Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Isolation

An old, retired, slightly handicapped grandmother moves into an apartment building. She decides not to hook up the her cable service. During the afternoon, the time when she is lonely and would have turned on the television if she'd had cable, she wanders down to the lobby. When the manager learns she doesn't have a television hook-up, he invites her to come down anytime and watch TV in the lobby. She takes him up on his offer and the lobby becomes an important place to greet those who come and go.

Greeting those who come and go, becomes her life purpose. Soon the young single mother with a heavy load, stops to talk. And a man who needs to vent. And children who come to call her Grandma.  She notices everyone and she becomes the glue in the building of people who used to just come and go.

She gave up cable; she gave up isolation.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sweet and Reassuring Memories of Childhood

Our flight gets in past midnight and we don't get to sleep until 2:00 a.m. The next day the thought of a nap is so appealing that it takes only a few minutes to succumb to the idea. As my daughter says, "Good nap," and asks if I want the blinds closed or the door shut, I nod my head no. I don't want either and it isn't until I hear the soft reassuring voices coming from downstairs that I am lulled to sleep. As I shift into slumber, I remember a specific memory from childhood. We are visiting my grandparents. My parents have put my sister and I to sleep, have shut the bedroom door and have continued to socialize with Dad's family. I was in a dark, unfamiliar room, but fell asleep comforted by the familiar, joyful voices.

I remember all the times I was put to bed and the party was just getting started, but again, I could always fall asleep. I was safe. My parents were close and happy, just down the hall.

Even as my own family was growing up, there were times when I crawled into bed before the teenagers settled down for the night (Tony always stayed up with the late crowd). Even then, I didn't shut the door, but drifted off with the voices I loved, the reassurances that I was surrounded by happiness. Even if I couldn't stay up late, somehow, I was still part of the joy.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Drink Deeply

Grandpa Tony shared his milkshake with Ezra and when the milkshake was almost dry, he handed it to Ezra, who manhandled the job with gusto.

I keep looking at this photo and there's a message within the secure grasp of his little hands, and his laid back head: drink deeply from life. Be patient as the very last drop slides to the back of your mouth and foremost: enjoy.



Edzo's Burgers, Evanston/Chicago Illinois March 28 2015.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Down Time

A woman texts her friend and asks how she's doing.

The friend replies: I'm doing something you'd pay a million dollars for.

Extremely curious, the woman asks: What's that?

Friend replies: Lying on the couch watching a movie.






Mom moved sooner than expected. Not that she shouldn't have; it was in fact, long overdue. She'd needed a one story house for many years, but she stuck it out, fulfilling our father's wish of dying in his familiar and comfortable-to-him, home.  When the perfect-for- Mom house popped up on the MLS, she went for it. Consequently, we all had to deal with some emotional thunderstorms we thought were still far over the horizon.

A lot of emotions are attached to a home. The long hallway when we'd first see Dad. Dad waiting in his chair at the end of the hallway. The desk that became Dad's link to the finance world.  Dad's collections, Dad's old clothes, Dad's beloved wood carvings. Holidays and meals, people and celebrations. Photos taken in that corner of the room. Mom pulling the turkey out of the oven; Dad carving it on the counter. Rooms with adjustments for the aged.  Pictures that none of us had room for, pictures that were a part of the home's story, that belonged no other place.  The house was built with shelves, cases and nooks for our parents/ treasures. But now it had to go--all of it. Some it here, there, far away, needed, to be stored. An aged friend of Mom's took the fully loaded lazyboy chair. The newly engaged took some dishes. Goodwill picked up their share too. After Mom took what she needed and wanted, my sisters and I were left to sort, divide and share. A person can accumulate a lot of things.

Photos are emotional treasures even though the actual value is nil. If we were to find a photo lying in the street, if it wasn't familiar, if we didn't know the person, it would have no more value than a grocery sack blowing in the wind.  But when a photo is of someone we love, when it brings to mind a memory, a time---oh the power of a photo! While sorting through the boxes, I found some never before seen, or just forgotten photos. We are keeping them together at Mom's house, but my iphone has changed my world--of photos. I can always treasure the proof that my dad was young and vibrant. That he lived. And unexpected bonus is that I see so clearly my face in his.

 Dad: young, handsome and happy (bottom right corner):

Though I am almost twice his age in the photo below, I see his face in mine. Especially the joy--in the context that we are both serving, both surrounded by friends. I see I am like my dad.
                                                                     xx
                                                                     xx
                                                               C'est moi et mon pere!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Just One Bird

 I came upon this bird in the middle of the road, and if there ever appeared to be a fowl attempted suicide, this was it. It wasn't a busy street, but it was inevitable that a car would eventually drive down the road. He was square in the middle of the lane. I moved into the street with hopes that he would fly off. But he refused, or he wasn't capable of moving. I couldn't see an apparent injury or sickness. Except for his emotional state, he looked fine.
 Fortunately, there was some litter (ugh), and I was able to pick him up and move him into a safe protected berm where he could recuperate or die in peace. Or did I just prolong his painful, drawn out death, when he could have just gone in one quick whack under the tire of an SUV. What is a bird capable of thinking? Of doing?
I love birds as most people love birds. I don't use pesticides, herbicides or poisons in my yard. On any given morning, I can look out my window and see different species of birds land and take off from the deck. As I walk through the garden, bluebirds pull worms or a woodpecker shuffles around a trunk. My backyard feels like a bird sanctuary.

Scientists have shown (hypothesized, proven?), that the sound of birds has an effect on the garden. The sound waves enhance a plant's ability to grow.  It is our job as humans to coexist and be a part of and contribute to, not detract from, this symbiotic environment.

My friend reminded me of Mao Zedong's Great Sparrow Campaign in the late 1950s. It was part of the Four Pests Campaign and just another one of the Chinese dictator's blunders. Mao ordered all sparrows to be killed. When Mao ordered, China acted and sparrows were almost completely extinguished. The grain eaten by sparrows was miniscule compared to the grain eaten by the locusts who now had, without the predator sparrow, free reign, or free lunch in the grain fields. Mao's call to eradicate the sparrow resulted in the 1958-61 famine that killed an estimated 30 million people. The Chinese eventually had to import sparrows from Russia.

Perhaps the bird in the street was old or sick. Perhaps the bird ate a worm or an insect poisoned by pesticide.  Maybe that one bird doesn't matter, but maybe it does.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shaping and Natural Consequences

On our morning walk, we are discussing the importance of reading to young children. Studies show that children who are read to will enter school with three times the vocabulary of non read-to children. There are a myriad of other important reasons for reading: parent bonding and the probable development for a love of reading. As an adult who loves to read, I always wanted my children's worlds to be rich with the experiences and ideas of other people.

Both of my daughters with their own children, have made books and reading a priority. Bookshelves are full and close to the floor within little-people reach. There are baskets of books, books in bags, books in the car, books next to the children's beds.

The other day while visiting Holly's children, fifteen month old Sebastian wandered away from the crowd, hiked up the stairs and into his room. My husband was only a few minutes behind. When he walked into Sebastian's bedroom, the little guy was sitting in his rocking chair with two books on his lap. Tony had a heart-melt-moment. When he reported finding Sebastian reading, we learned this was the norm for this little guy. From day one, a basket of books sat next to the rocker in his room. On the bookshelf between the crib and the rocker, are shelves filled with at least a hundred books ( I actually counted today and there are 120). For the two older children in this family who grew up under the same circumstances, one is a devoted reader and the other has to be pushed. As usual, and with children, there are no guarantees.


One of the moms on our morning walk, expresses mild frustration that she read religiously to and with her children, and only one is a reader.

I remember something else I did religiously with my children and in spite of training and hygiene, one child still chose a different path. The now 21 year old recently informed me that when she was sent to brush her teeth, she would let the water run and intentionally not brush her teeth. I was appalled until I remembered doing the same thing as a child! I wish I understood why my child and myself would pretend to brush our teeth. Honestly my own actions are more puzzling.

The good thing is that eventually my child started brushing her teeth, still brushes, and I became an avid teeth brusher over time. Still am. We can't predict nor guarantee that the good habits and loves we try to instill in our children will take hold. However, it is often just a matter of time. And a few cavities. The natural consequences are sometimes the only teachers.

Today, when the little guy disappeared, I followed. He was so book-engrossed that he never noticed I was filming. Having taken so well to books, I'm betting he will also brush his teeth. For real.


video


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Continuing Fellowship of People and Students

Many years ago, I had a few experiences, all within a short time of each other, from which I learned how important minor encounters with people can be.

The first incident happened on a hike through a California canyon. There was a group of girls walking in front of me, and one girl in particular was loud and obnoxious in her speech. My impatient self wanted to say something, but my better self tempered my weakness. It wasn't a year later when this young woman was a student in my class. If I had spoken....

The second incident was with a businesswoman who ordered the blinds for my home. When they arrived, they were ill fitting and the woman took her scissors and cut the ends to fit. It seemed like a horrid solution, but it worked. Again, I was upset but clung to my better self.  Within a few days I unexpectedly encountered her in a social situation. Once again I was thankful I hadn't overreacted over window coverings and I could greet her with kindness. If I had spoken....

A few weeks ago, I ran into a precious, former student, at Barnes and Noble (Hooray, she's still a reader). It was a joyful reuniting. We talked and in the process, I invited her to accompany me to the Ladies' Literary Society opening gala. How appropriate an occasion for a former AP Lit student! What a lovely event to share with a former student.

On a visit to my local college library, I started to wonder if I might run into a former student. Within a minute of that thought, I heard a voice I knew and loved: Christian!  We reminisced in the spare minute he had before his class. What joy!

I'm standing in the school hall, or in a classroom and in walks--!--!--Ramya; another day it's Taylor; and another time it's Mitch;..an email from Joe and Eliza, and one day the doorbell rings--"Come on in Colin!"

There is great joy in seeing a former student. A person with whom you spent a lot of time with and who influenced you as much as you influenced him. A person who may remember more details of your life than your own children. A person with whom it seems, you spent more time with than your own children. A person whom it is a privilege to know and associate with.

Thinking of student relationships as lifetime relationships is a game changer.

This person who enters our lives for a one semester or a two semester relationship may actually turn up in our lives for a lot longer than expected. Some teachers teach their students' children. We must care for these relationships as carefully as we would nurture a family member. And sometimes this means restraint as I found in my first two examples. Sometimes it means holding our tongues and breathing with a sigh of relief...If I had spoken...

Once I found myself having to speak. If I hadn't,  it would have been at the expense of a students' growth. That one student. That student who asked if he could look up a poem on my computer and read it to the class. Of course! I was thrilled he'd found poetry worthy of sharing. And then he read to my whole class of naive ninth graders--a dirty poem with hidden and blatant sexual innuendos. It caught me off guard and took a few lines to process the meaning before I shut him down. It wasn't until after class when I remembered how he bullied students, how he punched a student, how he disrespected others' opinions, that I had to act. Had to speak. It was uncomfortable. As we both sat in the vice principal's office, he was apologetic and he recognized his mistake. Administration had the foresight to move him to a different class which was better for him, a place where he thrived, but a kind of failure for me. That one student. That one student who when we saw each other in the halls, we looked the other way.  But I was the adult, and I wanted peace. I started saying hello and I was ignored. I persisted. And one day, we had a conversation. I cared about this student, I still do, and foremost I believe I did the best thing for him.

Will he ever accompany me to a Literary Society Meeting? Ask me for a letter of recommendation? Come back to visit?  No, and it's ok, but whether I like it or not, whether he likes it or not, we were a part of each other's lives. The effects of our relationship still haunt me. If I see him again, which seems inevitable, I will greet him with gusto and hope he tells me of his post high school success. I even hope he will mention the incident and with the years between his poor choice, my understanding of his one time immaturity, we will somehow share a laugh.

Monday, March 23, 2015

I am having a wedding financial discussion with Paloma (London is on the periphery), who will be married in late summer. She seems to get a little nervous when I remind her that marriage also means financial independence from her parents. Relinquishing her gas card and her free rent status is a little scary. Yet,  I'm positive about the "adventure," and the "bonding" that will surely come from her newly-married financial circumstances.

I believe in my marriage advice because I've lived the highs and lows of married financial co-independence.  Tony and I had a small nest egg or savings, but we treated it like life insurance. We would only use it when absolutely necessary. We lived off our small monthly income. Our first apartment was the cheapest we could find: a basement full of spiders with an afterthought bedroom in the boiler closet and no closet space whatsoever. But we made do. Having never lived in such circumstances, it was fun. It certainly was bonding. It was ours.

"It's important that you and London are poor together," I say (and wonder how convincing I really am).

London joins the conversation and retorts, "We'll never be poor."

I am proud of his response and reply, "Your're right, poor is relative." To which Paloma's older sister who is also entering poverty with her fiance a month earlier than her sister, responds, "Ok you won't be poor but you won't have any money. " Jillian has already convinced me to take her on a splurge trip to Costco before the wedding day to "stock up" before the "no money" period of her life begins.

"Some people are so poor, the only thing they have is money," Paloma adds.

Ahhh. How sweet. She gets it, and she'll be just fine. Both daughters and sons-in-law- to-be will be just fine. Most important is the potential they all possess and someday soon, school will be completed, rotations served, and school debt paid off.

But then come the children, and mortgages, and taxes, and....



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Live Like You're On Vacation

I love vacations, you love vacations, everybody loves vacations.

A friend once pointed out that there are vacations and then there are trips. The difference is that a vacation is joyful, relaxing, rejuvenating: a trip is work and one might return home exhausted. The difference could include that a vacation is without small children, or even a trip herding the whole family. A trip could be a flight to Atlanta for business or a family obligation in Nevada.

Most often the vacation or the trip has elements of each other. Life is a lot like a trip, or the more common analogy, life is a journey. There is not a good reason why life should not include more vacation moments--why a trip should not have vacation moments. Coming home and cleaning out the camper makes it a trip, but it doesn't mean there weren't vacation moments while sitting around the campfire. The 18 hour flight might have made it a trip, but the deserted white sand beach made it a vacation.

Yesterday, when Tony and I were preparing our lunch, I remembered it was a beautiful day. Each spring, we have to re-learn the concept of a beautiful day. When I suggested we eat out on the deck Tony replied, "I think it's too cold."

He stepped outside to find a gloriously pleasant afternoon, and we carried our plates outside. I moved the table into the sun, moved a chair to prop up my feet and thoroughly enjoyed lunch with my husband.

This is what we do on vacation, I thought, and it is in part what makes vacationing so wonderful--that we take the time to prepare lunch and eat it outside. The eating process slows and we savor that we're eating outside in January. Lunch becomes a special activity instead of a rushed moment to fuel our bodies.

As I write this right now, I'm transported back to a vacation moment--in Nice France, on our apartment terrace overlooking the Avenue Des Anglais. A fresh baguette slathered with melt-your-palette butter, a roquette salad. Pastries waiting in the wings. A vacation spent eating on the terrace. So simple, so pleasurable.

In this pleasant moment of discovery, I mini-vow to turn more of my real life moments into vacation moments which will turn my life trip into a pleasant, rejuvenating, relaxing, life experience. Even now, my mind is churning with ideas on how to do this. Lucky me, I'll experiment. More to come.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Switching to the Right Foot or Edit Your Life

My alarm/radio blares this morning at 7:47. I am jolted out of a dead sleep, and so begins my day in chaos. Chaos because the radio is in-between stations, and my first sounds are a disturbing combination of scratch, voice, discordant music, and my own groan of dissatisfaction. And the room is post-winter cold.

I had set the alarm this Saturday morning, to pick up my CSA food on time, but then I realized I'd never received the email order confirmation.  Before I realized this, I dressed and ate breakfast. To think I could have, should have, rolled over and gone back to sleep in my warm bed. More regret.

Ah! But I'm up and can start my day! Lovely. Writing. But even writing stalls. As I scroll through notes of things I want to write about, nothing is appealing.

I come upon a page of uplifting messages I'd written down from various encounters, different people and classes. My soul needs these phrases. I need a change of heart. As I read each one, I can actually feel my outlook brighten. I feel lighter, better, and so I will share the catalysts to my change of heart-- in case anyone else rolled out of bed and into the cold, into the sound of chaos. Proof that I'm feeling better--as I write this, I realize how blessed I am that I even have a warm bed to roll out of, and that I at least had a hope (albeit false and momentary), of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Heaven is a lighthouse and the world is the ocean.

God doesn't do ugly.

The wise man built his house upon the rocks but the rain still came. No one is immune to opposition.

I've known many troubles in my life most of which have never happened. Mark Twain

Worries don't negate the trouble of tomorrow but take the strength away from today.

Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't care who gets credit.

Be the kind of woman that when you wake up in the morning the devil says, "Holy crap, she's awake."

It didn't take much for my spirits to lift! Only seven short phrases of humor, insight and words of God. I'm already planning to finish a book review, planning my work in the garden, looking for a stuffed portobello mushroom recipe and ready to ask Tony What time is the bike ride?

The human spirit just needs to be nourished properly.

P.S.  When I finish writing this piece, I preview it before I publish. The preview comes up and as I read, I'm alarmed at how many mistakes of word usage, punctuation and just bad writing there is. But this writing is like life and we get the chance to go back over what we've created to make changes. Edit the unnecessary, the poorly perceived, the poorly executed writing. I take heart that life, like writing, can always be edited--even more so, that it must be edited.




Friday, March 20, 2015

Disney Cannot Guarantee Love and Devotion

Annika was looking through my jewelry and when she found this bracelet, she held it up for me to see. She had a big grin on her face, yet she was silent. Waiting for me to tell her the story again. So here goes...."When you were just a little girl, when you lived in Indiana, I didn't get to see you all the time. The whole family was meeting at a lake house in Michigan. All your adoring aunts were going to be there and I knew the competition for you would be fierce. I'd hardly get to spend any time with you, so I bought this bracelet because I thought it would charm you. You would sit in my lap and thumb through the disney characters. You would be all mine.

You'd only been at the lake house a short while, when I pulled you into the hammock and showed you the magic bracelet. You looked at it for 30 seconds and unimpressed, moved on. Oh, I was heartbroken. Poor me. Foolish me. I thought I could buy your devotion with a Disney gimmick."

Annika liked the story. Who wouldn't like that someone tried to buy her affections?


Well history has repeated itself. I thought I'd learned.

 Next week, Tony and I will fly to Chicago to be with our adorable two and a half year old grandson, who.....adores Tony and tolerates me.

Ezra has a recent fetish for his Thomas the Train,  Lightening Mcqueen, and Mickey Mouse - shirts. If one of the shirts isn't clean, he won't get dressed. His mother has to make sure the laundry is done if she needs to go out the next day.

Daughter #three had the same fetish at our house. There was a time when she would only wear one dress. All day, and she often insisted on wearing it to bed. She was SO stubborn, it wasn't worth the fight. So, I would wait until she was asleep and then I'd creep into her bedroom, take off the dress and throw it in the washing machine, the dryer, and return it to her bed, ready to wear the next morning. The dress was in shreds by the time she outgrew it.

So I understood Ezra's fetish and wanted to indulge him. The t-shirts at the Disney store were even on sale! I picked out the four below with tremendous joy knowing how much he would love the shirts, how much he would love me!!!! So intent was I on buying his love that I told his mother, that the shirts were only from me and not from his grandpa! Me! Me! Me! So he would love me more than Tony. Finally. Ahhh, but reason and love whispered softly into my heart and Tony gave some advice, "You have to just be calm and patient for his love." Yes, I realized, my selfishness was driven by an unjust and unnatural intensity that kids can sense. Silly me, the Disneymorbilia, wasn't going to work. Again.

It's probably Tony's pure heart that makes Ezra love him so much. Tony would never even think of buying presents only from him.

The purity of children probably helps them sense those with pure hearts. Like animals they can sniff out a fake.

It's not about the bracelet. It's not about the shirts. It's about love. Real and genuine love in a grandma's heart. That I can find, that I don't have to buy.

I just have to let it be.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Learn and Hug

To students: Did you know each time you genuinely learn something new, you get a shot of dopamine?
(I learned this in morning yoga class, and I can only hope it is true).
They liked the idea, and I encouraged them to learn something new in today's class for that shot of dopamine.

We then talked about human disconnection/connection (it related to the dopamine),  and I told them that when they make a human connection, they get a shot of oxytocin (I hope this is true too). So I challenged them to hug each other. Most students stood up and hugged at least one other person. Some students made the rounds. Others chose to sit and not make a human connection. Regardless, the room became a happy, happy place filled with laughter and smiles. Even though I was only an observer, I loved being a part of the change in joyful atmosphere. It was fantastic. Even the students who chose not to hug for a shot of oxytocin, were affected by the radiance. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bee Update

This past weekend, Lisa opened her hive and took out all the honey to be harvested. As she pulled the combs and handed them off, it was impossible not to dip my fingers in the broken comb. Oh my! A palette experience like no other. So intense, so natural! There is really nothing better than comb honey.

She harvested apprx. 30 pounds of honey and her bees are productive, healthy, and I think they even looked happy.


Photo courtesy of Lisa--honey filtering

Previously we had learned that Nikki's bees had survived the winter! Hooray! That was a major coup since mine hadn't. On the first day above 40 degrees, Lisa and I checked on the wild hive and on her hive. It was so exciting to see bee activity. We headed over to Nikki's to check on her hive. We saw crazy-good activity. Bees flying in and out--happy that winter was over. Nikki had thought the worst since she hadn't heard or seen a thing since the weather had started to warm. She was "at work" in her corner office when Lisa started yelling "Nikki come look. Your bees are alivvvvvve." Nikki rushed out in nice clothing, make-up and heels (Nikki dresses for work).

After marveling at Lisa's heavy, full honeycombs, we headed for Nikki's. She again thought that her bees hadn't made it, but I wasn't going to believe it. After all, they were alive just weeks before.

Her suspicions were confirmed. The hive was almost empty. A few dead bees here and there and one major clump. When she pulled the clump apart, she found the queen bee. The loyal worker bees surrounding her to the very end.

But what had caused their death? We all knelt around the open hive boxes, picked, prodded, hypothesized and performed the autopsy-Nikki's book open to the chapter on Hive Death Assessment.

They had survived the winter. There was plenty of honey. No evidence of disease or invasion of pests. The only sign seemed to be: a pesticide kill. We can't be certain, but the lack of everything else seemed to point to this possibility.

They'd made it through winter only to die at the hands of the enemy.

What do we do now? How do we control the uncontrollable? How do we ask our neighborhood to be judicious in their use of pesticides? There is so much controversy over the neonicotinoids already restricted in Europe to save bees and birds. REquests to boycott Lowe's and Home Depot until they quit selling Round-up.  People! There are repercussions from spraying to kill.

The only balm to Nikki's sadness was that her bees had left an abundance of DELICIOUS honey. I detected the subtle taste of almond. It was outrageously tasty. A small piece of comb broke off and I asked Nikki if I could take the candy bar home. I walked home by myself sucking on the comb unaware of my surroundings, without another concern or care in the world. The honey transported me to a sublime state. I was Winnie the Pooh.

All three of us have another order of bees coming. We're addicted. Addicted to the hobby, to the idea that we are helping the environment, addicted to our overflowing gardens, to real unprocessed honey. Addicted to learning. About bees, about nature. Addicted to keeping our hives alive.

Photo courtesy of Nikki. About 18 pounds of honey--at a high cost.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Queen of Hand Me Downs

My sister looks at me and reaches out for my pant leg.

"Are those my old jeans?"

"Probably," I respond, "cause you know I am the queen of hand-me-downs."

A few hours later we meet my niece for dinner. She pulls at my sleeve and says, "I think that's my old shirt."

"Really? I love this shirt." This brown thermal shirt with the cool ribbing has kept me warm more than once over the last few weeks, and it matches so well with my Uggs.

She laughs and I once again admit to being the queen of hand me downs.

A few days later, my daughter's fiance with an accusatory tone in his voice says, "Hey I recognize that shirt. That's Paloma's." Indeed it is. "The shirt underneath is hers too." Or rather it used to be hers before it was pulled from her pile of abandoned clothes.

Before you feel sorry for me, please know that I can buy clothes for myself and I do buy clothes for myself. There's just something...better about the previously worn.

Foremost, it feels like a coup. Perhaps in the same way it feels when one uses a half off coupon or uses a gift certificate, or Nordstrom notes. Or finding a rocking chair on Craigslist.

Second-most is comfort. Comfort is KING. All the crispness is worn out of the jeans. The stiffness out of the shirts. The clothes have been teased, tried and laundered into comfort obedience.

Third-most: I'm pretty sure I was molded into the personality of the hand-me-down-queen: the little sister of a fashionista, and a memorable (to me), performance as a ten year old with two friends. Aleasha, Val and I performed lip-sync style to a rendition of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Second Hand Rose, Mame, from a Diana Ross album I adored (of my sister's of course). My part was second-had Rose and I memorized and practiced until my performance was flawless.

I even woke up the morning singing one of the lines after writing this post "Once while strolling through the Ritz, a girl got my goat. Oh what'd she do? She nudged her friend and said 'Oh look, there's my old fur coat.' How embarrassing. I'm just second hand Rose, second hand Rose....from Second Avenue."

What I had practiced so hard and long for, and what I couldn't have foreseen at the time--that I would become a second hand Rose. Be careful what you practice.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Universe,

I have a dream. It involves Haiti, of which I know very little about.

I do know it is a poor country. Devastated by earthquake.

From talking to Ernst, a man who left Haiti because he was politically ostracized, I've learned it can be a dangerous place. I've learned that most young women don't go to school because of money. I've learned it's a country in difficult shape.

Can I make a difference?

It seems ignorant to think that I can and ignorant to think that I cannot.

I have a friend who left Haiti when she was a teenager. She speaks of its political corruption, of its bled-out infrastructure. I've sent her a message asking to talk.

Here's what I imagine, my dream. Going to Haiti. Making an assessment. Taking my PHD in school psychology daughter, taking my public-health-degree-daughter, taking my daughter with abundant compassion. Taking my husband for his wisdom. Inviting friends. All of us who are so blessed with abundance, access to education, resources, full bellies, making a journey to Haiti to see if we can make a difference.

It's a difficult thing throwing dreams to the universe. It's a risk, but with risk comes possible solutions, answers and ideas.

If you're part of the dream, let me know.
patannemartinez@gmail.com

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Big Things

"Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things." Kristina

My dear friend and neighbor is hosting a bridal shower for her soon-to-be daughter in law. I'm trying to be as helpful as I can to my friend who is always prepared and organized way before any deadline.

At last, I can help. She needs more chairs and I know where she keeps them in a basement closet. I head down the stairs and as I turn the corner on the stairs, I get a glimpse of the basement family room, stop, and get a lump in my throat.

I came down these stairs many more times when our children were young. My four year old was a regular visitor at Tammy's house. For all those years, when I turned that stair corner, my first glimpse was of a giant children's playroom. Somehow, I'd forgotten how time had passed, and this is what I expected on this night. But it wasn't so. The first glimpse was of a brown leather, very adult looking couch, and this is what made me freeze.

Same action, same mindset, I'd been doing for years; but oh how things had changed. Strangely, my perception of time hadn't changed. The expectation of what the room was like had frozen in time. It was just another day when I was running down the stairs to pick up five year old, or eight year old, or ten year old Paloma, who was downstairs playing with Becca, Chris and William. My subconscious memory of turning that corner was fifteen years in the past--but reality was the present.

I hope I've enjoyed all the little things in the past. When children would slip their little hands into mine; when dinner was sitting in front of the high chair; first steps and giggles. Dropping the children off for the first day of junior high, first dates, break-ups, girls acting silly. Indeed they were small things then, but today they truly are the big things. The milestones of happiness. Running down those stairs to call Paloma home was a little thing; yet today, the reminder of the swift passage of time-- indeed a BIG thing.

The challenge continues and feeling the sacredness of time on Tammy's stair landing reminded me of the little things that would always become "the big things." So yesterday as Tony and I biked, I noticed the fresh plowed rows of dirt, reveled that on the first beautiful spring day, the whole city seemed to be on the bike path or in the surrounding parks and yards. I treasured the moments we had at our half-way destination: our daughter's house. I completely felt the presence and curiosity of the one year old I hoisted onto my neck on our short walk-enjoyed how he stuck his mini-fingertips into the holes on the stop sign post. Loved the diorama Max was painting, loved the  personality of Annika when she returned from a birthday party. Each thing so small, but when enjoyed and savored, they will become the things remembered. The big things.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My mom sends an email and a friend sends a text. They both want to know if I heard about the woman who was killed by a gray whale* in Cabo San Lucas. Without much information, they worry it may have been the same situation Tony and I had just enjoyed.

I hoped it was just an accident...

After more news reports and further investigation, Tony and I conclude it was a much different situation than our own whale encounter.

An increase in whales was noted previous to the collision between the woman's boat and the whale.

Whales and boats are like cars in a congested city. Yet the open ocean has no established traffic pattern, stop lights or one way streets. A whale can surface after gliding in the deep for twenty minutes. The whale rose, the boat dodged to miss it, but didn't, and a lady was thrown from the boat. Tragic. Like any car collision. Magnified when there is a death.

In 2011, I was listening to Les Miserables while laying on the upper deck of a boat. It had been a long day of travel and exploration in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. My peaceful listening was abruptly interrupted by a harsh jerk upward. I sat up immediately and saw a piece of whale tail, sliced clean, fly into the air as the whale dove underwater. It was shocking. The whale and the front of the boat collided and as it passed under, the whale was sliced by the double engines attached to the back of the boat. It was tragic to see the whale's fluke fly separately from the body. I wondered how it would live.

I also pondered the possibilities of what could have happened. What if the whale had surfaced sooner? At a different angle? What if the boat had been smaller? It could have sunk the boat.

The bewildered captain and his crew stopped and lifted the engines out of the water. One was damaged beyond repair and we limped back to the coast. What should have been a short ride became a three hour trip through dark waters and sky.

Who does the ocean belong to? For man and mammal to be completely safe from one another, we would need to stay out of the ocean. This won't happen. Just as we will never leave the skies. Remember the emergency landing in the Hudson Bay because of geese in the engines?

 Our conclusions bring relief even though I am saddened by the death of this woman.  I want to believe that the surreal, peaceful human-whale connection found in San Ignacio Lagoon will last forever. Will continue to get better. That man and mammal will continue to commune, that man will protect nature and its beasts.

I am currently reading a 634 page book that focuses mainly on the California Gray Whale. Comprehensive, comprehensive and still intriguing. Dick Russell, the author of Eye of the Whale, thus far ( I'm only on page 221), has covered amazing details about whales and their connection to people. Through his investigations, interviews, and thorough travel, he continually tries to understand and explain the phenomenon of San Ignacio Lagoon. I am understanding why people devote their lives to the study of whales and the extremes that people will go to to save the whales from hunting, development in their habitats and the consequent and very possible extinction.

I already have so many favorite quotes from the book and though this one is not specific to what I have written above, I have included it for its absolute beauty and possibility.


Roger Payne, in describing the commonalities between human songs and humpback whale songs, has written: "This commonality of aesthetic suggests to me that the traditions of singing may date back so far they were already present in some ancestor common to whales and us. If this is true it says that the selective advantage of singing and the laws upon which we humans base our musical compositions (laws we fancy to be of our own invention) are so ancient they predate our species by tens of millions of years."

*A different news story reports that the whale was not a gray whale but a humpback. The jarring occurrence of colliding with a whale is so disorienting that facts are hard to establish. My party in the Galapagos debated for days what kind of whale collided with our boat. We narrowed it down to an orca but still we are unsure and several disagreed. It happened so fast....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Steve's Wedding Rescue Service

My neighbor Steve is a kind and gentle man, the father of five children, a hard worker, an honorable son. When I ran into him and his wife Lisa at the grocery store, he shared a story about his father.

At his father's home, one of the granddaughters is getting married and the mother of the bride and the grandmother of the bride, are spending a lot of time planning the wedding--at his house. It must have become too much for him, because he called Steve and asked him if he could get him out of the house. He'd had enough.

I told Lisa on our hike the next week that I might be calling Steve to come get me out of the house. We are not only in the midst of planning a wedding, but we are planning two weddings!!!

First order of business-- the money flying out the windows is staggering! It's like holding a dandelion flower that's turned into a white globe of seeds and then blowing to disperse those white seeds (dollar bills), all over the state and beyond.

Fortunately it's not my money. Let me explain. Long ago, we realized the best way to handle weddings was to give,  out right with no strings attached, each daughter an allotment of money. If she decided to elope, then the money was hers. If she decided to spend the whole wad--again her choice. But, we secretly hoped and hope each daughter would be and will be judicious and frugal with that potential beginning-of-the-marriage nest egg.

We watched our first daughter forego a videographer because of expense. We watched daughter number two have a very small and simple wedding celebration.

On Saturday, I accompanied both daughters to an exclusive wedding gown boutique. Second-engaged daughter was under strict orders from first-engaged daughter that it was her day and her little sister wasn't allowed to even think about trying on dresses. Ah, but little sister watched and learned. The dresses were so expensive that she came home and ordered the dress she loved with the significantly lower price tag. And...daughter number one walked out with the resolve that she would not spend that much money on a dress.

I was enormously relieved I didn't have the pressure of saying, "You look lovely, get it," or the veto power of saying "No." I sat as the mother of the bride (s) and just told her how lovely she looked in each dress. I didn't care about price tags, but thankfully she did.

Last night, I was asked to look closely at the styles of two different possible photographers. I scrolled through the websites trying to discern the better style. "Can you see how this one is more hipster of a style?" I didn't dare ask what hipster meant in photography.

I did determine that one style had tighter shots and darker lighting. Hipster? How could I determine the better photographer when one wedding was shot on a beautiful California beach and the other in a barn with a dirt floor?

Yesterday, husband and I received a litany of texts asking, demanding, pleading to please compile our guest list, in contrast to the other daughter's wedding venue that's already maxed and we won't be able to invite anyone.

Ah...and the drive to the wedding venues, the palpable stress of barely finding a wedding venue, the worried planning energy I wish was going to their studies. Do I remember the name of that florist and what should I spend on flowers? On top of all this, I need to start shopping for my dress/clothing. Finding one wedding outfit isn't enough already? And they've both informed their father, he must have a fitted suit or he's not allowed to attend.

"Hello? Steve? Could you come pick me up? Of course I don't mind. I'd love to sit in the back seat since your father is already riding shotgun."


***There is a young adult or middle grade novel in which the main character, while climbing a tree, witnesses a murder through a neighboring window. His household is so preoccupied with the upcoming wedding that no one will listen to him.  So I can relate.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Triumph Over Self

I meet a woman who tells me a treasured story. In her younger years, she moved her mother, who was afflicted with cancer,  into her home. Margot tirelessly took care of her and saw her through the last days of her life.

At the time, her son was sixteen years old. He saw his mother's example of care, sacrifice and devotion to her own mother.

In his youthful honesty, he made it clear to his mother that he would never be able to care for her in the same way she had cared for her mother.

Margot understood.

Twenty years later, now a 36 year old man, the son called his mother. " Mom, remember what I told you after Grandma died? " Yes, she did. "I want you to know that I'm now capable of doing what you did for your mom."

Pause. Tears.

The good news is that my friend is healthy, strong and RVing with her husband around the country  with plans for the next ten years.

But...the day may come when she needs her son's care and compassion. Because of her example, her son knew what he lacked and over time, he knew how he wanted to change.

In fiction, if it is good, the main character will change. Change and its accompanying shifts of conflict, adversity, triumph, are what make a good story.

Each of us is in the mode of continually writing our own story. In chapter three we may fear and loathe what seems to be the impossible. By chapter six we may have grown enough to do the impossible.

I remember the day my father needed and wanted a shower, but he knew he was incapable of making it happen. He had humbled himself enough, or been humbled, that he could ask his daughter for help. I wasn't ready. Nothing could have prepared me for the day when I would look upon and hold my father's frail, frail body.  I stood behind him and cried.

I had changed. It was chapter 11. I now fear the day (chapter 14?) when I won't be free enough to help my mom. I want to tell her "Mom, remember how hard it was for me dealing with Dad's degeneration?" She will know all too well. I will continue, "I want you to know I'm now capable to do for you what was so hard to do for Dad."

Change--it always makes a better story.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Few Things



Few things are better than

Hopping back into bed
on the first cold day of the year
before the heater kicks on

Few things are better than

Watching lightening,
listening to thunder
from a
covered porch

Few things are better than

A homemade meal
made by someone else

Few things are better than

The first vase of daffodils

Watching someone else win-- when the
sacrifices and work are understood

Losing when the other person deserves it more

Unmistakeable love by action

Recognizing how much I love my mother

Cold wet sand squishing through my toes

An unexpected expression of gratitude

A new thought that enlightens or parts the fog

Few things are better than.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Love Is A Language Too

Tony is passionately learning his French and I need to step it up. The more he studies, the further I fall behind.  Yet, together we are on a search for language improvement. The next step he wants to take, is to find someone, a native French speaker, to speak regularly with him. And so we search.

There is a husband and wife from Haiti who work at our local grocery store. I've spoken to them over the years. On Saturday night, Ernest was checking and I greeted him with "Bonsoir!" Funny thing: no one entered our line and we were able to converse with Ernest for a good twenty minutes.

The next day at a gathering, I found a woman who is moving to Paris next January to study at the Sorbonne. I pulled Tony over and we all conversed for a few minutes. She then revealed a website italki where native speaking tutors are available by skype. Then I found a native Parisian! Ah but Tony had already left.

The incidents of the fruitful search has me believing in the new age concept: if you express your wishes to the universe, they will be fulfilled.

The past week in Baja, we were surrounded by native Spanish speakers. It took Tony only a day to be in full swing Spanish speaking man. Every once in a while, he'd return to our cabin to check on a word he was unsure of. Since we were with a group of English speaking tourists, Tony was the only one who could speak Spanish to our guides. It seemed to bring a few perks including the pilot letting him fly the plane for 15 minutes. Not sure the other guests appreciated this.

I even tried to pick up on a little Spanish and I'm convinced with the right effort, place and time, I too could become a Spanish speaking woman.

I was recently invited to help chaperone a group of students on a trip to Greece and Italy. For free! (Is chaperoning high school students really a free trip?) My first reaction was to order the Pimsleur beginning Italian. And why not Greek too! I could work on both and at least achieve a conversational level by the end of 2015.

The native Parisian stood by the side of his wife. I learned they'd only been married for a short while and I noticed they were holding hands. When I asked him how many languages he spoke, he started listing: French, English, Arabic, Spanish, ____,______. A total of six languages! But I erroneously assumed he spoke seven and when he corrected me, I pointed to his hand around his wife's and told him that he also spoke the language of love.

So many languages, so little time. So much effort and focus. Important? Yes and no. Not as important as the language of love, and I wondered how much time and effort I was putting into the most important, universal, language of all.

The language of love also requires practice, time, exploration, action, and patience. Perhaps it brings more joy, more peace, more reciprocation. The language is unlimited. Unlike the people to whom I can speak French, the language of love can be spoken to everyone and anyone. The young, the old, the in-between. The stranger, the best friend, the spouse-we can even practice on ourselves.  It can always be practiced--no tutor needed.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Igniting Passion For Literature II

The first literature I taught, to ninth graders, was the Babylonian story The Epic of Gilgamesh.  This ancient text has many resources but the most intriguing is the cuneiform tablets discovered in the library ruins of the 7th century BC Assyrian King Ashurbanipal. He was A beloved king who had the forsight to gather  ancient texts  in his colossal library. He was also known for his cruelty to his enemies-- supposedly putting a dog chain through the jaw of a rival king and keeping  him in a cage. 


The story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk and his companion Enkidu are immortalized in this epic poem that dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Their adventures include defeating the bull of heaven and slaying the monster Humbaba.But the Gods deny Gilgamesh the companionship of Enkidu and when Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh searches for eternal life. In Gilgamesh I found a link between ancient practices and my own religion. On his quest, Gilgamesh learns from Utnapishtim the story of the great flood. I learned that many ancient cultures have their own flood narrative. Gilgamesh ignited my passion for ancient history. 

Homer’s Odyssey: If Odysseus went on a great adventure, why shouldn’t my students? If my students, why not me? Each year, the Odyssey’s accompanying assignment was to choose and complete an odyssey. My first odyssey was literally an ocean voyage—a daring solo with my husband through dangerous surf and currents.  One early summer morning we pushed off from the shore, our double kayak loaded with life saving provisions, bedding, a tent, a water purifier. We headed for the waters of the inaccessible, rugged  Napali coast. A five day never-to be forgotten adventure… The next year's odyssey was only completed because of my students. On my birthday, I jumped from a plane. Each subsequent year, and beyond the years of teaching the odyssey, we no longer consciously choose an adventure--it just happens. Last week we communed with whales in San Ignacio Lagoon.  The Odyssey ignited my passion for adventure.



 Life of Pi taught me to search for the deeper meaning. It was slowly revealed to me as I saw students choose “the better story.” Though it was evident that the boat was the scene of gruesome cannabilism,  like Pi, my students wanted to believe that a boy had survived on a lifeboat with a tiger.  The better story. This clearly was Martel’s brilliant comparison to religion. Though religion often requires a suspension of belief, faith, we often choose to live the better story. Living the better story can extend to every dimension of our lives. I have since continually challenged myself to live a better story and this often comes through writing. Discovery through Writing is a passion ignited by Life of pi.

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which I would have chosen as my favorite read with students. Because of the difficult text, we read it together. We discovered the story, deciphered the complexities and felt awe over his lovely descriptions. I remember so well being under the spell of this mysterious African tale. A student was reading one day and came upon a description that appeared so clearly in my mind’s eye. I was in the boat with Marlowe and the natives looking upon the untamed Congo river. 

"We had just floundered and flopped round a bend when I saw an islet, a mere grassy hummock of bright green,...I perceived it was the head of a long sandbank, or rather of a chain of shallow patches stretching down the middle of the river. They were exactly as a man's backbone is seen running down the middle of his back under the skin." A student had to interrupt  our reading because she saw it too.  HOD ignited my passion for exquisite description.

I have a passion for possibility and becoming the woman I am supposed to be at any age and this I can contribute to Parzival. In one tiny footnote: Sangive is Arthur's sister and Gawan's mother, but that is not important. In such tales as this the women are ageless.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Passions Are Ignited by Great Literature I

I am currently writing an address to the Lady's Literary Society. Marcia, the force behind the Literary Gala this morning, first invited me to speak about a favorite piece of literature I've taught, but as I skipped through the years and the books, and not only the pieces I've taught, I came to a different topic: Igniting Passions Through Literature. I realized that significant books had changed my life by creating passions. Changed my life is a huge claim to designate to different books--but it is true. My talk this morning has a maximum time of 14 minutes but writing is unlimited by time...especially sequential writing. In writing and especially in this format, I have the luxury of explicating from each book, the passions it ignited.

First on the list today is Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and more specifically the chapter titled: The Grand Inquisitor.
I've excerpted some favorite lines.


“If you love every kind of thing, then everywhere God’s mystery will reveal itself to you. Once this has been revealed to you, you will begin to understand it ever more deeply with each passing day. And finally you will be able to love the whole world with an all-encompassing universal love.

 Love animals. God gave them the beginnings of thought and a sense of untroubled joy...love children in particular for they too are without sin, like angels, and they live to be a balm upon our lives and to cleanse our hearts and show us the way ahead...

Is it better to resort to force or to rely on humility and love? Always say to yourself, I shall conquer by humility and love. Having made such a  decision for once and for all, you'll be able to conquer the whole world. Humility in love is an overpowering force, the strongest there is and there is no other like it.

...everything is like an ocean, everything flows and intermingles, you only have to touch it in one place and it will reverberate in another part of the world.

These are words to savor like a hot piece of bread, like honey from one's own beehives. The words are strung together like precious pearls. This is one of the first books that taught me that wisdom is found in great works of literature. It taught me that the world changes--that a great one-time Christian nation could be wiped clean by the cloth of communism. Syntax and semantics matter. Stories are built by word choices. Dostoevsky ignited my passion for wise and beautifully written words.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Eye to Eye

"Is there an animal in the wild who would bring her baby even close to a human?"

"No," my sister answers. The sister who spent a month in Africa observing wildlife.

"That is what makes the whales so phenomenal." I explain that the mother's literally push their babies to the boats and even get underneath and lift them closer to the humans in the boat. To scientists and observers, there's not a logical explanation. It just isn't plausible.

Like most wild animals or mammals, a new mother will turn fierce if her baby is threatened. She will even kill. The history of the California gray whale is the same. There are reports galore of mothers killing to protect their babies. It is common knowledge if one is hiking in the woods and a bear is accompanied by her cub--stay as far away as possible. Mother bear has its own meaning. For forty years now, the San Ignacio Lagoon mother has been unique. She shares her babies with humans. She encourages contact and touch.

What is it like to stare into the eye of the whale? Previous to our visit, I'd read life changing experiences of people who'd looked into the eye of the whale. That that one moment had been so supreme, seemed to be a stretch. Yet, when a whale has to turn on its side or intentionally lift out of the water to make eye contact, something indeed transfers. I am now among the thousands who have been changed by looking into they eye of the whale, and I hope I can come close to explaining why.

The easiest way to understand might be comparing what happens when we look into the eyes of another human. How often do we really look into a person's eyes. Infrequently.

Eye to eye contact is a commitment. It is a connection, a communication. Remember the times when you were having a three or four person conversation and one of the participants said something strange, false or funny--the kind of funny that only you and one other person would understand. You made eye contact with that person and a world of understanding passed through both of your eyes. Words were unnecessary.

Remember when you finally knew you were in love? It happened when you were gazing into your beloved's eyes. The connection was made when seeing eye to eye.

I remember the third day of my daughter's life. It was early in the morning-night. She wasn't sleeping; neither was I. I held her in my lap and we gazed into each other's eyes. For an hour. It was all we needed. She wasn't tired, she wasn't hungry; she needed to really see her mom. That morning an eternal connection was made with this daughter.

It is said that the eyes are the window of the soul.

When I made my first whale baby eye contact, I was surprised by the blue of its eyes. The softness of its eyes. The old-soulness and the wisdom in its eyes. And the trust. At the bow of the boat, I had the baby all to myself and it kept bobbing up so I could rub its nose. That it trusted me, was overwhelming. That it allowed me to rub its tongue, its bayleen, created a connection to nature never before experienced. To be in the presence of a multi-ton creature who seemed to have enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed his, is simply--mind boggling. To experience such an encounter is humbling. The perceived connection is precious. To see eye to eye with a life so different from mine is life changing.

Life changing in that the importance of a life becomes so real, so important. More important than the non-life things that clutter my life. I made a few commitments in the days following that will change the course of my life. I look forward to sharing those changes as they evolve, develop and come to pass.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Push Your Piano Into the Wind

My mother loved the rain and hated the wind. Like her DNA, I inherited her passions of love and hate for rain and wind. So, when a student tells me she loves the wind, I am taken aback. Literally. How could this be? She loves the wind so much that on a windy day, she pushes open the doors and rolls the piano onto the patio so she can play in the wind. That she could enjoy nature's flurry so thoroughly is like finding out the world is flat: it isn't so, it can't be done. But her example encourages me to see the world, the wind differently.

It isn't long before I have the chance. I am at my parents and it is a windy morning when I go for a run. At first, I feel like saving the endeavor until the wind stops. But I forge on hoping I can enjoy the wind. I'm blessed with a paradigm shift. I enjoy the wind while I run. But....I have many years of dislike I must overcome. It's not going to happen after just one run in the wind. I consciously work on it for the next four years.

And one day....I'm standing in a blustery outdoor yoga class with four layers of clothing to stay warm.  The sun is rising and the body of blue water to my left is sublimely still. If it wasn't for the chilly wind....

The teacher, aptly name Maria Teresa, and whom I like to think of as Mother Teresa, leads us in a sun salutation as we face the glorious sun. She has us turn and roll our shoulders, stretch and close our eyes. She challenges us to open the top of our head like a lid,  and pull in and harness all the energy of the wind. Beautiful moment, beautiful idea.

A week later, I'm visiting Mom. The first few days are calm, warm and beautiful, but the day I wake up and decide to run to Rachel's to get us breakfast, turns out windy. As I head into its force, I contemplate returning to get the car. No, I'm determined for this to be my morning exercise. On my return, when I've had enough of the wind, I remember Maria Teresa's admonishment: open the top of my head and harness the wind's energy. Done. The wind's power becomes mine.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Shelf Life

I sit next to a white bearded gentleman with old eyes and new glasses. Had he been plump, he would have made the perfect Santa Clause.

We are among on older crowd here in San Ignacio Lagoon and my mind is asking a lot of questions about traveling as Tony and I age.

As in all things in life, we have a window of time for travel. Our window is here: it came after the children grew up and before we will wear out. Because of my questions, I've been pretty observant of the people on our trip.

One of the directors tells me that previous to our visit, an 85 and 86 year old both visited the camp together. Two of the men on our trip brought their oxygen tanks to sleep at night. Yet, with very few exceptions, everyone has been in the boat, every trip out to see the whales--having a good time. A very good time.

The Santa Clause look-alike-man tells me that the secret to travel in old age is found in an old retirement cliche. At first your travel is go-go. And then it is slow go, and finally ends in no-go. He laughs heartily when  finished. From outward appearances, our fellow travelers all appear to be in go-go mode, until Santa Clause admits that him and his wife are really entering the slow go.

This well known cliche among retirees, reinforces that there is a a time and a season. And that is why when I ask almost every couple what their next trip is, they have not only one answer but several. In April, we'll be in Hawaii, September a few different national parks and in December we are going on a tour to Vietnam. Or an African safari that includes Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania...

They are in the go-go period and definitely taking advantage before it's going, going, gone.

I think of the generation before and ask if their own parents ever traveled so extensively in their golden years. Some of the answers include, "Oh never." Or "They never left their state." "I think they might have traveled over the border to Canada." And finally, "They never had the money to travel like we do." My how times have changed.

Naturally, my questions and curiosity bring me back to Tony and me. And Aging. And will we always travel? How long will we be able? But the happiest assessment comes when I realize that we are not in any of the three stages of retirement travel and therefore in the pre-go-go. And go-go we will.