Saturday, December 31, 2016

“Gotta Have Faith”

In 2016, we were all sad to see so many iconic figures leave this world…reminding us all that as young as we feel, we all share the same human affliction of mortality.

And as the last days of 2016 have come to a close, we’ve all kind of held our breath…after having heard, almost daily, of more losses.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s kind of silly to take a celebrity death so seriously.  But I’m not sure that’s what’s really even happening.  For me, I think it has more to do with what they represent.  When you hear of 50 something and 60 something people “passing away” suddenly, it gives you pause.  You start to think about your own mortality, and feel sad to see so much of what made up your own history and coming of age moments…well, leave us behind.  It’s way more exciting to be reading about a come back tour as a headline…and we won’t see one now for the Eagles or David Bowie.

It doesn’t get any more epic for me than Star Wars to freeze a moment from my childhood.  And thinking about one of the first modern day damsels in distress turned heroine in disguise…well yeah, it makes me sad to know the person, who played the character has died.  Carrie Fisher was a champion for many things in real life, well beyond her reign as Princess Leia.

I can still remember my Sony “boom box,” sitting on top of the white split rail fencing that encircled my grandparents’ yard on the farm…where I would indulge in my own fantasy world of “Footloose,” only I was bopping to “When Doves Cry” or “Jesse’s Girl” (afraid to say that out loud…Rick’s still with us, right?).  And David Bowie, on MTV, looking strange and exotic…unique, intriguing and terrifying all at once…with that unmistakable and incredibly sultry voice…with songs like “Let’s Dance,” and “Under Pressure” (awesome mix with Queen; Freddie Mercury, another gone too soon)  And my personal favorite, “Space Oddity”…only I had to look that up because I always thought it was called “Major Tom…”  And then the real life hero, John Glenn, who made history well beyond our own lifetimes, with the claim to fame as having been the first American to orbit Earth…and then went back in space at 77!  That’s freaking amazing.  Godspeed to you, Mr. Glenn.

“I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do”

They say nothing makes us remember like a familiar song.  Somehow, losing these familiar melodies in our lives brings a little tinge of melancholy to our own glory days (Bruce…still with us, right?). 

Eagles lead singer, Glen Frey, another loss in 2016…transcends decades of fans and too many hit songs to pick just one (though Hotel California is the first that comes to mind).  And funniest memory would be the reunion tour for this band, dubbing their album “Hell Freezes Over” (1994), because that’s when they collectively said what would have to happen for them to reunite…but staying relevant has a way of changing our minds, right?

And Gene Wilder…what an awesome talent.  From Young Frankenstein to Willy Wonka (the real Willy Wonka…sorry Depp man, but I wasn’t a fan of the remake)…amazing actor, who knew how to make people laugh out loud (long before LOL shorthand we use in texting).        

Behind the scenes was no less tragic, as we said goodbye to Gary Marshall, who was responsible for the best Tuesday night line up ever…Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Three’s Company (1978).  Marshall was the creator of both Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.  And the spinoff from Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, was a great show on Thursday nights (we are still mourning the great loss of Robin Williams in 2014).

So, how do we make sense of it all?  I think we just gotta have “Faith” … (RIP George Michael).

Thanks to all the bigger than life people, who we never met, but whom left a lasting impression in our rear view mirror. 

Interesting personal observation:  Country music has secured top ranking in my Itunes playlist (though I also have a 1980s playlist that has most of what I grew up on). 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Life in Simplest of Terms...With a Tint of Rose

Loving Life Exactly as it Comes
I never gave much thought to the old song by The Byrds, “Turn, turn, turn…to everything there is a season….a time to every purpose, under heaven.”  It’s an adaptation from a biblical verse in Ecclesiastes, which talks about there being a season for everything.   Always liked the tune, but seldom gave it a second thought.

But as I look back on 2016 and my own changing seasons, I see a lot of truth in the words to this song.  For me personally, it was a time of great learning and growth…sometimes fed by a hunger and passion to do and know more…and still other times in a way I felt was a bit of kicking and screaming, reluctant to accept new realizations and make room for growth within myself. 

And in thinking of those simple seasons, I am reminded of the garden I grew over the summer…a hodge podge of vegetables and fruit…and how it helped me to come to appreciate life in its simplest of terms.

As I have adopted this new lens for living, I am reminded of a very special person from my childhood.  It is actually my mom’s best friend and I have always considered her to be like a second mom to me.  She is the most optimistic and happy person I have ever met, and lives life through the lens of the proverbial rose-colored glasses. 

For over three decades, in every card or note she sends, she always signs it, “I love you, Mary Girl.”  I don’t know why, but that sweet endearment always gives me a warm feeling inside and though its been at least ten years since I have seen her, I feel loved and feel certain that if I were to see her again, it would be as if no time had passed at all.

She is now in her 70s and has never had a driver’s license.  She found that her two feet always took her wherever she needed to go, and she always enjoyed the journey along the way.  She could turn the simplest of meals into the most elegant affair, simply by pouring apple juice over ice into a couple of wine glasses.  She would create an intimate atmosphere and talk aloud of how we would make a dinner and I would hang on her every word…waiting to hear how we were going to finish off the meal with fresh strawberries and shortcake. 

Her mood and attitude was infectious and I loved spending time with her.  She took pleasure in her own garden, a garden full of plump red tomatoes growing from potted plants on her small patio and front porch.  Each evening, as she sprayed her sidewalk down with the hose, she would seem to become lost in a daydream, with a faraway look in her eyes.   Looking back, I think it was just a true and genuine feeling of contentment for every single thing in her life.  She is the kind of person, who treasures every second and never wastes a minute.

And while I have appreciated that unique perspective, I never really saw myself as the kind of person, who had the knack for turning everything into a positive. 

But in recent years, and in facing a few challenges and struggles, I think maybe her early influence in my life rubbed off when I wasn’t looking.  In most of my writing and in nearly every situation, I seem to take on a Mary Poppins-like approach.  Even in my darkest moments, I’m still making sugar cookies out of whatever ingredients life hands me.  And remembering how she always saw things as a positive or as a sign that the path forward was not meant to be.

I used to laugh when I would see the snapshots she would send to me of her garden, flowers, and vegetables…all carefully and reverently posed on a counter or in a basket, with a note written on the back about where she grew them, how they tasted, and who she was with.

Well I’m here to tell you that she was a woman of vision and innovation…and if Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram had been a “thing” years ago, she’d be a media maven to be reckoned with.  Because while many of us live our moments online, one tweet or post at a time, this sweet lady has been living and breathing … taking it all in for her own personal enjoyment, sometimes sharing it with her close knit family and friends…since there was film that had to be mailed away to be developed and printed.

So when I think about my own sharing this past year…through I-phone pictures and via Facebook, Blogger, and Instagram, I have to smile at the thought that perhaps I was a late blooming protégé for this wonderful and inspirational woman.

See more here 

I now see my life in the simplest and most rewarding terms of measure …my life is a garden, subject to those changing seasons we all go through.

And in 2016, there has been a time to weep, heal, break down, and most importantly, a time for peace. 

And to my dear friend, Gail…thank you for teaching me how to make every moment in life special…with wine glasses, candles, and rose colored glasses!   May happiness and positive momentum follow us all in 2017.  And may that special lens help adjust the view for times less stellar as we all move through all the seasons of life.

Your Mary-Girl
Taken from my Christmas letter this year...

Lyrics to “Turn, Turn, Turn”

Friday, December 16, 2016

Life on the Ropes

(First published 12/2015)

One of the many benefits of living and stretching out experiences over a lifetime is that you learn to take the good with the bad.  After a few false starts and dips that feel like a permanent condition, you learn that you never completely fall down and even if you do, you get back up.  For around each of us is an invisible rope, releasing slack when we dip into a valley...then suddenly springing us back up and forward as we recover and continue to grow.

I used to worry about worse case scenarios and speculate about what I could and could not deal with.  Turns out, over time, numerous worse case scenarios inevitably became a reality.  Risk aversion just wasn’t a viable choice for day-to-day living and so some of those terrible things I thought I could never handle actually came to pass and I realized that I was more resilient than I gave myself credit for.  I’ve experienced divorce, the death of a parent, close friends…and many other disappointments that although may have given me pause, did not keep me down for very long. 

It’s funny how our risk taking behaviors are flexible and stretch wide in our youth…yet after a few scrapes and scars, we begin to pull in some of the slack as we get older.  We pause to check our surroundings, how far we’ve climbed…or fell…and consider how far we have left yet to go…where we’re still willing to go and equally important, if and when we reach a place we’re comfortable resting at. 

I remember the first time I went repelling off a cliff.  I was around 30.  I seized the moment (okay maybe with shaky hands clinging tightly to a rope as I was strapped in and tried to quiet a slight twitch from my left leg and settle into a comfortable stance).  I had a lot riding on that decision as I stood on that rock overlooking a very beautiful and scenic Red River Gorge.  My oldest son (then around five years old) was looking on to see what I would do.  There I was…his mom, who always told him to embrace more, dream big, and live life to the fullest.  Clearly, backing out was not an option.  This was one of those great big life moments I’d remember forever.  And I was going to share the lesson even if it killed me in the process.

Two things stand out clearly in my mind from that day.  First, leaning backward off a cliff is not a natural feeling.  In fact, a healthy fear tells us to walk carefully and stay away from the edge (heck, not turn away from it and walk backwards toward thin air and a deep plunge).  Second, you have to have complete faith in that person at the bottom serving as your belay.  Because the feeling of absolute terror just before your first kick off the top rock can be an adrenaline rush or an absolute nightmare, depending on your penchant for adventure.  Personally, I’ve never been a big risk taker.  In fact, I still worry a lot.  About things that could happen, that have happened, and that may never happen.  And I’m okay with that.  It just happens to be who I am.  But if I let it keep me from jumping off cliffs and into new adventures, that would be a problem for me.  So I challenge myself every day to do things that make me nervous.  Because I’ve lived long enough to know that anticipation and dread can be confused with each other.  I find that I always feel grateful for having committed to and having followed through with something that challenged me to do more than I was comfortable with.   And yes, there is a lot of fear and angst along the way leading up to whatever “said epic event” happens to be.  We all have our own dinosaurs to conquer.

And quite recently, at a time in my life when absolutely everything has been changing, I find myself re-assessing that line…and surprisingly, feeling the urge to loosen up the rope.  Instead of cautiously looking over a cliff, I’m kicking backward off the highest rock, with the confidence of a lifetime reassuring me that I may well plunge to the bottom… and it will be way scarier than I ever imagined, and I’ll probably regret it about halfway down…but most importantly, I will still somehow get back up and live to climb another day.  And the tautness of my rope will depend on my natural born grit and intuitive gut that only comes from living a life in forward motion and without apology.  And some trustworthy belays along the way!  

Still Following the Path of the Dinosaurs #followdinopath