Sailing was once a passion for me. Still, it remains a metaphor for life. As a lifelong learner my formal education started at age 4. At 70 I continue to learn. From piano and ukulele lessons to deciding what to do during this decade, I challenge myself to improve. As a single septuagenarian I have a comfortable, albeit mundane lifestyle that is searching for excitement. Buy another cruising boat? Hitchhike around the world? Or, something else that intrigues me....What's a woman to do?
Once a popular television show, I, like the contestants, enjoy keeping a silly secrets. My conversation might start with “Guess what?” Typically the response would be “I don’t know.” Then, I would blurt out something like I just ate two pints of ice cream. Or maybe, we’re going sailing tonight, after dark! These were harmless little ways to build excitement from some otherwise routine or trivial endeavor.
On the other extreme was a deep dark secret. I knew some people knew about it. Most people did not. After years of guilt, with its accompanying consternation, I garnered the gumption to come out of the closet. No, its not about my sexuality. I was in a different albeit a very dark closet.
Still, my issue continues to be a sensitive one. This, despite two generations leading to a more accepting attitude. Sensitive secrets though is not the intent of this blog entry.
Today’s secret is one that I harbor for fear of jinxing an opportunity. I applied for a job. It is the type of job most people would never even consider.
For me, it is the chance of a lifetime. From my vantage point I should get it. I have the skills, the motivation and the resolve. What I am not sure of, is, if I have the emotional stamina to handle a possible rejection. Unless you are on the hiring committee, as a prospective hiree you never know everything the hiring agents are looking for.
Sure, there is a written list of criteria. But, all organizations have an unwritten agenda as well.. Maybe it is the feeling an interviewer gets from meeting face to face with a prospect. Or, maybe there is already a candidate preferred. Who knows?
What I know is, as with the myriad of positions I have applied for in my life, I completed the application and presented myself well during the interview. I even sent a hand written note of thanks to the interviewer. Now, I am patiently waiting for the acceptance letter.
In many of my formal and informal applications for a position, I plan for the worst. I am optimistic in this current situation. Still, one has to consider that the employer may have a preference for someone else. I don’t have a worst case plan. At 72 and a half years old, I have developed an attitude of whatever will be, will be.
I’m not stressing over the outcome. I am, however, incredibly excited about the prospect of being selected for this position. You ask, “What is the position?” Well, by this time, you either know or you don’t know.
For those of you who don’t know, please accept that it is just one of those silly secrets I enjoy playing with. It is a good secret. I just don’t want to spill the beans until I know either way. Trust me, as soon as I know you will either hear a blast of “YESSSS” or a sigh asking the universe, “OK, world, now what do I do?”
So, stay tuned. I’m told that I will hear shortly with an update by February 1st.
The night before my guests were to be at the airport for an 8:04 morning flight home, we decided to drive closer to Colorado Springs. It was a bumper to bumper slow go. Darkness fell along with the falling snow. We were grateful that Rick took the initiative to keep the ice from forming on the windshield. Nicole and I sang Christmas Carols.
The next morning, after leaving Rick and Nicole at the airport, I found myself on the interstate driving ever so slowly with the other foolish drivers. We were determined to get to our intended destinations. Cautiously, between 20 and 40 mph, I made the 100 mile drive in five hours. This time included a one hour brunch stop at the Village Inn off exit 102 on I-25 in Pueblo. It was a luxurious lunch. I took my time to sip hot coffee, eat a scrambled egg, with a slice of crispy bacon. M-m-m the good life, I thought.
Continuing from Pueblo to Walsenburg I drove in white out conditions. It wasn’t as treacherous as the white outs I experienced years ago in New Hampshire. There I couldn’t even see the side of the road. It was scary not knowing where the edge was. At least during this excursion I was able to see the sides of the road. Considering some areas of the interstate were bordered by substantial drop offs, I convinced myself that seeing the roadside markers made it safe enough to get myself home.
I drifted along about ten car lengths behind a semi-tractor trailer. The day before, my visiting friend Rick, taught me how to use the manual shift. That allowed me to use the transmission rather than my brakes to adjust my speed. An occasional gust, of unknown velocity, blinded my view for a second or two. In contrast, there were a few times when my view was as clear as a sunny day (minus the sun).
Approaching my hometown of Walsenburg I called ahead to ask friends what the conditions were leading to my driveway. US HWY 160 was open for traffic, as was my turn off onto County Road 510. Before breathing a sigh of relief, I was confronted with the four foot pile of snow left by the plow at the entrance to my street. I shut the engine off. Shutting my eyes I chuckled. It was hard to believe I safely drove from Colorado Springs to the edge of my property. Now, at the intersection of CR510 and Buffalo Drive South I couldn’t get to my driveway. I closed my eyes and sighed.
When I opened my eyes, I noticed the street to the north had obvious tire tracks. “Hm-m,” I reasoned. “If I follow those tracks I can visit my friend Phyllis.” I started the engine, put it in the lowest gear, and stepped lightly on the gas pedal. Like the little train that could, my trusty super Subaru, with its full time all-wheel drive got me up the small hill.
Past the mailboxes and water tower, I discovered that the tire tracks lead to someone’s driveway. They did not lead me further down the road; no visiting Phyllis. Without enough room to turn around, I discounted a plan to back down the road. Doing so would have left me stranded at the intersection of CR 510, Not a good place to leave my car for the night.
What’s a woman to do? Well, this gal took the opportunity to introduce herself to the neighbor I had not previously met. It was embarrassing, but necessary. Pulling about two car lengths into their driveway, my super Subaru, had the power but not the clearance to make it further. Although the tire tracks were packed down to a few inches, and my tires had plenty of traction, the snow under the body of my super Subaru was too high. Happy that my engine allowed me to go forward. It also dismayed me when the snow lodged under the belly of my car leaving us solidly stuck.
With the temperature hovering around 16F, I bundled up. I had to force my car door open. The snow was at least two feet deep. With a huff and a puff, I pushed, closed the door and pushed it open 3 or 4 more times. Finally, I opened the door enough to get my, wish it was slimmer body, out.
I stepped with my left foot which sunk to my knee. That wasn’t bad. But – t – t as I put pressure on it to get my body and right foot out of the car, my left foot sank to my knee. Puzzled about what would happen next, I burst out laughing as I proceeded. What happened next? I sank to my crotch.
Persevering, I managed to get all the way out of my super Subaru. Step by step, I followed the tire tracks down their twisting, turning driveway. It was a welcome site when I spotted their Bronco with a plow attached to the front end. Their house appeared. I knocked fervently on the door. A nice lady answered. I gave her my phone # and apologized for blocking her driveway. I told her I’d be back the next day.
The walk home was amusing. That is, if you call walking about 400 feet (Or is it 400 yards? ) from the corner of my lot to my mud room door.
Thankfully, Rick and Nicole, my friends, who I took to the airport on this welcome to winter morning were helpful guests. Before leaving they filled up my firewood buckets so I’d have a week’s worth near the front door. All evening I sat, in front of a soothing fire, until I fell fast asleep.
Waking the next morning to a beautiful sunrise, I chatted with my endearing moral support group, Norine, Phyllis, Debbie and Judy. The owner of the house, Gary, where I left my super Subaru, called. He said he was sure I could get my car out. Slipping into my ski pants, wool gator, and gloves I was ready for the 1/4 mile trek back up the hill. As I stepped outside, a chunk of snow slithered off the roof and doused my head. It was 48F, warm enough to unzip my jacket and remove my ear muffs.
With total abandon, I shoveled part of the driveway entrance. Not wanting to expend all my energy, I sludged my way up the hill. Wearing my snowshoes I sank about a foot into the snow. As luck would have it the strap on the left snowshoe slipped off my heel. Leaning over to fix it landed me face down in the soft powdery snow.
Reaching my car was like crossing the finish line of a long grueling foot race. I was elated. The icing on my cake was when my new neighbor showed up riding on his big boy tonka truck. With a smiling face he finished plowing the entrance to my driveway.
It was an ‘a-ha moment when I was back inside my house. While my Florida friends ask, “Marlene, are you having fun yet?” I realize how this Norman Rockwell landscape is every bit as challenging, tranquil and beautiful as the most alluring anchorage.
Writing my autobiography is more emotional than I considered. I began this project as a means of moving out of denial into acceptance. From childhood to old age, I felt the need to document my life’s experiences. Like Jimmy Buffet said about making his music for him, I write for me. Since my girlfriend JoAnne went away to college, leaving me behind to fulfill my parents idea of how my life should be, I wrote profusely. For two years I wrote to JoAnne every day.
When a guy, I thought was my boyfriend, went to Korea to serve our country, I wrote to him everyday, too. My unknown claim to fame was a story I wrote. It was about 20 hand written pages. Every sentence had the title of a song. One day, I hope to recreate a similar vignette.
What surprises me about writing my autobiography is how emotional it becomes. It seems each experience leaves me laughing so hard I feel silly or overcome with grief. Alone in my loft, alone in my house, alone to live out the rest of my life, an outsider might think I am ‘nuts’ if they suddenly walked in and saw me laughing like a fool or huddled in a fetal position.
My writing coach reminded me that Sally Fields spent 7 years writing her autobiography. I can see why it takes so long. Aside from getting the grammar correct and the order of things in order, the emotional response by putting events on paper, takes its toll. After each experience is documented, I need to take a break, go for a walk or call a friend.
Still I find writing an effective way to deal with three things. Loneliness, inspiration and boredom. Loneliness, with its negative connotation goes against my usual sense of humor and carefree lifestyle. Inspiration aggrandizes hope. It allows me to think of what experiences lie ahead. Boredom, something boring people indulge in, just isn’t for me. I crave something to do. Something with a bit of a challenge. Whether it be shopping for a piece of furniture, landscaping our yard, or fixing my vacuum cleaner, writing is the perfect escape from tedious chores, and negative thoughts.
Hell, I’m only 72 years old. I got a lot of living to do and new experiences to write about.
Inspired by my sailing friend Suky Cannon’s facebook page of her buddies Margie and Doris, I decided to introduce Ted and Toodles. Ted, aka Teddy, has been with me since my first birthday. This makes him 71 years old. Santa brought Toodles to me when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Both Ted and Toodles have had an adventurous life. More than anyone else, they are the ones who know everything about me. From as far away as Jeffreys Baai, South Africa, to life aboard my 35 foot tri, these guys have been my calm in every storm and my joy in every day.
Ted, recently had a make over. In a future blog I will compare his original 70 year old look. I was determined to preserve him. His fur and material was so frayed I could pass a sewing needle through it without piercing a hole. Just passing the needle between the threads made it fray more. An acquaintance suggested I use baby socks to cover him. It worked like the charming bear he is. Stitching buttons from an old collection, to stitching his tiny smile took patience. One of these days his ears will be perked up. The original bell inside his left ear was replaced. When he has his ear implant his bell will again ring.
Toodles, is pretty much the same. Her skin is a hard plastic. Her dirty face is as clean as bleach will get it. Her left eye is sometimes sleepy. She used to wet her pants. Her worst accident was the result of rambunctious play. Her head popped off when she was only a day old. Inside her body was a red tube that connected her mouth to her hi knee hole. Changing diapers was never my thing. I was just as happy to throw the tube away. (Actually, I don’t recall what happened to the tube.) Feeding her fake food and pretend water has been my preference.
I have a great video of Toodles riding on the forward crossbeam of SPRAY while cruising the Bahamas. Ted was destined to stay below on cabin duty. He is too frail and small to risk riding on the deck. Even the cockpit is off limits.
Now, living in rural Colorado, as bizarre as it may seem, Ted and Toodles give me a sense of security, that despite the loneliness, I crave. Stay tuned for more in the lives of Ted and Toodles. You will eventually meet their brothers and sisters, and even their pets Bunny and Bear.
Before you tell me, “at least he died peacefully,” please consider what you don’t know.
The mind is made up of complex mental processes, thought and consciousness. While we
We caan speculate on what someone else is thinking. we can never know for certain. The sad clown is a classic example. Laughing in front of people, painting an exaggerated smile on their face, and even playing practical jokes are characteristic of the funny circus clown. Do we really know what is behind the mask? Mental, emotional pain can be as frightful and horrific as physical pain. I know people say things to ease their own discomfort when talking about the deceased, I just wish they stopped making assumptions about things they know nothing about.
Sure the thought of someone peacefully asleep is more pleasant than the vision of someone mangled from a head on car collision. Moments before the car crash the now deceased could have been the happiest in their life. It sounds gruesome but whether a person dies in a horrific crash or at home in their bed snuggled with their loved one, we don’t know what really goes on in the mind of someone else.
Maybe I have been alone too long causing me to think these thoughts. It just struck me when the other day someone said, “At least Danny died peacefully.” For some reason, I questioned whether or not he died with loving thoughts of his dad, his grandma or even me. Maybe the guilt he carried because he wasn’t home when his died was haunting him when he laid down for a nap.
I don’t know. I may never know. I just hope other people realize there is so much we don’t know about the mind and about death. Assumptions may help the living cope. We don’t know for certain. I certainly don’t know.
This blog post is being posted without a single second of editing. Why? Because this episode had me so stressed I used my writing to help destress. I think if I edit it I may loose the sense or urgency with which I handled the situation. Here goes…
According to a recent talk on the local NPR station people are only born with two innate fears. All other fears, the speaker said are learned. This opening statement caught my attention. Currently, I have been dealing with a mouse, well maybe mice is more accurate. They are in my car.
The stench was so bad one morning I was convinced the mouse was dead. A cursory look by myself and a friend determined the mouse could be inside the housing for the rear seat belt. This was evidenced by a chewed area on the seat belt where the fuzzy stuff was exposed.
Throughout the next week I cringed at the thought of taking apart the seat belt mechanism to dislodge the dead mouse. Each day I managed to avoid the task. That’s what happens when we are in fear. It is the old ‘flight or fight.’ The stench disgusted me.
After a beautiful hike to the St. Charles Natural Arch in Rye, Colorado I wearily opened the back door to my beloved little Subaru. There on the floor was the scattered remains of a Kit Kat candy wrapped. It was shredded. Squeezing my eyes shut, my body froze. Intuitively I took a few breaths. Embarrassingly I told my hiking buddy that the dam mouse was alive and in my car.
The good news is that this traumatic reality of living in rural America, convinced me to NEVER eat in my car again. In the meantime, I had to face my learned behavior. A fear of dealing with mice.
So that afternoon I stopped at my neighborhood Lowe’s and bought four sticky pads, four traditional mouse traps and one weird gadget to capture the mouse in a plastic container. Still, on the drive home my body shook. What if the mouse showed him or herself while I was driving. I turned the music up ridicously loud to drown my unpleasant rumination.
At home I called my friend Phyllis who had recently told of a time she had a mouse in her kitchen cabinet. Her husband was three states away. Yet she called him to take care of the problem. Phyllis suggested I borrow some peanut butter to set in the trap. As mice and rats are a natural part of rural life, I decided to go buy my own jar.
On the way home from the store I called my sister. She suggested I call the guy, who is paid to set and tend ten traps I have set around the outside of my house and garage. Special trips to my house, I explained are an added fee. I also told her how I mentioned the mouse in my car to several male friends and neighbors. Usually these guys lend a ready hand to help with general maintenance. Not the mouse problem. No one volunteered to set a trap and later get rid of the dead or worst yet, dying captive.
Finally, I resolved that my fear was a learned one. Just as I have overcome my fear of effectively winning the start of a sailboat race, I vowed to stop avoiding the rat trap. Afterall, I am much bigger.
To keep things simple, I set out four sticky pads. One on the floor under the steering wheel, as recommended by Phyllis. One on the floor in the back seat where I found the chewed candy wrapped. And, two, in the truck portion. With my body in a tense state, I took a warm shower, put on clean clothes, scrubbed my hands over and over and over again.
I put on my jammies and called it a night.
“Oh no!” was my first thought when I awoke after a peaceful 8-hour sleep. “I have to go check the sticky pads.” This was 5 am. This required a structured thoughtful plan. Each step took about 15 minutes to garner the strength to enact. First, I put on a pair of disposable gloves. Then, I changed into clothes I wouldn’t mind throwing out. Lastly I donned a face mask in case the car really smelled bad.
I walked outside, opened the garage door, then ran into the yard. That annoying voice in my head shouted, “No, No, I can’t do this.” I went in the house and made a cup of coffee. Then the voice scolded me, “You can’t relax with coffee until the work is done.” I wanted to cry but no tears welled up in my eyes. There would be no pity party; rather an invisible kick in the butt got me back outside.
Into the garage I creeped. Somehow I opened the back door of the car. No mouse on a sticky pad. Shining a spotlight in the truck space I peeked on those two sticky pads. No mouse. I swear it took another ten minutes for me to open the front driver’s side door.
Oh, G____. You’d think I was in a horror movie. The sight was beyond what I think I can describe. As a writer, I will approach this as if I am being paid a million dollars to describe the scene.
There on the sticky pad on the floor beneath the steering wheel where I put my feet when driving with cruise control on, was a mouse. He wasn’t dead. It was worse. His beady eyes were looking at me. His belly was puffed up and breathing. His body was struggling I guess to get off the sticky pad.
I slammed the door shut and again ran out of the garage. Thankfully, I remembered to breath deeply. I had to get rid of him. “Oh, yea,” I reminded myself to use the Rubbermaid container I placed in the car to put over the top of the mouse and sticky pad. I kind of through the container on top of the mouse. I could still see his belly move up and down.
Reaching for the pad and container my heart began to race. I wasable to lift it to the height of the seat when suddenly, the pad and the mouse slipped out from the container and onto the floor. Thankfully it landed right side up. This time I grabbed a bucket. As I ever so slightly lifted the pad, with the mouse on it and the container over it, I was able to slide it into the bucket.
The poor mouse fell into the bucket upside down. How could I suddenly feel sorry for it. I don’t know. Walking with the bucket toward the street I found a nice shaded spot on the far side of the street. Ever so gently I dumped Mr. Mouse – still stuck on his sticky pad – in a perfect place for the crow or vulture or next in the food chain line to take it from there.
Now, to repeat this for at least one more day until no more mice are caught in my car…Although this afternoon I will do an extra studious clean out of the interior. Please take a moment to pray there are no more critters in my car and I promise, I swear, to never again eat in my car again.
It was a 2 mile downhill trek, my least favorite start to a hike in the woods. Why? Because that means the more aerobic part of the hike will be on the way back. With each downward step I whined. “It’s going to take me forever to go back up.” After an hour and a half of gravity pushing me faster down the hill than I felt safe, I sat on a log and pouted. Actually the downhill was kind of fun. It reminded me of the first rule of alpine skiing. Ski in control.
It was an ah-ha moment as I compared hiking with sailing. During my early years of racing I was petrified of the start sequence. When I expressed my nervous approach about the start line Susan Korzeniewski, Hobie 16 champion sailor, gave me this sage advice. “Own the starts. Tell yourself where you want to be on the start line. Then, take charge.” For the next twenty years the start sequence became my favorite part of the race.
It was after this time of quiet reflection when I announced, “At 10 am I am going to quit for the day.” This would allow me twice as much time to ascend. My hiking partner, Debbie Gregory agreed. She was about 50 yards ahead of me. A minute or two later I heard water streaming below.
Then, a bellowing “Yea, I found the arch.” It signaled a celebratory reply. “Ya-hoo we found it.”
Photo by Hiking Buddy Debbie Gregory
It was high atop a steep grade of granite rocks where the top of the arch kissed the sky. Higher, steeper, and rockier than either of us were prepared to climb, we stood on the river rocks below in awe of this natural wonder. Try as we might the distance between the top of the arch and the river below were too steep to capture in the same photo.
It was later that evening when a little research revealed a U-Tube video taken during someone else’s winter day hike. It is a worthwhile video that gives a glimpse of hiking this trail in the snow. The arch is named Saint Charles Natural Stone Arch, an alcove eroded out of granite. The broken granite falls as the alcove erodes. It forms a cascade of broken granite reminding us of a frozen waterfall. Sitting alongside the river we ate our snacks before the ascending hike back to the trailhead.
It was after watching the u-tube video, after taking a shower, after taking two aspirin, after flopping in my recliner, and after a long sigh of contentment that I made a pledge. Just as I chose to own the start lines in a sailboat race, I vowed to own the uphil climbs. A vow without an action plan (AP) is meaningless. So, here goes my AP:
a) ascend the infamous INCLINE in Colorado Springs every two months
b) complete ten consecutive flights of stairs up to my loft each day,
c) continue the two mile, up/down walk n jog block, every other day (except days I hike)
d) continue to follow daily reminders of anaerobic exercises to do by my online coach, Matt — his program, “Stronger Runner,” has been a Godsend for me.
e) continue to chose healthy foods and habits
It was about three hours ago, before writing this blog entry, that I began my AP in honor of last night’s vow. Yipe, I conquered ten flights of stairs!
REFERENCE: Dusty Visits Saint Charles Natural Stone Arch – UTube video
My dad never said he used a five finger discount and I would never call him a thief. Yet, on occasion my dad would talk about things he could buy at a good price. He said the items had fallen off the back of a truck. As the meat manager in the A & P supermarket my dad would snicker when reminding us how he took advantage of selecting the best cuts of meat, slicing them to the perfect size to feed his family. He took pride when reminding us we ate better than the other families in our neighborhood. After all, he was the butcher.
As an adult I came to appreciate the benefit of my dad being a butcher. There were no vegetarians in our house. In particular I remember mom cooking up a porterhouse steak big enough to feed our family of six. There was usually enough leftovers for a steak sandwich the next day. From brisket to pot roast to lamb chops we were definitely a meat and potatoes eating family.
Each week my dad brought home a grocery bag full of meat. Mom would re-package it for freezing. One evening while I was helping her I noticed a huge ham. The price sticker indicated it was a chicken. “Mom,” I said, “this is a ham, why does it say chicken?” Rolling her eyes and shaking her head, she snapped, “That’s your father.” The implication, of course, was that since dad cut and priced the meat at the store, he controlled what the price tag said.
When I was in high school I wanted a Navy pea coat. My girlfriend, JoAnne, had one. Consider, too that watching the Coast Guard Sailors walking the boardwalk in Atlantic City was a favorite past time of mine. I was convinced that having a navy pea coat would make me a sailor. You can imagine how excited I was when my dad arrived home from work one evening. “Hey, look what I brought you,” he exclaimed. I caught the heavy wool coat as he tossed to me. I could barely contain my excitement. Before I could get one arm in the sleeve, my mother was raging. “Take it back,” she shrieked.” “But mom,” I begged. “It has real brass buttons.” (Maybe the buttons were plastic, what did I know.) The point was I so wanted this coat. Mom’s ranting told me to give it up.
Slowly, with pent up anger, I handed the coat back to my dad. The rest of the night my mom orated to no one in particular. “Now the police are going to come to the house and arrest you. What am I going to tell the neighbors? Get that stuff out of my house.”
Throughout mom’s rant my dad kept his sense of humor. Behind her back he mimicked a 10-year-old by placing his thumbs on the sides of his head while wiggling his fingers. If you were close to him you could hear him whisper, Na na Na na Na. Much to my chagrin, the navy pea coat vanished. I never got to wear. Not even once.
Over the years my dad would tell my mom other trucks had lost their cargo. I don’t remember the details of the items. Things like furniture or a washing machine were not uncommon. Regardless her response was always the same. You would have thought he robbed a bank. Maybe my dad’s behavior showed a bit of indiscretion, but he was hardly a criminal. If you ever spent time with my dad, you would know he was just a man taking advantage of what seemed like a reasonable deal.