Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Enjoy the Ride

Life is just full of surprises. Some good, some bad, some benign. Since I get bored easily, the surprises are almost always a welcome, well...surprise! I love the spontaneity they often demand, the new slant they give to the story.

Obviously there are some surprises that are not welcome: health issues, the loss of someone close, unexpected financial challenges.

I am a planner. (Remember the backwards planning post on this blog?) I like to map things out so that I know where I am going. You can't plan surprises, but you can plan so that your life will work in spite of them. A plan of attack - so to speak. What is the famous quote? I think it's "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

The great thing about planning is that it usually isn't absolute; detours and changes can and do and will happen. Oddly, planning allows for greater spontaneity and flexibility, and those are two things I do well.

One thing that's a surety is that the ups and downs will inevitably show up somewhere in the middle of the maps we outline, the plans we make - hills and valleys, successes and failures, triumphs and challenges.

I remember riding in the back of our car while driving between San Bernardino and Upland in California as a very young girl. It was about a 30 minute drive east from Upland to Berdoo on Highland Avenue in the 1960's. My Dad worked for the Sun Telegram in San Bernardino and we lived on 18th street in Upland. For a period of time he worked from 3 PM until midnight. We had one car and Mom had two little girls and lived in the boonies. She won the car battle.

So, about 2:30 PM in the afternoon and then again at 11:30 PM at night, Mom would pack Melanie and me into the car and head east, driving past the Sunkist Packing Co. and the "birthday cake" lights of Kaiser Steel in Fontana, and UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN the few hills between our house and the huge newspaper plant where Dad worked. There were only two hills, I think, but they felt like a lot more and I waited for those two hills every time we drove back and forth. I loved that ride for some reason. I am amazed that I remember it; you would think that I would have been asleep.

On the leg of the trip when Dad was driving, we went a lot faster than when Mom drove, and in the daylight he would take those two hills with gusto; in the dark he would surprise us with a less-intense increase in speed as we dropped down and then climbed up again. I loved that bottomless feeling in my stomach on those ups and downs.

Not much has changed in 45 years, those long ago ups and downs were not a lot different than the ups and downs of my daily life now, especially the surprises. It's interesting that on the hills and in life, once you hit that downward slope things seem to speed up and the descent can be rapid, but once you hit bottom creeping back up the opposite side is always a slower process.

Life is a series of bumps. Sometimes we can plan for them, sometimes we cannot. Our best bet is to hold on tight and enjoy the ride.


Morcheeba "Enjoy the Ride"

Monday, June 29, 2009

To My Reader

It's so fun to get comments from my reader. I love hearing your thoughts and just knowing that you are enjoying some of what I write.

Frank Sinatra "Too Marvelous for Words"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Awful Lot to Live For

Not everyone needs to compare themselves to King David (Gov. Mark Sanford) or Prometheus (NM State Investment Officer Gary Bland) when they are down in the dumps. And not everyone needs to enhance their natural abilities with female hormones (Manny Ramirez). Some people are quiet heroes without even trying. These are the men and women we should take note of, these are the heroes our children should look up to - the courageous ones, the quiet unassuming heroes among us.

Lou Gehrig is a great example of courage and honor in the face of disaster. Granted, the NY Yankee didn't make poor decisions that led to his personal challenge of ALS, but nonetheless, he didn't try to portray himself as a saint or add a royal moniker to his name as a result of his circumstances (as the so-called leaders and heroes of today so often do).

It's been almost 70 years since Lou Gehrig stood in the middle of the then-Yankee stadium, filled with over 61,000 die-hard Yankee fans. He spoke with stooped shoulders and eyes down and made what has become one of the most courageous speeches of all time, and certainly the most famous speech in baseball history.

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet, today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth... I have an awful lot to live for."

The fans cheered for Lou. Babe Ruth hugged him.

There was more than one giant in Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, but there was one who towered above them all, even stooped with eyes down.

Lou Gehrig died just two years later, but he left a legacy of courage, honor and humility as a standard for the rest of us.

His short speech should make us all sit up and take notice.

We all have challenges, but we also have an awful lot to live for. "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." (ee cummings)

Lou had courage. He grew up and became who he really was. He just didn't have the chance to grow old.

He left us an awful lot to live up to.

Lou Gehrig's speech, July 4, 1939

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Technology in Spurts

Little by little I will become a techie. It's a slow process, so please be patient with me. The following is a code that I need to post, here I think, for something...thank heavens I do follow instructions on occasion: p9midycbe7...I sure wish I knew what I was doing.

One more spurt for mankind and technology.

Daft Punk "Technologic"

Cameras, Action....Rewrite!

I have long been a proponent of backwards planning. I have even given training on the subject. In spite of both, I have not always been a great example of what I was preaching.

Do you know what backwards planning is? It's planning, but starting from the end result and planning backwards to today; it's starting with the goal and building a reverse timetable of events and actions to get you to that goal. It's a great way to make certain things get done on time and that you never lose sight of where you are going. It gives you something to bounce your ideas off of along the way.

The news coverage and impromptu memorials following the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett have given me pause. It's interesting to see how people remember these very different but very famous icons within their own industries. Some folks focus on the positive contributions made to society, others focus on the negative moments in the media-riddled lives of the sweet, sincere, crazy, blonde bombshell/serious actress and the shy, kind, gloved, crazy, physically altered, white/black performer. I have wondered how Michael and Farrah would have wanted to be remembered, how each would have written their own eulogy...or maybe they did.

It's certainly a wake-up call when we stop to realize that we won't have any control over what is written about us following our death. People can do and say whatever they want; they can cry, laugh, tell the truth, make up stories, be kind, be brutal, bid us good riddance or put us on a pedestal. But the reality is, they will only say what they saw or felt when they were around us, or what they heard from others who saw or felt something when they were around us.

We can write our own eulogy, but the time is now. The only opportunity we have to "edit" those future comments that will be made in our absence following our death is right now while we are living. It's in the decisions we make, the way we treat others, how we conduct ourselves. And it's not only the things we do in public; it's the things we do in private as well. There are no secrets, no matter how much we wish there were. Maybe the details and realities of our actions "behind closed doors" will forever be known only to us, but the resulting personality shifts, the emotional baggage and the aura of dishonesty, of never being 100% truthful are unavoidable. We are drafting the outline with every choice we make in and out of the closet. We are writing our eulogies every day of our lives.

And I've been writing for a long time, tossing away draft after draft along the way as I emerge into who I really am. Who am I? Good question! At 54 you would think I would know!

How do I want to be remembered? And even better question. How does anyone want to be remembered? We know the pat answer - kind, loving, fair, honest, loyal, ethical, good worker, devoted spouse, perfect parent, adoring child, attentive grandparent, god-fearing, selfless, worked with the homeless...yada, yada. And yes, those are certainly the types of qualities we all should be striving for and living, but maybe this is something that deserves a bit more thought.

I suppose I shouldn't expect any more accolades than anyone else when I die, and when push comes to shove, I don't even want a funeral service, but it isn't the formal service that I am talking about, it's the memories, the impressions I will have left on others - not just those I love, or those who love me, but those I barely know, those I have a moment's opportunity to make an impression on, everyone that I pass by in life. I don't know about you, but right now I can think of a few that I have passed by who probably were glad to see my backside on my way out. This isn't good (and please don't put that in my eulogy).

Of the "yada yada" list above, I can pick and choose from those qualities and drag most into the draft of my eulogy, along with some relating caveats, rationalizations, justifications and exceptions in the footnotes. At this point in my life, I don't think I can smile, take a bow, and say "Yes, I did that perfectly!" about much of anything. I am not perfect, I have made mistakes and those are a part of who I am, but that doesn't mean I want to be remembered for those things.

It's sobering to realize that over the past 54 years I have been drafting my eulogy as I have lived my life. I wish there was a DELETE button for certain memories, because there are a few I wish I could erase from the hard drive of my mind and some other minds too. But I can't, and so the challenge now is to overload those hard drives with memories of better things, a life lived well - not a perfect life, but a life filled with the "yada yada" list and much more.

It's time for backwards planning. I need to start with who I am now and factor in how I want to be remembered. How I want to be remembered is really who I want to be, isn't it? I need to start making decisions NOW that will allow that life to be lived. I need to continue writing my eulogy with this new awareness beginning today, because how does the eulogy I have drafted to this point in my life match how I want people to remember me?

I am not absolutely certain, but I am fairly sure it needs a rewrite.

Tim McGraw "Live Like You Were Dying"

Something Out of the Norm

The world lost a legend yesterday. Michael Jackson died at 50. I did a quick Google search for a connection between Michael Jackson and New Mexico, never expecting to find anything, but life is just full of surprises and I found something - not exactly what I was hoping for, but a tribute of sorts nonetheless. The YouTube clip is described as "something out of the norm." I believe that's an apt description of Michael Jackson as well.

I still remember the "real" Michael, the younger Michael, the unaltered Michael, the innocent Michael. He was amazing. He smiled. I hope he is smiling now, and may he rest in peace.

And may Farrah Fawcett rest in peace as well. In her death, as in her life, she was shadowed by others, but I know that she made an impression on me. She was 'something out of the norm' too, always her own person. Three's Company was one of my favorite TV shows in its day and I tried for years to get my hair to be a redhead version of the Farrah Flip. It just never happened.

I loved Michael's sound and his moves, and I may not be able to master the Farrah Flip or dance like Michael, but I can still rock out to Billie Jean in my own way. So can this guy and these guys...enjoy.

UNM Dancing Guy "Billie Jean"

Filipino Inmates "Thriller"

Michael Jackson Memorial "Heal the World"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blog Addiction

I have a new blog.

Evidently I didn't feel like I was writing enough. I am certain anyone who has bothered to read through any of my wordy posts on Gia's (out)POST would disagree.

Anyway, between naps and nighttime sleeping - the beta blocker seems to put me to sleep so I am VERY rested these days - and when I am not working or playing, I am writing.

I don't know when I will get tired of all this writing, but for now I am enjoying it. It's my way of sharing my world with others, specifically my kids. Someday they will read these blogs and think "I didn't know that about Mom!" Besides, it's great therapy for me and a lot less expensive than a psychobabbler.

So when you have a second, The Q on the Q.T. - be there or be square....or not.

Either way, I am not going to lose any sleep over it.

Nitey nite!!

Manny Mania - Not

Isotopes Park was filled with sopping dred-heads last night. We were all there to see Manny Ramirez play. He was slated as the first hitter of the game. So what if he had taken feminine hormones? So what if he had a 50 game suspension? So what if he was only there for a few days, and ONLY because he was suspended and couldn't play for the Dodgers? So what if we were sitting in the rain? So what if our dreds were dripping?

It was Manny Ramirez, probably the best hitter in baseball history. And he was playing with the Isotopes! We didn't care! Maybe we should have, but we didn't. We were there to see an amazing baseball player.

But someone else cared. The Dodgers cared. It was raining and Manny had to go inside. He couldn't play anymore. Too much risk of injury.

Huh. Wasn't rain part of the fun? Now what were we all gonna do with our newly-purchased dreds? And all those disappointed Little Leaguers. Sad. There's really no excuse.

What can you do? Just play ball!

Kenny Rogers "The Greatest"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

They're With Us!

Fresh air. Hot dogs. Cool drinks. Girlfriends. Baseball. Sunshine

Mix those ingredients and you have a fuuu-uu-nn night!

Shake 'em up a bit, and fuuu-uu-nn just became fuuu-uu-nn-errr!

Well, we were "shaken up" a bit at the Isotopes game last week. Four gal pals enjoying a rather boring first 3 innings and yelling our lungs out in support or frustration, depending on the play.

The guys in the row directly behind us kind of chuckled for a bit, after all, they were about 23 and we were an average age of about 55-young, but soon we were all 'on the same team' and cheering and ranting in harmony. They liked us! We had spunk. We had spirit. We were not 23, but we weren't dead! And evidently, they noticed...and they weren't the only ones...

Suddenly, a group of 6 military guys about 7 rows below us jumped from their chairs at the same time we did, and hooped and hollered in a (second) harmonizing chorus to our cheers. They turned around to cheer US on and one of them hollered...."Ladies, come on down, sit here in front of us! We have beer, we have peanuts, we love your spirit, come on down!"

We were flattered, stunned, tempted, hesitant and laughing through the whole interchange, midst raucous cheering I might add (we never stopped!). We were alllll shook up and having a blast!

Suddenly, and to our surprise, the 23-year-old choir behind us yelled down to the 30-year-old chorus below us, "They're with us!"

OMGosh! What?

Who? What? We're with who? We are? REALLY? Wow. We laughed so hard! We loved those guys, the young and the younger.

We stayed put, but there's no question...we were making beautiful music together. (Go 'Topes!)

The Little Things

Sometimes it's the little things that can bring us out of the doldrums. For me, a quick reality check and attitude adjustment, a tall glass of mojito lemonade and a New Mexico sunset are pretty much all it takes.

No, it doesn't FIX things, it's just a band-aid, but it sure takes the edge off and makes life seem a lot more fun.

Satellite Coffee in Albuquerque (I can walk to one!) is now selling mojito lemonade - lemonade, ginger and mint. It's delicious and refreshing. I bought two. I drank one while watching the sunset last night on my front patio (following my self-administered reality check and attitude adjustment) and I carefully perched the second glass in my freezer. I actually dreamt during the night about the slushy mojito that I am going to enjoy later today!

It's a new day and I am smiling. Hope you are too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bandaged Heart

I have always trusted my heart. I have trusted it to lead me in the right direction. I have trusted it to keep on beating. I have taken it for granted for a long time.

In recent times, I have gained a real understanding of the reality of heart failure, the kind that happens when someone follows their heart, only to find that things are not as they had hoped.

I am also aware of the heart failure that can occur when someone doesn't take care of themself (oddly, often as a result of emotional heart damage resulting in poor lifestyle choices), causing real physical damage to their heart and possibly threatening or shortening their life.

The good news is that we live in the 21st century and there are many treatments, medications, and proven lifestyle changes that can help to reverse (or at least "put on hold") the physical damage caused from years of unhealthy choices leading to the reality of a damaged heart. Once damage is determined, the time for change and healing is finite and critical. There can be pain and discomforts involved as we begin to stretch long inactive muscles, give up foods that are unhealthy for us and bend our abused body into shape. If we are diligent, we will walk away from the healing process with a stronger heart, a better self-image and a healthier body.

And the good news is that the emotional damage from heart break can also be healed, but it sometimes is slower to respond and requires more time. Meds are not the answer for emotional heart ache. Some change in how we make choices is probably appropriate, and exercise and lifestyle changes can certainly help our emotional state, but this indefinite time of change and healing for an emotionally damaged heart can be a slow and painful process of introspection, rather than physical exertion. If we are diligent, we will walk away from the healing process with a stronger heart, a more honest self-perception and a healthier outlook on life and love.

Although quick fix solutions will sometimes get us through the necessary comings and goings of daily life as we redirect and reassess and rebuild our hearts and lives, in the end it will take more than a band-aid to truly repair a damaged heart.

I am not going to stop trusting my heart, it has served me well (most of the time) as I have ventured here and there during my life. I am, however, going to be more attentive, take better care of myself physically and emotionally, and always carry a band-aid. Just in case.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Elated Exhaustion

What happens when you combine lack of sleep with uber-multitasking, emotional turmoil, financial challenges and then also factor in: limited time, energy and resources?

Fatigue. Exhaustion. Stress. High blood pressure. Beta Blocker. (note the absence of "meltdown" - I consider this a personal triumph of great importance!)

Yeah, I'm tired, yeah I am now on meds, but I am not having a meltdown, on the verge of a breakdown, doomed to an eternal money pit, unable to pay my bills, unemployed, in pain or dying of brain cancer.

I am just tired. Well, maybe a bit stressed too, and out of shape, but mainly I am just tired. I tend to burn the candle from both ends, and have for as long as I can remember. You would think I would learn.

And I do learn, but then I forget and suffer the consequences. However, life has it's ups and downs and over the years I have learned to simply roll along. Everything seems to work itself out over time, one way or another, and karma reigns supreme. I truly believe that whole "what goes around comes around" philosophy that I blogged about a while back: Be good to others and goodness will come to you, be honest with others and honesty will be returned to you, stop exercising and taking care of yourself and high blood pressure and excess weight will be your reality, start exercising and eat better and improved health will suddenly make you feel younger. It's one of those eternal laws - karmic by nature, self-induced in practice.

So, it's time to take corrective steps and move forward. And I am doing just that.

I love my life, I believe in the good of people, I trust my gut, I am taking steps to correct weaknesses and flaws in myself, and I am elated that tomorrow is just around the corner. I am making better decisions, I am collecting the pieces and putting them together, I am eating better and moving more, I am snuffing out one end of the candle, and I am ready to hit the road with a better attitude and healthier body.

After doing all that I can, I will watch for 'it' to come around, and it's already started: blood pressure and weight are dropping, truth, kindness, honesty and respect are returning, laughter is increasing. It feels like me again. It feels like my life again. It feels like today. I love today, hope for tomorrow and treasure yesterday. I am excited about life and am preparing to continue to hit it head on for a very long time - in shape, in a good mood, with the right attitude. One candle burning, from one end only, at a time.

But first, I am going to take a nap (and dream of a marathon finish line and a multi-candle dinner). Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...............

Monday, June 22, 2009

Testosterone Dudes

Men. Ya can't live with 'em, ya can't live without 'em. After all, your life began because of a man (with the help of a woman), so the question becomes, will you spend/end your life with one. And also, who's in control, them or us?

There's no question that men are woven into the fabric of our daily lives, they are an important part of who we are, specifically, who I am. The significant men in my life have been a random cross-section of male personalities, traits and testosterone levels. Great men, good men, not so good men. In an act of self-preservation and an exercise of self-discovery (which I am bravely sharing with the world), I have been thinking about this male/female topic for some time now. Today I have chosen to review the most significant men in my life, beginning with my Dad...

My Dad. Joel Ray Baugh. Tall, skinny, creative, artistic, handsome, ever-searching, tolerant, curious, married to my Mom (Marilyn Jean Frederick) for nearly 50 years (until his death) but separated for almost half of that time, father of 3, dapper dresser, not religious as a result of his Dad and unresolved religious questions, never smoked, a journalist with a temper, unconvinced Christian.

My Grandpa Baugh. James Wesley Baugh. Huge -Texas rancher huge, uncommonly devout, photographic memory, intolerant, baritone, frisky (my grandma's word), never smoked or drank, southern through and through although transplanted to the southwest and California in his mid-30's, married to my Grandma (Zora Middlehouse) for over 70 years, father of 7, a devout Nazarene with a penchant for prayers long enough to run off two sincere LDS elders (mid-prayer).

My Boppy. Harold H. Frederick. Small, quiet, huge smile, dedicated to my Mimi (Jessie Eliza Parkins) and married to her until his death, birth father of one son who died at birth, adoptive father of 1 (my mother, Marilyn Jean Frederick), mid-western through and through, dapper dresser, always wore a hat, smoked a pipe, lifetime employee of Paxton, Illinois' one and only men's clothing store, community church member and regular attendee.

My Brother. James Frederick Baugh. Tall, skinny, handsome, creative, artistic, compassionate, tolerant, native Californian who was born, lived and died there, window designer for Saks and Nieman Marcus in Newport Beach, baptized a Mormon when he was 18, musician, artist, considered my kids as his own, adored, conflicted on his sexuality until he was an adult, died of AIDS in 1985 after being diagnosed just 6 months earlier.

My Uncles. Dad's three brothers. Wes, Glen, and Leo Baugh. Wild, rebellious, fun, with great belly laughs, one with red hair, one bald, one so handsome and successful he dated starlets, all married and divorced at least once, not religious because of their father's overly zealous religious demands, all fathers, some successful, some not, a butcher, a bartender and a rancher.

My Sons. Kurt, Kollin and Kyle Avarell. Three hard-working, spiritual and honorable young men who have made choices in life that will make them successful, comfortable in their own skins, and joyful. Two former LDS missionaries. They inspire me every day.

My Sons-In-Law. JR Jorgensen and (soon) Logan Washburn. Two hard-working, spiritual and honorable men who each chose one of my daughters to spend their lives with. I love them and appreciate them both.

My Grandsons. Daelan, Kiel and Jespen Jorgensen. These three young men inspire me daily with their zest for life, their energy, their enthusiasm. Just the thought of them makes me smile. Regular church goers, probably future missionaries.

My Friends and More. Wally Cook, kissed him on the bus in kindergarten which created quite a ruckus and required a note from the bus driver to my Mom concerning my behavior, my first lesson in love. John Barker, my Mom loved John because he had perfect table manners and knew how to correctly eat soup from a bowl by pulling the spoon toward you, rather than pushing it away from you; typical heart-throb guy, later played the guitar and sang in clubs; a real heart-breaker; lost him to a friend with a knock-out figure - my first lesson in the reality of male hormones aka testosterone; Grif Thomas, great friend from 4th grade on, quiet spirituality, musical, talented, smart, we dated quietly and randomly in high school/college, my first lesson in how NOT to win the guy, he married a great gal and I still keep in touch with Grif, Sue and their family. Charlie Goodspeed, long-term boyfriend through high school, spotted him at a Community Hall "concert" featuring a local band in the summer of 1969, reconnected at our high school football game the following year and dated him from 1969 until 1974, a brainiac with a penchant for technology before it even existed, tall, dark, handsome, devoted, in control, educated, doubting spirituality, first lesson in what kind of guy I wanted to end up with, he married a redhead named Jan and they are still happily living in northern California. Kory Avarell, the father of my children. Tall, handsome, white eyebrow, BMW's, funny as heck, played the guitar, talented, smart, served a Mormon mission in Guatemala, baptized me in Lake Arrowhead, shared the best years of my life (he had me at "hello"), together for over 20 years, married for nearly 18 years, divorced in 1993. He still makes me laugh. Roy Jespersen, a great friend since 1976, talented, handsome, educated, self-assured, smart, funny, creative, tolerant, in control, philanthropic, spiritual, father of 3, a huge influence in my life over the years and a great example of a successful marriage (with Anne) following devastating divorce, I consider Roy and Anne friends for life. Kim Belcher, the friend I shouldn't have married, and I (we?) knew it immediately (on our honeymoon) but still gave it a short, but too long, run. Hal Krisle, "the man I had been waiting for" was my immediate thought when I first saw Hal; tall, dark, handsome, devout Mormon, hard worker, opinionated, devoted, uber-patient in some things, not-so-patient in others, supportive, smart. Married in 1998, I will always love this man. Bill Hunt, my 25+ years friend, the husband of my best friend, Dee, and my boss for several years at Suncadia; a good man with a good heart, hard working, successful, in control, semi-tolerant, self-assured, father of 3, converted Mormon, charming, handsome, tall, smart, educated, a great mentor, I consider Bill and Dee friends for life. Neal Ackerly, the PhD that showed me more in a few years about some aspects of life than I had learned in the past twenty; in control, supportive, naively spiritual, karma-seeking, unassumingly charming, handsome, intelligent, redneck, tolerant, self-assured, archeologist, over-educated, father of one son, a friend for life. Miscellaneous, the many men who have befriended, counseled, chastised, educated, supported, loved, left, advised, played with, mourned with, celebrated with, and basically kept me going from birth to this day through quiet acts of kindness, moments of rare selflessness, road trip therapy or outright generosity, some from my youth, some from my young married life, some professional relationships, some from this more mature place in life, and even some newly formed friendships; former teachers, bishops, pastors, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, church leaders, professors, boyfriends, friends, and chance acquaintances.

So many different men, so many different personalities, so much influence on me. Funny. Smart. Tolerant. Educated. Spiritual or Religious. In control. These are the very few commonalities. Well, and testosterone, of course.

Interesting: Funny. Smart. Tolerant. Educated. Spiritual. In control. Hmmm.

I love the male species. I have learned much from this bunch of testosterone dudes and I am grateful for every one of them. However, I have to admit that I love some a lot more than others. There's a reason we are supposed to partner and live our lives "two by two", and it's simple - we like testosterone, and they simply can't live without us!

The male species. Ya can't live with 'em, ya can't live without 'em. How to sum this up? As I said in an earlier post: It's a zoo out there! The animals are going wild. The testosterone is raging. The dudes have come out to play; some are hiding behind hormone-supported walls, but most are charmingly boyish behind that aloof yet commanding veneer.

So wait, who's in control?

I honestly don't know, but I do know this: If it's a man, I hope he has a loyal (and patient) woman by his side to help along the way!

Village People "YMCA"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Joel Ray Baugh aka DADDY

When I think of my Dad, I remember his laugh. He had a great belly laugh, something I don't believe I appreciated until after he was gone. I loved my Dad. I wish I had known him better.

It's interesting, as I look back and remember whispered warnings and comments about my Dad's temper (usually from my Mom) - and I know that my Dad had a temper, I saw it and experienced it a few times in my life - I never think of him that way at all.

I think of him laughing.

And I think of him making Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream in his San Diego apartment, long before Belgian waffles were the waffle of choice.

And I remember how proud he was of his grandkids, and how he was even more proud of his two daughters. I specifically remember attending Uncle Leo's (Dad's brother) 80th birthday party with Melanie and Dad. One of my favorite pictures is of the three of us at that party - he had Melanie on one arm and me on the other and we were dressed up, all three of us. He looked like one proud man. And I was a proud daughter, cuz he was a handsome, well-dressed dude. In cowboy boots, to boot! I love that memory.

Dad was a journalist. Media writing was his vocation. He loved to write and he passed that love for words along to his children. He was a newspaper editor by profession and I can remember the very thorough and complimentary-but-mandatory red-line editing I received on every book report, essay, creative writing project, poem and term paper I wrote between 1st grade and high school. He also helped with college papers when I asked. I appreciated it then, without any understanding of how it would help me throughout my life, and I am grateful now.

Dad was nominated for the Pulitzer in the late-60's, for a "Help!" column he created at the Press-Telegram, one of the first columns of its kind. It was quite an honor to be nominated, even if he didn't receive the Pulitzer. My favorite column that appeared under his byline over the years was "Baugh Humbug". Dad was very good at what he did, he loved words, he loved details, and he was a trivia buff (before TRIVIA games came along) simply from all the editing he did.

Dad loved to work with plants and to create beautiful landscapes; our yards were always unique, with a touch of southwestern flora (no wonder I love New Mexico's landscape, Dad was born here and never lost the southwestern influence). He was very creative. At the holidays our Christmas tree was a thing of beauty and the house was decorated fully - not with silly, cheap, typical decorations, but almost 'designer-quality' decorations created by Dad from odds and ends. One year we had an ice cream cone tree - he used real ice cream cones, soft pink satin bulbs and then sprayed them with flocking and glitter.
My favorite centerpiece (one that I still have) was made from toilet tank floats, each one covered with sequins and pearls and jewels that were individually attached with a straight pin into the porous material of the float. He spent hours on that project. One year, he sold rock faces for a local fundraiser and then gave them for Christmas gifts later, finding an 'expression' in the natural rock shape and hand-painting features onto the stones himself. We went rock hunting to find special rocks on several occasions that year. I sprained my wrist on one of those trips.

Dad was strict, but he also wanted to spoil Mel and I, which on a journalist's salary wasn't really possible. That said, I think he managed to do just fine. We never felt as if we didn't have everything we wanted - at least I didn't. We were always taken shopping (and to lunch) for beautiful new dresses and shoes at Easter and Christmas. We always did back-to-school clothes shopping in August or early September, and then again - but not to the same level - in late February, sometime around Washington's birthday. And Christmas was always a time of giving and receiving, I don't remember ever feeling that I didn't get what I wanted at Christmas - although Dad gave Santa the credit.

One weekend Dad took Melanie and I shopping. I honestly don't remember the occasion, but he was going to buy us new clothes because of some extra money that had come in. As we walked out the door of our house, I remember Mom pulling me aside and whispering, "Be careful while you are shopping, Jeannie, your Dad will want to buy you and Melanie everything, it's very hard for him to say no to the two of you....but we really don't have that much money." So off we went, two little girls and their Dad, and we did shop, and I remember to this day the outfit that he bought for me. It was one of my favorites for a long time. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't designer brand either (did they even have designer brands in the late 60's?). I was careful, Mom was happy and Dad was glowing.

My Dad loved my younger brother Jamie. As Jamie grew into his teens we called him Jim, but to all of our immediate family he was always Jamie, and he was loved by all who met him. Jim died at 23 from AIDS, one of the early cases and long before any hope of survival had been found, and Dad took care of him during the last month's of Jim's life - feeding, bathing, clothing, medicating, moving and caring for him morning and night.

I know a piece of my Dad, and my Mom, and of me and Mel too, died when Jim passed. He had been a shining light since the day he was born. I remember how proud my Dad was when he finally had a son; he would now have someone to 'carry on the family name'. He had been concerned that the Joel Ray Baugh line would die out with Mel and me. Life simply doesn't work the way we think it will sometimes.

Jamie was the only boy in our family, he was born 8 years after me and 6 years after Melanie. Totally unexpected and unplanned, I believe, but wanted and adored from the moment we knew he was coming. We didn't know he was a boy, of course, this was pre-designer clothes, pre-trivia games and prior to this generation's need-to-know in utero gender testing. But we hoped. We all wanted a boy.

When Jim was born, in the wee hours of the morning, Dad dragged his proud but exhausted body home from the hospital and painted with a wide brush on a 4 X 8 piece of plywood in huge letters of blue paint, "IT'S A BOY!" In the middle of the night, when Mom went into labor, Melanie and I had been whisked to our dear neighbors - Dick and Verna Pehl and their four kids - who lived across the street, and of course we all woke up early the following morning wanting to know if our new baby had been born (the Pehl family woke up at 5 AM every morning anyway - even when not anticipating a birth across the street - and did some family bonding by diving into their (unheated) backyard pool. Nude. All of them. This was 1962 mind you. Mel and I had been instructed to not participate AND to not look!). We raced out of the house, careful to NOT look at the pool and with every intention of barging through the sun porch, through the front door and up the stairs of our white clapboard two-story home across the street to ask Dad if we had a baby! The adrenaline was pumping and we were on a mission, one of us a sassy redhead with braids flying in the wind behind her and the other a sassy blonde in a short boy cut (she hated that) but most likely with skinny little arms and legs flying all over the place as she ran.


The sign was HUGE. It stopped us in our tracks, took the sass right out of us. We had a little brother! Elation! We now had no reason to race home and wake up Dad! Disappointment! (I didn't even stop to think about how my Dad managed to get that 4X8 piece of plywood UP onto the shed roof over the first story of our house until years later - I still don't know how he did it.)

We took our sassy tanned and freckled little bodies back into the Pehl's house, praying quietly to ourselves that they were out of the pool and clothed so that we could open our eyes again (and yet also hoping maybe we would get a glimpse of this wild and primal activity) and shared the news. We had a brother! We were so excited! And Dad was elated. He had a son.

My favorite family vacation was a two week road trip in our brand new white (with black vinyl top) Chevrolet Caprice. We started south and headed north, touring all the California Missions. It was so much fun. Melanie and I have silver charms from every mission along the way and I still have my charm bracelet. We had a car accident on that trip, and both Mom and Dad ended up in neck braces. I was too young to know how that all panned out, who was at fault, etc., but thankfully nothing was too serious. Another family vacation was when we camped south to north at State Parks, I loved that trip too.

On a different occasion, I remember walking out of the front door of our home in Rialto, California - on Home Street, no less - and seeing my Dad on the driveway, the door of his Volvo still open with him laying beneath it. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I remember him telling me to go get Mom. Then he told Mom to call an ambulance. His back was out. My Dad's back gave him problems his entire life - he wore braces and supports, he spent weeks in traction, he took pain medication, he took muscle relaxants, he probably had every treatment and med they knew of at the time, and each of them is a treatment they would NEVER recommend now. It wasn't until he was in his 60's that his back actually improved - he was exercising. Imagine that. And think of the difference that knowledge and action might have made in his younger days. He was 4-F, an enlisted man but not one who could be called to active frontline duty - not because of his back, but because he had flat feet, but it was during an exercise in basic training that his lifetime of back trouble really began.

Dad was a redhead, that's where I got my hair. Wait, no that's not right. Let me restate.

I thought Dad was a redhead, and that I got my hair from him....until I was in my thirties.... not until I was three, or thirteen, but not until I was in my THIRTIES did I learn the truth! I heard someone make a comment about him dying his hair right before a certain photograph had been taken in his late twenties (the photograph I had looked at my whole life with a nonchalant possessiveness). I was stunned. Who WAS this man? Who was I? Suddenly my entire self-perception changed. I didn't look like my Dad, I looked like HIS Dad. Grandpa Baugh was the redhead, not Dad. Let me just say that this was not a welcome piece of knowledge and to this day I am not certain why he dyed his hair red in his twenties, but apparently he did.

Manners were important to Dad. We enjoyed family dinners filled with laughter and conversation, around the antique table and chairs that he had found in a second hand shop and refinished himself, and beneath the mustard colored chandelier that he had painted. And we were taught manners; if we didn't remember our manners at the table, we were asked to leave the table, our food was removed, or we were told we might as well go outside and eat with the dogs. He was serious about manners.

Dad had a few absolutes (these kind of crack me up today, but at the time I took them VERY seriously). Melanie and I were not allowed to consider waitressing as a job, let alone a career. We were told that early on. His sisters had worked as waitresses and he knew that it was low-paying, hard work. We were not allowed to ride in VW bugs. They were too small for safety. We were to plan on junior college before a university. We could not take overnight trips with our boyfriends, unless there were responsible adults tagging along too. We were to drop the fifty cents (two quarters) he gave us every Sunday into the collection plate at First Lutheran, and NOT stop at the drug store (conveniently in our path as we walked to and from church).

I can honestly say that I never rode in a VW. I was never a waitress. I attended junior college before a university and I didn't go on an overnight trip with any boyfriend without adults being present - not necessarily sober or paying attention, but they were present.

However.......I have to admit that the drug store on the way to church was a huge temptation and Melanie and I succumbed a few times, quickly eating the candy bar of choice before arriving at church and carefully dropping just ONE quarter into the collection plate in a way that Dad wouldn't be able to see that we were a quarter short. I still can't believe that they didn't smell our chocolate or peanut butter or sweet-tart breath. Maybe they did, but what can you do when sitting properly on a pew in a perfect row of Sunday best near the front and just beneath the lectern of the 1st Lutheran Church? What would Mom think looking down from the organ bench where she was playing beautiful hymns with those skilled fingers and in stocking feet? What would Pastor Karl Johnson think if we made a scene? (Actually, he would probably have laughed, he was rather jovial and informal himself) The last time I saw Pastor Johnson was at my Dad's memorial service. I suppose that is a kind tribute of sorts with threads to those good times on Home Street, in Rialto, CA.

Life with Dad wasn't always easy. He had terrible mood swings and fought depression his entire life, not always winning. He knew how to use a belt, and did a few times, but Mom usually just threatened us with "the belt". I remember him once telling me "You aren't going to pull the wool over my eyes, Jeannie, don't even try." (I don't know if I pulled the wool over his eyes or not, I didn't even know what that phrase meant when he said it!)

Dad drank too much at times, he wandered off at times, he did have a temper and had very little patience with some things, but there was one thing we never doubted: he loved us. He had been raised by a Texas rancher and was tough when he needed to be (I still don't really get that, I can't find any traces of Grandpa JW Baugh being in Texas for very long, but he WAS big like Texas ranchers tend to be). Dad wasn't perfect, but he loved his kids. We - Jamie, Melanie and I - knew that he loved us and that he thought we were the best thing that ever happened to him. He was Papa to his grandkids, but he was Daddy to me.

I miss my Dad. I think of him often. I wish he was here. I wish he could have lived to see my kids as they have grown into adults and parents themselves. I wish he could have lived to see his grandsons become Dads. I wish he could have lived to see his great-grandchildren.

I wish I could hear that belly laugh once more. I wish I could hear him call me Jeannie again. I wish I could wish him a Happy Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there, especially my sons and son-in-law who are all GREAT Dads.

I have some special things in my house that were Dad's. Some of them have a history that I am aware of, some I just love because I remember them always being part of Dad's world.

Joel Ray Baugh. He was my Dad. There's not much more to say. I love him, I miss him, but I still feel him around - after all I have a lifetime of memories and I have his belly laugh...and of course, I also have his red hair.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Dad's Fav - The Yellow Rose of Texas

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's a Zoo Out There!

It was lovely. A concert at the zoo.

I was at the Albuquerque Zoo / BioPark (with friends) for a concert last night and it couldn't have been much better. The weather cooperated, the concert was, well...spicy in a cajun sort of way and knee-slappin' fun, Gail brought the food (and a table and tablecloth AND a candle), Ed provided drinks, I donated carrots and dark chocolate (an interesting gourmet combination) and the crowd was friendly and colorful.

It was a night of toe tappin', arm swingin' music, covert people watchin', friendly camaraderie and dang good food and drink - all done in camp chairs spread as far as you could see on green grass beneath peacock laden trees. (I am choosing to leave out lengthy commentary on forgetting my hair tie and considering a bungie as an option to pull my hair off my neck, inadvertantly locking my keys in my trunk and not realizing it until the end of the night, and other self-inflicted and unimportant incidentals of an otherwise marvelous night).

Back to the topic....yes, peacocks. In the trees. And some struttin' their stuff on the ground too. Real peacocks, not men. Birds with beautiful long feathers. (sheesh)

AND, cottontails...genuine honest-to-gosh, look-like-they're-stuffed-but-they're-real cotton tailed bunny rabbits. (wanderin' free near the condor aviary, which made me a bit nervous); they were hoppin' all over the place, and so cute!

And, that's not all, we also saw New Mexico's famed grey wolf, an endangered species. We saw two, in fact, and they were beautiful animals the size of a german shepherd.

And flamingos (just like in the picture >), and bald eagles and monkeys (not in the same cage)....and more!

Now, in case you are wondering, the animals - with the exception of the peacocks, were not sharing the concert venue with us, they were safely sequestered in their respective "natural habitat" spaces SURROUNDING the concert venue. Now, why doesn't that give me a sense of comfort? Anyway, during a break in the concert (before dark), we were able to wander some parts of the zoo and visit with some of the non-human zoo inhabitants. They weren't much for conversation, but they did stop for a minute and look at us curiously - well, the bunnies didn't, they were too busy hoppin'around , probably lookin' for a partner and a place (altho something tells me that they aren't real particular) to continue their prolific habits. (speaking of strutting peacocks, how about bouncing bunnies?)

I would have watched those bouncing bunnies all night, but it was suggested that I should listen for the lions; I took the advise very seriously. It made me wonder just how close the lion enclosure was AND if cajun music was especially appealing to the huge felines AND if the cages were securely locked. I suddenly had a vision of lions roaring in a kind of sing-a-long effort, then came the thought of the wolves howling in harmony - and then, how long would it be before the monkeys started banging on bongos?!? We could have had our own zoo symphony, a sort of Doctor Doolittle band.

And we did, but not with the wild animals or Doctor Doolittle: "The cajun band, Fuefollet, is just like a classic gumbo, Cajun music is fresh, spicy, and full of flavor! “Feufollet” is no different. Their blends of music tantalize the ears and captivate the mind. With each new album the band dances farther into the kitchen to rewrite the book of traditional Cajun affairs.

Their newest album screams “bam” and awakens our senses to the future of Cajun Music. During the show this quintet will re-teach us the traditional Cajun and open our eyes and hearts to future of this unique musical genre that is taking the nation by storm." (quoted from the Albuquerque Zoo Concert website)

Fue follet is french, in English we would say "will o'the wisp".

Will o'the wisp is a term used to describe the ghostly lights sometimes seen at night or twilight over bogs, swamps, or marshes. It looks like a flickering lamp, and is sometimes said to recede if approached. Today's city version of "will o'the wisp" is the Jack-O-Lantern.

A zoo with Jack-O-Lanterns flickering, now that's a thought: not sure who would be more scared, the humans or the animals. Which leads to a follow up thought (or two) - if zoo's are designed to protect humans from wild animals, 1) why do we have them in the first place - we could just leave the animals where they belong and reduce the risk to city-living humans greatly, and 2) why are the animals protectively situated behind bars and in cages and beyond moats and wide expanses of 'natural habitat' and fences, while we are allowed to wander aimlessly through their midst - at night, no less?!?!? Oh, never mind.

All I can say is that the musical version of a jack-o-lantern lit up our spirits and caused our souls to dance. The Louisiana-based Feufollet was fun, unique and entertaining. You can find out more about them by clicking here .

And that's all the thinkin' this redhead can do right now, so to sum this up....

Last night I thoroughly enjoyed spicy gumbo music served up with ghostly lights while sitting on a camp chair midst silent lions, odorous flamingos, accomodating friends and cotton-tailed bunny rabbits - all in the middle of a zoo and under the cover of peacock-decorated trees and a clouded sky. By candlelight. Barefoot. Without a hair tie. And with the realization that there are some things in life you can't get enough of. "Please sir, I want some more....."


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two by Two

They are everywhere, those white shirted 19 - 21 year olds. At least, they have been ever-present in my life. I even raised 2 of them - hey, "two by two" again!

Two has significance. In religion, two witnesses. In philosophy, two opposites: good and evil. In science (physics, to be exact), two is the first magic number. In relationships, partners, husband and wife - we aren't supposed to be alone. Two by two. In math, it's the first and smallest prime number, AND the only even one. It's often referred to as "the oddest prime".

Odd = Peculiar; Prime = 19 - 21 (for a young man!)

Those two white shirted young men could be considered an oddest prime. Not only because of the loose logic shown above, but because they are they proud to be peculiar, and because it might be considered odd by some that these young men in their prime are called Elders. And they are primed and ready to go!

The Elders. Two by two.

White shirts. Bikes. Young. Determined. These are the Mormon missionaries, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And they are "on a mission" for two years.

Two by Two for Two.

I saw them tonight on my walk. They were biking home at precisely 9 PM.

I found them in the shared waiting room of my OB/GYN when I discovered that my 2nd baby was unborn at term, but without a heartbeat.

They found me in San Bernardino, CA, after months of waiting; I was their "golden referral", my name found on a crumpled piece of paper at the bottom of a waste basket when they transferred into a new apartment - the former missionaries leaving it only partially cleaned.

I learned from them as I curled up in my bean bag chair in my little apartment in San Bernardino with my children's father, long before we were married.

I watched them leave from my home as I sent one of my sons to spanish-speaking Honduras and the other to Florida on an ASL mission.

My daughter found them in Brazil while she was on Rotary Exchange, and now one has found her again in Utah.

We saw them in Guatemala, Honduras, Roatan, El Salvador, Mexico; we saw them in Tahiti, and Hawaii. We have seen them in New York, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Washington DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and now in New Mexico.

They are everywhere. They really are! It's not just coincidence or happenstance.

There are over 53,000 LDS missionaries serving in 348 missions throughout the world. That's a lot of young men who could be playing ball, dating, going to college, working on the farm...but they are not. They are serving missions all over the world.

They ARE everywhere!

I love these young men. I will stop what I am doing to say hello. I will flag them down when I see them walking by. I will honk a tinny hello when I drive by a pair on bikes. They are great. They are humble. They are sincere. They are tireless. They are fearless. They are selfless. They are working their tails off. They are homesick. They are green or they are trunky. They are missionaries.

And they are hungry. Almost always.

I have had a magnet cartoon on my refrigerator for over 30 years, it has a picture of two elders in a huge pot: "Have the missionaries for dinner."

I have always loved to feed the missionaries. There is nothing better than inviting a young man who is far from home and far from home-cooking to sit at your table in your home and share a meal.

Two by two. Young men with a purpose. Two by two (or four). Lumber with a purpose.

The light touch. The heavy touch. In my life, they have each had their time and their season.
I love missionaries and will continue to smile when I see a pair wandering the streets looking for their "Golden Contact". I love them for their serendipitous presence in the past 35 years of my life, for the transformation I saw in my sons when they returned from their missions and because of an expected future army of missionary grandchildren. These elders (and sisters) are discovering themselves and seeing the reality of the human experience in ways many of us never will. There is no question that this time of service changes them forever; how it changes them is a personal experience for each individual missionary and I respect that miracle of growth and maturity and self-discovery - wherever it takes them, just as I expect and hope for their respect in my evolution as a person of faith and principle and authenticity. "For everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens." (Bible: Eccl. 3:1)

And now, in the fall of my life, I think it's just about my time....and I am savoring every minute of getting to know me, I am laughing more, learning daily and finally beginning to understand where I fit in the huge crazy puzzle of this life on earth.

NAIN DAT! (or 90 days and counting)

Yep, 90 days, that's all I've got. Old age is just around the corner. I am about to walk through the door to mega-maturity. Goodbye youth. Adios to innocence. (actually, maybe I am already there, since I still think I am young and innocent). Farewell to the younger life.

Vaarwel. Ta'. Farewell. Yadalanh. Tlaa. Ta-ta. Ciao. C'ya. Sciao. Chiao. So long. Baai baai. Adios. Genes farwel. Adiu. Hooroo. Aloha. Nabai. Katora. Aju. Good bye. Cheerio. Salut. Bye-bye. Adeus. Ba-ba. Tschau. Adio. Later. Aman. Shalom. Namaste. Moog zoo. Tata. Bless. Adiyos. Babay. Abik. Te'yoos. Bai Bai. Ti. Sainara. Yawa. Onen. Kutbai. Nakota. Qosh. Toq. Chemutakwe. Tchaw. Sudi. Loa. Permisi. Aroha. Nana. Accha. Adyosi. A go dey see you now. Ae. Way'. More. Tse'. Okei. Bae-bae. Tchau. Ratucama. Pa. I-ai-i-we-dang. Fa. Orevwar. Zbohom. Jaaw. Hasta luego. Synes. Parahi. Nofo a. Chuu. Veda. Ziech. Arvey. Hwyl. Sholem. Adye. A guten tog. Ma chaa'. Yanna. Chahara. Goodby. Goodbye. Bye. Byebye. Gone. Done. Outta here. (translation: Bye!)

September 18th. 90 days (+ or -). 55.

That's right. I said it. You read it. 55. Five, five. Fifty-five. Basically "old".

How did this happen? Where did the past 35 years go? I can remember my first 20 years, but the past 35 seem to be a blur.

Well, let's look at the upside. I can look old and have an excuse, cuz I AM old. I can get discounts on some things - although the "official" senior citizen "qualifying" age keeps rising at certain establishments. I will have an excuse to have someone else lug heavy stuff for me. I can explain why I didn't see the fine print. I can drive slower and not be embarrassed. I can NOT remember things and NOT have to make any excuse (if I could remember the excuse). I can lose my keys in my purse and be OK. I can wear purple. I can stop pretending I don't have any vericose veins. I can have white hair. I can wear glasses and save the expense for lasik. I can wear a skirted bathing suit, mu-mu's and orthopedic shoes...or not, actually.

Next thing you know I will need a walker and one of my son's will patiently say, "Mom, it's just not safe for you to drive anymore," and then he will gently pry the car keys from my hand and make off with my '03 Honda, sunroof and all.

And soon the kids will be putting signed masking tape on the back of my antiques - with their names written clearly indicating future possession. (not that they want them, but they CAN sell them for moolah). I am not gonna be leaving much, but I hope to leave things of sentimental and financial value, that are debt-free. At least that's the plan...

I am certain they are already wondering which one of them will have to take me in at some point. Drawing straws comes to mind, or a game of pool...winner, no...loser takes Mom. :)


90 days.


(no excuses for saying that, it's perfectly appropriate at this instant and is what my Mimi would have said too - her only swear word - and she lived past 90! Proof positive that cursing isn't bad for your longevity).

Ah well, in any case, life goes on - I hope (for a bit longer, anyway).

I better get ready though. I need to prepare. What should I do first? Go to the beach? Travel to Europe? Go paragliding? Write a book? Buy a Harley? Become an artist?Get a tattoo? Pierce something?

Maybe I will start with trying to get a grip on the past 35 years before I worry about what to do in the future, that might help me plan the next 35 years.

It's a theory anyway...

I am determined to make the most of the next 35 years (and remember them)! And to begin, I suppose it's not too early to start planning my 90th birthday party for September 18, 2044!

But before that, let me think. What do I want to do BEFORE my 90th birthday, what do I want to do in the next 35 years? Hmmm. (and let me take a minute here to pontificate: You know, you don't FEEL old as you get old. You still feel young, like when you were in your 20's or 30's. You are the same person, same mind, same personality...it's the body that's breaking down. And it's damned (translation: darned or dang) frustrating! (and no, Mimi would not have said that, but I am entitled, I am almost 55!). I don't feel old, and they say that you are only as old as you feel, which makes me somwhere between 25 and 45. I can deal with that. I loved those 20 years, what I can remember of them, that is. Ok, back to what I want to do in the next 35 years or so.

Let's see. I want to: spend time with my kids and their families. Spend more time outdoors. Finish Kyle's Christmas stocking. Complete the cookbook slash journal slash Gia-history for the kids. Go to Europe for a month (OK, ten days will do). Travel through the US in an RV. Watch my grandkids grow up. Maintain my sense of humor as well as my perspective on life. Sort through all the pictures I have. Be of service. Be philanthropic (you don't have to be financially wealthy to do this, thank heavens). Find Kalen's baby pictures. Get rid of my storage unit (after 25+ years -that's a car or two, I believe). Meet new friends and strengthen the bonds with old (just a word, not a sentence, pun intended) friends. Continue to improve my physical and emotional well-being. Get my degree. Build TeenFibro to a national level. Become financially secure and have enough $ to not be a burden to my children now or later. Laugh. Laugh more. Laugh even more. Love and be loved. That's about it. For now. Who knows, I am almost ancient, I may have forgotten a few things.

But, in all seriousness, I think this To-Do list is doable in the next 35 years, don't you?

OK, then! I have a plan in place. The battle is almost won. I am gonna look old age in the eye and then hobble on through - laughing the whole way.

Only 90 days to 55? Pffft, who cares? I have 12,867 days until my 90th year and my 90th birthday party! I'm outta here; I need to find a party dress! You don't turn 90 years old EVERY day!

Well, this is one option. I think Mimi would like this dress, she was always a bit edgy... a real risktaker. After all, she said the "sh" word. I take after her, as you can see.

Mu-mu? Pffft.

Now, if I can really pull this off at 90, the question becomes: what should I do for my 100th birthday? *chanting now*: "you're only as old as you feel, you're only as old as you feel "(translation: "hide the mirrors, hide the mirrors!").

No worries, I have 45 years and 90 days (+ or -) to plan...now, what was it I was planning????

Nain dat. (translation: That's all.)

Happy Birthday to You on piano

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Livin' in the Q

Turkey Town. Berque. ABQ. Duke City. The Q. The Big Al. The 505. Albuturkey. Albuquirky. Q. Oh yeah, that's my quirky turkey town.


New Mexico.

The Q in The Land of Enchantment.

Summer concerts. Ninety degree weather. Amazing sunsets. Friendly people. Indian culture. 300 days of annual sunshine. The Sandia's. Weekend hikes. UNM. The Pit. Archeological sites. Hot air balloons. Southwest food. Roadrunners. Chile - red and green. Southwest architecture. Camping. Cactus. The Rio Grande. The Zia. Turquoise. Firepits. Silver. Bolo Ties. Long skirts. Denim. Boots. Jeans. Vests. Fresh air. Outdoor recreation. The Big I. Isotopes baseball. Xeriscape.

The Q. It's my 'hood.

Beep! Beep!

Bugs Bunny "I Should of Turned Left at Albuquerque"

No Regrets

I remember the first time I received a "real" regrets RSVP. It was one word, short and simple, to the point, no excuses made, no explanations offered. It was signed by the person sending the note and simply read: REGRETS.

I think life is kind of that way too, our regrets should be made by us, personally, not someone else, and they should be real, simple, without excuse and more often than not, without explanation.

I regret not attending many events in my life, some I didn't even remember to send an RSVP, some I simply forgot about, some I didn't know until the last minute whether or not I would be available. In most cases, I would have loved to have been there. So REGRETS is the perfect response. I regret that I couldn't have been there.

I regret some choices I have made, some moments when I lacked patience, some actions I took, and some actions I did not take. I was once told that we need to not look back at our 'regrets' and beat ourselves up for things we wish we had done differently, because in reality unless we are truly a bad person, at the moment we made that choice or took that action, we were making the best decision and doing the best that we could within the reality and circumstances of that moment and time in our life.

I think for the most part that is correct. I am human and I can think of a few choices and actions that I have taken along the way that I was very conscious of and pretty darn ignorant of the warning signals that I should have been paying attention to. But then again, maybe that was because of my emotional state at the time, which brings me right back to doing the best we could at that moment in those circumstances.

I think if I have any regrets they would be for any action or choice that I made that affected my children in a negative way, or someone else's children and family in a negative way. In retrospect, that means I should probably be doubled over in regret. However, doubled over or not, even the choices that I have made in the past (that I might question now) have had mixed results. I know that I was prayerful and contemplative in most decisions. I also know that I could have been more prayerful and contempative. I know that I can be spontaneous and knee-jerk at times too, but I have always felt that even those quick decisions were prompted by an urgent prompting - whether by mother's instincts, karma, the Holy Ghost, or simply that nagging feeling you sometimes get in your gut. I have made very few major decisions in my life that have not been contemplated and reviewed and tossed out at least once before finally settled upon. Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Some huge mistakes, lots of small ones. I hope I have learned from them.

I have, for the most part, followed my gut, my heart and those quiet whisperings. It's easy to look back and second guess myself when I realize the struggles my choices caused, but then again, how often do we feel prompted to take a certain (maybe longer) route while driving, or not go on a much anticipated trip, or not do something without any understanding of 'why'? - but we listen and we follow the prompting and feel a certain peace that possibly we avoided some unknown hurdle or bump in life. And we never really know what, or why. We can't regret those decisions, those detours, or those changes in life plans. We simply have to follow our heart, our gut and those quiet whisperings.

I know this. I don't regret love. And I don't regret loving anyone that I have in my life, even if things didn't turn out as I had hoped, and too often they didn't.

And I don't regret having children, six of them in fact, seven including Katrina. I don't regret anything about being a Mom. Sometimes it was a struggle that required energy, patience, money and time that I didn't have as a single, or divorced, or dating and working Mom, but it was worth it. If I have any real regret, it is that I didn't or couldn't spend more time with my children when they were young. I was busy serving on the school board, serving in the church, decorating houses, shopping, juggling money, dating, and making a living and then later, trying to replace their Dad - not for them, but for me. I remember each of my children clearly as young toddlers, from Karynn to Kalen, and some days I wish I could just wrap those innocent babes in my arms and hug them tight. I know I did, a lot, but I wish I could do it all over again. That is my one regret. There wasn't enough time.

But I don't regret the personal sacrifices I have made along life's path, they have brought blessings and joy beyond description.

And I don't regret my gypsy-nature which has filled my life with experiences I will never forget. This craziness has taken me down roads and highways I might never have seen and introduced me to people I might never have met. It has also caused upheaval in my children's lives at times, but also given them experiences that they would not have had any other way. The ying and the yang of life. We can't always know why things happen.

I don't regret my LDS conversion and raising my children within the church. I am very proud of both. I don't regret giving them their free agency to make choices along the way. I may regret not being a better example to them at times, but I have done the best that I could considering the circumstances I have been in, and today I am at peace with who I am for the first time in decades. I love the church. I love my children. I love me. I love my own brand of spirituality. I am OK, and I think my kids are too - each one in their own place in life, with their own challenges and triumphs and spiritual touch stones.

I don't regret much, but not regretting does not rule out the possibility of hope. I hope for many things.

I hope for joy for my children, and their children... I hope they will make correct choices. I hope they will listen to their gut, to their heart, to those quiet whispers. I hope they will pay attention to what's important. I hope they will learn from my mistakes and not have to personally experience some difficult things that I have experienced as a result of my poor decisions. I hope they will work to make their marriages strong and spend lots of wonderful, fun time with their children. I hope they will make good financial decisions with their partners. I hope they will be patient and understanding when their kids make choices that might not be exactly as hoped for. I hope they will love unconditionally. I hope they will know how to forgive, and do so - without regret, without hesitation, without conditions.

I hope for more laughter in my life. I hope for continued love in my life. I hope for health and peace and love, and less pain and intolerance and prejudice and anger and war and illness in the world.

I hope for things that are good. "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, I seek after these things." (Articles of Faith)

Life is too short for regrets. We make mistakes, and we learn from them, correct where we can, apologize when possible, forgive always, and move on. If not, we cling to something that is not positive and waste precious hours, days and years, and tons of energy that could have been used for good.

Life is not too short for hope. Hope is what often gets us through the tough times. Hope is not being naive or having blind faith in something unknown. Hope has its roots in a reverence for the human spirit and the goodness of mankind, combined with the natural and eternal laws that affect our every moment, and the benevolance of God.

This life has little room for negativity. Negativity will suck the life out of us.

Hope breathes new life into sorrow and despair. Hope gives us a reason to go on when we can't even see where we are going.

This life is a learning experience. This is a testing ground. This isn't a dress rehearsal. This is real. This is our shot. This is life.

And, there will be a final exam, a day of reckoning, a come-uppance, a moment of perfect clarity and recollection, the day we will know who we really are because of what we have really done and been. No rose-colored glasses, no feigned ignorance, no rationalization, no hiding.

REGRETS...on that day, at that moment?

I think not. We will all have our day in court, so to speak, whether it be through an honest introspective self-evaluation or eye-to-eye with someone much greater than ourselves.

So: Live well. Laugh often. Love much.

Without regret. With hope.

Hope springs eternal.

And eternity is not a place for regrets, it is a place of joy.

I am filled with joy and contentment. I hope for an eternity filled with love and laughter, family and friends.

Regrets? I don't think so. I can't go there, I simply don't have time. So...


“There is nothing more real than a man’s character and values. The track record of what he has actually done is far more real than anything he says, however elegantly he says it.” —Thomas Sowell

Tim McGraw "Live Like You Were Dying"

Monday, June 15, 2009

From the Heart

Love is a many splendored thing. Love means never having to say you are sorry. Love makes the world go round. LOVE.

Love is from the heart.

Today I had good news and bad news from the doc. I have changed my diet and exercised more and my blood pressure is way down, that is the good news.

I also learned that I have an irregularity in my heart, nothing that's going to kill me, but if it wasn't discovered I suppose it could have, and that would be the bad news.

It seems that my heart contracts as it should, but takes a bit too long to relax before contracting again. This can cause dizziness, or sudden death; fortunately I have not experienced either.

Oh geez. No worries. This could explain the weird "heart" thumps I have felt for most of my life and have mentioned to doctors repeatedly over the years, with no comment or diagnosis beyond "Most people have some irregular heartbeats on occasion, nothing to worry about."

Uh huh.

So now, I am on a beta blocker. This can cause dizziness, but prevents sudden death. I suppose that's an improvement. I also get to return to childhood memories and pop an orange-flavored baby aspirin daily. I guess there is a silver lining in every cloud!

It's amazing how even something that is supposedly controllable with meds can suddenly make you think about life from a new vantage point and cause you to see with immediate clarity who is important to you, you will be there for you, who you love - from your heart.

And for me, it's simple. I love my family. And I love my friends. And I love that I have a deep faith. And I love myself, I am happy with who I am. I have made a lot of mistakes, but I have few, if any, regrets.

And I love life. And I plan to stick around for a long time and continue to drive everyone crazy - and hopefully share a few laughs along the way.

And I love - easily, fully, with complete trust, unconditionally. And I am thankful for that. It may have given opportunity for disappointment and heartbreak in my life, but I would rather experience those things than live life with doubt and mistrust governing my thoughts and actions.

And I live from the heart. Life is good. But life with love is better.

True love is eternal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Here's the Rub

How to sum up a week of travel, work, training, education, networking, fun, walking, food and family in one blog entry. Hmmm, this will be a challenge.

Let me start from the end, rather than the beginning. I am home, in Albuquerque, after a long flight yesterday that dropped me in the Sunport about 11:15 PM.

Prior to that I had enjoyed watching Kurt talk routes and rates with a NY cabbie (just imagine the cabbie rolling his eyes and responding in an overly patient voice while hiding the gritting of his teeth: "Yes, I know how to get to La Guardia Airport"). But I did get a flat rate, including tip, so the cabbie could take whichever route he wanted and I would not have to worry about being overcharged. It pays to have a haggling attorney for a son!

And I played hide and seek with Makinlee - in her bathroom, both of us, one hiding and one counting...let me say it again "in the same bathroom" - which found me curled up in the bathtub while she counted as she sat on the closed toilet and then opened all the cupboards before pulling aside the CLEAR shower curtain to find me! She is such a good finder!

Just before heading home, we had added a few more miles to our walking step count of the past two days and headed to South Street Seaport - a kind of undiscovered shopping mall with sidewalk vendors, high-end stores, a farmer's market, a beach, an ECOBoat, restaurants, a miniature golf course and a singing group from Sesame Street (it was Children's Day). How fun!

Prior to that we had taken the subway home from Madison Square Park - not Garden - where we had participated in the biggest block party in the US, with BBQ stands from all over the nation. More on that later...

Everyone loves BBQ - PIG, or so it seemed!

On the subway ride home following the BBQ/block party, an older black man who was hunched over a blindman's cane as if he had done a lifetime's work in that same position, walked jauntily down the aisle of the jolting subway car singing a wonderful collection of old and new songs. He was slight of build, topped with a NY Yankees cap, dressed in clean and dapper clothes, cream-colored jazz sweater, white shirt and pants (complete with belt and suspenders) and tennis shoes. He had the creased face of someone who had smiled often and he could still carry a tune, keep the beat and remember lyrics, all shared with us through a strong, confidant and clear voice (it made me try to imagine what he must have sounded like in his youth).

As he serenaded the mostly inattentive but captive audience, he moved down the car with a plastic tub held out for tips, I felt a mixture of emotions for this man, wondering in a nanosecond what had brought him to this place in his life, where his family members were, where he lived, how he lived and how he had come to sing - in a gospel choir, at his mother's knee, in the cotton fields of the south? As these thoughts were moving through my brain faster than the speed of light, a sudden change in tempo - both in the movement of the subway car and in his song - brought me back to the present.

First of all, in spite of the jerks, bounces, stops and starts of the subway, he managed to stay upright and balanced on his tennis shoes and cane, but even more amazing were the words falling from his lips - "If you want my body and you think I'm sexy...come on Baby let me know....."

What?!?! Double take time!
We (Kurt, Ashley, and their friends Dean and Elise, along with Makinlee, Dallin and Lily) were caught by surprize. After all, just prior to this particularly intriguing rendition of the old Rod Stewart song he had been singing a lovely southern ballad.
It was a kind of melodious call to stalled action, a lyric-filled moment of fuzzy clarity, a juxtaposition of reality. OK, it seemed to be a total incongruity: the man, the song, the venue.

Our reaction was fairly unanimous and simultaneous, however - first blinks, then heads tilted to listen for the 2nd stanza in some sort of hoped for verification (or not) of what we were hearing, followed by approving laughter and incredulous looks as our eyes followed the teetering vocalist when he passed by our seats. I am certain that I will always think of the subway crooner when I hear Rod Stewart sing those same lyrics, and I will smile with a fond memory of a great moment on the subway in NYC.

OK, back to the BBQ - The Whole Hog, Baby Back Ribs, Pulled Pork, Baked Beans, Sweet Coleslaw, Sour Coleslaw, Coleslaw with Jalapenos, Brownies, Watermelon, Root Beer Floats (notice they are all capitalized denoting their importance as part of the awesome block party!). At $8 a plate, with 5 adults and 2 toddlers and 1 infant, we were carefully picking through the list of BBQ Joints who were participating in the cook-off before a kind fellow handed us a FastPass. The FastPass was our ticket to BBQ Heaven, with a value of approximately $100. Basically, it was cash in the form of a card you hang around your neck so that you can show it to the vendor, and they punch a hole in it according to the value of your food, and abracadabra ANOTHER plate of delicious BBQ, beans and coleslaw. It was so much fun! And speaking of the whole hog, get a look at that 'whole hog' rubbed and ready to go in to the smoker. It was a bit freaky to be honest. Makinlee wondered where his ears were. I was just glad she didn't notice that his entire head was missing.

After this traumatic viewing of reality, I am now in denial and prefer to think of my pork ribs as some kind of vegetarian dish, not a recently butchered and spread pig coated with BBQ rub. I don't think eating ribs will ever be quite the same after seeing that huge hog split and spread and rubbed for our dining enjoyment.

I am not sure Kurt feels the same.

Elise and Ashley had the forethought to bring blankets, arrive early, and divide and conquer, so it was only a matter of minutes before we were comfortably set up in a grassy area near the BBQ vendors and beneath huge shading trees. We all headed to a prechosen vendor and returned with plates of food to share.The kids danced and we ate. The crowd grew and we ate. Clouds gathered and we ate. We ate and then we ate more. Life doesn't get much better than that, well, actually it did get better than that. After all that BBQ, the brownies arrived. And the root beer floats. Nirvana. Indigestion. BBQ Heaven.

Ashley and I spent Friday walking the Brooklyn Bridge, and dining at The Soda Shoppe for dinner - feel good food at its best. Macaroni and Cheese, Meatloaf, Chicken and Lime Soup, Pigs in a Blanket, Cherry Lime Rickey's, and Cupcakes. (notice the caps again) It was a fun little place and the food was good. Small, quiet, and a nice change from the craziness of what we typically think of as "New York".

I was able to see Kurt's office for the first time. WOW. I knew he looked over the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but I didn't realize that he LOOKS OVER THE STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND. Pretty dang impressive. (If you are looking for those landmarks in the picture below, you will be unsuccessful, but please note the PILES of books - tax books no less - that he is using to draft and edit and redraft a document. Sheesh, he might as well be back in school; less money but same gig!)

Continuing on our backward trip, Thursday night I arrived in NYC from Boston via LimoLiner; Kurt, Ash and Makinlee met me at their favorite Thai restaurant, and it was delish too.

Basically, I ate my way through New York, and laughed and had a great time while engorging on thai food, pizza, meatloaf, french pastries, bbq everything, brownies, and more. It was a feast at every level. I am still feeling a bit stuffed and I have been home fo 12 hours. It's time to get to the gym....

Did I mention that Kurt bought French Pastries for us on Saturday morning? He did. They were delicious. I bought some almond croissants to take home to share with friends in Albuquerque. I can feel them on my thighs as I type. And there's the rub....