Planes, Trains & Automobiles (and don’t forget buses, cable cars and a boat)

“Two minutes to spare”, Brett informed me as we settled into our seats on train from Dublin to Galway. The taxi driver had been amazing, navigating the traffic and construction to get us to the train station on time, but when we discovered our train was on the end of a very long track, we ran (faster than I thought I was capable) to catch it before the doors closed. We made it and settled in for a two-and-a-half hour ride from the east side of Ireland to the far west. Little did we know that our final destination, the Cliffs of Moher, would consume another two-and-a-half hours on a bus ride down the coast. So, on the last day of our three-week European adventure, we spent ten of our fourteen travel hours on a taxi, a train and four buses, but when I saw the Cliffs, I knew each bump in the road had led us to a place like no other.

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Cliffs of Moher

The majestic Cliffs of Moher set against the Irish mist is something we have all seen in pictures, but feeling the fear as you approach the edge and witnessing the massive formations in person is beyond compare.

And as beautiful as our last excursion turned out to be, our first was every bit as breathtaking as we traveled from Bergen to Oslo to explore the fjords of Norway

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Fjord tour

by train, bus (down the steepest road in northern Europe) and a windy three-hour boat tour. At the time, I thought we had seen the best and the rest of the trip would be bland in comparison. Boy, was I wrong!

Eleven days later, we traveled from Munich to Zurich by bus, Zurich to Lauterbrunnen by train and Lauterbrunnen to Murren by cable car—halfway up one big-ass mountain.

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Sunrise in Switzerland

When we got to our room, we stepped out on our deck and faced a mountain in front of us and a valley way, way, way down below. Fear of heights is not one of my phobias, but believe me, I was holding tight to the railing on our deck for these pictures.

Three of the most beautiful sights on one vacation is more than one should expect, but there was so much more…

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Make America Kind Again

I am heartbroken. I love my country and I feel like it is being torn apart by our new President.

makekindHe says he wants to make America great again. What does that mean? When was it any better than it is right now?  Does he mean he wants to go back to a time when white men ruled, women couldn’t vote and people of color were relegated to the back of the bus? I must admit it would be nice to go back to a pre-twitter universe so we wouldn’t be bombarded with half-truths and outright lies from the man who is in charge of our nation. Doesn’t he have better things to do than criticize Meryl Streep and Saturday Night Live?

Despite his penchant for twitter, he does seem to have time to ban law abiding citizens from entering our country from certain Muslim countries. Interesting that no terrorists have ever entered from these countries, but have come from the few he kept off the list. Oh, I guess the fact that he has business interests in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan may be the reason these countries did not make his list. This is reprehensible and even those who supported his presidency should see the hypocrisy here.

The people who have been left stranded include children and spouses of American citizens, students, scientists and others who may have left to visit relatives, not knowing return would be near impossible. Many have spent eighteen to twenty-four months being vetted to make sure they are not a threat (yes, it takes that long to immigrate, but we have been led to believe these people just leave Syria and hop a plane to the US—no, that’s not how it works). These people are trying to escape ISIS. They are on our team and we should welcome them, not send them back to be slaughtered by the real enemy. Continue reading

Family Ties

Growing up, my family was small—Mom, Dad and Sister at the core. Our extended family ties were more like loose threads, connected only on holidays and special occasions but I remember those occasions as if they were yesterday. My grandparents, aunt,uncle and all the cousins in my parents’ back yard…img_3095

This year, after more than forty years, all my cousins reunited in my back yard. Faces have changed with a few wrinkles that hadn’t even begun to erupt at our last meeting. But, when our eyes met, I saw the teens and young adults I remembered so vividly from a time long ago.

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Half of us

I can’t remember a day in 2016 that touched me more than that day on my back deck, remembering our past, sharing our journey over the past forty plus years and looking toward a future with all of us more firmly connected. My heart was full that September day and even now it feels like it could burst when the memory resurfaces.

Thank you especially to my cousin in Idaho who suggested this reunion. I can’t wait to meet you on your home turf next summer. And, thank you for adding your beautiful wife to our family—so glad to finally meet her!

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Out-of-towners (Idaho to be exact)

As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t think of a better time to share these feelings. I continue to be so thankful for my immediate family—my son, sister, brother-in-law, nephews, niece-in-law and grand-niece—and am glad to know there is room for more thanks and more love. Our hearts are unlimited and adding my cousins and their wonderful spouses to that space in my heart was a gift I wasn’t expecting.

The funny thing about family–you don’t get to choose them. They are chosen for you through birth, adoption and circumstances that are often stranger than fiction. My family is no exception. On this Thanksgiving Eve, I am thankful for the circumstances that brought these wonderful people into my life. I love all of you!

 

 

 

Mom

Mother’s Day is two months away—too long to wait to share my thoughts about my mom.  Her time is short, at least that’s what hospice tells us.  But, to be honest, hospice has been giving her ‘less than six months’ for over a year now. She may well make it to Mother’s Day this year, next year and the year after. For most of my life, she’s battled one ailment after another, always expecting each year to be her last and now, after eighty-seven health challenged years, these may truly be her final days.

I wish she could read the words I have been saving for over a year. Not only are her eyes too clouded with disease to see the page, her dementia precludes her from understanding the simplest thought. Perhaps I should have said this all before, but it was probably a conscious decision on my part to wait until she couldn’t respond. This way I don’t have to worry about whether she understands or accepts me—I get to say what I feel.

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Mom 30 years ago

Anyone who knows me well, probably expects me to pass judgement and criticize the woman who pushed my buttons from my late teenage years on. We were never on the same wavelength and after years of trying to explain myself and justify who I was, it has come to an end. We have agreed to disagree, not by any verbal contract, but by just giving up. And, maybe that’s a good thing. I guess I probably pushed her buttons, too.

Mom had a rough beginning—she was placed in an orphanage at eighteen months of age. She has no recollection of those days, including her birth parents or her subsequent adoption by my grandparents, but I’m sure they left a scar. Could that be the reason she has always looked at life with a critical eye? Her criticism and judgement still stings at times, but what hurts more is the fact that I sometimes find those traits creeping into my personality. She taught me to look for the flaws in those around me and here I am doing it again. Sorry, Mom, I want to blame you, but I’m a big girl now and it is time I choose a different path.  I’d like to think I have been traveling the positive path for a while now, but that negative thing creeps in there once in a while.

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The Special Bond

Six years ago today I lost my Dad. I felt the life leave his body as I held his hand, comforting him in his last moments–or was I grasping those tired old fingers, hoping for one more more day with this wonderful man?

We had a special bond, there’s no doubt about that.  When I look in the mirror each day, I see his eyes in mine and as you can see from this old picture, we also shared the same ears. But, it was more than that.

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Two peas in a pod

My mom said we were two peas in a pod and even though I knew this was not meant as a compliment, I was proud to be in the same pod with my dad. We may have gotten on Mom’s nerves, but we always understood one another.

Only a few hours after Dad died, my son came to me with a poem in hand. He had spent those few hours writing me a poem to honor the special bond he saw between Dad and me. I want to share that poem with all of you here.

The Special Bond
By Brett Miller
12/22/2009

There are things I will never know about this man;
I’ve known him for but twenty-one years
But you were his biggest fan
To him you confessed fears, and for him you shed tears

He and I spoke of our love for the game
Shared laughs, and thoughts of the years of my prime
I respected and loved him; what you had was not the same
You had a bond shared but once in a lifetime

He was your hero, your inspiration, but mostly? He was Dad.
A loving father who was so very proud of you
But he was ready; he wouldn’t want you to be sad
Even though he had to know you would shed a tear or two

But now you know that he is in a better place.
Let yourself smile and think “How could he not be?”
Imagine the joy that would be on his face
At the very least, now he is finally free

Though we will not speak to him again
His legacy lives in his brilliant daughter: you
And also in how I am shaped as a man
Remembering these good things is best to do

I loved him, Mom, and I love you too
But no one will ever love Bernard Jack May the way you do

As I read and re-read this poem, I know Brett is right, my dad and I had a special bond. But, as I look back over more old pictures, I see Brett had quite a special bond with his Boppa (his name for his grandpa–long story I’ll save for another day).

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At the State Fair

I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Brett inherited his love of words from my dad as well as his intelligence and awesome sense of humor–or was it from me? I am the link between the two of them and just maybe, we are three peas in a pod. I’ll share my pod with those two guys any day.

You Reap What You Sow

It is said you reap what you sow. I thought I had been doing a reasonably good job of IMG_2329sowing seeds of kindness and generosity so why was I reaping the week from hell? I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with my seeds. Perhaps I planted a package of genetically modified (GMO) seeds—mutated with expectation. When will I learn to just plant the damn seeds and let them grow at their own pace?

The week started out okay. I sowed a few cranky seeds as my son and I got a late start IMG_1097to the Seahawks tailgate, but once we got there, we shared our food with friends and a few homeless visitors and we were rewarded with a fantastic Seahawks win. Golf the next day with my boy was also a joyous reaping, but that’s where it ended.

Hell week started with work. My last project of the year morphed from a simple online enrollment of fifty people to an antiquated paper project taking much more time and effort for both me and my clients. We were all unhappy as we reaped the obvious result of a bad seed—what had we done to deserve this?

By midweek, that news seemed tame when I found out I had two more tumors in my bladder. They’re small and don’t pose a significant threat, but surgery is required—and two weeks of feeling under the weather is more than I wanted to waste. I’ve never been good at resting.

If that wasn’t enough, I dropped my wallet on Capitol Hill as I rushed to meet a client at Starbucks. I assumed it was in my car, so I paid for my tea with loose cash and chatted with a woman who bought her first policy from me to cover the birth of her son. He’s now twenty-one, so after all these years, this client feels more like a friend. On the bright side, I reaped the good vibrations of our conversation, but on the not-so-bright side, my wallet was lying on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up by someone who would likely find my credit cards very handy at this time of year.

As I begrudged my unfortunate circumstances, my father’s words came to mind. This, too, shall pass. That’s true, but maybe that wasn’t the answer. Maybe I needed to look at these things and find out why they were placed in front of me. And, as I pondered each situation, I got my answer. Continue reading

Apple Cup 2015

For the past few years I have ignored my Husky roots, mostly because I held no passion for the football team. I arrived at the University of Washington the same year Sonny Sixkiller took the field. Those were the days! Then, a few years after my tenure, we had Warren Moon under the skillful leadership of Don James. I was a Husky through and through and I’m embarrassed to say my loyalty wavered through poor coaches and players about whom I just didn’t give a damn.243

The fact that my son defected to Washington State and became a Cougar also tainted my thinking. A couple of Mom’s Weekends in Pullman gave me an understanding of the tight community and sense of belonging WSU brings to its students.

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My Cougar son

There is not much that would be mistaken for culture and only a handful (if that) of non-WSU activities worth enjoying in Pullman, so the students bond in a way that a Husky couldn’t possibly understand. I get it. And, for those years that I traveled over the mountains, always in awe of the beautiful rolling hills of the Palouse, I wondered if I had missed something by choosing to be a Husky forty plus years ago.

Today I realized that I had not missed a thing. I needed to be a Husky. I grew up in a small tight knit neighborhood (much like the WSU community) and I needed to expand my horizons. The University of Washington was exactly what I needed to grow up, to learn about life, people, society and maybe even get an ‘education’ along the way. I developed my social conscience at UW as I protested the Vietnam war, gained insight into the hearts and minds of humankind through my psychology studies and learned to love football.054

Could I have learned that at WSU? Maybe, but I wouldn’t trade my Husky days for anything. I love my Cougar friends and, of course I love my Cougar son, but I am a Husky and I no longer feel the need to apologize. We have a great coach and a young, eager team on the rise—much like the Cougars. So, the rivalry can officially resume with two teams heading in the same direction.

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Today we fight the big fight—The Apple Cup. And, today I am a proud Husky.

GO DAWGS!!

Table for One

I loved my vacation in Whistler—ten days in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I didn’t mind travelling alone, in fact, the drive started filling my weary soul as I watched

Driving to Whistler

Driving to Whistler

the sunlight dance on Howe Sound. As the water moved and churned to my left, the sturdy granite mountain began rising to my right, the road having been chiseled from the mighty rock that once kept all visitors out.

Although I’d traveled that road for twenty years, it felt different without the IMG_0868conversation of a partner, kid or said kid’s many friends. Those days were gone. Now, it was my time and driving alone painted an entirely different picture than the one I’d merely glanced upon in years past.

Once I arrived, I enjoyed almost every minute of my time with one, almost daily, exception. When it was time for dinner, I had my choice of many fun and/or fancy restaurants, but it took courage every night to walk up to the hostess and ask for a “Table for one.”IMG_4354

The world seems to be built for couples—a child or two may be added—but, subtracting down to a “Table for one” brings judgement. Is it a crime to be single? I couldn’t always tell if the hostess felt sorry for me or sorry that she had to provide a big table for one
person. One restaurant, a casual establishment, told me I had to sit at the counter or go into the bar and take my chances in there. She wouldn’t offer me an outside table that could be better filled with a couple. I don’t think I’ll go to that restaurant again.

On the other hand, one of the nicer restaurants in the village, Earls, IMG_4278was always happy to give me the next available table, even as couples and families waited. My server, Becky, took good care of me and didn’t rush me, even asking me about my writing (I
always carry a notebook when dining alone) and offering her email so she could be included in my blog shout outs. But, I still felt the eyes of the couples and families on me. Maybe it was my own paranoia, but it felt real.

One other restaurant always found a table for me, but my experience at Earls brought me back one more time. The wait for an outdoor table on that beautiful evening was fairly long and when I was led to my table, I saw that it could IMG_4353have easily seated four. I immediately felt guilty for cheating four people out of this great table. My server this time (I wish I had gotten her name) told me I should just enjoy. She confessed that she loved going out alone and basically told me to screw all the haters (not in those words) and just enjoy.

And, that night I did. I sat at that huge table and ignored the looks. Were they staring because they felt sorry for an old lady eating alone, or were they envious that they didn’t have the guts to go out without a partner? I realized that evening that it didn’t matter what they were thinking. I needed to own the experience and over the ten days, I slowly became more comfortable eating alone.

That being said, I think humans were meant to form couples. We need someone to share our good times—and our bad. It’s nice to know we are capable of living and even thriving alone, but I know I want more.  As I looked around, I saw many couples in those restaurants and it was clear than some had ‘settled’ for less than they really wanted. Were they so afraid of eating alone that they couldn’t wait for the right person? Then I saw some who had obviously held out for their soulmate, holding hands, laughing and enjoying their meal (they didn’t notice me). Until I meet that perfect guy—perfect for me, anyway—I will continue to enjoy my “Table for one”. But, one of these days I look forward to walking up to my friends at Earls and asking for a “Table for two”.

All The Places To Love

When my son, Brett, was in the 5th grade, his teacher asked the class to write about a place they loved. He chose Whistler,  a place he had visited five of his ten summers–half of his life.  At age ten, he still loved our week in Whistler.  And now, twenty-two years after our first visit, I’m here enjoying my week(s)–this time alone, but I’ve got to say, I still love my time in Whistler.  Brett is almost twenty-seven now and working (and dogsitting for me) while I take that week that once meant so much to him.  Way back in the fifth grade, he made a poster with two snapshots (developed from a roll of film, no less) of Whistler Mountain and the following description:IMG_4268

All The Places to Love: Whistler – by Brett Miller

Whistler is the best place on Earth!!!!!!! We go to the village, have lunch/dinner.  We go to our condo, swim, and go to bed. In the morning we watch the sun rise over the mountain. Then we swim, see beautiful scenery from the golf course, in peace and quiet. Later we go to the village, buying things here and there. I enjoy the sight at night of satellites and shooting stars. Where else is quite so peaceful?

I couldn’t agree more!  I framed his words and pictures and have looked at them every day for almost seventeen years.

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The creek between Whistler & Blackcomb

Why do I love this place so? The mountains are awesome and the wildlife is incredible–although I haven’t seen a bear yet this year.  When I listen to the creek rushing through the valley it feels like lifeblood rushing through my veins.  Looking down at the creek or up to see the top of the mountain, my heart is full, my spirit lifted.

Visiting Deann & Reese camping

Visiting Deann & Reese camping

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The mountain from my patio

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Dancing!

I’ve been here nine days as I write this and have seen the beauty that nature provides surrounding my everyday activities.  I have golfed, explored the trails to Lost Lake, shopped at the Farmer’s Market, indulged in a hot fudge sundae or two at Cows and, this year I experienced a fantastic outdoor concert with Michael Franti–Wow!

And now my time is in Whistler is coming to an end.  One more golf game with my IMG_4370 (2)friends, one more night to watch for shooting stars and one more day to infuse this beauty into my soul.  I miss my son, my family, my friends and my dog, so I’m ready to come home.  But, I will be bringing back a sense of peace and joy from my time in Whistler.

As Brett said so many years ago, of all the places to love, Whistler tops the list.

 

My Lucky Day

IMG_4189A couple of weeks ago I took Hanni for a walk and she just happened to stop to inhale the scent of recent doggie activity right by a patch of clover.  As she sniffed, I perused the patch and found a four leaf clover. The edges were brown and ragged, but the four lucky leaves were big, bold and shouting to me that this was my lucky day.

I’m not sure that I believe in these signs, but I’m not sure that I don’t. We are all responsible for our own actions and subsequent “luck”, but maybe this piece of clover was a way of reminding me that there is good in the world and I deserved a bit of that luck in my life.

I had been feeling lucky anyway.  My bladder tumor turned out to be benign and was removed with minimal side effects. Yet, was it really lucky? Lucky that I found that tumor before it became cancerous, but not so lucky that I had a tumor in the first place. That clover says it all. My luck is tinged with brown, ragged edges. The good prevails, but there is always some dark, rough patch to go through before the good arrives.

A good golf day!

A good golf day!

I’m guessing I am not alone.  Who out there is lucky every day?  And if you are, do you even feel lucky?  Does it become boring to have life flow perfectly each day?  I have bad golf days, rejections of my manuscript and that pesky surgery to compare to the good golf days, great critiques with offers to resubmit and resolution to my health concerns. The “luck” seems much luckier when we have those difficult days for contrast–to make the happier moments shine in comparison.

A day at the lake

A day at the lake

The truth is that without sorrow, there is no joy. We have to have those difficult times to truly appreciate the “lucky days”, those days when we hit a jackpot at a casino, have a glorious day at the lake with friends, or make a new friend. I have had those moments recently—those lucky days stemming from the green leafy parts of the clover.

So, the four leaf clover brought me luck. It reminded me that there is far more good in my life than bad.  I have been lucky ever since I found it, but then maybe I always was…