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Blast From the Past

Can I just say that I have no problem with middle age? OK, I’ll say it. I have no problem with middle age. As much as I enjoyed high school, I would never go back. But I did go to my 30 year high school class reunion on Saturday night and discovered or rediscovered a few gratifying things:

  • Three decades pretty much level the playing field. Cellulite and receding hairlines and pot-guts and varicose veins come to jock and brainiac, cheerleader and yearbook editor alike. But you know what? It’s life. And life looks good on us. We’re beautiful.
  • Despite the above-mentioned signs of aging, I’m super comfortable in my own skin. In the hour-plus it used to take me to do my Farrah Fawcett hairdo in high school I can now shower, get dressed, do hair and make-up, feed the dog, check email, call my mom, start the dishwasher and sync my iPod. Low maintenance is my MO. Hallelujah.
  • My high school friends were extraordinary human beings, still are. They live with compassion and integrity, meet obstacles with courage and grace, and make the world better.
  • I love my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

As part of the program on Saturday night, I took a stab at condensing the past thirty years into 90 seconds of common life experience.  I called it “Life History Lite” or “Three Decades–Reduced.” Some folks have asked for a copy of it, so here it is. (It’s nonsense that’s  meant to be read aloud!)

Where Did Thirty Years Go?

1981. Grad night fun. On the move. Moving out. Big hair, big dreams, big plans. Plan B. Out of state, room mate. Freshman dorms, fill out forms. Fraternity, sorority, Republican majority. Student loan. Cap and gown.  MBA. Resume. GRE. PHd. Job fair. New job, no job.

True love, true blue. Rented tux. I do. Honeymoon. Townhome, twin home, Home Depot. Fixer-upper, Mr. Fix-It, Thirty-year fixed.  Ultrasound.  Ultra-Huggies. Newborn, new crib, no sleep. Car seat. First steps, first tooth, first day of school. Ballet, Little League, cubs scouts, time-outs. Room mother, soccer mom, Mr. Mom, step-mom. Slip-on Vans, mini-van, middle school, carpool. Hurry up, buckle up, cheer up, pay up. Fast track, no slack, Democrats come back. Refi, remodel, relocate. Four bedroom, two story, three car garage. Teenage, middle age, aging parents. High school, too cool. Driver’s ed, driver’s license. Drive-up, drive-in, drive-thru. Drives dad crazy.

Detox, botox, pep talks. Grey hair, no hair. Rogaine, weight gain, capital gains.  APR. ARM. IRA. 401K. High tech, high stress, highlights, light rock, less talk. iPod. iPad. Ear bud. Bluetooth. Touch screen. Express lane. Overnight. While you wait. Instant message. Fast food. Rush order. Rush hour.  Overtime, over committed, over drawn. Over the hill? Not us. Never. Golf bag, gym bag, mountain bike, take a hike. Running shoes, shin splints, triatholon day, Ben-gay. Been there, done that. Moving on. Hanging on. Bring it on.  Here’s to the next thirty years!

What’s your favorite thing about getting older? Have you gone to your high school class reunions? Leave a comment with your favorite “blast from the past” experience.

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The Best Is Yet to Be

In a storybook or chick flick it would have been the “happy ending.” Allison and Alex would still have run radiant and laughing through the shower of dried lavender we threw. When they pulled away in the “Just Married” car the screen would have faded. The credits would have rolled as the soundtrack switched to Taylor Swift or Ingrid Michaelson–a gooey sweet ballad about finding love at last. We would have left the theater satisfied. Happy endings make us, well, happy.

In so-called “real life” I think there are even better things–like happy beginnings and happy middles and hard work and hard times and sacrifice and sticking it out and making it work. Like deciding to stay in love and stay together and share it all.  A month ago we celebrated a happy beginning, the genesis of something so profound and beautiful that it shifts the weight of eternity. A new family–two hearts, four hands, one future–was forged. We took photographs and ate cake and danced on Allison and Alex’s wedding day in honor of endless possibility and potential beyond imagination.

Today marks their four week anniversary and their unabashed bliss makes my heart smile. It especially touches me because they have encountered some unexpected bumps in the road. Alex took a hard-thrown softball to the face in an intramural ballgame a few days after they returned from their honeymoon.  It shattered the front of his skull–left his cheek and jaw literally in pieces. Hours of facial reconstruction surgery followed. He now sports metal plates in his face (just call him Wolverine) and enough stitches to give Frankenstein a run for his money. When we talk to Alex and Allie on the phone I half-expect to fill the “shoulder-to-cry-on” role. Nope. It goes more like this:

Jerie: “How are you doing?”

Allison: “We’re in love, did we tell you? Marriage is the best!”

Jerie: “Alex, you hanging in there?”

Alex: “I’ve got an angel wife to take care of me. What else do I need?”

And so on–not a word of complaint, no whine-fest or pity-party, or if-only. Alex and Allison will take other blows-to-the-face as their life unfolds. But stacked up next to the facts that they have each other and they have eternity, the difficulties don’t loom so large. Cynics might snort and chalk it up to newlywed naivete, but I know better. I know because after twenty-eight years my heart still cartwheels in my chest when Bob walks into a room. Heavy times feel lighter and happy things take wing because we walk side by side. Still. To Alex and Allie I say, “Bravo!” Marriage is the best. And it only gets better as we face the bumps in the road together. I love the way Robert Browning said it:

Grow old along with me!                                                                        
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Exactly. The best is yet to be. And be. And be.

Carpe Diem (See’s the Day)

“I can resist anything but temptation,” my Dad used to say. Well, I guess I’m a chip off the old block. Sunday afternoon I snarfed down an entire pound of See’s Bridge Mix almost single-handed. (Except that I was shoving the morsels of assorted chocolate heaven into my mouth with both fists. Does that make it “double-handed”?)

It gets worse. I purchased the above-mentioned box of See’s to thank a dear friend (gasp) for helping me out in a big way with my daughter’s recent wedding. (tell me you didn’t) I did. I ate the whole box in a one-hour feeding frenzy that took me by surprise and left me in a sugar-induced stupor.  (you selfish slob)  I know.

The sobering thing is that I hardly put up a fight–no trying to talk myself out of it or appealing to my rational self. (you’re hopeless) Tell me about it. The pristine white box called to me, I walked past it once. Twice. Then I pounced. If Hollywood made a movie about it they would call it Gone In Sixty Minutes or maybe Despicable Me. Those chocolates never even saw the light of day. (Sorry Kathie.)

So, you ask, what’s the moral of the story? What did I gain from this experience (besides a pound or two)? Well, I did learn a few useful things:

  1. My latent chocoholic is never far from the surface.
  2. A See’s Candies store can be a dangerous place. Those “free” samples are not free. They unleash your inner-chocolate-monster and it’s game over. Do the math. The lady in the crisp-pressed white dress gives you one ScotchMallow worth about 29 cents and you walk out of there having spent $43.40 on a pound of Nuts and Chews, a box of Bridge Mix, some of that California brittle and 3 foil wrapped milk chocolate clowns “for the grandkids.”
  3. The grandkids will never see those milk chocolate clowns. But the bright foil wrappers will sit in the cup-holder of your car reminding you that you not only took candy from the baby, so to speak, but you ate your friend’s thank-you gift.
  4. My chocolate binge left me with surprisingly little remorse. It was one day, one pound of Bridge Mix. I haven’t had chocolate since.
  5. Carpe diem. Sometimes you just have to seize the day. Or See’s the day.

Quarantined

My Blogspot site is quarantined. Malware–nasty little thugs from the Russian cyber-mafia–infiltrated my blog. Google acted quickly, thank goodness, and sent me to the web-version of a leper colony before I infected anyone else.  So winds unexpected on blogspot will die a quiet death among the unclean others in quarantine.

The up-side is that I had wearied of blogspot anyway and had already started the process of opening a blog on wordpress. So, here we are at the new and mafia-free Winds Unexpected. I’m learning my way around on wordpress and all of my previous posts have been imported here. Nifty.

(The gratuitous wedding photos are simply that–gratuitous wedding photos. Enjoy.)

In All Fair-ness

The freckles on my arms have reached that critical mass that almost makes it look like I have a tan. OK, so maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of a “tan” exactly, but it could be called a “beige” or maybe an “off-white.” Perhaps in the spirit of journalistic accuracy I should call it what it is–a plethora of  summertime freckles, a veritable galaxy of tiny points of pigment that don’t quite add up to a tan. But a girl with Scandinavian and Scottish genes has to take what she can get.

Summer wardrobe,
Denali National Park style

I should have grown up in Alaska, where long sleeves and beanies in August are the norm. Growing up in sunny California I felt conspicuously pale. The Beach Boys didn’t help matters much–you remember the lyrics: “The west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tan . . . ” All except me, that is. My legs were the color of Wonder bread (and I don’t mean the crusts) while my friends spent carefree days at the beach or pool and quickly took on a gorgeous bronzed finish. This was before the days of SPF 30 and so a few hours in the sun left me with a painful sunburn that faded slowly back to a slightly deeper white. Nothing even close to a tan. My nose peeled continuously from Memorial Day until school started in September.

Mom assured me that my “fair” skin was an asset. (We all knew that “fair” was just code for “whoa girl, let me put some shades on to cut the glare from your legs!”) She tried to comfort me with the thought that in 30 years my friends would have leathery wrinkled hides from all that sun worship while I would be dewy and youthful. Somehow the thought of my peers shriveled like prunes didn’t help a lot when they were singing “Blinded By the Light” at the top of their lungs from the boat while I water-skied. I just smiled and waved my pasty white arm. Every summer my futile quest for some color continued. What was I thinking? That I would suddenly develop late-onset pigment and look like a Coppertone ad?

No more. A tan? Meh. Who needs it? In fact, these days I slather 70 SPF sunscreen on my cracker-white extremities or just suit up like a beekeeper when I go outside. My legs continue to blind innocent bystanders but I can roll with it. The best thing about middle-age is that it doesn’t bother me anymore. A faux-freckle-tan will do just fine.

Soul Song

What makes a baby humpback whale leap out of the water, head to tail, and twist himself over to land on his back with an enormous splash? Twenty or thirty times, no exaggeration. It looked so much like joy. Do whales feel that breathless exuberance for existence, the irresistible soul-singing that bubbles up just because and must spill out somehow? He breached again and again, close to our little excursion boat, almost as if he knew he had our attention and wanted to make it good.  I longed to know what it felt like to be him that day. I’m pretty sure it felt like joy.

I love it when reality exceeds expectation and even Planet Earth can’t hold a candle to what I see in front of me. Alaska has made me rub my eyes in disbelief all week, certain that I must be imagining that brown bear pulling salmon out of the river or the other-worldly blue glacier cracking and thundering as a massive wall of ice breaks off and slumps into the bay. And I’ve heard that song–the low-thrumming wordless tune that has no contrived melody, but that I know at my core–and something in me sings along with the fireweed  and the dolphins and the enormous bald eagle perched high above Juneau harbor.

Yesterday we pulled off the side of the highway in Denali National Park to watch an enormous mama moose grazing with her baby. She moved her substantial bulk with such unlikely grace that every motion spoke to my spirit. Of creation and of connection. So I awake this morning and stretch, keenly aware of my Creator. And I feel on every side the vast luminous web of existence that holds us all up and connects us each to every other. The song takes on meaning without words. My soul translates it simply, “Life is good.” As inadequate as words are, you might recognize the music. I’m pretty sure it sounds like joy.


Ambiguous Ambivalence

Ambivalent. What a great word. Say it out loud. You know you want to. Or maybe you’re ambivalent about words in general. Lately I have felt ambivalent about blogging. Living life has seemed more interesting to me than writing about living life. So the fate of Winds Unexpected remains ambiguous (another one of my favorite words, this is a good night for gratuitous word-slinging. And yes, I like gratuitous too. Ooooh, life is good. Really good.)

The blog may stay alive simply to provide me a place to use really cool four-syllable words. OK, so call me a total dork, but I love words. Love. Confession: I dream of reading the dictionary cover to cover. It would be fun. Really. Scombroid, intumescence, dahoon. See what I mean? Try it. Kedge, mungo, trunion. Looks like Winds Unexpected stays, at least until I feel unequivocally “done” with it. Right now I’m just mostly done.

Indulge me in a whim though, please. Overcome your ambivalence long enough to share a couple of your favorite words in a Comment. I promise I will say them out loud in your honor. Go ahead.

And in the name of word-dork solidarity, here’s a word-of-the-day challenge. Use the following word in the next 48 hours (in a logically sound sentence during conversation with a real person.) The word is: profligate. Go for it, my friends, and return and report.