More than a Blue Moon

More than a decade ago, my sister called me before she left for a professional conference. I wasn’t home. She left a message. I heard the message, and I decided I’d just talk to her when she got back from the conference.

Yesterday was my birthday. Along with all the Facebook-prompted well wishes, I was the glad recipient of other birthday greetings throughout the day. Friends sent texts. One friend sent flowers. Another sent balloons. Yet another took me out to lunch. I received chocolates. Youngest son tagged along tolerantly while I wandered through my favorite book store. There were a few presents, some cake, a flute too many of champagne. It felt good to realize that people were thinking of me; that others cared; that some went out of their way and incurred expense on my behalf. I felt special.

blue-moon-treeThen, as I am wont to do, I got to thinking. And then overthinking: why don’t we do such things for others that we care about on a regular basis? Why should well wishes, Facebook-prompted or not, be limited to a birthday? Don’t we want our friends and loved ones to know what they mean to us? To feel special?

I know: life moves fast. The news bombards us. Traffic stalls. Budgets are tight. People get sick. Dogs have to be walked. There’s laundry to do. And supper to plan. Cats throw up.  Oh, and work. The kids need transporting. I own a vacuum cleaner for a reason. I need to make summer plans at the beginning of February. And, youngest son has a vocal concert. Then . . . then . . . then . . . sometimes I have so much to do that I do nothing. Still and all, it’s easy to be distracted by the tyranny of the urgent.

But maybe you’re different.

You likely think of others more readily than I. Maybe you make the unexpected phone call because you want to hear a smile. You send greeting cards on time for anniversaries and birthdays.  Are you the person who picks up a scone for a colleague who you know is struggling?  You might even be one of those grand romantic gesture people, standing outside with a portable stereo over your head a la John Cusack. Perhaps you simply answer the phone instead of checking to see who is calling and groaning and hitting the “decline” button.

We all want to feel remembered, answered, cared for: it’s natural. I wonder if I can do a better job of this: caring for others in the way they need. I wonder if I can listen to people’s hearts better. Might I help someone feel special? Maybe I can take a breath and really hear what someone is trying to say to me.  Can I return calls promptly instead of spending time crafting an apology about why I didn’t call back?

Maybe I can.

Maybe I won’t miss anyone else’s last call.




The Five Decade List

2017 is here. That means I will turn fifty this year. I was not, as youngest son suggested, born in 1953. Still, where has the 50th-birthday-cake8time gone? What have I been doing all these years?

Oh, playing with dolls; learning to drive; being with friends; getting married; getting unmarried; sleeping; working; listening to music; changing diapers; making supper; taking showers; exercising; mourning loss; working some more; listening to people; avoiding responsibility; scooping the cat box; admitting defeat; walking the dog; embracing love; wondering about the future.

As I look at this looming milestone, I am alternately proud of myself and embarrassed. I think of the different iterations I have effected in my life, and I think, “Wow, I’m pretty resilient and great. ” Other days I look back, and think, “What the fuck was I thinking?” Some days I feel like I’m 92 and other days, I am certain I can’t be older than 10. It’s life.

A few years ago, I was feeling very old. Very sad. Washed up. Dark. I even began wondering how soon is too soon to move into an old folks’ home. Many people bemoan milestone birthdays and seek to hide from well wishes and the inevitable comments about how much older or younger they are than their interlocutor. Some people even hide from cake!

Not me. I’m taking a different approach.

I am currently brainstorming 50 things to do this year. These activities range in scope, and may or may not include other people. A few samples: go on a Habitat for Humanity build; see a musical; go parasailing; visit my aunt and uncle; be open to a relationship; read a book a month; write fifty new poems.

A friend messaged me this morning, sharing her intention for the new year. She has chosen a word to define her intentions in multiple areas of her life. I like it.

My approach is to intentionally experience at least fifty different, familiar and unfamiliar facets of life through my list, and to reflect meaningfully on them through the year. I want to grow, learn, and become.

Oh, and I want cake.


Are You Kidding Me?


My birthday was earlier this week, and like a responsible adult I went to work. I attended my meetings and did the job. Before I left for home, I texted youngest son asking if he wanted to eat out with me and listen to our friend play some live music a little local wine bistro. To be honest, despite our talented friend, the restaurant wasn’t my first choice, but it was a Thursday night, and it made sense.

As we pulled up, son exclaimed, “There’s an asston of people here.” I glanced around – really? On a Thursday night at 7:00? Most Cedar Rapidians are happily ensconced in their dwellings in front of their TVs by that time on a weeknight. Indeed, it was wall-to-wall people. I was happy my friend had drawn such a crowd, but my pleasure was quickly supplanted by annoyance. Indeed, if they were there to hear music, you did not know it.

It was an ADULT COLORING CLUB. I did not know this was a thing. Of course, adult coloring books are the craze at the moment. I have one, as well as nice set of colored pencils. In fact, a friend gave me a really cool one with inspirational quotes and coloring designs for aforementioned birthday. However, when I color, I am at home. Usually at the coffee table or breakfast bar – kind of like when I was, oh, six and colored at home. These people had come out in public – to a wine bar no less – to color in groups, ignore music, and talk at each other. Are you kidding me?

My idea was to sit in a quiet place, enjoy a light meal and some music. What I got was an adult-preschool where the manners of preschool were forgotten. They didn’t share the colors; they talked too loudly about their picture pages, and failed to applaud the musician who played non-stop for at least the 90 minutes we were there. I sympathized with the waiter who encountered whining complaints when he told a group of rugrats that they didn’t offer french fries, and suggested a fruit or cottage cheese cup instead. The servers bustled about, but by-and-large the colorers took a seat and kept it to color. It reminded me of the times in college when we would get one order of fries and water then keep the booth as long as whatever unfortunate establishment we had descended upon would let us. From the looks of things last night, tables did not turn much.

IMG_3656After about an hour, I looked at my watch and asked son if it wasn’t time for the coloring toddlers to go to bed. Nope, they kept at it. At first, it was hard for me to put my finger on the cause of my outrage. Then, I figured it out: this activity did not belong in an adult setting. I had counted on a quiet evening of drink and music; I got a kindergarten after-school care room.

Now, mind you: if you like coloring or the wine and painting evenings that happen, that’s fabulous. Everyone gets to have their own hobbies, and as I said, I color occasionally. But, I think this should be happening at the library or in a classroom or a studio of some kind. Perhaps the establishment should have reserved their rooms for only colorers because the six or seven of us that were not kept looking at each other in bewilderment.

I guess I just don’t get it: why are these people coloring in groups in an adult venue? I chatted briefly with the woman who organized the coloring club; she said, “Isn’t this great? Help yourself to a page and some crayons.” No, no thanks. I’ll take my wine in the bar, and I’ll do my art in the studio.

Join me – please?



All the Things

all the thingsOn the eve of the start of my fiftieth year, I will tell you all the things.

Adding age is good in almost every respect. It is easier to take care of oneself because the main opinion I value is my own. Whether I do kettlebells, wear make-up, listen Phil Collins, choose skirts instead of pants, eat potato chips depends on what I want to do. Not what my friends are doing – what Oprah suggests – or if my mom likes it.

Friends mean something. Friends are not just people to party with; they are the people who have similar hobbies, are free for a chat, make time in schedules. Sure, this can happen at any age; however, it feels a little deeper now than it did in my younger years. Maybe I just value this more now that work, children, car maintenance, yard work, and laundry can get in the way.

Things count. But not everything counts. Stupid or serious mistakes – from a bad haircut to a job you hated to an ill-advised marriage – all can be forgiven. Decide what counts for you and hold on to that until it doesn’t serve you any more – then re-decide.

Heartbreaks are real and can crack pretty deeply. The depth of emotion that I feel now is something I either denied myself ordying.morrie was incapable of previously. My biggest heartbreaks have had nothing to do with romance. Everyone’s heart breaks differently; be gentle with each other and with yourself.

Everybody gets to do their own thing. Debating politics, publishing writing, watching sports, making wine, hiking canyons, investing stocks, growing flowers, reading books, racing cars, playing music, fly fishing, stage acting, shooting skeet, watching birds: whatever. Everyone gets to do their own thing, and nothing is better or worse than anything else  – it’s just different. Respect.

Sharing joy is better than being jealous. In younger years I was envious sometimes, and it was hard to be not jealous when friends had things I didn’t have: a marriage; a bigger house; a vacation. Some years ago it was the fashion to say, “I’m so jealous” when someone had something good happened. Seeking contentment allows more graciousness and shared joy.

Maybe that’s not all the things – but, it’s some of them. Anyone who – at any age-  claims to know stuff for sure or have all the things under control might be a little delusional – fun to listen to perhaps –  but probably a little nuts. In any case, we all make our own way together.

Join me.