The Long And Winding Tale Of Ice, A Stuffy, And The Beauty Of Getting Older And Wiser

Happy corgi

I took the puppy on his morning walk earlier today while it was snowing. He loves the snow. Loves it. Actually, love might be an understatement. He and his short legs hop through it like a casual rabbit inspecting a yard. He buries his face in it and comes up with his black, button nose covered in white. He flattens himself out into the corgi sploot, the spotted paw pads on his back feet facing the sky, and pulls himself along on his belly as if he is his own sled. His joy in the snow is contagious. And so I love walking him, especially when the snow is still falling and I can revel in his exuberance and the beauty of Mother Nature’s the-sky-is-falling impression.

The snow was powdery and low in moisture. It was so cold that my boots squeaked as I stepped through the snow. About two inches had fallen by the time I got home from carpool and got suited up in my Sorels and my waterproof ski jacket. As we rounded the corner onto the path that runs behind the houses on our side of the street, I noticed an area ahead where it looked like a dog might have rolled around trying to leave a doggy snow angel. When I got closer, though, I noticed there were no dog tracks. Odd, I thought, as I continued on. Next thing I knew my right foot slipped and, before I had the opportunity to save myself, I landed hard on my right side, my elbow and wrist bearing the brunt of the fall. I sat there on the ground a bit dazed for a few moments, and then I noticed there was pain in my shoulder too. Nice. Loki looked at me impatiently. You gonna sit in the snow all day, lady? I have sniffs to get, and we’re not getting any younger. At least now I knew why there had been that impression in the snow. It wasn’t a dog that had rolled but another person who, like me, took a digger. Too bad I hadn’t Sherlock Holmes-ed my way to that conclusion before I discovered there was ice under that snow.

I finished the walk by hobbling along on any grass I could find, hoping to avoid another fall. I made it home without another incident and began packing for my evening flight. Luke and I are flying to Portland for one last college visit. He was accepted into Reed College, but we weren’t able to do an in-person visit there before now because of the school’s Covid restrictions. When they sent Luke his acceptance letter, though, with a copy of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it felt like Reed might just be a good fit for our fearless reader. So we are on our way to spend a couple hours with a student and see if this is his place.

At any rate, after my fall earlier and in anticipation of developing bruises and pain from my Ice Capades, I decided it might be prudent to add a heat pack to my bag. So I tossed in this eucalyptus-and-peppermint-scented neck wrap I bought off Etsy last year from the Flax of Life shop. The hotel room has a microwave, so I figured better safe than sorry. Getting older can be a bit of a bummer.

The snow stopped in time for our drive to the airport, and with a gorgeous sunset to our west over the Rockies I was feeling pretty confident about our trip. We got a spot in the garage and headed straight for the Clear queue at security. After I did my chalk outline impression in the millimeter wave scanning machine thing, I went to grab my carry on roller bag and noticed it was set off to the side. Well, crap. A TSA employee grabbed the bag and opened it up. She unzipped the portion where the heating pad was and took it out to test it for explosives, I guess, and as she did the stuffed dog I sleep with nightly fell out onto the inspection table. Of course it did. I stared at Elliott (that is his name) on that cold metal table and felt bad that he had been so unceremoniously outed. The residue test on my Etsy purchase came back negative for whatever nefarious crap they were testing it for, so she put it and my dear stuffy back into my bag. No harm, no foul. We were on our way.

There is a beautiful thing about getting older. Eventually you learn not to care. I mean, you still care about the important things, like your family and friends and the health of the planet and maybe the date the next season of Ted Lasso hits Apple TV. But you stop caring about little things you finally understand don’t matter at all and aren’t worth your brain power. I don’t care if the entire TSA line saw my stuffy sitting there (although Elliott might have words for me about it later). I don’t care if I had a heating pad in my bag for an injury I sustained while trying to walk and failing. I don’t care if any of the neighbors saw my less than graceful wipeout. What I do care about anymore is only what my circle of concerns contains. And it definitely does not contain any dignified concern about being exposed as a 53 year old who travels with a stuffed dog.

A friend was telling me today that she is sick of people on hiking web sites complaining about rock piles. I had to ask for clarification about this, but apparently people who are nature purists get quite bent about the rock cairns other people create to help mark a trail. These people feels this is an aberration in the whole “leave no trace” movement. All I have to say about these people is that they haven’t become wise with age. Because if you are lucky, as you age you learn not to give a flying figlet about things that don’t really matter. If you’re lucky, you get old enough to realize that you can only be shamed when your stuffed dog falls onto a TSA table if you decide to give that shaming power to someone else. You learn that there are only so many hours in a day, so righteous indignation about rock cairns might not be the best use of your precious time. You learn not to focus on small things you can’t control (an undignified, painful fall on some hidden ice) and only to focus on what you can control (putting a heating pad in your carry on bag). You learn to say “bless his heart” when an idiot in a lifted truck with truck nuts speeds around you and then cuts you off. You learn to let go.

Life is short. Walk the dog. Fall on ice. Take a trip. Enjoy the relief of a heating pad. Overlook the rock piles. And for holy hell’s sake, stop worrying so damn much. Everything will be fine.

Loki says “Don’t worry, be happy…like me”

What Does It Mean When “The Shrink Next Door” Feels A Bit Familiar

Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash

I’ve been watching The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV. It’s based on a true story about a New York psychiatrist who manipulates and then steals from his patients. What makes the telling of this story even more bizarre is that the horrible shrink is portrayed by Paul Rudd and the pushover he manipulates is portrayed by Will Ferrell. It’s a testament to Paul Rudd’s acting skills that he manages to lose all his charisma as People Magazine‘s Sexiest Man Alive to play a first class, narcissistic, social climbing asshole. And Will Ferrell shrivels his 6’3″ frame to become a meek and mousy shell of a man who is easy prey for his gold-digging shrink. Don’t expect any of the usual upbeat and hysterical nonsense from Rudd or Ferrell in this show. It’s serious as a heart attack.

When I started watching, I was drawn in by the train wreck, watching a poor schmuck fall deeper and deeper into the traps the “doctor” set for him. He loses everything as the doctor gaslights him into ditching family members, breaking up with girlfriends, renovating his family home, cutting down a cherished tree, and even creating a foundation that the doctor steals from. As I continued watching I became fascinated by the pathos of it all. For some people, the show might feel like schadenfreude. But I related to Marty, so his misfortune and missteps felt personal. I spent years of my life letting other people tell me what was best for me, going against my own wishes and intuition to make choices others presented as the right ones for me. So I have empathy for Marty. I don’t see him as a loser who was too stupid to see what was happening to him. I see him as a sweet (if naive) person who needed some confidence and help and was bamboozled by the person he trusted.

In the end, Marty does break free from Dr. Ike. Eventually he even manages to have Ike stripped of his license. We learn in the last episode of the show that Marty paid the doctor 3.2 million dollars for his services over their nearly 30 year relationship. It’s mind blowing. But at the end of it all, though, what I wanted more for Marty than punishment for the jerk who bilked him was peace. I just wanted Marty to figure it out and take his life back, and he did. I think that is the best ending any of us can ask for in this life. That one day we are able to see ourselves for who we are, treasure our best, and be willing to work on our worst so we can leave this world knowing we were awake. And that is why I am still in weekly therapy.

It’s okay, though. My therapist is way more professional and ethical than Dr. Ike.

The Paralysis Inherent In Potential

Flashback to the day my son considered the possibility he could beat some other competitors

I have been ruminating quite a bit lately about what I want for myself and my life going forward. Our youngest will launch this fall, which means my day job as stay-at-home parent will be coming to an end. I have no plans to take on a full-time job, so the stay-at-home part will remain. I will, however, be doing a lot less parenting: less driving, fewer appointments, fewer obligations. All of this is good news. We’re so excited for Luke and his journey, and I am excited to have a little space in my life, time to focus on my own journey.

Figuring out what direction I want that journey to head has been a bit daunting. I’m in an enviable position. I am (or will be this fall) in the possession of both time and means to make choices and changes in my life. This is within reason, of course. I still have a husband and a home and life obligations. My sons will still want input and help from time to time. We have means, but we are not millionaires. While there are some funds for some small, down-to-earth projects (like self-publishing a memoir or book, for example), I will not be able to charter a yacht and sail the globe. Still, even with the modest detractors, there is a fair amount of freedom here for me to tap into potential growth enterprises.

During therapy today, though, I hit upon something I think has been holding me back, and that is the word “potential.” When I think about potential, I think of phrases like “reaching your full potential” or “limiting your potential.” So potential is something that can be squandered, lost, abandoned. It is something you can strive for and miss. As a parent, when I consider my sons’ gifts, I am lulled into wanting them to use them to their greatest potential. But what kind of stress does that put on them? When people say to me, “You should use your writing skills to write a book,” I experience potential paralysis. Because the potential is there for me to do it, I worry that I might fail at it or, worse, I might be so fearful of the potential for failure that I decide not to attempt it at all. Potential, without the self-esteem or confidence in one’s own abilities or the sheer bravado to rise above any obstacle, can freeze you in your tracks.

So, I decided today to eliminate the term “potential” from my vocabulary because it is too much for me at this point. I have decided to replace the notion of potential with the notion of possibility. Possibility is positive. If you are planning a day at the beach on Friday and the meteorologist says there is a potential for rain that day, you might reschedule your plans based on a desire to avoid a ruined day. But if that meteorologist says there is a possibility of rain that day, it sounds like it could go either way, like you might catch a break and the day will be mostly sunny or have only a slight chance for rain. Possibility contains hope. Potential contains burden or weight. Or at least that is how it feels in my mind.

Let’s take my focus on creating a writing career for myself as an example. If I look at this goal as something I have to do so I don’t squander my potential or all the hard work I’ve done working on my writing skills, including earning a master’s degree in writing, the burden to turn out something impressive to others is set in motion. But what if I focus instead on the possibilities available to me if I pursue my writing with a more focused agenda? If I acknowledge there is a possibility I could, with greater dedication to my craft, create a highly trafficked blog site or pen an enjoyable memoir, I am free from the burden of obligation. I am simply moving confidently in the direction of my dreams, unencumbered by expectation. Possibility (I could) takes the place of potential (I should).

I suppose it all depends where you are coming from. If you were fortunate enough to be raised by loving, supportive parents who cherished you unconditionally, then potential might not feel like a scary term to you. Perhaps your parents raised you to believe in the power of your potential and that is a guiding force leading you towards success. If you were, however, raised as I was without acknowledgment or attention paid to your skills and abilities, you might not have enough belief in yourself yet to champion your potential. You might only be able to muster the courage to believe you could possibly achieve your dreams. Deciding you have many possible paths might feel as empowering to you as believing you have high potential to be successful because of your skills.

What motivates you more? The power of your potential or the pull of your possibility?

A Table With An Extra Leaf

Me and Thing One

We dropped Thing One at the airport again this morning for his flight back to Walla Walla. He has been in college a year now and, overall, these comings and goings have become easier for me. Not because I don’t miss him but because he has proven himself more than up to the task and I have seen that life without him after 20 years with him is okay. I am okay. My time as Mom isn’t over but the role has shifted. Joe still needs me often enough, but he’s also on his own a lot more. So we dropped him at the curb with his bags and drove off without incident. No tears. Everything was copacetic.

Everything was fine when we got home too. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. It was the easiest drop off yet. Yay, me! I got to work on life around the house, laundry, vacuuming. Then I got to the kitchen table. I removed the placements, wiped it off, and went to take the fifth chair away. That is when I got sad and teary eyed. I put the fifth chair back at the dining table where it lives and then set about taking the extra leaf out of the kitchen table and returning it to its usual 4-person size. I stood there for a minute overwhelmed over the loss of that extra seat.

A little later after I thought I had moved on again and pulled myself together, I put on a hoodie Joe left behind for me. It smelled like him. I got teary eyed again.

Letting go is a process, one I have to keep reminding myself about over and over. I know I will never stop missing Joe or being sad when he leaves, but it will become part of our new relationship contract. I told him today that I was a little sad about the table. And then I told him that it is all okay because I love him with my whole heart and I am happy that he is off pursuing his own life, but I will always miss him when he leaves. Then I told him that someday he will miss me when I leave and that is life. He told me we’d best not talk about that ever again.

Relationships aren’t easy, but they are worthwhile. And I will always have a table with an extra leaf for those times when the important people pop back into my life. Until then, there’s this little guy who is here for me.

The son I got to replace the son who sent to college. I will have to get another when Thing Two goes to college. And I am really glad I didn’t have more children because I can only handle two dogs.

My Life As A Stock Photo Model

A few months before we went to Hawaii, I mentioned to my husband that it might be a great opportunity to have some family portraits taken. So, I did some research to find us a photographer. The one I tried to book was already spoken for, so she pointed us towards another woman and we booked a thirty minute photo session with her. We ended up taking the photos right at the house where we were staying, which was perfect. At any rate, the photographer took all sorts of different poses with different groups of us. And when we received the photos today, we were happy to discover that we did all actually clean up well and take some lovely photos.

We took some more traditional, look-at-the-camera-and-smile photos, and then she said she wanted to take some candids. She asked us to look at each other and pretend like we were having funny conversations. So, we did. And this is when I discovered my true calling.

I could be a fake model. I am really good at tossing my head back and laughing as if someone just said something really funny. Now that I’ve told you about my skill, though, try to forget it when you tell me a joke.

True Love Is Not Blind Despite What They Say

The people I love the most

Love is blind. I know we have all heard that platitude a million times, but for some reason today it didn’t sit right with me when I heard it in a song. This, I assume, is because I am growing as a person and seeing life through a different lens. I used to think that phrase meant that when you love someone you are blind to their faults. Maybe that part is true when you are first falling for someone in a romantic way, but I don’t think it’s true once you are fully committed to a person or in relationships that are not romantic in nature, like with siblings or children or parents. I love my children more than anything and would give my life for theirs in a heartbeat, but I’m not blind to who they are, all of them, the good and the bad traits (some of which definitely came to them through me). And I think they absolutely could tell you what the positives and negatives are about me.

I am no expert on love, having come to know it only in the last half of my life thus far. As I was growing up, I understood love on an intellectual level. I had no real concept of it because I had experienced no real example of it. I assumed my parents loved me because they would get angry if I came home late. But if love was indeed blind, then my parents didn’t love me because they definitely knew my shortcomings and pointed them out regularly. So love confounded me. How did it work?

Here is what I have learned about love since having my own children. Love is not blind, and it shouldn’t be. Love is knowing someone intimately and wanting the best for them always, even when they are confused about their gender identity or in jail because they got a DUI or lost the thousand dollars they got from you for Christmas. If you aren’t able to recognize someone’s struggles, weaknesses, and issues, how can you be there for them, to support and encourage them, to take care of them when they are at their worst? Love isn’t about being blind to who someone is or what they do. It’s about being there for them in spite of the things about them or that they do to make you crazy, stressed, worried, angry, or frustrated.

Love is all seeing and ever present. It exists in the hard work of being present for someone else no matter what. It’s you seeing someone else in all their humanity and appreciating them both for it and in spite of it. It’s in the sacrifices you make for another person. It’s in the suffering you take on to ease their pain. Love is about showing up. It’s a lot harder to show up if you can’t see.

You’re Never Too Old For A Snow Day

It was an unexpected, although welcome, snow day for our high school senior and his carpool-weary mom today. We knew there would be a late start this morning because of the snow, ice, and subzero windchill this morning, but when I woke up and started getting dressed to go out and shovel the driveway so I could drive Luke to school, hubby casually said, “You know it’s a snow day, right?”

It was the kind of unanticipated gift that can make life better after a slow and difficult re-entry to real life after a beautiful holiday in Hawaii. I determined it would be a catch up day. I felt overwhelmed when we returned home on Monday afternoon and had to turn around and start back into reality at 6 am Tuesday. So I l planned to use this gifted day to catch up on laundry and take down all the holiday decorations that had grown tiresome. The best part was that I now had a full day to do it and two sons at home to help.

After we had returned our home to its pre-holiday state and Joe had worn out the dogs with playtime in the yard, he approached Luke and said he had an idea. Joe has ideas a lot. When he has them, he involves Luke. Luke tries to get out of what ever Joe is scheming, but more often than not he ends up giving in because he knows Joe can be relentless. He will not stop hounding you until you give in. I usually cringe for Luke in these situations because I know, as an introvert, what Luke wants most is to stick with what he is doing and not get dragged into Joe’s plans. Today, though, Joe whispered his idea into Luke’s ear, and I was surprised how easily Luke acquiesced. They found their snow gear, grabbed sleds they’ve had for ten years, and headed out to the open space. When they returned home, I heard Joe remark to Luke how much lighter and easier to handle these sleds are now. It made me smile.

Today our adult children seized the day and took advantage of their snow day as they might have when they were 8 and 10. It made me happy. We tend to give Joe a little grief when he says he has an idea, but the truth is that a lot of the really amazing things we’ve done started with one of Joe’s ideas. Luke is amazing at accomplishing things, but I thank heaven every day for Joe who is amazing at reminding Luke (and the rest of us) to let go and have fun once in a while. Every family should have a Joe to dream up plans and interminably pester everyone until they come to fruition. Don’t we all deserve to have that one person who reminds us not just to live but to practice being alive?

Luke (18) and Joe (20) and their childhood Zipfy sleds

Hawaii: The Big Island – January 2, 2022

If there is a word that could encapsulate the dread that hung in the air for Steve, Joe, and I (Luke isn’t a big beach guy) on this last day, I would use it. But there isn’t one. We had been doing our best to distance ourselves mentally from the notion that we would actually have to say goodbye to the rental home that had begun to feel like our actual home, board a plane for the long trip back to Denver, and say goodbye to Hawaii for who knows how long. The time had come to face reality, though. So we did our best to live in the moment and soak up every last bit of Hawaii peace.

While I sat on the lanai outside the master bedroom working on the blog post about New Year’s Day, Steve and Joe went for one last snorkel at tiny Keiki Beach.

Around 11, we decided to head up to Waikoloa Village for lunch, a last walk on Anaeho’omalu Bay (A-Bay), and some shopping. Steve, the boys, and I had started our trip here on December 23rd, so it seemed fitting that we would finish it here as well. We brought the rest of the family along this time for lunch at the Lava Lava Beach Club. Yes. It’s pricey. You’re paying resort prices in Hawaii, so it’s to be expected. But the view. Damn. How often do you get to sit seaside and watch sea turtles? Plus, the drinks are amazing and the food is quite tasty too. And the atmosphere is fun. So you pay a lot, but you get a lot.

We tried to dawdle at lunch to soak it all in, but the restaurant has a two-hour-per-table limit, and they are quick with the service to ensure that time table is honored. So, we bid farewell to this lovely spot, hit a few stores and a gas station, and headed back to pack. Boo. Once we had done most of the abysmal work of packing up to leave a place we did not want to leave, we headed back to the ocean behind the house to soak in every last second we could before emptying the fridge, doing a final sweep for personal items, and locking up for the last time.

With our final sunset in the books, we headed for the airport. We would be returning the same way we came, Kona to LAX, LAX to Denver via overnight flights. As luck would have it, I was unable to sleep. Not the case for my traveling companions. I think I was just too full of gratitude for the entire vacation. Every time I go to Hawaii, I struggle on the re-entry to normal life. It is nice to be home, but it takes me a week before I feel like I belong in Denver again.

Two of my favorite traveling companions

While my family slept, I helped myself to the on-board wifi and searched for homes for a potential next trip to Hawaii. No. We don’t have anything we’re planning, at least not yet. But it sure is fun to dream about a return trip, and it helps ease some of the pain of leaving when you make yourself believe you will be back. I’m grateful for every minute I get to spend in Hawaii. I would head back tomorrow if I could. Okay. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe next week. I could use a little rest in my own bed first.

Aloha, Hawaii. Mahalo for the memories. E ho’i makou!

Hawaii: The Big Island – January 1, 2022

Blue as far as the eye can see

After a week of mostly cloudy skies with periods of sunshine, this day began with a clear, bright, perfect blue sky. Being an internal optimist (like a Sour Patch Kid, I am sweet on the inside and sour on the outside), I believe that this blue sky day on the first day of 2022 portends good things for this new year. Hope I didn’t just jinx it. See? Sweet and sour at the same time.

My sister-in-law, Karen, booked us an outrigger trip for an hour this morning. We lucked out with the flawless weather and applied copious amounts of zinc oxide sunscreen. We started our trip off the sandy shore at the Marriott’s King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. We met our guide, Jeff, and began the experience by pulling the outrigger to the water. I lucked out because I got to be the official photographer for this. That wooden boat is heavy, even on wheels!!

The sea had a moderate swell, but outriggers are made for this so it was no issue with seven of us paddling. The ride was smoother and easier than I imagined, and the views of the island from the water made the effort worth it. We paused a few times, just drifting on the ocean, so Jeff could tell us a bit of the history of this area. We learned that Hualalai, the dormant volcano visible from Kona’s shores, means “head in the clouds,” which has been true for the majority of our time here. I told the boys that from now on when one of us is in another place mentally I shall say we are “hualalai.”

While we were taking a paddle break at one point, we heard a mammal surface nearby. Looking around, we saw a couple dolphins and were lucky enough to see them curiously check us out by swimming underneath the boat. How cool is that?

There is a dolphin there swimming off…they are fast and hard to capture in a photo

After our outrigger trip, we returned to the house for some steak and eggs before heading out to do a little souvenir shopping in Kona town. Luke was craving shave ice. I hadn’t had any yet on this trip, so it seemed like a good idea. I got lilikoi (passion fruit) flavor because that is my absolute favorite and something I don’t often get to enjoy in Colorado. Somehow I convinced the boys to play along for this little photo op. I think Joe was representing a brain freeze with his expression here.

Trinkets obtained, we headed back to the house to order some takeout Thai food and enjoy our most colorful sunset here yet. It’s like the universe aligned everything just for us on this New Year’s Day. With our trip coming to a rapid conclusion, the reality of our imminent departure hit Joe and I like a wave hitting the lava rock shoreline. He and I are the most committed to this state, the ones who would be most likely to have to be dragged kicking and screaming onto a flight back to cold, snowy Colorado later. I am trying to be zen about our exodus, but I am struggling. Time to engage my mindfulness skills, stay in the moment, and mourn the exit when I board the plane in 12 hours.

Seriously, Hawaii? Why you make it so hard to leave?

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 31st, 2021

For this last day of 2021, I vowed to be more present. It’s something I have been working on this year, through mindfulness and meditation, because I want to be more checked in than checked out and because I want to learn to manage my monkey brain and respond more carefully to people and to life’s choices. So I spent less time today on my phone and more time simply paying attention to my surroundings rather than trying to photograph them.

Snorkelers galore at Kahalu’u Beach Park enjoy a morning swim

The first thing we did this morning was head out to do some snorkeling at a beach known for clear waters and loads of reef fish. Kahalu’u Beach Park did not disappoint. Although we did not bring an underwater camera, I saw oodles of fish, many of which I had not ever seen before. While I was unsure how I would like the Big Island and her scarcity of sand beaches, it turns out that the lack of sand means clearer water for viewing fish. This has made the paucity of sandy beaches a total non-issue because I would rather snorkel than sit in the sand and carry it home with me anyway. At this snorkel spot, I saw myriad yellow tang and bullethead parrotfish, several different varieties of trigger fish, Moorish idols, huge corals, and a porcupine fish. We were out for about an hour and it was worth every second.

The wind picked up substantially in the afternoon and the surf got a little crazy for a few hours, so I spent some time along the lava rocks behind the house searching for shells. I’ve found a couple full cowries, which made me happy.

In the late afternoon, I spent some time staring at the tumultuous seas. I would move here in a heartbeat. If I won the lottery, a place like this one, right on the ocean, would be my first purchase. Since we are down to our last two days here, though, I decided to soak this hammock thing up because I don’t know when or if I will have this opportunity again. And I have officially decided that Hawaii agrees with me, so it is only natural that I end up here somehow, someway, someday.

Sun sets on the last day of 2021

We opted to cook in tonight. Steve grilled tenderloin and we sautéed some shrimp in garlic butter and topped it with chopped parsley. It was perfection. The sun set behind a huge bank of clouds as fireworks began to pop off on the hill on the other side of the bay from our rental. Overall, it was a perfect end to a long, tiring 2021. Here’s hoping that 2022 finds our situation, on the whole, improved from the last two years. Happy New Year from this beautiful place!

Our genius son was the only one who stayed up until midnight to catch Kona celebrating NYE 2020 in grand fashion