Beach · Family · Inspiration · Memories · travel

Vacation

I have spent the last few days slathered in sunscreen, dozing under an umbrella with this as my view and soundtrack.

Gulf of Mexico, Aug 2017

For 25 years, one week each summer, we have gone to the same beach, eaten at the same restaurants, shopped at the same grocery store, enjoyed the same delicious seafood. It is truly a relaxing vacation. We read, we nap, we walk, we cook if we feel like it. And when it is over, we come back home, more calm and more tan, and ready to fit ourselves back into our “real” lives and responsibilities.

Memories · travel

I rode in a helicopter

DSC01035In Alaska. Over mountains and lakes and snow and many a rocky precipice until we landed on a massive glacier.

I have a fear of heights, but I love mountains. I know I should have a little fear of flying, because that is very high, but I don’t. During the safety briefing before we boarded the helicopter, there were many instructions about how to walk out on the helipad: stay between the yellow lines, stay with your guide, if your hat blows off DO NOT run after it. Don’t deviate from the instructions, and load in the order the guide tells you. It was all about not getting chopped up by the rotors, which I was definitely pro that.

But, instructions about what to do in case something happens to those (very flimsy) rotors that are holding us up in the air and we start to go down? Not so much. In fact, nothing. Because, I realize now, what would be the point? If you fall out of the sky onto a mountain in a thing roughly the size of a Volkswagen, emergency exits and flotation devices are not really going to figure in. But I didn’t think about any of that at all while we were flying. I think my whole thought process during the 30 minute flight over the mountains consisted of, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. Wowwwwwwwww. Ohhhhhhhhh.”

I’ve seen movies and National Geographic specials about the glaciers, but to fly over one is stunning. There is no sense of scale because there are no roads or buildings to compare. You just know it’s huge. It is blindingly white because new snow was still falling regularly in late May, and the mountain peaks threw dark blue shadows across the vast whiteness.

As we continued up the glacier (it was the Mendenhall, not far from Juneau), we spotted a faint grid of black dots on the snow far up ahead. It had to be manmade, and as we got closer, we realized it was the dog camp where we were going to learn about dog sledding and meet the dogs and finally ride a dogsled. Each tiny dot was a doghouse. There were probably 200 of them, flat-topped, and on many of them, the occupant was happily standing or sitting on top, barking and howling as if welcoming us.

Our guide explained to us that sled dogs are not the blue-eyed Huskies that you see on commercials that are bred for their beauty. These dogs are small, strong and amazingly eager to do one thing, and that is pull the sled. They don’t mind the cold. In fact, the May weather was a little warm for them. They prefer the frigid air, and hard-packed, icy snow. Running is what they do, and they each burn more calories on a race day than an adult male human.

The two lead dogs of our team were veterans of the Iditarod. This team runs only for one particular “musher,” and they respond to his voice. It was amazing to watch them watch him, waiting for his voice signals. They pulled like their lives depended on it. There was joy in every muscle in their bodies.

When we stopped and got off the sled, we went up and petted each dog, telling them they did a good job, and they just about wiggled out of their skins with delight. We got kisses. When we boarded the sled again, they were ready to go, jumping up and down with excitement.

Back at the camp, we thanked the dogs and our musher for the ride and went over to visit the puppy pen. A mom dog had a litter of 9 day old pups and we got to hold them! Incredibly adorable! They fit in our two hands and their eyes weren’t open yet. It is so hard to believe that those little guys will grow up to be strong, eager sled dogs like the ones that pulled us.

After a while, the helicopters returned; three tiny red dots against the blue sky. They landed one by one, a careful and precise distance apart. The dogs howled their good-byes and we boarded to fly back to the heliport. The trip back seemed way too short. I couldn’t look hard enough at everything – the vast glacier, the moraines of ground up stone and dirt pushed up by the pressure of the slowly moving ice, the sharp mountaintops, the light and shadows. I knew I probably would not see these things again, and that this incredible place is undoubtedly thawing away, and someday will be gone entirely.

The Mendenhall Glacier. I was so lucky to see it. I am proud that my children saw it. I hope their children see it.

IMG_0358

IMG_0363

IMG_0365

IMG_0373

IMG_0377

IMG_0385

IMG_0389DSC00996

DSC01074

IMG_0393

Blogging · Writing

The big 6-Oh.

I turn 60 years old on August 4. I’ve been feeling very restless lately. I want to travel, to make things, to interact with new people, to learn a new skill, to start a new project. (Or ten.) It is hard to put my finger on exactly what I want. I spend a lot of time planning trips. Then I line up the excuses why I can’t take those trips right now. I have a list of 100 books I want to read.

What is this restlessness? It feels like I am racing against time; as if the things I can do with my life are whittling down as I get older.

And this is true, I guess. There are only so many books I can read, only so many places I can travel. So in addition to the restless feeling, I feel frozen in space. I can see so many possibilities, but I am not reaching out for them.

At 60, is it too late to reach for a bigger life? Am I too old to travel alone? Am I too old to write a book? Do I have the stamina to do what it takes to build an audience for my blog?

My gut tells me that of course it is not too late. There are dozens of stories of people who found success in their last third of life. I have the freedom. Do I have the will?

Writing is my one real talent. I have played at several careers, but writing is the thing that gives me joy. It isn’t easy, but it is always satisfying. Words on paper, rolling into sentences and paragraphs and pages. I love them.

I blog for myself, although having an audience is amazing. My blog entries are the result of taking my thoughts and feelings out and putting them into words and sculpting those words into something hopefully readable and meaningful and maybe entertaining. I resolve not to worry so much about my themes, or my categories, or what readers “expect” my blog to be about. Today, it is about turning uncertainty and timidness into courage and action. I am a (soon to be) 60-year-old woman who wants, still, to do magical things in this life and write about them.

My Local World

Wherein we have opinions on car parking

For those of you who are not from Hoover, or are not in the Facebook Group “Hoover Vote,” I’ll share a little background. There has been a discussion going on for the last few days about parking ordinances in residential neighborhoods in Hoover. This was triggered by one of our city councilmen who was approached by citizens asking for an ordinance prohibiting overnight parking on the street, and also prohibiting parking on front lawns. He asked what people thought. And wow, did he get responses!

People get bent out of shape about cars being parked on the streets. Bent. Out of shape. Except for the people who park on the streets, that is.

Hoover is a sprawling suburb and we have no public transportation, so almost everyone has a car. Some families have more cars than licensed drivers. Two-car garages are probably the most prevalent, but some houses have more, and a lot of houses have carports, and a few have none. Our streets are narrow, and there are no marked parallel parking spaces in any residential neighborhood I know of. But neither are the streets marked with “No Parking” signs.

Anyway, the parking on the street issue is not one the city can legislate with a blanket ordinance. There are too many cars. And most people are not going to deal with musical moving of cars when the kids are home from college, or the grandparents are in town.

But the other issue, the one about parking on front lawns, is the one where the rubber meets the road. Or the grass. You know what I mean.

The most interesting comments are the ones from people who say, of course, we must allow street parking sometimes; my kids come home from college, and we have friends over, or there are parties, or Bible studies, and so on. But parking on front lawns? We get really judgey about that.

My homeowner’s association (which is not one of the very strict ones) occasionally mentions in the newsletter that it is unsightly for cars to be parked on front lawns, and please don’t do it. As far as I can tell, that has no effect. The people who do it continue to do it. It doesn’t bother me because I can clearly see that their only other choice would be parking on the street. If they want to park on their own lawn, rather than on the street, who am I to complain?

But the interesting thing is the different rationale for why people should not park in their own yards. It is not unsafe or unlawful.

It’s tacky.

Yes, people in my town want to outlaw tacky. It sends a chill down my spine, because I get my life from tacky.  I grew up in the country, where people had lawn art, and sometimes lawn chickens, and our house had no fence between the yard and the pasture and we ate breakfast with the cows staring in placidly at us from three feet away. We parked in the yard, the dogs ran free, and we had numerous “outbuildings” and disabled vehicles. My parents grew up during the Depression, and they didn’t get rid of things. We hung our clothes out to dry on a clothesline. We didn’t have these, because my mom came from town, but if other folks did have those half tires painted white and set in the ground to form a border, it meant they CARED about their home and their image in the community. Uppity.

So I accept the possibility that my “tacky” meter is calibrated differently.

I love bottle trees, and flower pots hanging on fences, and tomato plants in the front yard, and bird houses made from gourds. I love a profusion of mixed, crazy wildflowers, sidewalk paths inset with multicolored shards of broken dishes, and ivy tumbling over stone walls. I love those old metal gliders from the 40’s like my grandmother had on her front porch. My neighbors got a new toilet the other day and set the old one out by the street. I drove by it several times before it was taken away, thinking that in Red Hill, Alabama, that baby would have been a flower planter in a heartbeat. Morning Glories. I sort of grieved for it.

glider2

I just can’t help feeling, when I read some of these comments, that some folks would really like it best if everyone in the neighborhood was more …how shall I put it…homogeneous. Fewer wildflowers, more begonias. There is a lot of concern about the “older neighborhoods” like mine, where the houses, and the people, are not so new and shiny anymore. We’ve aged, kids have grown up, and we’ve had illnesses and knee replacements. Maybe our houses and yards show it a little. Or worse, maybe we’ve moved to a house better suited to our health and abilities to keep it up, and have relegated the house with the big yard to ………. (yeah, I’m about to say it)……….renters. (Duh-duh-dunnnnnh!)

I swear, you would think renters were about to cause the collapse of civilized life in Hoover. They park on the lawns, people say. The live too many to a house, people say. They don’t care, people say.  And sometimes they are black or brown, but people don’t say that.

Personally, I don’t really know how you spot a renter. It’s not like you can bring it up when they move in and you go over to introduce yourself. “Hi, here’s a cake I made to welcome you to the neighborhood, and, by the way, are you buying or renting this house?”

My mother taught seventh graders for over thirty years, and she had a saying, “Let every tub sit on its own bottom.” The seventh graders liked it because it had the word “bottom” in it, which made them snicker, but what she simply meant was mind your business and don’t tattle on each other.

I think we need that advice now. I see no evidence that property values are affected by the parking habits of my neighbors. I think what makes our property valuable and our homes sought after is that our neighborhoods are nice, welcoming places, where we know each other’s names, and are aware when someone on the street is in the hospital, or has a new baby, or gets a new son or daughter-in-law. Let’s not judge each other from afar, but try to be the kind of neighbors we want to have.

I know my neighbors reading this are thinking, “Is this that Hermit Woman on Russet Cove Circle writing this?” Because I am. I own it. I am an introvert, and an inside person. Coming over to introduce myself or inviting everyone over to grill out is SO out of my comfort zone. But I know you all. I know your names and your children and who leaves for work at what time. If you are renters, I couldn’t care less. I DO care if your car won’t start and you need jumped off, or if your dog or cat is lost, or if you need eggs or sugar, or a ladder or long extension cord. I am right here, neighbor.

Just please don’t judge my weedy yard.

Nonsense

Moms of adult sons: Advice, please.

How long is appropriate to follow your sons’ exes on social media?

Don’t judge me! I’m not stalking. Just occasionally a picture or comment shows up on my feed. And I’m only talking about the serious relationships; the ones who were in our lives for a significant time. They did not become daughters-in-law, but I was absolutely sizing them up for the role, as one does.

Now, certainly, when they marry someone else, yes, I get that.

But what about before that? In my defense, I have no daughters, and these young women are my window into Millennial Woman World. Besides, my boys have good taste! These women are funny and intelligent, and their views on life are interesting.

So, what say you, moms? What’s the “don’t get creepy” cut-off?

Inspiration · Society · Writing

Project: Letters to my heroes

I have many heroes, and reading their writings, or speaking with them, or seeing them interviewed has been very important to me, especially since the election.

It occurred to me recently that it is important to tell people that their good work means something to me, specifically. Some of my heroes have gained recognition for their work, some have not. Either way, I want to let them know that they inspire me and lift me up.

So, I am starting a project to write a letter every day or so to a hero who has inspired me to do better, to give more, and to keeping fighting for a better world.

My first letter went to Jimmy Carter. He has been a hero of mine for a long time. I cast my first vote for President for him in 1976, in an old fashioned lever-pull voting machine in a country store in Red Hill, Alabama.

I am not going to publish my letters, but I will keep a list on this blog of who I write.

pen_1903217c

 

Politics · Society

The Fight

Apparently, the allotted time for shock, sadness, mourning, anger and fear has expired and my Facebook timeline is starting to fill with “likes” and “shares” of assorted Trump-supporting asshats who are eager to explain to all us elitists why Hillary lost and why we should get over it.

Well, the strangest thing happened while I was debating whether to unfriend or just block the gloaters. I got Over It.

I don’t mean I’m not still deeply pissed off, worried, and aghast at what America has done. But I’m not wasting another single minute of my time reading about what percentage of what demographic in what state went for Hillary or Trump and why. The freaking Ku Klux Klan spread fliers around neighborhoods near me on election night. The KKK. In Birmingham, Alabama. In 2016. The most evil hate groups feel emboldened by the election of this unqualified, narcissistic, sexually deviant braggart. This is not the way I thought my country would be at this point in my life. I thought the battle for basic human rights for all people would be over. I thought constitutional rights won at the Supreme Court level would stay won. When I was twelve years old, I saw a man walk on the moon, sent there and brought home again by brilliant men and women using slide rules. I thought by the time my children were grown, we would, at the very least, have figured out how to get clean drinking water to children all over the world, but we can’t even do it for America.

I just read a headline on Twitter, and it grabbed my attention. I haven’t even read the article, because the headline alone was inspiration enough. It said, “Welcome to the Fight.”

If I offend you with what I am about to say, and you feel you can’t talk to me, that would make me sad. But this needs to be said: please do not quote Franklin Graham or Mike Huckabee or James Dobson or other privileged, politically connected and influential white Christian men to me.  They are hypocrites. Yes, exactly the kind Jesus cautioned us not to be. They are “seen by men.” They hold influence and power, and they have their reward. I don’t want to hear from them about Jesus’ plan for this country. They excused horrible speech and actions so that their tribe could win the election. Now they want to tell us that this was God’s will?  Nope. I’m not listening to that rubbish.

What I am doing is joining the fight. I will stand with all whose freedoms are threatened by Donald Trump and the GOP. I will stand with women, the disabled, people of color, people of ALL religions, athiests, agnostics, LGBTQIA people, indigenous people, undocumented people, children, artists, prisoners, the homeless, care-givers, teachers and all who are marginalized and treated as “lesser than” by the patriarchy.

To those of you who were just elected to office here in Hoover, Alabama, your actions in the first council meeting made me wary, but I will stand with you. I will have your back while you do the right thing. I will go through fire with you to recognize and serve those who are most in need in our city. I will push you toward transparency, because I understand transparency is hard.

I will call out bs and anything that smells like bs. And I will shout the word of your successes from the hilltops.

I am joining the fight that I expect to last the rest of my life. It is the fight to do whatever I can to bring peace, create greater equality, ease suffering, and leave a livable world for the next generations.

Bigotry, authoritarianism, oppression, patriarchy, you’re on notice. I. Am. Over. It. I am putting on the full armor of a pissed off woman warrior. There may be more tears in the future, in fact, it is very likely. But not today.

118211761
The pin is mightier than the sword.

 

Inspiration · Memories · Writing

Who am I?

I am all the regular things.

I am the checkboxes of life: daughter, sister, college graduate, wife, mother, friend. I am a Honda and a modest surburban house. I am PTO, Band Boosters, college dorm rooms and first apartments. I am the empty nest.

I am high cholesterol, and ten or so extra pounds. I am Sertraline for depression, and Clonopin for anxiety.

I am the sixties and seventies. I am a farm in north Alabama. I am a tiny rock schoolhouse and an old yellow bus. I am tomatoes and okra. I am a long line of schoolteachers and others who treasured books and poetry. I am ghost stories and family tales. I am the Johnsons of north Alabama, decended from England and genetically eccentric.

I am Bible school and Sunday School. I am Jesus Loves the Little Children and Just As I Am. I am white patent leather Mary Janes, Easter dresses and baked ham. I am baptism by immersion and I am disillusionment.

Because my mother often quoted, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” I am compassion. Because I always had enough, but saw children every day who didn’t, I am gratitude.

Because bad things sometimes happen to children, I am childhood sexual abuse. I am years of guilt and repression. I am therapy and healing.

I am words, but not math; perfectionism, but mad disorganization; good food, but bad cooking. I am cats, not dogs; chocolate, never coconut, and always, always libraries and book stores.

I am 59 years of houses, apartments, neighborhoods, friends, events, weddings, wars, babies, car repairs, tornadoes, Presidents. I am a young mind.

I am sometimes fear, but more often optimism. I am Liz.

Blogging · Inspiration · Writing

Why I want to “Blog Like Crazy”

Writing creates a certain connection with the world that I often can’t attain in person. Even with my closest friends and family, there are still some walls that remain. Maybe this is a personal failing of mine, but I keep certain beliefs and desires and dreams behind the wall because they are too tender to hand over to others – especially the others who I love and respect the most.

When I write, and publish my writing on my blog, I tear down the wall and  become my most honest, authentic self. I often have a moment of anxiety before I click that “Publish” button, because I am putting my heart out there, defenseless, to those who know me well, family members, those who know me only by reputation, and also strangers.

I blog because there is a certain exhilaration in writing and publishing on honest, heartfelt topics. Love me, hate me, be indifferent – this is who I am. When I write, I have the freedom to be real. This is why I want to “Blog Like Crazy.”

file-nov-02-10-34-51-am
Weed or flower? I am both.