opinion · writing

Change is good…

… and other annoying cliches I take issue with.

To say that my fiftieth year has brought about changes in my life would be an under-statement of laughable proportions. About a year ago I formulated a wild list of goals to complete before the big 5-0 date. I’m still making progress on it, but I didn’t factor in some of the variables. Some of the items don’t really mean the same to me now. Some things happened that made a few goals much more important. So I’m being flexible and open-minded.

Which all sounds reasonable except the dichotomy of being flexible and fifty is adorably NOT reasonable.

I suppose most of us have complained about change being decidedly unwelcome at times in our lives. Books like “Who Moved My Cheese?” deal specifically with our innate aversion to change.

I once had a friend who told me I wasn’t satisfied with changing one thing, but that I had to “blow up the whole damn picture.” (I’m sure it was a compliment, but I won’t over-think that.) I admit that when I embark on a new adventure — a move, a new business, a family — I tend to go big. Whole damn picture big.

Case in point: When I moved back to Colorado, I chose a town where I knew no one but the woman who sold me my house. (Of course, her husband happened to be the mayor so that helped.) Although I had no job or contacts or experience, when I saw a small, empty space available I decided to open an art gallery within 6 weeks. When my biological clock went off, I didn’t get another cat, I adopted a real live baby. Solo.

I hit the mid-century landmark with a bright eye to the future, but maybe less willingness to move my cheese — mainly out of fear I’ll forget where I put it, but that’s another post. My post-gallery job has expanded and evolved in the last year, allowing me to become a stronger writer and a more creative designer. It’s fun and it’s also relaxing. There is stress, but it was rewarded with several press awards earlier this year.

Change brings opportunity. – Nido Qubein

Then I was given a new computer. It’s a PC and I’m a Mac person. Let’s just say the muttered profanity coming out of my office lately is some of my best work.

Change is such hard work. – Billy Crystal

I’m in the first relationship I’ve been in for a dozen years, and it’s awesome! Well, except for the part where he folds towels differently than I do and I have to shave my legs more than three times a year, but I’ll get used to that, right?

In the past year my ‘baby girl’ — who is still in elementary school — shot up four inches, 20 pounds, and has decided to try on the sullen, moody, irrational teenager persona for size. I may be adding ‘collect military school brochures’ to next year’s list of goals.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou

There are numerous other little – and big – changes going on in my life right now and I’d like to know how to pace them, slow them down a little so I can better plan my tantrums in between each one. Maybe there’s a 12-step program for those of us unable (or unwilling) to cope with change. If so, there’s already a perfect quote on hand…

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

What about you? Do you go-with-the-flow when life throws you curves, or cross your arms and pout until it sinks in there’s not a damn thing you can do about it?

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Berthoud Weekly Surveyor · kids · opinion

Mid-century defiance

Reprinted with permission from the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor

I recently passed that dreaded mid-century milestone, and once I finished crying over the AARP application I received in the mail, I realized that 50 isn’t quite what it used to be. Neither is 40, 60, 70 and so on, for that matter.

It’s not just my fresh perspective on the matter; the numbers back it up. In 1910 the average life expectancy in the United States didn’t go much past 50. It jumped to 70 by the time I was born 50 years ago and the current number, according to worldlifeexpectancy.com, is 78.2. Wow. Maybe 50 really is the new 30.

If you take the cold data out of the equation, there are examples of 50, then and now, abounding — in my life and the world around us. When my own mother turned 50 she was living in a retirement park in Southern California with her husband. Although they were considered “the kids” in the neighborhood, the thought of myself in that situation is, well, unthinkable.

Instead of golf and hip replacements, I’m busy with my fourth-grade daughter and retirement is a fairy tale. Later motherhood is just one facet of the new 50. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) verifies a noticeable increase in births after 40. Whether it’s career, later marriage, or an altered biological clock, the reasons are irrelevant.

The fact is I’m definitely not the only mom rocking gray hair at the school pick-up line.

That’s another perk of being 50 today — many of us have forsaken the ritual dying of the gray. My hairdresser confirmed (sadly) that much of her clientele has decided to embrace the silver in recent years. But even with the gray it’s harder to tell how old anyone is. Colorado’s active, healthy seniors look great no matter how many laugh lines and gray streaks they sport.

Our brains are younger too, by the way. U.S. Department of Education statistics from 2010 showed that 25 percent of college students in this country are over the age of 30, and a good chunk of them are even older. Mature students seek the mental stimulation and are more committed to academic success (probably because we’re paying for it ourselves) and, like the current generation, enjoy reinventing ourselves every few years.

Sure, part of it is out of necessity. The recession and subsequent job loss has forced many people of all ages to rethink their career choice or up their educational value to stay competitive in the field. But it’s also made us more creative. Instead of swallowing a bottle of Geritol in the face of losing their job to a 22-year-old, more seniors are starting their own businesses or capitalizing on their years of experience by offering consulting services.

Let’s face it, the new 50 — or 60 or 70 — does not mean retirement age anymore. I couldn’t even find the word “retired” in the definition of AARP on their website. If this is the new 30 and the average life expectancy continues to rise, then people won’t be whiling away their days in a rocking chair until they’re edging toward the century mark.

Although putting my feet up and reminiscing sounds lovely right now, I’m afraid it will have to wait until after I meet today’s deadline at work and take my kid to her play date and happy hour with the girls and …

I guess I’m too busy having fun to get old.

opinion · writing

Stormy seas and leaky lifeboats

I am, fortunately, many miles away from the states affected by Hurricane Irene’s angry path this weekend, but that geographical blessing didn’t stop me from riding my own waves of stress and emotion. I’m feeling kind of beached right now and like any self-respecting exhausted whale, I thought I should share.

Two years ago I probably hadn’t even heard of Twitter and I rarely visited Facebook. Fast forward to this week and I’m wringing my hands and losing sleep over people I’ve never met, yet care about in ways I can’t adequately explain. The Internet has created a universal connectedness that has become a blessing and a curse.

Two years ago I would have watched the news with concerned detachment, grateful for the lack of extreme weather in my neck of the woods. Today, my thumbs were poised over my magic phone, waiting for news of everyone’s safe travels through the eye of the storm. The feelings of worry and helplessness made more acute when one friend lost her house, while another couldn’t find out if her horses were okay.

In the twitterverse we call the people we have lunch with, work with, hang out with – RL (real life) friends – but it’s ridiculous to relegate the people I know in Virginia, Maryland and New York that I’ve come to love, as ‘not real.’ The anxiety I felt for them this weekend was all too tangible.

And then a storm of emotions hit closer to home.

My rare venture into Facebook territory last week told me a friend would be delivering the sermon at her church on Sunday. I awoke yesterday morning exhausted from my annual, virtually non-profit garage sale, but determined to go see her. I met this friend years ago as we both worked to build fledgling businesses while navigating the seas of motherhood. (I only have one kid; she has four. I’ll shut up now.)

A couple of years later she informs me of her grim Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis and I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with this picture. Fast forward again, three years later, to this Sunday morning and I was riveted to her eloquent words on fear and love.

I already knew she was an amazing writer and genuinely kick-ass human being, but her ability to make the bible real and accessible to a cranky bitch like me was a gift.

My heart swelled for her.

Before I could rest in the calm waters of my friend’s health and wisdom, I had another visit to make. I dropped in at a nearby business to celebrate the owner’s retirement. This woman not only helped inspire my art gallery adventures six years ago, but her influence on my town is inestimable.

As I offered my warm thanks and congratulations it became painfully clear she didn’t recognize me. The reason for her retirement was evident.

My heart broke for her.

Whether it’s Mother Nature’s wrath or some senseless disease, we all know how unfair life can be. I don’t have enough room for the clichés and you’d probably think of ten more anyway. But life is also pretty wonderful. So I’m going to swim in this glass of wine and feel particularly grateful for my blessings – health, family, safety and more.

They’re so easy to take for granted. Let’s all make a pact not to let that happen, okay?

Berthoud Weekly Surveyor · The Family Business · writing

Contentment comes quietly

Some days the bliss arrives unexpectedly and by the simplest means of transportation. Today is like that. My house is still a scary mess, my kid still won’t listen to me or help dry the dishes after telling her 14 times, and I’m still not sure how I’m paying the mortgage this week.

And yet I just did a systems check and found that they are all ‘Go’ and the atmosphere is relaxed with a forecast of hope. Amazing. How did this happen, and more importantly how long will it last?

Work is good right now. I’m busy on our current project and it’s even feeding my creativity which isn’t always possible at a newspaper. You’re constantly reminded that your brilliance – whether it’s a well-written story or eye-catching ad – is bound for the recycle bin within days of its culmination. But I enjoy my job and my boss gave me a big hug on Thursday to let me know she enjoys me too. Bliss.

It’s been a great summer break for my daughter due to a set schedule of family and activities. She needs that structure – hell, we both do. She’s discovered a passion for horses and her toy versions have opened up a social life for her at summer care. Girls and horses: you can’t go wrong. Bliss.

But as school approaches faster than I would have believed, I wanted her to work on some writing skills. Reading I’m not worried about, she’s as bad as I am. So I challenged her with a reward if she writes a page in her notebook journal each day until school begins in a few weeks. By the next day she had several pages of an exciting story where wild horses are captured. Granted, it’s one long, red-ink, run-on sentence and the word captured is spelled differently each time it appears, but SHE’S WRITING! Bliss.

There are other little things like my online community of friends, or as I like to think of it, the coolest damn quilting bee (minus the quilt) ever. The conversation was flowing last night like a rich, red zin among women who ‘get’ me and each other. One of them even thanked me this week for supporting her writing, while another read my fanfic story and reviewed it so enthusiastically I got a little choked up. Bliss.

The birth of this little guy at the Virginia Zoo this week only added to my bliss. I looooove giraffes!

So it’s a hot Saturday afternoon and I just finished the dishes, accompanied by all my favorite songs on my iPod. There may or may not have been wild, carefree dancing involved. The kid still won’t help, there’s still no extra money floating around for luxuries like water and electricity, and I just read that the Republicans and Democrats still won’t work together (assholes), and yet…

Bliss.

If I was a character in one of my own stories and I was this obliviously content, I’d probably walk out the door and get hit by a bus or taken out by a sniper.

Taking a deep breath, the character decides to risk it in search of more bliss. Reaches for door knob.

Go find yours today. It’s probably closer than you think.