Those Magic Moments

photoThe mad march through the month of December is winding down at last.  We tried to keep Christmas low-key this year and I think we succeeded pretty well.  This blog is in part about re-evaluating our lifestyle as we approach our next adventure – retirement.    We’re pondering the deep questions like how all the “stuff” we’ve acquired over the years will fit (or not) into our upcoming new lifestyle.   We’re a couple of geezers on a new path and we’re loving the challenge and the change.  This year we began the process releasing our attachment to things and instead looking for the magic in the moments of our lives rather than the next shiny thing.  The most frequently asked question around our house these days is “Do we really need it?  Will it fit in the backpack and rollie?”  It’s a very interesting exercise and I highly recommend it, but it isn’t always easy.

This Christmas, after years of piling the presents high around the tree, it feels good to say that all we really need is family, friends, our health, and a few bucks to sustain us in our old age and keep us traveling.  It’s been a year of exploring “the new/old ways” and the re-discovering the value of moments and memories vs. stuff.   Taking photos with my little digital pocket camera helps me stop and pay closer attention to the tiny details that make our lives richer.  You catch the hope in someone’s eyes, the playful smile in the joke, the hundreds of shades of grey in a Portland winter sky.  Magical everyday moments I would likely take fore-granted and quickly forget.  I’m hoping that in the year ahead both my skill and my camera will improve and my snapshots of our experiences will enrich these posts.

For now, I’m just grateful for the memories.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past year.   Taking a little quiet time this afternoon, I sat with a cup of tea and my laptop and experienced the magic of these moments all over again.  Now that’s a real gift!IMG_3390IMG_0489IMG_0452IMG_0137IMG_3570IMG_3365 May your moments be filled with great joy and grand adventures.

Happy New Year!

Cheers ~  Nancy

Advertisements

To Violet ~ with Gratitude

Ensconced in her window seat in the front of the plane, tray table down, sorting through all of the treasures she had stashed into two cotton carry bags, a most delightful slip of a woman looked up as I moved in to take the aisle seat.  She smiled at me and her blue eyes twinkled.  Wispy white hair peaked out from the sides of her knit cap and a fringed pom-pom danced on top.  The word elf came to mind.  I sensed this was going to be more of an adventure than my usual Portland to Phoenix flights and boy was I right.

Her name was Violet and when I sat down next to her on that flight a few years ago, she was 86 years old.  She wasn’t an elf at all.   She was a treasure and a very special gift.

For the next two hours and twenty minutes Violet regaled me with stories of her life and the wisdom of her years.  She talked and talked.  I listened and learned.  For Violet, life had always been, and still was, one hell of a grand thrill ride.  At 19, as a young war bride, Violet and her baby moved to Portland where she found work in the shipyards.  Yes, she was the real-deal Rosie the Riveter.   Husbands, jobs, kids, moves, grand kids, births and deaths – the daily act of creating a live well lived that often seems so mundane to many of us – came vividly to life as my new friend spun out tale after tale.   Just an ordinary life some might think, but oh not so.  What Violet knew and what so many of us miss – what makes every life special and unique and amazing – is when we pay attention to the details, embrace the challenges, open to the opportunities. It’s in how we choose to experience each of our moments.  Violet chose to see adventure.  She chose joy and she chose to stop and savor the tiniest details.  She has never stopped exploring or learning.  She loved meeting new friends.  And, at 86, this beautiful lady was just beginning her latest adventure as she flew across the country to Oklahoma City to take up residence in a new apartment.  She couldn’t wait to settle in, get herself a computer and start using the internet.

Opinions?  She had (more than) a few – on the health benefits of dark chocolate and avocados.  That most doctors didn’t know what they were talking about and nobody would benefit in the long run from popping prescription drugs.  She told me she loved people but was pretty much over sex.

Two hours flew by (pun intended), we landed in Phoenix and reluctantly I had to leave.  I gathered the paperwork that I not even bothered to look at and stuffed everything into my travel bag.  As I stood in the aisle waiting to de-plane, Violet called out “Goodbye Nancy!  Goodbye.  And say hello, say hello to all the people I haven’t met yet.”

Over the next few days, Violet kept coming into my mind.  Not her words so much, just a  feeling.   You could say this was just a chance meeting with a lovely old lady on a plane.  I choose to believe that Violet was a gift to me on that day.  A beautiful reminder of things that I often forget in the busyness of being – I forget to remember to PAY ATTENTION.  If you ask me what I did last Tuesday, I’m not sure I can recall.  It’s all so much, so fast, so busy and it often feels like I’m just sliding through.  Getting it done, but not savoring it, not really seeing it, sometimes not feeling it.   The magic is in the moment and Violet knew that instinctively.  Me?  I’m still learning.

It’s that time of year when we pause for a few moments to remember all that we are grateful for.   Today I am grateful for the special “elfs” that pass through my life sprinkling the wisdom I need, just when I need it most.

Thank you Violet, wherever you are.  I hope we meet again someday.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

A Pair of Classics ~

Meet Margaret Dunning, at 102 years very young, I’d say she’s definitely a classic and so is her 1930 Packard 740 Roadster.  Yes, Margaret still drives and in fact she is still showing her classic beauty at concours d’elegance.  In a recent appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours, she told the audience that she changes her own oil and spark plugs and that “Before old age overtook me, I could scoot under the car very nicely.”  Margaret owns several classic vehicles.  The Packard may be her favorite, but these days you’re like to  see Margaret driving around her hometown of Plymouth, Michigan in a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.  It’s her “everyday car”.

Margaret, you are an inspiration to us youngsters in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  A true classic.  Keep on driving!

Both videos are from Utube.

Don’t you just love it? ~

It really tickles me when a lovely moment of serendipity strikes. You never know when you go out the door for a bite of lunch who you might meet.  Well, that moment of serendipity struck today when I slipped down to Nordstrom Cafe for a quick mid-day break from the office.  It was noon and the place was packed.  I ordered my half salad – chicken/apple/walnut/feta – yum! and had to squeeze myself into a tiny table along the wall between two other tables.  I settled in, put on my reading glasses and pulled out my current lunch time companion – 65 Things to do When You Retire. It’s a compilation of essays from people like Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem and many lesser known but still very interesting and inspiring folks.  They are true stories of people in retirement who found meaningful new opportunities.  It’s sort of a user’s manual for making the most of your retirement.   A few moments later, the lovely woman on my left (I believe her name was Carol) tapped my arm and asked “May I take a look at your book?  I’ve just retired.”   “Of course” I said and I passed the book over to her table.  I then took the opportunity to introduce myself and share my newly acquired knowledge about retirement and traveling on the cheap. Carol was interested, excited and open to all of the possibilities and adventures ahead.  I told her about the backpack and rollie plan and how I had come to be a blogger.  I learned about her career as a teacher and her recent trip through Spain, Italy and France with her daughter who was sitting across the table.  We chatted for quite a while about home exchange, house sitting opportunities and even WWOOFing.   She was a sponge for information and I was thrilled that I had lots of ideas to share!

It was a lovely exchange with a truly lovely woman who, like so many of us, is excited and eager to get on with her new life.  Carol, it was a true pleasure to have met you.  I’m glad fate guided me to that tiny table in the middle.  You brought a spark of joy to my afternoon.  I hope we meet again somewhere out on the road.  I’ll be the one with the backpack and the rollie.

Total Failure? I think Not! ~

Back in the middle of August, after way too many months of procrastination and good intentions that never got me making any real progress, I watched a TED talk about doing something new for 31 days.  I decided to use this as my motivator to get myself back in the gym.   A place where everybody used to know my name and now all the faces were new.  I committed publicly in this blog post.

It’s been almost two months and well past the 31 days so I thought it would be fun (and humbling) for me to check in and let you know how it went down.  Some good.  Some not so much.  Oh, I started out full speed ahead.  Every afternoon after work I walked over to 24 Hr Fitness and right in through the big front door.  This was the piece that had been eluding my fitness routine for a while.  Walking IN the door.  I told myself it didn’t matter how long I stayed, I just had to go in and do something.  I went.  I stayed.  I worked out.  I loved it.  I loved myself for doing it!  All was good.  Day 1 was a success – days 2, 3 and on through 10 – all good.  Then I hit a bump in the road.   Work got in the way and I ran out of time.  Could I have gone at 7:30pm or 5:30am?  Yes.  Did it even cross my mind?  No it did not.  So, I missed a day.  But then I got right back to it.  The not so good news is that the rest of my 31 days went something like this… gym, gym, something else, gym, something else, gym, gym, and so on.  Adding them up, I did 20 days out of the 31 that I committed to.  I don’t pretend to know anything about baseball, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a very good batting average.

So, I missed the mark… a little.  I only beat myself up a tiny bit because the really good news is that I am still going to the gym regularly.  In fact, I’ve settled into a really good routine of Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.  We’ve been doing 6-8 mile hikes on these lovely Fall weekends but, now that the rains are back, I’ll probably add one more day to the gym.  Or not.

All in all.  I’m calling it a success and I’m glad I took the challenge.  I ended up right where I hoped to be.  As the hubs says – I’m cranking weights and pounding it on the treadmill – at the gym.

Five Fun Things to do before I Die ~

Or twenty or one hundred …whatever.  What I’m really talking about and what I have been thinking about for quite a while is creating a bucket list.  Maybe part of the reason I haven’t taken any action on what I believe is a really good idea is because I don’t like the name.  Bucket List just doesn’t do it for me.  Nor does the the expression “kick the bucket”. I’ve tried thinking of other names – Life List, To Do List, Before I Die, It’s Now or Never.  Ok, I’m not doing any better.  So I realized I need to just get past the name and get on with the pondering, dreaming, and creating of my very own list of things I’ve always wants to do while I still can.

For some people (me), that’s not as easy as it sounds.  It’s easier to say, “Oh, I don’t know.”  or pull out a few standard issue ideas like “I want to travel.”   So, how do you get started on something like this.?  How about with a quiet place, a comfy chair, a glass of wine, a notepad and a nice pen.  And then?  Well, according to the wikihow-Make Your Bucket List, you just start asking questions and see what comes up.  If you keep asking long enough, I’m sure lots of interesting and long buried “I’ve always wanted to” ideas will begin to pop into your mind.  Write them down.  No judgement allowed here.  It’s not too big, too expensive, too crazy or even too small.  It’s just an idea that tickles your fancy.  A glimmer.  But that’s often how things start.  Then they have to bubble.  It’s amazing, but you start to see these places or things everywhere you look.  Then one day, you think. OK.  I’m going to make this happen.  And you do.  That’s how so many things have happened for me.   So far it’s always been random.  One day an idea pops into my head – I want to start an organization for women, or wouldn’t it be fun to live in San Miguel this winter, or most recently, I want to challenge myself and walk the Camino de Santiago.  Once the idea has lodged, look out because something’s gonna happen!  But, I’ve never had a plan or made a list and had the visual satisfaction of taking a big marker and crossing things OFF the list.  Been there!  Done that!  Now that I have more free time, I also know time is running out.  I want to make sure I have all the adventures and experiences my mind can conjure up and I think the Bucket List is one way to make that happen.

Walking the Great Wall of China – on the List

Geocache? On the list!

Fortunately, when I turned to the internet for insight and a little guidance, I found no less than six bucket-list websites where you can compile your own bucket list and share it with all your friends, family and the rest of the world.  Bucketlist.org users have posted nearly 16,000 lists containing over 300,000 items, ranging from climbing a volcano to learning to play the oboe.  For more inspiration you might check out Lifed.com’s list of 225 Things.  The other fun thing to do on these sites is make a mental list of ALL the amazing things that others hope to do that you have already done.    Watch out.  It can be addicting.

So, what are my Five Things?  They will probably change as I keep honing my Bucket List but so far ~  1.  Live in small town in France (or Italy) for six months.  2.  Learn to play golf well enough to play for fun with my hubby and join a ladies team (hit and giggle golf is ok).  3.  Attend a TED talk.  4.  Visit every National Park in the United States.  5.  Win the Lottery and start the Nancy M Thompson Charitable Foundation.

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming… “WOW – What a Ride!”  (anonymous)

What’s on your Bucket List?

Everything I Know I Learned from Knitting ~

Ok, this is not a true statement.  Especially since I took my first knitting class ever exactly one week ago.  But, what IS true is that being in that beginner mind again, did bring up a few very important life knowings that I apparently need to keep learning over and over again.  I’m a lifelong learner.  I step with great anticipation and high hopes into each new learning space like a blank white canvas just waiting for paint.  I am a creative soul still searching for my medium.  And believe me when I say I have tried a whole bunch of creative mediums – photography, collage, water color, drawing, pottery, and more.  I have the one pound, three inch high pots as my badge of honor.  But, here’s the rub, and apparently the lesson that is tied up somehow in all of this learning… I am not good at being a beginner.  I want to be an artist, but I have a problem with making beginner’s art that might not stand up to the creative output of some third graders I know.  I love the process but I want to love the end result just as much. Right away.  I’m not a fan of the do over (and over and over and over).  I try.  I’m not good.  I move on.  This routine does not lead to success.

So, imagine how it played out this week with my knitting.  It started out as it always does.  I’m casting on, grasping the knit and the purl.  The teacher keeps coming by and telling me I’m really doing great.  I’m catching on very quickly.  I beam inside and I’m filled once again with hope.  I’m on my way!  All it will take is a lot more rows of knit and purl and my fingers will start to work automatically and everyone will be the recipient of my gorgeous and unusual scarfs for Christmas.  The very next night, eager to propel my mastery, I pull out my knitting and sitting next to the hubs, ignoring the TV, I’m in the zone – a knitting fool – for about 15 minutes.  That’s when I notice something is wrong.  Really wrong.  I don’t know how to fix this wrong.  Now what?  I decide to rip out the rows back to the first mistake but having done that, I have no idea how to get everything back on the needle.   Hmmm.  Maybe I should just rip it all out and start over again.  Great idea but at that point I realize I don’t remember how she showed us to cast on.  Less than 24 hours and I’ve forgotten everything.  That’s scary in itself.  I try watching one of the 100+ Utube videos showing how to cast on.  Nothing works.  I’m done.   Stumped. Stymied.  Throw it all in the bag defeated.  And here’s what I’m learning from knitting.  It is art.  It’s not easy.  I’m all thumbs and that’s OK.  It is not relaxing and in the beginning it is stressful, not stress reducing.  And, I WILL keep at it and I WILL master at least the basics.

I may never be the artist on the outside that I feel on the inside, but I’ll keep playing and learning.  For me, it’s the dabbling that is the most fun.  Perfectionism and art are not good partners.  I love the art.  The perfectionist in me has to take a long hike.  The older I get, the more I realize the need to just slow down.  Take my time.  Let things ripen on the vine.  Why am I not applying this to the creative process?  It turns out you can’t rush knitting.  I’m walking back into class tonight a complete beginner all over again.  And, I am good with that.