Zero to Hate in a Flash

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wait a Minute ….

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Bother Season

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

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

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

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

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

 

They are Wrong (a lot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

An Ordinary, Average 9/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does My Pug Need More Time to Reflect?

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

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

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

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

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Odd Satisfactions in Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Foe

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

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

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

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

Better with Age?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whack-a-Mole

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

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

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

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

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

Columbine Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can’t Kiss It and Make It Better Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hairdresser Generation Gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Wrinkle Or Not to Wrinkle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobo’s Life Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Is the Other Side of This Crossroad?

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

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

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

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

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

A More Eloquent Way to Say What I Wanted to Say

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

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

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

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

The full article is here:

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

Lifetimes of Learning, and Then *Poof*

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Did Phones Cross the Line from Useful to Overwhelming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunny and Dry

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

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

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

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

Memories of Summers Past in Our Lovely State

Memories of Summers Past in Our Lovely State

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

Winners Are Always Losers

Yep, another Alpine World Cup life analogy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

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

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

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

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

I can relate.

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

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

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

To thine own self be true.

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

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

What We Learned in Kindergarten

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

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

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

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Do-Over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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!


On Loss of An Unborn Child

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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.

Confessions of a Social Media Failure

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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.


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“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.

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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.

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

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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 . . .

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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.

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Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy!

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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!

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.

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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?

The Man in Black and a 16 Year Old

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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

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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.


Extreme Just Isn’t Enough

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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

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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?

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 …


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Top 10 Things about Being a Middle-Aged Woman

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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 . . . .