Saturday, December 08, 2018

Practicing Retirement

I love my job as an Agile independent consultant, but I've been wanting to have some time between gigs to "practice" retirement.  As friends and family will attest, I've been very frugal -- let's just say it: cheap! -- with the goal of retiring by age 60.

At age 58.75, I've been somewhat obsessed with the idea of retirement, both with the standard Pollyanna excitements and Negative Nellie fears.

Pollyanna:
  • I can do whatever I want! 
  • I'll host a Carpe Diem network and find my 'tribe'.
  • I'll have the time to travel, pursue hobbies, exercise, and have new adventures every week!
  • I'll have parties, socialize, foster all my relationships, and with all my internet-dating and social-media savvy skills find the man of my dreams!

Negative Nelly:
  • I will be bored.
  • I will miss my high-paying Agile consulting work and instead be hosting Meetups that bomb for lack of interest.
  • I will always be worried about spending money so instead of spending a penny on hobbies and adventures, I will cheaply play on my computer all day, blindly hopping from one site to another, depressed and only somewhat amused by funny YouTube videos.
  • I will become progressively more sick, ugly, stupid,  decrepit, and grumpy and only get online dating interest from men who are worse than me in all of those categories or those looking for GGILFs.  Only one or two people will show up to my parties even when I invite ALL my say-they're-my-friends-but-really-they're-too-lazy-to-do-more-than-LIKE-one-of-my-facebook-posts. I don't get a single heart emoji from anyone.
Since Thanksgiving, I've been loving the time off and feeling a lot more Pollyanna-ish than Negative Nelly-ish.  

I have been VERY busy living life fully, embracing every holiday event, looking for opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends.  I also want to write more, read more, learn more, experience more!  Just to give you a little flavor of the fun I've been having:


  • Hiked Chautauqua with my friend and fellow-coach, Ryan visiting from Boise.
  • Had an awesome family Thanksgiving at Scotty's new house in Colorado Springs (now all my kids are officially home-owners!)
  •  Cleaning and organizing my basement
  •  Went to see an Elvis impersonator honoring police with a former police officer and good friend
  •  Learned about an intriguing network: Liv and befriended someone who's actively involved.
  • Beta Tested a game about the Law of Attraction for Financial Goals
  • Got a luscious massage from CoCo who works miracles on my back
  • Went on the Golden Candlelight Walk and Fireworks with a good friend I hadn't seen for years

  • Went to see Mary Poppins at the theater with a good friend who knew "Mary Poppins"!

  • Went to a singing Meetup Group (even though I didn't actually sing)
  • Started my own Meetup Group, Carpe Diem Connections
  • Hosted a Conversation Salon about passions
  • Went to a meeting to explore the possibility of going to Italy in May
  • Got on Bumble and met a few people including a 51-year-old hottie with massive muscles
  • Bought Solar Panels and had them installed at my home
  • Went to a Book Release party celebrating the publication of a friend's book

  • Am taking part in a CU experiment testing the effectiveness of edibles on lower back pain

  • Planning my next Snowbird Experiment to Tampa
  • Weightlifting at Lifetime Fitness and seeing notable improvement in Skeletal Muscle Mass!


  • Made a new friend, Francisco.
  • Got a surprise Christmas wreath in the mail from a good friend, Chris.
  • Got together for a gal-pal brunch hosted by recovering back-pain-sufferer friend, Cathy.



I wrote a blog post about each of these in my head.  I worked at fully appreciating each experience and noticing the smells, sights, sounds, and emotions and thought about how I could best describe the event so the reader would feel they were right there. I was so witty in my head.

My Pollyanna wants to write a perfect blog post or poem or journal entry about every one of those experiences. My Nellie does not want to spend any more time in front of the computer. I'm hoping to keep both voices satisfied. Write regularly... but keep the blog post short, sweet and imperfect, so I can keep up with living!


Monday, November 19, 2018

Walk On!

I admit it. I'm competitive. If there's a way to get points, I want to get as many as possible. When I was a runner, I was always trying to get a PR. 

In January when my physical therapist told me to stop running because of back pain, I was bummed. "Walk instead" was the recommendation.

Really? Walk? But that's so...  slow! But, like the Type A person I am, I immediately bought myself a Blaze Fitbit and became obsessive with my steps. I get in at least 10,000 steps a day even if it means I'm doing laps around my couch at the end of the day.

It turns out, this walking habit has a lot going for it!

  • My back is feeling better than it has in years! And there are a bunch of other health benefits that you get from walking.
  • I really have fun discovering new places to walk or hike. 
  • Hiking can be as much of an aerobic workout as running. There were some pretty steep climbs on the hike at Lost Maples that I went on last weekend.
  • Hiking / Walking Meetups are a great way to make new friends! 
  • It's a lot easier to find people to walk with than it is to find people to run with.
  • I can get a lot of steps in at work without having to change into gym clothes.
  • I can listen to podcasts or audiobooks for much longer than I was able to when running.
  • I can talk on the phone while I walk.
  • I don't mind when the car is parked far from where I need to go and usually prefer to take the longer route so I can get more steps. (I have gotten lost a lot at the huge USAA site which has really helped my step count!)
  • Bolder Boulder was much more fun walking (and playing and dancing!) than it ever was running.
  • I can always stop to take pictures or just enjoy the beauty of a scenic spot instead of running past it.
  • It's free and easy to get CharityMiles just from walking.
  • My FitBit helps me keep track of all the miles I'm walking and keeps me motivated by having those competitive gaming features.
Yup, I'm feeling really grateful that I'm able to walk and hike without getting the backaches I used to get daily.

But I'm very well aware that that may not always be the case.

There was a man on our Lost Maples hike who was having a lot of trouble keeping up with the group. I was very impressed with one of my new friends, Jackie. She stayed with him the whole time and supported him, literally, so he wouldn't fall. While the rest of us were busy getting in our workouts, Jackie was patiently caring for someone who needed help.

If there were a way to earn 'good karma points' Jackie would have won them that day.  It was a good reminder that maybe it's more important to slow down enough to help someone else than to worry about how many steps I'm getting.

Now all I need is an app that gives me 'good karma points' and I'll be all over that!

UPDATE: Look at these kindness apps I just found! Let's go win some good karma points!

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Snowbird Experiments - "Dating" San Antonio


Now that I'm nearing retirement, I'd like to find a warm-weather "snowbird spot" during the winter months.  But where? Southern California? Arizona? Florida? Mexico? Costa Rica? I've been trying to decide if I should try a different place every year or maybe try a new place every month until I find the 'right' spot. I'm using the, 'I'll know it when I see it' philosophy. 

Of course, so far, that philosophy hasn't worked out so well in finding a mate, but at least when it comes to picking out a new place to live, there are no worries of rejection. Places are so easy that way. I don't have to be concerned whether or not they love me as much as I love them. I also have no worries about my home in Colorado wanting me to be exclusive. We have a very open relationship.

So what am I looking for in a snowbird place?  My snowbird dating profile would look something like this:

Looking for a beautiful place that offers winter warmth and sunshine.  I'd like to find a suburb with a big city nearby for a dress-up night at the theater as well as nearby trails and parks offering plenty of natural beauty. But most importantly, I'd like to find a place that has warmth, not only in its climate, but in the people who live there. I'm looking for a culture which is welcoming and accepting, where I can find friends who will join me in living life fully.

I've gotten a little experience in trying to find friends in new places when I moved to Eden Prairie, MN, for 6 months for a work assignment. The Minnesota experiment was a huge success and I made some of the closest friends of my life. Unfortunately, though it was an awesome "fling," those cold winters do not qualify Minnesota to even be a consideration as a Snowbird "relationship."

When I got a short-term contract at USAA in San Antonio, it felt like a good opportunity for the first of the Snowbird Experiments. Even though San Antonio wasn't on my list for potential snowbird locations, it's warmer than Colorado, so I'm renting a room in an Airbnb for 4 weeks.  It's a good opportunity for me to figure out if 4 weeks is enough time to get "into a relationship" with a place.
Here how it's going so far:

Weather
There have been some gorgeous 70+ degree days in November.  One night it was warm enough to walk the whole length of the famed and beautiful River Walk after work!

However, now there's a cold front coming in. I'm writing this as I'm listening to wind and rain (which actually IS kind of nice to listen to...on occasion).

On Halloween night there was a torrential downpour right when rush hour traffic was at its worst. There's also a lot of fog. One of the big reasons I want a winter snowbird location is because I HATE driving in bad weather, and even though there's rarely snow here, the driving has been stressful for me. That night I thought I'd made a mistake of even thinking of 'going out with' San Antonio.


Making Friends
Hands down, the thing that makes a place feel more like home is finding friends. I've found that Meetup.Com is an excellent way to meet new friends, so I joined Hiking, Dancing, and Agile Meetups before I even got to San Antonio.

Since I'm only here for 4 weeks, I really had to "fast path" this friend-making business. I was hoping to find a friend before my first weekend so I'd have someone who could show me around the city, so I went to my first Hiking Meetup after work on Nov.1 (the day after I'd been thinking of 'dumping' San Antonio) with the hopes of meeting someone.

The weather was a perfect 70 degrees and the first person I met on the hike was this very tall early-retired military police! (I'll call him HG for Hot Guy!) HG, like me, had been a runner and had had to give it up.. his was because of his knees and mine is because of my back, but he could relate to back problems, too.  He'd gotten back recently from a long trip to Thailand and I was in awe of someone who can travel alone so easily. I have challenges traveling by myself even here in San Antonio!

I kept thinking I should ask HG if he was free on the weekend, but he was "out of my price range." (A phrase one of my friends uses to mean "out of my league.") Besides being a HG, he's only 49. But then I got a Meetup message from him asking if I'd be up for a drink some time, so I got the courage to ask him if he'd be willing to take me around San Antonio and he said, 'Sure!'


Exploring
HG was an excellent tour guide. He took me to the two biggest attractions on TripAdvisor for San Antonio, The River Walk and the Alamo. He also introduced me to the Prickly Pear Margarita at Boudro's on the River Walk without even knowing that I have a quest to find the perfect margarita!
HG also showed me where he used to work at Fort Sam, his beautiful home, and then we ended the day at a Happy Hour at Sustenio at the Elian hotel, close to where I'm staying.

Overall, the day was perfect! I walked over 22K steps without the trace of a back ache, the weather was gorgeous, and I loved how open and generous HG was, sharing his time and thoughts. I was trying not to be all insecure about my age or height. I'm 9 years older and 16.5 inches shorter than HG. But another thing I liked about HG is he didn't seem to care how old or short I was. I know he could be going out with anyone and he chose to spend the day with me.

I started to really like San Antonio!

Dating
I haven't written much about my dating life since publishing my book. Lots of reasons for that..  privacy, and who really cares, anyway? You get past a certain age and you think society sees you (especially if you're an older woman) as no longer attractive or desirable.  I know 'cougars' are very trendy, but... that never was my cup of tea.

These days I go searching for friends, communities, and beautiful spots, rather than 'dates.' But having an unexpected 'date' (yeah, I'm calling it that) with HG has made me think that maybe I should 'get out there' again.  Being single is great and I love all the freedom that comes with it, but..  life is much better when shared with someone else.

Experiment Results
I'm only half-way through with my San Antonio stay, but here's my summary of this relationship: It started out a little rocky. San Antonio did not make a great first impression, but over time, I found things to love. I don't think I've found "the place" but I feel grateful that I'm getting to experience this unique and beautiful place.

Whether it's a place or a person, I'm finding that going in with no expectations, no pressure, and no need to find perfection makes dating so much more enjoyable. Rather than looking for "the one" (or, "the place") maybe it's best just to enjoy and discover all there is to love about whoever you're with and wherever you are at this present time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Happiness is... knowing you're not alone, even when you're lonely



This won't be my typical "Happiness is... " blog post. Even though I do have so much to be grateful for, I've been going through a funk.

I've been through funks before, much bigger than this, and I know they don't last.  In fact, on a scale of 1 to 3, this one's only a Category 1 using the following key to funk rating:

Funk Categories
1: Feeling intermittently sad or lonely, but easily able to feel happy after talking to a trusted friend
2: Depressed and not wanting to talk to anyone
3: Crying a lot, not sleeping, feeling very lonely and afraid of my future

The Category 3 type funks have been a result of major problems- deaths, my divorce, a layoff, major illnesses of someone I love

While I was worried about my back, I was in Category 3 Funk Mode. When the doctor reassured me that my back was not that bad, I went into Category 3 Euphoria! (See key below)

Happiness Categories
1: Content with my life and all its ups and downs
2: Happy, Playful, Flirtatious, Social, Excited about possibilities, passions, interests
3: Euphoria! In LOVE (sometimes with a guy, but could also be with life, as was the case this time.)

So..  what happened? Why did I go from Euphoria! to Feeling intermittently sad and lonely?  I won't get into all the reasons of my emotional roller coaster, other than to say that I'd much rather be in a Category 1 Funk than my recent Category 3 Funk with an imagined future of debilitating pain.  Sometimes it just takes time for those fears of the unknown to settle down.  Luckily, I spend most of my life in Happiness Categories 1 and 2 and I'm confident that those are just around the corner.

I know from talking to those trusted friends (not to mention my own study of positive psychology) that

  • Most of us will "act happy" even when we're not. This isn't to be fake or dishonest.. it's just that it often helps to kick us out of our funk.
  • We all have times when we're lonely or sad, even when it feels like we "shouldn't" be because, after all, we have so much to be grateful for. (For me, this can make me feel even worse because I hate wasting any moment of this precious life with negative emotions.)


We see so many positive things on social media (and I'd much prefer to see positive things than all the negative things that get played up so much in the press.)  But just like romantic movies, seeing how happy others are can give us this unrealistic idea that everyone has better relationships, a better life, a better career, etc. than us!  In reality, we all have our funks..  Categories 1,2,3 and everything in between! Some, I'm' sure go way beyond Category 3!

This happiness post has a video of a college student who created a video about loneliness. In it, she does a good job of describing feelings of loneliness. I used to blame my bouts of loneliness on being single, but then I remembered some of the times I was most lonely was when I was married. I had these expectations that my husband would be like those romantic movie husbands... always be able to show his love in exactly the way I needed when I needed it.  That is impossible for anyone..

In the midst of this Category 1 Funk I've been in, my good friend, Rebecca Ritter, invited me to join her at a mixed-faith church service.  It reminded me that, though my faith isn't as strong as I'd like it to be, my belief in God has always gotten me through even the worst of my funks.  I know that any loneliness I feel must pale in comparison to so many others.  In times of loneliness, it helps to know, as much as we might feel otherwise, we are not alone.

In the words of St. Francis:


O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.








Monday, October 08, 2018

Happiness is... Realizing a Medical Scare is not as Bad as You Feared

Me and my sexy, curvy spine cutting loose on the dance floor with son-in-law, Chris!

I have been SO scared these last two weeks.  I didn't write a blog post about it because it really didn't fit in with my blog theme..  Happiness is... being scared to death that you are destined to live a life of debilitating back pain, lose all your independence, your retirement nest egg, have to live in a nursing home, leaving your children having to watch you suffer and thinking you'd be better off dead..  Yeah, those were the terrifying thoughts that were going through my head constantly. Not at all happy.

I have two conditions that can lead to some serious back pain: scoliosis (curved spine diagnosed when I was 13) and osteoporosis (loss of bone density diagnosed 4 years ago when I was 54).  I've told people that I feel like my spine is a human Jenga game and I'm afraid one day it will all collapse. And tragically, for some people, that happens.

That being said, I wasn't too worried about either of these conditions until this year when I started to have some pretty bad back pain. I went to a couple of doctors who recommended giving up running and building up my core muscles. I did those things, and yay! for the most part, the back pain got better.

I was very proud of my diligence in keeping up with my daily core exercises and walking (I am killing it on the FitBit!) and happy I could still do a lot of the activities I love..  especially hiking and dancing! I improved my eating habits and overall have felt extremely healthy, so was ready for a glowing report when I went in for my annual physical last month.

Most of the results came up positive except I'd lost another 1/2" of height leaving me at just 5'.05".  OK, not the end of the world.. but short is not usually associated with sexy. Just wear high heels, you say? Another thing I gave up because of the back problems. But, hey, short or not, I still can rock it on the dance floor, and losing another 1/2" was not really a huge cause for concern.

But just to be sure the height loss wasn't because of a fractured vertebra (which would indicate a very weak spine), I made an appointment to see someone at an Osteoporosis Clinic.  The doctor I saw there and what she said is what started me on this downward spiral of doom and gloom.  She ordered X-rays and when they came back it was obvious that my scoliosis curve had increased! In fact, it looked so freaky that I was amazed that I could walk, dance, or look normal at all!

The doctor at the Osteoporosis Clinic did a lot of things that scared me. In fact, every single thing she said was pessimistic on the first visit before even seeing the results of the X-ray.


  • She told me her grandmother was in terrible back pain for years due to osteoporosis
  • She told me most people die within a year of breaking a hip 
  • When I asked her what exercises I could do to build bone density, she said that only walking for 30 minutes, 3x a week was clinically proven to improve bone density, giving me no other suggestions for exercise that would be a good idea for my health.
  • She told me the improvement in my bone density scan was most likely a 'false positive' because of my scoliosis
  • She told me she didn't recommend the current medicine I was on for bone density, but wouldn't give me recommendations for a different medicine without a follow-on visit. (I'm self-pay, and there's no way I'm going to pay another $300 for one more appointment with this doctor.)
When the X-Ray and results came back, they did not show the fracture that she was checking for (thank goodness!) but she did say, 'the severe scoliosis was what was likely causing my back pain.'

I put my freaky looking X-Ray on Facebook (something I now regret) because as comforting as all the thoughts, prayers, suggestions, and well-wishes were,  they also confirmed that everyone agreed that this looked bad... really bad.   Typically, I only put pictures on Facebook that make me look good, and this was worse than an ugly, naked picture. (By the way, I'm not going to post one to prove it, my curvy spine is not at all apparent in all the hot, sexy, naked pictures of me.)

In the mean time, after scouring the internet and getting books on both Scoliosis and Osteoporosis, I vacillated between hope and fear. There are 'alternative' chiropractic treatments for scoliosis, but they're controversial, especially for older people who's body has naturally adjusted to the curve.

There were lots of horror stories about pain with scoliosis, osteoporosis, and any associated surgeries. The torturous pain some people are enduring is unreal. One thing all the literature seemed to agree on... avoid spinal surgery if you can! It should only be done as a last resort.

Well, my appointment with the Orthopedic doctor was today and he was NOT CONCERNED AT ALL!! In fact, he said I should ski, run, do whatever I wanted! He said my spine looked great for my age (My poor freaky spine doesn't have to feel so bad after all..  Apparently, some people like curvy spines and he was a pretty hot doctor!)

Oh my God, you can't imagine the relief! I had been crying so much out of fear and now I was crying from relief! I didn't think such a prognosis was possible given that X-Ray.

Now, even though I mentally went from being scared shitless to rejoicing, I still have to consider the literature that says scoliosis that's progressing will keep progressing, so do something to stop it. According to this doctor and a lot of literature, braces and chiropractic treatments will not make things better, and can make things worse.  According to the chiropractic doctors, if you don't do something, it will get worse..  So, either way, I still am afraid the scoliosis will get worse, and I know the osteoporosis will get worse.

But, you know what? I'll worry about that another day..  For now, I'm more determined than ever to seize those pain-free days and thank God for every one of them!

Thank you, too, for all my friends and family who supported me through this scare. It's nice to know you all 'have my back'!




Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Happiness is.... Summer Fun!

I've been having SO much fun this summer that I've had no time to blog. So I'm taking the lazy way out and posting pictures of some of my favorite summer memories! 


Swing Dancing at one of the many outdoor concerts!


Being part of the World's Largest Hula Dance with my grandchildren.

Wildflower hike at Chatauqua

Trip to Crested Butte for 4th of July!

Hike at Crested Butte

All you can eat Japanese buffet for Scotty's birthday!

Escape Room for Scotty's Birthday

Lavender Festival

Lavender Festival

Hike at Herman Gulch

Movies at Midtown Crossing in the park in Omaha



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Happiness is... the Theater

Earlier this month, I got to experience the theater twice! I got to see my granddaughter perform in a production of "Princess and the Pea" and I also was able to experience a behind-the-scenes tour at the Denver Center of Performing Arts.

My granddaughter, Reneya, is the middle "dust-bunny" in this picture..  the one smiling from misplaced floppy ear to floppy ear.  Her performance was flawless! (I'm not at all biased!)

Now, I know I'm only her Grandma and know nothing about dramatic talent, but you can't help but be happy just to see her excitement when she's on stage. (She also was absolutely the best "hopper" of the bunch.) That fearless confidence just makes my heart swell with pride. It's so opposite of the shy, scared little girl that I once was. I got such terrible stage-fright as a kid that I quit piano after 8 years because I just could not handle the anxiety of recitals.

Even though I've never been a performer, I've always loved the theater. I love the creativity and artistry of the sets, the special effects and the costumes. And, of course, the stories that come alive thanks to talented actors.

It's amazing to see all the work and efforts that go into every production from set design to costuming. For example, for a single wig, each strand of real hair is sewn into place. Each costume is designed to the exact measurements of the actors and actresses. They also have to allow for the 'quick changes' since often the actors only have seconds between scenes.

Over the years, I've overcome my shyness and pushed myself to do things out of my comfort zone.  One thing on my bucket list that I have yet to do is "Perform in a Play" so I thought that a fitting goal to write on this "Before I die..." board that was out on the walkway on our theater tour.

I'll probably have to learn to act first and then find some community theater group that gives me my big break, but..  it will happen! Some day you may all see me on stage as a Grandma Dustbunny.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Happiness is... New Friends

For the past few years I've been very interested in friendships and social connection. According to all the 'positive psychology research,' social connection is the key to happiness. According to this video, 25% of Americans report that they have ZERO friends! The lack of friendships is literally making people sick. The guy in the video says what's needed is "a framework for people to connect."

A framework? That's exactly what I teach, coach, and write about. It's a "framework" for Agile software development, but there's a lot about teamwork, leadership, communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.. all things that could be used for a social connection "framework." If I add in stuff that I've learned from positive psychology, I could absolutely create a framework! Move over, Oprah, I'm about to get famous.


Only one problem. Meeting new people is totally out of my comfort zone. But since deciding I was going to be the new expert on how to make deep friendships, I've been trying to practice all the things I would teach. And guess what? It's been working!


A couple of weeks ago, I saw a woman on my bus ride home from the airport who was wearing really cute, comfortable-looking shoes. After 10 minutes or so of thinking I'd really like to have a pair of shoes like those, I did the obvious thing.. I surreptitiously took a picture of her feet, figuring I could show the picture around at shoe stores like a detective searching for a missing person.

But then I thought, "Wait a minute! I don't need to sneak around like a predator with a foot fetish. I can simply ask her what kind of shoes she's wearing." She kindly tells me, "They're Dansko shoes."


After searching Dansko shoe images and not finding any like hers, I intrusively move to her seat and tell her I REALLY like her shoes but can't find them when I search. She graciously offers to send me more information if I give her my number. I do. While we're still on the bus, she texts me the exact ad from Nordstrom Rack, where she bought the shoes.



We both get off the bus at the same stop and I find out she's a contractor in the Tech industry like me. She says maybe we could get together for a hike some time. This is crucial in making a friend out of a stranger..  The suggestion of getting together. I'm usually not brave enough to do this, but luckily, she was! And she hasn't even read the book I have yet to write! It's like she intuitively knew "the framework."

I got home, ordered 3 pair of Dansko shoes, and when they arrived, I texted my new friend, Deseree, to thank her for her help and ask if she wanted to go on that hike.



The next week we hiked along Boulder creek and got to know each other better. She even tried to set me up with one of her friends who likes to dance. Now I'm not really looking for a setup right now but it was thoughtful of her and made me feel good that she would even want to set me up.



Since then I've been smiling more at strangers and stepping out of my comfort zone so much that it's getting easier and easier to meet new people and make new friends. 
 

The book I wrote 10 years ago was about looking for romantic love. I've dreamed for a long time about finding love, but as I've written on this blog many times, love comes in a lot of different forms.



So.. that's going to be what my next book is about! Stay tuned for a bunch of embarrassing new stories, a workbook, and workshops as I author the new framework for creating loving friendships!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Happiness is.. the Bolder Boulder

Today I participated in my 20th consecutive Bolder Boulder! This is the first year I didn't run, but it was the best time I ever had!



First a little history..  My brother, Chris, an Air Force pilot and runner, died in a car accident on Memorial Day, 1997.  This was the day I learned what heart-breaking grief is all about. Chris was 35 years old and about as full of life as any one person can be. He was fun, full of energy, and always ready to play. Whatever we were doing, he was 'all in.'

In 1999, we moved to the Bolder area and I heard that the Bolder Boulder 10K race was one of the biggest Memorial Day celebrations in the nation. Even though I wasn't a runner (we're talkin' worst athlete ever..) I thought it might be an event that would help me remember Chris.

When I saw what a party that race was, I knew Chris would have LOVED it. And when the Memorial Day tributes took place after the race in Folsom Field stadium, I was reminded of how much grief others have lived through... how much sacrifice was made so that we can have all the freedoms we take for granted.

It was at that time, and because of that first race, that  I became "a runner." I've run countless races since that day, some years more than others, but the one annual race I never miss is the Bolder Boulder. I made a promise to myself that every year I'd train to run it in under an hour. It's been a great motivator, come January, for me to get in shape. For 19 years, every Memorial Monday, I've run that race, thinking of Chris, and thinking how lucky I was to be alive and healthy.

Fast forward to January, 2018. After more and more back pain, a physical therapist recommends giving up running.  And the pity party in my head begins. "Poor, poor, me. No more Bolder Boulder. And this was going to be my 20th year!" (This is oddly reminiscent of my husband wanting a divorce when I'd been planning for our 20th Anniversary party!)

As I was telling my pathetic sob story to my grown-up kids, my sweet daughter-in-law, Stella, offers, "We can walk it with you."

"Really?" I ask (knowing that my sons are pretty competitive and would undoubtedly think walking was for wimps!) "Would you wear costumes?" (Another thing that my sons are unlikely to want to do...  and that's putting it mildly.)

"Sure," she answers! (Luckily, Stella has a lot of influence with my sons.)

So, today, on the 20th Memorial Monday since I began this tradition, instead of running like I usually do, I fully experienced this amazing race with my two sons and daughter-in-law. We danced to the bands, we jumped on the trampoline, we slid on the slip'n'slide, we took advantage of every high-five, water spray, and food offers from people on the sidelines.

My sons took the opportunity to drink way too much beer that was offered all along the route, and when the military songs played, they both proudly stood and sang their respective anthems for the branches they serve (one for the Army and one for the Air Force).

As I listened to the patriotic songs and Memorial Day tributes, 21 years after Chris's death, tears welled up in my eyes like they do every year.  My tears are partly still grief, but more than anything, they're tears of pride and gratitude.

I will always be sad that I lost my brother, but he's the one that showed me how to live..  to get in the race... whether I'm running or walking or dancing or being pushed in a wheelchair.

I learned an important lesson about the Bolder Boulder today:

The front runners may be fast, but those in the back are having a much better time!





Friday, May 04, 2018

Happiness is... Sunny Days and Fridays

We've been having some very rainy weather this week, which, like Mondays, tend to bring me down. I must have heard that Carpenter's song, "Rainy Days and Mondays" hundreds of times.The Carpenters album was one of my first and favorite records.

Of course back in THOSE days (the same days that my father walked uphill in the snow both ways) we listened to records on record players and I played that record over and over again.

Is it any wonder that rainy days and Mondays always get me down? I've been brainwashed to think that!  (It might also explain why "stars suddenly appear, every time you are near," but we'll stick to the rainy days and Mondays depression for now.)

For all of my adult life, I have wondered why I get a melancholy feeling on Mondays and rainy days, and I just realized it's all because of that stupid song! And don't even get me started about the part about having to go out and run to "find someone who loves me!"  I really think this is a breakthrough that I should report to psychologists! All this time, they've been thinking brain chemistry is to blame for depression! Why haven't we been thinking about lyrics from our favorite childhood songs?

Well, of course, for the sake of the future mental health of our children, I've rewritten the lyrics of Rainy Days and Mondays:

Sunny Days and Fridays

Talkin' to myself and feeling great.
Now when the days are bright;
Everything seems just right;
Hangin' outside, lookin' at that gorgeous sky!
Sunny days and Fridays always make me high!

When it's dark I tend to get the blues;
I blame that old song;
But now that the days are long;
I'm hangin' outside, lookin' at that gorgeous sky!
Sunny days and Fridays always make me high!

Funny, but it seems I'm fine with leaving home my phone;
Nice to know my people love me
Funny, but it seems I'm fine with being here alone;
I know I will always love me.

What I feel is thankful for the day.
No need to talk it out;
We know what it's all about.
Hangin' outside, lookin' at that gorgeous sky!
Sunny days and Fridays always make me high!

Of course, the children of today are probably not listening to Carpenters music, so maybe re-writing the lyrics won't help them. What's the last song I listened to with my granddaughter? "Rotten to the Core" from Disney's Descendants.  Uh oh.

* Addendum..   I was challenged to rewrite the lyrics to stick with Rainy Days and Mondays, so here's what I came up with:

Rainy Days and Mondays

Talkin' to myself and feeling good.
Even though the weekend's through;
Another week to start brand new;

Workin' my brain, listenin' to that pouring rain!
Rainy days and Mondays are good times to abstain.

When it's warm I tend to drink too much.
Stayin' out way too late;
Eatin' and gaining weight;
Workin' my brain, listenin' to that pouring rain!
Rainy days and Mondays are good times to abstain.

Funny, but it seems I'm fine with going to my job;
Nice to know I've got an income;
Someday I'll travel south and become a wealthy snob;
Nice to know I'll be a beach bum;

What I feel is we can pick our fate.
No need to talk it out;
We know what it's all about.
Workout your brain! Or hop on a frickin' plane!
Rainy days and Mondays are times to go insane.