A Photo Life Review: Adventures with Laura!

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961

Dad and the kids.  The junior world explorer is in red, 1961

Recently I have been on a protracted trip down memory lane. Last night I started looking at all of my photo books, that’s six thick albums! I’m slowly working up to possibly reading my many volumes of journals back to age 14.

original_photo_Thailand_1973cropped[1] (2)

Near the Bridge on the River Kwai, northern Thailand 1973

As I viewed many old photos, one thing struck me. I seem to have forgotten exactly how adventurous my life has been. From 18 on I traveled the world. I started out in Mexico, Bangkok and northern Thailand, then spent months in Taiwan and Hong Kong, traveled up through Malaysia from Singapore, and right before we moved here, the Andes and Cuenca in Ecuador.

Cuenca washing clothes in the Rio Tomba

Yes! Women still wash clothes in the Tomebamba River in Cuenca Ecuador!

Wuzhou

Once, before China was officially open to American tourism, I took a trip up the Pearl River in southern China on what I called “the People’s Ferry.” We arrived in Wuzhou, what appeared to be a town made of mud, and much to our surprise there were PRC government officials there to escort us onto a bus to Guilin, but not before the citizens of Wuhan surrounded us to point and exclaim, “What is that? A foreign ghost!” They had never seen a European or American before.

caribbean blueI visited the Caribbean a number of times, and did a couple island-hopping sails with my first husband, a windsurf instructor and sailboat captain from USVI St. John…

Canyonlands

Locally I started out at Colorado College on a backpacking trip to Canyonlands my freshman year. Half of us got lost and I did flyovers with the rangers until my friends were found. Unfortunately the rangers mixed up our names and called my parents saying I was lost, a fact NOT appreciated by my parents. I then spent years exploring Colorado and Utah. So many hikes, backpacking, ski and river trips.

My first professional library job was in Salt Lake City. Luckily I found the BEST group of friends there, including Roy Webb, who took us on a number of fantastic week-long river trips on the Dolores, the Green, the Colorado, Desolation Canyon, etc. He has been a famous river runner for decades now, and the author of many books about river history.

My first husband pretty much insisted that we go hiking, skiing or backpacking most weekends. Those trips included a number of trips to southern Utah like one memorable backpacking trip down into Escalante Canyon to enjoy “some of the most outstanding hiking opportunities to be found on earth.”

sking

I climbed a few fourteeners in my time, and skied from I-70 up to Shrine Pass (11,089 feet) and then into the tiny town of Minturn twice. I never forgot the glisten of fresh snow on that eleven mile trek.

Mtns and wildflowers

So many great memories, so many wild times…

Now I see how fortunate I was to tackle these physical challenges while I could still breathe well above 7,000 feet. I’ve had bronchitis regularly for decades and in some of the most exotic places! With a recent diagnosis of COPD, alas those days are gone. So happy I spent my youth exploring the world near and far when I could handle long flights, driving long distances and the general risk and chaos of getting off the beaten path.

Mike at home

Now I find myself  in this lovely “soft place to fall” with Mike and Rasta, where I can appreciate how profoundly fortunate I am to have done most of what I wanted to do for most of my life, and I even enjoyed most of it!

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Christmas brings back so many memories!

Bright Sahara Christmas Tree 2018

As I decorated our fresh-cut tree this week, my decorations brought back so many memories of Christmases past. My mind became my own time machine focused on all the places I’ve lived with various friends and lovers, in good circumstances and bad, with new loves and in mid-divorce, with valued pets, in health and despair, in the U.S., in Bangkok and Hong Kong, with family and without.

This left me wondering:

How have I made it through my life at all?

The only answer I could come up with was: “One day at a time.” We don’t always choose everything that happens to us. We must simply decide to make it through or give up. Yes, there were times I wanted to give up. There have certainly been times when it all felt so unfair. I have tried to be a good person and treat others well, but sometimes they don’t reciprocate. Sometimes they respond in some very crazy and unpredictable ways. All we can do is move on and hope for a better future.

One thing is for sure. It was my lucky day when I met Mike. Whenever the world makes me feel disillusioned and I’m not sure I want to go on, Mike comes through with flying colors, to comfort me, to love me, and to make it all worth while again.

To use Dr. Phil’s words, Mike has always been “my soft place to fall.”

snowy Winter Solstice

I hope you can find the same this winter solstice…

How Personal Crisis Can Help Us Focus On Our Purpose Going Forward

JackieSpeierI just heard Jackie Speier, a Congresswoman from California, talk about surviving the horror of the Jonestown fact finding mission in November 1978, and how that formative moment changed her. She was an attorney on the staff of Congressman Leo Ryan at that time, investigating human rights abuses by Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple cult in Guyana, when she was shot five times by Jones’ followers. While she survived, over 900 members of the cult did not, victims of a mass murder-suicide. This caused me to explore further how my own crisis, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in May of 2008, helped me to crystallize what I needed to do with my own life going forward.

The first few months after my TBI I could barely think or write anything. Important connections had been broken in my brain. Only time would help repair them. I also had a severe rib injury which made it impossible for me to drive for months. Without any doubt this was a life-changing experience for me.

Midlife Magic coverIn 2006 I began a new career as a freelance writer, but my heart wasn’t in it. After my TBI I wrote up a story for the Seal Press, about my recent divorce, for their upcoming book: Ask Me About My Divorce. They said they would pay me for the piece, but it struck me for the first time, that all I really have are my own stories. Why sell them to someone else? I turned that story into a book full of humorous essays called: Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside! published in late 2008. Then I began doing some serious research into midlife change and the psychological history of this concept. I found that intensive research and writing helped to heal my brain.

Find Your Reason Cover smallThat first book was the beginning of ten years of research to fully understand the importance of seizing onto midlife as a unique opportunity to catch up to who you are now. The result of this research was my 2011 book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife (2011). One interesting and unexpected outcome of my brain injury was that as my brain healed, it created a new decisiveness within me. I no longer doubted my strong feelings about what I believed in and who I would spend time with in my future. One result was the erasing of my ex-husband from my life. Ever since our divorce in 2001, I had allowed my ex-husband to continue to put me down verbally, because we shared custody of our dogs. In August of 2008 I told him to go away, permanently. I would take no more abuse from him ever again.

I also decided that I really wanted a new puppy to share my life with and got one for Christmas that year. All of these decisions came from a place of knowing that I would not be here forever, so I had better take matters into my own hands and get what I want NOW!

NICE view of sunflowers in garden and Spanish Peaks summer 2017

And then there is our most recent dramatic decision to change lifestyles by moving to a rural part of Colorado. This one really did throw me for a loop in every way possible. I had NO certainty at the beginning of this move in 2014, and it was an all-in decision, since we could not afford to run back to the suburbs if things didn’t work out. Luckily, after our passive solar home was finished in 2015, we loved it. Who knew I was such a nature lover? Who knew living in nature would change me so much?

My books 2018

Now the only thing I feel strongly about as far as my writings go, is that all might benefit from what I have learned about the midlife change process. I would say to my older friends, please share with your children the wisdom I have gathered by suffering through so much midlife discovery and change. We don’t all need to re-invent the wheel over and over again. The wisdom is there. Why not read about it first, and then find your own wisdom within that process?

I would be happy to offer any of my books for $10 plus postage through Paypal, to you or to give as a gift to your midlife children.

To purchase copies please e-mail me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

E-book and some paperback versions are available through Amazon

Midlife: Begin To Trust Your Crazy Ideas and Then Expand Your Comfort Zone!

Now for something completely different!

Lately I have been observing how generational our belief systems can be. For example, as a middle boomer, born in 1955, most of my life I have taken a narrow view of what a good work ethic looks like. Most of us were raised to believe that being busy each day and having something to show for your efforts, especially MONEY, is a job well-done.

writing and moneyThat is exactly how I approached my new writing career back in 2005, when I began freelancing. How much I made each year was my measure of success, and I fought very hard to make some bucks. But in the long run, this way of thinking wore me out. As I learned more about the history and importance of this marvelous time called “midlife,” I wanted to teach others how life changing it can be. What I was learning was more important than money, it was life saving for some who struggle with self-respect and self-doubt as they age.

This is what I learned from changing my perspective on the ways we choose to spend our time as we age:

Midlife and especially retirement is your time to learn something just because you have always wanted to. It’s time to follow your fantasies and dreams for once in your life, while releasing expectations and, of course, guilt.

Be grateful each day that you now have the time and money to do something completely different! How many individuals in the history of mankind have had this privilege? Very few. Most previous generations didn’t live past 60!

After taking my writer fantasy for a spin for ten years, we decided it was time for my husband Mike to experiment with one of his childhood fantasies. He had always wanted to construct a passive solar home positioned just right for fantastic views of the mountains. In the process of planning this new adventure, I found a great cartoon in New Yorker Magazine that shows a man visiting a guru at the top of the Himalayas.

IMGP7536The guru’s punch line? “The meaning of life is having a  spectacular view.” 

After we created our new passive solar home, I was then able to construct another lifetime fantasy of mine, a foothills garden full of xeric plants that love this high, dry landscape as much as we do. As I wrote this, we got our first snow fall! Yippee!

Because of what I have learned about midlife and the amazing experiences we have had in the past 15 years, I can highly recommend that you ask yourself today:

What perhaps irresponsible, but joyful dream or activity have you been fantasizing about forever? Time’s a wasting! Do it TODAY!

Life is too short to wait!

What does following what may seem to some like one crazy dream feel like?

I share all of that in my latest book: A Memoir of Retirement!

Divorce rates plummet as millennials marry

As many of you know, I have been an avid student of dating, marriage and divorce trends in our culture for many decades. I was the one who waited until age 39 to marry the first time and I still got it wrong, divorcing at age 46. A few years later I started my own dating service. I saw it as a study of how Americans in midlife approached love and marriage. Turns out I met the man for me that way, and we have been living relatively happily ever after for the past fourteen years.

This is one of the reasons why I find the marriage behavior of millennials quite interesting:

Americans under the age of 45 have found a novel way to rebel against their elders: They’re staying married!

Gay marriage

“New data show younger couples are approaching relationships very differently from baby boomers, who married young, divorced, remarried and so on. Generation X and especially millennials are being pickier about who they marry, tying the knot at older ages when education, careers and finances are on track. The result is a U.S. divorce rate that dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2016, according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen.”

But with an interesting twist:

“Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they’re doing.”  — Researcher Philip Cohen

It seems that the younger generation now sees marriage as a bit of a status symbol and, “Many poorer and less educated Americans are opting not to get married at all. They’re living together, and often raising kids together, but deciding not to tie the knot.”

This I find especially interesting in that these poorer couples could find a number of financial benefits from legal marriage. For example, married couples pay less taxes and save on medical insurance as a couple. I never saw marriage as a status issue. At the time I needed health insurance and got it through marriage.

There is no more important and personal issue than who we marry and why. At least some millennials are realizing that. Divorce is always difficult emotionally and in some cases traumatic. Most Boomers know that now. I see us as the transitional generation, who often did what we were told and perhaps got married young when we became pregnant, etc. Unfortunately many of us had to learn the hard way that:

DIVORCE IS EXPENSIVE. FREEDOM PRICELESS.

Counseling: Ready for a new leap of faith?

Stair way to heaven or nowhere in Huerfano County

I constantly meet individuals who could benefit from counseling from a competent, caring therapist. Unfortunately most fear too much what they might need to confront in their psyches and so resist, even though most would benefit if they had the courage to dig deep, re-experience their traumas in a safe, caring environment and then move up to a much higher level of consciousness, and a better life.

If you change nothingHow do I know this? I had five years of counseling in my early thirties from a marvelous woman. I was a poor person back then and paid cash for all of my counseling. I still say that was the best money I have ever spent. Through that experience I was able to actually see myself change, and eventually move on to being a much healthier human being. Not that I didn’t make many more mistakes in choosing the wrong people to be with, but I could at least see why I chose badly and then choose better next time.

I then took counseling psychology training at Naropa University. Such an amazing and fascinating journey that was! Deeper and deeper understanding of my own psychic processes followed. Understanding where my fears come from and then realizing I no longer need to live in fear is such a blessing! It’s one thing to know that you have made mistakes in your life, it’s a whole new process to understand why and then forgive yourself for it all. Finally seeing where you are coming from in your decision-making process changes everything.

Self-love and compassion for the rest of your life can be your best reward from a few years of excellent counseling….

Is there some leap you need to make right now? First try to get past all the crazy reasons why you shouldn’t or “can’t” seek counseling now. There’s always the “I’m too old to change” and the “People can’t change” argument. Please don’t say you can’t afford it. Can you afford to live a crappy life and then die? I am proof that we can all change and grow and find a much better life, but if you do wish to truly change you must totally commit to this entire process, once you find the right counselor for you.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, and sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Is it now time to discover the best parts of yourself before it’s too late? You can be all that you believe you can be and have the life YOU CHOOSE this time. And, by the way, there are also great benefits when you finally face death. Stephen Levine, one of my counseling heroes, counseled only those with life-threatening illnesses for most his life. He had seen that the direct threat of death is often when the greatest healing occurs. Don’t believe me? Read his book:  “Healing into Life and Death.”

I have spent the last ten years of my life writing about how midlife can be a great time to change everything, especially your own beliefs about yourself and your potential to change your life.

garden scene outside my bedroom door

My own best changes came after age 49, and today I cannot imagine having a better life! You can too!

The future of elder care in our country

In response to an apparent turn towards meanness in our country, I have heard lately a call for a return to civility and compassion. In addition, I have been studying trends in generational relationships and don’t like what I’m seeing.

In my recent piece on Boomer Cafe I asked, what responsibilities do baby boomers have toward younger generations? Now I begin to wonder, what responsibilities do younger generations have toward their elders who have worked hard and paid their way their whole life? A quick look through the articles in the June 2018 AARP Bulletin is instructional in this regard.

social-security-nest-eggFirst I came to an article called “Social Security and the Elections” which warns, depending on the makeup of the new U.S. Senate and House, “Congress might look to make cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare” to reduce a ballooning deficit caused by Trump’s gigantic corporate tax cuts.

Reality check: The Social Security Administration estimates that 21% of married couples and 43% of single seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 36% of near-retirees say they expect Social Security to be a major source of income once they retire.

A few pages later in the new AARP Bulletin I found a lovely article about how the Japanese respect and love their elders, a population where 28% are already over 65, and 30,000 Japanese turn 100 every year. At every bank, post office or hotel counter they provide reading glasses of three strengths for elder customers. With the highest percentage of senior citizens and among the world’s highest life expectancy rates, it seems natural for them to show concern for elders’ special needs. They also provide special buttons for extra walk time at crosswalks for senior pedestrians, and special elevators for those in wheelchairs!

I found a final article from AARP particularly reassuring as it complimented my state, Colorado, for being the first to establish a plan for the needs of an ever growing elder population. Within twelve years, one in five Coloradoans will be 65 or older, so our forward thinking governor recently appointed a Senior Advisor on Aging. The purpose of this position is to “Coordinate policies that affect older residents and work with state and local governments and health care providers on better ways to deal with the needs of an aging population.”

My sister, Diane Carter, who has been active in providing long-term care solutions and one of our nation’s top advocates for the rights of the elderly, warns of the coming tsunami of needs we will face soon including affordable housing, transportation and access to health care for our seniors.

This is not the time to cut funds to support our aging citizens. It is instead time to prepare for a future with many more of them. Colorado’s new Advisor on Aging, Wade Buchanan warns:

“Most of the structures we have in place now, from our transportation systems to our housing stock to our health care systems, are designed for a society that will never exist again – a society where most of us are under 40.”