Do-Over?

music-515895_1920

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.

heart-19666_1280

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”!

Advertisements

Influenza A: An Advertiser’s Dream

My recent illness turned me into a lump staring at the TV screen for hours upon hours.  I’ve had no energy to do anything, including push buttons on the remote.  When I ran out of shows to watch on Netflix (I’ll bet you didn’t think that was possible), I turned on cable and absorbed commercial after commercial.  My brain is officially washed.

I’ve started wondering if I should speak to my doctor about whatever prescription they’re advertising, even though I don’t have diabetes, heart disease, COPD (whatever that is), erectile dysfunction or disappearing eye lashes.  I wonder if I should call the Strong Arm to get the settlement I deserve for that car wreck I haven’t had.

I’m thinking I should call the nanny finder, even though my son is well past nanny-ing.  I admire Matthew Mcconnaughey’s smooth-riding Lincoln, having forgotten how smarmy those ads are. I make a mental note to check out the upcoming President’s Day furniture sales until I remember we have more furniture than we can fit in our home right now.

Today was a new low.  I caught myself thinking I really should look into Match.com.  What am I waiting for?   Mental head shake.  Last I checked I was married, happily, and I haven’t noticed any mysterious divorce lawyers sending me letters.  Good grief.

On Strength

I’ve been thinking a lot about strength over the last several months.  Most recently, because I haven’t had any following my bout with the stupid flu.  But even before that, I’ve had flitting thoughts of what it means to be strong, why we value it so much and whether and how I and others are strong.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the movie “Wild,” with Reese Witherspoon.  She plays Cheryl Strayed, a woman whose life was plagued with difficulty, heartache and addiction.  She hiked, alone, over a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I walked out of the film wondering again at strength.  How did this woman, by all accounts broken, find whatever it was she needed to dig deep, survive and face her demons?  Physical, mental and emotional strength came from someplace in her.  Where?  Why do some people have it and some not?  What is it?

I’ve been collecting a few thoughts, which I’ll share here, even though I’m still pondering.

1. Our society places enormous value on certain types of strength and I think we’re a bit out of whack.  Fortitude, stick-to-it-tiveness, having convictions, being bigger-than-life.  We love strong athletes and pay some of them ridiculous amounts of money.  (No matter that they may shatter their brains or those of an opponent, because at the end of the day they are human, even if they can accomplish unhuman feats.)  We speak with admiration about someone who is “so strong” in the face of adversity.  Or we tell them that they must “be strong,” meaning that they must shore up, fend off, stand tall and generally never fall apart.  At least not openly.

Where does this awe for strength come from?  Are we overall better for it?  Or would we be better off viewing ourselves as part of a collective, where ones’ strength is recognized as a complement to another’s weakness?  Where we view the individual more holistically and value them for them, not just how fast they can run?  Where sometimes it’s ok not to be strong?

2.  We should have a little more respect for someone who acknowledges a weakness.  Ms. Strayed knew she was at a cross-road.  She recognized that her life was crumbling and she found a way to face it.  People were confused by her decision and told her to give up along the way.  If she hadn’t acknowledged that she needed help, she would have continued to spiral.  There is value for her and for those around her (and society, as we got the benefit of her writing) when she says, “Yep, I’m a weak mess and I need to figure this out.”

One of the first things I learned as a young professional was to admit when I didn’t know something or that I had messed up.  It was so much better to say, “I don’t know the answer but I will do my best to find out,” than to give the wrong answer and have to explain that later.  Or to look like an idiot by fumbling through what was obviously something I knew nothing about.  When I was further along in my career, I appreciated that same trait in a colleague or outside advisor.  Don’t give me a half-assed or guessed answer.  Go figure it out and get back to me.  Please.  It shows that you know what you don’t know and I can trust you.

Similarly, the best leaders know their strengths and their weaknesses.  They aren’t afraid to surround themselves with those whose strengths can fill in the gaps.  The most effective people I have encountered have a willingness to be exposed at times, to point to the number 3 or number 10 person and say out loud for all to hear, “This is her thing.  She will carry this part of our load.”  Doing this demonstrates an understanding of the landscape, the team and the individuals.  It shows confidence in that person and allows her to shine and grow.

3.  An area of weakness doesn’t have to stay that way.  We can get better.  Maybe not as much as we would like, or maybe not to the degree of the next guy, but better.  We all have soft, unexposed baby skin, areas that will flare red from life’s friction, joints that may buckle from the weight of too much, muscles atrophied from lack of use.  We may not be able to change our complexion or strengthen a joint, but there is more than one way to skin a cat, as they say.  Find the sunscreen, wear a rash guard, put on a brace, move those muscles.  Rely on a friend, talk with a colleague, study up, take a break.  Hike the Pacific Crest Trail and face the demons.  You can find strength from other places.

I guess it comes down to this:  we need to give ourselves a break.  No one can be strong in all ways always.  The sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we can appreciate the beauty of life’s mosaic, comprised of all of our strengths and our weaknesses.


A Rock’s Weakness Paints the River’s Path

A Rock's Weakness Paints the River's Path


You Can’t Please Everybody, Or So They Say

safety-43801_1280People pleaser.  I’m pretty sure that Wikipedia has my picture next to the term.  All my life I’ve wanted people to like me.  Always.  Everyone.  Just don’t think badly of me.  I’d rather be lame than shamed.  Or something like that.

I don’t know why I’m this way.  Midwestern roots?  Overachiever?  Protestant guilt? (Yes, contrary to popular belief, Jews and Catholics do not hold the market on guilt.)  Last child syndrome?

I thought I had made some strides in this area over the last few years.  I’ve been trying to shed old notions of good and bad, right and wrong.  Opening my perspective, accepting others and myself.  Let go and let God.  You know the drill.

And then last night I came home to an open garage and a note.  Beginning to shake this flu thing, I had gone out of the house for the second time in almost two weeks to go to a friend’s for the evening.  Bobo wouldn’t go back in the house when I was trying to leave so I left him in the garage.  He’s funny that way sometimes.  Anyway, I guess the garage door didn’t close.  And so, the note:

My dog(s?) had been outside barking AS USUAL and the neighbor had put him in the house and would appreciate it if I kept them from barking ALL THE TIME when I’m gone and took care of them LIKE RAISING CHILDREN.  Smiley face (no joke).  They didn’t sign their name.

There I was:  worn out, feeling bad about the dog being out in the cold, feeling bad about the neighbors having to put him in the house and wondering why they thought the dogs bark ALL THE TIME when I’m gone since I’m hardly ever gone and they’re always inside and, whatever, they’re dogs.  They bark.  I think normal people would be mildly annoyed with the note, grateful that the house was in one piece and go to bed.

Not me.  I was a mess.  My stomach in knots.  I don’t want to be that neighbor that everyone complains about for having a junker in the front yard or weeds up to the windows or hideous purple paint (those last couple would apply to one of my neighbors).  I just want to live our lives in peace and harmony.  Can’t we all just get along?

So, today, I’ve slinked (slunk?) around, careful to avoid eye contact with The Neighbor (although I don’t know who he/she is), keeping my dogs close by, closing the blinds so that the dogs can’t see people walking in the street to bark at them and generally feeling bad.  Why do I let some angry person I don’t even know make me feel bad?  This is not the me that I want to be on life’s adventure.

I have a friend who is slightly crazy, ok maybe a lot crazy, whom I have witnessed yelling at a random stranger, and I mean dressing him down in a huge way, because he told her slightly obnoxious kids to get off of a public beach.  Wow.  I was in awe.  Slightly horrified, but still awestruck.  I just don’t have that in me.  I wish sometimes for a little bit of Latin blood somewhere in there.  I could storm out of the house in the middle of the night, waiving The Note, screaming up and down the street and demanding to know just which ball-less moron had the audacity to abuse my pet and trespass on my property?!

Well.  Maybe next time.

Hazy Perspectives: On Netflix and the Cat

As I enter Day 10 of Influenza A, I’m starting to believe that I may become a productive member of society again. Someday soon.  Maybe.  I’ll let you know.

Yesterday I attempted the mind-over-matter approach to recuperation.  I decided that I would be better, dammit.  I got myself out of bed, showered, dressed, put in my contacts and washed all the sheets and blankets on the bed.  Seriously, that was what drove me the craziest this past week.  And then I began melting away.  Coughing fits.  Fever.  Malaise, they call it.  I crawled into my now clean (thank God) bed and turned on Netflix so it could drone as background noise to my codeine-induced hazy state.  Are you still watching?

Netflix has been a constant companion throughout this flu journey.  Netflix and the cat. My husband, bless him, came home from Denver mid-week to take care of me and to make sure our son was eating something other than Wendy’s and Pringles.  This, in spite of my weak assertions that he didn’t need to come home, that we would be fine, that I didn’t need to go to the doctor, yadda yadda.  He was fabulous, brought me soup, made me go to the doctor, bought Sobe’s and did everything else that needed doing.  I had quarantined myself away into our room, to try not to share this ridiculous virus with anyone else.  So, my Dear One’s visits were only long enough to transport sustenance in and out of the room as I pointed pathetically at the door and said, sounding surprisingly close to the Amityville Horror voice, “Get. Out.”

Today, it’s very quiet.  Rob returned to Denver.  He does have a company to run, I guess.  Riley is gone for the week at a ski race.  I’m trying to get as much done as I can before I melt back into the bed, where the cat is waiting patiently, as is Netflix.

Visiting

My grandfather died in his mid-70’s quite suddenly.  It was June of 1978, just before their 50th wedding anniversary.  My grandmother was lost without him.  She hadn’t driven in years, she didn’t pay the bills or oversee their investments.   Mom stepped in to help that summer and we spent a lot of time with Grandma at her home in central Michigan.  I was a gangly 10 year-old, looking more like a boy than a girl.   My siblings were mostly grown.  Much of the time, it was just the three of us:  Grandma, Mom and me.

Grandma and Mom dug through closets and boxes and papers, while I mostly hid my nose in a book.  We ate chicken, salads and the homemade cookies she kept in her freezer.  She decided to lose weight and joined Weight Watchers.  In support of her efforts, a new yogurt machine turned out white goo.  She would spoon in some jam, turning it into nasty fruit-flavored slime that we would eat with air-popped popcorn in front of her black and white TV.  We went to town for lunch at the slanted-floor diner and sometimes drove all the way to Graying for groceries.

While we did a lot of touristy things to get Grandma out of the house, “visiting” was our most common pastime that summer.  “Visit” could be a noun, a verb or an adjective, with a special emphasis on the “t” in “Visiting.”  We would go Visiting, or we could be on a Visiting trip.  Every so often people would stop by for a Visit. Sometimes they called ahead to let Grandma know that they were coming.  Sometimes they just showed up, car tires crunching up the driveway, stopping on their way from somewhere to somewhere.  I would be introduced to Cousin Somebody, and then we would sit in the screened-in porch, drinking tea, while they talked about their trips, the weather, my grandpa’s passing, and family members’ comings and goings.

Sometimes we spent an entire day driving miles from home to home, Visiting.  To keep my Grandma occupied, we went up to my father’s family cabin in the Upper Peninsula several times.  Inevitably, the trip included a stop at a distant cousin’s or family friend’s house for a Visit.   We returned to our home in the Detroit suburbs, and took Grandma Visiting the relatives who lived in that area.  I can’t tell you how many “davenports” I sat on, waiting for the end of the Visit.  If I was lucky, it was a glider and I could push it back and forth in the August heat, creaking in concert with the drone of cicadas.  If I was really lucky, our host served rhubarb pie.

I sort of wish Visiting was still a thing people did.  It seemed a kind of homestead soil, grounding people together, lives intertwined with shared stories.  The connections were mysterious to my 10 year-old self.  These vaguely familiar people whose houses held threadbare furniture, unique smells and pictures of those I had never known.  Stories of cousins killed in the hay fields, uncles taken ill at a young age, or great grandfathers who lived into their 90’s.

Visiting.

“Did You Leave Your Brain At School”?

Thus asked the man who rescued my son and his friend.  Our truck, a beast of a thing — 2500HD if you know trucks — was solidly stuck in soft snow up to its belly.  The Kid and his friend, en route from school last night, decided to take the side road and it didn’t end well.  This morning, some heavy duty road clearing equipment made a path so that the stranded monster could be extricated.  Nothing a couple hundred dollars and a mild headache could’t fix.

This adventure was quick on the heels of a warning from our county sheriff, who found the Kid and others doing doughnuts in a parking lot.  The snow was perfect, the Kid tells us, and my car is awesome at drifting.  Sigh.  I remember being in a group of kids who did doughnuts in the school parking lot, Tears for Fears beating through the speakers.  Different music, different kids, same games.

We knew these days of less-than-optimal choices would come.  So far, at least as far as We The Parents know, they have been fairly harmless.  The Kid has appeared appropriately shaken up by the outcomes and we hope that some sort of lesson is sinking in.

This parenting thing starts out with lack of sleep and a lot of effort aimed at trying to keep the little being alive.  It then tumbles through all the wondrous ups and downs of growing up.  Tantrums, play dates, victories and defeats.  Papers, exams, unfair teachers and unfair kids.  Injuries and illnesses, hugs and pats.  Then the child reaches this age of in between, and it’s more difficult than all that other stuff.  At times he is the adult he will become.  Insightful, wise, bright.  Then a raging teenager emerges, angry at the world, himself, you and the dog.  Then he picks up a long-forgotten gizmo and plays like a boy, a grin spreading across his face.  Then he goes 4-wheeling on a two track after two weeks of steady snowfall . . .

The Kid asked me last night, after the rescue, at what point a male brain stops being stupid.   Didn’t quite have an answer for that one.  Does it ever?  We’ve all read the studies about the developing male brain, and that it takes much, much longer to firm up than we once thought.  Alas, although testosterone filled teenaged boys are more prone to it, you don’t have to be male or young to make a stupid decision.  Any of us can leave our brain behind at any point.

And so, we tell him to try to think first, that it only takes a second or one wrong move for things to go upside down.  We know our words are mostly bouncing off, but hope a few sink in.  Mostly, we remind him that we love him, and wonder how any of us made it this far with all the dumb things we’ve done.

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Motivations are tricky.  What compels someone to do something really stupid and post a video of it on Facebook?  Why would someone run for public office, let alone the presidency?  Why would I write a blog?

<<chirp, chirp>>

If ever the topic of my blog arises in conversation, reactions range from mild interest to “Oh . . .  wait, what?”  I get a lot of “What is your blog about?”  As if I have a purpose.  As if I have a single topic that is interesting enough to merit blogging about it.

Some people do.  Some are motivated by money and they zero-in on that thing, whatever it is, to generate traffic to their store, website, tourist attraction, sponsors or whatever.  I respect that, usually.  This is the way things are done these days.

Some people are true capital W writers and their blog is just another forum for them to express their meaningfulness and interact with their capital R readers.  Go and do, Great Minds!

My motivations for a blog have been more, what? Subtle?  I started out thinking I would use it as a place to write down little lessons I’ve learned over the years, in story telling mode.  I envisioned career/corporate world stuff.  The name “Tilting Up” was a reaction to “Lean In,” a book title that got so much attention and created such a stir that I never read it.  I’m a woman who was in an advancing career and who suddenly, and with mystery for some of those around me, left to live in a resort town.  I didn’t leave my brain behind and I still had things to share and add to that world, I thought, so I would do it in a blog.

A funny thing happened as my fingers hit the laptop keys:  I didn’t write my thoughts on effective leadership or how to communicate in the board room.  Instead, life came through.  People, relationships, mundanities, tragedy, humor, love and loss.  Dogs, snow and a convertible.  And I found that what I thought was my original motivation wasn’t even real.

So now I wonder, what is it?  Why do I do what I do?  It’s a connection to people I know and those I don’t.  It’s a catharsis I didn’t know I needed.  It’s fun.  It’s something I do without having to.  My own thing, my own deadlines or not, my own topics, my own thoughts.  No agenda.  No goals.

Motivation for Taking the Cat on a 10 Day Camping Trip?

Motivation for Taking the Cat on a 10 Day Camping Trip . . . He’s Fun?

Still don’t have much of an answer here.  Not sure it really matters.  Thanks for reading —  maybe you are my motivation!

I would still like to know why someone would willingly run for president.

Happy 2015 and Happy Motivating!

The Golden Technology Age Has Turned My Finger Green

gears-179861_1280Password memory hell.  Online prescription refill drama.  Mobile check deposit rejections.  Compromised credit card that handles all the recurring payments.  Cell phone battery from 35% to dead in 10 minutes.

Remember the first time you had to come up with an online password and it was your birthday so you could always remember it?  Remember when your password didn’t expire?  Remember when you only had one?

Remember when cell phones didn’t exist?  Or when they were so expensive to use you didn’t dare, so they sat there dead and no one cared?  Now it goes dead, almost as soon as it’s unplugged, and you’re completely cut off from . . . something really important I’m sure.

Remember when you just went to the bank to do anything that had to do with money?  When men were men and checks were checks?

Remember when you could call customer service and talk to someone who lived in your hemisphere?  Who you could ask to speak to a supervisor and they didn’t hang up on you?

Remember when you could just go to the pharmacy and refill the prescription that you take every day and will take for the rest of your life?  Now you get your drugs through the mail in 90 day chunks.  A challenge when the on-line pharmacy doesn’t list you with the rest of your family, even though you’re the only one who has ever gotten a prescription filled since the insurance coverage started.

Sometimes I spend all morning working very hard at accomplishing absolutely nothing.

15 Minutes, Twice a Week

Over the last month or more, I’ve been going to physical therapy a couple of times a week to try to get my shoulder to behave.  You may recall my whiny post about getting the cortisone shot, and these visits are all part of the Grand Plan to get rid of the pain and avoid surgery.  Even though I’ve begun to lose faith in the Plan, I still regularly go to see Neil, the PT.

Neil is a nice guy and all, but I’m beginning to question why I go back.  Am I one of “those people” who craves the one-on-one attention he has to give me because I pay him to?  Maybe, but it seems like this would have manifested earlier or in some other way in my life, perhaps by being a therapy junky or something.  I hated counseling specifically because it was all about me, so I’m pretty sure that’s not why I’m going to PT.

Is it the way the shoulder feels following PT?  I don’t think so because it never feels all that great, even when I leave.   The “massages” often bring tears to my eyes and not in a good way.  Neil makes me do little range of motion and strengthening exercises with stretchy bands and very light hand weights, all of which are much harder than one would expect they should be.

And then, at the end of every session, I lay under a fleecy blanket on a table with a giant icepack across my shoulder, often hooked up to a shock-stimulation thing.  Fifteen minutes.  He sets a timer and everything.

I’m starting to think it’s the 15 minutes that keeps me coming back.  I have to just lay there.  I can’t really look at my phone because it’s awkward and cold to hold it up in front of my face.  No one sits and talks to me because everyone is either working or being worked on.  It’s just me and my thoughts, and snippets of other people’s PT exchanges:  “It hurts really bad when I . . .” “Look, I can touch my toes now!” “How long until I can ski again?” “What did you do for New Year’s?”

For 15 minutes I begin the process of letting my mind do what it wants.  I say begin, because I think it would take a lot longer than a quarter of an hour for that process to really happen.  As an apparent member of the ADD club, in normal life I’m constantly filling my head with something to think about.  More likely, it’s so that I don’t think.  Scrolling through the interwebs, listening to music, TV on in the background, I find constant stimulation so that my racing brain doesn’t drive me crazy.

I’m finding that I look forward to Neil’s walk back to the freezer to get the ice.  I take a few conscious breathes, try to let my muscles settle into the table, close my eyes and absorb, reflect, release. I don’t pray.  I don’t try to be rooted with the me who is on this adventure. << Gross Pointe Blank reference.  Great movie if you haven’t seen it. >>  I don’t think deep thoughts.  I just let go.

Years ago, I tried yoga, perhaps with the same sort of goal in mind.  But I found that I hated it when someone told me what I’m supposed to do to find inner peace.  My entire body rebelled.  It was counter-productive.

Meditation hasn’t found me yet either.  I don’t have the whatever-it-is-one-needs to meditate.  At least I don’t think I do.  Maybe I’ll consider it more the next time I’m laying on the therapy table with a frozen shoulder.

Cheers!

Looking Up, Sequoia 2014

Looking Up, Sequoia 2014

How Old Is Sting, Anyway?

Old enough to be a Kennedy Center lifetime accomplishment honoree.  I caught the end of the broadcast on CBS last night, after they had honored Tom Hanks, Lilly Tomlin, Al Green, and Patricia McBride.  I only saw the performances of Sting’s work by Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and Bruno Mars.  I was blown away.

In this age of all reality shows all the time, when Average Joe seeks discovery on TV talent shows week after week, true professionals honoring one of their own washed the airwaves with their own glorious renditions of the work of an icon.  Spectacular.  Even if you aren’t a fan of Gaga or Mars, their tributes to Sting are worth a listen.  And, of course, Springsteen is the Boss.

Doing Crazy

I forget how weird we are. At dinner the other night, our friends in Denver were remarking, again, on the monumental choice we made by moving to the Valley four years ago.  You’ve heard about people who sell everything and become RV nomads, with kids in-tow?  Or the executive who, after getting out of the slammer for insider trading, is now happily mowing lawns in New Jersey?  To the folks who knew us way-back-when, we’re like that.  We might as well be living in a shack on a Chilean beach, our hair in dreads.


shack-164044_1280Surf Shack Equivalent to Our Mountain Life


Flashback to 2010.  We lived in Denver in a suburban McMansion.  I had a high-powered, high-stress career.  My husband had a successful consulting business.  My kid, in 6th grade, was fairly normal.  He loved sports.  His two main passions were ski racing and lacrosse, and he was drowning in one of Colorado’s best private schools.  Balancing his already demanding training and travel schedule with the aggressive curriculum was next to impossible for him.  Our choices seemed to be to take him out of racing, his true love, so that he could focus his energy on surviving school, or to move him to Vail where the ski academy would let him continue to race in a more supportive environment.

We couldn’t take away his true love.  We jumped, with both feet.  There was no halfway.  We enrolled him in Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.  At the time, it had four classrooms crammed into a corner of a middle school in Minturn, Colorado.  He was ecstatic.  We were terrified.  Were we letting our kid become a ski bum?  Had we destroyed his future by over-indulging him in pursuit of a nearly impossible dream?

Our friends and colleagues in Denver looked at us in horror when we shared our news.  What the hell were we thinking?  Vail is where they have their vacation homes.  They come up for a weekend here and there.  Do people actually live there?  Can they converse?  Do they have all their teeth?  Yes, yes, and mostly.

We settled into a community of people who were as certifiable as we were.  Some even crazier.  Some moved half of their family here, one parent in Vail and the other back east, making the money.  Some gave up their professional jobs in Elsewhere, USA and became ski instructors and bus drivers so that their kids could live here and pursue their passions.  Some, like us, teeter between Denver and here.


IMG_0915


Together, we live a vagabond life in the winter, following the race circuit, dragging around tuning benches and six pairs of skis, standing on the side of a mountain in a blizzard watching the kids battle the hill.  In the summer, we send them off to places like Oregon, Chile and New Zealand to continue to ski.  Living in Weirdo Land, I forget how strange we are, until we see our friends from Before and they say things like “monumental choice” when referring to our decision to move here.

We gave up a lot, but we also got a lot.  We got a kid who found his right place in the world.  We got a family that spends time together and shares experiences that most people don’t even dream about.  And, big bonus, we got to live in a place that is spectacularly beautiful.

Yes, we’re weird. And it’s all good.

 DSCN0210Ski Bum or Beach Bum? Same Difference.


Jolly Ole Extreme Limits

How did you spend Christmas this year?  The Valley’s Christmas present was day after day of really nice snow, and we headed to Beaver Creek to play in it for a few hours.  Eventually, our kid took us over to the Stone Creek Chutes.  You powder hounds will recognize this as the extreme terrain that runs next to Rose Bowl.  Steep, with tight trees and deep snow, it is beautiful and, I would guess, never crowded.  I’m guessing because I had never skied it before, and because, during our somewhat-longer-than-normal visit, we didn’t see another soul.

I have skied steep and deep, and trees, and chutes.  Rob and I can get through just about anything, perhaps not with grace, but we can do it.  But on Thursday, we found our limits.

My ski popped off immediately after I dropped into the chutes.  Fortunately, my kid was just below and rescued me — I had a tough time just standing up, let alone getting the ski back on.  Undeterred (well, we had no choice but to continue down — once you’re in, there’s no other way out), we continued to make our way.  I got myself stuck in amongst a bunch of trees.  As I searched for an escape, I heard my boys talking.  Ok, so one was talking, the other was sort of barking that I needed to get over there to help.  Ha!  I could barely move.  How did they think I could maneuver my way to where they were?

Worried that someone was hurt, I shimmied through some aspens and subsequently tumbled/rolled/slid down the hill a few feet, losing another ski in the process. I could see the binding sticking up just 15 feet above.  Trouble was, I couldn’t move without my ski-less leg sinking down into the oblivion of snow below me.  There I stood.  Everyone seemed to be ok.  Apparently Rob had taken a tumble as well and was having some trouble getting his skis back under him.  Riley managed to climb up, get him re-situated, and guided him to the bottom.  He yelled back telling me to stay put, he would come back around and get my ski.

There I stood on the snow-covered hillside.  All was still and quiet, other than the giant snowflakes falling around me.  Peaceful.  Beautiful.  And, my mom-brain muttered, potentially deadly.  Mom-brain can go from this-is-fun to this-can-kill-you in about a half a second.  But I reminded Mom-brain that all was well, plus my phone had coverage back there and, worst case, ski patrol would eventually find me.  Riley, sweet boy, phoned from the lift:  “Are you ok?  I’m heading back up.”  Good grief. I felt sorta stupid, but proud of my growing-up kid.  He was awesome — calm, knowledgeable, kind. He didn’t once make fun of how horribly inept Rob and I were.

The next day, we returned to Beaver Creek.  Riley made laps on Stone Creek Chutes with his friend, looking like this (you can’t see the smile but it’s in there):

https://i2.wp.com/photos-c.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t51.2885-15/10843840_1521254304825994_1133657329_n.jpg

Rob and I stayed out of the chutes, looking like this:

https://i2.wp.com/photos-h.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t51.2885-15/10882011_1517505235199799_1786290098_n.jpg

all the while trying not to think of our baby careening through the trees and jumping off of cliffs on that beautiful (and, Mom-brain thinks, danger-laden) snowy mountain side.  We all have our limits.  I’m pretty sure Rob and I found ours.  Riley is still pushing his, smiling all the way.

Party Day, Get Out the Vacuum

Big Christmas/Holiday/It’s Been Snowing Party tonight.  Woo Hoo!  Rob’s making tenderloin, crab cakes and a tres leches cake and I’m cleaning the couch … .

That’s been our understanding for the length of our marriage.  When we give a party, Rob does most of the cooking and I get everything else ready. I do assemble some food things, like the egg nog and the bean dip, but nothing heavy duty. Rob loves to cook and he’s really good at it.  I’m too busy hoovering. **I’m not British, but how often does one get to use such a great term in Colorado life?  Indulge me.**  I don’t love cleaning, but I can’t help myself.

Why clean the house before a party?  Because we have a pug and a cat who shed A LOT and I have this idea that I can make a dent in the amount of fur and dander that resides with us.  I know they say it takes 6 months to make a home fur-less after a pet leaves a home, but I try to do it in 6 hours. I also stock up on Benedryl for allergic guests.

Apologies in advance, people.  I’m trying my best here.  You may be sneezing and have to use a lint brush on your coat, but the food will be amazing.

2014-10-08 13.08.33

Where Else Would We Be?

IMG_1134.JPG

Surefoot Holiday Classic race at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs last night. We stood with friends in the side-blown, ice-pelleted darkness and watched 90 “men” fight down a slalom course that developed into a feet-high rutted luge adventure. Those who survived the first run got to do it again. I think the athletes had fun. Lifetime memories.

Introvert, Schmintrovert

Many years ago, I discovered that I was an introvert.  I had never really thought about it much.  I read a book about twice exceptional children (because my kid must have been twice exceptional . . . whatever, I was a new parent) and it described the personality traits of introversion and extroversion.  I learned that introverts need to recharge by having some alone time while extroverts get their energy from interacting with others.  That made complete sense to me, I checked the box that applied to me and aligned my family and friends with whichever box applied to them, and I moved on. It was handy to know that my kid, like me, needed to escape to a safe haven after school and that my husband needed to host a party every so often.

Recently, I’ve found myself annoyed, annoyed, annoyed by the little Facebook posts, articles, books, advertisements, Today Show jokes and little squiggly cartoons targeted at the shocking revelation that introverts are people too.  They can be entertainers, they aren’t all librarians (in fact, I’d be willing to bet that the intro/extro ratio amongst librarians is the same as the ratio in the general population . . . SHOCKING), they sometimes even rise to the position of President of these United States.  The messages are meant, I think, to be enlightening.  It’s ok to be an introvert, see all the positive qualities that introverts have?  See all the things they can do, poor souls?

It feels a little bit like being told it’s ok to have big feet or curly hair. Sometimes people with big feet AND curly hair get nominated for and win the Nobel Peace Prize — can you believe it?

Why is this aspect of personality so worthy of an entire book (or many books, I’m not sure) devoted to the notion that introverts can actually be interesting, have lives worth living and contribute in positive ways in a corporate setting, a church group, a friendship, yada yada yada?

I bought the audio version of Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” last year, thinking it would be a fun listen on a road trip. She tells us that thirty percent of the population (at least that’s how many will ADMIT to having this horrendous affliction) are floating around being introverts, and that they can actually, wait for it, have power.    I couldn’t get past the second chapter.

For those of you who are still struggling with how to live with the introverts around you, Google “how to love an introvert.”  You’ll find plenty of helpful tidbits.


INTROVERTS CAN EVEN DRIVE CARS!

Introverts Can Drive Cars!


I love my town newspaper

Untitled

One of the best things about living in a small town is that we are all in this together.  Our little paper is the go-to for the goings-on in the Valley.  I love reading my friend’s weekly column, the results of our high school football games (generally not that great), updates on local politics, where to go for yoga and when Santa will be in town.

Thank you, Vail Daily, for continuing to publish my silly thoughts.

Vail Daily column: The goose is getting fat | VailDaily.com.

Memories of Christmas Past (Weird But True)

tarantula-62868_1280

What memories can your Ghost of Christmas Past dredge up?  During my driving time lately I’ve been pulling up some of mine from long ago.  Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better for not filling out Aunt Pat’s Christmas Memories book for the last 20 years.  In any event, most of my recollections are pretty good ones.  Some are just odd.

As a child, I hated going to see Santa.  I liked the idea of Santa, the whole bringing me presents thing seemed like a good deal.  But he knew if I was sleeping or awake, and if I’d been bad or good?  And he came down our chimney and left presents in our house while we slept?  That was kind of creepy.  Then, after standing in line FOREVER, I was told to go and sit on his lap.  Seriously?  Stalker and B&E Santa?  This was way before political correctness, but somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew this was not right.

Nevertheless, come Christmas Eve, I was SO EXCITED FOR HIM TO COME that I could barely stand it.  Fortunately, my family had a tradition of going to the Greenfield Village and/or Henry Ford Museum (depending on how cold it was) on Christmas Eve before heading to my Grandparent’s house for dinner.  It was a great way to get a child’s mind off of things for a little while.  My grandmother was step-mother to my dad and things at their house were always just a little bit stiff, shall we say.  We would gather with aunts and uncles and cousins and have dinner.   We were not allowed until later to venture into the living room, which was where the tree and the presents were, and really where all of the  action would happen.  We couldn’t touch ANYTHING (or at least I couldn’t, at the time I was the youngest and I suspect I was under an extremely watchful mother’s eye) because things in there could break, like those multi-colored glass grapes in the centerpiece bowl on the coffee table.  <sigh>  The drive home was long and one year the snow flew at the headlights so thick we could barely see.  As my dad drove slowly, white-knuckeled I’m sure, I sat wide awake on my mother’s lap, searching through the snow for Santa’s sled somewhere up there in the sky.  (Ah, yes, those were the days, when children bounced around from front seat to back, happily unencumbered and unconcerned about car seats and crash tests.)

Christmas mornings, I, the youngest, dutifully woke everyone before the sun came up.  My brother loved me for this, I’m sure.  It was the one time of the year when Dad took home movies of us.  Horrifically bright white lights flooded our little family room, sending off an astonishing amount of heat as we held up our treasures with giant smiles.  My retinas never recovered.

The reason for the season was always alive in our house, and the Christmas story was told and retold.  I was infatuated with the nativity scene, in particular Mary adoringly looking down at Baby Jesus.  So, I would grab a blanket and drape it over my head.  I knelt (because Mary is always kneeling, right?) on the family room floor and looked lovingly at my baby doll, wrapped tightly in “swaddling clothes,” a/k/a a towel.  That was it.  Nothing else.  After a few minutes, my knees would hurt and I’d go back to being a cowboy (or maybe it was a horse, I recall a lot of clomping around on hands and knees, naying from time to time).

As I got older, Christmases got a little weirder.   One year, my mother decided to buy fluffy white “snow” to spread on the tree.  We backed up to ensure even coverage and realized it looked like a giant spider had cocooned the whole thing in its web, ornaments and all.  My brother’s tarantula, Charlotte, had recently molted and he placed her abandoned exoskeleton gently on top.  The Addam’s Family had nothing on us.

We were lucky we didn’t burn the house down with our dried out “live” trees.  By Christmas morning, needles showered down onto the carpet as we slid the presents out to open them.  To address this problem, my mother and I decided to buy a “living” tree one year.  As an added bonus, we could plant it in the yard come spring.  The little tree did well enough through Christmas, but we kept it inside a little too long and didn’t think to water it once we moved it to the deck.  Yet another life cut short.

My mother the science teacher collected eggs from the quails her class had hatched, tucking them into the shelves of our fridge for a couple of months.  She then served them, deviled, with our Christmas dinner of Cornish hens.  Delicacies, I know, but none of my friends’ moms did stuff like that.

And so it is.  Oddities, snippets, bits and pieces of time shared.  Many of my memories are glommed together experiences from several years.  Like all that time spent snuggled on the couch watching the Grinch (with his little dog Max, wonderful thing), Charlie Brown, Rudolf and A Year Without a Santa Claus:  “I’m mister heat miser, I’m mister snow . . .”  The shows were on just once, so if you missed them you’d have to wait until next yearThe Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never failed to scare the pants off me.

The Goose Is Getting Fat

91-WmAameGL._SL1500_

Living in a resort town, you would think that we get the Christmas bug early. Vail’s lights are up well before Thanksgiving (maybe they never take them down, now that I think about it) and Santa comes to Beaver Creek the Friday after Turkey Day to help kick off the season. He and a few of his elves have even been known to parachute into Copper Mountain’s village at night, complete with twinkling beacons so we can see them in the frozen sky.

And yet, every year since we have lived here, Christmas has a way of sneaking up on me. What is it about this place? Maybe because it gets dark really early, so in the evenings I just want to curl up on the couch rather than make Christmas cookies. Today, as my cart bumped past couples and families stocking up for their ski vacations at the grocery store, it hit me. Christmas is fast approaching and I’d better get my jingle bell groove on.

You can’t miss our welcomed visitors in the grocery aisles, poor saps. Their distinguishing characteristics include:

  • a full family shopping together (this never happens in non-vacation life — think about it)
  • extended relations and/or friends trying to decide what kind of coffee to buy (“I won’t drink Starbucks, it’s against everything I believe in,” as his friend looks at him with disgust “Seriously?”)
  • carts full of everything necessary to make a pancake breakfast, including a spatula
  • looks of complete defeat, accompanied by, “I cannot find the olives anywhere
  • women in mink coats pushing grocery carts down the cereal aisle (Yes. It’s true.)

As we get closer to December 25, we who live here begin to drive a little more defensively, particularly in those pesky round-a-bouts which befuddle our visitors. Generally, drivers who are new to this grand invention of traffic control either careen around them as fast as possible while their passengers assume the head covered tornado drill position (“Hang On!”); or they slowly creep around it a few times, hazard lights flashing, while other cars dodge in front and behind. We also find ourselves looking the other direction as we back out of our parking spaces because the vacationers can’t seem to get the fact that it is a one-way lot. They cluelessly drive past, going the wrong way in their rented Suburban, Starbucks in one hand and iPhone in the other.

But we love having them here, even if we do have to adjust our shopping schedules and our expectations for the availability of parking spaces. They bring the holiday spirit with them. They remind us that we get to live in a place where other people would rather be. They have counted down the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes until they could breathe our thin air.

So, as we duck our heads to avoid the skis swinging past us in the Village, let us all be grateful for the reminder that the holidays are upon us and we are pretty fortunate to get to spend them in such a fabulous place. (And don’t forget to pick up some eggs and bread before the shelves are bare.) Cheers!


Photo from Amazon.com, American Greetings Christmas Jumbo Holiday Gift Bag, Santa Parachuting. Yes, this can be yours for just $11.09 with Amazon One-Click(R). Act now!


Go Speed Racer! (and study too): Parenting(?) a Competitive Athlete

2014-03-23 09.12.25Many of you can relate to the peaks and valleys of raising a teenager.  If that teenager is a competitive athlete, the peaks can be towering mountains and the valleys bottomless caverns. I’m struggling a little lately with how to parent in this ecosystem.

Our son has reached a level of ski racing competition that is truly global.  We hear French, Russian, Czech, Slovenian, German, Norwegian and Finnish at the finish line (see what I did there?) of his races this week.  The Australians and Kiwi’s were on the start list. World Cup racers came over after their races in Beaver Creek this weekend to brush up on their giant slalom technique. My son’s body, which has grown quite a bit in the last year, is still small in comparison to many of these men’s tree-trunk legs and beefy arms.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this world, ski racing is a brutal sport.  The young guys compete from the back, fighting nerves and huge course ruts left behind by the bigger, stronger guys.  They compete on a point system, lower is better, and those points go down gradually as the racer fights, race after race, to finish in a better position.  They must complete two runs in order to get a race finish, and often half of the pack fails to cross the finish line in both runs.  They train year round, in the gym and on the hill.  They travel a lot.  They get hurt a lot.  And then they show up at a race and their day could be over after the 6th gate of the first run.

After today’s race, our team packed up their gear and drove to school so that the boys could prepare for finals next week.  Many of their competitors probably went out for a beer.  It’s a little weird and somewhat understandable that my son’s focus on studies is a bit hazy sometimes.

So yesterday, when I woke up to make him a “healthy breakfast” (he got to sleep in until 8:00, a rare luxury) I had the bad sense to check his grades on-line.  And I got a little frustrated with his apparent lack of attention in a couple of classes.  And I woke him up to say, “You better get it together, kid!  You’re clearly taking your eye off the ball.”  And then I stopped.  He had a race beginning in a couple of hours.  He would be pushing his body down an icy hill on razor sharp skis, trying not to mess up, on the edge of crashing, and I was yelling at him about his English grades.  Yikes.  I chose the completely wrong moment to unleash.

<Deep Breath>

He is a good kid.  He is 16.  He and his teammates work extraordinarily hard.  He has passion.  He is critical of himself for not racing as well as he believes he can, and he always feels like he can do better.  I am not a former World Cup ski racer, as are many of the parents of his competitors.  I never ski raced at all.  I can’t give him any advice about how to approach a delay on the course or when to release his edges for the next turn.  I can’t even give him much help with the mental aspects of ski racing.  In fact, I’ve learned to say nothing about any of these things, because I really don’t know what to say.  I’ve never faced the pressures of highly competitive athletics that he does.

I do, however, know how to be a student.  19 years of studentry under my belt, thank you very much.  And so I focus on his school work and try to give him pointers on study skills and time management and suggest that he work ahead.  If I’m honest (though he doesn’t need to hear this) I’ll admit that I wasn’t the best at time management and study skills when I was a junior in high school.  Procrastination seems to be genetic and he is as good at it as I was at his age.  It’s hard to watch him make the mistakes and not-great choices that I once made.  I remind myself that this is his journey.  I cannot be Captain Jean Luc-Picard and “make it so.”

Still, I’m a mom and part of being a mom is nagging a bit here and there (in future at more appropriate times than just before a race) to remind the Young One that this school thing is important.  Racing will end and he will have to make a living some day.  As far as I can tell, the rest of my job description includes providing food, shelter, clothes, gear and a hug from time to time.

Go get ’em! Ski fast! Have fun! (And get some sleep and don’t forget to brush your teeth.)

On Loss of An Unborn Child

bleeding-heart-244354_1280

I’m not sure that I have the courage to make this story public.  We’ll see how it goes and whether the “publish” button gets clicked.  Fair warning, Dear Reader.  Stop now if the topic of miscarriage makes you squeamish, because I’m going to share what it feels like.

This morning, I learned that a friend lost a pregnancy.  I saw her just a few weeks ago, on the day she had taken the pregnancy test.  We hugged and I told her how happy I was for her and her young husband.  It was their first. At somewhere in her mid-thirties, a pregnancy is not as guaranteed as it once may have been.  They were a little bit in shock but happily so.  And when I learned of their loss today, memories of my own experiences came flooding back to me.

Miscarriage is one of the few things that our live-out-loud society does not talk about openly. A newscaster will get a colonoscopy on live TV, but we don’t speak of the painful experiences many of us have endured first hand.  I’ve heard that up to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.  My statistic is 75%.

I don’t want to take away from the loss that the daddies feel when an unborn child doesn’t make it to their first breathe.  They hurt, too.  But I’m not a daddy and I can only speak to  what the mommy goes through, at least this mommy.

Our bodies begin to change immediately upon conception, imperceptively at first, to accommodate this little blob of cells.  Within a couple of weeks, we can smell a cup of coffee two states away.  Our boobs hurt.  We get tired.  And then when we pee on a stick and it turns pink or blue or there are two lines or a plus sign or whatever, our hearts beat a little faster and we suck in a quick breathe and for a while it’s our little life-altering secret.  We might even take a couple more tests, just to be sure.

We tell our husbands or boyfriends or moms.  In my case, my husband and I were elated by the thought of a new addition to our family.  My first pregnancy, that resulted in my fabulous son almost 17 years ago, was not easily achieved.  We tried for years for him and went through infertility testing and treatments and once we figured out what the issue was, he came along in a pretty normal pregnancy.  We figured we had this baby-making thing beat.  So, when I learned I was pregnant about 15 months later, it was a little surprising.  We hadn’t been “trying,” meaning we hadn’t gone through the procedure that resulted in Kid One, but we hadn’t been not trying, meaning we hadn’t been doing what people do to prevent it from happening. Still, there was great joy and excitement.

In about five minutes after that stick does its thing, the mommy’s brain goes through some sort of chemical gymnastics, and she sees the next year unfold in a mental movie trailer.  Getting bigger, eating more, swollen ankles, nursery decor, boy or girl, bringing her/him/ home from the hospital, tiny little newborn clothes and diapers.  She has already “known” in some subconscious way that this thing was happening, but now it’s real and she can start to imagine what it will be like.

She goes to the first doctor appointment and they say “yep, it’s a blob in there” and she sees the blob on the ultrasound screen.  They tell her to take prenatal vitamins and not to eat tuna or whatever and she gets little pamphlets and things in a plastic bag to take home.  And she tries to go about her business without thinking about this ALL THE TIME.  And she goes back for the next visit when the little blob has a fluttering heartbeat.  By then her pants are a little snug.  And she goes back again at 12 weeks to see that there is something in her belly that looks like a person, moving its tiny arms.

At 18 weeks, she goes in and the ultrasound tech gets her tummy all gooey and moves the paddle around and instead of cheery banter this time, the tech goes very quiet.  She moves the paddle some more, makes sure the mommy can’t see the monitor screen and then she says, “Let me just go and get the doctor.”  And the mommy lays there thinking, this doesn’t seem right.  Oh geez what is going on? And the doctor comes in and looks some more and tells her in the understanding and sympathetic doctor voice, “I’m so sorry.”

And the floor disappears.  She can’t breathe.  Her arms and legs won’t move.  And her mind tries to wrap its head around what is happening.  What has happened, really, because it can’t be fixed.  Life left that little being at some point and she didn’t even know it.  She had been walking around making plans for him/her and eating right and sleeping more and all that time he/she had been gone.

Or maybe the mommy knew because her body had already started the process of dealing with this death and she had started spotting and had called her doctor to say, “I think something’s wrong.”  And she finds herself sitting in the waiting room looking at all the pregnant bellies and thinking, “Oh, God, please no.”

I went through this experience three times.  Each time, I found myself utterly shattered.   12, 17 and 8 weeks.  I had D&C’s after each one, and woke from the anesthesia every time with tear-streaked cheeks.  I sobbed uncontrollably.  My husband, in his own grief, didn’t know what to do while I lay on our bed for days not wanting to talk to anyone about anything.  Our little boy, oblivious to what had happened, just wanted Mommy to feel better.  His hugs were the best medicine on earth.  I was angry at God.  If I’m honest, I still haven’t forgiven Him. However, I never begrudged others their joy when a baby came into their lives.  Time quieted the pain and it settled deeper in, making room for life’s future joys and experiences.  But it’s still there.  News of another woman’s loss brings it back in an instant as my empathetic heart breaks for her.

But we don’t talk about this, except in hushed tones.  “I’m so sorry,”  people say, perhaps with a hug, and then hope it never comes up again.  Sometimes people don’t even know about it, because the parents-to-be followed the old adage not to share the good news until after the first trimester because, “you never know.”  And then it’s a secret.  Something to hide.  Like it’s something to be ashamed of.  But when your heart has been ripped to shreds, it’s probably not all that healthy to keep it a secret.  Just sayin’.

That little life was never out there in the world, sending its rippled waves of living across the community.  But for the mommy, its heartbeat changed her forever and it’s ok for her to mourn.  It’s not something to “get over” or just “try again for another one,”  as well-meaning but clueless people may suggest.

Then again, some women may not feel the way I did. They may not have felt a connection with that little blob and it may not be the same sense of loss.  That’s ok, too.  This is just my story, and I hope it helps someone understand a little bit more about an aspect of life’s journey that we don’t talk about.

Silly Thing for Today

Facebook newsfeed videos on my iPhone always catch me a little off guard.

It’s like having the Daily Prophet in the palm of my hand.

latest

 

 

 

Confessions of a Social Media Failure

social-media-488886_1280

Social media is a conspiracy to make me feel inadequate. It is the organized mafia of high school cliqueish-ness.  A self-evolving, Star Trek-y Internet Borg designed to suck unsuspecting souls into its web of information overload, hashtagging its way across the universe.

Resistance Is Futile.

Resistance Is Futile.

I am a colossal failure at it.

Facebook is for old people and therefore generally manageable for me, ancient that I am.  In the olden days, 18 months ago, I’d get a lot of useful information about friends and family, keep up on their kids’ lives, see wedding pictures of distant cousins and get an occasional upliftingly cheesy message about living life to its fullest.  And it was all warm and fuzzy.  But my newsfeed is more little advertisements, recommended pages and political snarkiness than it used to be and I have to scroll down a long way to get to the meaty parts with my friend’s backpacking pictures and cute kid videos.  And it is all just a touch overwhelming.  But I feel like I have to stay up with it because I might miss a post of someone I hardly knew in high school but who has a pretty awesome life and I like the little window of connection that we share.  Sort of like a mini soap opera but in real life.   So I keep scrolling past all the crappy stuff to stay up with her latest happenings.

Several years ago I opened a Twitter account to follow one specific person from a past job who will remain nameless. (Unless you go to my Twitter page (my terminology may be off here) and see who I follow and you might be able to figure it out who it is.)  I wanted to see how outrageous this unnamed person would be.  Turns out it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.  I haven’t Tweeted since December of 2012.  I have exactly eight followers.  It says I’m following 21 people, but I haven’t looked at my Twitter feed (?) for two years, so I don’t think “following” is the right term.  And yet I feel like I should be a Tweeter and tell my 8 followers what I’m up to and what I think about and all that and so I feel a little bit bad once in a while that I’m not better about oversharing.

I have a LinkedIn account because you pretty much have to have a LinkedIn account if you’re a grown up who has had a job.  I haven’t updated it in a couple of years.  Someday maybe I’ll pay more attention to it.

And I have an Instagram account because sometimes my son posts cool pictures there and sometimes it’s the only way I know he is alive and well when he is on a trip somewhere (because he doesn’t do much with Facebook because Facebook is for old people).  I get on Instagram from time to time because I like seeing people’s cool pictures.  I have exactly 16 followers and I follow 40 people.  I have posted 19 pictures, the last one was my kid holding a drumstick on Thanksgiving.  #proteinrocks

I don’t understand the point of Snapchat, except that it seems to be the source of endless amusement for my kid.  I’m older than 18, therefore Snapchat is beyond me.

Reddit?  I don’t even know what that is.

Pinterest.  I tried to sign up for Pinterest about a month ago when I wanted to see a recipe for vegetarian something that was there somewhere.  I couldn’t do it.  I tried. Really. It kept telling me I had to click something to activate my registration and so I clicked it but then I was just stuck in an endless loop.  I now get little taunting emails from Pinterest telling me about great “Pins” that I should check out or that my friends have on their board(?).  By the way, how does it know who my friends are? Creepy.

I haven’t had time to figure out Google+, although my sister and her daughter both show up as being in my circle???

There are a lot of other sites, of course.  If there were truth in advertising, they would have names like:  Time$uck, and IfYouWereCoolYouWouldBeHereAndKnowThis  and KidsKnowAboutThisPlaceButTheirMothersNeverWill.  Since I am such a failure with the handful of social media sites I have attempted to interact with, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be one of the hipsters out there Dribbling and Tumblr-ing and Vine-ing.

It seems to me that the Internets are absorbing the next generation into some great warped reality on the fringe of obsessive information overload.  Wouldn’t that be anxiety producing?  Maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities onto our future movers and shakers.  Once again I channel my grandmother:  “Young people today . . .”

Since I started blogging, I have gotten a lot of helpful advice from other bloggers who want me to engage them to enhance my “online brand presence.”  I could use the help, for sure, given the extent of my ineptitude.  But part of me doesn’t really want to be out there yelling into the internet universe all the time. I think I’m ok being an out-of-touch social media fail.


i-like-432493_1280


“Picard as Locutus” photo credit:  picture from DS9: “Emissary”. Via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Picard_as_Locutus.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Picard_as_Locutus.jpg

‘Tis the Hoarding Season

Today, we brought the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  Also, my husband cleaned out the freezer.  And I couldn’t deny my hoarding tendencies any longer.  I don’t generally think of myself as someone who can’t let go of things, it’s just that sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them, or I have some idea that someday I will do something with them and so they stay in the box/drawer/garage/closet/freezer.

Some of you may remember that last year around this time, I posted a picture on Facebook of a poor angel that had gotten into some trouble while in storage over the summer.  Well, the little guy was still stashed away in the ornament box when I opened it today.

IMG_1124

Why, for heaven’s sake (tee, hee), would I have kept him and his tangled mess of hooks?  I must have had a thought that I would glue his head back on so that he could again hang out on our tree, as he had for a couple of decades (maybe more).

I often have these sorts of thoughts.  Someday, for example, I may become a wonderful keeper of memories and start filling in the Christmas Memories Book that I found in the bin of Christmas Stuff That I Keep But Do Not Ever Do Anything With.  My well-meaning and very sweet Aunt Pat gave me that book when Rob and I were first married.  It is meant to hold 20 years of Christmas Memories.  Had I faithfully filled it with little notes and pictures, it would have been complete two years ago.

IMG_1125

But it remains in the box of things I don’t do anything with, utterly blank.

IMG_1126

There is a fair amount of guilt that hangs out with this dutifully stashed stuff.  As my husband dug out last year’s (ok, true confessions, it could have been from two years ago) turkey and stuffing from the freezer drawer, I explained that it had been perfectly good and worthy of keeping, but we were sick of turkey.  So I froze it.  Because when you freeze things you can save them longer and eat them when it is more convenient.  But I’m not very good about remembering what I stuck in the freezer or, even if I do remember, about pulling out the carefully Zip-locked chicken parts to cook them.  And then I avoid cleaning out the freezer because I feel terrible that perfectly good food has probably gone bad, even in the freezer.

I have a similar problem with clothes and shoes.  Work clothes from my prior life, which I left almost four years ago, still hang dutifully in my closet.  I wear some of the occasionally.  But most of them I didn’t really like even when I was working.  I should have given them to Dress for Success three years ago.  Now they are way out of style, and yet they remain hanging there because you never know when I’ll have to put on ugly clothes and go to an office somewhere.

And then there are the stacks of lawyer magazines (mostly unread), Redbooks, Southern Livings and Coastal Livings sitting on my coffee table.  Someday I might just want to know how to avoid a class action lawsuit or make real fried chicken or put on festive makeup and it will all be right there in front of me . . .

IMG_1127

My Dog Is A Mini-Me

After living together for going on 6 years, I’ve had a revelation:  my dog is me. Those of you who know my family may think I’m referring to Bobo, our pug.  He is lazy, fat and generally clueless (wait a minute . . . maybe Bobo is me, too . . .).  But it’s Wilson, the little white fluffy dog, in whom I have seen myself.

Wilson’s characteristics:

  1. Looks cute (well, we each have our moments), acts grumpy
  2. Likes the thought of meeting new people, but on his own terms
  3. Loves snacks
  4. Engages in destructive behavior when bored
  5. Has bad hair days with regularity
  6. Hates crowds of people (unless there are snacks)
  7. Loves going on hikes
  8. Enjoys a good spa day (until it’s time to do his hair)
  9. Teases his housemates (until the cat comes back at him, then he retreats)
  10. Every so often, with a devilish look in his eye, ignores all the rules

I don’t know what this says about him or me, but it sure explains a lot about the little human-like monster we’ve been living with.


I’ve seen the enemy, and he is me.

DSC00791


In Snowy Love

DSCN0468

The snow is here.  Smiley Face.

Starting in August (no joke — I have a friend’s Facebook post to prove it), people around here anxiously await the arrival of snow, crossing all of their fingers and toes for huge quantities of the fluffy, white stuff.  They love it so much, they give it cute nicknames like POW POW and gnar gnar.   Champagne powder.  White gold.

Growing up in the mid-west, I hated winter.  It equated with a grey, damp cold, the sun hiding behind thick blankets of clouds for weeks on-end.  Every so often, I had to chisel through inches-thick ice to get into my car.  Yuck.  I was not a skier.  I was not a snowmobiler.  There was nothing to redeem the downer of all seasons.  In college, my roommates and I escaped the nasty weather and went to Florida for spring break.  Even though it was 60 and cloudy, we stripped down to our suits, our white skin blinding the coat-wearing retirees walking the beach.

Upon moving to Colorado, I found that winter could be something other than horrible.  For one thing, the sun shines more in the month of January here than it does the entire year in Michigan.  Even if it snows for a couple of days, warm rays break out afterward and make the whole white wonderland sparkle.  Once exposed to skiing and snowshoeing, winter took on a whole new meaning.  I started to like it.  I may still have some preference for summer, but a blue sky day skiing powder is definitely up there on my list of the best ways to spend a day.

And so, our warm and dry Autumn this year was a little concerning.  As road bikers gleefully pedaled along Highway 6, I heard myself saying some surprising things like, “Boy, when are we going to get a good storm?”  And then the cold came.  Ridiculous, nasty, January-worthy, single-digit, brrrr.  That cold was not welcome.  Not the sort of storm I had in mind.  And then the snow came.  And it came in feet.  Just in time for Vail’s opening weekend.

Sunday was a rare day off from race training for my son, and we headed out for some quality family time on the slopes.  Riding up the chairlift between my two guys, the snowflakes fell thick and heavy and plentiful.  Heading down the hill, the Kid ducked into the trees and as my hubby and I found our ski legs again, a grin spread across my buff-bundled face.

The snow is here!

smiley-163510_640

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Unsent Greeting Cards

Several years ago . . .  scratch that.  At least a decade ago, I stopped sending Christmas cards.  I didn’t mean to stop sending them forever, but it seems to have turned out that way.  Life got in the way.  I was busy commuting, working, raising a child and avoiding the grocery store.  I bought the cards that year and they stayed right there in their neat little boxes.  Every year since, at some point I experience a flash of guilt.  Usually it’s when I start getting cards in the mail from all of those people who are so kind as to send us pictures of their beautiful families, smiling, and wishing us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!  You know who you are. Nevertheless, the cards remain in their neat little boxes up in our attic.

Our attic is full of guilt-inducing good intentions.  In addition to unsent greeting cards, it is stacked with boxes of jumbled up photos from before iPhones and iPhoto and iHaveDigitalPicturesOfEverythingOnMyHardDrive.  My child’s babyhood is in there.  I really should put them into some sort of order and then into albums or the Poor Thing will never be able to prove he existed before we got our first digital camera in 2004.  There are books boxed up for our move four years ago that I can’t throw away, because we don’t throw out perfectly good books and so I should sort them for donation to someone.  And then there are bins of old electronics, cables, wires, software discs and manuals that I can’t pitch because they would be bad to put in our landfill so they should be recycled but who has time to figure out where to take them for recycling???  And I have no idea what to do with the pile of (sometimes) beautiful memories that is my son’s artwork from elementary school.  I can’t just throw them away, can I?

As the boxes of things that I really should do something about co-mingle with my pangs of guilt over failing to send out Christmas cards (and birthday cards and correspondence of any kind, really), the damning flames of anxiety are licking at my heels.  And so, my Dear Ones, please accept my heart-felt apology for the the years and years of failure to send a picture of our decorated tree, the cat, my son and our smiling faces to you.  Please know that I have thought of each of you every year and sent you good wishes via ESP as I guiltily failed to send you a card.  However, the odds are that my burdened heart will not change my errant ways, so please don’t judge too harshly when no card appears in your mailbox this year.


Wouldn’t This Have Been a Cute Card 9 Years Ago?

DSC00333


Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy!

wonder-woman-533667_640

I woke up this morning hearing that in the back of my head.  I’m the “other guy’s” trash bag on the old Hefty commercial.  Remember?  As soon as someone pulled it out of the trash can, it split open and nastiness fell all over the kitchen floor.  That’s me.  Wimp extraordinaire.

I got a cortisone shot in my shoulder yesterday.  My new friend, an orthopedic doc, wants me to try this to see if we can avoid surgery.  It hurts pretty bad this morning, and I just don’t want to move.  I know it will feel better soon and I am over-the-moon happy that surgery might be avoided. But I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Around here, knee and hip replacements and ACL tear repairs are so common that surgeons are regularly discussed over coffee:  “Oh, you’re having your knee fixed?  Who is doing it?  Oh, he’s great. Good luck!”  At my son’s ski academy, by the end of December, the number of kids making their way down the halls in wheelchairs and crutches multiplies almost daily.

I know I’m fortunate.  Aside from those who have had pins and screws and rods drilled into their bones, there are some out there living with chronic pain.  My brother, for one, was diagnosed with advanced Lymes Disease many years ago and has suffered unending, horrible pain in his back and joints.  Some days are better than others, but I’m not sure he ever really gets relief.  My heart goes out to him and others like him.

So, that’s enough wallowing. Time to get off the couch.

Hefty, Hefty, Hefty!

Some Old Friends Stay in the Past, I Guess

I attended a reunion of women who had worked at my old law firm this week.  Going in, I really didn’t know what to expect.  It was a bit like going through the looking glass.  Here were people I used to spend entirely too many hours in a day with, but with whom I had lost touch after moving on to new and different experiences.  Many of them are truly lovely people, especially outside of the work place.  It was fun catching up on who was still with the firm, who had left and then gone back, how many children they had collected and what stage of life they were in.  Some were retired, some were seeing their youngest (who had been young children when we worked together) out of college.  Some had moved on to new and interesting roles as judges and activists.

I found myself a little nostalgic.  What if . . . I hadn’t left.  What if . . . I had done a better job staying in touch.  What if . . .  and then I bumped into a woman who had been such a good friend when we worked together.  She looked terrific.  She was the same but better.  She showed me pictures of her beautiful daughter.  She told me snarky stories as no one else could.  I realized I had missed her terribly.  As she ran out for a client call, we hugged and promised to get lunch soon.

And then, I saw another old friend across the room.  I made my way over and said hello, giving her a hug.  And the room chilled by several degrees.  Well then.  She and I had been very close.  We had been part of a group of friends that disbanded over time, I thought, because of spouses and kids and commitments and jobs that took us in different directions. But usually when that’s the case, we smile broadly and say how much we miss those days and look forward to getting back to it again.  Not this time.  I wondered what had happened.  Had I slighted her so many years ago?  I couldn’t think of anything.  What?

My heart a little mixed up, I made may way to my car and on home.  I was so happy to have reconnected, on some level, with so many wonderful people.  And I was sad that one friend was no longer that.

I remind myself that life does get in the way sometimes, and people have stories we know nothing about.  I’ll keep her in my heart with the memories from our past.  Safe and happy travels ahead, my dear old friend.

Cold and Colder

Like much of the country, Denver’s high temperatures were in single digits this week.  So when my hubby, out of town since last weekend, mentioned that he had turned the heat off in our Denver apartment before he left town because the furnace was acting up, I was a little worried. Our apartment is drafty.  It sits on top of a bunch of garages and shares no common walls with any other building.  Hmmmm.  Frozen pipes were a distinct possibility.

I called the management company from our home in the Vail Valley to see if they could send someone over to check on it.  The answering service, 1-800-Not-In-Denver, did not instill confidence.  My son was scheduled to catch a flight out of Denver the next morning, and we had planned to drive to town that night anyway.  The roads were icy and the highway had been closed on and off all day.  We loaded up our beast of a truck, including our little dogs, and headed east.

White-knuckle driving most of the way, we made it down in one piece.  We climbed out of the truck and it was frickin’ cold.  Three degrees.  You know the cold that freezes the inside of your nose?  That.  We walked into the apartment and it was 35 degrees inside.  Thankfully, no frozen pipes.  We turned on the furnace, got the fireplace going and ran around turning on everything else that could generate heat — all the lights, the TV, the clothes dryer.  We collected hot water in the bathtub and sinks and boiled water on the stove.  We huddled in our ski jackets until it was time for bed, when we climbed under mounds of blankets, the puppies as close as they could get.  It had warmed up to 45 by then, but it was still so cold.

The next morning, the apartment was cozy warm again  We took the dogs out for their morning ritual, and they awkwardly picked up a frozen foot at a time, hobbling around in the snow to do their business.  My son made his flight and I was left in Deep Freeze Denver.  As I drove through town, I thought of how wicked the cold had felt, especially when we knew that our apartment wouldn’t offer much relief.  Even at 45 degrees, it had been a shivering way to go to bed.  But those blankets did feel good once I had cocooned inside them.  I pulled up next to a man on the corner, holding a sign for help, and felt a pang.  He had on a coat, thin gloves and tennis shoes.  I wondered if his fingers and toes had gone past hurting and were now numb.  I wondered how he got through days on-end like this, when the sun never came out and the temperatures never reached above seven degrees.

Later, I drove through downtown on my way to a lawyerly happy hour event, and noticed racks and racks of fluffy down coats in the hugely lit up Patagonia store.  A few customers milled around inside, none of them seeming like they really needed a new coat.  What must that look like to a homeless person, peering up from beneath a ratty hood, their very bones chilled to the core?

The local news channels keep telling people to bring their dogs in from outside.  It’s too much for them.  Don’t be cruel.  And yet, there are members of our society outside all day and all night, in this brutal cold.  I cannot fathom what that would be like.

When I worked in Denver, years ago, I developed a thick skin when it came to those beggars in the street.  They were druggies and alcoholics.  If I gave them money, they would just spend it on more drugs or alcohol.  I would be contributing to the cycle.  Better to write a check to the local shelter.  But this morning, as I headed out of town back to our warm home in the hills, I rolled down my window and handed the guy on the corner a few bucks.  Try to get warm, I said, at a loss for more meaningful words.  He smiled in thanks.  Maybe he will just put it toward a bottle of whiskey or another hit, or maybe it will put some food in his stomach.  Either way, I hope it helped even just a little bit.

 ice-498267_640

The Disease of Being Busy | On Being

Had to share this:

The Disease of Being Busy | On Being.

How is your heart at this very moment, at this breath?

Value Our Veterans

At my niece’s wedding this weekend, I got to spend some time with my nephew, her brother, who served three combat tours in Iraq with the 17th Infantry.  He is 27 now and living in Phoenix with his wife.  He has suffered from PTSD, understandably, given the horrors that he lived, including watching a close friend die in his arms. As we talked, he shared that he has struggled to find a worthwhile job since coming home.

He was a leader in the Army.  When he gave an order, his men followed.  He has presence.  He is the guy everyone likes and wants to spend time with.  When he returns home to Michigan, 50 friends show up at his folks’ house to see him.   He was not, however, a good student, and I suspect that the limitations of a thinly-won high school diploma hold him back in his job search.  I hope that, very soon, a hiring manager out there will look at him holistically and recognize the worth and value of this warrior-turned-civilian.  He wants nothing more than that.

A lot of companies are publicizing their commitment to hire veterans, and I applaud their efforts.  I hope it’s more than a PR stunt and that they truly give these men and women the opportunity to work in a job commensurate with their value and to share their strengths with our communities.  Today and everyday, let’s give them a chance.

The Man in Black and a 16 Year Old

microphone-482250_640

On a ski team bonding weekend trip last month, my son sang along with his phone as it played Johny Cash’s Folsum Prison Blues:  “When I was just a baby, my mama told me, son, always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns. . . ”  His 20-something coach looked up and asked why he knew the words to that song.  “Don’t you?”  my slightly disrespectful kid asked.  In his mind, Johny is so fabulous, he can’t imagine anyone not knowing the words to his songs.

He listens to hip hop and dubstep (are those different things?), country and classical.  He shares an iTunes account with his dad and plays gospel, “Oh Happy Day,” Bob Marley and Aerosmith. He hears a Hall and Oates song on The Voice and searches it on YouTube, downloads it from iTunes and two days later I hear him coming up the stairs singing, “you make-a my dreams come true.”  Ooo o.  O o ooo o.

Our digital world is changing the culture of music.  When I was young (I say, sounding like my grandma) we listened to whatever played on the radio, mix tapes (often recorded from the radio) and our friends’ vinyl collections over and over.  “Oldies” were for our parents.  Today, music is more fluid:  a new song samples a classic, and an entire generation is exposed to the beauty of Etta James.

This respect for artists of all genres feels new.  It gives me hope and confidence in a generation that is growing in its own direction, with its own culture, sense of style and appreciation for artistic talent, whenever and where ever it was born.

The Power of Teachers

lamp-432246_640

A good teacher changes lives.  So does a bad one.

What teachers do you remember most and what was it that had such an impact on you?  Ask anyone this question, and you will get an earful.  The best teachers are remembered for being challenging, engaging and supportive.  For encouraging a kid to think, explore and take a different perspective.  The bad ones range from being just dull and disengaged to flat-out mean.  They condescend, belittle or ignore.  They have lost (if they ever had) any passion.

My 16 year-old son remembers vividly the elementary teacher who made him feel small, who didn’t know what to do with a super active boy, so he was always in trouble.  He didn’t learn much that year except how to sit in the hall feeling alone and “bad.”  Another one, upon receipt of a project that had taken so much time and effort, could only remark on his use of tape, which was not allowed.  “Why can’t you ever follow directions”?

Those good teachers, though.  They take those super active kids and have them run around for a few minutes, so that they can leave the fidgets outside.  They catch a kid when he does it right.  They understand everyone is different, learns uniquely, matures on his own timeline and just might have stuff going on at home that is big and scary.  They do their best to make their class a place to explore, where learning is a lifestyle.

The actions of a teacher stay with a person for a lifetime, making teachers among the most influential elements of our society.  How is it that their jobs aren’t as revered as those of Fortune 500 CEO’s? Why aren’t we seeking to attract and retain the very best to shape our next generations?  How do we let the bad ones get tenure?

Even if you don’t have kids in school, teachers affect your world.  Keep an eye on the school board and understand their budgetary needs and guiding principles.  If your kid is in school, engage the principal and teachers.  Make sure they have the resources they need.  Recognize the good, question the bad.  Thank them for shepherding your child through this time.  And then, encourage them to be mindful of their power.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” — Voltaire.


What to Make of Brittany Maynard and Robin Williams?

I know, I know.  This article is so three days ago.  As a nation, we’ve elected  a bunch of Republicans and voted on controversial laws involving women’s rights and recreational pot since Brittany Maynard died on Saturday. But I just can’t stop thinking about her, and the public’s reactions to her death compared with the reactions to Robin Williams’ suicide this summer.

Brittany Maynard’s very public decision and ultimate action to end her life before the cancer did was ground breaking because she was so public about it.  She’s not the first and she won’t be the last.  A lot of people have ended their lives before an illness does, they just don’t tell the world first.  Robin Williams’ shocking end was sadly not new to us.  We have said untimely good-byes to a number of beloved celebrities.  Both of these people decided to end their lives.  One, apparently, because he was clinically depressed and couldn’t find his way back.  The other, because she knew the torture that was coming and chose not to endure it.

Brittany has been characterized as both brave and cowardly, depending on the viewpoint.  A Vatican representative recently condemned her suicide calling it “absurd.” He is quoted as saying, “Suicide is not a good thing. It is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and toward those around us.”

Conversely, Robin was even further iconicized for his work following his death.  Reactions were filled with grief and remorse.  There was outrage at the news of the various medicines he was on and the likelihood that they contributed to his death.  We grieved for the greatness that was lost.  The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a brief article following the death of Robin Williams honoring him and calling him an “unforgettable clown with a heart of gold.”

So, both of them were ill.  Both of them chose to die.  One faced certain and painful death in her near future.  One, had he been able to escape from the dark world of depression, faced many more years with friends, family and opportunities to pursue his “mission in the world.”  Why are the reactions to their choices so different?

Incidentally, I use the public statements from the Catholic Church because they illustrate the bifurcated sentiments of many, not to criticize.  This is not an easy one to figure out.  At least not for me.

Extreme Just Isn’t Enough

running-81715_640

At a surprise party for a good friend this weekend, we chatted with a younger guy who has small children and heard his story about a road biking accident that side-lined him for a year due to a messed up shoulder.  He told us that, before the crash, he had been pretty intense in his riding, getting up at 3:30 to bike 60 miles before work while his infant daughter was still waking up every two hours in the night.  He recognizes now that he had been pretty dumb.  Training loses much of its effectiveness if you’re not getting enough rest, and I’m guessing the rate of injury also goes up significantly.

I wondered why he felt compelled to ride in the middle of the night on no sleep with a baby girl at home. He is a software engineer, not a professional road biker.  What is it that made him decide that a twenty mile ride after work wasn’t enough?  Then I thought of a group of mountain bikers my hubby and I encountered on a dusty road outside of Vail a few weeks ago.  They were fighting up the hill, some doing better than others, but these were not elite athletes.  The couple in the back looked miserable, angry and ready to keel over.  What made them think this was a good thing to be doing?   We have plenty of good trails around here that are better suited to their ability level.  I’m noticing a trend not just in our Happy Valley, but in other parts of the country:  people pushing themselves in activities beyond the point of rationality.

I admire people for testing their limits and living life to the fullest, but it feels like a lot of folks have taken it just a bit too far. Have the cocaine addicts of the 80’s raised a generation of adrenalin junkies?  Have we become such a competitive society that working out in the gym just isn’t good enough, and instead it has to be cross-fit intense six days a week?

It used to be that the average population participated in biking, hiking, climbing and other sport endeavors as fun activities.  This was a way to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy our world.  Every so often, someone would become a “mountain climber” rather than a mere hiker, and they would scale the more difficult routes up 14er’s with crampons and pick axes.  The more adventurous few within that group went on to climb Everest.  Today, hiking has been taken to new extremes.  It’s not enough to scale all of Colorado’s highest peaks over a summer.  They climb four of them in two days, running up the rocky slopes.

For runners, it’s no longer a sufficient challenge to run a marathon.  Now it has to be an “ultra” marathon of 100 miles.  Through the mountains.  At night.

Alpine skiing is not just a fun day on the slopes.  People brag about skiing every extreme hill in the resort three times in one day.  Or hitting it hard, rope-drop to sun-down, skinning up from the bottom each run rather than riding the chair lift.  Yeeeeaaahhh Baaabbbyyy!  Or they head for the back country where the terrain is more “intense” and they risk their lives with increased avalanche danger.

People want to be Ninja Warriors, Cross Fitters and Mud Runners.

Live on the edge or don’t live at all.  Go extreme or go home.  Really?  Raising an athlete in this environment is a challenge.  We try to teach him to respect his body and its limits while pursuing excellence.  We find that our parents’ adages just don’t cut it.  “If Jenny jumped off a cliff, would you follow her?”  Here in the Vail Valley, the response is generally, “Hell, yes!”  Hmmmmm.  Let’s try that again.  . . .

What Does The Voice in Your Head Sound Like?

As a kid, I wondered whether other people saw the same color that I did.  I mean, how would you know?  Maybe when they see red it’s really blue.  (So, yeah, I was a weird kid.)

Lately I’ve been wondering what other people’s mind-voices sound like.  Maybe no one else has a voice in their head and I should be in a psych ward, but I suspect that we all have someone on the inside talking to us on a regular basis.  My voice generally sounds like me, and she won’t shut up most of the time.  Often she is trying to remember what I forgot on my grocery list or reminding me that I’m almost out of gas.  I don’t engage in a conversation with her — mostly she is just a soliloquy running on auto play.

She is loudest and hardest to ignore when voicing my insecurities, snarkiness, cynicism and defeatism.  When I just don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, she tells me I’m pathetic.  Nice, huh?  You would hope that your inner voice would be encouraging and helpful.  Not mine.

So when she is at her worst, I eventually dig deep in my reserves and give her a swift mental smack and tell her to knock it off. She goes quiet for a while, which, frankly is a bit of a relief.  And then I’ll hear her whispering in the background, “It’s beautiful outside.  Why don’t you take those puppies for a walk”?  And as I look around at the blue skies and mountainsides she says, “Ahhh.  Ok.  Good call.”  And then she starts rambling about whether we’re going to have anyone over for Thanksgiving this year.

What does your inner voice sound like?

No Wonder We’re Distracted

eyes-304338_640

My personal targeted marketing bucket has reached its tipping point.

My email overflows with sign-up now, limited-time, offer extended, we miss you please come back, watch this, top reads, earn 50 million travel points, get the latest, midnight madness (at 1:00 in the afternoon), ACT NOW.

My phone chimes with texts offering more data and talk time if I text 5697 in the next 30 minutes, and sending me coupons to a store I stupidly gave my cell number when I bought a wedding gift three years ago.

My post office box overflows with catalogs and flyers and credit card company “important information open immediately” envelopes.  Before I leave the post office, I stand with my neighbors in front of the recycle bin and toss virtually every piece of “mail,” disgusted by the wasted trees in front of us.

Most of the Internet is trying to sell me anything that has something to do with whatever I Google searched last month.

Even Pandora’s ads are targeted at me.  Yesterday, it played a political ad for a local candidate.  I didn’t even notice until it was almost over.  I’m a little creeped out that somehow it knows where I live, even when it’s playing on my Roku.

I get it.  I do.  It’s free enterprise and basic economics.  It works or they wouldn’t do it.  But somehow the obnoxious TV ads of the 80’s that my dad complained about have mushroomed into this direct marketing mayhem.  And it’s making my head hurt.

I’ve tried unsubscribing everything that I can possibly unsubscribe.  I once contacted all of the companies that sent me catalogs to tell them to stop.  (It worked for about two months, but only for the companies I called.  They had already sold my name to hundreds of others.)  I put all of my phone numbers on all of the Do Not Call lists.  My “junk mail” folder is working overtime to weed out the sales pitches.  And yet, there is still more.  Ugh.

Time for an information age time out.  Is there an App for that?

Reggie Rivers: To Achieve Your Goal, Don’t Focus on It

Last weekend, we parents of snow sport athletes at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail had a chance to hear Reggie Rivers speak.  Reggie is a dad, husband, author, broadcaster and motivational speaker.  Reggie also played running back for the Denver Broncos from 1991 to 1996.  As you would expect, he shared a lot of stories about growing up as an athlete, being the parent of a young athlete and, to the delight of several men in the audience, what it was like to play with John Elway and Shannon Sharpe.

He spoke about the importance of an athlete’s mental strength — that having extraordinary ability may not be enough to succeed as an elite athlete.  For some, great but not extraordinary ability plus mental strength carries them to that higher level and beyond much better than someone who hasn’t learned to deal with the pressure and intensity of competition.  He also talked a bit about those who peak too early and shared stories about the high school superstar who dominated at 16 and by 18 had fallen behind the ones who developed later.  He talked about the value of losing and the importance of letting your kid find his or her passion (emphasis on the his or her) in a supporting and grounded home.  All good things for young athletes and their parents to hear.  Much of it we had heard, but it was fun to hear him speak from personal experience.

At the end of his talk, he spoke to goal setting, and for whatever reason it really resonated for me in terms of all of life, not just athletics.  I had heard something similar before, perhaps with different words, but not with the same impact.  His message went something like this:


Goals are almost always out of your control.

So set your goal, whatever it may be, and determine what you can do (behaviors) to move you in the direction of achieving your goal.

Behaviors are almost always within your control.

Your goal stays on a wall or in a drawer somewhere and you may look at it from time to time.  But your focus should be on what you can control.  For an athlete:  nutrition, sleep, gym time, mental preparedness.  For a manager:  team planning, establishing and managing to metrics, working on presentation skills.  For a writer: writing every day, joining and participating in a peer review group, submitting a set number of articles each week.

Behaviors are today, tomorrow and this week.

Every day, consider whether what you are doing is consistent with moving in the direction toward your goal.  If not, reevaluate.  Do you really want to achieve that goal?  Are your behaviors the right ones to get you there?  Don’t let a set back get you off track.  Re-engage.

Success is moving in the direction you want to go, at the rate you want to go.

We don’t all move at the same speed.  Recognize when you have succeeded by implementing behaviors that are moving you toward your goal.


Food for thought.  Of course, much of the impact of his message was in the delivery, which I haven’t done justice.  If you want to see the real deal, check out Reggie’s TEDx talk on the subject:

▶ If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them: Reggie Rivers at TEDxCrestmoorParkED – YouTube

Wish I’d Known Then

That everyone feels weird in junior high.

That high school years go by ridiculously fast, even though it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

That youth is the time to try everything (well, almost).

That the one in the corner may have been the most interesting of the bunch if only I’d gotten to know her.

That college is such a unique time — sharing every aspect of life with people from all sorts of backgrounds.

That complaining and bitterness are gigantic wastes of time and energy.

That what you do is less important than how you do it and who you do it with.

That it’s ok to give yourself a break. Your expectations for yourself often exceed everyone else’s.

That recognizing your weaknesses is a strength.

That your baby’s babyhood is but a blink.

That everyone has a story.  Everyone.  And it could explain a lot.

That when someone gives a compliment, time should stop for a second to let it soak in.

That giving a compliment can make all the difference in someone’s day.


Glad I know these things now.  Wonder what I’m going to wish I knew now later …


DSC00328

Top 3 Reasons We Love Top 10 Lists

top-95717_640


Trending:  Top [Insert Number Here] Things to [Do, Avoid] to Fix Your Life


I was surfing this morning, catching up on the latest meaningless must-know-now’s, and on one page I could link to these stories:

  • 10 Foods to Avoid
  • 5 Weird Reasons Your Teeth Hurt
  • 10 Home Remedies You Can Find in Your Kitchen
  • 14[!] Ways to Add Quinoa to Your Diet
  • 6 Times You Should Never Try to Be a Perfectionist
  • 3 Exercises that Reverse Aging
  • 5 Foods to Never Eat
  • 7 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Ears
  • 11 Tiny Life Changes That Will Bring You Major Bliss

I’m feeling manipulated.  Again.  Some “expert” somewhere (have you noticed how many on-line experts there are?) wrote an article listing the top 5 ways to get more links to your on-line article, and first on the list was to write your profound wisdom around a numerical list of something.  And now everyone is doing it.  Why?  Because it works.

What is it about seeing a number in a headline that makes me want to click on it?

1.  The idea that there is a discrete number of things that, if I know them, will make me better, smaller or happier is so appealing.  Really?  Only 11 tiny life changes and I’ll have Major Bliss?  Clicking and Reading Now.

2.  My teeth don’t hurt, but maybe someday they will and if one of the 5 reasons on that list will explain it, I’m clicking now.

3.  I don’t want to be the only one who didn’t know the 5 Stupid Things You Do in the Locker Room and do item 5 on the list by grabbing that beautiful, white, fluffy towel off the freshly folded pile and wiping my face with it.  Every one else has read the list and knows that the towel is INFESTED with nasty bacteria.

4.  As part of the Sesame Street-come-Letterman generation, I am obsessed with counting things.

And my list now exceeds the magic number of three.  It’s supposed to be the TOP 3 REASONS WHY, not 4.  Four is a bad number.  It’s either one too many or one too few …  back to the drawing board.

How I Grew into Country Music

cowboy-boots-177193_640

Most of my life, country music lived in the margins.  My dad would listen to it as he worked around the house sometimes.  Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ’em.”  Or, as we drove to our cabin in the Up North of Michigan, the choices on the AM radio were static, talk or country in that order.  Twangy stories of heart break and dead dogs, I couldn’t relate and wondered why anyone else would.

A few years ago my life perspective shifted.  Part of my liberation of thought included buying myself a convertible.  It was illogical and selfish and fun and just what the doctor ordered.  And with all of the music available on local and XM Radio, I found myself tuning into country as the wind blew my hair into a frenzy.

My kid and I figured out that any good country song includes the elements of a truck, a girl, beer, America and sometimes God.  Generally all within the first two lines. “Truck, Yeah.”  Unapologetic.  Free.  Grounded in hillbilly, redneck, muddy pride.  Country singers are storytellers who draw us into a different world.   For three minutes, we become a girl pissed off that her boyfriend cheated on her or a father lamenting how fast life goes by or a man honoring the memory of his friend killed in the war.

I grew into this world of country music by letting go.  I let go of pretenses and prejudices.  I realized that whatever I thought I had been or was going to be, the core of it all is this short time we share together.  And those simple themes in country’s stories capture the essence of living fully and unabashedly.  Sometimes it isn’t pretty and sometimes we make mistakes.  Sometimes we go looking for something bad to happen.  Sometimes we hang out on a pontoon and sometimes we just love the ones in our lives.

And that’s how I grew into country music.  Or maybe country music grew into me.

This Is Us: The No-Name Generation

flowers-455591_640

Yesterday’s post of the top 10 things of being a middle-aged woman got me thinking about the time period in which my contemporaries and I grew up.  Born in the late 60’s, we became aware of the world in the 70’s and came of age in the 80’s.  We are a downbeat generation, nestled in between the baby boomers and gen x-ers.   I don’t even think our generation has a name.

We were the first to be extensively babysat by the TV.  We learned our ABC’s from Sesame Street, forming our perceptions of inclusion (people and monsters of all colors lived together fairly harmoniously) and exclusion (“which of these things doesn’t belong”).  We learned that it was ok for a man like Mr. Rogers to be obsessed with changing clothes.  Sweaters and sneakers rotated with regularity in his little house.  Later, we wanted to cruise on the Love Boat, look for de Plane with Tattoo on Fantasy Island, and drive a Ferrari with a ball cap like Magnum PI.  Is it any wonder that we became so materialistic and built McMansions to live in?

People had already walked on the moon by the time we came along, so we missed the wonder of that moment, but we did witness on live TV the space shuttle blowing up.  Similarly Kennedy was assassinated before we arrived, but we were in middle school when Reagan was shot.

We did some pretty cheesy, if fun, summer projects with Grandma:  Macrame plant hangers;  hook rugs; painting by number.  We bought Rinky Dinks once and then Grandma figured out you could have almost as much fun shrinking down her prescription bottles in the oven, so that was pretty toxic, I’m sure.

The Vietnam War came to an end in our early childhood, and our young eyes soaked up the anti-war protests, free love and rock and roll on our black and white TV’s.  Flower power, Baby!  From this, we picked up a willingness to rebel, but only when it suited us and wasn’t too painful, as disco roller skated us into the 80’s and Gordon Gecko taught us that “Greed is Good.”

HIV/Aids became an epidemic and we watched men shrivel away in front of our eyes.  Fear and homophobia were at an all-time high, but we decided that this sickness was not a punishment from God and we educated ourselves and our neighbors and funded research to find treatments that extend the quality of life.  We made memorial quilts and hung them in exhibits to show that these people had lived and had worth. And Magic Johnson came back and played basketball even with HIV.

We have first-hand experience with bad fashion, beginning with 70’s bell bottoms, leisure suits, and turtle neck sweaters all the way through the 80’s parachute pants, neon everything, jelly bracelets, moon boots, Member’s Only jackets, Michael Jackson gloves and mom jeans.  This baseline of bad taste set us up well for better fashion choices in the 2000’s.  We look relatively good now.

We grew up on Big Macs, Mountain Dew, and Dominoes pizza, Twizzlers, Pop Rocks (didn’t some kid die from eating Pop Rocks with a Coke?), Freshen Up Gum and candy cigarettes.  And now we are paying it forward with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer . . .  Sorry, kids.

Our first video game entertained us for hours with a white blip moving across a black screen.  It is the ancestor of the life-like war games our children now play day after day.  I wonder what years of Call of Duty will do to the psyches of our offspring, if Pong helped make us whatever it is we are.

We became adults and had children before 9/11, and we mourned not just the loss of souls that day, but also the loss of the naive cocoon we lived in and that our children would never know.  This world will never be the same and we must never forget.

The soundtrack to our lives has been incredibly rich, filled with soul, rock and roll, new wave, disco, pop and reggae.  We heard the Carpenters croon Muskrat Susie in our parent’s car, Queen, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC blared from our brother’s room, we were leaving on a jet plane with John Denver and summer lovin’ with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  The Beach Boys, John Melencamp, Hewey Lewis, all things Motown, U2, The Cure, INXS, the Talking Heads —  “Watch out, you might get what you’re after!”  Sweet Home, Alabama.  Just makes me want to create that perfect Pandora station with an ambrosia of throwback music.

The movies.  I just can’t do them justice:  the Pink Panther and Young Frankenstein and the Princess Bride and the Holy Grail. <sigh>  Trading Places, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back to the Future.  Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and everything else John Hughes ever did.

To steal a line from the cotton coalition, this is all the Fabric of Our Lives.

Now, members of the no-name generation, let’s get Prince into those high heeled boots and party like it’s 1999!  (Because pretty soon, social security is going to run out and we’ll have to figure out how those of us in the trough are supposed to cover the costs of the giant waves of people around us . . . )  Cheers!

Top 10 Things about Being a Middle-Aged Woman

leaves-291024_1280

I am approaching my late 40’s.  I remember a time when anyone over 30 was old, so I guess it’s time for me to accept myself for what I am:  a white, married, semi-pro mom right smack in the middle of life.  I’m glad to be here, thank you, and hope to continue on this journey for quite some time to come.  So here, in no particular order, are the top 10 things about inhabiting this spot on the spectrum (well, maybe they aren’t the “top” 10, but it sounds like I’m on late night TV):

1.  I can stay up as late as I want.  Sometimes even past 10:00 . . . .

2.  Hormones are even more erratic now than they were when I was 14.  Thanks to these little buggers, I am often wide awake in the middle of the night, giving my thoughts the freedom to run willy-nilly.

3.  With age comes acceptance.  My big, thick curly hair now may be its true self.  That straightener rarely comes out of the drawer these days.

4.  My opinions are just that — mine.  Take them or leave them.

5.  My opinions may change at any time.  Deal with it.

6.  I can choose not to waste time with idiots and mean people.   As my once-toddler learned in Montessori, sometimes it’s best to “walk away.”  I know, I know, sometimes these folks are unavoidable, but I have no guilt walking away at the first opportunity.

7.  My reading list is not determined based on what someone tells me I should read.  Brain candy is a good thing.  However, if I choose to read something heavy or meaningful, it is my prerogative to tell you that you should read it.

8.  I’ve lived long enough to stop and appreciate when someone is really good at what they do.  Craftsman or artist, musician or athlete, orator or writer.  Hip hop or Spanish guitar.  Soak it in.

9. I’ve been kicked in the teeth by life enough times that I can hug a friend who has just lost a few proverbial molars and tell her with sincerity that I feel her pain.

10.  I’ve learned that life’s little things are the leaves on the big trees of marriage and babies and jobs.  They blur together at a distance, but are intricately beautiful up close.  Just let me find my reading glasses so I can see them better . . . .

Taking One for the Team

cycling-races-450310_640

Last night, Tyler Hamilton spoke to the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail community, sharing his story of doing what it took to be a winner, and the painful consequences he suffered.  You may not recognize his name if you don’t follow bike racing.  Tyler is the one who outed Lance Armstrong and the rest of the U.S. Postal Services Pro Cycling Team for its doping practices a few years ago.

Tyler’s story was gripping.  He was a quickly rising star in the pro-cycling community when he was first offered steroids by the team trainer.  He knew it was wrong, he said, even though everyone told him it was “for his health” and that he needed to take care of himself.  Doping was rampant, expected, and administered by the team and its physicians.  It was a necessary element to winning on the tour.  Eventually, doping was pushed underground by enforcement actions.  The methods became more risky to the athletes’ health and yet they continued.  He said that he began to focus more energy on his fear of getting caught than he did on winning.  But he was a winner.  He won an Olympic gold medal.  He was on the team that won the Tour de France.  He achieved the glory that most athletes dream of.

Even when he tested positive for doping, he said he “took one for the team” by lying and denying any wrongdoing.  He felt that he had to keep protecting the culture of cycling, his teammates and his friends.  He feared being blackballed and undermined if he told the truth.  He kept quiet for 14 years, even after his retirement.  He suffered depression, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts due to the burden of holding the secret. He felt alone.  His ethical and moral core was at odds with his environment and he suffered from the inner conflict.

When he was subpoenaed about the team’s and Lance’s doping practices, he finally shared the truth, releasing the pressures of his secrets.  Eventually, he shared the story very publicly on 60 Minutes and felt the wrath of his former teammates and the cycling community.  He broke the unwritten rule of solidarity and betrayed those with whom he shared the bond of silent wrongdoing in the quest for greatness.

He says that he wishes he had been better prepared when that first pill was offered to him. He wishes that he could have seen how far he could have gotten without performance enhancements, although it’s likely he would not have been a winner.  He will never know.  Those decisions to dope altered his world forever. He lives a life of regret, but he seems at peace with himself now that he spoke out.

Part of Tyler’s message is his concern for our nation’s twisted focus on winning.  It is not enough to give one’s best effort if it doesn’t result in a win.  Only the winners get our attention and accolades. And human nature craves that recognition.  And it goes well beyond sports.  People in all facets of life will face pressure to do whatever it takes to achieve success: cut corners; break laws; risk lives.   In the quest for “winning,” people will feel the need to cheat in school, lie on resumes, or mislead investors.

Our culture is teaching our kids to win at any cost.  My son played lacrosse for many years, often at a highly competitive level for his age group.  One evening, I stood on the sidelines cringing as the other team hacked and pushed and tripped our boys.  Twenty yards from me, I heard a mom from the other team screaming at her boy to “Hit ’em! Hit em! Bring ’em down!”  And when one of our kids was laid out flat after a cheap shot, she clapped and cheered.  These kids were 10 and 11 years old, being taught to do whatever it takes to win.

How do we change this about our culture?  How do we encourage our kids to be the best that they can be, and push them to find their limits, without it being at any cost?  How do we shift our collective mindset to recognize the value in the one who never wins but keeps showing up anyway?  How do we arm our kids so that they can resist a shortcut when “everyone is doing it” and push back against the pressure to “take one for the team” when it’s not right or it’s unhealthy?  How do we help kids to find their voice in the face of an unwritten rule of silence? How do we teach a kid to take pride in an average grade that is achieved with her own mind and merit instead of an “A” that came from cheating?

Example is often the greatest teacher, and sometimes a lone voice can instigate change.  Tyler sharing his story, exposing the weaknesses in himself, admitting his regrets and shining a light on a pervasive problem is a good step.  Thank you for that, Tyler.

Why Is Good for Me So Bad?

Black_Forest_gateau

A few weeks ago, while my son was skiing his way through Austria and my husband was working so very hard at his new job, I explored some documentaries on Netflix.  It should be noted that I am not usually a documentary junkie, but I had recently watched one about tiny houses because I am intrigued by people who choose to live in a box like that.  As a result of my tiny house-watching, up popped a recommendation to watch “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” by Joe Cross.  I guess I can see Netflix’s logical connection there . . .  if you get smaller you, too, can live in a tiny house . . .  Well, I was mesmerized as Joe juiced his way across America toward better health.  Wow, he really changed his life by getting all those nutrients in, getting rid of the bad foods and exercising.

Then I watched “Forks over Knives,” in which Drs. Esselstyn and Campbell shared their life-long learning about the benefits of a plant-based, whole foods diet.  Amazing.  The results of their studies and the stories of individuals whose lives were changed or, in some cases, saved were truly inspiring.

Then I watched some vegan woman pluck up a few New Yorkers for a six week trip to vegan-dom in “Vegucated.”  That one was a little over the top for me, but they all seemed to embrace the concept and get rightfully indignant about the way animals are treated, etc., etc.  I guess I could see their point.  And they all got healthier over those six weeks.

So, I was ready.  I announced to my dear one that it was time to take control of our health and follow this whole foods eating thing.  We drank veggie juice and found some things we could eat and it went pretty well for the first couple of weeks.  I really want this to be a lifestyle thing, not a diet.  Right?  I mean, we should all eat more plants.  And processed foods are not great for us.  And animal protein clogs up all those arteries.  I had already reduced dairy a couple of years ago because it didn’t agree with my intestines.  This should be a proverbial piece of cake, right?  Wrong.  This is SO hard.

We are so programmed to design meals around meat that I’m having a heck of a time figuring out how to plan dinner.  While I really like food, I’m not one to enjoy the process of preparing it, unlike my husband who really likes food and loves to prepare it.  He studies Food and Wine magazine, while I peruse Coastal Living, just to put things in perspective.  So, I’m struggling to get the patience to find a recipe and shop for the ingredients and put them together so we can eat them.  It’s also hard because my 16-year-old believes that I have gone ’round the bend, as they say, and will not cooperate with my new menus and so he eats his things and we eat ours.  And then there is my husband, who agrees we should be better about all of this but feels like eating this way is taking away some of life’s joy.

But what really makes this hard is missing my old comfort foods.  I wish I had never experienced the bliss of chocolate cake, perfectly cooked ribs or french fries.  It would make it so much easier to be good!

UPDATE:  I just heard that today is National Dessert Day.  So I will honor it with fond thoughts of chocolate cake.

Photo credit:  Wikipedia, “Chocolate Cake”

I Think I’m Losing My Mind

My memory has never been very good.  Let me restate:  my memory of names of things and numbers has never been very good.  In sixth grade history, I failed the test on states and capitols.  Just couldn’t make myself remember.

I can remember details about situations and conversations from thirty years ago down to the shoes on my feet, but I can’t remember my neighbor’s names to save my life.  Or the names of places.  Or any sequence of numbers.  Even my past house numbers.  I live in fear of having to fill out some sort of form that requires me to list my addresses for the past 10 years.  Even though I’ve only lived in two places.

Lately, this affliction seems to have worsened.  It used to be that the name/number/whatever would come to me within a few minutes.  Now it’s just lost in the neurons.  I might be able to recall it a few weeks later in different circumstances.  I don’t know if this is something I should be really worried about or if this is just the way my brain works, as if it has decided that these things aren’t worth the effort of remembering and so it just stopped trying.

It isn’t that my neighbors aren’t important to me.  They are.  I want to remember their names.  I want to be able to say, “Hi, Pat!  How is Trevor doing at the University of Pennsylvania”?  Instead I say, “Hi!  How is your son doing at school”?  I can remember what her son’s interests and hobbies are, what he is studying, how many roommates he has, etc.  But the NAMES of things are just gone.

Sometimes I actually catch myself glossing over names when they are presented to me.  And I give my brain a shake and tell it to pay attention. And then I realize that I missed the names of the people I’ve just been introduced to because of the mental tongue lashing I was just giving myself.  Fortunately, my life partner has a fantastic memory for these important details.  As long as he is standing next to me, I’m golden.

I wonder if that brain game would help with this.  If only I could remember the name of that brain game . . . .

Filter? What Filter?

That moment when things go into slow motion and your ears seem full of cotton and you can’t believe that those words are actually going out of your mouth and you wish you could grab them and stuff them back in?  Yeah that.

I don’t blush often, but after one particularly embarrassing blurt I turned deep red as I KEPT ON TALKING just making it worse and worse.  The conversational equivalent of a horror movie — an out-of-body moment screaming at myself, “No, idiot, don’t go there!”

Sometimes the “incident” haunts me for days.  I re-live with horror each millisecond of the exchange leading up to the horrible words’ escape.  I try to imagine how it must have sounded to those around me and think about how I could have stopped it from happening.  As time passes, I may forget what I actually said, but I remember with a sinking stomach just how awful the moment was.

I can’t say how many times this has happened, a lot for sure.  I’m so envious of people who float through life with eloquence and grace.  Discrete.  Thoughtful.  Ugh.  I hoped that as I “matured” I would get this problem under control.  Unfortunately, with age does not come self-control in this particular area, at least not for me.

Maybe my “growth opportunity” is being more understanding when this happens to other people.  I can certainly empathize. And I take solace in knowing that at least one or two other people out there suffer from the same syndrome.  One friend confided that she would have nightmares of her teeth coming out after she had an unfiltered utterance event.  Then again, some people  blather on inappropriately and have absolutely no clue.  They don’t clamber to get those words back.   No pain. No sinking gut.  Maybe that’s better — at least they sleep well.

Seasonalities

IMG_0490

Flip flops and corduroy.  Shivering with the top down.  Yellow leaves on the grass.  Dried up flower beds.  Time to face reality.  October in the mountains means winter is very near.  It’s not that I don’t like winter.  Rather, I really like summer.  Sunshine, boating, hiking, biking, evenings on the deck.  It’s just all so good.

Time to switch gears and focus on the good things about winter:  big, giant snowflakes falling at night; sitting by a warm fire; sunshine glitter on new snow; floating on powder through trees; watching my kid ski race; snowshoeing with my hubby; Christmas.

  • Pep talk for winter: Check.
  • Ugg boots and Patagonia jacket: Check.
  • Snow tires mounted:  Not yet.
  • Convertible’s top staying down until the snow flies:  Check, check.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Swims in the lake

Walks in the woods

Worried footsteps down the stairs

Throwing little Riley in the pool

Deep love for family, Mom, God

Books, books and more books

Go Blue

Love you!

100_0406_face2