Friday, December 21, 2012

Just a quick question......

One thing that growing older--aging to perfection, in other words--has done for me is that I allow myself the luxury of questioning. Everything.

I wasn't one of those kids who asked dozens of questions. Where does the blue come from in the sky? Why can't dogs talk? Where does God hang out when He's not busy?

I tended to accept everything around me, and to be honest, I don't think it was that I was afraid to ask. I don't think it even occured to me to question things that everyone else seemed comfortable with. My dad was the one who put on the Navy uniform in the morning, but all of us were in the military, too. That's how it works and if I recall, that whole system doesn't like being questioned by its masses.

One day the light bulb clicked on in my head, though (or maybe it went off and I was suddenly in the dark about everything), and the sacred was no longer safe with me. I can never quite put my finger on when this happened to me. When I think back, all I can come up with is that age 35 was a demarcation for me. I became a mother and shortly after that, I was no longer a wife. Multiple jobs (simultaneously) and caring for an infant alone don't translate to leading a quiet, tidy existance.

Around that same time, I had a professor who looked at the world through a lens that was angled the slightest degree away from the rest of the world's. I was amazed at how much that tiny angle could change life's entire viewpoint. It intrigued me. 

Whatever the impetus was, I began to question everything. Why? Who? How? When? And once you start, nothing is safe. I have questioned rules, laws, religious tenets.

And people are intimidated by this. To say the least. Maybe it's that they wish they had asked those questions themselves, though. Now they're resentful that I am the one who is having fun doing the asking instead.

But now I know how that professor must feel, almost as if the world has been knocked off its axis. Questions are one thing, but the answers are quite another.

God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there's no turning back.
Gloria Steinem

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Unlocking the closet.....

I’m a writer. It only took me 45 years to speak the truth out loud. I don't know what I thought people would do when those words were floated out there for everyone to hear. Run for the exits?

I’ve been writing since I was ten. I wrote an article about the Blue Angels that was published in the base newspaper wherever my dad was stationed at the time. It all runs together after a while when you live the life of a nomad. But I do remember the feeling of pride in my gut as I saw my words --MY words--there in print for everyone to read. 
But I never took myself seriously as a writer, so no one else did, either. My emotions have always poured out on the page, giving a voice to my heart, but to think of myself in those terms was so foreign. Writers were reclusive hermits who couldn't support themselves. Weren't they? 

So, I followed the path of least resistance in college and became a teacher. For fifteen years I taught middle school social studies (not English, though....I even shied away from teaching about words), passing our country's lessons on to a generation that seemed not to care. Later, I dabbled in this and that, putting my strengths in organizational skills and training in the business world for another 15 years, but my heart wasn’t invested there. I was still scribbling behind closed doors, a closet scribe afraid of being outed.

It wasn’t until I attended a meeting of women active in business in my city that I finally accepted--admitted--my calling. During the requisite introductions, I repeated my normal job description like an automaton,  complete with awards and acknowledgments for work accomplished well. For some reason, though, all the years of denying myself, the person in hiding, demanded to be loosed, and my soul as a writer scrabbled at the closed door, sniffing along the crack near the floor. As the last woman finished, I took a deep breath and asked if I could amend my resume. 
All eyes turned and looked at me expectantly. And for the first time, I accepted my role in life: “Good evening, my name is Deborah and I’m a writer.”
Today I tell young people to hold tight to the seams of that one thing that they love to do. Clutch it to their hearts and don't let anyone steal it from them. And the world will try, that's for certain.  But we often lock the door to the closet ourselves.
It took me far too long to give voice to my passion, my very reason for being. Wasted years? I haven't worked that one out yet, because I also believe our paths shape us every step of the way. But it shouldn't take decades to break down the door. 

Chase down your passion like it's the last bus of the night. 
~Terri Guillemets

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Room service, please!

The experience didn't quite match my expectations.

There is much in life like that, isn't there? I remember the first (and last) time I rode a ferris wheel. Never mind that I was in my 30s. Leaving the ground seems like such a foolish thing for people to do. I finally got up the nerve and climbed into that basket that insisted on rocking wildly no matter how still I sat, and then I was facing a lot of empty sky as the wheel turned and carried me upward. It was even worse when I was going backwards. At least I did it once.

Early this month I took a cruise to the Bahamas. I used to live in the Islands so that part wasn't new at all. Being on a cruise ship, though....all of that is relatively new to me. And this time I did "my thing I've never done before" by ordering room service for breakfast one morning.

I've never had enough money to do  things like that, so just the idea was extravagent to me. Have someone bring my meal to me in my room, and I can stay in my pink fluffy robe to eat breakfast? Unthinkable. But on a cruise, your food is included in the price of your ticket. As much of it as you want. Whenever or wherever you want it. Heaven.

So, we put the hanging order form on the door knob before going to bed the night before. We even specified what time we wanted it delivered in the morning. And, sure enough, a knock on the cabin door woke us, along with hot coffee and a plate of eggs and bacon. And pancakes. Plus orange juice and fresh fruit. There may even have been a bowl of cereal with milk. Don't you love it?

I took the food-laden tray from the perky young woman who delivered it, turned around, and stopped. There was no place to put it except on the bed. These cabins are tight. Doors open and one of us has to flatten against the wall. Forget getting any privacy while you're in the bathroom. There must be about 50 square feet in the entire space you get along with all the food you want. Of course, you don't spend a lot of time in your cabin on a cruise, but even still, I needed a place to lay that tray down before I dropped the whole thing on the floor.

The only flat surface available was the bed. Have you ever eaten a whole meal in bed before? Two people trying desperately not to tip the edges of the cups and bowls far enough to slosh all over the sheets, the ones we needed to sleep in later that night. Not the experience I had envisioned, that's for sure. 

There is a first time for everything, and I'm having fun seeking new adventures out each month. Aging to perfection means being willing to step outside my personal comfort zone, stretching that zone far beyond what I thought was even possible for me.

Some I have repeated. Some have become part of my life.

Room service won't be one of them.

Room service? Send up a larger room.
Groucho Marx


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just kidding.....

Life is such a kidder. 

A year ago, my life was filled with unexpected magic, marked with a new-found love of ballroom dancing and I had work that met both my creative needs and my "making a living and paying the bills" needs. And although I wasn't looking for it, romance tracked me down, sat on me long enough to get my attention, and convinced me that I could have a relationship without giving up my independence. The moon and stars had aligned perfectly in my world.

Aging to perfection has taught me many things. This lesson has been a tough one, although I should not have been taken aback.  I've been through it before. We all have. Just when you think you have everything under control, the car needs new brakes (or some other tricky mechanical part that always costs the rent money for the next two months) or the dentist looks at your X-rays and sighs way too loud. A call from your child's school brings bad news that needs to be addressed before things really spin out of control for the whole family. We sigh and forge ahead, doing the best we can, as we can.

For me, it all started to unravel around March. My dance lessons were taken away from me (along with a couple of thousand dollars that would have paid for those lessons through the end of this year), as well as a huge void where trust in someone else had resided. My work (the one that pays the bills) got so busy that my creative work was put on the back burner, along with some of my sanity. And the one who enticed me out of my single-hood fell ill last week with life-threatening issues, too soon, way too soon.

The low-grade depression is back, the one that I have lived with much of my life, the one that is now dancing with glee instead of me. The smile that had taken up center stage, not only on my face but within my soul, is pretty much gone. I can pull it out when people expect to see it, when the social occasion demands it, but it's a sad replacement for the real thing. How can it be otherwise when all that is left is sadness?

And then I remind myself: Now I CAN dance when before I was so intimidated and awkward that I wouldn't even try. I HAVE work that I love, at a time when so many have none at all. And love found me when I wasn't even looking. Nothing is promised to any of us, and I have so much.

Robert Frost said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.” And it is up to us how it goes on. 

So, I choose to keep on dancing on my own terms, whenever I can. I choose to scratch my words onto the paper as best I can, whenever I can. And I choose to love as long as I can, however I can.

And I'm not kidding.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Once you embark on the road to “things you’ve never done before,” you find yourself skipping faster and faster from one new experience to the next. Kind of like Dorothy, minus the red shoes. Unless the shoes are new, too.

My journey into the realm of unique experiences began nearly two years ago, after I realized I was stuck in the mundane. And scared witless about turning 60. Since then, my life has been transformed as I learned to dance, cruised to various ports, surfed the Atlantic, and rode a motorcycle, to name just a few  once-a-month adventures.

One surprising aspect of all of this has been that I initially started out struggling to think of activities I had never tried, but once my mind (and body) finally realized I was serious, my world opened itself to the possibilities.

Last month ended with Halloween, a “holiday” I have never been particularly fond of. As a kid, it seemed my first major cold of every winter showed up around this time of year, and I had to stay home while everyone else went out begging for candy. Any costumes I had were assembled from items on hand around the house. I remember dressing like a “hobo” a few times, complete with dirty face and tattered clothes. A stick with clothes hanging on the end completed the outfit.

My all-time favorite costume was the year I transformed myself into a Boston fern, but that was hand-made, too. A store-bought outfit had always been out of the realm of my experience.

Until this year.

Halloween happened to fall on the same night a friend of mine sings in a hole in the wall bar each week, so a costume party was planned and the hobo thing is no longer politically correct, right? Without even plotting and planning a “new thing” for October, I stopped in at the costume store that popped up in a vacant store- front near my house.

For the first time in my life, I bought a Halloween costume. I transformed myself into Guinevere, complete with draping sleeves and flowing velvet train. Not only was the costume a first for me, but my escort became Lancelot for the evening. I was half of a couple, something that hasn’t been my experience often, either.

As I share this story with you, I’m cruising along the coast of Florida, with yet another new experience in the record book. They just keep coming faster and faster. But you’ll have to wait a while to hear that one.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hope and a lot of change.....

Let’s talk about change. Not necessarily hope. Just change.

The kind that collects in the bottom of a woman’s purse or a man’s pockets.

Periodically I empty all of the coins from my wallet into a smaller change purse I carry so that my wallet doesn’t look like a chipmunk preparing for a bad winter. I’m not sure what I’ve gained, though, since all that metal is still weighing my shoulder down. It does seem to help for some reason that I can’t explain, though.

Pennies have their own repository in a ceramic dish in my kitchen. When they start falling out of the dish onto the counter, I gather them up and make a trip to that noisy machine inside the door of my local grocery store that whirs and sorts and counts and then spits out bills at me. Who said a penny has no value?

Here’s the thing I’ve been pondering, though. I’ve noticed that “older” shoppers (certainly older than me) must really hate change. There are many levels to this statement—many don’t react well to new ideas or ways of doing things or they haven’t taken the plastic off their furniture in decades—but let’s focus here on the coins that are the inevitable result of buying things. That kind of change. It’s just going to happen.  You give someone a $5 bill for an item that rings up at $4.27 and boom—there it is. Seventy-three cents to add to the collection in your wallet or pocket.

But seniors must hate the stuff beyond all reason, because the next time they step up to the counter to pay, here’s how it goes. Their purchases total $16.63, but rather than hand over the $10, the $5, and 2 one dollar bills, they start digging in their wallets or pants to come up with exactly sixty-three cents to add to the $16 they have begrudgingly pulled out. (We won’t even discuss the oft-seen option of attempting to ferret out the $1.63 entirely in change. My heart won’t take it.) And heaven forbid they use the $20 bill they have hidden in there. Not going to happen.

In the meantime, we all stand patiently (or not so much) behind them, watching this archaeological dig, as the clock tick-tick-ticks away our perpetually disappearing time. And maddeningly, all this searching sometimes ends with, “Oh, here!” as they toss bills on the counter anyway. They give up the quest, and we all sigh in relief.

Maybe legal tender for those over a certain age should ONLY be paper money. No change allowed at all for them. I’m sure merchants wouldn’t mind, especially if they round up to the next dollar when they see white hair approaching. None of us would mind, either.

That would be a welcome change, wouldn’t it?

We can always hope.

 What I like most about change is that it's a synonym for 'hope.' 
Linda Ellerbee 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The LIST......

No one told me about this. There are just so many surprises as we age, aren’t there?

It seems that the day your Medicare card arrives in the mail, something else comes with it. I’ve never actually seen this list of “ ready-to-use after age 65” statements  myself, but I’ve been exposed to enough people in this category to surmise that it does indeed exit. It has to….why else would so many older folks use them on a daily basis?

You know the ones I mean, right?

“Look how fast he’s going!! What’s the big hurry anyway??”

“Only girls wear earrings. And he needs a haircut, too.”

“Look at all those tattoos! You know what they’ll look like when they’re our age, don’t you?”

“How do you carry that purse around? I’m surprised you don’t have back problems.”

“Why can’t they have paper towels in bathrooms anymore? I hate these blower things.”

And my personal favorite:

“Why are all these people out on the roads? Isn’t it a work day? I thought there was a recession.”

And each such statement is followed with a sound that I used to think writers made up, but it actually does exist. I’ve heard it myself:


But to make it all the more fun, EVERY time we drive an interstate or go shopping, or need to use a public bathroom or venture forth anywhere, the applicable statement is pulled out from their wallets (behind their Medicare cards where they hide it, I guess) and used as if WE are deaf and didn’t hear it the first thousand times or so they said it.

I know, I know. I’ll be there myself soon and should have more empathy. In all fairness, it does seem to take a few years past 65 before these statements are used regularly, but they seem to catch up with everyone eventually.

You’re probably right, I should be more understanding, but in the two years until that happens, I’m taking my huge purse and going shopping. I may even speed a little along the way.

And I’m sure I’ll hit a few bathrooms while I’m out (a topic in this category for another day), and I assure you that I won’t mind those hand blowers a bit.

 The older you get, the more you tell it like it used to be.
-- Author Unknown





Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turn off that television.....

Who IS that person?

The one on the television screen with the deep creases etched along her mouth and all the crinkly skin bunched around her neck like a band of folded tissue paper. Discarded tissue paper at that.

Oh. As much as I want to turn away in horror, denying the truth, it's me.

We often speak in cliches, blithely, with no attachment to those words...until we are slapped with them on a personal level. Until they are describing us and not the old lady who lives down the street.

Like hearing your own voice, recorded and then played back. "That doesn't sound anything like me," we all say in astonishment. Except that everyone else recognized us instantly as that tape plays on.

Or, as in my case the other day, "Who IS that old lady?" I said. Everyone else called and emailed, though, saying how great I looked on a recent TV interview about my book, Nothing to Complain About. What am I to make of that? (How I looked, not that I AM complaining about it. I'll have to deal with that issue another day.) I saw myself on the screen and was shocked right out of my complacency. My internal life is so much younger than that face looking out at me, the one belonging to someone I don't even recognize. Not even a little bit.

My reaction since has been all over the emotional map, running the gamut from pricing face-lifts to wanting to crawl under the bed covers for the rest of my life. Certainly not to be seen on television. Ever again. I feel much like I did when I turned 60, the depression settling around my ears (at least ears don't seem to they?), a low-grade angst residing in my belly like a rock.

As is often the case, our children can put us back on track, either by distracting us with all their shenanigans that we are required to deal with, or by simply speaking the truth without worrying about our reaction ahead of time. Even if they are adults, as is my daughter.

"I guess the important thing, Mom, is that you don't FEEL like an old lady," she said as I groused and complained (yep, I did it again) about my appearance on television. Well, let's be honest here....about my appearance period. She knows me well, this young woman who I raised as a a single parent for over 15 years. She knows that I take ballroom dance lessons, do interval weight training at my gym several times a week, undertake a new adventure every month (some of which she has been witness to), and write educational materials for teenagers to name just a few of the things that keep me busy....and young in heart and mind and (some parts of my) body.

No old ladies live in my house, that's for sure.She knows that and on many levels, I know that, too.

But just to be safe, keep those TV cameras away from me in the future, OK?

 A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.  ~John Barrymore

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bringing home the bacon.....

Murky, murky, murky. Life just gets less and less transparent as the years go by. Highly inconvenient, I must admit.

I might have thought....if I had thought about it at all.....that age and the accompanying maturity would lend itself to knowing the answers a litte faster or easier than when we clattered around in our 20s or 30s. Maybe even longer depending on some folks' inability to learn from mistakes.

I'm a very independent woman, a state that is a result of both my personality as well as the circumstances of my life. Raising children on your own will do that, believe me. You learn quickly that there are few people you can truly rely on, maybe even having the axiom, "If you want something done right, do it yourself" stenciled on your living room wall. In bright red.

But the longer you live within that bubble of self-sufficiency the less it appears that you need anyone else or their help for anything at all. Many women build walls that are strong and often tower over those (and I mean men, of course) who get too close, either inadvertantly or with good intentions of being useful.

Soon we begin to believe it ourselves, the fact that we don't need anyone, we can take care of ourselves, thank you very much, so everyone needs to stand back behind that solid concrete wall, that one that we erected over the years for protection.

But the problem is that we DO need each other in lots of ways that have nothing to do with one gender being "weaker" or "stronger."  It has to a lot to do with the undeniable symbiosis inherent in being human in our culture, and less to do with gender inequities that still exist whether we like to think so or not.

I can carry on successfully by myself.....if we're measuring success by dollars and cents. Our culture, though, sometimes traps both men and women into identity roles that we don't even notice after a while. We're so used to clutching either our independence or our deeply ingrained sense of role tightly to our chests that we miss each other completely. The fact that I could support myself was not the same as not needing anything.

I didn't need a man to pay my bills or "bring home the bacon" but I did need someone to support me emotionally. Life is hard, and it is nice to have a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold as we face the storms together.

Rather than being constrained by the male/female roles of weak vs strong that still slither around the edges of our society, maybe we should just all relax and be human instead. I can ask for help without threatening my independence, and it can be offered without fear of being rebuffed as sexist.

I used to think this was all so clear.

"Limits exist only in the mind."


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stepping off cliffs......

Once you've stepped off the cliff into the unknown a few times, it gets a lot easier. Much like that cartoon character that somehow misjudges where the edge is and than hangs out in thin air, perplexed, before plummeting to the ground below. Again.

But it sure is fun, even though it often takes a while for my stomach to catch up with my body as I take these  monthly adventures. It can't be too bad, because I find myself running off the cliff to hang over the precipice of the unfamiliar a lot more often lately. I just have to hope the bottom isn't too hard when I get there. 

Let's catch you up. I drove a boat and I published my latest the same month. Finally. Both events had been dancing around the edges of my life for months. Well, if I'm honest about the book, it's been years. But you know the saying about giving up. In other words, NEVER.

Friends picked me up in their boat at the marina near my house on a bright blue Saturday, and we headed out into the river, sun drops dancing across the water. There's a calm that descends on the water, a sense of peace that allows you to be still, unhurried, quiescent. Until the men who were with me in the boat put me behind the wheel with instructions to "floor it!" Or the equivalent in the language of boaters. 

What is it about the male of the species (who really are from Mars, you did know that, right?) that demands speed in all things? My goal was simply to drive a boat, not create a wake that would swamp every dock along both sides of the river. So, this adventure being mine, we putzed along, enjoying that huge tree that had fallen into the river, listing like a drunken sailor who never made it back to his ship. The log that we mistook for an alligator until we got right up next to it. The eagles soaring over our heads, maybe out for their version of a stroll before heading back to their nests perched high in the mossy trees. A glorious adventure that was worth the wait.(Thanks to James and Diane for making it happen.)

Then there's my book, the second that I have birthed. Publishing my own work isn't what I had in mind this time around, but after several years of submitting the manuscript, my attention span waned. (There's much more I can say on this frustrating topic and I will some day. But not today.) So, I took control of the situation, and ventured into the world of digital publishing. It's too early to tell how successful this toe dipped into the waters of tablets and readers will be, but it is something I've never done before. The day the cover design arrived in my email box was pretty exciting, I have to admit. My adventure to become complaint free was finally going to be available to more than a handful of personal friends.

Oh, did I mention the moonlit dance on a deserted street, the stars the only witnesses to one of the most romantic events in my life? That makes three new things in one month, doesn't it?

See....once you open your soul to all the possibilities that await just around that corner up ahead, events take on a life of their own. All the things you had never done before become the things that merely hadn't made their way to you. Yet.

You can find Nothing to Complain About at, Barnes and, and

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Turning mirrors to the wall......

Here's a question for you: If you hang a mirror with the glass toward the wall, will it reflect backwards, too?

Oh, stop laughing. I'm serious. I'm asking because some parts of my life today look so much like a very long time ago.

Remember when we were teenagers and we had finally made contact with that hot new crush from school? Maybe a few dates later the two of us needed a more private place to go, because....well, you know why, right? Holding hands and a quick kiss on the front porch after a movie just wasn't going to satisfy us any more. We needed some ALONE time.

But mom and dad simply insisted on being home, and things like closed bedroom doors with a non-family member of the opposite gender or staying out all night weren't even part of the cultural conversation at the time.

So, we made out in cars, both front and back seat, or went to a friend's house after school where maybe there was less supervision. Sometimes we really pushed the envelope of the era (and believability) and lied about spending the night at that friend's house and never went near the place at all.

Such was the life of a teenager in heat.

Well, deja vu just sauntered into the party! Those of us who have worked our way through marriages in a variety of ways--divorce or death (the widow/widower kind, not murder, although it might have been merited)--find ourselves single after 60 again. And if you younger readers out there think that all that hand holding/kissing/making out stuff is over after 60, you are in for a lot of fun when you finally get here.

But there's a strange little crack in the mirror. If you recall from previous columns here, many of us are also taking care of elderly parents. Or returning adult children. So, many of us are cramming our clothes--and selves-- into smaller and smaller spaces in our own homes to make way for all these people.Which has snatched our privacy away, as surely as if we were......teenagers!

We can't throw these people out. We don't WANT to throw them out. We just need some privacy again.

Somewhere. Anywhere. It's like that mirror turned to the wall is seeing the past and bringing it forward into the present.

I really don't know what to do with that mirror, but I do know that hotels get really expensive. And people still want to know where we went when we get home.

It's hard to just kinda get some privacy and do your own thing.
Shaun White

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dancing fool finis.....or not

"Those who dance are considered insane by those
who cannot hear the music.” 
George Carlin
This is a hard one. It has been percolating for weeks, working its way to the forefront of my attention, and now clamors to be released. The writing process for me is much like a coffee pot in that respect, the idea getting hotter and hotter, my attention turning to it more frequently the higher the internal temperature rises, until I simply cannot keep my fingers off the keyboard no matter how hot those keys are. Or how much it hurts to release the lid of the pot.
George's words caught my attention, because I feel a bit insane right now. Many of you will remember when this Dancing Fool was born [] the day my feet dragged me into a dance studio as my "one thing I had never done" for that month. It was April 28, 2011. And my life changed forever.
I was 62 years old and I was terrified of dancing. I had been my entire life. You know how it is, I know you do: We think everyone is watching us, judging us, even laughing at our awkward attempts to move our feet and bodies in time with the music. (I learned that they aren't. They're only thinking about their own clumsy feet, but that's a topic for another day.)
I have become more adventurous as I aged, but I really only intended to take that one lesson and quickly check it off my bucket list. Life has its way with us, though, and I signed up for dozens of lessons with my instructor, a young man who taught me the basics of the waltz, tango, cha cha, swing, hustle, and salsa. No one was more surprised than me at these new turns on the dance floor.
He moved to another studio and I followed. I brought him a new student, a man who later became more than a potential dance partner. (He was only taking lessons to....well, that really is a story for another day.) My instructor put on an open house, and he and I danced the waltz in front of my friends and family, a magical experience for me that proved that you CAN teach a not-so-young woman new things.

I learned to trust someone else to lead. I learned to listen and not talk, even if I disagreed with the instruction given. I learned to stop thinking and just move, a torturous thing for someone who has lived solely in her head. I learned to smile and never stop moving. I learned to continue to move forward and not look back. My body literally changed shape as a result of using it in new ways. My love of music now has a physical manifestation that is wondrously satisfying to me. All of this was unexpected and brought such beauty to my life. For those two hours every week, I was transported to another place, one that transcended my problems, my irritations, my every day life.

The result? I can now walk onto the dance floor and do just about any dance anyone wishes to do. In fact, I can't stop moving, as those around me can attest. My feet and my body sway, tap, twirl, accompanied by a beat no one but me hears.
Which makes the sudden, ripping away of my dance lessons even more difficult. The details are not important to anyone but me, I'm sure. We trust people, and then we find out we shouldn't have, but would we have done anything differently if it meant never experiencing it at all?

 I will never regret dancing my way into a new life, filled with beauty and grace. No, I wouldn't change any of this for a second, regardless of its difficult end.

I guess George was right about the insanity.

"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer,
and understand, for all that is life.”


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mirror, mirror on the wall......

I wake up sometimes and simply don't recognize my landscape any longer. Just when I had learned who peers back at me from the mirror every morning, strange happenings began obscuring that image and then started to make silly faces behind my back, startling me out of my new-found complacency.  Who would have believed we still have so much to learn at this stage of life?

I guess that's my purpose here, though. To alert all of you, especially my younger readers and friends, about what might lie ahead for you, too. All these surprises have been  a huge shock to my system, so I'm passing the lessons on to you. No charge, of course.

A few years ago I finally looked into that mirror, square on, and admitted that daily face-to-face contact with a partner doesn't work for me. It just doesn't. And I had embraced that reality, at first with some trepidation, and then I threw my arms around it with joy. I was free!

I had my work, my dance lessons, and my friends. A life lived with fullness and gratitude, one that fit me exquisitely. The quiet aloneness that once oppressed me enveloped me instead, hugging me with comfort and beauty, my time my own to fill or not, no questions to answer about timetables or destinations.

It worked for me and I loved it.

But many of us, whether paired or not, are facing a new challenge, one that didn't penetrate our awareness with any reality until it was our reality. Human that we are, we think it will never happen to us. Until it does.

My parents were inseparable. And then my dad's mind slowly fractured, piece by piece, until his essence was simply.....gone. His body continued to occupy the recliner in their living room, but he truly was not there. Finally, his body gave up, too, and my mother--his partner for nearly 70 years--was alone for the first time in her life. Ever.

What to do?

But you know, don't you? Doing the right thing in life tests us, challenges our comfortable reality, forces us to straighten our spine and then adjust that mirror to a new angle.

Maybe the lesson is to enjoy that reflection every morning of our lives. Accept where we are and be grateful that we are anywhere at all. And then be ready to tilt that mirror at a moment's notice.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

Maria Robinson

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Breaking bad.....

I can break rules now, too.

Well, I've always been a bit of a rule breaker, I think. It's just that now, as an "older" person, I can get away with it a little easier.

You know how it goes.  Younger people think we're non-entities anyway, so no one cares if we snap a few proclamations along the way, mainly because they're not paying attention to us any more.

What fun we can have during all this anonymity, right?

Turn my cell phone off as soon as I enter the library? I don't think so. Surely they mean they don't want to hear phones ringing all up and down the stacks, but my business depends on customers reaching me, even if I happen to make a stop to check out a book. So how about just setting it on vibrate? That's one of the delights of self-employment; I can actually have a life during the day, and my phone doesn't need to be turned off to make everyone happy.

Or "don't cross the solid white line" as I attempt to get from one side of the river to the other on the three-mile long bridge near my home. That would work fine IF drivers had much sense at all, which appears to be not only debatable but impossible. Maybe they're all under the age of 30 and learned to drive playing video games. So, in their minds, everything is a drag race, and no one EVER lets another car merge in to their lane, right? Apparently not.

Therefore, the white line and I are invisible to each other, as I cruise alongside the lane I really want to be in, and then I merge over when it's safe and I can manage it. That's the way the whole thing is supposed to work, if ONLY we assisted each other just a tad. 

I realize that breaking rules that also happen to be laws is a risky undertaking. I can personally attest to that one.

The trooper who pulled me over one day for speeding (on wet pavement to boot) asked me very politely if there was a particular reason I was exceeding the speed limit by about 20 miles per hour. I smiled, he smiled back, and I owned up to the fact that I had broken the law. But that's another mark of aging to perfection.

We know what we're doing while we're doing it. And as I break the rule, I implicity choose the consequences, too.

But life is a lot more fun now, I can tell you that.

If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have got anywhere.
Marilyn Monroe

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The infinite between two souls......

Her manicured nails tapped the edge of her wheelchair and her white tennis shoes kept time on the floor, her legs dangling over the edge of the metal footrests underneath her. She sang  every word of the lyrics along with the performer, a smile playing across her face, and her husband soon joined her. Her health was obviously not good, but here she was with the rest of us being transported to whatever place we each went to as this particular tune was performed.

The rest of the room that night, like most Wednesday nights when we all convened in this bar, was a patchwork of characters. There were cowboy boots and very large hats sitting (or dancing) next to heavily starched shirts with little alligators wandering across the front. An entire family took up a long table near the back, kids ranging from about 8 to young adults, sitting with mom and dad....oh, wait, there's grandma, too. Not everyone knew that the Mom of that family had begun chemo a few weeks ago, but here they all were, strengthening one another by banding together to forget all of that for a few hours.

The singer belted out country music and then switched to Fleetwood Mac, only to turn the mic over to a friend who sang some goosebumping gospel. The music rightly took center stage until a newcomer stepped through doorway aross the room. Greetings were called out to welcome old friends.....which turns out to be anyone who showed up once before and decided to come back. Kind of like Cheers, for those of you old enough to relate. "Norm!"

During the week, this group of folks probably would never have come into contact with one another. I don't generally hang around with used car salesmen, realtors, shrimp boat operators, firemen, or retired masons. Roofers, life coaches, teachers.....maybe even a writer or two.

But music has the ability to draw us together, doesn't it? The wheelchair-bound woman and I might be near the same age, it's hard to tell. And even though our backgrounds are obviously different, when that particular song weaves its way around us, we come together to ride the music. We are literally lifted away from this place to a lyrical place that exists for both of us....if even for a few beats of time.

“Music fills the infinite between two souls.”

Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, July 23, 2012

Looking for trouble......

You know that quirky finger move that expands your cell phone screen, the one that uses the thumb/forefinger action on the diagonal? I hear even some four-year olds have it down, no problem.

Me? Haven't mastered it yet for some reason.

Come to think of it, why would I want to make some of the images in my life bigger, anyway? Don't I have enough to grapple with, even on a good day?

Like last Friday. My accountant swore a couple of months ago that the IRS would repay me the $1500+ overpayment from the first quarter of this year. She even recounted a conversation she had with the nice person she spoke to about that money, the dollars and cents I desperately need right about now. It would only take about eight weeks, they promised.  (Stop laughing....I can hear you through my computer screen, and it isn't comical.)

I opened my mailbox and was ecstatic to get that envelope on Friday, and almost got in my car to take it to the bank right there on the spot. Wait, I thought.....I'd better open it first.


Yep. Just a tad short, and it probably cost them more than that to mail the darn thing.

Then there are the two cats in my house (out of the three that grace us with their presence) who need either drops in the eye or an antibiotic down the throat a few times a day. Each. The one with the eye problem has proven to be cooperative--for the most part--but the other one? Oh, my.

Picture a baby who doesn't want that yucky orangish-yellow squash that you airplaned into his mouth, no matter what funny noises you make as you stick that spoon in his mouth. He's not falling for it. So, what does he do? He takes that tongue and pushes it right out onto the floor (and you if you sit too close), none of it reaching its destination.

I have had cats let it ooze out of the side of their mouth, or jump down and throw it up as they walk away with great dignity. But never have I seen this. I swear he morphs into a human baby as that tongue starts pushing the food out of his mouth, along with the expensive antibiotic. Fun on a Friday, I can tell you.

Oh, there was more last week, but you get the picture. We all have these days, right? Nothing even remotely looks sane for a 24 hour period, and we wonder what we did to upset the universe. All we want is for it to stop. And, at my age, I know that it has happened before, and it will certainly happen again.

So, you all go ahead and make those images in your life BIGGER. I'd like some movement like that one that diminishes the trouble that seems to find me every once in a while, so if you have any cute devices that accomplish that, let me know.

The biggest cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid people are so sure about things and the intelligent folks are so full of doubts.”
Bertrand Russell

Saturday, July 14, 2012

All about pacing.....

It wasn't a problem for a long time.....decades, actually.

When it became a problem, I didn't recognize it for years.

When I DID recognize it, I attempted to ignore it.

Finally, I accepted it with gritted teeth.

As we age, we find that our minds can outpace rings around our energy levels. At least that's the way it's been for me. In the morning, it sounds great to plan on attending an evening gathering with friends. Sure, why not? I say when I accept the invitation. That sounds like fun, and I like the people going, so count me in.

Oops. By about 4 PM, I realize my mistake. I've worked all day, intellectually at the office and then  physically at the gym, so I'm exhausted from head to toe and back again.

I was stymied by that for a lot of years, feeling as if I was exhibiting the "stick in the mud" mentality I was so often accused of in my 20s and 30s. (For good reason at that point in time, but the person inhabiting this skin isn't the same one who left the building a long time ago and I don't  like to be reminded of those days. I get a tad cranky when I even get a whiff of that phrase today.)

But then I realized that my energy  reserves were no longer at any "stick in the mud" levels (oh, the irony of it all, right?). It wasn't that I was sticking anywhere, to anything. My body simply couldn't keep up any longer. My life has expanded in ways that are often unrecognizable to me as I have aged. I dance, I engage in interval training that involves weight lifting, I seek out new adventures every month. I'm a lot more fun and I have fun in ways that I hadn't even dreamed of when I was decades younger.

I even hate writing this. It hurts. But reality must be faced, and this is it: We have to learn to pace ourselves as we move into the latter decades. (I did NOT say as we "get old," I hope you noticed that.) What that means on a daily basis is that I must view the events of the day, and into the evening, from a longer perspective than my younger years demanded.

If I work all day, hit the gym in the afternoon, and have some writing to do at home before I slide between my sheets to read before sleep, then I can't schedule a dance lesson that particular day. Or I have to change the gym to tomorrow, and dance today. And forget going out at night if I dance OR exercise within the same 24-hour block of day. Not going to happen. 

Yes, it's a hard reality to swallow. But those of you who are younger than me, heed my words here. You may think you are immune to what all of us ultimately face, whether it's cellulite in places you never even thought about or flagging energy levels. You're not. Sure, you can pay to have the lumps removed or buy pricey energy drinks, but the reality is still evident.

Thoreau spoke of keeping pace with our companions, and something about drums. I don't need to stay abreast of those folks. It just takes more energy to keep that drummer in sight at all.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shiny tabs......

A notebook with big rings that open and close. And tabs. Lot of tabs, multi-colored, with shiny plastic sleeves. That might do.

I've come to understand in this aging process that life has chapters, but not like those in a book. Those are organized in some way that makes sense to the author or central characters.

Our lives, however, are not so neat. So, tabs would be good, because we can move them around whenever we realize the moon and stars have realigned themselves without our permission--or even our knowledge--only to send the events of our lives into a tailspin. Again.

The tabs could also be slipped into folders that represent those mistakes we keep making. The organization would be amazing, don't you think? If only we could transfer that order and that ability to rearrange events and people to the reality of our existence.

One folder in my personal notebook would have to be labelled "emotional abandonment." And it would have several tabs peeking out, all lined up in their bright colors, maybe four or five of them. Actually, five at last count.

I've always thought that I was the one who walked out, leaving numerous relationships scattered behind me like used tissues. I have carried a lot of guilt about those tabs, too. With only one notable exception (NO, you may not peek into that particular folder), it was me who cried "uncle!"

So, recently I have been reevaluating my life, assessing where I am at this point on my timeline, when the clouds parted to reveal a new understanding of my messy notebook. There's a country song that says it much better than I can: "I'd rather be lonely all alone."

Emotional abandonment seems to be a recurring tab for me, and I think it goes way back in my experience. A significant other (actually, five of them) was sitting on the other side of the breakfast table buttering his toast, yet emotionally he had already left the building. Optomist that I am, it always took me a while to notice the subtle changes that take place when one partner is in it, and the other isn't.

What I realized, then, was that it had only been out of a desire to protect and preserve ME that I had finally issued a TIMEOUT! in each of these relationships, followed by a permanent ejection of the emotionally absent player. I became the heavy, the walker, the "guilty" one. I know what passive-agressive behavior looks like and I hold no tolerance for it. None of these people had the courage to be honest with me, but once I recognized my loneliness in the presence of another, I called the game.

Aging means many things to each of us as we travel closer to the end of the timeline given us. To me, it includes some reflective time, and reassessment leading to positive realignment of what is out of synch.  So, I take responsibility for five tabs in my notebook that shouldn't have been there to begin with.

I'm throwing the whole folder out today.

Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.  Victor Hugo 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Disappointed and dejected....

I thought maybe I was old enough....perfected enough....not to be surprised by people any more. As in disappointed and dejected by the things they do or don't do.

I was wrong. 

Oh, I can proclaim, "NOTHING that people do any more surprises me" but that is simple conversational grousing around a table with a glass of wine on a Friday night with friends.

Over the past few years, I have taken on a new and improved positive attitude about life in general, including how I relate to the people around me. It's true that I am more cautious about many things. Such as no matter how many new experiences I want in my life, I still know better than to jump out of airplanes. Tempting fate in such a harrowing way stretches the limits of good sense. Mine, anyway.

But I had consciously decided to give people around me the benefit of the doubt in nearly all situations, mainly because I have come to understand that everyone is struggling with unseen burdens. Call me naive. Call me a Pollyanna. Call me whatever you like, but I can sleep at night knowing that I wasn't the one who added any boulders to someone's already overloaded backpack that day. 

I expect the best for them and from them, without looking for slights or hidden agendas around every corner, waiting to jump out and bit me in the....well, you know where. I'm a straight forward person and I hope that others can be the same with me. I practice kindness and thoroughly enjoy it in return. I do kind of expect all of those things. And I must say that I usually get them. You know what they say about creating the world you want to live in. That's the one for me.

So, when someone disappoints me, it does surprise me. And, I must admit, it hurts. If I were that callous, uncaring woman who had her guard up all the time, it wouldn't matter, would it? 

By living vulnerably, we leave ourselves open to the injury that someone who we trusted can lay at our feet. 

The obvious question, then, is now what? Do I change the frame through which I view the world and the people around me? Do I throw up the barriers, in an attempt to never be hurt again?

I'm not even sure it's possible to insulate ourselves in that way. And I don't think that is an option for me, even today in the midst of my disappointment. 

I accept that people often don't act in their own best interests, and their flailing around means I might get smacked in the face if I stand too close. But I want to experience life running full bore on the field of play, even if it means I get hit once in a while by someone throwing those rocks they find in their backpack. 

In this case, I just expected better.

 We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weather energy.......

What IS it with the men I know and weather? I know, I know....generalizations are unfair. But I'm speaking here from my own personal space on this planet, and that small square of ground has convinced me that men hit the floor in the morning and head directly to one of two places, (well, after the obvious first one, I mean): To the television or to their computer. 

Not to check their email. Nope. Or post their status on Facebook. No way. 

They immediately check that moving multi-colored map that shows the weather conditions in their slice of the world.

"Hey, honey! This radar looks BAD for the next TWO WEEKS! Don't we have a barbeque party scheduled  in about 10 days??"

"Look at all that red and yellow on this map, kids! And it's moving fast. I will be POURING here any minute. I'll call the coach and see if they've cancelled the game!"

OK, I think to myself. You do that. I've got to go grocery shopping, the cat needs food (and THAT is a circumstance I do fear), and the kids need supplies for a school project that was due yesterday and I just found out about it today when I went through one of their backpacks. The weather? You're kidding, right?

Does this weather update mean I get to stay home, snuggle under a comfy blanket while I read the hottest new novel?  Right.

On what planet would that happen, I want to know? Nothing changes in reality. Not a thing. My umbrella is in the car, ready to escort me as I make my way through my day, come rain, sleet, snow, or hail. The mail carrier has nothing on me.

It even happens on the phone, for Pete's sake. I call him to say "hello" in the midst of a busy day. "I was thinking about you. How is your day?" 

"WOW, did you hear about the storm brewing in the Gulf? Bad stuff!" 

Okey, dokey, then.

As I have aged, I gave up paying attention to weather forecasters. Decades ago, actually. It seems that they are one of two brand of professionals who don't even have to be right for people to keep tuning in. Gluttons for punishment that we all seem to be. Plus, if I'm not going to alter my plans based on what they "predict according to the latest models," what's the point? 

So, guys: How about diverting all that "weather energy" to something more useful? Like buying cat food before the cat is hiding behind walls and jumping out to bite our ankles in hunger? Or talking about the latest political polls or what we'll do for the kids' birthday? Something, anything.....except the weather.

What's that you say? You want to know the other category that can be consistently wrong and still keep their jobs? That one is easy. 


 Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while.
                                                                                      Kin Hubbard 


Monday, June 18, 2012

How can I help?

On our way back home after a cruise to Bermuda, we stopped for lunch at one of those eateries hunkered down along interchanges every where. You know the ones. The servers shout their orders to the cook. The one standing two feet away. 

              For the next 30 minutes, we listened to a young woman chatter about her after-work plans, as she stood stationary for long periods of time. Then she and the manager, a woman not much older than this young chatty person, argued about what she was supposed to be doing. All in full view of a captive audience of hungry travelers, including me. The cook was the only male employee present in a crew of about six, and he kept quiet, probably for good reason. 

           The contrast between this group of service folks and the crew on the ship we had just left was stark. We had been catered to and waited on for over a week by a multi-national group of young people who worked together like the gears of an expensive Swiss timepiece. They smiled, they chatted politely with their customers, they anticipated what we might need. And then they provided it. There was no extraneous conversation between them. No complaining about the boss. No wailing about how unfair life is, or what they were planning when they got off duty. We were the center of their universe, at least while they were on the clock.

           José from Haiti made orange juice every morning in the buffet area. This twenty-six year old can’t possibly like orange juice as much as it seemed, but he made all of us want it as soon as our eyes opened every day. We sat at a table nearby, just to watch him greet people as they came by, and soon he was addressing them by name. He said that he chose this job because “Everyone has to work,” and it provided a good income. He hasn’t married yet, because being away from home and family for months at a time is tough, he said. 

           Did you know that when you leave your cabin on a ship, the steward cleans up after you? Every time. Leslie from Trinidad and Tobago was our steward and she agreed with José. She has two children back home and after eight months at sea, she is looking forward to two months off soon. But she is providing for her family.

          The cruise industry ranks high on the list of pastimes for many people, but especially for older people who have amassed the means and time to travel in style. There were over 2000 people on this majestic vessel, and it isn’t even one of the larger ships sailing the seas today. When travelers mark their customer satisfaction surveys, one of the top scores has to rest on the fact that everything is done for you while on board. And it is done efficiently, quietly, and with a smile. 

           Any other service-oriented business could take a lesson. Beginning with that restaurant on I-95.

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.
Walt Disney

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just listen.......

Getting older takes a lot away from us every day. 

Like our keys. Or errant cell phones.

And that word that slips around the corner of our memory banks just when we think we're on the verge of nailing it down, only to have it slither away again.

There are so many things that we can't do (or find) like we used to in "the olden days."  At least our kids don't have to walk to school in the snow like we did, right?

But age gives us things, too.

Like perspective. If nothing else, we have learned that life is complicated and messy. And there is little that we encounter that can be put neatly into a box with a label that never changes. 

Like speaking other languages here in America.

Someone said to me recently that they were offended by a young Latina singer always singing in Spanish. (Go figure.) After all, this person went on to say, isn't this America? Why can't she sing those lyrics in English so we can understand them?

Wow....this could take us into discussions about all kinds of heavy issues, right? Including the one about those outsourced customer service positions being held by young men and women in lands far away who are, well, less than proficient in the language of their customers. And the one about "foreigners" taking American jobs away, even if Americans don't really want them.

Well, it could, but that's not my destination right now. I think that's really a different point, anyway. And those issues are complicated and messy and serious, I grant.

I'm going to a much simpler place here today. I'm talking about music and diversity and knowing how to speak to one another, how to hear one another, even without a common language.

I don't need to know the translation of that Latina's words to "hear" her soul, the one she is pouring out through my radio or IPod or computer screen. I understand her perfectly without cutting and pasting the Spanish lyrics and having my software translate them into English. I routinely listen to another young artist sing arias in Italian, and I don't know a word of that language, either. But the emotion he is bleeding all over the airwaves raises the hair on my arms and brings tears to my eyes just the same. 

A young woman on a social networking site that I am addicted to--yes, THAT one--has introduced me to many new forms of music, most performed in languages I know nothing about. Arabic. Croatian. Portuguese. I am mesmerized. (If you can't find me, this is a hint on where to look. I WILL respond if you IM me.)  And I am grateful to have my perspective of life stretched in this way.

I speak only English, in spite of seven years of French instruction back in the dark ages of my high school and college career. Yes, I am a natural born American who has lived here all my life. But I am not offended by merely hearing another language spoken--or sung--in my presence. In fact, I cherish it, I cherish all of them. They add texture, and color, and brilliance to my perspective of life, every one of them. 

People are more alike than they are different, no matter what language they speak. Or sing. And our hearts have the capability of hearing each other just fine.

All we have to do is listen.

"......words have no meaning - people have meaning."

Larry Baker

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vanity, thy name is......

I wear make-up and earrings when I work out. Well, I did until very recently. The day I left the house naked--in terms of foundation and mascara, I mean--was a day to be circled in bright red on my calendar.

And, at age 63, it only happened within the past year.

I also wouldn't wear a bathing suit once I couldn't camouflage the spread all women inherit around the midsection no matter how much we work out to try to work it off. (And if you think it won't happen to YOU, well, I'm afraid for you as you age.) If I ever discover who we inherited it from, blood will be let, mark my words. And don't even get me started about my hair. Breezes best not blow around me, enough said.

One day, though, I listened to a friend lament the fact that her hair was messed up. Never mind the fact that gale force winds were afoot that day. We all looked like cartoon characters who had just emerged from a wind tunnel, but this woman thought the wind should by-pass her. Just her. She even separated herself from the rest of us in order to protect her hairstyle. Lot of fun SHE was.

But the incident later smacked me in the face as I got ready for my afternoon workout in a roomful of other sweaty people, both men and women. I wasn't checking out THEIR make-up and hair. (I was assessing the fitness of the men in the room, though, if you know what I mean.) We all had shown up in this location because we care about our health, a trait to be admired. Sweaty, wrinkled clothes and all. We come in all shapes and sizes, with unique body shapes and features that have nothing to do with our worth as people.

To hold ourselves accountable for stray hair blown in the breeze, or all those "fine lines and wrinkles" that appear on our faces, or a bit of cellulite as we age, seems to be a tad arrogant, elitist. "YOU look fine at the gym bare-faced, but NOT me, no way, never! I'M special in some way. "

So, today I might put a little color on my cheeks before I go lift a few weights and get my heart rate up on that moving stair thing that kicks my butt, just so I don't scare people. But, in my 64th year, I have come to accept myself on face-value (pun intended) and I also accept everyone around me the same way. We're unique, we're busy, and we just happened to find ourselves in the same place at that particular moment to make sure we stay healthy and fit as we age.

No earrings, though? Give me another decade for that one.

I have been vain since birth. I expected other people to like what I did, although my vanity has definitely diminished over the years.
Wallace Shawn 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cruisin' in May.....

May has proven to be unusual in my quest to accomplish one new adventure each month. As many of you know, I took an 8-day cruise to Bermuda last week, which is a new destination in itself. I've been to several Caribbean islands and a few places in Mexico, but had never ventured that far out into the Atlantic before. I could check that off as my one new thing and sign off until next month, but that wouldn't be any fun, would it?

There was much more, as it turns out:

  • Working out is a big part of my life, and YES....I DID work out on the cruise ship! (As a matter of fact, I came back exactly the same weight as when I left, so I did something right.) But now I can say I did the core fitness routine three times on a wildly rocking ship. After we left port, word began to circulate among the 2200 + passengers that we were skirting a tropical storm, the first of the season. My fitness routine is challenging enough without the floor gyrating under my feet. Plus, I had to match my movements to various styles of music that happened to be playing in the ship's fitness center, everything from techno dance to R & B. (I hope my dance instructor is reading this. He will be amazed.)
  • Did you know a lifeboat is called a "tender" when it's merely moving passengers from the ship to a port-less shore? Me, neither. But Newport, Rhode Island is a beautiful town with no port for huge cruise ships that visit....we had to get to shore somehow, though. Never done that before.
  • Here's another one: The Coast Guard will bring a helicopter over 200 miles out to sea if you have a medical emergency on a ship. God bless them. At least it wasn't me, but we got to watch as they arrived, hovered next to the vessel, and then slid over the pool deck where they hauled an elderly passenger up in a basket. 
 An 8-day cruise offers a floating playground of 24/7 experiences, most of them new to me, neophyte passenger that I am. These are just a few, so stay tuned for future installments. Next time I'll tell you about the 18" bridge, the careening taxi, and the downpour in Boston.

"Ships are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made."

-Robert N. Rose

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Growing a soul........

Remember those car signs that alert drivers around you that there is a "Baby on Board"? I had one when my daughter was a tiny little thing in her car seat. They probably still have them, but I don't see them as often as I used to. Anyway, I think the person who devised that particular product felt that it would proclaim "Precious cargo on board! Be careful around me!" And that's not a bad message.

But my reasoning was different. (Oh, great surprise, right?) Here's what I was thinking when I affixed that plastic suction cup to my back window: When I go around corners slower than you think I should, give me a little slack, OK? The kid is sleeping in her seat (she always fell asleep as soon as we backed out of the driveway) and I don't want her head to flop from side to side when I turn corners.

I thought about that sign last night as we tried to find our way to a hotel in a strange city. In my six decades (plus a few years), I have accrued many experiences in a plethora of driving a baby around a huge urban area in a moving container of flammable material, wishing that the guy behind me would be a bit more patient  as I tried to protect the most precious thing in the world to me. 

All of this life experience has given me lot more empathy for what might be happening to those around ME. Maybe that grouchy person in line in front of me lost her job yesterday. The distracted neighbor who normally speaks to me might have had a disagreement with his partner before leaving the house. Or the car in front of me who appears to be a little lost in the dark might be from out of town.

Last night the disembodied voice in the GPS took a coffee break just when we needed him most to get us to our hotel in a city 14 hours from home. It would be nice if the local folks driving behind and around us would take note of the out of state license tag and the tentative way the car was manuevering from lane to lane looking for the big green hotel sign. But no such luck. They wanted us out of the way, NOW! I guess people in unknown settings don't get any such breaks.

Experience is a great thing if it helps us move through life in a kinder, gentler way. Without getting run over ourselves.

“Life is just a chance to grow a soul.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A few golden threads.....

Friendship is a funny thing. Take it from a former military brat who tried desperately to keep in touch with people as we moved from base to base, duty station to duty station, town to town. The primary lesson I took away from all of that angst was expressed in the old axiom of "Out of sight, out of mind."

The longest I had ever lived anywhere was during my tenure at Florida State University, back in the dark ages. That was when I couldn't leave the dorm without a skirt on. Yes, for real. We even poured tea from a silver tea service on Fridays in the dorm parlor, the dorm mother (I think that's what she was called, it's hard to remember past all the intervening years) overseeing our education as young women of that time.

I lived in Reynolds Hall, a dorm that sat perched on a hill. It had a peculiar bottom floor, with only about 10 rooms stretching down a short hallway with a communal bathroom at the end. Yes, we all showered together back in the age of dinosaurs. Twenty teenaged girls (no such thing as coed dorms back then, either, and I must say, thank goodness) showed up our freshman year with our steamer trunks and other assorted valuables from home, and met our roommates for the first time.

To say we had fun would be a gross understatement. Even for a bunch of girls who were definitely not wild women, we managed to have a great time. Many of us stuck together throughout the four years of our experience in a collegial setting, even when we moved off campus our senior year. Those years meant a lot to me, the military kid who had never had a friend longer than about a year.

My college roommate and I got together this past weekend, our men in tow. It's strange....and the decades slip away when the ties are long. We lost touch over the years, then reconnected, and now have plans to bring some others from those college days back into the fold. 

A few weeks ago I traveled to visit another one of those folks who hold a connection with me, someone of newer vintage in the scheme of friendships, but that tie between us is just as valuable. And just as strong. We ate, we laughed, we caught up on our lives in the precious hours we spent together. The distance in both miles and years fell away as the sun moved across the Florida sky. As I got ready to leave in the heat of the late afternoon, we vowed not to let the distance devour any more time in the future. 

Maybe some of those lost connections from my childhood would have lasted. I don't know. I wish there had been more of them, but in the end, we need only a few golden threads running throughout our lives that we can cherish forever.

Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything. Muhammad Ali