No, Dad. We don’t crowd-surf anymore.

My sister celebrated her birthday on Saturday. We’ve traded concert tickets for our birthdays since Star Jeans and feathered hair, and this year was no exception. I was talking to my dad before we left on Friday. He was surprised we hadn’t grown out of wanting to sing and dance and listen to live music. “Are you going to crowd-surf?”, he asked. I laughed. We have definitely grown out of that.

We traveled from Seattle to Vancouver, BC, making our way up along scenic Chuckanut Drive. At this time of the year, it is a vibrant tunnel, with thousands of golden leaves falling gently from the sun-dappled canopy. The leaves dance from our tires as we wind through the narrow byway.

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There is something about driving that makes conversation easy. Amy and I had hours together, stopping when a peek at the water or a path through the woods caught our eye. We talked about memories of our childhood, and the angst and tragedy, both real and imagined, of our youth. We laughed at concerts past. How we would enthusiastically weave our way through the crowd, ducking and dodging, to reach the coveted front row. And laughed even harder about how rude that seems now. It was worth the affront to gain a front-row seat to Steven Tyler, Bon Scott … Mick Jagger.

I love having sisters as best friends. I got lucky. I got two. The intimacy of knowing a person from birth is an extraordinary gift. We’ve shared rooms and secrets. We’ve fought, and we’ve made up. My sisters share my history. They know my soul.

I know family isn’t safe, or comfortable, for everyone. It can be tangled and messy. It can mean pain, and it can mean comfort. It has expectations. If you’re fortunate, stretched tightly beneath those expectations is a sturdy safety net. I am so thankful for the gift of my family. I have never felt alone, and I am grateful.

Happy birthday, sis. I love you.

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Wanderer …

Someone asked me the other day if, after visiting Antarctica, I will have seen all of the world’s oceans. Not even done with my first goal of seeing all the continents, and this question had me plotting the next. After I sail among the icebergs of the Southern Ocean, I will have one remaining: the Arctic Ocean. I was close when I visited Iceland, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Arctic Ocean seems a little daunting to get to, but is bordered by Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Norway, so I have options. Spitsbergen, Norway, perhaps?

This discussion got me thinking about destinations. There is a thought-provoking reporting tool in the admin section of my WordPress site. The report lists the countries of the people that have landed on my blog. Today, it stands at 65, from Israel to Saudi Arabia, to Slovenia and Nicaragua. It is such a compelling list … my imagination ran wild. Which post did the person from Algeria read? What keyword was searched from the Czech Republic? Someone from Mauritius found me. Seeing the Underwater Waterfall there has been on my bucket list for years.

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This list of sixty-five diverse countries fascinated me. So I broke it down. Out of the sixty-five, how many countries have I been? Fourteen. Places I want to go? Twenty-eight. Airplane tickets in hand? Two. Which places do I not know enough about to put it in any of the categories? Twenty-one. I’m eager to put some time in to learning about these far-flung locations. I imagine some of them may go in the “no chance in hell” bucket, but others stand a good chance of being the next grand adventure.

What a world we live in. In some ways, it feels so small. In other ways, it feels overwhelmingly vast. There are cultures to experience, wildlife to revere, history to study. To stand before a majestic mountain range inspires genuine awe, as does the expanse of an open sea.

While there are 65 counties on my WordPress report, there are 196 countries in the world. I’ve seen a mere 20. Girl, you need to get busy.

ALL the pants!

The weight loss journey is full of ups and downs (so to speak). A couple of years ago, I was going horseback riding in Glacier National Park, and one of the facts I had to enter on my reservation form was my weight. These things seem unrelated, but unfortunately, when I originally signed up for the trip, rather than my ACTUAL weight, I entered my goal weight. Seemed like terrific incentive at the time. Less so, after I later had to admit … “Uhhhh … I’m gonna need a bigger horse.”

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Now, I’m getting ready to go on my extreme adventure, and I’m at it again. I’ve been on Weight Watchers for several months, and while there continues to be, quite literally, many ups and downs, the trend is downward. For the last couple of years, I have made extensive use of leggings, stretchy skorts, and comfy maxi skirts. Deep in my closet, structured pants collected dust.

Last night, I decided to give it a go.

Reluctantly, I tried on the first pair of dusty pants, and they FIT! Eyes round, my mouth in a surprised “o”, I tried the second. They fit, too! And a third. I whispered, “all the pants”. This continued for the fourth, fifth, sixth pair of pants. By living alone, I am free to fully express myself in the privacy of my own home. In this case, I likely saved someone a call to the psychiatric ward, as I danced in my closet, wildly giggling and shouting, “ALL THE PANTS!” over and over.

All this time, I didn’t know. I didn’t need stretchy fabric. I didn’t need to go shopping. I just needed to eat lettuce!

Dreams and crossroads …

My mom and I had lunch with an old friend yesterday. One we hadn’t seen for a very long time. Sylvia had been cleaning out her house, and came across a couple of old memories. It was so fun to dust them off, and remember …

One of the things she had was a design board I made for her when she bought her home. Along with the design board was a folder that held concepts for color, furniture, and seating. We were sitting in the room I had helped her design. I looked around, looked back at the folder, and looked around the room again. The layout, color, and texture of the room reflected so many of the ideas I had presented to her more than a decade before. Her room was lovely, and it withstood the test of time.

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Just before I worked with Sylvia on the room, I had been working at a telecom company for seven years. I was the thirty-third employee in ‘96, and rode the wave as the company grew, went public, and eventually failed. The late 90s were a wild ride as the dot-com bubble grew and grew, and finally burst. My career had evolved from a temporary receptionist to an executive assistant, and eventually a business manager. The company was closing, though, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.

So I went to design school.

My mind was on fire. My homework kept me awake at night in the best possible way. I dreamed about color and form, and I had never felt so alive. I spent hours with drawings and textiles and flooring and color. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to immerse myself in ideas and innovation. I wanted to create.

And then, I got a call.

My previous boss had joined a new company, and offered me a job. It was a good offer. I was a single mom; a responsible mom. I was standing at a crossroad. I loved what I was doing. But it was risky. Being a business manager was reliable. Sensible. Being a designer inspired passion, but felt frivolous against the safety of the known. I felt heavy as I accepted the offer.

Since then, I’ve been a business manager, a logistics manager, a project manager, and a business analyst. I have a lot to be thankful for. My career has paid the bills. I was able to raise my boy in reasonable comfort. It has allowed travel to places I might never have been able to afford. But what if I would have rolled the dice and stuck with my passion? Seeing that design board brought my hunger for creativity back in a rush.

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I feel like I’m standing at a crossroad again. Create. My dream at this juncture in the road is to travel, photograph, and write. But this time, there is a lesser sense of urgency. I have time to plan. In the meantime, I will be reliable. I will be sensible. And I will prepare to be frivolous.

Because this time, it’s gonna stick.

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Platelets!

I donated blood a couple of days ago. Once the bloodletting was complete, I did my obligatory time at the cookie and juice table. Per standard protocol, I was temporarily incarcerated by the snack lady.

This particular volunteer was so enthusiastic about human blood, I was fairly certain she was part vampire. And platelets! Oh, what there was to learn about platelets. She held me hostage for about twenty minutes educating me about platelets. Apparently, they’re important because of their short shelf life, and how frequently they’re needed by cancer patients, particularly children with leukemia.

She asked why I donated. It’s funny how a well-timed, simple question can bring intense memories to the fore. Certain events can be resurrected and remembered like they happened yesterday. Why do I donate? Because my son nearly bled out following a near-fatal car accident. Because I watched him visibly come back to life as the doctors filled his depleted veins with bags of blood. Bags of blood that were filled by people like me. Like you.

I kind of hate doing it. It’s hard to spend thirty minutes or so, wide awake, lying down. I’m not crazy about the needle stick, either. Plus, bags of blood are a little gross. The colorful wrap you get to sport all day is kind of cool, though … a badge of honor. I usually pick pink. I think a lot about Justin as I recline, squeezing the stress ball every ten seconds. The dull ache in my arm is nothing compared to what he went through that day.

So, I’ll keep donating every couple of months. It’s not every day you get to do something that may save someone’s life. And hey … go platelets! The snack lady says so.

#MeToo

I was thirteen years old when a blue-eyed boy with golden curls stole from me what should have been mine to give. He was nineteen years old.

There wasn’t any remorse. In fact, he tried again. But that time, I saw him coming. I fought, and he wasn’t able to hurt me a second time. I didn’t tell anyone what happened, not a soul, for a very long time. When I did tell, I didn’t find relief. And I didn’t talk about it again for many, many years. It is a scar that is deep, and it is ugly. It will always be a part of me.

#MeToo is important. The abuse of power needs to stop. But #MeToo is a double-edged sword. Every time I see those words, I physically recoil. A gut punch. I am a member of a sisterhood that I don’t want to be a part of. I wish the sisterhood didn’t exist. What I appreciate about the message, though, is that it is growing. It’s loud. Insistent. It’s not hidden behind fear. Perhaps the next person in power will understand that he could lose that power, lose everything, if it is leveraged to manipulate.

I Googled the blue-eyed boy a few years ago. He died in a motor vehicle accident on February 4, 1996. I’m not proud to say I felt no sorrow. He was a bad guy. More anger than I wanted to hold on to had accumulated over the years. “He got what was coming to him”, I thought. “He won’t hurt anyone again.” I’m not proud of that response, either. The innocent girl I was would have possessed more compassion. But the innocence? He took that from me, too.

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A wild retirement ride …

I turn 55 next year. All of a sudden, my future plans seem not so distant. I’m ready to construct the foundation for what I hope is going to be a wild retirement ride. So I made a list. The list had two columns: “what makes you feel good?” and “what makes you feel bad?”. Walking outside with a good camera feels good. Playing games on my phone feels bad. Yoga feels good. Drinking too much wine feels bad. Hiking feels good. To become immersed in the comment section of a political Facebook post feels bad. And so on. To do more of the former and less of the latter will, inch by inch, get me closer to my goals. It will bring me closer to being the person I want to be.

Travel, write, photograph, repeat.

That’s what I want retirement to look like. To do this, I need to be financially sound. I need to be healthy; to be able to move my body with ease. I need to be strong; to be able to hoist my kayak and make good use of my hiking boots. Balance, strength, and stamina came without effort in my twenties, thirties, and forties. The fifties? Not so much. It’s gonna take some work.

So, I tackled the feel bad line item “too much TV” this week. Often, I don’t fully engage in a program when it is on. It’s just background noise. A distraction. So I approached “too much TV” in the same way I approached my list. What feels good? What feels bad? “This is Us” feels good. “Real Housewives of Orange County” feels bad. So I pulled up the Scheduled tab On Demand, and started deleting. Instead of “The Voice”, I will prepare a good meal. Instead of “Chicago Fire”, I will go to a yoga class. Instead of “Below Deck”, I will go photograph some fall color. I’ll call a friend. I’ll explore an idea by writing about it. I’ll investigate some local hikes and lace up my hiking boots. The possibilities are endless.

Do more of what feels good. Do less of what feels bad. Now, this is something I can get behind.

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