Are we having fun yet?

“Happiness is there for the taking–and making “ Oprah

When was the last time you did something just because it was fun?   I was out to dinner last weekend with my husband, long-term friends and a new couple (guests of our friends).  The female newcomer was also recently retired. She shared with us that she was giving  up bocce ball because she was too competitive. She couldn’t sleep worrying about matches. Her angst over games  had started interfering with her marriage. The bocce team she and her husband participated on won the city championship this year.  They brought home a gold medal to join a room of gold medals from previous years.  In other words,  bocce was a shared activity at which both she and her husband excelled but her competitive spirit had taken away the fun. Unable to harness her competitive ways, she chose to quit the sport.

Also, this week I  received an email from a disgruntled parent about my daughter’s coed soccer team. The parent didn’t feel our volunteer coach was providing adequate guidance and we weren’t winning enough games.  To be accurate, I don’t think the team has won any games.  I was astonished to receive this email because I feel fortunate to have a “volunteer” coach. The team can’t play without a regular coach and the rest of us are either too old, too unschooled at soccer, or too busy with work to volunteer. Independent of the notion of complaining about a volunteer when the rest of us hid in corners when asked to help out, co-ed soccer is to be played for “fun”.  Unlike club or school soccer, co-ed is intended to provide an opportunity for young men and women to interact on the field and learn to play nicely together.  My daughter has been attending practices regularly, even though she can’t play because of a major injury last spring.  She goes because she has fun.

Many years ago on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my husband and I were driving from Disney Land to Sacramento for a traditional family celebration.  We had driven for four hours with two little kids in the backseat whining all the way and we hadn’t even inched half-way across Los Angeles because of the holiday traffic.  My husband, Pete, looked at me and said, “Are we having fun yet?” The answer was a clear, “No!” But we were certainly trying hard to get to “Yes!”

We all have the human capacity to pursue fun for the pure joy of emotional escape. We know the heady feeling of spontaneous laughter and the calming quiet of rest after an exhilarating day. But we seldom ask ourselves are we having fun?     We execute our careers successfully moving towards clear goals.  We strategize about which people to meet and  network with to get ahead.  We  watch and play games to win.  We make bucket lists of what we want to accomplish before we die.  We carefully plot out expensive trips to foriegn locales. But we infrequently say to each other let’s just be silly.  Let’s have fun.

My son, Scott, excels at having a good time.  This summer he entered a pinewood derby race at a local pub “just for fun”.  He brought home the small cardboard  box with a chunk of wood and four wheels the night before the race and transformed it into the “Weenie Wagon” with a few hours effort.

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Scott and the Weenie Wagon

My husband, Scott’s friends, and I all went downtown to see the big event.  When we got there, I learned I could buy a pre-made red car, “Robin Red” for $10.  Scott’s best friend from grade school, Daniel, piloted my vehicle.  Both cars won one heat and then we were up against each other.  The “Weenie Wagon” with it’s outrageous design beat out my more traditionally styled racer (no wonder it was so cheap). The Weenie Wagon went down to defeat in the next heat.  But spending a glorious night in Boise outside racing cars with young men was FUN!  Later, Scott won the award for most creative vehicle name and a $100 gift card much to our delight (Good Karma runs on the male side of our family).

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Robin Red goes against Weenie Wagon on a beautiful night in downtown Boise.

Also, this week I received a picture of Scott’s new hair do.  He moved from a man bun described in a blog this summer to a bird’s nest.  He texted that several freshman have opted for similar hair cuts.  You know the old saying “Birds of a feather flock together.”  When I opened the my son’s text it made me LOL.

In retirement, I am trying out new activities and undertaking lots of silly ventures.  I get asked a lot “Why are you doing THAT?”  My answer is, “For fun”.

I am finding out where my joy resides.  I am taking Robert Louis Stevenson’s advice and giving joy “a voice”. This week I might soak in the sun, smell the coffee, listen to the rain, read a good book, play with pets, visit friends or go to a movie. My one promise to myself is to have fun.

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Balloons rising over Boise at the Boise Balloon Festival. A great way to greet the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dead Ends

Recently, my sister encouraged me to start streaming a series on Acorn TV entitled “800 Words”. The star of the show, George Turner (played by Erik Turner) is a writer who turns out weekly columns of exactly 800 words. He originally lived in Sydney, Australia.  On a whim, George sells his house, buys a new home sight-unseen in Weld, New Zealand, and moves he and his two teenage children overseas. The rationale behind the move is that in a place he cherished as a child on family vacations maybe he and his children can find solace and eventually heal from the sudden accidental death of his wife.

The show is a human interest comedy so not surprisingly in the first episode his decision, which everyone including himself questions, is fraught with humorous accidental encounters, snarky real estate deals, natural disasters and extreme bullying of his teens  as they try to get acclimated to a new school.  George has unwittingly bought the wrong house in  need of massive repairs without the promised view. The rental car is destroyed by a random piece of art, resulting in a major community event.  George insults the entire village by writing about how Weld is a “dead end”.  George rescues himself only by attending a community gathering and stumbling through a message about his dead wife and how a dead end can serve as a new beginning.

The theme of dead ends providing new directions reminded me of a stickie note, I keep posted on my computer.  “The farthest road to take is the road back to yesterday.” Our antecedents no matter how accomplished, guilt riddenaumatic and/or regretful are behind us never to be recovered.

In this week’s Bible Study, the irretrievably of the past reached out from the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot’s wife is ordered not to look back at Sodom as she and Lot escape destruction.  Yet even with a stern warning from God, she can’t comply. Because of her backward glance, Lot’s wife is turned to stone, symbolic retribution, a rock stuck in the proverbial “hard place” unable to choose the future. Part of the human condition  is to cling to traditional patterns and past habits.

Rationally, we know we can’t recreate or return to “Happy Days.” But emotionally, moving forward when faced with life’s challenges may be the hardest calling each of us faces.  Alcoholics are asked to give up drinking and this may mean giving up friends and changing life patterns, such as transitioning from socializing in bars to extreme sports and regular meetings.Women in violent relationships may need to flee their homes in the dark of night with their children and nothing else to a shelter and uncertain future hoping to find safety.  Refugees cram into small boats sailing to  unknown places that promise a better future. The boat may capsize. Too many foreigners may have come before.  The welcoming vision may transform into  a nightmare of fences with barb wire surrounding camps.  Life’s journey is thwart with the possibility of dead ends and the siren call to return to what one knows, no matter how intolerable.

Human progress can be traced to those who are able to see what appears to be a dead end as a culdesac, a bend in the road, an opportunity to move in new untried directions.The miracle of human creativity is our ability to seek new directions when all seems hopeless. We have created a term for this ability, “resiliency”, the ability to overcome adversity and move on. We do not have to remain rooted in one place  emotionally like a stone or spin wildly out of control as if we were clinging to a rubber raft launched on white water without any  oars or life jacket. We can make choices even bad ones and recover. We can’t go back but we can stride forward in an uncertain world with a hopeful heart.

Does this dog look like a criminal to you?

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Shani, the guilty party!

Over Labor Day, my beloved Sheltie, Shani, raided the teenage girls’ bathroom and bedroom at our cabin. While she is usually sweet and shy, when left to her own devices her nose can get her in trouble. In this case, she destroyed a variety of feminine hygiene products. Five teenage girls and one bathroom provided a wild array of new scents and textures to explore.  The pièce de ré·sis·tance of the crime was that when snorting through the bedroom clothing left on the floor, the only underwear Shani chose to destroy was my daughter’s very expensive Victoria Secret panties. My daughter, Kayla, does not like the word “panties” but one must call a spade a spade. In this case, Shani’s panty raid was restricted to her owner. Upon reflection “panty” as a descriptor of the little, tiny swaths of  brightly colored lace, nylon, and spandex Kayla wears is generous.  When I was a teenager, my mother would have described these itty, bitty pieces of fabric as  “obscene” or cut them in half and used them as hankies, no wonder Shani put her nose in it.  Victoria Secret has a new term for them “cheekies or cheeckini” presenting in seductive colors such as “purple rapture,””neon nectar”  and  “Bella Donna Pink.”  Cheeky indeed! in all the many senses of the word.But I digress from the action in order that you might better understand the impulses of the perpetrator, just look at that long, soft nose and inquiring eyes designed to hunt out the single most tasteful, skimpiest,  fragile, exquisitely expensive garment among many.

I was alerted to the crime when we all came home from dinner and I heard screaming and shouting upstairs. Over the balcony, reverberated, “GROSS!” “SHANI!” “Who left the doors open?” This query was from my daughter searching for the co-conspirator so she wouldn’t have to help clean up the mess. I, of course, was Shani’s defender and blamed the entire incident on the girls. Dogs will be dogs. Leaving attractive nuisances available for sniffing, thus enticing a dog’s olfactory lobe is bound to lead to chewing and wanton destruction.

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The accusers

I must admit that Shani once rooted around in my laundry basket. But I wear cheap cotton panties from ShopKo (the Bridget Jones memorialized as big panties, meaning full coverage in Bridget Jones Diary). One bite was all Shani could muster, though there was plenty of material, probably gave her that dry, cotton mouth taste.

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A single bite is all ShopKo panties is worth

I salute Shani for a valiant effort not to make me feel totally without appeal. The single bite suggests that one taste was all it took for her to take my cheap underwear off her list of chewable delights.

My daughter is always talking about how much better her dogs will be trained than ours when she leaves the house and gets a dog of her own. I am sure this is true.

My first dog when I was single was also a Sheltie, named Ginger Rogers because she loved to dance. I participated in a dog training class with my boss at the time, Dr. Cohen, who owned a big red setter. Ginger would prance gaily around the ring, sit, stand, lay and come when called. Dr. Cohen told me he’d never seen a better trained dog. But of course, since I was single, I had lots of time to work with the dog.  We went everywhere together and had a very strong bond.

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Ginger, my first dog and constant companion

I have learned over the years that children change everything including dog training. Our next sheltie was Sparky. We got her when Kayla was little and Scott was in second grade. We all loved Sparky. But I remember eating dinner  at the kitchen counter and saying to Kayla, “We don’t feed the dog at the table.” Kayla said, “Mommy, I don’t feed dog.” Just then Sparky ran under my feet with what looked like a cup of cooked spaghetti on her head. When I asked Kayla how the spaghetti got there. She said, “Fell off spoon. I don’t feed Sparky.”

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Sparky with Kayla, Scott and I. Training dogs with young children is more difficult.

Dogs are one of the great joys of my life. Unlike teenage girls, they thrive on your attention and don’t push you away.  Shelties are bred to watch sheep, so they love their home and  guard their yards, no demands of freedom from them.  A homebody when Shani gets out of the back yard (infrequently), she runs around to the front door and waits for us to let us in. Unlike my daughter pushing hard to bust free of the confines of home, Shani is contented to stay with us always.

I don’t like to think of a time when I might not be able to care for a pet of my own.  My dogs are not my whole life, but over the years and through a number of dog lives, dogs have certainly helped make my life whole.

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Kayla and Shani.Forgiveness and Reconciliation are words to live by

Rollin’ in the Last, Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer!

Rollout those lazy, crazy days of summer…You’ll wish that summers could always be here (Nat King Cole, 1963)

2016 was my first summer of retirement.  What a glorious time, I have had! Pete and I opened summer with a grand circle tour of the Wyoming and Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Driving from Boise to Jackson Hole, the  Teton’s highlight was biking at twilight along the Snake River. Then on to Buffalo, Wyoming to visit family and enjoy Wyoming’s wonderful summer weather where cool breezes keep the air moving and the need for air conditioning down.  In Cheyenne, Wyoming where I grew up, I am still blessed with many long-term friendships.  These friendships have remained strong  over 20 years of living in different cities with annual visits home.   All but one friend  and my husband beat me to retirement. Some of my friends have had health struggles.  One friend is recovering from a stroke, another a heart condition, another just getting over a knee replacement surgery.  All have new grand children to report on. When I sit down with my Wyoming friends, it feels like yesterday when we left.  Over the years and across the miles, our shared adventures and linking life lines have kept us together.

We finished our roadtrip with our annual visit to a Colorado Rockies game, a must for us and plans to meet Wyoming friends in Arizona next year to watch spring baseball.  Our final stop before heading home was Golden, Colorado where Pete has family and the hops from Coors Brewery fills the air.  Clear Creek runs through town, like the Boise River but much smaller.  These rivers provide the focal point for both communities though their original historical roots are quite different. Golden was a mining town and Boise was the  Lewis and Clark route, the Oregon Trail and home to Fort Boise. Our drive home took us across Utah,  setting of glorious rock formations.  Traveling in Utah always leaves me thinking about Mormon families pushing their hand carts across the vast landscape, a hardy group for sure.

The  friendship/family tour was our only trip this summer.  Boise (consistently ranked as one of the top outdoor cities) is a fabulous place to spend the summer and we also own a cabin in McCall, Idaho welcoming us over the long holidays including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July,  a late July family vacation and most recently Labor Day.  Labor Day trills  the siren call of summer’s end.  The air is starting to turn and Boise hosts the fabulous Boise Balloon Festival.

 Our cabin in McCall is tiny (about 1200 square feet) but it has big arms, welcoming 5 co-ed college students (guests of my son) and Pete and I two weeks ago. Labor Day we hosted Kayla’s 17th birthday extravaganza with  4 of her friends. Kayla’s birthday is September 6th. We celebrate her birthday every Labor Day in McCall. In recent years,  neighbors from Boise have bought a place too. We share or more accurately mooch  dinners and boat rides from them.  Our kids are together in college and they have a daughter from China who is a freshman in high school. The weather never cooperates with our beach and water plans. But somehow we manage to get out on the water. One Labor Day, we were wrapped in blankets on a boat. This year I actually got a brain freeze as I shot across Payette Lake on a jet ski.

So what I have I learned from my first summer of retirement?

  • Family and friends matter  more as one ages, make the time to cultivate and grow existing relationships.
  • Good health is a blessing and shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Exercise regularly, eat right and make time for preventive health visits.
  • Be thankful for every day God  has given me.  Jump out bed and enjoy the day!