50 After 50

I take issue with these Before 50 Challenges. Because then what? Wait to die? Wait to retire? Wait to cry over my empty nest? No, what I need is a plan for the second half of life. I present to you my 50 after 50.

  1. See Stephen Colbert live in NYC with boys – Spring 2024
  2. Grand Teton National Park Half Marathon – Summer 2024
  3. Go to Paris with my husband and kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower – 2029
  4. Act in a community theater production
  5. Swim with dolphins
  6. Mediterranean Cruise (Greece, Italy) – 2032
  7. Go to Churchill Manor and Napa for 25 th Anniversary – 2037
  8. Finish writing the third book in my trilogy
  9. Have maple syrup in Vermont in the fall
  10. Visit Austin, TX and shop at quirky shops
  11. Visit Australia/New Zealand and hold a koala bear
  12. Move to tiny home in Asheville, NC 2027-2030
  13. Visit Sapphire in Seattle and see a show
  14. See the Northern Lights
  15. Attend a lavish Oscars party for the 100 th Oscars – 2028
  16. Visit White Sands National Park New Mexico
  17. See the covered bridges of Indiana
  18. Walk a full marathon
  19. Do a multi-day hike on the Appalachian Trail
  20. Visit Montreal and have coffee in a cafe
  21. See sloths in Costa Rica
  22. Ride in a gondola in Venice
  23. Spend time with Nick and my grandchildren
  24. Go on a spa/meditation retreat
  25. Join/start a walking group in Asheville
  26. Join/start a creative writing practice group in Asheville
  27. Go on an overnight trip by train
  28. Make a sex painting
  29. Go to Waverly Hills Sanitorium
  30. Puppy or Kitten Yoga
  31. See the pyramids in Egypt
  32. Take tai chi classes
  33. Go on the Sound of Music tour in Austria
  34. Become a bocce ball champion
  35. Participate in the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville
  36. Attend or host monthly social events
  37. Spend time every day watching the sunrise and/or sunset
  38. Enjoy slow mornings with coffee
  39. Read the 100 Greatest Novels of all Time
  40. Visit my friend Jamie in Minnesota
  41. Attend Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
  42. Attend Dirty Dancing Festival in Lake Lure
  43. Attend Autumn in Oz Festival
  44. Attend LEAF Festival
  45. Take a Learn to Row class at Asheville Rowing Club
  46. Take an Irish Dancing class
  47. See Iliza Schlesinger live
  48. Have high tea at the Biltmore Estate
  49. See The Book of Mormon
  50. Visit the ocean every year

That ought to keep me busy.

The Five Senses

For someone who is so quiet, I have a very noisy mind. Sometimes the most relaxing activities I do are ones that engage my senses. Sometimes the best way to soothe the mind is through the body.

I’m very excited about this Gretchen Rubin book coming out in April, Life in Five Senses. As part of my self care practice, I’ve come up with my five senses portrait which helps me calm down.

My favorite sights include: forests, blue skies with white clouds, an aerial view, daisies, bright colors mixed together, sunlight coming through tree leaves, a very green field, lakes, peonies.

My favorite sounds include: ocean waves, wind, birds in the morning, Enya, waterfalls, dance club music.

My favorite smells include: my husband, my son’s hair, cinnamon, old books, sandalwood, lavender, salty air.

My favorite tastes include: mushrooms, garlic/onions, watermelon, pineapple, dark chocolate with nuts

My favorite touch items include: velvet, flannel, pets, husband/son hugs, warm baths, hot tubs, saunas

So, if I’m having a bad day, I go into my home office, curl up in a flannel blanket. I rub some sandalwood on my temples. I turn on some Enya or ocean wave sounds. I turn on a light I have that swirls rainbow lights on the ceiling and I eat a piece of dark chocolate with nuts.

It’s pure bliss and very smoothing to the mind. It’s become my new favorite practice.

What would your version of five senses self care look like?

Meditation Before Media

I like texting. Phone calls feel like a form of torture. As an introvert, I have loved technology as it has removed small talk and allowed me to engage on my own timeline.

But, it’s also not really connection. I get a form of stage fright during Zoom meetings. I can’t read the body language and feel any communication beyond the relaying of information is lost.

The over-reliance on digital entertainment has made me anxious. I find it harder to concentrate. I notice the compulsion to check my phone and email dozens of times a day. It doesn’t bring joy.

The joy comes from engagement. When I’m in an exercise class and everyone is struggling through the same movements, even if we don’t talk – it feels like community. When I walk outside and absorb nature with all of my senses, it feels like connection. When I spend time with friends laughing, it feels like friendship.

All of my happiness – true happiness – shows up in real life. So, in 2023, I’m going to unplug more often and see what’s out there in the real world. Join me if you can.

Here Comes a New Year!

My New Year’s Resolutions have changed over the years.

They used to be “Lose ten pounds,” “Write a book,” or “Go zip lining.” Now, they are things like “Watch more sunsets,” “Dance while cooking dinner,” “Go to a coffee shop once a week.”

I was always driven to accomplish. Now, I just want more happy moments in my day. I want to smile more. I want to laugh more. I want to worry less.

Maybe it’s my cantankerous middle age. Maybe I’m just tired. I felt less drawn to declare “New Year, New Me” when the clock struck midnight.

My word for the year is curiosity. It’s less about doing and more about being. It’s filled with a desire for creativity, adventure and joy. I’m curious to see how that plays out.

Deciding to Doing

I went to a Professional Development class today on goal setting. Historically, I’ve been pretty good at setting goals. I think it’s fun.

But, I wonder about the goals that fail – too focused on the outcome not the process? Not digging down to the why? Not specific enough? No if/then plan?

I realized I had rarely written down the level of detailed steps they suggested. Suddenly, I had a one page plan for a goal with solutions for every obstacle. Oh crap I thought – now I have to do it. I’ve addressed every excuse.

Ah – that’s why some of my goals are vague. I justify that I’m too creative – you can’t pin me down with details. I need to go where the spirit moves me. Mmm…hmmm…

Maybe not. Maybe the spirit can give me a great idea. But, the action is all me. Build some foundations for those castles in the air.

Move from Deciding to Doing.

The Butterfly

It starts with a knowing that being a happy little caterpillar isn’t working anymore.

I want to play it safe. I wrap myself in a cocoon and become invisible. I retreat when changes are happening inside. I grow quiet on the outside.

I tell myself that I can just stay here where it’s dark and quiet and small.

I can feel my insides starting to unravel. The denial starts to wear thin. It looks like things are breaking down, breaking apart.

I want to go back to being a happy little caterpillar. But, I realize that’s not what I am anymore.

I want to stay in the cocoon.

But, it’s cramped and small.

I emerge into a new world. It’s scary and different. I don’t know quite what to do. But, the colors are more vivid. My wings have room to move. There are more places to see.

The one piece of advice I’ve taken from my father is, “When you don’t know what choice to make, choose the option that leads to more possibilities.”

Who knows? You might fly.

What’s in that building?

The University of Kentucky is like a small city. Ever the curious sort, I’ve taken to venturing into a new building on my lunch break.

It’s interesting how buildings almost have personalities. I walk into a science building – there are strange smells. The Fine Arts building feels familiar and welcoming to my muse. The older buildings are more enclosed. The newer buildings have higher ceilings are more expansive.

Where are the cafes? The quiet nooks where I can curl up on a winter’s day and read a book?

I remember when I was in undergrad at NKU, I would spend hours in the bottom level of the library. There was a desk cubicle that I had claimed where I would do homework surrounded by the smell of old books.

I’ve always been a fan of local exploration. I’m not sure you always need to take a vacation to have an adventure. Find a street you’ve never been on, wander into the shops like you’re a regular. Notice the architecture. Sit outside and people watch. This is where the ideas for books come from.

I look forward to these daily jaunts. What building will I go into today? I highlight it on a map, write down where the best couches are and places to return to. Every day should have a bit of fun. Once I’ve conquered campus, I’ll find a new adventure.

There is always some delight to be found in your own backyard.

All the World’s a Stage

Growing up, I wanted to be an actress. It wasn’t so much because I wanted to be someone else. Although I admit, with my social anxiety, it is sometimes easier to act like someone else.

It was because I wanted to live all of the lives.

I wanted to experience every possible life. I had grown up immersing myself in books imagining many possible futures. When I first saw a play as a child – I thought “Wow – those people get to BE anyone they want.”

I was in school plays. I was on the Drama Team. I wanted to major in Theatre but was told that was not “realistic.” So, that dream was pushed aside.

But, dreams always have a way.

Now, when I look back at my life at almost the midway point – I think about all of my jobs. I’ve been a writer. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve directed plays. I’ve been a Project Manager, freelance writer, web designer.

I’ve worked in advertising, banking, non-profits, warehouses, government, tourism, social services, higher Ed, public schools.

I’ve had very unusual relationships with a diverse group of people.

I’ve tried every possible hobby I thought I would like.

Am I flaky? Maybe.

Or did I find a way to live my dream – to live as many lives as possible – to BE everything

Do I have regrets? Sure.

I won’t retire early. I don’t have a stockpile of vacation time. I haven’t attained mastery in a field.

But, I have lived a very interesting life.

I’m not sure, given the chance, that I would choose differently.

I took Dead Poets Society very seriously – carpe diem -seize the day – suck out the marrow of life.

Until I take my final bow, that’s what I plan to do.

Fairy Magic

I’ve always had a vivid imagination. I remember spending most of my childhood in imaginary worlds in books and forests. It was my way of protecting myself from harsh realities. I believed in fairies and ghosts and unseen spirits.

I was lonely a lot. We were latchkey kids and spent summers and snow days on our own. I stocked up at the Scholastic Book Fair and libraries. I would spend hours reading and then wander into the forest in our backyard.

I was fascinated with my Celtic heritage and read a lot of fairy tales and folklore.

I found nature itself magical – a healing balm for the soul. At twilight when the lightening bugs came out I imagined they were little fairies.

I was a small kid – not the shortest in the class, but the second or third shortest. I liked the idea of a creature that was small and powerful. They were sort of my superheroes.

Boys liked to imagine they were Batman fighting with strength. I liked to imagine I was a tiny fairy fighting with magic and cleverness.

I always felt sort of out of place in my family. I would read about changelings – human babies stolen by fairies and replaced by fairies and would imagine I was one of those. It was my explanation for why I was so different.

As an adult, I wouldn’t say I believe in fairies as I no longer believe in Santa Claus.

But, as we believe in the spirit of Christmas, I believe in the spirit of fairies.

Nature is magical and healing and mysterious. Who can say what unseen forces are at work?

Never Miss the Fall

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. It feels like since the pandemic there has been a constant barrage of change.

It feel like life is a rollercoaster.

Here we are going up the hill again. Then we are plunging downward. The body is thrown to the left and the right. Am I breathing? Can I think?

Like COVID itself, there are some plateaus.

That’s when the unprocessed grief shows up. I try to stretch it out. I try to meditate. I want to primal scream into the forest.

For the first time in my entire life except pregnancy, I skipped my period. I’m 48. I have the night sweats. I live with a teenager and I’m in perimenopause. It’s hard. I feel highjacked by hormones. My husband is a saint.

It’s in times like these that I must hunt for the joy.

I pick out trees on the way to work that I find beautiful. I schedule regular lunch dates with a friend. I savor my son wanting to watch a movie with me.

What is grounding? What is nourishing? How can I give myself some grace?

Even with good change, change is hard. I started a new job. I could tell you lots of great things about it. But, it’s new and it’s all happened quickly.

Change is hard.

“She’s so bubbly,” they say at work. I try to bring some light down to the basement.

What they don’t know is that’s not natural for me.

I work at that. I work at it every day.

When I was pregnant I was so sick that I was on bed rest an entire fall. I love fall and I missed it – the entire thing. I vowed I would treasure all the falls to come.

Because even if winter is coming – you never want to miss the fall. Those moments of beauty – they will carry you through the darkness.