About Who Said That?

Someone whose thoughts won't stay on the inside but whose life won't own them

Losing Andy

8084550131_22af3aeb7b_z“Andy Boy killed himself yesterday.”  My husband’s words felt like a punch to my chest.  Whooosh.  All the air is gone and instantly the world feels a little lonelier.

Andy and his wife, Andy Girl, were my husband’s landlords in Denver when we were dating and then engaged, 26 years ago.  In reality, they were his family, along with Ed, another wayward young lawyer living in their third floor.  Whenever I came to town to visit, they welcomed me into their family as well.  We were all young and establishing ourselves in the chaos of professional careers.  Andy was a small but mighty Jewish complement to Andy Girl’s beautiful Italian-ness.

Life happened.  They had children, we had our son.  We all worked really hard at living. We moved.  They moved.  Time went.  We kept track over the years.  Andy brought his kids to our condo in Copper years ago after a day on the ski hill, and we remarked at how wonderfully our children were growing up.  In my mind, he is still the man in his mid-20’s with the sideways, quiet smile – always up for a meat-centered boys’ night out that often included my husband.  My memories are of youth and hope and a deep love for the people in his life.

At the memorial service, hundreds filled the synagogue.  We heard his family share heartbreaking stories of Andy and his passions that verged on obsessions.  We heard of his love for his children and Andy Girl.  We learned that he had been tortured for years by dark depression and he had lost the strength to fend off the insidious, suffocating thoughts.  We felt the shattered hearts all around us, only just beginning to grasp that he was gone from this life.

The next evening we were invited to join Andy’s family and friends at his brother’s home.  The night was all about ribs, beer and stories of Andy told around a camp fire.  His family spoke of their love openly, tears streaming even as we laughed about his uniquely Andy Boy ways.  Friends came to remember him, from his high school days, his fraternity, his law school and the neighborhood bike shop.  We learned that he was the same man we knew in our youth.  His heart loved deeply, he would talk to anyone, he would take any poor soul mountain biking.  We also learned that he had an enduring love of IPA, worshiped the band Wide Spread Panic and felt an almost manic need to pull people into his life. Hearing this was both reassuring and troubling.  This cross-section of his life was consistent throughout, yet he lived with deep darkness.  This man who was loved and cherished by so many, who brought laughter and fun to such a broad group of people couldn’t see a place for himself in this world any longer.

We are heart-sick.  We liked knowing the world had Andy in it, even if we hadn’t seen him for a while.  We would have moved the earth to keep Andy in it. We spoke with our friends from that era, who have also been living these parallel lives, about honoring Andy by refreshing our friendships.  Ed’s son, sitting on the cusp of adulthood, heard his dad explain that the bonds he will make in the coming few years are unique and to be cherished.  They are pure, without the tarnish of grown-up weightiness and responsibility.

Losing Andy this week makes us aware of what we were too limited to realize when we were younger:  a true connection with another is precious.  We are privileged to have had such a connection with Andy.  Cheers, dear friend.

 

The Old Saddle Just Doesn’t Feel Right

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My excuse for this years-long break in my career chain is coming to an end.  The boy who is chasing dreams on the ski hill will soon be chasing different dreams at college.  He doesn’t need me for moral and nutritional support the way he once did (although the financial requirements continue unabated).  It is time for me to reclaim my life.  I march back to Denver, where I think I might find it.

A former professional, hard-driving (that’s a nice way to say it) attorney, I jump back into the fray of what I used to do.  I put myself out there, my resume listing all the great things I have done for past employers in embarrassingly measurable detail.  I shore up my self-confidence and submit myself to an interview for essentially the same job I once had.  I am in a video-conference site (because that’s what the cool recruiters have you do these days) and look at the image on the screen of the woman who would be my boss and I just don’t.  I don’t want it.  I don’t care about why she should want me.  I see the few-years-ago me in her and I am sad.  I do my best to feign interest and enthusiasm, but we both know my heart isn’t in it.

The last half-decade of my life living in the Colorado mountain air has changed me.  My heart is different.  I am softer, more of a mother, less of a shark.  I have volunteered in classrooms, hiked with friends to talk about tough life stuff, given more hugs, been more present. I have ridden my bike over mountain passes and back, breathing in both oxygen-depleted air and God’s beautiful creation.  I’ve listened to a lot of country music, along with the boy’s hip hop and (truly awful) gangsta rap. I have been surrounded by people who made choices to be happy with less, live in the moment, enjoy the sunshine and be grateful for fresh snow.  I have sat, tears flowing, in a gym where young hearts mourned the loss of a 15 year old boy who had personified life.  I have loved more than I have ever loved before.  The long-term growth objectives of a corporate non-entity just don’t carry the same level of importance that they once did.

I head to a local organization that works to prepare public high school kids for college.  My spirit is bouyed by the hope, fears and futures reflected in their eyes.  I answer their questions about what it takes to be an attorney, while secretly praying that they won’t lose themselves in the process.  I remind myself that they are not me.  Their paths will be unique.

I recognize that I must shift gears to match my new self.  I don’t know what that means.  I don’t know how to change course in the middle of life like this.  Is it doing what I did before but in a different way?  Putting this new skin of mine to good use as a more effective me?  Is it a new direction altogether?  Do I become the book store-lurking, public radio-working person Randy Newman sang about.  (If only I could write lyrics like Randy…)

Apparently I just can’t pretend to be the person I once was. Time to put on my big-girl panties and figure it out, because getting back in the same old saddle just doesn’t feel right.

 

 

 

No Words

I swore I would not write about this election. Everyone has already said everything and more. Some I agree with, some angers me, some saddens me. I suspect a majority of Americans have experienced similar reactions throughout this painful process, whomever they aligned themselves with. 

I’m on my way to visit my parents. I find myself standing at the airport kiosk waiting to buy some aspirin for this migraine that just won’t quit. And the cashier is all jovial. He asks me if I voted for Trump. I’m a little put off by this invasion into my travel bubble but I reply. He says he is asking everyone because he wants to know why people who didn’t vote for Trump are so upset that he is now our president-elect. 

And there it is. This young man, whose skin is darker than mine, is looking at me with a giant smile on his face, having no idea that his search for answers has ripped my soul open just a bit more than it already was. 

“It’s not like he’s a terrorist or anything,” he says. “Why do people think he is going to be so terrible”?  

I stare for a beat, hand him my card and clench my teeth. I cannot engage. I cannot explain to this fellow citizen that his not-so-terrible, soon-to-be-president scares the crap out of me. That he embodies every sociopath I have encountered in my longer time on earth. That his voice, sneer, smile, gestures and words trigger that survival instinct in me to run far, far away. That he has the very real potential to send the free world into a giant abyss. 

I sign the receipt and silently stuff the aspirin in my purse and drag my suitcase away. I am heavy. Waiting to board I wonder if I should have tried to explain all of this to the bubbly cattle prod at the kiosk. 

Maybe someday I will be able to stare across a glass-topped counter and share all of my hurt and fear with some stranger like him. Not yet. 

Zero to Hate in a Flash

498296601_4f1f24bae4_zWhen my son was in day care years ago, he came home with bite marks all over his back.  I was shocked, outraged, disgusted.  Was he spending time with children or animals?  The caregiver patiently told me that it’s a phase that toddlers go through and that they were aware of it and working with the children to help them learn it isn’t okay to bite.  In a few weeks, my own son was biting other children and me, I suppose to vent his frustration. We got through it.  You can’t expect a small child to be rational, so you deflect and say no-no and wait for his little brain to develop some more.

I fear that our society is comprised of a bunch of toddlers, lashing out at-will and with great eagerness.  When news of the gorilla incident hit the airwaves this weekend, outrage instantly erupted against the kid’s mother, the zoo, the kid, the designer of the zoo and his or her mother, the manufacturer of the gun that killed the gorilla, the trees that line the road to the zoo … virtually anyone or anything was fair game for blame, attack, disdain and hatred.  Internet discourse is now the stoning of Biblical days. Kill the heretic that we only just heard about!  There is only Good and Evil and [insert here] is deigned by me to be Evil and must be beaten to a pulp.

We have heard all the theories about social media, the internet, video games, music, ISIS or  global warming causing our collective psyche to have a hair trigger, to go to the extreme on a moment’s notice, to riot at a political rally, to cyber bully just to get clicks.  All of those theories may have validity, but I’m sick of the excuses.  It’s time to take back our rationality.

Sometimes bad things happen and there is no one to blame.  I know, it’s shocking that I, an attorney, would be an advocate for the “shit happens” philosophy.  But sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to work with.  Tragedy occurs and there may not be a villain to attack.  Sometimes someone makes a mistake.  There is no bad intent, there isn’t even negligence.  It happens.  We may be sad and angry that a bad thing has happened, but there may not be a bad guy.

And get this, sometimes someone can have a viewpoint that differs from yours and it doesn’t make them a bad person.  It doesn’t make them stupid or irrational or bad.  It makes them human.  Here’s a shocker:  we can disagree without hating each other or threatening families and dogs. (Yes, this happens to people in the public eye everyday.  Their lives and those of their families and pets are threatened because they support a given candidate or cause.  What is wrong with this picture?)

Sometimes people do have bad intent.  Sometimes people are evil.  That’s why we have law enforcement agencies, a free press (well, if you roll all the news sources together we may approach some level of the truth) and a court system designed to ferret out people who do bad things or act recklessly and hold them accountable. I know, these institutions are not perfect and sometimes they make mistakes and are the wrongdoers.  I get it.  But let’s take a breath before attacking.  Let’s wait to learn some facts before assuming the worst.  Let’s consider that someone’s opinion is just that and not a plot to take our freedom.  Let’s turn our attention to mending the fabric of our society rather than leaving bite marks on each other.  Go to your time-out chair, people. 

 

 

 

When an introvert crashes …

she watches movies until her head hurts. This is my plan for the evening. 

Wait a Minute ….

 

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Patience may be a virtue but it has never been a virtue of mine.  It’s a failing.  I hate to wait.

I’ve had some practice in the last year or so with my twice-daily walks with our aging pug.  He cannot see or hear and it takes him quite a bit of time and effort to find the exact right spot to take care of business.  He cannot be rushed.  I should be getting better at this. I am so not getting better at this.

Lately, my challenge with patience has been pushed to its limit.   Our family is in a holding pattern.  It’s no one’s fault but our own and it is something that we could put an end to but we have consciously decided to wait and see.  As with Heinz ketchup, the waiting is the hardest part.

There is a point in the near-ish future where we will not be waiting.  We will be seeing.  And doing.  It’s not that far away.  But as each day goes by, my patience is more and more threadbare.  It’s beginning to unravel.  The thing is, the possible outcomes from all this waiting are all pretty good ones which, in theory, should make it easier to wait and see.  But I’m so darn ready to do something that I’ve kind of lost sight of the fact that, in the words of Bob Marley, everything’s gonna be alright.  Let it go, already.

My son is in the vortex of this waiting game.  I am trying so hard not to be an annoying gnat (or am I more of a horse fly?) circling his head.  We have promised him we will wait.  We will see.  We should make good on that promise.  We will.  I just may not have much sanity left by the time we get there.  I hope at least one of us does.

<I also hope that you hear Bob Marley singing in your head after reading this, rather than the Heinz commercial or the song from Freeze ….>

Why Bother Season

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We have a few more weeks of skiing, but the reality has hit me:  we are on the cusp of mud season in the mountains of Colorado. It’s almost that time of year when everything is brown.  Everything is dirty.  And then, when it snows or rains, everything is muddy.  Some people view this season with affection, because it means the glorious summer isn’t too too far away.  Most people think of it as the time to leave for a nice beach somewhere for a month or two.  We are stuck here, save for a few days on a nice beach somewhere in Southern Florida in April.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Around the country, people jump into Spring with gusto, cleaning, airing out, getting some sunshine.  At my house, I turn into a lump of inactivity as I adopt a new mantra:  Oooohhhmmmm … Why Bother … Oooohhhmmmm … Why Bother …

I take the dogs for a walk and they come home muddy messes.  I give them baths.  I take the dogs for a walk and they come home muddy messes:  bath.  Walk, mud, bath, repeat.  Walk, mud, bath, repeat.  The next time I start to run the bath water, the mantra kicks in:  Why bother?  The next time the dogs want to go for a walk:  Why bother … Oooohhhmmmm.

And so it goes.  The floor is dirty and muddy.  Sweep the floor, clean the floor, rinse and repeat.  Why bother?  The cat and dog are shedding horribly.  Vacuum the couch, vacuum the rugs, wash the blankets to get the hair off and the next day everything is covered in dog and cat hair …  rinse and repeat.  Oooohhhmmm … Why Bother …  Oooohhhmmm … Why bother …

Yes, I know.  This is not a healthy way to go through life.  Time to eat?  Why bother, I’ll just be hungry again soon.  Time to brush my teeth?  Why bother…  And so on and so forth.  But for the next month or two, until it becomes gorgeously wonderful around here once again and the grass grows, the flowers bloom and winter’s gravel gets swept off the sides of the roads so that I can safely ride my road bike, the poor dogs may be going on fewer walks and the couch may be more covered in pet hair than usual.  Please don’t mind me.  I am in Why Bother Season.

 

They are Wrong (a lot)

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“No one ever said it would be easy.”  That saying is so wrong.  A lot of people have said it would be easy (consider the quick weight loss and anti-aging industries) and for the most part, they are wrong.

People are wrong all the time.  Drink grapefruit and you’ll lose inches in days.  Wrong. Vote for this guy and all our problems are solved.  Wrong.  Avoid cholesterol and you won’t have heart disease.  Mostly, wrong.

In fact, people are wrong so much, I’m wondering why we give People a voice in the first place.  People.  Huh.  I’m a people, and I’ve lived long enough to know a thing or two and I’m wrong a lot.  Yet for some reason I  subconsciously believe that People somehow has a leg-up on me and knows better.

Okay, okay, so if a People is an expert in astrophysics, that People is more likely to be right about something astrophysics-y.  But life?  Nope.  And even in astrophysics, other people may disagree and try to prove the People wrong.  And they may be successful.  They may not.

We can’t even count on someone who has lived a long time to be right.  That People’s words are based on a unique set of perspectives, life journey, brain chemistry and childhood traumas that haunted them for decades.  Age may bring an accumulated wisdom that is worth considering, but not always.  People can be wrong at any age, social strata, level of education or place on the beauty spectrum.

And yet, People get stirred up in the pot and their words and perspectives get churned into They.  As in, “They say you should walk 10,000 steps a day,” or “They say that if you make your bed every day you’ll live longer,” or “They say he is a socialist.”   They has a pretty significant voice.

Back to the topic (I didn’t have a topic when I started this little jaunt, but maybe I found it …):  Life is not easy.  People are often wrong.  Consider carefully whose words you value and why.

We give a whole lot of credence to what famous people say.  Famous people, who have managed to make some really bad, and really public, choices and we still think that what they have to say should guide our daily thoughts.  That they are somehow able to discern life better than we do.  Weird.

Charlie Sheen springs to mind.  I don’t know why him, as there are so many famous people we could point to as a little whacked and still have a say out there in the world.  Anyway, Charlie has managed to do a lot of really dumb things: drugs, demanding outrageous money to continue appearing on a mediocre TV show, “Winning,” tiger blood, having unprotected sex with women after being diagnosed with HIV.  And yet, he gets a spot on the Dr. Oz show this week.  (Let’s not get into how nuts Dr. Oz is.)  And I’m sure he’ll talk about HIV, or any other aspect of modern life, like he’s an expert and people will listen to him.  Charlie Sheen is a part of They.  Scary, isn’t it?

The thing is that we (lower case) people are fundamentally lazy.  We seek a quick way to understand our world and love to be told by People what They think so that we can be like Them.  And now, more than any time in human history, we have the ability to decide which People They are.  We choose our news sources on TV and the Internet to be the ones that espouse views consistent with what we think are the right ones.  We follow on Facebook and Twitter the voices of the People we decide are the best at knowing what is true.  So, in reality, They are Us (in the limited microcosm of our chosen reality).  It becomes a tornado of insular thoughts and ideas, throwing off any others.

I’m trying to evaluate where my They voice comes from and why.  I live in a small place, made smaller by the group of people my family most associates with.  I no longer go to work each day with people who force me to consider their unique life views.  Selling lift tickets a couple of days a week does expose me to people from varied lives to be sure (and the germs they bring from all over the world), but we don’t tend to engage in deep conversations while I swipe their credit card for outrageously priced tickets.  My views could become pretty entrenched.  And so, I’m working at expanding my influencing sources.  It’s really hard, but hey, They say Rome wasn’t built in a day ….

My kid turned 18 on Friday.  As I look at my <ahem> adult child, who will be voting in the next election, I wonder who his They will be.  If I have any influence at all, I hope to help him challenge Them, whoever They may be.  Teachers, hip hop singers, Snap Chatters, the producers of Ridiculousness, me.  I hope to help him realize that People are often wrong.  Take it in, breathe it out. As hard as it may be, think for yourself, young man.

 

 

Trump: Waiting for Guffman

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Say what you will about the Donald, he has always been really good at being a caricature.  The hair.  The voice.  The casinos.  The bankruptcies.  The wives.  “You’re fired.”  And he makes a really good cartoon candidate.  I’m just waiting for him to let us all in on the joke.

When he announced he was running, it was a chuckle-worthy moment.  Yeah, right, this will be an entertaining way to kick off another long  campaign season.  True to form, he started saying things that were, well, shockingly wrong for most anyone to say, let alone a presidential candidate. Sexist, racist, thoughtless.  McCain isn’t a war hero, because he got captured.  Ship out all of the immigrants on day one.  All 13 million of them. We have an African-American president and we’ve never had it so bad.  Look at that face.  Who would vote for her?

At first, I thought he had dementia.  I mean, the things that he said were so unfiltered and bizarre.  Isn’t that what happens when someone starts to <ahem> lose touch?  I waited for his family to issue a statement that he was ill and withdrawing his candidacy.  Nope.

Ok, so maybe he isn’t sick.  He’s just full of himself.  He has been a business mogul and those guys get away with saying a lot of crap.  He has money (according to him, one of his most endearing qualities).  He has power and influence.  I’ve worked with guys like this.  They surround themselves with people who agree, people who pander, people who never, ever suggest that they may be wrong.  You ordered a double espresso, but you wanted a triple?  I’m so sorry.  The barista has been fired.

He’s a bully.  He taunts, embarrasses, belittles.  When he doesn’t know the answer (take, for example, any matter of international affairs), he pounds his chest and tells us Hilary screwed up and when he is the leader of all things, he will be so AMAZING, you won’t believe.

Rather than the public floggings that we have come to expect when a political type makes one small error of fact, people love his eccentricities.  They find his candor refreshing and freeing.  He is the antidote to the politically correct.  They seem to miss that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about most of the time.  They can’t see past his quaint, if offensive, views to wonder how his foot-filled mouth might be received by, say, Putin.

He leads in the polls, even now, after he claimed that thousands and thousands of Jersey City Arabs were rejoicing in the streets after the twin towers collapsed.  No one remembers the dancing Arabs.  There were no supporting press reports or videos.  The thing is, Trump is so convincing in his wrong-ness that even Chris Christie, New Jersey’s Governor, couldn’t immediately say with conviction that Trump is plain making  stuff up.

And so, I’m looking forward to the movie gotcha moment.  In my mind, he walks to the podium, not one carefully placed hair askew, grabs the microphone, turns to the cameras and says to the American people, “You’re fired!” He tells us that he did everything he could think of to make himself unelectable.  He said all the wrong things, made stuff up, insulted everyone and still he got the vote.  “What is wrong with you people, that you would endorse me as a candidate for president?”  Mic drop.  Exit, stage left.

“He’s teaching me to change my instincts… or at least ignore them.” — Sheila, Waiting for Guffman

Helicoper Parenting from the Great Beyond

“Chere helice” by Nadar – Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chere_helice.jpg#/media/File:Chere_helice.jpg

I just read one of those “Letter to My Daughter after I’m Dead” things on Facebook.  Yet another reason I really need to start spending time doing productive things and not scrolling the e-universe, but those darn pajama-wearing goats keep bringing me back.  Facebook is like crack for the ADD mind.

Anyway, this letter was full of light and airy, yet very deep and meaningful, words of advice for the dying woman’s 13 year old.  Tear jerking, smile inducing.  You know what I’m talking about.  And my cynical mind, out in full force this gloomy morning, thought, “Give the girl a break, would you?”  I mean, she just lost her mom, and here comes her mom’s voice from the grave telling her to shine and smell roses and don’t think negative thoughts and avoid vampires (aka, boys who are bad for her).  It’s not enough that we parents hover when we’re alive, we now have to send our precious children letters after we’re dead, telling them how to live their best lives?

Those propellers are getting pretty loud.

In truth, this girl may be a perfectly lovely person who will go out and spread love and hope and run a charity for homeless dogs, and she may credit her dead mother’s instructive letter as inspiration to lead this life.  Or she may become a rebel, battle anorexia, be snarky once in a while, fail a test, quit cheerleading, have a bad boyfriend.  These are life’s realities.  What she really needs to know is that her mommy, wherever she may be, loves her.

Maybe the “Live This Life Not That” message in that letter is the way today’s competitive, over-achieving, hand-wringing parents know to show love.

Time is an Asterisk: Reflections on UnMommy-ing

I’m smack in the middling place.  Middle America, middle class, middle age.  I wear size middle.  Lately I’ve come to realize I’m mid-cliche.  I’m moving from cliche mommy to cliche mother of a college kid.

In my normally clouded life view, I am still young and vibrant, my life stretching endlessly ahead.  And then I see the mothers of elementary school children and realize that they CANNOT RELATE TO ME, as I am the mother of a senior in high school.  I’m baffled, because I fully relate to them.  After all, my son was 10 just a few months ago (93 months, but let’s not dwell on numbers, shall we?).  When those moments of clarity strike, sharp reality blinds my (I recently learned) cataract-ladened eyes and I squint at my wrinkling and spotted hands with wonder.  David Byrne’s voice flits through my head …  HOW DID I GET HERE?

I took my son to visit some universities this fall, as he considers the next phase of his life.  I spent years of my young adulthood at two of the schools, and they felt foreign and welcoming all at the same time.  I found myself walking past the dorms and dilapidated student houses, feeling that I should be back there with the students, filling a weekend with house parties, football and trips to the library.  Somewhere, close enough to touch, I am still that college girl.  The one who loves to dance and do tequila shots.  The one who hasn’t a clue what her life will become and dances anyway.

I watch my son, as he absorbs this new world, and I am conflicted.  Part of me is the toddler’s mom, who wants to keep him safe from the dangers that I know are there. Part of me is the serious, let’s-not-lose-sight-of-education, this-is-not-about-the-parties mom.  I know that soon I will become the college kid’s mom.  The one he rolls his eyes over when I send him 10 texts in a row because I haven’t heard from him in a week.  The mom who takes him and his roommate to dinner and then leaves, thank you very much. But part of me is also his friend, who wants him to experience college the way it should be.  I want him to love to dance (hopefully he doesn’t love shots too much …) and who hasn’t a clue what his life will become and dances anyway.  I want him to explore and question and fall in love, to have a professor nudge him toward an interest he never even considered.

This is the process of unmommy-ing.  We hear a lot about empty nest syndrome, but this is pre-empty nest.  This is anticipating what the next phase will be, letting go of the roles that we each have played and learning new ones.  This is hoping that we’ve taught him what he needs to know, because time is short.  Soon he will know it all (and then, hopefully, at around age 25, he’ll realize he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did).

The other night, he told me about some incident at school.  Later, when I’d crawled in bed, I panicked a little — had I ever shown him what to do in that circumstance?  Did I need to tell him now?  Never occurred to me …  I made my way to his room and sat on his bed and told him what I thought he needed to hear.  He smiled in a somewhat strange way and said, “Seriously?  Why are you telling me this?  Mom, don’t you think I figured that out already?  Geesh, this is awkward.  Can I just say, I’m so glad we never had the sex talk.”  And then I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh.  What is he telling me?  Maybe I need to have a sex talk with him … I mean, what should I say?  Is he expecting something profound?  He did have health class, right”?

Let it go, I tell myself.  We are in the middle.

Look where my hand was
Time isn’t holding up
Time is an asterisk
Same as it ever was…

Summer Take-Away

Summer rocks.  Hard to say that I love it more than a crisp Autumn afternoon, a perfect bluebird day on the slopes or a morning full of spring blossoms, but as seasons go, summer is my favorite.

I’m an Aquarius, sign of the water bearer.  I’ve always been a water baby and I still love the water — being in it, on it, by it, watching it.  I also love warm.  Campfires, evenings on the deck, hikes in the woods, rides over the hills.  Summer time, and the livin’ is easy.  School’s out for summer.  Yay!

School is back in session and 2015’s best season is coming to an end.  What did I learn this summer?  To focus on where you want to be.  Hokey, I know.  It was a key lesson in a June mountain biking clinic, and it has been floating around in my mind ever since.

As a rule, I don’t mountain bike.  It always seems really hard and I tend not to like being ground into rocks and dirt when I inevitably fall and I’m a grown-up so I don’t have to do something I don’t want to do.  Right?  Well … I should be open to new things, I thought.  If someone shows me how to do it and shares all those little secret tricks that obviously all the mountain bikers out there know, maybe I’ll like it.  And so, my friend and I signed up for the clinic.

Day one was basics in a parking lot.  We rode around, up curbs, tried some wheelies.  Finished up with a drink at the Dusty Boot.  This mountain biking thing isn’t so bad …  Day two, we were on dirt.  They showed us how to look ahead, anticipate, trust the bike.  Check, check, check.  And then we went on a little trail ride, stopping off here and there to learn about obstacles and switchbacks.  We were faced with our first real hurdle — a little ramp over a log.  To one side was a bunch of tree branches and rocks.  “Don’t look where you don’t want to be,” our guide told us.  “Focus on where you are going, where you want to go.”

Our more experienced riders jumped easily over and rode on.  No problemo.  My friend geared up for the log.  “You got this,” we said with bright smiles.  And then she looked down at the brambly mess.  It felt like slow motion.  As she got to the top of the log, her head turned toward the place she most certainly didn’t want to be and the bike followed.  Ouch.  Confidence shaken, she had several more spills over the rest of the ride.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Ever since, I’ve wondered how many times I have focused on where I didn’t want to be rather than the trail ahead.  How many messy and painful places have I careened into because I couldn’t keep my eyes forward?  I wish I had taken a clinic like this at age 15.  And again at 21, 30, 35 …  You get the picture.

Bad stuff happens.  It is inevitable.  As a planner and an over-thinker, I can focus way too much on how things can get worse, rather than the way out.  Rather than the way things can and do go right.  As the leaves start to change colors and summer sighs her last beautiful breaths, I’m trying to take to heart what I learned in that clinic:  hold on, loosen up, keep your weight centered, absorb the bumps, trust the bike.  Look toward where you want to be.

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An Ordinary, Average 9/11

Today, like many days, I got my kid off to his early morning workout before school, made coffee, watched some news, paid bills and headed out to do a little yard work.  I began humming “I’m just an ordinary, average guy … du du du du dup, du du du du da.” Joe Walsh’s lyrics danced in my otherwise empty head as I walked behind the lawn mower, and then I hit a wall of realization: how fortunate I am to have an ordinary, average life when 14 years ago I felt that anything ordinary had been blown up.

9/11 is my generation’s Pearl Harbor.  We all can relay exactly where we were, what we had on, what the weather was like and who we clung to that morning.  We all watched in horror as live TV showed the burning towers, first one and then the next crashing down, and people covered in ash running down the streets, sirens wailing in the background. More planes were involved.  The Pentagon hit.  Horrifying.

My son was a toddler.  I looked at his beautiful face and thought, his life will be so different.  We were under attack.  We didn’t know what else was coming.  I stayed home from my job in Denver that morning, because I thought maybe all tall buildings were targets.  We didn’t know.  Our world was rocked and forever changed that day.

Our leaders did the best they could in the face of this ghostly evil.  Be strong.  Never forget.  We will not be shaken.  Here are some of the words from President Bush’s speech that evening:

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.

Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, decisions or actions, President Bush said what we needed to hear.  He also foretold our country’s return to normal.  Perhaps it is a new normal, but today we Americans live our daily lives in relative peace and we are not looking over our shoulders every minute.  Thank God for those who stepped up and lead our country, and for those who sacrificed and who continue to sacrifice every day for us to live our ordinary lives.

We cannot become complacent.  Our world continues to generate hate and terrorism is not defeated.  Back here in our ordinary lives, it’s so easy to focus on the ups and downs of our economy, China’s economic stupidity, el nino weather patterns and the cost of cable. We are numbed by cat videos and clever quips on Facebook and Instagram.  Our dogs need to live mindfully and our pics are #nofilter.

Stay awake, people.  Appreciate your everydays, your normals, your averagenesses.  But also pay attention to what’s going on in the world.  Evaluate carefully just who you trust to lead our country.  Are they focused and can they lead with strength and make decisions thoughtfully?  Or are they under the dulling influence of mainstream hot topics and polls.  Say anything or say the right thing?  Be aware.  Ask questions. Read the entire article and not just the headline.  Talk about what matters with your kids.

Finally, let us never forget what it is to have the foundations of our lives rocked, and let us find compassion for those who face terror and uncertainty every day.  I cannot fathom living in a war zone.  Millions in Syria have lost their ordinary lives.  They look at their children, like I did 14 years ago, and fear for their future.  Some decide to flee their homes to give their toddlers an opportunity to live a normal life.  Some decide to stay and face the unfolding horror.  I pray that they will find peace soon.

I’m heading back out to finish mowing the lawn.  I’ll be going to the store later for groceries and then up to a friend’s for an “Oh wow, our kids are graduating this year” party.  An ordinary, average day.  Never forget.

Does My Pug Need More Time to Reflect?

Just saw a Petco TV ad telling me that my companion needs more balance in his life so that he has just the right ratio for work and play, rest and reflection, giving and receiving.  They also allude to a sort of yin-yang relationship with our four-legged companions:  “Together, we’re more complete.”

I’m pretty sure Bobo’s “right ratio” in life involves a whole lot of rest, no work, a lot of pets and scratches and a bottomless bowl of food.  I doubt he has ever reflected up anything.

Someone please smack the ad exec who came up with this campaign, the copy writer who thought it made sense to say that our dogs need time to reflect, and the VP of marketing at Petco who paid them.  Good grief.

Just in case, though … Bobo, you complete me. Namaste.

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Way Over the Top. Way.

It’s been a time of more than I can take.  Either my tolerances have fallen or the world has gotten more, well, MORE.

It started with false summits (sort of, more like false corners) on a bike ride with my kid a few weeks ago.  I’d ridden that ride before.  I knew that the end consisted of a series of climbs and curves around mountains and that we still had a bit of work ahead.  Nevertheless, I heard myself telling him that we were almost there … just around that next bend.  Ha!  It was more like 5, with lots of ups.  I was done well before the end of that ride, but we got there.  No worries.  Power through.  <grunt sounds>

So then my hubby and I headed for wine country with some dear friends, celebrating a big birthday on our side and a big anniversary on theirs.  Woot-Woot!  Day one we killed it.  Two unique and personalized tastings and dinner at a fabulous restaurant.  Perfect.  Day two, more wine, more food, more awesomeness.  Starting to feel a little rollie-pollie, but we’re hanging in.  Day three, biking, more wine, more food.  Starting to approach the red zone.  Day four, more … wine … food … just can’t quite move …  And there we went, toppling over.  Uncle.

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That day three dinner, though.  It defined MORE.  In three words:  The French Laundry.  Hubby made the reservations two months in advance.  TWO MONTHS, because that’s how they roll.  5:30 seemed a little early, but hey, it’s The French Laundry.  Men in jackets, slacks and close-toed shoes.  In Napa?  Okie dokie.

Throughout the week, we had gotten mixed reactions when we mentioned our pending dinner at TFL.  One lifetime resident told us it was a rip-off.  He had eaten there once and left hungry.  ?  Ok.  We knew it was pricey.  We sorta thought we’d get something special for the money.  Next person says, “Oh, right.  You’ll enjoy the experience.”  Huh?  We started to wonder if we had made a huge mistake. Would it live up to the hype?  I mean, TFL is considered one of the best restaurants in the world.  The world.  And people are saying that we’ll enjoy the experience and maybe go home hungry?  Seriously?

Well.  We dressed ourselves appropriately and made our way down the street to the iconic little building.  After being seated, we perused the wine list. The average bottle was in the $800 range.  <ahem>  Well.  We found a couple bottles more in-range for our “palates” and we were off on the adventure.  Each dish was unique, explosive in tastes and textures, and truly a pleasure to explore.  The courses kept coming.  By the steak, we were all pleasantly happy.  This was definitely an experience and we were enjoying every minute of it.  And then … desserts.  Plural.  The first was wonderful.  The second, fabulous.  The third, overwhelming.  And there it was, we were careening over the top and down the other side.  As they brought out the next bit of little cookies and cakes, we all audibly groaned.  The server said, a little under his breath as he placed the plate in front of me, “Don’t worry.  It’s almost over.”  And I was so relieved.  Terrifically, horrifically, wonderfully relieved that I wouldn’t be faced with another opportunity to taste something amazing because I just might explode all over one of the best restaurants in the world.

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We’re back in our home state now, recovering. Last night we decided to take in The Book of Mormon musical as part of the healing process.  <ahem>  Way over the top.  WAY.  My laughing muscles still hurt quite inappropriately.

A Rebel Without An SPF

fist-681848_1280Remember when you were a kid, and growing up couldn’t come fast enough?  You wanted to be an adult, make your own choices, no one telling you what to do?

But now that you are an adult, have you noticed that there are a lot more people telling you what to do than when you were a kid?  Used to be it was your parents, an older sibling, your teachers … now just about EVERYONE seems to have an ideal of what you SHOULD be doing and how to do it:  your politics, your faith, your marriage, your parenting, your skin care regimen.  Eat more kale, less bread. Organic this and hyped-up that.  Sleep more, sleep less. Drink coffee, drink wine, don’t drink wine, drink coconut water, wait, scratch that, pomegranate juice!

I just figured out that I took a stand against the YouShould-ites this summer without consciousness or conviction.  At some point along the way, I stopped using sunscreen when I’m out and about, hiking and biking and whatever-ing in the sunshine.  I confess.  I know it’s stupid.  I’ve lost a friend to skin cancer.  I know, I KNOW.  I’m a pale skinned woman living at altitude.  I KNOW BETTER.

And yet … when I religiously cover my skin up with protection, at some point I miss a spot and I get a horrible burn in that one little spot.  But if I let it tan naturally, I don’t get nasty burned patches.  And I’m old enough to engage in risky behavior.  Some people smoke, I expose my skin to cancer-causing rays. I am flossing more, though.  My new dental hygienist scared the crap out of me at my last cleaning.  She said I’d been doing it wrong my whole life and told me how to do it properly …

Rain Dance

IMG_1596As we drove home, wet from the rain, he told me he felt bad that I sat on the bank while he fished.  He wondered why I didn’t join him.  “I didn’t mind,” I said.  “I was cold and damp and it was good to sit under the tree for a bit.”  I couldn’t find the words to tell my son that watching him in this place, as his line danced over the water, was more than I could ever have needed in that moment.

BIcycle! BIIIcycle!!!

Every time I pedal up a steep incline, the only thing in my head is Freddy Mercury:  I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!  I can’t make it stop.  It’s been this way for a few years now, and the more I ride my bicycle the more I hear Freddy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Queen.  Mr. Mercury was a musical genius.  It’s okay that he is hanging out in my head.  Once in a while, though, do you think maybe he could sing We Are The Champions? Just once? As an acknowledgement that I’ve paid my dues and had dirt kicked in my face, no bed of roses and yet I’m still here pushing this frickin’ bike up the mountain???

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Good luck to my friends taking on the Triple Bypass this weekend — you’re already champions of the world!

Memories of the 4th Collected

DSCN0568Fighting mosquitoes at the lake; circle-y sparklers haunt thick night air

Walking through the crowds; feeling the boom of blasting light

Floating on Lake Huron watching explosions in the sky; boyfriend’s uncle at the helm

Newly married bliss; red, white and blue parading through Breckenridge

Waking toddler Riley; watching bright lights from the deck

Clam back at the Dines’s; kids running through the yard

Boat parade on Piatt Lake; Dad gives Gettysburg Address; boys set off roman candles on the beach

Vail parade and party with friends; long hikes and bike rides leave us spent

Born in the USA; Yankee Doodle Dandy; Grand Ole’ Flag; God Bless America!

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Odd Satisfactions in Life

cream-194126_1280We have accumulated a lot of stuff.  This is a first world problem and I want to say right away that we are blessed beyond measure and I am so grateful for our life.  It’s just that, over the years, our blessed life has generated an abundance of things.

Some of this accumulation is due to the strange course of real estate sales and purchases in the last 5 years or so.  At the beginning of this time period, we owned a 5500 square foot home with three car garage in Denver and a ski condo in Copper Mountain.  When we decided to move our son to the mountains to ski full time, we sold the ski condo and bought our 3200 square foot mountain home.  We sold the condo fully furnished and took only our personal stuff: soap, shampoo, hair dryer, etc. and linens/pillows/blankets/towels.  Since my husband and I were commuting to Denver, we weren’t sure whether to keep the Denver house or downsize, so we furnished our mountain home and bought stuff for it.  About a year later, we sold the big house and had to figure out what to do with all the stuff in that house.  Everything.  Furniture, TV’s, electronics, personal items, tools, cleaning supplies, you name it.  We already had a mostly furnished, well-stocked smaller home in the mountains, so this was a challenge.

Eventually, we rented an apartment in Denver as our home base down there, so some of the stuff found a home.  The rest, we pretty much crammed into our mountain house.  And it’s okay for the most part.  The most abundant items I’ve been working my way through over the years are cleaning supplies and personal items like lotion, soap, shampoo, hair dryers, hair products and medicine.  And towels.  For some reason, we have a whole lotta towels.  Cabinets full of them in the laundry room.  Some are well-used and appropriate for dog washes, but the rest …. they are perfectly good.  Do you know how long it takes to use up towel reserves?  Neither do I.  I’m still working on it.

I am trying my best to use up the excess stuff.  I celebrate each time I push the pump on a lotion bottle and it spurts the last glob onto my hand.  Praise Be!  Another bottle down, 999 to go.  Recycle bin time!  I really don’t want to throw things away if they are still perfectly good.  That bottle of aspirin looks just fine to me.  So what if it “expired” four years ago?  “When I was a kid, things like aspirin never expired,” I exclaim with righteous indignation as I tap out a few to try to mollify my migraine.

We are working our way through the boxes of Band Aids that now hold only the weird sizes that are no good for any normal person’s cuts and scrapes.  When one of us is injured, we cobble together a few of them and throw some medical tape on for good measure and I gleefully glance into the box and think, only five more to go — woo hoo!!!

Sometimes I do recognize that this strange obsession of using up stuff has gone a little too far.  My son is 17.  I still have a few partial bottles of Children’s Tylenol in the cabinet.  They expired a very long time ago.  In a pinch, though, won’t a good swig of the stuff have some effect on a grown-up headache? (Yes, Mom, I know that this is not good logic and I will dispose of the bottles soon.)

The other day I noticed that I have a remarkable supply of eye creams.  Over the years, those sets of skin care regimens I purchased always came with eye cream.  Despite my best intentions, I don’t ever use it.  It just seems like one more thing that I don’t really have to do, so why bother.  (And please no remarks on how my crow’s feet are evidence enough that I never use eye cream ….)  The important question is:  what am I going to do with them?  I paid a lot of money for those special, magical potions.  So, I Googled  “Can I use eye cream as a facial moisturizer?” thinking that no one would be so gauche as to actually smear the costly stuff on foreheads and cheeks.  Fortunately, everyone has already thought of everything and put helpful tips on the Internet and I got thousands of search results.  Some said no way, that eye cream would either be ineffective or actually harmful (!) to other skin areas. Others said, sure, go for it.  I had my answer.

Just as soon as I use up the remaining bottles of face cream (thank God they don’t have expiration dates … wait a minute, they just might … whatever) I am lining up those bottles of eye cream and using them on my face.  So there.  By the year 2020 I just may have used it all up.  Yay!

My Tooth Hurts and So Do the Duggars

tooth-303171_1280I have a tooth ache and I did everything right so I am trying to ignore it and hope it goes away.  I went to the dentist a little while ago for my six month check up, because that’s how I roll, and he said that I had an old filling than needed to be replaced.  Fine.  No biggie.  Replace it he did.  But it hurt the next day.  Kind of achy, but not horrible.  A week later it still hurt.  I went back and he said it would go away.  Take some Motrin.  I’ve been taking Motrin and Tylenol for going on two months now and the pain still returns when they wear off.  I know that I *should* go back and deal with this.  I don’t want to.  When I did everything right and things went wrong, I want to ignore it and hope it goes away.

When I learned that the parents on the reality TV family of “A Whole Lotta Kids and Counting” had dealt with their son’s bad behavior it in a less than forthcoming way, I could sorta understand why they acted the way that they did.  They thought they had done everything right and yet their kid, their eldest, had displayed shockingly wrong behavior in their home.  They didn’t want to face the pain.  They skirted the issue.  They risked additional injury to their family, perhaps for fear of retribution or humiliation.  (Recall that Jim Bob, the patriarch, was in public office at the time he learned of the fondling events, so even though they were not yet a reality TV oddity, they were still in the public eye.)

The Duggars are proof that sometimes even though we think we’ve done everything right, something wrong happens. It sucks.  Our humanness comes out, both in the bad behavior and in the desire to hide it.

I really wish the Duggars had used the experience as a demonstration that no one is perfect, even this quiverful Christian family.  No one should expect them to have publicized what their minor child had done to other minor children.  We have laws to protect minors for good reason.   However, when they decided to share their lives with the world on reality TV, and allowed their family to become a tabloid target, they could have really made an impact. They could have acknowledged that the family had faced a significant trial and had dealt with it the best they could, even if imperfectly.  Instead they hid it, presented a facade to the world and pretended that their lifestyle made them impervious to humanness. They chose to hold up their lifestyle as a sort of moralistic high water mark. They did not acknowledge that even “good” people face extremely trying situations and make mistakes, sometimes devastatingly.

And now they are upset that the world found out and is asking questions.  Sorry Duggars.  If you live a lie, it usually comes out and not in a good way.  If you pay the piper you have to face the music … . Wait, what?

As I swallow a few more Motrin, I think of another reality TV super family, the Jenner-Kardashians.  (Talk about living a lie and having it come out – Bruce/Caitlyn, you did not skirt this issue!)  This family has lived their lives out loud ever since Kim’s sex tape grabbed the world’s attention so many years ago.  They have openly reached for that brass ring, with great fanfare and even greater celebration of money, fame and sinful pursuits.  Yet this family, as photo-shopped as their selfies may be, seems to have presented themselves authentically.  We see them, glammed-up and huge-bummed, for who they are.

Over the years in Kardashian Klan TV land, we have witnessed a few marriages fail, a life partner/baby-daddy struggle with alcohol abuse and a divorced couple work together to figure out how to raise their teenaged daughters.  We feel that these people, with all their flaws and shallowness, love each other.  They fight.  They hug.  They intervene when they are concerned about a sister whose drug-addict ex-husband is ruining her life.  Now that Bruce/Caitlyn is a she, we have watched the family support him, and then her, throughout the transformation. But they have also shown us some of the struggle and strain that they felt.

I don’t love the lifestyle that the Jenner-Kardashians choose to live.  But at least they don’t hide their many, many imperfections. They let us see their humanness.

Anyone who chooses to put their lives on TV is suspect.  I’d guess a higher proportion of dysfunctionality lies there.  Chicken or the egg?  Did they go on TV because they were dysfunctional or did they become dysfunctional because they were on TV?  Either way, they are all pretty messed up.  But if you’re going to be messed up and the whole world is watching, the best you can do is own it.

The Perfect Foe

dandelion-6296_1280He stalked the enemy carefully, carrying his weapon of choice close.  His eyes darted side to side, glancing up occasionally to keep his bearings.  As he spotted the vile opponent, he aimed carefully and pulled the trigger.  Poison trickled down ensuring a long, slow death.  Today’s battle won, he looked west and knew that this war was far from over.  The neighbor’s lawn was covered in the yellow beasts, just waiting for a gust of wind to carry in the next wave of intruders.

As I watched my husband’s fight against the invading dandelions I thought:  Sometimes we just need a good enemy, one that we can fight openly and with gusto.

We are often ill-equipped for life’s battles.  Whether it’s at work or school, tests or deadlines, or someone who just doesn’t play nice:  the war drones on, victory an elusive shadow.  We may be baffled by our opponent, lack sufficient tactical training or reinforcements may be slim. We may not have authority to engage, or our circumstances may dictate that we must peacefully co-exist. Whatever the challenge, sometimes it just feels good to fight hard, grind in our heels, plant the flag and claim a win.  We just need the perfect foe:  one that fights back, doesn’t play fair and, most importantly, we can pummel with impunity.

We’ve been down in the trenches a lot the last couple of months.  The mortar shells are exploding around us, threatening our little kingdom.  So I couldn’t help but smile as my husband found the perfect golden-headed foe to engage and destroy.  Battle round won!  Special bonus that our yard looks pretty good.

On “Volunteering”

dandelion-111014_1280You know those personality tests — Myers Briggs, or the one that identifies your brain tendencies by color?  According to those tests, some people really are altruistic. I know, I was surprised too.  Folks of this type want to do good, change the world, make a difference and all that.  My personality profile does not include this trait.  According to Myers Briggs, I am an INTJ:  Introverted, Intuitive (why they use “n” for Intuitive is beyond me), Thinking, Judging.  Basically, I know that I’m right and I’m not going to tell you why until I can’t stand it anymore and then I have a hard time considering that you have feelings.  In reality, I tested pretty close to center, so whatever.  My point is, I don’t want to save the world.  I care about the world, for sure.  But I don’t feel the need to be the one to lead the saving charge.

Yet I find myself, at this particular cross road in life which has lasted a couple of years longer than I thought it would, being a “volunteer.”  I use the quotation marks because sometimes what I am doing does not meet the definition of the word.  For example, my son’s ski club requires a certain number of volunteer points or we have to pay them a bunch more money.  So I stick stamps on envelopes for the annual fundraiser, work the coat check at said fundraiser and stand frozen at the bottom of the race hill with a hand-timer and a clip board marking the time for each racer. (I refuse to stand at the top after an unfortunate incident involving a coach’s flung wad of chewing tobacco … but I digress.)  Basically, my ski club volunteering amounts to doing whatever earns us enough points to keep the check writing to something just under astronomical.

Over the years, I’ve volunteered to help with all sorts of things, like organizing banquets and decorating/shaperoning/whatevering the homecoming dance.  Way back when, I worked in the nursery and later children’s church.  (Those toddlers were tough, let me tell you.)  More recently, I found myself chief minion for the high school’s graduation next week.  I’m not sure how that happened.  Someone asked me if I could “help,” and suddenly I was the contact person for all minions.  Leader of the minions.  Wooot!

This spring, someone told me that she volunteers for Junior Achievement.  Six one-hour sessions over three weeks. “I could do that,” I thought, “How hard could it be”?  I sent an email to the JA organizer and told her to sign me up.  My husband, knowing me so well, looked at me sideways when I told him what I had done, “What do you get out of it”?  Really?  It wasn’t enough that I was going to give of my time and vast professional and personal knowledge about the ways of the world to a bunch of curious-minded seventh graders?  He knew me very, very well.

Why had I done this?  Assuaging guilt?  Like I would be a complete loser if I didn’t get out there and do something productive sometime soon?  Maybe some of that.  Validation?  Proof that I am still relevant and worth something, even though I’m not going to work every day?  Yup.  Most likely.  But I really couldn’t say.

It took a fair bit of time for me to prepare.  I had to read the materials, watch a bunch of videos, gather stuff, think about what to say and worry about how to react to the kids who would give me a hard time.  Then I had to face those 27 kids, some of whom were so sweet I couldn’t stand it, and some of whom I would probably punch if I had to deal with them on a daily basis. And I was reminded that teaching is really hard, that kids are for the most part awesome, and that sometimes the curriculum should be pushed to the side so that we can play more games.  What I got out of it was a fairly awesome reality check.

So maybe I am not the altruistic volunteering type.  I lack zeal.  I have no zest for getting in there and making a difference. I accept this about myself.  For a long time I beat myself up about not serving on non-profit boards or organizing fundraisers or heading up the PTA.  Enough.  I am not that person.  Ask Myers Briggs.

Bless all of those who schedule the meal deliveries for friends who have gone through surgeries.  Who set up the food drive boxes before Thanksgiving.  Who build houses for low income families.  Who buy the card and cake for a colleague’s retirement party in the conference room down the hall.  Who realize their altruistic selves from giving in this way.  Bless!  Them!

What I now know about myself is that I need a quid pro quo in order for my volunteer satisfaction to kick in:  a reduction in cash out the door, knowing that a friend’s load will be lightened, or realizing that I will get back from an experience with those JA kids so much more than I ever gave them.  I’m an INTJ, what can I say?

Whoooops!

It’s my auto utterance whenever something doesn’t go the way I expected.  It’s kind of embarrassing now that my son has made me aware that I say this.  It’s a sort of ingrained, instinctual thing that I cannot control.  Salmon filet falls to the ground next to the grill:  Whoops!  Baby falls backward in his chair:  Whoops!  Glass of milk spills all over the place:  Whoops!

I am air born due to an icy step on our deck:  Whoops!  followed quickly by “ughmph … uhhmmm ohhh ouch,” as gravity pulls me back down, ribs first, into the step.

Can I just say first off that it’s May.  This happened on the 7th of MAY.  Yes, I live in the mountains and it can snow well into June (July if we’re insisting on honesty).  But really?  My deck should not have been covered in ice.  Also, for the record, it didn’t look like ice.  It looked wet.  It had rained all night.  Logically, the deck should be WET, not ICY.

So, I lay sprawled across the step, in my fleecy bathrobe, one flip flop on, the other one somewhere in the yard.  Wilson made his way to my head and sniffed my hair.  “Thanks for the support, dog,” I mumbled.  “I wouldn’t be here without you.”   My son wasn’t due to wake up for another hour.  I either needed to drag my sorry whoopsied self back in the house or settle in for a cold sunrise.  Up I got.  I don’t know who ever thought “gingerly” was the right way to describe someone moving in pain.  I creaked like the rusty Tin Man with a knife in his back.

I managed to get my coffee, then shower and finish out my Junior Achievement volunteer commitment for the day.  Since returning home that day, I’ve been a pathetic lump, groaning with each wrong move.  Nothing is broken.  I know this because my family made me go to the urgent care place Friday morning because they were sick of listening to me whine.  So now I have good pain meds which are supposed to help me sleep but don’t.  Waaaah.

The best things in all of this:  My husband took fabulous care of me all weekend, and since today is Mother’s Day, it was ok that I just sat in front of Netflix all afternoon.  Also, I learned that our ugly Lay-Z Boy recliner is absolutely AWESOME.  I have never sat in this thing as much as I have the last three days.  I am in it now.  My life may never be the same now that I have discovered the joy of Lay-Z Boy.  La la la.

The worst thing:  I was just starting to get my legs back into biking mode.  I’m thinking that melting into an ugly recliner for several days in a row will not get me up Vail Pass anytime soon.

Whoooops.

Where Is Super Pug When You Need Him?

Where Is Super Pug When You Need Him?

Better with Age?

balance-110850_1280Some of you weren’t out of diapers 20 years ago.  For those of you who were adults in 1995, what were you then?  Are your views different now?  Do you think you’re a better person?  Hint:  It’s okay if 20 years of living hasn’t produced an improved version of yourself.

A friend recently asked his Facebook universe whether our life views had changed over the last 20 years and in what ways.  My mind immediately went to ways that I may have grown and somehow be better than I used to be.  And the responses my friend received (numbering well into the hundreds) were along the lines that I was thinking.  They all recited the life views that had become more accepting, less stark, more understanding, less judgmental, more thoughtful, less knee-jerky.  In other words, “better.”

We are supposed to gain great insights, enlightenment or whatever as we age, right?  Huh.  Yes, most of my views on politics, religion, friendship, marriage, career and parenting have changed over time.  How could they not?  But am I somehow better here at 47 than I was at 27?

Twenty-seven was a time where the glow of youthful ignorance and exuberance haloed everything around me.  I was certain in the rightness of my views.  I was comfortable in the knowledge I believed to be true.  I was ignorant of the ways that life’s river water would tumble my hard, this-is-the-right-answer, edges away allowing the flow of life around me to be a bit less frothy.

Twenty-seven:  married a few years, working my buns off as an associate attorney at a large firm.  No kids, but my student loan debt and a mortgage made me feel like I couldn’t run fast enough on that treadmill to keep up.  My horizon was pretty limited.  I couldn’t see past the hours upon hours and days upon days of grueling work.  The blinders were beginning to come off, though.  For the first time I experienced the raw reality of gender inequality.  I felt growing demands with less support and I watched myself become someone I didn’t much like. Short with my assistant, grumbling, exhausted.

My thoughts on the world around me then were fairly simple.  I believed hard work was a sign of strength.  I thought people generally wanted the best for each other and society.  I was quick to be critical of others’ shortcomings or apparent small-mindedness (in my own estimation, and evaluated based on my own skewed perspective).  In truth, my world was small:  working, eating, sleeping and some play.  I was still enjoying the luxury of an acceptably selfish existence.

Here at 47, my world is again fairly small.  The large career I chased has been shelved.  I am focused on home and family, perhaps to a fault.  My thoughts on the external world, the politically charged issues of the week, tend to be more based on a personal perspective than a political platform someone somewhere else dreamed up in an attempt to get somebody elected.  I recognize that very few things in life are simple or straightforward.

At 47 I am more accepting.  I am more aware of other people’s situations.  I’m less aggressive about being right.  But I’m also still trying to find my way.  For example, I now recognize that I regularly beat myself up.  At 27, I regularly beat myself up but I was not conscious of it.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Am I “better” now?  In some ways, maybe.  Still, part of me misses the simplicity of 27.   And my less-creaky joints.

How about you?  Unless you have been in deep freeze in outer space (yes, I recently watched Interstellar) you are not the same person that you were 20 years ago.  Is that a good thing?

Whack-a-Mole

Last spring, as the snow receded from our yard, we noticed some little trails leading from under the deck to various shrubs and areas in my garden.  As we moved toward summer, we started seeing little guys running through the complex trail system.  My husband called them meadow mice.  I called them critters.  My son called them targets for his pellet gun. My neighbors called them vermin and had Orkin spread poison around their yards to kill them.  Then my pug called them a snack.  Yuck.

This year, the guys are back en masse.  Not only do we have trails around our yard, but they gorged themselves on grass roots all winter and left piles of dead grass all over the place.

Something is out of balance in our micro-ecosystem.  We think it started when the foxes disappeared a couple of years ago.  We liked the foxes.  They had a den just around the corner, where their babies were born every year.  We used to watch them wander the golf course fringe behind our house, stalking and then jumping on unseen prey.  And then we noticed that we hadn’t seen their bushy tails in quite some time.  Our neighbors noticed, too, and we began to speculate as to where they went.  Mountain lions?  Construction on the 17th hole that spooked them?  Certainly no lack of food …

So, now we have critters.  And they eat my flowers.  They taunt us, flagrantly chewing away on the young green leaves.  My son is doing his best to take them out with his arsenal of pellet guns and compressed air-propelled BB’s.  But I fear that for every one he manages to eradicate, seven more are born in little dens tucked safely away under the bushes.  I really hate the idea of poisoning them, and I hope our neighbors lost Orkin’s number.  It just seems like a mass murder of the little beasts will send us even more out of balance.

We did see a fox a few times this spring.  Maybe it’s a momma hunting for her kits.  I hope she likes it here and gets really fat on our abundance of tiny rodents.  She’s a much more effective hunter than the pellet gun toting kid, and a lot less noisy.

Columbine Memories

flower-603873_1280Sixteen years ago tomorrow, the school shootings at Columbine sent tremors through our nation.  At a relatively quiet suburban high school outside of Denver, two boys armed themselves with homemade bombs and semi-automatic rifles, walked down the halls and lived out their extensively planned terrorist attack, murdering twelve students and one teacher, and injuring many more before killing themselves.

My son was a toddler at the time.  He and I had gone home to meet a locksmith at our home in central Denver when I learned of the deadly standoff.  I picked him up and held him close, trying to work out just how to raise him up in a world where he could go to school on a day like any other and be randomly killed by a class mate.

A couple of years later, as my husband and I got ready for work, we watched as our normally friendly morning TV showed us planes crashing into the Twin Towers a half a continent away.  By then, we had moved, ironically, to the suburbs just a mile or so from Columbine High School.  Again, I looked at my curly-headed boy and thought how different his world would be from ours.

He would never know a world where mass school shootings were unimaginable, or where holy war was some esoteric concept discussed in classrooms as something that happened somewhere far, far away.  His world is where attempted shoe bombings make us expose our feet as we pass through intense security before flying to our vacation destinations.  Where a backpack left unattended on a busy sidewalk is something to be feared.  Where the debate around the rights of the individual versus the safety of the masses makes it feasible for our government to monitor personal communications.

Our society learned a lot from Columbine.  We learned that warning signs and threats from young people cannot be ignored.  We learned that years of bullying may push a child to the brink and we have to try to stop it.  We learned that we can never forget but we must carry on.  Columbine High School was repaired and healed after the attack.  Its teachers and students returned and found their way through the scars, unified as only co-survivors can be.  Now, almost a full generation later, I’m sure its hallways are like those of virtually any other high school across the country.  It has carried on, in-part, to honor the lives cheated by the incomprehensible actions of two.

No matter how much we learned, though, the sad truth is that we couldn’t prevent mass shootings from happening at other schools across the country.

I’m reminded of the adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Parents have feared for their children’s future world for thousands of years. As long as man has existed, people have done horrible things.  They have waged war in the name of ideals and principals, they have murdered both family and strangers for no apparent reason.  They have abused and taken from our land and the people on it.

If I had the chance, I might tell my younger self clutching her child that for all the horribleness bubbling up around her, there is still life.  There is still good.  There is still a curly-headed boy who cannot live from a place of fear.  While she must teach him about the dangers around him, she and the boy’s father must also help him learn to embrace the world around him, to love, to go and do and experience.

The other day, that curly-headed kid (who now towers above me) and I were confronted by a woman on the escalator at the mall.  “What beautiful hair you have!  And your son is beautiful, too!”  She beamed at us from a couple of steps up.  I noticed something moving in the clear tote she carried.  A small rat was perched upon some cloths.  “Oh, my,” I blurted, “Who do you have there?”  She happily told us what great pets rats are, so smart and all.  We nodded, having known this from pets of years past.  As we approached the top, she waved and told us to “Have a blessed day!”

The kid and I couldn’t help but smile as we made our way past the shoe department.  “What a great way to go through life,” he said. I agreed and we decided that we should give more complements to random strangers, bringing more smiles to more people. Maybe without the rodent in tow.  But still.

Bad things happen.  Good things happen.  Sometimes the difference we can make is to notice something good and say it out loud.  Live life.  Embrace.

Speaking Emoji :-)

persons-0008Do you communicate in emoji?  Do you put little faces and dancing people in your texts?  Do you wish you could speak in emoji as well?  If your friend tells you she has had a horrible experience at the dry cleaner, do you want to be able to eliminate all those pesky words like, “Oh my gosh, what a jerk!  I can’t believe he wrecked your dress and won’t give you your money back.  That’s outrageous!”?  Wouldn’t it be much easier to say:160x160x34-angry-face.png.pagespeed.ic.10pTk_Rhec

I am a lover of words.  A wordsmith by trade.  A reader of books, for goodness sake.  I used to think that people who texted little sailboats and hearts were being a bit ridiculous.  I mean really, what is that about????  Are you 12????  But then, when my phone’s texting keyboard presented me with a menu of emojis, including little pictures of palm trees, I could resist no longer.  So much can be conveyed so quickly, and often better than mere words could.  Emotions require a lot of describing, but a smiley-face with a kiss is quick and to the point.  And a lot of fun.

I still have some uncertainty with this new language.  What about grammar and punctuation?  Do you put a period after the angry face if it comes at the end of a sentence?  Or is it, itself, the punctuation, used in place of an exclamation mark?  Some images, strung together, can read like a sentence.  Is it OK to insert words amongst the footballs and beer mugs?  Or should they be left to stand alone, speaking for themselves in their own cheesy language?  Is it sometimes bad etiquette to communicate with emojis, or have they passed from novelty into general acceptability?

Perhaps this is all just part of the disintegration of our society.  As we replace letters and words with pictures, we regress back to the language of cave drawings (which, frankly, are beautiful artistic works, and therefore have a huge leg-up on emojis … ).

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SEND THE BUBBLE WRAP ASAP

The other day I wrote about wanting to bubble wrap my not-quite-grown-up kid.  I am seriously considering duct taping a protective layer around him for real.

We have seen a parade of bad-to-horrible injuries over the last few months, reaching a crescendo this past week with a series of blown ACL’s, dislocated shoulders, badly broken legs and broken hands at the races Riley’s team attended.  Then we learned that a young freeskier from our community was severely injured in a training run for Nationals and airlifted to Denver.  My heart breaks for her and her family, and my stomach does flip-flops at the thought of something this horrible happening to our own “baby.”

The irony is that my son didn’t think to tell me about this.  He had signed a card for her, he knew that she was undergoing extensive surgery and HE DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT to me.

What do I make of this?  What does it mean when such a horrific thing happens and it doesn’t bubble up from him?  Is this a defense mechanism, developed from years of putting himself in scary situations, of watching friends suffer terrible injuries, some life-ending?  From facing milder trauma himself and wondering not if but when something worse will happen?  Or is this a typical 17-year-old-male-ism:  Why would I tell my mom about something that happened to some girl I hardly knew?  More than likely it’s the latter.

And so it goes.  My mom-ness freaks out, his kid-ness says huge bummer.  My mom-ness empathizes and imagines what-if’s, his kid-ness moves on.

Last night, for no particular reason, we watched some old videos from his growing up years.  Lots of violin recitals, baseball games, Christmas programs and kindergarten graduation.  I felt very much like Chevy Chase, up in the attic, tears streaming.  Well, ok, tears didn’t stream because we were having too much fun laughing at his cousin, then age six, who was killing “stupid bears” in their fort, but you get the gist.

We parents don’t video the scary times, the trips to the ER, the struggles in school.  We don’t record what goes on underneath the smiling facade or the times when we cross our fingers and toes and pray that he stays safe.  Those memories and feelings are indelibly etched into the undocumented pages of our life stories.  Their weight is hefty enough to counterbalance the fun memories flitting across the screen.  We would rather our next generation not know their heft until he feels it soon enough with his own child.

So, I smile at him and my dear husband as we turn off the videos.  I give him a hug, silently grateful for the warmth in his body.  I tell him he is a gift.  I quietly say a prayer for all parents.  And then I bring out the bubble wrap …

You Can’t Kiss It and Make It Better Forever

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They tell you all sorts of things about being a parent before you become one, while you are becoming one, and after you are one.  They tell you, with a grin (!), that you won’t sleep for months on-end when that little bundle moves in.  And you nod back with appreciation, while saying to yourself, how bad can it be, really? And then, after two weeks of sleep deprivation, you hit a wall so hard you can hardly see straight.  It didn’t matter how much warning they gave you.  It was, in fact, that bad and even worse.  How could all those parents who went ahead of you still have the capability of putting a sentence together, let alone smile?

They tell you about the terrible twos (which are really the terrible 18 months-all-the-way-up-until-age-fours). Again, you nod and smile and say to yourself, not my little peanut!  And then one day, there you are in the grocery store while the nut is on his back in the middle of the produce section screaming louder than an ambulance siren.  And you are conflicted by the desire to sit down on the floor and scream along with him or to walk away and pretend that you have never seen a child, let alone had one of your own.

And then they tell you about the joys of middle school, with all those hormones, cliques, and learning struggles.  Right, right, right.  How bad can it be?  Uh huh.

No matter what, at every stage, that huge, overwhelming, all-encompassing parental beast inside of you wants to make it better, to do it for them, to prevent the pain you know will come.  But they have told you that you can’t, you have to let them live their lives.  And yet again, they are right.  You can only hope beyond hope that they will survive.  That they will come home and soak in a healing bath of love and comfort, to be able to face the next thing.

They also say that this feeling of wanting to make it better for your child never really goes away.  And now, as my own child is growing toward adulthood, I know that they are right.  This parent beast within will never leave. My baby now stands at 5’11” and is approaching our societal age of adulthood.  Even as he faces more and more of life’s difficulties, I must step back and become more of a spectator.

Although I still would love to wind him in bubble wrap and keep him safe, I will be the one cheering from the sidelines, “Go, Peanut, Go”!

Give Yourself a Break Today, Missy

I’m having A Day.  I just don’t have the answers to life’s questions, or the energy to be understanding with the guy at the auto shop that didn’t fix it right the first time, or the focus to accomplish any one thing, or the ability to make it all better.  I just don’t have it.  Nope.  Nada.  Zilch.

Typically, or perhaps I should say historically, when I have A Day, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having these days, I immediately turn against myself.  I become the villain in my own life story.  To this way of thinking, my pathetic weaknesses are conspiring against me.  As if I’m a bad person for not being able to make all the ducks line up.  For not wanting to be nice to Kenny at the garage.  For not asking after a friend’s injured child when I see her at the store.   For not being the specific kind of mother that is required at this particular moment in my own kids’ life.*

But just now (feeling very much like Winnie the Pooh) I had a thought: why is it on me to have answers all the time, to be nice when no one else would be, to be whatever it is my warped view of life thinks I’m supposed to be that I’m not?  I’m pretty sure everyone else is going to go ahead and do whatever they were going to do whether I’m having A Day or not.  So, maybe I did wish that I could have crawled back under the covers and stayed there all day?  I didn’t.  I may go there now, several hours before bedtime. But hey, I made it through all those hours in between doing things and going places and not answering life’s questions and not being the nicest person but also never once yelling at anyone or doing anything else that would be too terrible.

So.  Enough already.  No one gets to have my life answers today.  And disorderly ducks are much more entertaining.  And I’m a middle-aged mom, get over it.   And people don’t notice all that much anyway ….


*On A Day days, I also cannot read home and/or beauty magazines, or look at similar websites or TV shows, nor can I spend a whole lot of time on Facebook, because then I think of all the things I’m not doing or that I’m not doing the right way.  Consequently, I wrote this whiny blog.  Lucky you!

Snarkiness Breakdown

donkey-215885_1280As the profound Brittany Spears sang not enough years ago:  Oops, I did it again.  I forgot that some people don’t speak Snark.  Today, when one such person looked at me with a combination of horror and confusion on her face, I remembered too late that she’s one of those people. Then I felt bad.  Because she thinks I meant what I said the way that I said it, not the backwards way that I meant it.  And since she heard it the forwards (?) way, I’m a complete jerk. Dang it.

How come some people can communicate in cynicism and some can’t?  If science looked hard enough, would it discover the smart ass gene, somewhere between hair color and tongue curling ability?  Is it a skill learned between the ages of 18 and 24 months, and a few poor souls were just never exposed?  Or is it a bad habit, like nail biting, that we are supposed to get under control, but some particularly weak-willed saps can never tame the beast?  I’m not sure I’ve ever met a weak-willed sarcastic person, so that last one seems unlikely.

Then again, how dull would it be to never put a twist on a phrase?  To never say the opposite of true intent with a bit of a grin and twinkle?  To never engage in a cynical sword fight with a worthy opponent?  Hmmm.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  Given my propensity to put my foot in it when I really should know better because I’m talking to one of those people, I’ll likely never know.

Still, the cursed gift should come with a warning.  Use with care.  Cynicism is often viewed as an indici of apathy and a bad attitude.  If that’s what you intend to portray, go for it.  Otherwise, try to smile and keep quiet.  Also, when speaking this way, take a moment to examine your motivations and the motivations of those around you.  Sharp words can be a cruel weapon.  Then again, those snarky tones can be a hardened callous around an injured soul, so maybe someone just needs a hug ….  Also, even in the best of circumstances, some people will never understand a word you say and will think you’re just a jerk. 

Hairdresser Generation Gap

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You know you’re getting older when you make a pop culture reference to your new hairdresser and realize she wasn’t yet born when that culture existed.

I don’t talk much when I get my hair done.  Back in the day, when I held down a hefty job and was raising a small child, it was a blessed break in which I lost myself in back issues of People and Us magazines.  I warned any person new to doing my hair that I preferred quiet to chit chat.  The hum of hair dryers, music and conversations in the background lulled me into something of a zen state.

I still prefer not to idly chat with my hair person.  It’s nothing personal; she is lovely.  I just find it odd to go two months between appointments and then blather on as if we’re old friends.  And, in my introverted world view, I assume it’s a nice break for her not to be expected to carry on a conversation about upcoming vacation plans and family visits.  I’d guess that she couldn’t care less about the idiosyncrasies of my daily life.  As long as I show up on time and pay her a nice tip, it’s all good.

Sitting in the chair at the salon last week, tin foil folds sticking out all over my head, Pandora played 80’s music in the background.  I don’t know why they had chosen the “oldies” station, perhaps out of deference to the assumed tastes of their clientele (me).  To our great entertainment, the toddler son of another patron really liked it.  He bounced around in front of us as Sting pleaded, “Don’t Stand So, Don’t Stand So, Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”  And I thought about my growing up decade, and I thought about my hair, and I joked about how she could imagine how big my hair could get, back when hair was meant to be big, given how thick and curly it is.   And I realized, after her awkward laughter, this is another good reason why I just shouldn’t talk at the salon.  I had referenced an era as foreign to her as Motown is to me.  She knows of it, in a sort of vague, my-parents-get-nostalgic sort of way.

When I was growing up, my neighbor Mrs. Duffy would go and get her hair “done” every week.  A wash and set.  I remember that she went to a beauty “parlor.”  It was old fashioned, even back then, and I imagined that all of the hairdressers at the parlor were older ladies.  But now I’m wondering if she did that because they were her people.  They understood her pop-culture references.  They shared the same era, experientially speaking.

Now that I’m <ahem> a woman of a certain age, perhaps I need to find the 80’s and early 90’s version of a beauty parlor.  Someplace where they wear sparkly spandex, head bands and leg warmers.  Where everyone gets a perm, along with mousse and toxic levels of hair spray.  Where I can make a Magnum PI reference and they won’t think it’s a big bottle of merlot.

Tell Me A Story, Steve. Or Is It Eddie?

donkey-193263_1280He walked into the apartment, small but upright, and gave my friend a hug.  He found a seat on the sofa and quickly accepted the offer of a glass of wine at 3:00 in the afternoon.  He had lost his friend that week and she had lost her dad, and they were remembering him.  At 88, he said, he didn’t have any more friends.  They were all gone ahead of him.

His eyes reflected the lifetime of memories.  She prompted with, “I always thought your name was Eddie, but on this paper it says Steve.”  He replied with, “Well, here’s how that goes …” and the stories began from the Manhattan east-sider of Irish descent.

He started with a ridiculous tale about his current lady friend, a couple of blue pills and a plane ride.  He moved on to some outrageous escapades involving football games and VIP clubs that he and her dad had enjoyed over the years.  Then there were stories about her father in younger years with younger ladies.  He had us on the edge of our seats right up until it was time for him to head home.  I have no idea which parts were true, but I’m sure most were heavily embellished.  He’s the sort that has been telling stories his whole life, engaging his listeners with twinkling eyes, a wink and a knowing nod.

My great uncle was a story teller, too.  I was young when he died, and I wish I could remember more.  “Those mules, Pete and Repeat, they were the laziest, most good for nothing …,” he’d start with a slow chuckle.  “I’m not akiddin’ you ….”  His was the gift of a story well told.

My husband told “Jack Stories” to our son at bedtime when he was small.  Jack had crazy adventures with a bumble, monkeys and bears.  The monkeys were always getting into trouble, usually somehow tied into something that had happened in our household, and the bears were just plain mean.  At the time, I remember thinking we should record the nightly installments, but of course we didn’t.  They are gone, and my son only vaguely remembers poor Jack.

Many of today’s stories are now told in pictures, whether on Snapchat or Instagram or Facebook.  Quickly flashed on a screen with a few choice words, we get the message and move on to the next.  But I fear that an art form is dying, much like, I don’t know, clogging or the juice harp.  Storytelling takes patience, imagination and an audience willing to sit for a while.  Very few have developed the skills to tell the little details and surprises that bring smiles, laughter and cries of “Oh, come on!”

Maybe this will become our summer evening tradition.  Come join me the deck with a glass of something and let’s search for some storytelling magic.

Tiny Nation? Can We Get A Tiny Costco for That?

Tiny houses are now all over the design network channels.  I watch with fascination as people build them and shop for them and live in them.  I love the concept of living tiny. I think I could actually do it as long as we can put a giant storage barn behind the tiny house for all of our stuff.

I also love Costco.  It’s been over three years since we gave up our membership and I still hanker for those Sample Sunday trips.  I miss wheeling warehouse flats down those giant isles and grabbing packs of 12 toothpastes, salsa by the jug and giant plastic-wrapped cubes of toilet paper.  Costco’s smoked salmon was awesome.  And we’d always peruse the books and socks, wander down the auto care and TV aisles for no particular reason and circle around one more time for seconds on the best samples of the day.  And then we would write an enormous check and cram all that stuff in our giant automobile and pile it into in our pantry when we got home.

We finally cut the cord when there was just no more room on our shelves and it occurred to me that our little family of three just wouldn’t get through that gallon of soy sauce in our lifetime.  To this day, I have giant Costco containers of ground pepper and cinnamon.  Maybe I should check the expiration dates ….

IMG_1239I propose that Costco join the tiny nation.  Instead of multi-packs of Newman’s Own salad dressing, sell shrunken-sized bottles for those of us who aspire to live small.  But, you know, you can still let us wander down giant aisles with a wondrous variety of things we didn’t know we needed and give us samples of yummy things.  Just let us buy in a quantity smaller than what could feed the entire church congregation on Easter Sunday.  Please, please, please.  I need that tasty bite of tapenade on a rice cracker.

To Wrinkle Or Not to Wrinkle

heart-401499_1280The lines on my forehead are becoming more pronounced, and a few crow’s feet dance at the corners of my eyes.  I have sun damage “discoloration” on my cheeks.  I’ve noticed more blue veins in my legs than I used to see.  More than any other area, my hands don’t look like mine any more.  They are all crinkly.  It’s really dry here, and yes, what They say is right, the sun does do a number on exposed skin.

So, I ask myself, do I attempt to whip back these signs of the inevitable, lion tamer-esque,  or do I let them carry me on down the river of aging?  I admit to coloring the greys for quite a few years now.  But somehow, it hasn’t occurred to me to do something about the other stuff until recently.

I don’t have to have soooo many wrinkles in my forehead quite yet.  I could Botox them into motionless submission.  I could zap the veins in my legs, laser my cheeks, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I don’t see a problem with any of it in any sort of philosophical way.  We do things all the time to look different, why not nip and tuck a bit?

What has prevented me from taking any affirmative action in this direction is not a moralistic high ground, but a lack of energy.  It takes time to make the appointments (not to mention cash), and I just haven’t gotten around to it, much like my mammogram that I should have gotten a few months ago.  I know, I know, I’ll do it next week.  I do manage to get to the dentist every 6 months, I think because the necessity of that particular time frame was drilled (ha!) into me from a very young age.

And so, when the topic of wrinkles came up a while back with my son, his reaction to my possibly injecting something into my skin was a bit of a shock.  He wasn’t just opposed to it.  He was close to apoplectic.  “How could you even think of doing that, Mom?  I will disown you. (HA!)”  As far as I can tell, he views this as some sort of fraud, that I’ll be pretending to be something I’m not.

I began to wonder about this.  Why do I care?  Like Popeye, I yam what I yam.  I guess vanity gets the better of me?  But why not look “my best” from here until the end?  My grandma wore a wig.  My entire life I never saw her without it.  She was highly concerned that she have it on when she died, lest anyone would see her exposed, so to speak.  What’s wrong with that?  She lived well into her 80’s, stood at least 8 inches shorter due to osteoporosis, and wore old lady sandals and polyester dresses, but, bless her, she had her wig on when she died.

Bobo’s Life Lessons

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Bobo is getting old.  He is big for a pug, double the size he was “supposed” to be, and twice as tall.  Being abnormally large must be harder on his systems, because even though he is relatively young for a pug (11), he is slowing down significantly.

He has never been a smart dog, but his level of cluelessness has reached an all time high.  I don’t think he sees well, he only hears what he wants, and he is more impatient than ever.  He has trouble walking sometimes, and our wood stairs now confound him.  He has been such a good dog, and as part of our family, we will take care of him until he leaves our world.

I tell you all of this because I feel a little guilty about my reaction to Bobo’s increasing neediness.  Other people out there seem to be so understanding when their pets need extra attention.  They give their diabetic cat shots twice a day, carry their arthritic Golden Retrievers in and out of the house, make special organic, gluten free foods for their dog’s testy stomachs.  Whatever it is, they seem to do it without the commentary that I sometimes hear coming from the voice inside my head. Sometimes I say it out loud too.  “Seriously, Bobo?” I say to my hard-of-hearing pug as I trudge down to get him, “You’ve gotten stuck in the laundry room five times in the last hour.”

The truth is, I have an inner expectation that he will get better.  That his legs will remember how to move, that he will stop getting lost in the house and that he will stop being kind of, well, gross. Intellectually, I know this won’t happen.  I know, if anything, he is going to continue to decline.  I will probably have to carry him up and down the stairs someday soon, go and get him instead of calling for him to come, keep him on a leash so that he doesn’t get lost twenty feet away from me on a walk.

I’m not used to this mindset.  I’ve been raising a kid for 17 years.  The kid learns, grows and develops.  I know that he will get “better” at whatever it is he is doing.  Stairs only befuddled him for about an hour when he was six months old, and then my problem was how to keep him from going up and down the stairs when I wasn’t looking.  What I’ve learned from parenting a child is that I need to let him do it without helping more than I should.  Knowing that his goals are his to achieve or miss.  There is so much that I would love to do for him if I could, but he has to go his own way.

And so, when Bobo needs help going up the stairs, my mom-ness cheers him on, “You can do it!”  I want him to figure it out, like a child, and I get frustrated when he doesn’t.  But he won’t figure it out.  He needs something different from me.  He needs me to take care of his aging body, because we all will be old someday, if we’re fortunate.  Bobo is teaching me that we and the aging folks around us all need a little more patience and understanding.  Someone to say, “It’s ok.  Take your time,” in a kind, if sorta loud, voice.

Ignore Me and I’ll Go Away (You Hope)

monkey-557586_1280Alright, so I’m noticing a trend in customer service.  It’s the Just Ignore Them or Irritate Them philosophy.  Maybe it’s not new and I just have had a confluence of experiences to bring it to light.  Companies hope that we are all too busy or our tolerance level is too low and we’ll go away.

For a billing error by, say, a satellite radio company that will remain nameless, lest they track my car and remotely send it off a cliff, my tenacity prevailed but only after at least 10 calls and a few emails.  And the one guy in a land far, far away, who just hung up when he couldn’t answer my question.

Our family doctors’ office, which again shall remain nameless since they are sort of the only game in town and I’d hate to get sideways with them because we do need them, is similarly difficult to communicate with. They are great about appointments, but can anyone return my multiple phone calls (and an email) with a single follow-up question about my son’s concussion?  Fugettaboutit.

The philosophical customer care approach by the contractor who did our house renovations a couple of years ago was to listen, nod, take notes, and then completely ignore everything that I said.  Later, when I asked why whatever it was hadn’t been done, he acted like it was the first he had heard about it.  He wore me down. One of the things I absolutely wanted in our bathrooms was a quiet fan.  The jet engine sound coming from my master bath ceiling this morning reminds me that his approach was highly effective.


… push 1 if you love Elvis …


The number of prompts in the cable company’s IVR system is painful.  I’m thinking it’s got  at least six menus (push 1 if you love Elvis, push 2 if you don’t love Elvis but love the Beatles, push 3 if your child is between the ages of 3 and 7, push 4 if you are calling about anything else).  Then it asks several times why I’m calling and when I say to the system “a question about my bill” it says that they need me to respond with more information but they don’t tell me what kind of information they need.  Out of desperation, I press zero and hear, “Push 1 if you love Elvis …”.

Last month’s billing issue on our business services account (and the business services representatives are so much better than the ones for regular folk) had me going through this process a few times, and getting kicked back and forth between departments and calling back when I got disconnected and whatnot.  When I finally got to a real person who was helpful, I pleaded for a direct number to call so that I could avoid the maze.  Sheepishly she said there was no other number.  She apologized and admitted that their IVR was really bad and told me, “Just keep pushing 4.  You’ll get to a person fastest that way.”

The customer care mantra used to be “ignore them and they’ll go away,” as in, your customers will not do business with you if you don’t take good care of them. I’m convinced that some consultant out there has confused the meaning of this mantra.  He is going around the country telling customer care department leaders to make it as hard as possible for people to get through, to get a response, to do anything, so that they just go away and the department won’t have to deal with them.

I need to call the cable company to change our subscription.  I’ve been putting it off for weeks due to IVR dread.  See.  It works.

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Where Is the Other Side of This Crossroad?

italy-634155_1280I’m interrupting a half-written draft of an article containing musings about business’s lack of focus on their customers due to short-sighted financial reporting.  Sounds fascinating, right?  It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s not holding my attention this afternoon.  So, here I am writing about me instead.

I recently decided it was time to shut down my little law practice.  I’ve been at it all by my lonesome for close to four years.  It’s been a good, flexible arrangement that allowed me to work from home, bring in a (little) income and recover from some emotional scars I picked up in a prior life. It has been a good touchstone for my lawyerly career roots, but it’s not what I do best.  And, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago in a thinly veiled blog post, my heart isn’t in it.

Our family’s situation is a little odd.  We live in a resort community.   My husband works two hours away in Denver during the week and my son is living his high school years on the race hill.  Through circumstance more than a conscious choice, I am the mostly at-home parent.  When I left my big, hefty grown-up job in 2011, I didn’t know what would be next.  It soon became clear that I needed a break from high-pressuredness and my husband was fairly terrific about supporting whatever direction life sent me in.   And then I was fairly fortunate to gather a handful of clients and keep my fingers in the pie, so to speak.

Nevertheless, it feels like I have been at a crossroad for going on four years.  It hasn’t been stagnant and I regret none of it.  I’ve settled somewhat, my son is growing in all ways and generally in good directions.  I’ve had the luxury of being here almost every day, of thinking, of writing, of spending time with friends and family and traveling with my husband and the Kid. My law practice, for all of its benefits, is also preventing me from looking ahead.  It is my little safe place but I don’t belong there.  It is time to put one foot in front of the other and trek forward on my own life journey.

Part of me, way in the back recesses, wonders what the next phase will be when I’m not needed here, when the Kid embarks on his grand life adventure outside of our family, when I’m ready to jump back into the soup of everything else.  I’m ready to follow my heart instead of my head, to do the thing that best fits me and my gifts.   I don’t know where the other side of this crossroad is or when it will get here, but each day and each decision, including this one to stop lawyering, brings it closer.

The Doctor Is In, 5¢

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Lucy always had all the answers.  I don’t remember Charlie Brown’s problems, but she definitely knew what he should do to fix them.

Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to tell other people what to do?  It seems so simple.   My own sticky situations throw me for a loop, but phrases like “All you need to do is …” and “Why don’t you just …” flow freely from my lips.

Give me 5¢ (or a glass of wine) and I’ll tell you just what you need to do to solve all your problems.

 

A More Eloquent Way to Say What I Wanted to Say

The other day, I wrote about the fleeting nature of our life on earth; how we gather so much learning in our lifetime and then it departs with us.

Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and NYU Professor, alludes to this in his reflections after learning, at 80 years of age, that he will die of cancer:

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

The holes left behind and our own unique paths, that is what stuck in my head that day after the post office encounter.  Dr. Sacks nailed it.

The full article is here:

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer – NYTimes.com.

Lifetimes of Learning, and Then *Poof*

Well, this may be a little morbid.  Or a lot.  Please accept my apologies in advance for writing about our inevitable demise.

At the post office yesterday, I noticed a woman maybe fifteen or twenty years older than I preparing an express mail cardboard envelope.  She had a label, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that looked to have been printed from her computer.  It appeared that she was returning something to some on-line retailer.  As my imagination went a little wild considering what she was sending back in that little envelope, I noticed her carefully measuring and folding, with great precision and the back of her thumbnail, the paper label so that it fit the envelope, just so.  She had a roll of packing tape neatly next to her.

I moved past her in line, got the package I was waiting for, and left.  I didn’t have a chance to see her tape the label onto the envelope and send it on its way, but the entire rest of my errand running (and apparently still this afternoon, as I write this), I thought about everything we learn throughout our lives and how one day, poof, all that learning and ability will be gone from this earth.  Somewhere during her life, that woman had mastered the skills necessary to measure and fold that paper and attach it and get the parcel wherever it needed to get to.

I know that seems like a small thing, but think about it in the context of all the other things we do in our lives.  Over our lifetime, we learn to do great things and small things; to comfort a crying baby; to catch a ball; to swim; to write technical papers; to sell software; to banter, sing and sharpen and knife. And for all of that to disappear when we take our last breath, well, I don’t know what to think.  I’m not saddened, as I know that part of living is doing, learning and experiencing.  I think I feel a little sense of responsibility to the people who may live longer than I.  You should know what I know, feel what I feel …. But then again, why?  They will have their own knowings, their own feelings.

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Generations from now, no one will think twice about my lifetime of learning and my little accomplishments.  I will be remembered, perhaps, with a headstone that lists born-on and died-on dates.  It won’t say, “Sarah knew how to draft a damn good disclosure document.” It won’t explain what it takes to learn, at 46 years, how to stay up on a slalom water ski.  There will be no mention or care that I had a weird, sick sense of humor,  or these bizarre thoughts on living and not living while standing in line at the post office.

 

When Did Phones Cross the Line from Useful to Overwhelming?

When watching ski races, conversations with other racer parents, known or unknown, often go in fits and starts.  We are all checking the start lists, refreshing Live-Timing on our phones for the last finish time, making sure we haven’t lost a glove, shivering and saying hello to people walking by.  At Winter Park this weekend, another racer parent sat hunched over his phone, grumbling about the lack of internet service.  “I’ve had good coverage here all season,” he says to me or to no one in particular.  “I guess the crowds are eating up all the bandwidth.”

I looked over at the excessively long lift line of President’s Day weekend skiers and shrugged.  He was probably right.  That or the clouds were in the way.  He was trying to get the results of the first run of the men’s World Championship slalom race.  He finally got some coverage and expressed frustration that the page, slow loading as it was, didn’t have what he was looking for.  “I’m sort of over my phone,” I said.  A wry smile crossed his lips.  “Yeah.  It’s almost too much to keep up with.  And it’s so annoying when I can’t get a signal.  When it works, there is always something to check on or download or whatever.  I get a little overwhelmed with it sometimes.”

And there it is.  Maybe it’s generational and just us middle-agers feel this way.  I mean, most people who are a decade or two older never really plugged into the constant-on of technology.  I think it’s still the norm for my mom to leave her (non-smart) cell phone off unless she is going to make a call.  I’m not sure she’s ever sent a text.  Dad doesn’t have a cell phone.  But it’s all good for them.  They use what they want how they want and who gives a crap if they never learned how to turn on a cell phone.  The younger generations, X, Y, millenials, whatever-they-are-called-past-that, they grew up with this constant information availability.  The expectation to be checking in all the time is just normal rather than overwhelming.

I’m also over the tangled or too-short power cords, ear buds that go missing, quickly depleting battery, and the messages from AT&T that my data usage is about to exceed the plan that I was assured would be more than sufficient for our family of three.  Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out what the best “deals” are, or that my phone, which is less than two years old, is already decrepit in its technology, or that the power cord from my even older iPad no longer works to charge my iPhone.

I don’t have the job of a senior manager any more.  I’m not expected (not that this should be the expectation for our professionals, even though it is) to check email or voice mail or whatever 24×7.  But I still do.  It’s a weird obsession that has me a little concerned, frankly.

There are those who take technology vacations.  They turn off their phone and unplug their computer for a day, a week or a month, and “find themselves” again.  They become the free, unconnected people we were born to be.  I haven’t been able to do this.  I think I have some sort of subconscious fear that when I find myself, I will be irrelevant and boring.  Not that anyone will notice; they are all too busy checking their phones.

Whatever.  I’m certainly not alone, as evidenced by Mr. Grumbly Pants next to me on Sunday.  Maybe I’ll create an I’m Over My Phone support group app.  Download and it’ll drain your battery like nobody’s business and message you several times a day to remind you that your obnoxious phone is taking over your life.

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Sunny and Dry

IMG_1159Colorado is in some sort of crazy weather pattern.  As nasty, cold and snowy as it has been back east, we have been ridiculously warm and dry.  We enjoyed the sunshine tremendously as we sat in the bleachers watching the Alpine World Championships.  Vitamin D, anyone?

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Truly fab and preferable to shivering, toes frozen, next to a race hill during a blizzard.  Been there, lived that.

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Now that the ski racing world has left our valley, we look around and notice that the snow is melting away and leaving us with brown dirt everywhere, rather than the pristine white we love so much during the winter months.  The bit of snow we got over the last couple of days was just a tease.  The sun is back, melting it all away.  We look at Boston and think, we’ve got use for all that snow, send it this way!

An up-side to all this warm sunshine and dirt:  maybe we’ll get to stay here this summer.  Typically, I start to get a little cabin fever (or is it valley fever?) as we slog our way through March.  By that point, I’m over winter, the tourists, the dirty car, the muddy boots and wet floors.  My better judgment goes out the window and I start to plan a whole bunch of trips for the summer.  I map out travels to the beach, the lake, anywhere that feels better than the end of winter here. By June, I always regret that I scheduled all those trips away from here.

Memories of Summers Past in Our Lovely State

Memories of Summers Past in Our Lovely State

Summer in Vail is pretty spectacular:  warm days, chilly nights, biking, hiking, fishing, golfing, concerts, evenings on the deck.  Let’s hope that this streak of warm, sunny days is enough to hold my March madness at bay.

Winners Are Always Losers

Yep, another Alpine World Cup life analogy.

Lindsey Vonn, perhaps the most well known ski racer in the U.S., accomplished the incredible feat of returning from back-to-back knee surgeries to compete in and win World Cup speed events this year.  She is now the winningest female alpine racer ever, with 64 World Cup wins.  The expectations placed on her to medal at the World Champs last week were outrageous.  And she only got a bronze in Super G, a 5th place in Downhill and failed to finish the Super Combined.  Loser.

When she later apologized for her 5th place finish in the Downhill, I was dumbfounded.  Girl, you just skied a very tough hill on a doubly repaired knee against the best women in the world and you took 5th place.  Yay!  You rock!  Go, Go Go!

The announcer at the races repeatedly reminds the fans that fourth place is losing, since it doesn’t win a medal.  He talks about a racer “just not bringing enough” to the hill when they were a second and a half out of first place.  I’m sorry, but anyone who is willing to send themselves careening down an icy mountain at 75 miles per hour is bringing more than enough, buddy.

The stands empty after the big name American racers compete, especially if they don’t finish in a winning spot. I look at the competitors out there from Czech Republic, Chile and Argentina, the young racers coming up, the older ones who keep at it, and I think they are all fabulous.  Even when they don’t cross the finish line.

We live in a world where winning is everything. We celebrate the guy who crossed the line one hundredth of a second faster than the next guy.  Do you know how little that is?  It equates to the blink of an eye.  The loser is angry, defeated and berated because of that  blip of a time difference.  And our memory is so short. Lindsey’s 64th win was less than two weeks before her embarrassing 5th place “loss.”

In normal, non-sports life, we compete through professional accomplishments and finances.  We compete through our children (he walked sooner than she did, he throws the ball faster, she got into Harvard, he just made partner …).  We admire the prettiest, the wittiest, the wealthiest.  Whatever-est.  Often it feels like a zero sum game.  If he is succeeding, I must be failing.

In the end, all winners are also losers.  With almost no exceptions, they have lost a match, a game, a race, a promotion, a something.  The focus we and they place on being the best blurs the backdrop of hard work, support from others, determination and dedication a winner must have to survive losing.  And it devalues the accomplishments of all of those out there who never quite win, who are bringing everything they have every day.  Who may be winning in every way but the one that “counts.”  Without the losers, there are no winners.

Mikaela Shiffrin is our next great hope for Slalom and Giant Slalom this week.  At 19, because of what she has been able to pull off in her young career, she is expected to win.  Anything less than a gold will be a disappointment for many.  The announcer will express shock and dismay. The fans will leave shaking their heads.  I hope she accomplishes what she sets out to do.  If she does fall short, I hope she doesn’t apologize.  I hope she is proud and happy with who she is, looks forward to the next chapter and congratulates the rest of the field for doing what they do so well.

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

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Bode Miller, one of the greatest and most entertaining ski racers of all time, is on the verge of racking his race skis for the last time.  Maybe.  He’s leaning that way, they say.  At 37, he’s had a pretty good run.  His life has been full of winning, excitement, disappointment, injury, partying and living large as a celebrated global athlete.

The world watched him go a little crazy in his younger years, cheered him on to his Olympic and World Cup medals, questioned his choices and his lack of training, marveled at his ridiculous and raw talent, and watched his great performance and disappointing injury at the Olympics last year.  He went through painful back surgery this fall in hopes of skiing in the World Championships in Beaver Creek this month.

We all looked up the hill and hoped for more spectacular-ness from Bode as he started on the Super G course last week.  He was flying, leading the field.  Crazy and on the edge.  Classic Bode.  And then, he crashed.  It was horrendous to watch.  His ski sliced a tendon in his leg, requiring surgery.

In an interview afterward, he said he is considering being done as a racer.  He has two small children and a beautiful, talented wife.  He has priorities other than chasing a dream that he has already lived.  He can’t put the level of intensity into his training that competing at the World Cup level requires.  Sounds to me like his heart isn’t in it anymore.

I can relate.

Perhaps one of the harder things in life is knowing when to say when.  If the inner desire is gone, do you call it quits or push through?  Do you dig deep or throw in the towel?  When is enough enough?

If you walk away from something you have worked hard for and been successful at, something that other people are clambering to achieve, are you a quitter?  Are you ungrateful for what you have?  Will you regret giving it up?  Or will you be freed?  Will you be someone who knows yourself and lives accordingly?

Bode Miller’s body has been through the ringer, for sure, but he probably has a few more medals in him.  I’m guessing a lot of athletes would give some small body part to have the ability that he has right now.  And yet, he is considering giving it up even though the rest of the world is crying for him to stay in it. Good for him.

To thine own self be true.

If you’re in a profession for a certain length of time, it can become tiresome.  The shine wears off.  You get down-trodden, bedraggled.  Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to make a choice to walk away when we have a loss of heart?  We could have a sort of train track switch to shift us in another direction, triggered at that point when we just don’t have whatever it is anymore.  We wouldn’t have to confront the need to make a change — it would just be done for us.  No fear of second-guessing or regret.  No judgment.  That guy’s dragging big time at his accounting firm, CHING, he’s off to become a developer.  This one’s lost his curiosity as a surgeon, BOOM, he’s on his way to teaching origami.

Most of us don’t feel that we have the luxury of changing course when our heart isn’t in it.  We hang on much longer than we should.  Most of us are tied to the income, the status, the comfort of what we know.  We fear failure, we fear what others will think, we fear starting over.  We fear.  What would our world look like if more of us let go of the fear and followed our heart?

What We Learned in Kindergarten

In addition to mothering, wifering and lawyering, I sell tickets at Beaver Creek a couple of days a week during the ski season.  You can tell a lot about a person from their approach to an empty line maze at the ticket office.

There are those who walk in and mindlessly trudge back and forth through the stanchions and wait at the end to be called to the window.  These souls, I imagine, had a drill sergeant for a kindergarten teacher.  Their malleable minds accepted the ways of the world.  Follow the rules, stay in line, keep your hands to yourself, don’t make waves.

And then there are the rule breakers, the trouble makers, the rebels without a ticket.  They walk right past the “line forms here” sign and straight up to the window.  Their attitude:  I’m entitled, I’m important, I don’t spend energy on a line without purpose.  You just know they were the ones who started the food fight.

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Drum Roll, Please … Accepting the Versatile Blogger Award

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Many thanks to Quixotic Reflections for the Versatile Blogger Award nomination.  I am honored and pleased!  The fantastic blogs that I nominate for this award, in no particular order, are:

1.  Kevin’s Blog

2.  Kelzbelzphotography

3.  The Honking Goose

4.  Maybe Someone Should Write That Down

5.   Finish That Novel

6.  Wellfesto

7.  A Narcissist Writes Letters, to Himself

8. Pursuit of Life

9.  Ben’s Bitter Blog

Apologies if a nominee considers these “chain mail” awards as spam.  If so, please ignore and forgive.  I’m still in the place where, when anyone reads my blog let alone takes the time to recognize it, I’m thrilled.  Also, I like the idea of bringing more attention to interesting minds out there.

Rules of the award for those nominated, if they choose to accept, are as follows:

  • Show the award on your blog.
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 blogs (I’m a rule breaker, as I’m nominating 9 in this post.  Partly because Quixotic Reflections nominated a bunch that I would nominate, and partly because I’m trying to choose carefully … ).
  • Link your nominees’ blogs, and let them know.

Seven things about me:

1.  I was a cheerleader in high school.  Serious stuff — we went to camps and competed and did pretty well for a tiny private school squad.

2.  The summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years in high school, I bought a bag of Harlequin romances for a dollar and read them all within about two weeks.  It was like crack; I couldn’t stop.

3.  I went topless on a beach in Saint Tropez when I was 19, until I saw the naked Germans making out next to me.  The word “Orangina,” as shouted by the beach hawkers walking by, still makes me cringe a little.

4.  I’m terrible at picking out gifts.

5.  I learned to alpine ski when I was 23 and to water ski when I was 35.

6.  Even thought I live in the mountains, I’ve only hiked one fourteener.

7.  I enjoy fly fishing, although I need a lot more practice.

The False Security of Being Boring

A lot of people are really worried about privacy and keeping as much of their life off of the Interwebs as possible.  A woman at work yesterday told me she “did” Facebook, but only to keep up with what other people were doing.  She never posts anything.  Just in case … you know.

And there’s that whole Snowden the NSA is spying on all of us and reading our emails and tracking our phones and whatnot.

I should be more concerned.  I’m a lawyer for goodness sake.  My previous employer worked closely with our fair government to help fight the bad guys.  I know something of what they are all capable of, both good guys and bad guys.  It’s some scary shit.

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But I’m lulled into a sense of security because I’m dull.  I don’t do anything that anyone out there would really care about, I tell myself.  The rational me knows that the Nigerians or Eastern Europeans or junior high kids down the street could very well do horrible things to my life by spying on my electronic public and less-than-public self.

Their ways are sinister and mysterious.  Like siting in little rooms with rows of computers sending my blog auto-generated and really stupid spam comments.   I’ve tried to understand what they hope to get out of sending me a message about natural nutrition in broken, nonsensical English.  I’m sure there is a purpose.

Anyway, I continue to live carelessly and on the edge.  I use my credit card to buy stuff from Pottery Barn online. I post pictures once in a while to Instagram.  I comment on Facebook.  I sometimes even leave my computer open on the counter so someone could hack in and use the camera to take videos of me doing the dishes and folding laundry.  I know, I know.  It’s creepy and I should know better.  I take some solace that whoever could be watching is really, really bored.

Do-Over?

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Remember in elementary school, when you messed up in a game at recess and you could call out “do-over” and you’d get to try again?  Do you have any moments, decisions, or experiences in life for which you want to scream “do-over”?  Have you looked back on, say, college, and thought, “Man, I wish I could go back and do that again, knowing what I know now”?  Having reached this place of mid-40’s, the prospect of a life do-over comes up from time to time, either in conversations with friends or in my own little thought world.

Some things I never, ever want to do over.  Junior high, for one.  Horrible.  Awkward, confused, looking out from under a mess of permed hair.  No.  Even knowing what I know now, I couldn’t do it.

There are some things, though, that I do think about.  In fifth grade, we got to join the concert band.  We were given the choice of which instrument to play.  I wanted to play the drums.  They were SO COOL and I wanted to bang away on them.  But when it came time for me to choose, my mouth said, “flute.”  Girls didn’t play the drums.  Seriously, I remember that thought going through this head.  I played the flute for five years.  The piccolo, too.  I was pretty good.  But … I would have rocked those drums.

In high school, I could have joined more, done more, lived more.  And maybe taken a few more risks with my teachers, exploring thoughts and ideas more than I did.  I could have been a better friend.  I could have taken more ownership of my future, rather than letting it happen.  I could have taken up the guitar, to complement my prowess on drums, and formed a rock band. Joan Jett, eat your heart out.

I do knock myself upside the head with some of the choices that I made in college.  What was I thinking, choosing to major in “Business Administration.”  Is that even something?  I loved Economics and couldn’t major in it because I swore off math, specifically Calculus, in my Freshman year.  What?  My grown-up self would shake that little 17 year-old body and say, SUCK IT UP.  Other things in college, like never taking advantage of the fabulous arts the campus had to offer, not joining a sorority, not joining much of anything really, I also regret.  If I’d only opened my eyes a little more.  And I’m not even going to start on that decision to go to law school.

Some parts, I did right and I’m happy that I did.  Like living in France for a summer.  Check.  Mark.  I lived, I experienced, I explored. I survived emergency surgery when I was all by myself in Munich, followed by the trains and planes trip back to the U.S. on crutches  … a story for another day.

I married the right guy, for sure, but I would take a wedding do-over.  It was gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, and I couldn’t have asked for more of a fairy tale day.  But I was worn out.  The Big Day was a week after I finished and graduated law school. My do-over would have us tying that knot quite a while later.  Maybe without the bridesmaids who I haven’t seen more than twice since.  And I would have dancing.  And, somehow, a beach.

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My career path could have a lot of do-overs.  But I don’t dwell on those much, other than to wish that I could tell my hard working younger self to take a breath.  To walk away sometimes.  To look around.  To recognize when I was really good, not just when I didn’t think I was good enough.

Mostly, I reflect upon the risks I didn’t take.  The times I played it safe rather than rolling the dice.  Those are the do-overs I’d like.  The heart-in-your throat times and the why-nots, those are the did-it-good moments, even if the outcomes were not the best.

I remember when I was young, I told my dad that I had never made a major decision in life where I didn’t feel at peace afterward.  I didn’t yet understand that afterward is a very long time.  I’m not suggesting that I regret the life I’ve lived so far.  To the contrary, it’s been quite a ride.  But for some things, especially those drums, I’d still like to call out, “DO-OVER”!