What Makes Something Real?

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Dear Dairy,

You know I don’t normally start my posts with a photo. I feel like photos are there to help illustrate a story.

But not today.

The photo IS the story. It’s the pile of crap I have begun to amass for The Next Big Thing. As the pile gets bigger, so does the feeling that I am a fraud.

So I keep asking myself, is The Next Big Thing real? The answer is always yes.

Unfortunately, I find I am surrounded by skeptics. Oh they don’t say much, except when I bought a ridiculously large knife with all kinds of survival gear tucked into the handle, and my Eagle Scout of a husband scoffed and said I had fallen for a gimmick.

I defended my choice while unloading the fishing hook, matches, compass, and showing him how I would defend myself against a bear. What I got was an impatient and curt reply, “If a bear gets that close to you, you would already be dead”.

I was afraid of that.

And this will be why the dreaded bear canister will be the last thing I buy to complete my backpacking ensemble. Because that means if it is really real, I will have to face my worst fear…bears.

And that’s also why I now know that this 57 year old (just by a couple of weeks mind you) city girl whose only real survival skill is finding parking in LA, will be backpacking the Lost Coast of California alone. The look on the Eagle Scout’s face said it all, he is beyond humoring me on this trip.

This is not new.  But guess what is new…nobody’s skepticism makes this bucket list item less real for me, in fact it hardens my resolve.

But let me tell you why.

This is the first time I have dared ever make a decision for just me. When I wasn’t running away or to something, when I wasn’t traumatized into or out of my comfort zone.

I am doing it because I want to…but somewhere else is the unrelenting desire to do it because I have to. Because I can’t back down. Not to the skeptics, but most of all…not to myself.

Not break the promise that I made to myself every time I was in the Grand Canyon, or Lake Powell, or Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Park or Zion or Bryce, or any other place in nature…that I would be back when I didn’t have to rush home to the cement jungle to be at work Monday morning.

Rush home because I couldn’t ever take off more than a week. It was too grueling trying to get caught back up on emails, meetings, payroll, budgets, deadlines, etc.

But I don’t have those constraints now. For the first time in my life, my time is my own.

So are my decisions.

My decisions for the last 57 years were made with the best interest of my parents, kid(s), husband(s), sister, nieces, and whoever else was most dominant in my life at the time. Unfortunately, the last person on my list of important people to consider was me.

Until now.

So the pile in the room we loosely call the office (loosely because nothing really productive happens there remember) keeps growing.

I have to start my training from ground zero again. The hip injury from my overzealous conquering of the Ice House Trail healed rather quickly, compared to my injury being an excuse to throw myself into the holidays and making it perfect for family and friends.

There I said it. I know what my true weaknesses are

But the holidays are past, and my overdeveloped sense of responsibility to be all things to all people is temporarily sated.

So bring it skeptics…this $&*! is real because I said so.

Until next time dear diary.

Dear In Somnia, It’s not working out between us.

 

Dear In Somnia,

I’ve been in a relationship with you for a long time. I keep trying to break up with you, but you’re still hanging around. I’m pretty mad about it. I don’t mind if you visit once in awhile, but you can’t live here anymore.

I know why baby boomers can’t sleep. It’s not just us, but since that’s the crowd I run with (not run…you know I can’t run even when I think I’m being chased by a wild animal see Pacific Coast Highway Day 5) so I feel like I can speak for a few of us.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, what with In Somnia stalking me and all, so I’ll share some obvious reasons and try not to expound on them too much.

1. We are the creamy responsible middle of a multi-generational worry sandwich – Our aging parents are getting increasingly feeble, our children are coping with launching and re-launching their careers in a difficult economic environment, and those of us who are lucky enough to have grandkids (I worry about never getting any from my selfish kids) get to worry about them too. We don’t cognitively go to bed worrying about it, but our subconscious knows, it knows our whole world can be rocked by one little phone call, and probably already has a few times. It knows…it knows.

As a side note on this subject – Christians are taught to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, but I sneak back and pick mine right back up. I guess I don’t think Jesus can handle the job…I hope I find out he has a heck of a sense of humor when I get there.

2. Sensory Overload – We go a hundred miles an hour and before we go to bed (sometimes in bed) we are on the web, email, electronic games, TV, and most of the time these are simultaneous. Our brains need time to decompress not multi-task…but in a well tread world of immediate gratification, we expect our brains to instantaneously turn off and go to sleep like a computer. They don’t work that way, unless we take sleep aids which is my next topic.

3. We are a nation addicted to drugs – I only recently became aware of this in myself. It’s easy to get lulled into a dependence on both over the counter and prescription sleep aids. I got educated on the scientific end of the ramifications by my soon-to-be-RN daughter. I hate it when she does that. I wish I could go back to not knowing how they mess with your body’s natural rhythms. I kicked the addiction but I miss them like any other Tylenol PM or Ambien junkie. Sleep aids are drugs and there is a price to be paid both physically and mentally. I don’t need any more of either of those challenges thank you very much.

4. Money – this one is easy to describe…2009. With our retirements wrapped up in 401k’s and equity (which has still not recovered), need I say more? Now combine this with topic #1. That should do it.

5. Don’t believe what you tell yourself late at night – Some of my best ideas come when my mind finally slows down after going to bed, but if I lay awake long enough the dialogue with myself can take a left turn. A scary paranoid schizophrenic kind of turn.

6. We’re going to hell in a hand basket – That’s what my Grandma used to say and I would smile affectionately at her and say to myself “Awwwwwe, she’s just old”. Now I sometimes think the same thing (not verbatim since I never knew what a hand basket was) when I think too long about overpopulation, pollution, war, etc. I don’t know what scares me more, the issues or the fact that I’m old enough to be my Grandma.

7. Pain – As we get older, things start to hurt. That’s on the physical side. Then there are those horrors that we accumulate over time that can occasionally haunt us. You know that old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? It’s not true. What doesn’t kill you…just doesn’t kill you.

How can we ever hope to sleep well again?

I don’t know the answer to that, so let me lay awake and think about it for awhile.

Until next time Insomnia (I mean diary).

Every Epic Journey Starts With One Step

Dear Diary,

A story starts with one word on a blank page.

A painting starts with one brush stroke on a blank canvas

A journey starts with just one step.

For most people.

For me, before I take that step a journey starts with lots and lots of planning.

I wish I could be so fearless as to just jump in my car and let fate take me wherever it will, but that is not and never will be who I am.  I would be worried the entire way about the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s.

I gotta have details.

So began the epic planning that preceded my epic journey. But that’s part of the fun.

I pretty much decided to cruise Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Seattle on a whim. It had been on my bucket list since before the bucket list had a name, but never bubbled up to the top before.

Everything in it’s time they say.

We had already done the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Monterey when our daughter was little, but my hubby hated it (he’s not a coastal hairpin turns with traffic kind of guy) so it never really came up again.

But I didn’t have to worry about what everyone else thought about it, this was going to be a solo trip. My trip.

Kind of liberating.

I planned this trip so thoroughly  that I’m quite sure I logged an embarrassing amount of time on Trip Advisor and You Tube.

It was a brand new feeling to have as much time as I wanted, and a purse of hush money that was completely outside of our household and savings budget.

God bless retirement!

A road trip of this magnitude also has to be about the conveyance.

I had traded in the Mom car for a convertible Mustang GT after my youngest started high school. I was going to have to rely on my pony (the Mustang) to take me 1800 miles over one of the most challenging roadways in America, so of course I had it checked for worthiness. I was good to go.

My Pony

My Pony

I googled what I would need for emergency road gear and assembled it along with personal needs and creature comforts.

In short, it took three weeks to eliminate every possible unknown, besides what awaited me on the journey itself.

Still the question looming larger and larger through every step still was, WILL I BE ALRIGHT ON MY OWN?

And still I had no answer.

I was certainly fine planning it on my own. It was refreshing actually. Not have to plan and pack for anyone else but me. Not something I had experienced for 35 years.

If I’d ever known, I had long since forgotten what it was like to be a free spirit.

A free spirit armed with maps (my pony is old school, no GPS), an itinerary, reservation confirmations AND apps on my phone for weather and road conditions.

Maybe not so much a free spirit.

As my focus was narrowed to my Next Big Thing, I noticed a subtle shift in the tensions in my marriage. Our conversations became easier. Our time together more valued.

One day while I was marathon gardening (had to get it planted before the trip), my hubby took the pony and had a Blue Tooth enabled stereo installed as an early Mother’s Day gift!

Really nice of him, and really nice to have music. I created a Pacific Coast Highway playlist.

As I was packing the car, I noticed a little stowaway trying to make herself as small as possible. I felt guilty not taking little Lucy, but I would be focused on her and besides, some of the places I had booked didn’t take animals. I would miss her terribly but she would be in good hands at home.

The only thing left to do was leave, so on the first Saturday in May 2013 I started what was to be one of the most enriching, empowering, and visually stunning weeks of my life.

BUT, WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE?

I needed to know.

Next time dear diary – LA to Pismo Beach

 

 

 

 

The Aging House In The Mirror

Dear Diary,

I am notorious in my family for awkwardness with electronics. It was no surprise to my daughter when I accidently “Facetimed” her from my ipad. So much so that she doesn’t even bother to answer anymore.

What was such a huge surprise to me was the old lady I was looking at on my screen. At first, I didn’t even know myself. Then I realized the old lady was mirroring my motions, and I quickly shut it down.

I have never spent time in front of the mirror. I put make up on if I’m going out, but it’s for everyone else’s sake that may look my way, not mine. I never give another thought to my appearance for the rest of the day.

I think of the skin I live in as just a house for who I really am. I don’t live on the outside of my house, I live on the inside.

I guess that’s why it is such a shock when I see photos with me in them, or as in the case last night, see myself beyond the make-up mirror. I don’t feel that old. I feel like I should look the way I did 30 years ago, because my mind and soul don’t feel aged.

Sage with time maybe, but certainly not as ancient as the old lady on my screen.

I’ve never even considered enhancing the outside of my house. Maybe because I thought God didn’t give me much to work with from the start, and since it wasn’t meant to last forever anyway, I tried not to get too mad about it being so deficient when compared to all those around me.

There is the key I wish I would have found sooner…don’t compare my house to anyone else’s house. Each of our houses is one of a kind, specially built to match no other, not meant to be compared to any standard.

It was meant to be appreciated for the rare gift that it is. The definition of unhappiness is wanting things different than what they are. Yet…that’s what most of us do. We hold ourselves up to images on magazine covers that have been “photoshopped” to perfection. An impossible illusion.

That’s why the “beauty” industry is ever burgeoning. It is more than happy to help one try and achieve what is impossible, especially when the ability to digitally enhance images keeps upping the stakes.

I’m all for being the best we can be, but what would happen if everyone suddenly became happy to be exactly who they already are on the outside?

That’s not good for business.

I had no hope of ever competing with anyone else, so I’ve always been much more interested with what needed fixing on the inside and have no plans to ever finish that project.

The inside is what I’ll take with me when I go. The house stays here.

I’m not judging anyone else who spends time staring at their mirror, it’s just not for me.

My little sister Susan was born beautiful. She was without even trying. Her perfect olive skin, her heart face, her dazzling smile. I remember when I was about 24 or 25, Susan and I went to Olan Mills to have our photos taken together as a Mother’s Day gift to our mother. The photographer thought I was Susan’s mother. I’m only 2 years older than her for crying out loud.

Susan

Susan

Yet, while still in her twenties, she began enhancing what was already perfect.

She ramped up focusing on the outside after her daughter died. She’d had a tummy tuck (what tummy?), liposuction, and a facelift by 39. When I packed up her house after her suicide at 40, on her calendar was a future appointment to have her lips injected.

I know now that the acceleration of perfecting the outside was to create a beautiful mask for what writhing regrets and pain were doing on the inside, however misplaced those regrets were didn’t matter.

I think when we work toward mending or developing what’s on the inside, the outside takes care of itself. Have you ever seen a happy person that is hard to look at? We are drawn to them, like hungry ants to sugar. Happiness from inside is what makes a house beautiful on the outside. Without exception.

It’s not surprising that my house shows more weathering than those around me the same age. I’ve demanded quite a lot from it over its 56 years and frankly am surprised it’s still standing at all. Because I drove it from the inside, I know I pushed it harder than I should have. But God bless it, my house is still trying to keep up even as it is irreparably breaking down.

That’s not to say that the inside didn’t have its share of storms. Some were so dark and long that the fire in my soul was reduced to embers, and many times I was afraid it would go out altogether.

Then I learned to let God and time fan the embers back to life. This light is eternal, it never really goes out anyway. It just moves into God’s house when it’s free. Kind of makes it sound like our earthly home could really be a prison doesn’t it?

It just might be.

I also learned to open up the closets and let the light shine on the monsters that reside there. When the monsters are allowed to be kept hidden in the dark, they become bigger and more menacing than us mere mortals think we can handle. Opening those dark doors and shining a light on what’s inside in our own time, allows us to see monsters for what they really are, small and insignificant with no teeth at all.

When I finally became brave enough to look at the biggest monsters I was hiding since I was a child, I realized they didn’t even belong to me, they were remnants of the evil that my stepfather rained on us and taught us to keep hidden. Those will always be there as dark memories, but I don’t claim their monstrous origin.

The monsters that are of my own creation will always be there also, but when I feel them trying to gather strength to erode the forgiveness I’ve worked so hard to allow myself, however painful it may be I must face them anew.

I remind myself that they reside in the past, they are not here, are not now. Then they are reduced again to just an old bad memory…until the next time they try and rule. Monsters tend to want to kick me when I’m down, so now I know to keep an eye out for them when I’m vulnerable.

The truth is, there are so many good and happy memories in my house the little monsters pale in comparison.

Redirect the focus, which is the key to positivity versus negativity. Light versus dark.

I promise when you look into my eyes which are the windows of my house, you will see that I am looking back out at you. I am seeing you from the inside.

We are not both on the outside looking at me. Unless I accidently “Facetime” you, but chances are I’ll shut it down before you can answer.

Let my weathered house be a testimony to the storms it has endured. That it still endures. It may be older and breaking down on the outside, but it is ageless and strives to be beautifully happy on the inside.

Where I live.

Until next time dear diary.

The Clarity List

Dear Diary,

Clarity – [klar-i-tee]

Noun – clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.

The Clarity List. The most important list anyone will ever make, and you haven’t heard of it because it’s the last list anyone makes. If you’re lucky, you are given time to make it. I know because I had what turned out to be a dry run at it last year.

It’s the list you make when you’ve been given a death sentence.

Your life-force is an amazing thing. It makes sure you sail through life with very little thought to the end. Even when you’ve been given the death sentence, once it’s rescinded you go right back to where you left off without giving the clarity list another thought.

That’s a good thing.

But since I DID make one, I merged it into my bucket list.

It’s hard to trick your life-force into letting you make a clarity list before it’s time. Your mind is not easily tricked. It’s always on the job.

But you should try.

It’s funny that what I thought would be important to me at the end, was not.

I thought I would care about my husband’s new wife spending my 401k. I didn’t.

I thought I would want to jump on a plane and go to #1 on my bucket list (Tahiti). I didn’t.

I thought it would be important to itemize who got what of my earthly possessions. It wasn’t.

When I was staring the grim reaper in the face it was much different than I thought it would be. It was amazing at how quickly and easily it was to see what was most important.

Not money. Not places. Not things.

Clarity.

Only two things became important.

Spending time with people I love became paramount. On any terms.

Seeing the beauty around me. Have you ever seen how beautiful the world is when you are about to leave it? I hope you haven’t. But you should try. Even the smallest thing like a lady bug or the green of grass is so beautiful. It’s like seeing it for the first time. Really seeing it.

Clarity.

No fear. All those things that kept me awake at night like who pissed me off or how much money I spent against my budget or the to-do list for next week, simply fell away. None of that mattered.

All of my little nagging fears didn’t scare me anymore.

Except dying.

How much pain would I be in? How long would I linger? Have I done enough to insure I would go to heaven? Have I done enough to make sure my family will meet me there?

Have I told everyone how much they mean to me?

Clarity.

I didn’t regret any of the things I thought I would regret. But I did have a few.

I regretted all of the time I spent caring about what other people thought.

I regretted not being happier with the body God gave me.

I regretted not making my kids go to church every Sunday.

Hey, I’m just being honest.

After my death sentence was repealed, my life-force kicked right back in, but I have put a few things in place as a result of my clarity list.

I am available and present with my family now. No distractions. I drop everything when a friend calls. My door is always open to those I love.

And it’s closed to those that don’t deserve my time anymore. The drama loving, negative, destructive folks have had to be let go. It wasn’t easy (they don’t like not being enabled or having to do for themselves) but they take away, rather than give to the richness of life.

Clarity.

I have two little chests (one for each of my children) that I drop notes into every time I think of a story from when they were little or something I want them to know after I’m gone. Like how much I love them.

Clarity.

I am going on my first camping trip in 30 years (where there are no bears, I am still afraid of bears no matter what list I’m looking at) and although it’s not a place that is on my bucket list, the time I get to spend with my hubby unplugged and appreciating beauty wherever I am satisfies both items on my very short clarity list.

The most important list of all.

Until next time dear diary.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Had to say Goodbye To Facebook

Dear Diary,

I never thought I’d say this, but I had to say goodbye to Facebook. I didn’t want to, but I had to. It became a habit before I noticed that I had turned into a FB thinking, posting, checking, liking machine. An addict.

In my defense, I started spending more and more time on FB when I was ill and  housebound.

Let’s go with that anyway.

I realize now that it is a shiny object that lured me in like a zombie.  Except I have (or used to) a brain and FB ate it slowly, mindless post by mindless post.

I’m not judging, I had just as many mindless posts as anyone else.

I decided to quit cold turkey as a test to see what impact it would have on my life. It’s been 2 months now and all I can say is…Wow.  I’m so done.

And here are my top 10 reasons why;

Reason #1 – It’s Not Real.  It’s what everyone wants their audience to believe. It’s life edited for affect. Status postings love or hurt deeper, live better, go farther, jump higher, run faster…oh snap, I just morphed into an old PF Flyer commercial! I’m tired of feeling inadequate in the wake of everyone’s fantasy posts. If I want to read about a superhero, I’ll pick up a book or find a blog. We all know comparing our lives with everyone else’s doesn’t end well…but it gets hard not to.

Reason #2 – What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen. – And I’m not talking about the 300 pound twerker, although that’s 1 minute out of my life I’ll never get back. I’m talking about the shock pictures or videos that show up in my news feed depicting some sort of horror that is meant to go viral. I will never ever get the images of the hanging puppy or the baby being hit with a throw pillow out of my head. Ever. I understand that bad things happen in the world (see Reason #3), but the idea that these bad things were done so somebody could get a million shares? It makes me afraid for the human race, and I don’t like that feeling.

Reason #3 – The World Got Too Small. If I want to be abreast of crime in LA, I’ll turn on the news or check it on the news feed when I log onto my email. I don’t want to know about vandalism in Minnesota. All the bad news in the world is depressing, especially for the 30th time.  I have nothing against Minnesota, I just know my limits on exactly how much of a negative feed my psyche can take. Besides, if it’s on Facebook how do I know it’s real news? Refer to Reason #1.

Reason #4The FML’ers. I try really hard to remember that everything is relative, but when someone posts FML because Starbucks forgot their cup sleeve when someone else is battling cancer and never says FML, it’s difficult to be sympathetic. And you know what the FML Starbucks posters’ turn into? A waste of my time. Which leads to Reason #5.

Reason #5 – It’s a Time Thief. Let’s just say I spent an hour a day on FB (and on many, many days it was more). That’s 365 hours a year minimum. What could I have done with 365 hours? I’m embarrassed to say quite a bit. If my days are numbered (and all of ours are), I am not going to spend them on FB. I would rather be in a moment that does not involve staring at an electronic screen. I would rather be outside feeling the sun, smelling the air, and accomplishing something, if only to keep my muscles in a minimum of working order. I would rather spend the time to talk to a friend face to face, shake their hand, and give them a real facial expression, not an emoticon. If I’m going to waste my precious time, I’m going to waste it on something that makes me feel a little better when I’m done. Facebook just isn’t worth the time it steals.

Reason #6 – FOMO. Fear of missing out. Increasingly my friends and family have used Facebook to announce really important things. I became scared to death to miss a post or postings for fear I would not know about an engagement, a health problem, an accident, etc. the list is endless. If someone wants me to know something important now, they’re going to have to let me know the old fashioned way. They’re going to have to text me.

Reason #7 – Save The World. This one I feel a little guilty about, but the truth is I can’t join every cause or fix every broken thing on earth. I would be out of time and money by tomorrow. When I share a status to raise awareness about an issue that is unquestionably a good thing, but when I am sending it from my couch to someone else on their couch and so on, how much is really being done to change it? If we as FB users believe we are bringing about change on any issue by sharing a status, I would like to see the statistics. Again, I don’t want to minimize the importance of global awareness, but I’ll pick an issue I am passionate about and actively work toward change. That will require getting up off the couch, I can guarantee it.

Reason #8 – There Are Some Things I Don’t Want To Know.  I don’t want to know the results of a bathroom visit. I don’t want to know who got lucky last night. I also don’t want to know that someone I admire is actually mentally disturbed. Well maybe I do, but not through a series of really disturbing posts. I’m still mad that someone I looked up to as a strong spiritual advisor was actually hooked on posting some pretty graphic sexual smut. When I tried to discreetly unfriend him…oh man I’m still dealing with that cray cray drama. Mentally disturbed people don’t like being called on their BS, even if it’s through what’s not being said or “liked”.

Reason #9 – Friend is Such an Overused Term. You know what a friend is in my book? A friend is someone who puts up with being seen with me in public. That’s what a true friend is. I may be unique in that everyone on my Facebook friend list is someone I actually know, but maybe 5% of those would put up with being seen with me in public on a regular basis. THAT’s what a true friend is, and I vow to spend my time nurturing those nuts. Those who only wish to be associated with me (or vice versa) from afar probably don’t even know I’m gone. Oh yes…and the haters. Why do people want to see you fail so badly? When I fall down, I’d rather do it around those that want to help me get back up with actually lending me a hand, not a like. Or a smug comment. Bitches.

Reason #10 – What Would Jesus Do? I imagine the conversation would go something like this upon my arrival to the pearly gates.

Jesus – “Welcome my daughter, I have forgiven you of your many sins and am pleased that you tried hard to be good and help those around you. Why did you stop so near to the end?”

Me – “I didn’t stop Lord. I sort of cared about all of those people that the people that I know shared their postings on Facebook.”

Jesus – “And what did you do to ease their suffering?”

Me – “I liked their posts.”

Whew…thank God I stopped myself in time to change this conversation.

Until next time dear diary.

 

 

 

 

Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room

Dear Diary,

Since I am stuck here sidelined from training for The Next Big Thing, I thought I would regale you with tales from bucket list items I have recently been able to check off as complete.

Heceta Head Lighthouse was to be the crown jewel of two weeks of jewels. I had planned my trip very carefully (that’s part of the fun) and had amassed a rather eclectic collection of hotels, motels, and B&B’s with the only pre-requisite being that it had to be on the Pacific Ocean’s shore (the first week anyway, I took an inland route home).

Spending the night in a Lighthouse (keeper’s house) was a bucket list item within a bucket list item (the PCH experience). I had looked forward to it since leaving my home in Southern Cali, and just couldn’t wait to see it up close and personal.

It didn’t disappoint. In fact, pictures cannot do it justice.

A Room With A View - and a Ghost

A Room With A View – and a Ghost

This is the view from my room.

I had checked in fairly early in the afternoon so set out immediately to explore the area. I didn’t know much about the history before I got there, which is out of character for me. I usually do quite a bit of research upfront on travel locations. Maybe because I had so much to plan for the trip, I knew I wanted to stay here so I booked it and moved on.

I will never make that mistake again.

I made the short walk up to the light house, and again I had my breath taken away.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Coming from So. Cali., I am not accustomed to the ferocity of the sea battering the rocky Oregon shoreline. It is indescribably beautiful, but at the same time sends the message that it is in charge. One slip would result in certain death on the crags and rocks below, if not plunged fully into the ocean itself in which you would be battered to death within minutes. Whew, I almost scared myself there.Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 045

No guardrails or fences here. This snapshot was taken on the way to the lighthouse. It can’t be seen from the house or the lighthouse even though it’s between them. Only when you are up close to it and this is as close to the edge as I get folks. Falling from this height into the ocean is most definitely not on my bucket list and is a value add I will most assuredly not allow if I can at all help it.

The beach below my window (Devil’s Elbow State Park, hmmmm I should have known something was up) was my next destination and again, words cannot describe the beauty of the Cape Creek bridge, Cape Creek emptying into the ocean, and the ocean and shoreline beyond. There were more than a few caves along the beach which I would have loved to explore, but it was high tide and I am more than a little respectful of the sea. I know what it can do and I will not challenge it. Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 057House and Bridge

I went back to the Victorian.

There is no food at the Lighthouse Keeper’s B and B (except for breakfast), and both Florence to the south and Yachats to the north were a bit of a drive away. That was fine with me. One of many unexpected perks of traveling alone was I didn’t have to worry about who was hungry and what they wanted to eat. I just made myself a PB&J and a couple of handfuls of trailmix (from supplies I had in my car), followed by a water from my little ice chest and I was good to go.

There was only one other couple in the entire house. Mid-May is not tourist season, and in these parts (at least for me), it was dang cold. I sat in the parlor while they made their dinner in the guest kitchen.

I should explain why this particular Victorian is so unique.

It was actually the Lighthouse Keepers Assistant’s houses. A Victorian duplex if you will. The Head Lighthouse Keeper’s house was demolished in 1940 and the lumber used to build a café in Mapleton, Oregon. This photo was taken in 1900 of both houses before demolition of the foreground house.headkeeperhouse_1900

The Assistant’s duplex (background)was actually designed from a single plan and doubled in the interest of saving time and supplies since this place was so remote.

It is still off the beaten path.

Originally, the two identical homes were separated by a wall which was taken down by the B and B operators (it is actually owned by the State) to make a single dwelling.

That being said, there are still two identical kitchens – one can be used by guests, while the one on our side of the house was used exclusively by the chef. The proprietor was gone as soon as both parties were checked in. He mentioned that there was a woman on site that lived in the basement (accessible only by outside stairs), but that we wouldn’t see her unless we needed her (getting locked out, etc.).

We had the entire 6 bedroom, 2 kitchen, 2 living room, 4 bathroom house to ourselves.

I got to know the other couple. A thoroughly delightful pair from Canada (actually he was originally from Australia with his dreamy accent) who were there celebrating her graduation from medical school.

Heceta Lighthouse and keepers houseIn the above photo, my room is the right hand set of double windows on the second floor. The attic windows are the double set on the third floor. The lighthouse is in the background. The rocky coastline follows the road around to the lighthouse, and around behind where I am standing to take this photo. Heceta is a large outcropping of rocky coastline named for the Spaniard who discovered it in 1755, and evidently lived to tell about it.

After my new friends ate dinner, we started out sitting on the glorious front porch, but because of the cold moved into the parlor.  We lit a nice fire and chatted while they played a board game.

I must comment on the change in weather. While Oregon (at least for my trip) was not sunny So Cal by any stretch of the imagination, it had been partly sunny when I arrived. As the day started to wane, the waves had become even more violent, the sky ominous, and it became bone chillingly cold. Even though it wasn’t raining, everything was wet and slippery. Not a place I would hike in the dark that’s for sure.

I got a feeling for what a lighthouse keeper’s job really must have been like. Not as glamorous as I had imagined.

While we were chatting in front of the fire and watching the storm roll into our little slice of Pacific Coast heaven, the subject of the house being haunted came up.

WHAT?!?!?!?

Exsqueeze me….did you ask me if I knew the place was haunted? Ummm, no. I certainly did not.

The male half of this couple told me to not pay any attention to her, she was the type that if there was one shark in the ocean she would expect to get bit.

Oooooookaaaaay, but this house was a bit smaller than the ocean. This would be like a shark in your swimming pool. Pretty good odds of an encounter I’d say.

While this was slightly unnerving, I didn’t feel ominously threatened or that we were being watched or anything else spooky for that matter.

When I finally got home 2 weeks later, I googled it and is indeed considered one of the most haunted houses in America. Why didn’t I know that going in? Still a mystery to me since I am normally Miss Information. Not mis-information…nevermind.

The next thing we knew the caretaker from downstairs was in the room with us and explained she was only there to close the shutters on the front doors (to protect the delicate stained glass) in preparation for the incoming storm. Incoming storm? Funny, I didn’t know that either. I even had Yachats as a favorite in my Weather Channel app, oh that’s right AT&T…

We invited the caretaker to have a cup of tea and chat in front of the fire which she cheerfully did. We got through the niceties and I went straight for the heart of the matter by asking about ghosts.

“Oh” she said, “we only have one and she is a shy ghost. She is known as “Rue” and rarely appears as a visual specter, the only time we even know she’s here is when she  gets upset from spring cleaning and move everything around.”

I asked…”what do you mean by move everything around?” She replied, “When we close for a week and move everything to the middle of the house to clean and make repairs, sometimes when we come back the next day it’s all put back in its place.”

I wish I had a cleaning ghost like that in my house.

Be careful what you wish for…I know, I know.

I learned from our host the life of an assistant housekeeper’s wife was horrible. She would be subject to surprise white glove inspections and scrutiny by both her husband and the head lighthouse keeper’s wife. No wonder poor Rue is still at it.

This assuaged any fears of paranormal activity because frankly, who can be afraid of a ghost that doesn’t show herself and cleans?

A couple of hours later we had talked ourselves out and all parties bade each other a goodnight. The Canadian couple and I headed up our steep winding stairs and to our respective bedrooms.

This is my room pre-storm and dark.  No frills but who needs a TV or computer with a view like this? Room and View

As I laid down to read before falling asleep, I felt myself become melancholy which is not something I normally allow myself to indulge in. It’s a slippery slope, and I would prefer to dwell on happy thoughts whenever possible. And it’s always possible.

I chalked it up to not being able to talk to my kids for a couple of days (one of which was Mother’s Day), and although I had been able to talk to my hubby the night before, and our conversation was most pleasant, it was still strained. I updated that I was safe on Facebook (the B&B has wi-fi) and got their well wishes on my timeline, but it’s not the same.

Also it was my sister’s birthday, and while I usually try not to dwell on her untimely death (which leads to thoughts of the untimely death of her young daughter), maybe because of the storm and isolation my mood matched the grey turmoil outside.

I propped the window up about a half an inch. Call me crazy, but when you love the ocean as much as I do the sound of it crashing below your window should not be muffled or restrained. It started to rain but was not coming in my window so I left it open a crack.

I closed my eyes but thoughts of my little sister Susan persisted. A life so tragically interrupted (see Do They Know How Much I Loved Them for details). Because of the sudden loss of her young daughter, another life tragically cut short.

I tried to redirect my thoughts to what was on my plate for the next day, calculated where I was on my trip, etc. but the darkness on the edge of my mind was still there.

Then I heard music. Amidst the sound of the rain, the crashing surf, the thunder of the storm, I heard music.

Not music from instruments, but music as if a woman was humming a melody.

And it sounded like it was in my room.

That couldn’t be. There was an old dial up radio in my room but it wasn’t on.

I got up and put my ear to the vent thinking that it might be coming from the woman two stories down, after all old houses are like that right? Wrong, it wasn’t coming from there.

It was following me. It sounded like something a woman would hum if she were trying to put a baby to sleep. Very soft and soothing.

I know. Maybe the female half of the Canadian couple had gotten up to take a bath. The bathroom they used shared a wall with my bedroom. That had to be it.

I opened my bedroom door and stepped out into the hall. The bathroom door was open and the light was off. Nobody in there.

While I had stepped out into the hall, the humming had followed me and gotten even closer to my ear. Eerie, but I wasn’t going to panic because I was not out of options. It could be someone outside.

I highly doubted it on a night like this, but you never know. I stepped back into my room and grabbed the flashlight provided in case of a blackout. I opened the window all the way and shined it outside. Nothing but rain and surf. I shuddered and closed my window and locked it.

The humming continued, and moved when I moved.

Phooey, time to panic. I jumped in bed and pulled my covers up to my chin and shut my eyes so hard I squinted.

I had the overwhelming sensation that if I opened my eyes there would be a face within inches of my face. I knew someone was staring at me, and I knew it was close.

Let me say I am NOT one that has a great deal of experience with the paranormal. I avoid invisible drama. I have enough tangible drama in my life without this kind of thing, thank you very much.

I wasn’t alone in my room. I sensed the person walk around the outside of my bed and sit at the foot of the bed on the other side. I felt it move, and I was not moving.

I am frightened out of my mind at this point. I am not sleeping this night, that’s for sure. Adrenaline is pumping like high performance racing oil in my veins.

I sat up and said, “Rue if it’s you, I would like for you to leave.”

The humming stopped for a moment. It’s as if she was considering it. Then is started back up again, but never as close to me as before. About an hour later, the humming moved out of my room and out of ear shot. Finally!

I awaited dawn which was only a few hours away at this point, as I laid awake with my eyes as big as saucers I’m sure. She didn’t come back, but I was waiting and listening for any sign of company.

The next morning both the Canadian couple and I headed downstairs to breakfast at the same time (as it is served promptly at 8am). I told them about the night’s adventures.

Surprisingly, they had adventures of their own.

Evidently they kept opening their window to get air, and “Rue” kept closing it. Since it was a small wind out window, it was not possible to close on its own. At least they assured me it couldn’t.

When the husband balked at his wife’s suggestion that it could be the ghost, he was promptly held down in his bed without the ability to speak or move.

I’m glad I didn’t balk.

The chef overheard our conversation at breakfast (it is 7 courses after all), and when the Canadian couple left to pack, she approached me about my story.

She asked if I was in mourning or was sad about the loss of a loved one. I said I was, and told her about my sister’s suicide after the death of her daughter.

“Ahhhhhhhhh, that’s it”, she said. “That’s what?” I replied.

The chef said that it is thought “Rue” committed suicide after the death of her small daughter. Although there is no record of such history at the house, there was the grave of a small female child unearthed on the grounds.

I could see it. I can’t imagine having to deal with unbearable grief while being cutoff from the rest of the world.  And the sound of the never ending, nearly deafening crashing surf. While I love it, I think that it might become maddening without transportation to carry me away to silence once in a while, or iTunes and headphones. She would have had no options but to suffer alone.

The chef went on to say that “Rue” has been known to try and comfort those that grieve for loved ones, especially children. Just a month earlier she had put her ghostly hands on the face of a female guest grieving over the death of her son.

Was that what she was doing, trying to hum me to sleep? Trying to help me get my mind off of the loss of my sister and her daughter? Newsflash Rue…you are not conducive to sleep, but come to think of it, you did get my mind off of what I was thinking before you showed up. .

They say she stays in the attic during the day…I was in the house alone within the hour, should I explore it? Should I try to tell her I’m alright? OH HELL NO.

I’m not that girl. I was on my merry way within just a few minutes.

I would go back to Heceta Head Lighthouse in a hot minute with all of its beauty and history…but not by myself. Not without my hubby and an Ambien. Or two.

Until next time dear diary.

Retirement Year One – A Madwoman’s Playbook

Dear Diary,

Firstly and most importantly when you make it to retirement you need to feel very very blessed.  Wallow in it.

By this time in our lives we have known many people who didn’t, and the fact that we are still standing is a testament to our tenacity, vigilance, strength of body and mind, and by the grace of God.

Let’s move on…’cause that’s what we survivors do.

My retirement came abruptly (due to a health scare) and 4 years earlier than planned, but other than that I see no reason why it would be any different than one who retired on exactly the day they always planned to.

Except I didn’t get a retirement party or a gold watch. I’m still a little mad about that. But I got to go on living. So I’m over it.

Like any other successful Operations Manager in America, I was manic. I didn’t choose the field in which I spent most of the 40 years I worked. I wasn’t that organized when I was 21. Instead, Logistics is where I landed when I blindly launched from my parents’ home and college, to a short and ill-fated marriage, to a desperate single parent in 2 years. Too proud to ask for help.

It’s funny how poverty tends to motivate one to succeed.

For.The.Rest.Of.Your.Life.

Did I say succeed? I meant over-achieve.

Out of the gate as a college dropout in Logistics. I shudder in retrospect.

Logistics = There is no such thing as weekends or holidays. Every delayed shipment is the one that will break or make its retailer. That’s the rules, in a nutshell. Oh wait one more – You must play “Simon Says” with the port of Los Angeles and all points of entry along America’s southern border, and you are not Simon.

As far as management goes, I’m pretty sure it’s the same in any area of expertise.

Middle/Upper Management = You do not have a life. You are available at any time day or night. You are only as good as your last P&L and to a lesser extent, your last employee satisfaction survey. Nobody else can do your job, so taking more than one week of vacation while “out of pocket” (unavailable) is not permitted.

Wait…that last part might be my micro-managing psychosis and not a real pre-requisite. The lines between them got blurry. Don’t judge.

A Blackberry, cellphone, and a laptop were my constant companions. Checking them became an addiction. Like crack. Which is why I called mine a Crackberry.

The meetings, don’t get me started on the meetings.

In addition to the aforementioned, I took on penetrating the glass ceiling. I think I still have shards embedded in my scalp. But I did it.

I ate stress for breakfast. Bring it. But nothing else, because I was dieting. For 40 years. No joke.

For me and my psychosis, over-achieving did not end at work. The time I had off was spent cleaning, laundering, gardening, grocery shopping, regular shopping, over-the-top birthdays, hosting most extended family holidays, parent-teacher conferences and blah, blah, blah. You get the picture right?

In short, I may have fed, pruned, and weeded the roses – but I never stopped to smell them.

Never.

Fast forward 40 years to retirement. Year one.

The playbook reads as follows…

You turn in the company Crackberry and the laptop.

You clean out your office. This is not as easy as it sounds. Your identity is so enmeshed with your work, you have to really concentrate to accurately divide what is yours and what belongs to the company. You hold onto those business cards though, you’re not throwing away you.

Next you pack your things in an unceremonious cardboard box (I don’t care who you are) and load it into your car for the last ride home from work.

And you start the life you have dreamed about for 40 (fill in the blank) years . The life that made you go on at all the times that you were sure you couldn’t go on. The life you saved 20% of your check for.

I am sure there are a plethora of books out there, written by qualified people, that give a blow by blow of what comes next. I did not read them. I’m a rebel like that. I must run with a rebel crew, because no new retiree I know read one. Just sayin’.

Mad Baby BoomerTo be clear, this is the diary of a mad baby boomer, not a mental health professional. Proceed at your own risk.

First order of business is to take a trip. Every new retiree I know has followed this play from the Year One Playbook without exception. A cruise, a road trip, visit out of state family, travel abroad…whatever. You break away without an approved vacation request, a rite of passage if you will. And because you can.

Then you come home and take two weeks to unpack. Why? Because you might want to take off again, or you guessed it…because you can.

A month has gone by. It’s awesome.

Then you go to all of those appointments that you struggled to fit into your schedule (and ultimately had to cancel because of work conflicts). Medical, dental, attorney (for your living trust), tax person/broker/financial planner (just to reassure yourself that you are on track with your financial retirement plan…for the third time). You’re good to go for the rest of your life. As long as the stock market doesn’t crash.

You build a semi-complicated excel spreadsheet to track itemized spending. And to keep your Microsoft Office skills sharp.

2 months go by. It’s friggin’ awesome.

You watch all those documentaries, series, movies, concerts, epic sporting events, etc. that you had TIVO’d but never had time to see. For the first TIME in your life, a bad movie was not a waste of your TIME. That’s new, and also friggin’ awesome. You feel like a TIME thief in a vault of TIME, without the TIME Po-Po around to see you stealing it. Ever. Does it get any better?

3 months have gone by. Beyond awesome.

You take on that project that was always on the back burner. That remodel, DIY, yard, car, hobby etc. That thing that you were always going to do after you retired. You may or may not finish it. That’s the beauty of retirement. You are no longer judged by your last achievement.

Except by your spouse. Ouch.

You start needing to eat meals at the exact same time every day. Where did that come from? Weird.

4 or 5 months go by. Wow. Already? Awesomeness beyond description.

Here is where I began to struggle just a hair. Just a smidge. Maybe I am unique in that my hubby is not retired. My time was entirely my own, whether I liked it or not. I lose sight of the retirement playbook. I have no idea what everyone else is doing. It’s just me doing my thing. Like being distracted by shiny objects.

I used to be responsible for managing 300 people (some indirectly I’ll admit), and a multimillion dollar budget. I multi-tasked up to, but not over, the line where it becomes ineffective. That is a professional multi-tasker peeps.

Now, I am picking off worms from my tomato plants with a tweezer. The little bastards. For hours. Because I have an organic garden and I am not a quitter.

My trusty companion is not the assistant of yore. She is my grand-dog and does not do my bidding. Only because of her lack of opposable thumbs, not because she isn’t enthusiastic. I find myself having conversations with her. I don’t even notice she doesn’t talk back. Out loud. We’re connected like that.

Doesn’t this face scream “You’re taking me with you to this party when you go, right”? Who needs words. Not us.

I didn’t take her to the party. She knew.

I check my phone, somebody texted. It’s not urgent. I’ll answer them later when I’m not so busy.

I open the Excel spreadsheet and realize I am 2 months behind itemizing expenses. Screw it. I add them all up without itemizing and find I am only slightly over budget, that’s ok, I’ll do better this month because this is all still new. I keep the excel spreadsheet because it’s pretty, but I know I’ll never open it again.

Wait, what month is it?

I get annoyed because I didn’t know it’s a holiday and the whole world is off of work and school on a weekday. Very inconvenient.

A friend texts and wants to have lunch. I write it down on the wall calendar (old school style), and set aside the whole day. In fact, I have two things planned in that week and I feel like if anything else comes up I might be a bit over-committed.

I have lunch with the friend and find out we’re doing the same things. Whew. NOT CRAZY, good to know. I’m in line with the playbook. We’re back to the collective You, not just I. I vow to have lunch with friends more often.

You walk daily and feel pretty darn accomplished in that regard. Unless it’s the weekend. Then you rest.

Thoughts come up that are so random that you are afraid you might have Alzheimer’s. A childhood memory that is so vivid you can actually relive it in every detail. A poem that you suspect was always there but only now becomes clear. A familiar imagined vista that now longs to be put on canvas. A word that needs to be written. You ask yourself, who am I?

Then you realize that it is nothing more than an unfettered mind that is finally let loose to run, to play, to create, to remember. The long dormant right-brain coming to life. An unchained prisoner, free for the first time since it was a child.

You talk to God. Because you can finally hear him talk back. Because you’re finally listening.

You walk by your roses and smell them. That legit smell doesn’t come from a hothouse florist or a bottle. The real backyard fully bloomed rose. Almost heaven. Was it there all along?

You go to dinner with your family, and you notice them on their smart phones, crackberry, ipads. Where did you leave yours? Did you even bring it? When was the last time you checked it?

It’s the first thing they do when they get up in the morning and the last thing they do when they go to bed. While in bed.

You feel sad that this is what you were just a short time ago, and that you can’t save them. Or get their attention. Payback is a bear.

That’s ok, you’ll wait for them. You have time.

Wait…what year is it?

NOW you are truly retired my friend.

Until next time dearest diary.

Bucket List Found

steno padDear Diary,

I finally found my bucket list today. I found it deep in the bowels of “the office”. I put this in quotes because “the office” is what we call the area of the house with a desk and books. It is cleverly disguised as a place where something productive may happen. But it doesn’t. Unless you count dusting and vacuuming said area as productive. I digress.

The reason my bucket list was so hard to find is because it resides in a steno pad. That’s right, I said steno pad. Let’s stop and think for a second how far we’ve come since stenographers who performed stenography on a stenography pad was a thing. That’s history son. Google it.

That’s how old this list is.

It’s so old it’s actually entitled “Things to Do Before I Die”. I’m still a little mad that I didn’t think up the term Bucket List.

At first glance it was immediately evident that this list needed editing. There are some things I’ve actually done. I can move those over to a done list. Done.

Then there are the pie in the sky by and by items…for example Bora Bora. Although this has always been in the top three, there is more than a very good chance it will never happen. No matter how I pitch the cost justification, my husband won’t buy it.

I’m not giving up on Bora Bora though. I’m going to hold out hope that one of my two selfish kids takes me there to assuage their guilt over not giving me grandkids. I must admit it would help ease the pain. Temporarily.

There are bucket list items I have to exclude because the ship has already sailed (a little mad I didn’t think of that one either). They are as follows;

  • Being a Princess cast member at Disneyland. – Nobody wants to see an old Cinderella. I’m not going to regret this too much. Being at the mercy of every child without being allowed to talk doesn’t hold the same allure as it once did.
  • Participating in the Olympics. – And by participating I mean walking in the opening ceremonies. I don’t have rigid discipline and crumble under pressure which negate competing in an actual sporting event. Even if I did, it would probably be a horrible uniform year and the irony would be too much. No regrets.
  • Surfing. – Clearly this was listed pre-Shark Week.
  • Space Travel. – No way. Not after seeing the movie Gravity. I can conjure up an imaginary conversation with George Clooney right here on Earth. I might already have.
  • Sky Diving. – Nope. The ground looks too far away when I just stand up now.
  • Roller Derby. – Really? Was I out of my mind? I can’t believe that being hurled by a teammate into a group of angry women while on skates was ever appealing. Yikes!
  • Marrying Donny Osmond. – Ok, this technically wasn’t on the list, but for 40 years has been my secret desire. I had to put it on and formally take it off to close this door. I’ll admit saying his name still makes my heart flutter a little. Don’t tell anybody that.

I have to go for now dear diary. I’ll tell you more about the bucket list later.

Yes, these are my shoes.

Aviary Photo_130537190526880164

Dear Diary,

These are my huarache platform shoes. I have had them since 1975, and they have moved into every closet of every place I’ve ever lived in since. Trust me when I say that is a lot of places.

If they could talk they would tell you about two husbands, two kids, and everything in-between then and now. Thank God they can’t talk.

I have no idea why I’ve kept them. Somehow they have become intrinsically connected to my youth, or I’ve been saving them for a retro party I have yet to be invited to. One of the two.

I’m still a little bit mad about them nearly being worn out by the friend I loaned them to in 1976 before she gave them back. I’m almost over it. Especially since I still have that friend and I love her more than the shoes. Almost. She knows better than to make me choose.

I should throw them out, after all that is what my kids will do when they find them in the closet after I’m 6 ft under. My son won’t hesitate, but my daughter will pause just for a moment because she appreciates shoes. She just won’t understand why I kept this pair out of all of the hundred pairs of shoes I’ve had since.

I don’t either.

Maybe it’s because when I see them, I see who I was in them. A tall, thin, 17 year old who dreamed of endless possibilities and woke each day just excited to see what the day would hold. Time meant nothing, except being late for school or work.

I had all the time in the world.

I don’t anymore, and I just realized it. Dammit. It got real up in here.

I’m not as tall (I’ve shrunk a little from the weight of the world), definitely not thin, have no illusions about possibilities (but still dream them), and what I wake up to now is joint pain.

But I still have the shoes. They haven’t changed at all. I could wear them if I wanted to. But not out of the house. Because I’d be judged.

I’m looking forward to the time when I won’t care what people think of me and my choice of footwear. I’m almost there.

I won’t be considered weird then, just eccentric. Then I’ll be cool. Eccentric hip Grandma cool.  The one that everyone wishes their Grandma would be like. That’ll be me. But I’m not a Grandma yet really. Dammit.

I’m still waiting for one of those two selfish kids of mine to have children. They love torturing me.

So between now and the time that I am a real Grandma, I have you dear diary.

You and my huarache platform shoes.

And I think I also have a bucket list. Since it got real up in here just now, I’d better find it. See you later.