 7 inch scar that now divided the center of my leg into halves. Tears started flowing because that seems to be what I do now when I see physical therapists. Ingrid asked me if it hurt. Not physically, I answered, but it no longer looked like my leg. I’m not familiar with my new leg and for some reason it’s making me sad. She nodded and gave me the box of Kleenex from a nearby table and we proceeded with the exercises. In between exercises she stopped, looked at me and said,
“It’s probably a good thing you didn’t go into the medical field… you know, with the whole bleeding thing and all…”
Ingrid is serious and focused, and doesn’t say much, but what she does say makes me smile.
“Yea, I’d have my eyes closed too much to be good in the medical field,” I confirmed.

I couldn’t help but think about what a friend had told me regarding her first PT appointment and how she sobbed the entire time, not really knowing why. Maybe her telling me that had freed me up for doing the same. It’s sure easier than holding back the tears. Another friend who had gone through a knee replacement a few months earlier told me not forget the emotional aspect of a knee replacement, even though the physical part is the part that gets all the attention. I didn’t really understand what she meant when she told me that just days after my surgery, but I do now as I’m trying to find ease and comfort with something that isn’t either. Ingrid told me that as much as I’m getting used to the new knee, the new knee is also getting used to me. And that’s when I named her. If I’m going to have this part of my body tag along with me for the rest of my life, the least I can do is try to become more familiar with her and giving her a name felt like a good start. Her name is Rhoda. It came to me instantly, but there could be a lot of reasons for her name. First off, the character in the Mary Tyler Moore show, who was my favorite — the outspoken, bohemian, free-spirited woman who lived upstairs — the character who I felt I had a better chance being like than Mary, the star of the show. And secondly, rodilla is knee in Spanish, and I always love giving the language I’ve spent so much time trying to learn some recognition. And so I named her Rhoda.

Before I left the physical therapist office, my therapist’s assistant, Esther, said something about a client she had come in right before me and I thought she said her name was Samantha. When I asked what body part Samantha was working on, Esther quickly corrected me and said,
“Oh that’s not the patient’s name. It’s her new shoulder’s name.”
I’m right in line with Rhoda. Given that I see my physical therapists twice a week for at least a few months, I need to make sure they are both properly introduced to Rhoda. They may also offer her apologies in advance for the pain they might inflict during future appointments.

And so my journey continues… days are slow, weeks are faster. I’d much rather be writing about walking adventures in other countries and my discoveries encountered along the way, but instead, I’ll continue to record the journey of the hinge in the center of my left leg that is forging its own trails as it learns to bend. It’s not as exciting as the walks I’ve written about for so many of the past Septembers and Octobers, but trust me, it’s every bit as hard as an 18 miles day climbing uphill, with a head wind in the Pyrenees. Just not as scenic.

Discoveries through pain

I’ve had plenty of time to think during the past week — in the pre-op room waiting for surgery, in the recovery room waiting for a hospital bed, in the hospital bed waiting to go home and now, on my make-shift couch bed waiting for the day I can tackle the 18 steps up to my bedroom. It’s been a long, painful, insightful and productive journey that has included far more than my knee getting replaced, although it’s the knee that’s getting the most attention because it’s the loudest. In the trauma of my bandaged and swollen leg that is a variety of colors, the dominant being navy blue, an unexpected lens has formed that has allowed me to witness something that extends far beyond the physical. I’ve been given the honor, and yes, I say honor even though I’m still counting the hours until the next pain pill, of observing parts of my physical journey that don’t hurt when I walk, or stand, or bend my leg. I’m a week and two days out, but already am seeing the unexpected depth of the gift I’ve been given. It didn’t come without pain or tears, but it’s here and I’m accepting it. It’s me standing at the top of a difficult ski run, afraid to go down. Walking into a party where everyone is coupled up but me. Traveling alone to a developing country to volunteer, not knowing what I’ll be met with on the other side. It’s having to ask for help. It’s feeling vulnerable and afraid. It’s fear. It’s pain. It’s a fear of pain. And it’s come in unexpected doses at times I didn’t expect. It is patience, humility, surrender, compromise and the biggest of all, love. They are all gifts — the new knee and the pain that came with it, included.

Patience.
I’m learning to be patient with myself, during one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever encountered. There are physical movements that I didn’t give a thought to a week ago that I cannot do today, such as lift my leg while laying down. Even a quarter of an inch is too much. As I laid on the couch trying to follow my physical therapists directions without success, I started to cry. The therapist asked me if the pain was too much and I told her no, it wasn’t the pain. I just couldn’t do what she was asking. This, from the girl who had some of the highest kicks in drill team and up until last week, could still do the splits on both sides with ease. And now I couldn’t lift my leg even a millimeter off the couch. She touched my arm gently, told me to take a few breaths and relax. I did as she asked, while tears streamed down my cheeks. She told me that even though my leg hadn’t moved, the muscles had engaged and for now, one week post-op, that was enough. There was a lot of letting go that went on while I stared at the ceiling and cried. It was something I never would have done a week ago. Crying, that is. In front of someone I had only met a few minutes earlier. I’m good at holding in emotions that may make others uncomfortable, but not now. I’m learning that part of self care is listening to what my body needs and if that means to stop holding onto the lump in my throat and let the tears flow, then that is exactly what I’ll do.

Humility.
Two days ago, an occupational therapist sat in my living room in a chair that faced my couch bed with my large coffee table in-between us. As she was talking about the finer points of self care, I noticed that right next to the patient care folder she had sat down, were the underwear I had worn the previous day, or maybe the day before. Without apologies or explanations or attempts at reaching for the small navy and white striped heap, I redirected my attention to what she was saying about self care, which was about letting go of the need for perfection and holding onto what is, even if it happens to be a pair of yesterday’s underwear on the coffee table. Self care isn’t just about feeding myself good, nutritious food and getting rest and exercise. It’s also about finding grace in the spot where I have landed, no apologies necessary.

Surrender.
One thing about anesthesia that is difficult is that you can try as hard as you want to recall what happened while you were under, but it is impossible. The part of your brain that is in charge of remembering is temporarily shut down with the anesthesia (my boiled down, non-scientific version from what I’ve heard and read), and hard as you try, the pieces to the puzzle will not fit, because you will never have enough of them to form a clear picture. I know the urge to recall the faces, the conversations and the order of things will eventually fade, but for now, I’m still trying to establish my timeline, missing pieces and all. What I do remember was being seated at the edge of a gurney and bending over at the waist in a cold, very bright room while an attractive doctor put the needle in my spine for the spinal block. I remember seeing the unusually large gold band on his left hand and wondered if he should be wearing jewelry while putting needles in people’s backs. The next thing I heard was my doctor telling me to open my eyes and that all had gone well. He said I’d be taken to the recovery room where they’d monitor my vital signs until I could be taken to a hospital room, where I’d be reunited with my daughter and sisters. I did better this time under anesthesia than I had 18 years earlier before a procedure when I spoke out during that brief moment of feeling warm and cushy before the lights went out. I invited my doctor to my 50th birthday party and told him he was handsome (I was newly divorced). I only know this because a nurse told me, which made me laugh and want to hide at the same time. I don’t remember inviting my orthopedic surgeon to a party or telling him he’s handsome, although it would not have been a lie. Or at least as far as I know, I didn’t. I do remember talking up the Oregon Coast on my way to recovery, though, which looking back feels much safer than birthday party invitations or blatant flirting under anesthesia. After being taken into the recovery room, I remember crying, not because of pain but instead it was an emotional release. The surrender felt both freeing and comforting. Holding on is hard. Letting go felt like floating and floating feels like the best option when everything else is hard.

Self sufficiency.
My sisters were with me for the first week and my daughter has checked in with me at least twice a day since they left. Although I had help and many offers of help, there was an element of self sufficiency that I needed and craved. My great idea to bring hot food from the microwave to the table using my desk chair on wheels as both a transport device and a walker did not impress my occupational therapist. Instead, I got a strong “ABSOLUTELY NOT” and a solution that involved closable containers and my backpack. Mealtime has me carrying my food in a backpack while my walker takes me from one part of the kitchen to the other. I’ve inserted the tiniest bit of adventure into my meal times. Coffee and any other beverage are also carried in the pack in mason jars with lids. My daughter, Emery, is often here at mealtime, but it’s nice to know I can accomplish this task solo if need be.

I’ve been going through a lot of ice for the cooling/compression sleeve that I wear on my leg whenever I’m resting or sleeping. A couple of my friends brought over a Yeti cooler that my sisters filled with bags of ice along with a bucket that I can take the water out of the cooling device and replace it with the ice, a few times a day. Finding ice the day after a winning college football team’s home game (CU), I have learned is almost impossible and once found, quantities you can buy are limited to two bags, regardless if it’s to ice down a keg or a new knee. I hope it’s an away game next weekend. On top of the cooler I have a pair of scissors and a hammer. Everything I need. Again, I have help when I need it but self sufficiency feels good.

Love.
I think we remember what we need to remember post surgery — the stuff that matters. While the nurse put my pre-surgery IV in, I remember looking to the side of the room and seeing my two sisters and my daughter seated next to each other… my line up of love. I was scared and the trio of women just feet away could sense that because I can’t hide anything from them. They know me as well as I know myself. Emery said I’d be OK, or something to that effect, but it was what she said to me after those words that stuck and I held onto as they rolled me into surgery.
“You are one of the strongest people I know.”
When I hit the wall with the pain or felt afraid in the hospital room in the middle of the night, those words — you are one of the strongest people I know, echoed in my mind giving me comfort. My sister’s embraces before they left the prep room then my daughter’s embrace and good bye are the parts of the story I remember —the parts I want to hold on to with every fiber of my being because they are the parts that matter—that are necessary.

I remember snippets. Snippets that make me cry. Snippets that make me laugh. Emery’s hug before they wheeled me off for surgery, my sisters setting their alarms to check on me every 3 hours the first few nights after I got home and touching my cheek with their hand before leaving the room. I was asleep, but awake enough to feel their presence. Drugs are a strange thing. Robin told the occupational therapist yesterday how hard the first few nights were and she and Susan would get me tucked into my couch bed and would give me my meds then say their goodnights. Robin said when she looked back the first night she saw tears streaming down my cheeks. All those emotions, finding their way through my physical body, mingling in with my emotional body and landing on my cheeks. I felt so cared for, so loved. How could I not sob?

Susan, found the quilt my Grandma made me when I was a child with many of the blocks made from leftover fabric from dresses she made for either me or my sisters when we were young. It’s well-loved and frayed in spots, but the powers of my Grandma’s love still remain in its fibers and having it lay across my body when I sleep feels like a hug. A lot of the pain I’m feeling now is similar, but stronger, to the leg aches of growing pains I experienced as a child. For some reason, I remember having them often while staying at my Grandma and Papa’s house. Thinking about Grandma tucking me into a small bed, likely shared with a sister, while rubbing my aching legs is a thread of connection I savor. These are the tiny moments that matter and are remembered.

During the occupational therapist’s first visit, the one with my underwear on the coffee table, Emery happened to be at my house when she arrived. She stood behind the couch where I was sitting with my legs stretched out in front of me and began to gently braid my hair while we both listened to the therapist’s words regarding self care. It took me a few moments before I realized what she was doing, taking me back to the days I would French braid her hair but never with the same success she had when she did it herself. She was too young to wash her hair and hated combing it, but she could French braid it like a pro. I was often complimented on my braiding skills, but had to redirect the compliments to my young daughter who was the one with the mad hair skills. Not me. I thought about that moment later that evening while working my way through pain. Emery braided my hair.

Love can be straightforward, quiet, soft, beautiful and unexpected and sometimes it can unwashed hair lovingly arranged into a braid.

Left Knee, Part Two

I’m not mad at you. I just wanted to get that out ahead of the anesthesia and the power tools. Really. I’m not mad at you. You’ve gotten me through 68 years, many of them with far more miles and elevation than I would have ever predicted. The Camino (3 times), The Dingle Way (2 times), five 14ers and countless trails in Colorado, the Adirondacks, The Berkshires, Lake Tahoe, Alaska, Oregon, California, Peru, Argentina, Bhutan, Nepal and a whole lot of other places. And that’s not counting the stuff that no one cares about like bedrooms on 2nd floors, elevators that didn’t work, apartments without elevators and simply making my way from one side of the room to the other, first by crawling on hands and knees, then on wobbly legs and finally walking without thinking about it, upright and with confidence, the audience and outstretched arms gone.

You hung in there, probably longer than I should have let you, but I thought I could fix you without going under a surgeon’s knife (or power tools). I educated myself. I read about procedures, equipment, oils and potions, crossing my fingers that I’d find the solution. I didn’t want to succumb and follow what over 2 million people a year do because I didn’t want to feel like I had failed and was taking the “easy way” out, even though I’ve been forewarned that there is no “easy” in this solution that many say is over used.

I wasn’t ready to take a part out of my body that I was born with and replace it with something that was made in a factory and sold to doctors by representatives who leave shiny brochures behind for their patients. After multiple appointments with a handful of orthopedic surgeons over the course of a decade or so, I realized it was finally time and the right exercise, machine, brace or magic potion oil was not going to be my answer. Maybe I bought myself some time with these carefully researched remedies.. You, my dear old lefty, have reached the end of this trail. For the first time in my life, I have started thinking about the loss of a body part and it makes me sad in an odd sort of way. Not to steal your thunder, but you will not be my first body part to be removed. You will, however, be the first one to be replaced. My list is growing starting with my tonsils at age four then my right kidney 17 years later along with a rib that was in the way and finally my uterus. I don’t remember the date on the uterus, but watched Princess Diana’s funeral from a hospital bed. Your presence in my body will be replaced and maybe that’s why I’m feeling more of an emotional connection to the loss. Granted, I was four when the tonsils came out and knew little more than the ice cream I was promised when I woke up and with the removal of my kidney, my only concern was how awful the scar would look when I wore a bikini. The uterus, although necessary, was more emotional and left me with dreams of being pregnant but because I didn’t have a uterus, I had to carry the fetus in a basket. It wasn’t convenient because I couldn’t ever set it down and explanations were difficult. The dreams continued off and on for years then stopped. Possibly coinciding with menopause. But you… you will be replaced, unlike the tonsils, the kidney or the uterus. I will have a new left knee.

My almost four-year-old granddaughter asked me if I got to keep the old one. I told her no. I’d get a new one and the old one would be left behind. She also asked me if I got to choose what color I wanted and suggested pink because that is her favorite color. I wonder what it would be like if when leaving the hospital you got to exit with what you came in with, removed body part and all. They technically belong to you, right? I think about the nurse handing over the discharge papers and instructions along with a small bag with the removed body part inside, probably marked with the bio hazard sign. There was one body part I inquired about keeping and it was the one I didn’t know would be coming out. My rib. The pesky rib that was in the way. I asked my doctor if it had been saved. I thought it could be polished up and made into something interesting like part of a hair clip or an artifact with my own history that would sit on a shelf waiting for questions. My doctor said no. Several years later, when I was living in Alaska, I found some caribou antlers that I sawed into pieces — the larger end making napkin rings and the smaller made graduated sizes of buttons. After a lot of sanding and polishing, they looked like marble. I’m guessing my rib could have looked similar. Again, I was 21.

No offense, but I don’t want to keep you, and it’s not an option anyway, much to my granddaughter’s dismay. There was a time though, that it must have been an easy option because at age four, which seemed to be the going age for tonsil removal, my friend kept her tonsils. They floated in a jar in some sort of liquid and sat on a shelf in her room. I felt cheated, even at the tender age of four, that mine hadn’t been saved and weren’t on display. They seemed too small for something that had been causing so much trouble in our four-year-old throats. But still, I remember that mason jar with the two white floating lumps as much as I remember my sore throat and the endless bowls of ice cream.

I feel like I should name you, but it seems like a thin gesture to name something a few days before you’re going to get rid of it. But, if I did have to give you a name, it would have to be a word that means resilient and strong, which of course are the adjectives that the rest of my physical self became in dealing with you, no offense intended. My sister, Susan, would say the knee issues started long before I’ve admitting now — as far back as 15 years ago when we were hiking a trail in Patagonia with four other women when our guide, James, asked me if I’d like to use a hiking pole?
“A hiking pole? Why?” I asked.
He told me it looked like I was protecting my left knee. I had no idea. And so I used the pole and realized that maybe he was right and taking the weight off that knee (40 pounds per pole he told me) did seem to help. On day one of a big week of hiking, I was reluctant to admit that it hurt. Maybe that was your first whisper to me that things were starting to go south.

You’ve given me a good run, both literally and figuratively and if the joint wasn’t covered up with skin, maybe I’d take my granddaughter, Muna’s suggestion and ask for pink. Pink is one of those colors that looks pretty but is secretly stronger than people realize.

You’re not coming home with me — in a bag or a box or floating in a jar of liquid.  Instead,  I’ll say my goodbyes  and offer my thanks.  You’ve served me well, Lefty.

September 12th, again, but different…

My left knee.

Last year, on September 12th, I began walking the Dingle Way in Ireland with my sister, Susan.  It was the same route we walked in 2019, also starting on September 12th.  On the same day in 2021, I was hiking in Eldorado Canyon with my Boulder friends and the year before that, I was shoveling six inches of snow from a “this rarely happens”  snow storm in Boulder.  September 12th has unintentionally become an important date for me.  All three of the Camino walks I did started on September 12th, as well as a trip to Bhutan and Nepal and a 2020 trip to walk in the Burgundy region of France, which was cancelled due to Covid.   This September 12th,  I won’t be getting on a plane.  I won’t be walking new trails or revisiting familiar ones.  Instead, my adventure will be replacing one of my body parts.   I will be getting a new left knee.  I’d rather be headed out for a 500-mile Camino walk or even a 3-mile walk to anywhere at this point, but I suppose it’s all the walks that started on this auspicious date that have played a role in wearing old lefty out.  She’s shot.  And I’m replacing her with a new and improved model.  

It’s not the experience I thought I’d be writing about this fall, but I decided it would be remiss of me to skip over thisjourney because that is exactly what it is, a journey.  It was hardly what I expected and I’d choose packing bags and making reservations over poring over pages of information about “what I can expect,” but the process of this is upheaval of plans has become my teacher. I’ve learned that adventures don’t always involve airplane flights, packing bags or new trails.  This adventure has become an unplanned journey into parts of myself that go beyond the hinge in the center of my leg that allows it to bend.  It also put into place a sad list of cancellations, including a volunteer trip in Tanzania and a wedding in Utah.  I can reschedule Tanzania, but am sad I won’t be able to attend the wedding of the daughter of dear friends of mine.

September 12th is still a few days away, but the adventure began in mid June while I was on the east coast visiting my sister, Susan.  We hiked in the Adirondacks and lefty was strong enough that I was able to revisit Rooster Comb, which I’ve wanted to do since I last hiked it ten years ago. I needed to know if it was as hard as I recalled.  Was it?  Yes, it was challenging, but my memories have painted a much more difficult hike over the years.  Or maybe, (and this is the explanation I prefer to go with),   I’ve gotten stronger.  When we got back to Susan’s home in the Berkshires, I had to cancel the hike we were going on the next day because in my heart of hearts I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace of her fellow hikers.  My knee hurt.  I had dealt with a little pain here and a little there for years, but was always able to work around it and hike to my heart’s content.  This felt different.  With all the  “a little pain here and a little pain there” that’s been going on for over a decade, I’ve slowly been inching my way to the edge and the cancellation of a relatively easy hike was me hitting the proverbial wall with my left knee leading the charge.  Time was up.  I visited a recommended orthopedic surgeon when I got home, knowing what he’d say, only this time I lingered on his words “bone on bone, it won’t get better.” Having tried several remedies that included stem cell and hyaluronic acid injections, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy and a few potions and lotions out of desperation,  I knew it was time to get out my calendar and book a date.  My last hope was a cortisone injection, which I was told could give me up to nine months of relief or possibly not work at all.  I hung onto the nine months of relief  and waited hopefully until a week had passed and I called the doctor and asked how long it would be before the shot would begin to work?   I got my answer.  It hadn’t worked.  Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky few.  Before I was given the injection, my doctor told me there was one caveat.  If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t be able to have surgery for twelve weeks.  I didn’t give the twelve weeks a second thought as I knew it would work, but I did ask if it would hurt.  He gave me a curious look and responded,


“You are dealing with bone on bone pain with your knee and you’re asking if the shot will hurt??  No.  It won’t hurt.”

I was lucky to have my friend, Jane, along for that appointment.  She’s been through  knee replacement surgery before and worked as a medical attorney before retiring a few years ago.  She asked questions I hadn’t even considered.  All I could think to ask was how long before I can hike, how long before I can get on an airplane and how much will it hurt?  I was also wondering about the scar, but kept the vanity questions to myself.  

According to the calendar, twelve weeks after the injection fell on September 12th, which also happened to be the day after my two sisters would be coming out for a visit.  I hated to trade in hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and a week-long road trip through my beautiful state for surgery and post surgery care, but it seemed to be a lucky coincidence.  My travel companions would become my home health care providers. 

A few days ago,  I was sorting out final plans on FaceTime with my sisters when Susan burst into laughter for no apparent reason.  Robin and I both asked her what was so funny and she said,

“I just had a vision…Robin and I in her Honda driving across western Kansas and eastern Colorado with a walker, a cane and a raised toilet seat in the back seat and wedged in between the equipment, our knitting.”  (Robin happens to have a friend who has a garage filled with much needed post surgery equipment and is a generous lender). 

She was right to burst out into laughter.  My how times have changed.  Normally, there would have been hiking boots and poles or snow shoes in the winter, and way back in the day, when it was legal in some states, a cooler of beers to enjoy along the way.  My two sisters, hauling equipment in the back seat of the car that will help me move across the room and trading in their Colorado vacation to come to my aid, makes me smile.  They might as well speed on their journey west.  No highway patrol officer, after seeing what they’re carrying in the back seat, would dare give them a speeding ticket.

During the time in June when I made my first hiking cancellation due to pain up until last week, my life has looked very different.  I’m not hiking and because of that, I’m not seeing my hiking friends, or at least not as often as I used to.  Instead, I have made it my summer of travel and discovery.  I drove to Santa Fe for a few nights, ate dinner alone (as noted in a previous post) and meandered my way home with an impromptu stop in Taos for a night.  I liked being in my car with little to no plans, making up my route as I went along.  It felt good.  It felt free.  I savored the “out on the open road” mentality,  although I doubt Jack Kerouac would use those words, but still… 

A few weeks later,  I traveled to Kansas City to celebrate my Dad’s 95th birthday then to LA to see my LA kids, followed by a trip to up the west coast to see my Portland kids, which included a few nights at the moody Oregon coast that fills my soul.  I rounded off the summer with a trip to Rhode Island to celebrate my birthday with Susie,  the girl I’ve called my best friend since I was 15-years-old.  It’s been a good summer.  I’ve missed the hiking and seeing my friends on the trails a few times a week, but these past few months have reminded me that the journey needs to hold as much weight as the destination.  Often, that’s where the jewels are found, but you have to be going slow enough to catch their sparkle.

This four inch area in the middle of my leg has become my teacher these past few months. I’ve learned humility, vulnerability and honesty with my impaired abilities and am working on patience.  Recently,  I’ve become strangely in search of vertical scars that run the length of a stranger’s knee cap,  because I’m both curious and nosey.  I never noticed or gave a thought to this before.  If I note a scar, my attention is then is redirected to their gait.  Is the owner of the scar limping?  Do they appear to be in pain?  In a town as physically active as Boulder, the amount of vertical scars running down knee caps is far more common than I would have predicted and not all of them have silver hair.  So far, all have had a healthy gait and none seem to be writhing in pain.  I’m holding on to that as a good sign.  

Along with the travel this summer, I’ve been “pre-habbing” my knee with daily trips to my rec center for the stationary bike and weight machines along with daily exercises to strengthen my legs.  I’ve been told all the work on the front end will make for an easier and faster recovery.   Those words alone have off set some of the “it’s not going to be easy” remarks from not only my doctor, but everyone I know who has had a knee replacement or knows someone who has.  

My 50 year high school reunion is one month and a few days post op so have a goal.  When I say 50 year reunion, it is with a gasp followed by a shake of my head because seriously, how in the world could it have been that long since I graduated from high school?  When we’re all together after so many years, we will, without planning, become 17-year-olds again and the roles will come back like it was yesterday.   Goals.  I certainly wouldn’t have guessed three months ago they would include going to my 50th high school reunion without a walker.

This is phase one of my journey and chapter one of sharing my adventure.  Somehow adding the word “adventure” makes it seem less awful.  There will be more of this to follow.

Returning to Beginnings

A good spot to meet friends.

A few weeks ago I accepted my neighbor’s invitation to a party at his house.    It was the same house,  but different owners, where I had gone to a New Year’s Eve party a few months after I moved to Boulder.   I had met Ann while shoveling my front sidewalk, our houses only separated by one house.  She told me she was shoveling our neighbor’s walk also, something that the first on up did given that the distance between the houses is so short.  A few weeks later there was an invitation in my mailbox for her and her husband, Robert’s New Year’s Eve party. She told me it was an annual event in the neighborhood and because her husband was Scottish, they rang in the New Year at 3:00 pm,  midnight in Scotland.   It was my first invite since my arrival to Boulder and I was thrilled. On December 31, 2019, with the late afternoon sun pouring through the windows,  I raised my glass to the new year, while thinking what a good year it would be.  Even the number seemed lucky — 2020.  Of course little did I know.  Little did anyone know.  

On that New Year’s afternoon, I spent a lot of time conversing with a woman who happened to share my love of hiking and had all sorts of trails and trips to share with me. I felt a strong need to seize the moment with this new found, almost friend, and make sure we had a roughed-in plan for a hike in the near future before we parted ways.  My behavior reminded me of the summer I rented a condo in the mountains for two months and not knowing a soul went into the bookstore, met the owner and was determined not to leave the store until we had a some semblance of a friendship in the making.  The word desperate comes to mind and that afternoon, I was claiming it again. I was at a New Year’s Eve party where I only knew one person and wondered what I’d do when the clock struck 3:00 and the kissing began. I started thinking about my exit plan as soon as I arrived. The front door would be the easiest way to sneak out as everyone was gathered in the kitchen at the back of the house. Every time I’d eye the front door, I’d tell myself I had to stay a little longer, at least until we rang in the New Year.   I felt like the new kid on the first day of school or the insecure girl at a Junior High dance who felt like a brown shoe amidst a sea of strappy patent leather.  My sense of awareness as to my presence and its awkwardness was heightened while I navigated the discomforts of “where should I stand?  Am I acting too eager?  And is it too soon to reload my plate?”  And then I found the woman who liked to hike so parked myself right next to her with determination and a plan. Our conversation ended when the clock struck 3:00 and we all clinked glasses of scotch. I didn’t have an invite to hike. I had lost my momentum, but that was OK. I had stayed at the party until the stroke of 3:00 and felt proud of myself for that.

Six months later, while in the throes of covid isolation, the New Year’s hostess, Ann, texted me and invited me to dinner. She told me she felt we had just started to get to know each other at the party and she wanted to be sure our friendship continued. She also reassured me that the dinner would be “covid safe” and we’d eat socially distanced and outside. When I arrived, through the alley and not the front door as instructed, I saw two set tables on opposite ends of the covered back porch — one with two settings for her and Robert, and the other with a single setting for me. She told me she cooked our meals in separate cookware and wore a mask the entire time. It was a lovely, yet odd dinner. Except for when we were eating, we left our masks on, only lowering them to sip our wine. Hearing the conversation was difficult not only because of the masks, but because we were seated so far from each other. As I was walking home, two doors down and through the alley, I thought about the effort Ann had put into insuring the dinner was safe. It had to be the most gracious, generous and kind dinner party I had ever been to. A year later, they moved to Winter Park and short of a few texts, we are no longer in touch. The new owners, who have been there for almost two years, were the ones who invited me to their party a few weeks ago. I was flattered by the invitation as I don’t know the couple well, short of seeing them pass by my house on walks or texts between us sharing information regarding a fencing company he shared with me. I gladly accepted the invitation, mostly out of curiosity to see the changes, if any, they had made to the house.

When I arrived, the house and porch were crowded with people, most at least ten years younger than me. I only knew Matthew and wasn’t even sure which one was his wife. I reminded myself that in all fairness, they both travel internationally for extended amounts of time for their jobs so are gone a lot. As I stood on the porch, that had been set up with chairs placed around the perimeter and a large table of food in the center, I couldn’t help but think back to Ann’s dinner invitation three years earlier. Although they had made some changes in the back yard, the patio was the same and in my mind I could see the two tables, one set for two and the other, on the opposite side of the porch, set for one. I couldn’t help but smile while I stood in the space between the two invisible tables. I took my “covered dish” into the dining room and was hit by another wave of nostalgia. On Dec. 31, 2019, in the middle of the afternoon, I was also setting down a dish to share, while feeling apprehensive and insecure. Had I brought something that everyone would like? What if I had to take a dish home with only one spoonful removed? This time, I was the only one in the room, which gave me the opportunity to stop and remember, without drawing attention. I set my Greek salad down, without concerns of taking a nearly full dish home and looked towards the seating area between the kitchen and the dining room, which looked very similar to the way Ann and Robert had arranged it. Only the furniture was different. I found the spot where I remember standing with an untouched glass of scotch in my hand, trying my hardest, to connect with the woman I had pegged as my future hiking pal. I wanted desperately to leave with a hiking date penciled in on my calendar, or any social engagement for that matter. I had moved to a town where I only knew my daughter, my son-in-law and my grandson, Arlo, who was not yet two, and knew that the biggest part about feeling settled had nothing to do with emptying boxes and filling cupboards. I needed friends and I needed plans on my calendar and that New Year’s Eve, I was all in, sacrificing my pride in the process. Of course I had no idea that a short three months later I’d be quarantining alone in my house for six weeks, whether I had made new friends or not. In all my attempts that New Year’s Eve to snag a friend, I lost sight of the fact that I already had one, Ann, who would later be the only other person I would see socially during my covid isolation besides my daughter and her family, and only from their car window or the other side of my yard as they delivered groceries.

Shortly after we rang in the new year with the country of Scotland, I found an opportune time to make my exit and collected my dish from the dining room that looked like it had one spoonful removed, possibly two. I quietly made my way out the front door without goodbyes because who wants to be seen carrying an almost full dish home. I walked down the sidewalk, past the house that sits in-between Ann’s house and mine and lingered on the sense of pride I was feeling. It wasn’t what I expected nor had I snagged a hiking date, but it was good.

A few weeks ago, I had mingled my way through the same kitchen, dining room and porch of the house that was now Matthew’s and his wife. I engaged in interesting conversations with people from as close as a few blocks away and as far as New Zealand and Tanzania. I didn’t worry about where or how I was standing or if it was too soon for seconds. At midnight, and with a house still filled with people, I gathered up my dish, gave my thanks to Matthew and his wife who I was happy to finally meet, and said my goodbyes. I walked the short distance through the alley to my house carrying my dish, which was empty. Totally empty.

As I walked up the steps to my back porch, I stopped to take it all in. I had felt comfortable enough at my neighbor’s party that walking in and only knowing the host hadn’t been an issue. I wasn’t trying to pencil in hiking dates or get phone numbers for friends I hadn’t yet met. None of that mattered this time while I attended a party at the yellow cottage two houses down from me with grapevines that now formed an open weave ceiling over the far end of the back yard. The same house that had a back patio that one night had been arranged with a table and chairs set for two at one end and a table for one at the other.

I had started going to an exercise studio shortly after my arrival to Boulder and a few weeks in, the owner stopped me on my way out and told me she was running a special and I could bring in friends for unlimited free workouts for the next week. I hesitated, not sure how honest I wanted to be, then figured why not and told her thanks, but I didn’t have any friends. She looked up at me with deep concern and sensing her discomfort, I quickly added, ”well, not yet!” I realized while walking out to my car that I had shown a vulnerability not only to the studio owner, but also to myself. When, if ever, in my life had I uttered the words… “I don’t have any friends” (locally, and at the present time, I’d later clarify). And who was this person who was showing such vulnerability at the risk of her pride? Is this what new beginnings, if you you’re honest, really and truly look like?

Four years is a long time and it’s also the blink of an eye. I remember the excitement I felt the first time I saw someone I knew at the hardware store and the first time I had to turn down a social engagement because I was already committed. All rungs on the ladder I’ve been climbing without even realizing it until now, when I feel like I’ve made it to the roof, which offers both better views and greater perspective. I can look down and see where I started but not where I’ll end up, which is the fun part. My earlier urgency to connect has been replaced by a calm, open-minded curiosity with no expectations, and in that process, I have quietly found my way home.

Table for One

Before the waitress quickly changed the standard two top table to what I reserved…. one setting.

A few nights ago I was in the square in Santa Fe, killing time before my dinner reservation. I overestimated my shopping time and had 45 minutes to kill before my reservation. I’ve spent many a morning or afternoon finding my way through the countless shops and galleries in Santa Fe and have always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt, but on this latest visit, it seemed that every shop had a whole lot of what I already owned, so after wandering through a few galleries and getting dreamy eyed about the antique rugs or paintings with price tags that had too many digits, the shopping didn’t hold my attention, I went inside the courtyard where the outdoor tables for Casa Sena were and saw three people seated at the bar. Bars are always a good spot to land because bartenders are usually more than happy to chat or lend an ear. I set my things down and took a stool in the center of the bar and ordered a club soda. When the woman seated at the end of the bar, three stools down, heard my order, she turned in my direction and said in a loud and bossy voice,
“Froze! (as in frozen rose)… you have to get one of these. Not a club soda, Carla, get her a froze!”


I noticed the almost empty glass of frozen rose in front of her and two empty glasses lined up next to it. Maybe the bartender hadn’t removed them as she was using them to keep count. She later told me that three drinks were the limit without food and five with food. I wasn’t sure if that was their restaurant rules or Santa Fe rules, but it looked like they were being enforced.


“No, I’m good. It’s too hot out right now for alcohol. Club soda’s fine.”


She readjusted herself on her barstool so she was facing me and told me her name, which I immediately forgot and told me the couple’s names of who were at the other end of the bar, along with Carla, the bartender. I followed with my quick introduction, as I didn’t really want to get involved in conversation with her. Some situations are easy to sniff out and you instinctively know to stay clear. I was perfectly content chatting with the bartender or just keeping to myself, but the anchor at the end of the bar had other ideas.

“Carla, get her a frose.”
“Maria,” the bartender said. “My name’s Maria! I don’t know why you keep calling me Carla.”


The lady whose name I immediately forgot ignored Maria and leaned towards me and said,
“I bet you’re a writer. You look like a writer.”

OK, annoying as she was, now she had my attention, even though I still wasn’t interested in engaging in a conversation with her.

“I am,” I answered, “and that’s interesting you’d say that.”

i already knew I had said too much when she started leaning towards me even more. She said something about the couple at the other end of the bar, who just gave a nod and I could tell they were also trying to keep their distance and were likely grateful that I had moved into the spot closer to the getting drunk on frozen rose woman.

She asked questions and I gave one word answers, trying my best to subtly let her know I wasn’t interested in engaging in conversation. She didn’t take the hint.


“Where are you from? I’m supposed to be meeting a man here but he didn’t show up. I’m 60, he’s 45. Do you think that’s strange? Good or bad? Carla! I think Laurie needs a froze! Are you staying here? I’m not from here. I live outside of Denver, but I’ve lived everywhere. My husband was in the military.”

“It’s MARIA, not Carla,” Maria the bartender said, then glanced over to me and shook her head.


The one sided conversation continued with me answering only when I had to. She became more and more persistent and given that I didn’t want to be rude, I gave short answers and no eye contact, but it didn’t seem to be slowing her down. After I finished my drink, I went over to the hostess stand and asked if I could be seated. She told me they had staffing issues and wouldn’t be able to seat me until my reservation time – in 15 minutes.

“You don’t have to do anything.. just give me a glass of water and I’ll wait at the table.”


She looked confused.
I continued, “I’m trying to get away from the woman at the end of the bar.”
“Oh… of course. Maria told me she had to cut her off and she didn’t seem very happy about it. She told me not to worry, they’d find me a table and she then led me to a table that was as far away from the bar as possible. As soon as I was seated, the woman , who in my mind I’m now calling “Flo,” approached my table, seeming much more drunk to me now that she was upright.


“How come you’re sitting here all by yourself? Are you waiting for someone?”
“No, I’m by myself.” This was all information I had told her earlier.
She nodded with a string look of concern on her face then asked,

“Do you want me to join you? It seems so sad that you’re going to be eating alone. I’m an extrovert. I would never eat alone.”
“No, I don’t. I’m fine. Actually, I like eating alone. And I’m also an extrovert.”


I picked up the menu and started scanning my options while trying to give her the message to leave me alone, which clearly wasn’t working.
“Are you sure? You’re just sitting her all alone… and….well it seems….
I interrupted her, “Yes. I want to eat alone. I like eating alone. Have a nice evening.” And I went back to my menu reading, watching her out of the corner of my eye. She stood next to the empty chair at my table for at least a minute, rocking back from one foot to the other, then left. My waitress showed up right behind her.

“We’re so sorry… the bartender cut her off but she doesn’t seem to want to leave,” the waitress told me apologetically.

“No worries,” I said, then placed my order and enjoyed a lovely dinner but the drunk frozen rose, Flo, said something that I would subconsciously tuck away. That subconscious thought would resurface the next night when I decided to dine at the lodge. As usual, I arrived for my reservation 20 minutes early so went to the bar and ordered an aperol spritz because it seems like the thing to do these days. During my 15 minutes of sitting, I was asked by the bartender, two waiters and the hostess if I was waiting for someone. The hostess, who I had said earlier that I wanted a table for one, said she was ready to seat me but had the other person in my party arrived? When I said no, there wasn’t another half to my party and it was just me, Flo’s words entered my mind…”it just seems kinda sad…”. Everyone but me seemed to be concerned about the missing person at my table for one. I regretted that I added the “just” before “me.” It sounded apologetic and I wasn’t. As I was being led to my table, I couldn’t help but scan every visible table in the room and a few on the patio for a head count. I confirmed what I was already pretty sure of — I was the only table for one. Even at the bar everyone was paired off. I sat at my table, suddenly aware of an awkwardness I was feeling that hadn’t been an issue when I sat at almost the same table two nights ago. But it was drunk Flo that put these ideas of “aren’t you sad, don’t you want someone to eat with you?” into my head.

I’ve done a lot of things that I now look back on as a scary and by myself — hiking to the top of 5 14’er mountains in Colorado, flying to Guana to volunteer on my own when my friend who was supposed to go with me ended up sick in Atlanta and driving from Boulder to western Massachusetts to see my sister during Covid. I could go on, but now, I wonder if dining alone should be added to my list? I didn’t feel sad, much to Flo’s dismay, I’m sure, to be led to a table for only me, but have to admit, watching the hostess scoop up the extra place setting, almost like she was trying to do it so fast that I won’t notice, gave the dinner for one an awkwardness that I hadn’t thought of before. Flo had me overthinking the whole “dining solo” concept, or doing anything alone, which also concerned Flo, but it was exactly what she was doing given that her date had stood her up.

As I was leaving the restaurant, there was a man, probably about my age setting up scaffolding for an art show next to the pool. It was going to be projected onto the water and although he explained what he was doing, I had no idea what he was talking about. We had a nice chat though and he invited me to the show but I told him I was leaving the next day.
“Flying home?”
“No. Driving. With some stops along the way, not exactly sure but probably Taos and eventually Boulder.”
“Oh, kind of like a Jack Kerouac, on the road, trip?”
“Well not really but I appreciate the comparison.”
“Are you by yourself?”
“Yes.”
“You’re brave.”
I didn’t think so, but I had dined alone and that act was starting to sound brave to me, but I decided not to share that with him.
“Have a good trip, ‘on the road,’ and be careful.”
I smiled, wondering how I’d live up to the ‘on the road’ name as well as the brave comment. Brave? Hardly. I have a cell phone, AAA road insurance and a car that’s in good shape. Brave is when you have none of those and are in a country whose language you do not speak and you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping after dinner, which now has you concerned having downed all the water that has been poured for you as well as eaten the lettuce garnish. That’s brave. Maybe dining alone is also brave, but I’m still thinking about that one as it seems too easy. I guess we all have our own version of bravery.

I used to think it was brave to bring three kids under the age of four into a restaurant, which I did many times solo, and is also probably where I developed the bad habit of eating so quickly. But a road trip with a few stops, hardly. So along with the notion of dining alone being sad according to Flo, now I had artist Jack’s words about bravery to contemplate (my made up name, short for Jack Kerouac of course). His words hold more weight than Flo’s and they were delivered to me sober.

At breakfast the next morning, I asked for a table for one, eliminating the “just,” but breakfast isn’t the same as dinner. I wasn’t alone with my table for one. In fact, I’d say the majority in the lodge coffee shop were tables set for one, with lap tops as their dates. I couldn’t help but think about Flo’s words “but you look so sad.” No one looked sad. They all looked happy to be left alone.

Flo’s words returned to me while dining alone, again, in Taos the next day, now comfortable with dropping the apologetic “just” at the hostess stand. Flo was wrong. Flo was also drunk. It doesn’t feel sad or lonely or conspicuous to me to be solo in restaurants. In fact, it makes me feel brave and brave makes me sit up a little straighter in my chair and ask the waiter what their top shelf gin is. Not that I’m a gin drinker, but it sounds confident — like something a brave person eating alone would ask.

Returning to Adirondack memories

I have loved the Adirondacks from the first time I experienced them almost three decades ago, thanks to my sister, Susan, who showed them off to me when she lived in Montreal. I love the smell of balsam in the air when you enter the small town where we stay and take Susan’s cue to roll down the window and stick my head out like a Labrador retriever — taking it all in, one inhale at a time.  I love that most of the businesses that line the main street in town have not changed and the waitresses at the Noonmark Diner are still not friendly and the pies are still good.  

On my most recent visit, Susan and I stayed at the same inn where I had stayed during one of my first visits to Keene Valley— The Trail’s End Inn, a 1902 Adirondack lodge that sits at the end of a long dirt road with views of mountains and trailheads within walking distance. Iconic, picturesque, and once you’ve stayed there a few times, you get to add “home” to that list.  There are several other lodging options and another favorite is the Dartbrook Lodge, where I’ve stayed a few times.  It has a grouping of log cabins with large front porches and interiors that look like Ralph Lauren had his hand in the decorating decisions.  Not one detail of the interior, or exterior for that matter, had been overlooked.  It was my idea of absolute decor perfection, Adirondack style.  As beautiful as the cabins were in their rustic, aged, distressed, bent-willow style, I prefer the creaking floors and lumpy mattresses to the Navajo inspired rugs,  large stone fireplaces and beds with down comforters. Maybe because it holds so many memories for me and as much as I love walking into a hand-hewn log cabin whose decor I’ve tried to emulate in places I’ve lived, give me mismatched quilts, bad water pressure and lumpy mattresses.  Especially when those lumpy mattresses are in a screened-in sleeping porch that is so divine that not sleeping in it simply is not an option, even if that means going to bed in your coat.

The Trail’s End Inn

When Susan and I started making plans for the Adirondacks portion of my visit to see her in Massachusetts,  my only request, besides our lodging, was to hike Rooster Comb.  I wanted to revisit the trail that had challenged me every time I’ve been on it, even though Susan insists it is not a hard hike.  Out of the many hikes I’ve been on in the Adirondacks, I have the most history with Rooster Comb.  Actually, my family has the most history with Rooster Comb.  My son-in-law proposed to my daughter at the top of Rooster Comb, I earned a 3 inch scar just below my left knee when I slipped on a mossy piece of granite on the way down once and my family has all done the hike and probably more than once.

And so we did just that.  After the rain had cleared, kind of, we made our way up the trail, a gradual climb that one local guide book refers to as a “relentless uphill hike.”  After almost four years of hiking a few times a week, I now have a better grasp of the assent of a trail’s relationship to distance to determine difficult and with 1,900 feet of assent and only 4.7 miles to cover that assent, I now understand my years of whining about the difficulty of the trail.  There’s only one tiny stretch that is level and every inch of that level feels welcoming.  Susan said I’d feel differently about Rooster Comb after hiking as many miles as I have in Colorado, and with altitude, which is why I needed the revisit.  I needed to know if what my memory had been telling me all these years was accurate (probably 10 since I last hiked it).

The weather was perfect—cloudy, with a few sporadic raindrops and neither hot nor buggy.  I  remember doing the hike one August several years ago with bandanas that we had tied onto our faces from our necks to just below our eyes because of the annoying swarms of black flies.  But on this journey up Rooster Comb, the black flies stayed away.  They’d make their appearance later in the summer. 

When we got to the huge rock with the tree growing up and around it, Susan told me we were half way.  Already?  The guidebook was right that it was an uphill hike, but relentless?  Hardly.  When we got to the top, we didn’t even bother to get comfortable and start fishing snacks out of our packs because the gnats were thick.   Better than black flies, but not great.  We lingered long enough though to take in the incredible views — softer and gentler than the rocky views I’m used to, but just as spectacular and grand in their beauty. The revisit felt good and my return as a seasoned hiker became a measure of not only the strength I’ve gained in my last few years of hiking, but my patience as well.  We only passed a few other hikers and Susan hiked ahead of me, as she always does as her pace is faster than mine.  We’d stop periodically to share something we had thought of (or so I could catch up), but most of the conversations that morning were with myself, inside my head, as I tried to absorb what every mountain trail tries hard to tell me and that is to slow down, have a closer look and enjoy the incredible gifts that nature is offering up that so often go unnoticed.  That morning I noticed.  

The stunning half way marker (recently)
And 15 years ago (my bandana would later be used as a bandage at the end of the hike…)

I was mindful of my steps as we neared the end of the trail, when legs tend to get wobbly and sharp mossy rocks are tripped over, leaving scars as memories.  When I fell on one of those mossy rocks, 15 years ago, I was wearing shorts and my leg was bleeding so badly that I took the bandana off of my head and tied it on my leg like a tourniquet, although I knew nothing about tying tourniquets, but it kept the blood out of my socks.  I remember both of us laughing, I mean really laughing, with Susan taking her cue from me that it was OK to laugh after seeing I was OK, because for some reason, falling is funny, whether on a slick floor or a mossy rock.  We patched the cut up when we got back to our room and I made the hasty and probably unwise decision to not go to an emergency room for stitches, given the scar I have today.  As Chris Cleave says in his book “Little Bee,” scars are reminders that we survived.  My reminder is front and center for me, where I see it so often that I no longer see it, short of a random reminder to slow down around wet, mossy rocks.

It rained all night and we slept in twin beds, with our beds pushed up against the screens — a familiar sleeping arrangement for us that dates back to our childhood. There was a roof overhang, so we didn’t get rained on, but I don’t think even the rain would have stopped us.  We probably would have just pushed our beds away from the window and stayed on the porch.  The bed in the room on the other side of the sleeping porch, remained unused.  It was two of the best night’s sleeps I’ve gotten in a long time.  According to my fit bit, 10 hours of good sleep.  Susan thinks they should use the room for sleep deprived people — a sleep clinic that would offer guarantees of a good night’s sleep, especially if there was rain in the forecast.

There are some places that get under your skin and crawl their way right into your soul.  They find their way into your happiest day dreams and become the backdrop to so many scenes  where stories are told to others and silently to yourself.  Keene Valley, New York and the Trail’s End Inn are two of  those places for me.   This most recent visit felt different though, almost like an itch that was finally getting scratched.  I started thinking about solo writing retreats and tucking myself into the sleeping porch with a notebook and a pen and a steaming cup of tea on the night stand with the coziness of a Rosamunde Pilcher novel.  I’m not sure why I haven’t done it before.  Maybe because I have had so much fun with Susan on our Keene Valley trips, a place she knows well having rented a cottage there for weekends of hiking when she lived in Montreal.  I have no doubt that my itch of my own pieced together writing retreat will get scratched and the views and the sounds of the early morning birds and the gentle breeze that holds the scent of balsam will be my fodder for words on the page.   If I’m lucky, it will rain every night because  getting to sleep in a screened-in sleeping porch with the background sounds of a gentle rain, is just about as good as life gets.  

Why don’t you ever write fiction?

After attending a weekend memoir writing workshop at UCLA, I came home and wrote. This has become my predictable side effect after sitting in a classroom or in front of a zoom screen for two or three days of writing teacher-given prompts, then humbly sharing our work. One would think the first thing I’d want to do after two or three or even four days of an intensive writing workshop, would be to put my pen down, but it’s the opposite. Feeling inspired and heeding the suggestions that came from workshopping my pieces, I always look forward to continuing the process when the class is over. On the last day of class, zoom or in person, we share our writing goals with the class and six months later, we regroup on zoom for accountability. Those first few days post class, I begin to think about increasing my daily writing time and giving more weight to my goals, but after a few months, I settle back into my newly adjusted normal as the enthusiasm of the class wanes. I’m sure I’m not the only one in the class that does this. This time when I returned to Boulder, post class, I was met with a string of cold, rainy days. Not that I need gloomy weather to inspire writing, but it sure does help. Besides, I cherish the gray, rainy, gloomy days that tell me I need to stay indoors and leave my hiking boots at the door. They are rare where I live. And so I did. I called indoor recess, got my coffee, got comfortable at my desk and started typing. It wasn’t long before I had written 5,000 words, or about ten pages. Everything about what I was doing was routine except for one very big thing. I was writing fiction, not memoir, which was new, very unexpected and not at all what I had been doing at the workshop I had just attended.

A few weeks before the workshop, my son, Grant, asked me why I never wrote fiction. It wasn’t the first time he had asked me that, but it was the first time I really paid attention to his question.

“Because I don’t know how, or more specifically, I don’t have a plot in mind,” was my answer.

He pushed.

“But you’re so good at making stuff up.”
He was right with that. I am good at making stuff up, but more in a way to skirt trouble when I was young while answering my parents ever familiar question of “where have you been, young lady?” Necessity, not creativity. Making up stories about random people I see or sometimes don’t see, is something I’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember, both with my sisters and my children. Several years ago driving from LA to Ojai with my LA kids to celebrate my birthday, someone in the car (who wasn’t me) started talking about a woman named Kendra and her most recent escapade at work. It took me a few minutes to realize, oh, we’re doing that… then I joined right in adding to the comments about Kendra and the last insurance convention she attended, which was a bit of a disaster as everyone in the car recalled. Of course we all had pictures in our mind of Kendra- what she looked like, how she talked, and of course what she did at the convention to make it memorable in all of our made-up stories. Random conversations about a made up person just begin with my kids and I. There is never any rhyme or reason to any of it and I remember being especially amazed at the fine tuned ability everyone in the car had, not missing a detail. They’ve paid attention and have learned by listening. Of course the farther into the story we got, the funnier it became, which feeds all of the storytellers. Responses were seamless, as if we were reading scripts. I realized my kids had all witnessed me doing this with my sisters and without any instruction or prompts from me, had carried on the tradition proudly and passed it onto their partners. I remember a fun birthday celebration in Ojai, but remember the stories about Kendra at the convention even more.

This has happened at airports, restaurants, hikes and stores with my sisters and with quick lightning rounds while waiting next to a car at a stop light. I have no idea where this odd game of ours originated, but we’ve all got it and we all love doing it. People outside of our storytelling family have reacted in one of two ways — they joined right in without explanations as to what we are doing or why, or they look puzzled and confused and explaining the odd behavior that we’ve taken to such ridiculous lengths is never easy.
“I guess I just don’t know how to start,” I told Grant.
“Just make up a character and write stuff that happens to that character every day—like the stuff we make up. You already know how to do this, mom.”

And so taking Grant’s challenge, I started writing. I wrote about a girl I’ve thought about for a long time, not really knowing why and definitely not realizing she would become the heroine in my book. Situations started unfolding for my 10-year-old, made up heroine. Things I hadn’t predicted. Things that surprised me. It felt like the book started writing itself and although I was behind every word, every paragraph, every page, Tink, my heroine, was guiding me.

I remember once hearing an author tell an interviewer that she was so surprised when the main character in the book she had written, died. The interviewer said, “but you were the one writing the book… you were the one that killed her!” Her response was that the book started writing itself, leading her down unexpected pathways with unexpected consequences. I’ve thought about that interview a lot, believing the author, but not understanding what she was saying. I got a glimpse of that while I wrote, not knowing what was going to happen to my heroine or how the book would end. 5,000 words turned to 10,000 then 20,000 and finally my short story grew to a novel with 75,000 pages. I’m still not exactly sure how it happened but it did and almost two months to the date of Grant asking me why I never wrote fiction, my answer to that was, “I do now.”

I loved the freedom of being able to write down what came to mind, making things up without a thought to whether or not my memory was serving me correctly. Using characters to show, not tell, that were formed with my words —families and friends, the loved and the not so loved, all with the stroke of my keyboard. It was a blank canvas ready for paint, instead of finding the puzzle pieces of memories that would lead to other memories once I started piecing them together. It was exhilarating and energizing and made all day stretches at my desk not only tolerable, but enjoyable. And the rain kept coming. Maybe my book’s dedication needs to not only be to my son, Grant, who put me on this journey in the first place, but also to the rainy May weather in Boulder. I’m not sure I would have been motivated had it been sunny outside, which may sound ridiculous, but anyone who knows me well understands the motivation that gray days bring me. Ironically, I live in a state that claims to have 300 sunny days a year and believe me, people who live here keep track.

Once I put the final period on the last sentence, I took my work to Office Depot to be printed. I wanted to hold the weight of 75,000 words in my hands. While I stood at the copy machine, watching the pages come out of the printer and stack themselves onto the tray, I could’t help but think of the hours I sat at my computer in my office looking at the 3 mini-clothes lines that hang on the wall above my desk. Using tiny clothes pins, I’ve hung phrases or words that inspire me or remind me (“enough of the adverbs”… or… “keep your butt in the chair”…). These two are the ones that I kept looking at and eventually moved to the center of the twine.

Creativity is a combination of discipline and child-like spirt.” Robert Greene


“The job of the novelist is to invent: to embroider, to color, to embellish, to make things up.
” – Donna Tart

I don’t know where the two inch stack of paper sitting on the side of my desk will end up, but right now, just looking at it and picking it up and feeling its weight is enough. There was a freedom that came from creating something from nothing that I’m relishing in. To create people and stories and histories where they didn’t exist before feels like pure magic to me and after spending 75,000 words with my main characters, it’s not surprising that they have woven themselves into my day to day life. The other day I said something to a clerk in the grocery store and as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I hesitated and the thought that it was exactly what Tink, my protagonist, would have said. I have made up a world of imaginary friends who evidently are still hanging around.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more about this book later, but for now, just this page:


Dedicated to Grant, who asked me why I never write fiction. I do now.

Indoor recess.

Writing is hard. UCLA writing workshop.

A curiosity outside of our classroom. No phones though. It could have been a great writing prompt though…

The first day of school for me was always a day that gave me a knot in my stomach, even though I was returning to most of the same kids I had been in school with the year before and the year before that and several I had played with over the summer. This morning, I had my first day at school, a weekend workshop, on the UCLA campus, and the knot returned. I had had the teacher for three other classes, but all of them from home, sitting in front of my computer on Zoom, pajamas on the bottom and looking more put together on the top. Today, I finally got to meet the woman who has become a writing mentor for me, face to face and in person. Just like six months ago when I participated in a writing workshop in Santa Monica, my son, Grant took me to class, or actually to the hotel where I spent the weekend. We enjoyed dinner before at Flavors From Afar located in the Little Ethiopia section of LA. It’s an interesting restaurant that changes its menu monthly to feature dishes from the homeland of a refugee or immigrant chef. This month’s menu was Guatemala, a place my kids and I all traveled to several years ago. The food was excellent and because of the delicious food as well as their commitment to help refugees, it will go on my “must eat there” for future LA visits. I have to admit though, I was more focused on my upcoming classroom time than tamales or tilapia. My nerves of insecurity were making themselves known.

Grant dropped me off at the hotel, conveniently located in the UCLA campus, and told me he’d wait to make sure I got in OK. He told me “good luck,” adding words of encouragement, a shift in roles as I used to be the one in the driver’s seat offering up words of encouragement. However, he forgot to tell me to make sure I had everything, which in my excitement, I didn’t. He texted me later and told me I had forgotten my jacket and my water bottle. Fortunately, it was a warm and sunny in LA. He suggested buying a UCLA water bottle to show school spirit, in jest, of course, but at this point, I’ve taken enough classes at UCLA — close to 100 hours of contact hours, to justify a water bottle and maybe even a sweatshirt. My son, who forgot homework most days, texting me to tell me I left my jacket and water behind was great fodder for writing if I needed a prompt over the weekend.

When you’ve only known each other from a small square in a page of squares of faces on Zoom that can’t help me think of Hollywood Squares, seeing each other in person took my teacher, Amy and I a minute before we embraced in a hug that felt long overdue. The classroom was nothing special — four walls with a chalk board on two of them, no windows and a horseshoe of desks that were on wheels, which at first I thought was strange, but by the end of the day, we had all scooted ourselves around while trying to find our best spot. I could see and hear what wasn’t possible on Zoom — the emotions in the eyes, the body language, the audible sighs on a well-crafted or heart wrenching sentence. I was in a classroom of 15 talented, authentic and very brave souls who at the end of day one, felt like I knew with a level of intimacy that doesn’t usually come with initial meetings. And we’ve only begun.

After class, I walked into Westwood Village, a few miles from my hotel room, and cobbled together some food to take back and enjoy on the small patio outside of my room. I bought a sandwich bigger than my head, a bag of chips and a single sized serving of rose. I don’t normally eat huge sandwiches, but I worked up an appetite by writing from 9 to 5 so made the indulgent splurge. On my walk home, a man stopped and asked me if I’d like a ride. Flattered by the offer while knowing I’d say no, I turned around to get a closer look of who was either hitting on me, being a creep or simply a nice guy. I said no, but thanks, to the man behind the wheel who not only looked suspiciously too old to drive, but a bit like my Dad. I have silver hair. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Amy, our teacher, told us at the end of day one to take the evening off, relax and get a good night’s sleep because it would be far more exhausting mentally than we’d realize. Pouring your heart out onto the page, as soulfully fulfilling as it is for me, is also exhausting in a way that catches up to you later and always as such a surprise when I find myself tucking into my bed at 8:30 or 9:00. Regardless of what we were told, I’m sure most people in my class were doing the exact same thing I was doing…writing, rewriting and contemplating what we want to share. There is no rest for the weary. At least not for this weekend.

On the last day, our second day, we each had 10 minutes of sharing time with the class and because I’ve taken Amy’s memoir classes before, I knew what that 10 minutes would probably look like — 20 minutes or even 30 and our class wouldn’t end at 5:00, but closer to 5:30 and even that would be a stretch. We could use the time for anything we wanted, whether that was reading a piece or talking about book plans or writing plans or anything else we wanted to share. I chose an essay I wrote about a woman I knew for a matter of months during my year of living in Phoenix. I wrote it many years ago, decades actually, but have gone in and made edits and changes over the years. I’m hoping it will become a part of something else I’m working on but as per the methodology that Amy adheres to, I’m not going to share much about those plans.

Amy gave us prompts, where we have 5 to 10 minutes to write then could go back and tweak during free time, which was not much. On the first day, we chose a piece we had written in the prompts for the class to workshop. The class would ask questions in areas where they wanted more information written, such as “how old were you when this happened?” Or “Where were you?” Usually the questions were pretty basic. The hard part was we weren’t allowed to answer the questions because Amy didn’t want the writer to be influenced. Rather, the questions were written down and we could decide later if we wanted to address them in our piece. It was a strategy that had been used in all of the classes I’ve taken with Amy, so I was familiar with the drill.

We spent all afternoon on the last day with our “10 minutes of sharing,” which predictably was more like 30 minutes. I was so moved by the bravery of some of the stories I heard and stunned by the tragedies many in our class had suffered as children and young adults. Amy had told us on our first day that we’d connect with one or more of the students and would form life long bonds and we’d be surprised by how close we would become with only 16 hours of being with one another. She was right. It happened twice with her classes on Zoom and it happened even more so in person. We’ve already been emailing and there will be a few who I will try and connect with on future trips to LA. Most, by the way, were from the area but one girl was from Dallas, another from Seattle and one from San Francisco. The remainder lived in the LA area.

It’s such an opportunity for me, with regards to both my writing as a whole and my soul to be able to spend a few weekends a year with other like-minded adults who on a gorgeous day in LA would choose to be in a window-less classroom writing about memories, many of them painful. It will take a few days or even weeks for me to totally absorb the time I spent with this incredible and brave, group of writers. I couldn’t have been in better company.

On Sunday, early evening, Grant picked me up and asked me how my class had gone and although it had only been a few days since he dropped me off, it felt like it had been at least a week. Time spent in that drab classroom went fast but also at times painfully slow. I can’t articulate specifically what I learned to do or undo because those elements will come in drips and drabs while I write, but I know from past experience that there will be a time while I’m writing when something that Amy or one of the other classmates said will be exactly what I need to hear and I’ll add that word or sentence or chapter that I was too afraid to include before and I’ll see the face of the person who shared the wisdom, clear as day, as if they are standing over my desk with raised eyebrows saying, “what are you REALLY trying to say?” I’ll give their invisible self a nod and continue to type, or write in spiral notebooks that sit in stacks in a basket by my desk.

I know every one of us in that weekend workshop came away with something different from our time in that classroom, but there was one thing we could all agree with without exception. Writing is hard. No explanation, and no need to go deeper with those words — hard and as necessary as oxygen for each and everyone of us who sat in the windowless room in desks on wheels. I need to be reminded of that while I sit in front of the ever familiar blank page, while I try to find my words or the meaning or even the purpose behind those words.

Writing is hard and laborious and emotional and frustrating but it’s also one of the purest forms of creativity and making sense of my world that I’ve found, beginning with discoveries through awful poetry in my teens. While back at my desk, where I have a tiny clothesline attached to the wall with 3×5 cards pinned to it with saved words on them, there are two cards I’m drawn to today.

“Authenticity only comes when you take risks.”

“But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight” (*Lover’s in a Dangerous Time,” by Bruce Cockburn).

Tomorrow, it will be a different card with different words, but for today, on the heels of inspiration and some deep soul searching, those are my words.