The Elder in the Room

I was doing some training for a large company this week on time management. The people I was training were in very high stress jobs, and they felt that they had no control over their time because of the demands of the company. I could completely relate to their experience, having been in similar environments myself. During the training, I was able to share some of my experiences and help them have a more wholistic outlook on time. What could they manage at work, and what could they manage outside of work? Could they find 5 minutes in their day to take a short walk and breathe? Could they take 30 minutes in the morning to gently prepare for their day rather then adding to their stress by rushing through the morning. They were open and receptive to the ideas and expressed gratitude to have had a chance to be heard and validated.

I think 20 years ago, I would not have had the wisdom or the confidence to present these ideas to them in the way that I did. It was nice to be the Elder in the room!

Sometimes I hear that older adults feel like they have been moved to the side, they’ve become invisible. And it’s not because they have nothing left to contribute. It’s because the invitations to participate seem to dry up. It is also because some of us buy into society’s notion that we are no longer relevant.

I would suggest that what we need to do is look at our own internal ageism. We got our ideas of aging from our parents and grandparents. If the older people around us lived beyond their 60’s, they generally were declining, they appeared to be in poor health. For many of us, there was nothing appealing about the image of aging that we saw. Now the idea of aging as decline is reinforced by many of the images we see on TV. The older adult is portrayed as technically incompetent, there are jokes about forgetfulness, and so many commercials are about anti-aging products. Without this awareness, we will still make comments like, “aging is not for sisses” or “that must have been a senior moment,” of “you look good for your age.” Those types of comments reinforce our own beliefs that aging means decline.

Today I listened to a program about friendship on My Future Purpose, a program developed by my friends Joyce Cohen and Vicki Thomas. Thelma Reese, one of my favorite role models for aging, was one of their guests. Thelma is in her 90th year, which as she explained, means that she is still 89. As she spoke about friendships, she spoke of the loss of many of the people who had been lifelong friends. She spoke about the loss of her siblings. She summed this up by saying, “the adjustment to being old is different from aging well.” In this new stage of “being old” Thelma is still finding the good in life and is still developing.

It made me realize that aging has stages also, just like the stages of childhood. Most of the people I talk to and encourage are in the early stages of aging. We are in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. There is another stage, the stage of old age. This is the stage that Thelma is in. This is the stage that my mother is in. She is 92 and she is still interested and involved in whatever ways she can be.

We are creating new role models for aging, not just for the younger people, but for ourselves as well. Recognizing the lives that many of the older people around us are living takes the sting out of the term ‘old age.’ Thelma and my mother, and people like them, still have a sense of purpose, they still feel useful, and I think that is essential to living a meaningful, healthy life.

On the show next week, we will be talking about Celebrating Aging. Janine Vanderburg, founder of Changing the Narrative, is working to change the way people think, talk and act about aging and ageism. It will take all of us to be aware, to be willing to speak out and to recognize our ability to evolve and develop and grow.

I have to amend my comment about being the Elder in the room. After listening to Thelma today, I realize I am an Elder in Training. I am so grateful to have role models in my life like Thelma and my mother.

Learning to be a Grandparent

When I first spoke to Dr. Bob Saul in February of this year, I was very curious about his messages about raising good citizens. My interest expanded after conversations with my teenage grandchildren. In their young lives, they have experienced the pandemic, gun violence in schools, the insurrection on the Capital, and the proliferation of hate and bullying on social media. They were expressing fears about their future.

As you may recall from the show I did with Dr. Saul, he is the author of several books including, My Children’s Children: Raising Young Children in the Age of Columbine and Conscious Parenting: Using the Parental Awareness Threshold.

As Boomers and grandparents, we grew up with traumatic experiences that rocked our sense of safety also, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the riots of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War protests.

As grandparents, we can share some compassion with our grandchildren around what they are experiencing. It is not the same, and yet we can relate to their threatened sense of security in some ways.

In 2020, Dr. Saul released Conscious Parenting. Having been a pediatrician for 40+ years, as well as a parent and grandparent, he had developed a lot of insight into parenting and wanted to share that with others.

He talks about a representative line he calls the Parental Awareness Threshold. When you’re above the line, you’re conscious, you’re open your receptive, you’re ready to learn. When you’re below the line, you’re unconscious, you’re closed, you’re defensive, you’re always right. The point is, as parents or grandparents, we will be above and below the line all the time. Because we’re humans. We’re going to be open. We’re going to be closed.

As a parent, I know that sometimes I would come home after a long day at work, and I was not open or receptive. I just wanted to get dinner on the table, get the kids bathed and get them to bed. There were also wonderful times of snuggling up to read a book, or baking cookies together or going for walks to the park. As a parent of teens, I wanted to listen, to be engaged, but as we all know, engagement is more on their terms when they are teens. I learned it was my job to create a safe environment for conversation when they were ready. And to be a good role model as much as possible.

But as a grandparent, is it my role to also teach and guide and model, or is it my role to just love? It is a fine line. Dr. Saul suggested that as grandparents we can teach and role model, but we have to be careful not to meddle, not to offer unsolicited advice.

granddaughter and grandfather holding hands

I learned a lot about parenting as a parent. I am learning a lot about grandparenting as a grandparent. And I am learning about the balance of being a parent of adult children and being the grandparent to their children. There are times when it makes the most sense to take that deep breath and not say anything. Assess the situation and choose. And if you choose the wrong way, give yourself grace. Apologize to your adult child if necessary and see this as a learning opportunity.

Your role as a grandparent is also not to discipline, but it can be to teach. The root word for discipline is disciple, which means to teach. As a grandparent we can provide nurturing corrections to bad behavior, rather than punitive or judgmental corrections. But even these can be seen as interfering, if done when the parent is also in the room. Learning when to say something and when to be quiet is part of learning to be a grandparent, in my opinion.  The important thing is to establish yourself as a safe, stable nurturing person in the lives of your adult children and your grandchildren.

Listening to hear, to empathize, to make eye contact is part of creating that safe, stable, nurturing environment.

I remember my daughter used to come into my bedroom at night after I turned off the light, and I was just about falling asleep. That’s when she would want to talk. So, I would sit myself up and start paying attention. I guess with the darkness and the quiet time in the evening she felt that was her safe time to talk. You have to meet them where they are. I am learning with my oldest granddaughter, the best way to communicate with her on a regular basis is through Instagram messaging. She always responds to my Instagram messages.

How do you grandparent? Are you grandchildren nearby or are you a long-distance grandparent? Have you blundered into saying something that was not received in the way you meant it? Have you apologized?

Something magical happens when we become grandparents. Happy Grandparent’s Day to all of you grandparents. (it was last Sunday)

Me with two of my grandchildren

The Gift of Difficult Conversations

The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “as a Buddhist, I view death as a normal process, a reality that I accept will occur as long as I remain in this earthly existence, knowing that I cannot escape it. I see no point in worrying about it. I tend to think of death as being like changing your clothes when they’re old or worn out rather than as some final end. Yet death is unpredictable. We do not know when or how it will take place. So, it is only sensible to take precautions before it actually happens.”

I want to repeat that. It is only sensible to take precautions before it actually happens. But many of us aren’t comfortable talking about death. Have you had that conversation with your significant other, with your children or your parents, or with friends or relatives if you’re a solo ager?  There are the practical things, like a DNR, living will, do you want cremation or burial, all that kind of stuff. But then there’s the other stuff, the deeper stuff, like, how do you want to be remembered? What’s your legacy? Are you afraid of dying? What do you want your final days to be like? Those are deeper conversations, and if you don’t have them, you leave your loved ones guessing as to what you might want.

Michael Hebb is the founder of Deathoverdinner.org which helps you host a facilitated dinner conversation with the important people in your life … about death.

Michael said “we’ve stopped viewing the table as a place where we come together to share ideas. We really don’t know how to eat together anymore.”

The ancient Greeks were great at gathering around a table and sharing ideas and knowing how to really take the most advantage of that time. Those conversations over dinner were called symposiums when they were official. You might have found Plato or Socrates or Aristophanes or Aeschylus or any of those principal players in the creation of Western civilization at a dinner table, talking about the nature of love or death or a relationship to the gods. And these conversations helped develop the ideas for democracy and our justice system. There’s a lot of power in gathering and talking over the table.

We are also deeply isolated, and we aren’t given a lot of tools for deep interpersonal connection. “We go to our therapist, we go on retreats, we do a lot of things that are not within our actual friend group that don’t strengthen the bonds within our family or our friend group. What I realized was that the most difficult conversations are the ones that we avoid, the ones that have the most potential for human connection, deep bonds, and to give us an opportunity to transform our perspective and live differently,” Michael stated.

Death is something that we all share and it’s something that many of us avoid and we consider the topic taboo.

Michael explained, “For me, it was deeply personal. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was in second grade, and he died when I was 13. His death had a huge impact on our family. It was the type of illness and death that actually fractured our whole family structure and our whole family tree, nuclear and extended. And still we’re trying to heal that. But a lot of blame and shame and miscommunication and misunderstanding happened.”

He saw the worst of it when a family doesn’t have the tools and doesn’t take the time to talk about terminal illness, eventual death, how to honor somebody, and what to do with their stuff.

Michael believes that one of the reasons our health care system is bankrupt is because we don’t talk about death. “We spend something like 70% of health care expense in the last two years of life. It’s the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, the end-of-life expense for a loved one. So, it’s bankrupting us. It’s bankrupting the system. And it’s avoidable. We can have a conversation about how we want to be taken care of in our final days.”

Getting people gathered to talk about end of life can be uncomfortable and challenging. The people you want to gather are the people who are most important to you. Your spouse, your parents, your children, maybe your best friend.

Explain to them that it would mean a lot to you to have this conversation with them. You love them and you want to make sure that they understand how you want to be cared for at the end of your life, and you want to know how they would want to be cared for also. And realize that ultimately, it is a gift to your family to have these conversations.

Michael stated, “It has always been the case that turning to face our mortality is the thing that gives us the most clarity, vitality, sense of purpose. I think Confucius said it best when he said, in each life there are two lives. And the second one begins when you realize you only have one.”

Some of the takeaways from my conversation with Michael Hebb, founder of DeathOverDinner.org include

  • Don’t be discouraged when your loved ones give you resistance to a conversation about death or really any difficult conversation, but especially about death.
  • End of life medical care can bankrupt you. Being prepared for how you want to be cared for can help prevent this type of bankruptcy.
  • The most difficult conversations are the ones that we avoid, the ones that have the most potential for human connection, deep bonds, and to give us an opportunity to transform our perspective and live differently.

If you are interested in the full show with Michael Hebb,

Listen on Apple podcast or Spotify or watch on YouTube.

Evolving through retirement

I loved Serena Williams explanation of how she sees her next act. Williams indicated her intention to retire in a Vogue article in early August, saying she was “evolving away from tennis.”

Retirement coaches and the media have been struggling with what to call the new retirement. Longevity of 20+ years post career has made the idea of retirement outdated. Terms like “unretired,” “rewired,” “next act,” “third act,” have all been suggested.

Evolving is such a beautiful way to look at the life we are living after we step away from our full-time careers. That is what my clients are doing as part of the What’s Next coaching program. In each cohort you can almost feel the relief when they realize that they can let go of their “shoulds” and the preconceived ideas of what retirement is supposed to be like. Retirement is a time of transition, a time of reflection. It is an opportunity to evolve into the person you want to be, maybe for the first time in your life.

The Wall Street Journal published an article on Wed. 8/31, written by Veronica Dagher titled “Retirement Planning Means More Than Saving in Your 401(k).” In it she talks about how retirees struggle with the loss of structure and routine. Friends that used to be part of our work environment disappear. We struggle to find fulfillment in golf or watching the grandkids, without other interests or purpose in our lives.

We spent our early years following the path of school, choosing a career, buying a house, raising a family. If we lost a job, we generally did not take a lot of time to ask ourselves if the next opportunity was something we really wanted to do. We just took it. We developed life skills and career skills, but we did not develop the skill of managing unstructured time. We may have put an interest or passion on the back burner and now we don’t know how to reignite it.

To evolve means to develop over a period of time into something different and usually more advanced. There is a period of transition that takes place after we leave our full-time careers. Ideally, we will allow ourselves time in the Neutral Zone. This is where the evolution happens. We may feel like we are wandering in a wilderness of unknowns. Who am I now? Who do I want to be? What is my purpose? I am not ready to be “old.” How much time do I have left? Slowly, over a period of time, we begin to discover, evolve, into newer versions of ourselves. Versions that are fulfilling, versions that contribute to our communities and our families, versions that recognize the importance of self-care.

Let’s look at Carla’s story. She thought she was ready to retire. Financially her house was in order. Her parents had recently moved into a senior living facility, and she knew she would need some time to support them emotionally. She does not have children, so the pull of grandchildren was not there. She had been a solopreneur for many years and was hesitant to give up her practice. But she did want to slow down and spend more time with her husband. She also thought she wanted more adventure in her life, maybe travel to exotic locations to do volunteer work. When she actually stepped back long enough to really exam how she wanted to evolve, she realized that adventure travel was not really for her, and there was a part of her work that really excited her. She wanted to continue that work.

Carla is evolving and accepting who she is completely. She is building more time into her life for healthy activities and time with her husband. She is continuing to stay energized with some of her work but has let some of the other pieces of her practice go. It is an evolution, and her life will continue to evolve as she decides she wants it to.

That is the beauty of this stage of life. We have choices to live life with passion, live life with relevance and live life with courage. We get to evolve.

In what ways are you evolving?


For information on WHAT’S NEXT coaching go to

heyboomer.biz/coaching

How do you feel about aging?

What do you think about aging? It’s better than the alternative, right?

I started listening to Dr. Becca Levy’s new book, “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Well and How Long You Live.”  She is a leading researcher on the psychology of successful aging. Her research shows the connection between our beliefs about aging and our health and well-being as we age. Negative age beliefs impact our longevity by as much as 7 ½ years.

You know that I am all about positive aging and I share this with you through my show and my posts. But I thought it might be helpful to raise your awareness to all the negative, ageist remarks and behaviors that are prevalent and accepted in our culture. Awareness is the first step to change. It is one thing to say that we have a positive outlook about aging. It is another thing to recognize when we might buy into or ignore a negative ageist stereotype.

So here goes…

Have you ever said this to someone, or had it said to you?

  • “You look good for your age.”
  • “Getting older is not for sissies.”
  • “That was a senior moment.”

Have you noticed the amount of anti-aging products that are hawked in the media? Aging comes with wrinkles. Aging comes with changing hair color and texture.

When I turned 40, my co-workers decorated my cubicle with black balloons, over-the-hill signs, Depends. I did not think that was funny then and I do not think it is funny now. Why do we associate milestone birthdays with jokes about decline and incontinence and forgetfulness?

I hear people say, “60 is the new 40.” I say NO, 60 is the new 60.  70 is the new 70! Why not embrace the age we are? We have gained life experience. We have learned to overcome obstacles. We are more active than our parents or certainly than our grandparents were at our age.  There is an Instagram page where people are posting a picture and claiming their age. They are including a short writeup about themselves. Check it out @sayyourage_loudandproud and post your picture.

How is ageism different from some of the other isms? It affects everyone. No matter your race or gender or religion or sexual preference, everyone ages. Yet it is the least spoken about and it is hidden in plain sight.

Everyone is getting older; from the moment we are born we are getting older. If we continue to ignore the “old” jokes and stereotypes, young and old people will internalize the message that getting old is bad. Negative beliefs about aging have been shown to have negative consequences on our mental and physical health.

Doris Roberts, who portrayed Raymond’s mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond” ad this to say about how older people were portrayed on TV. “[Seniors] do not see themselves portrayed and when they do, it’s in a demeaning manner. They’re referred to as “over the hill,” “old goats” and “old farts.” “Ugly ways of talking about us.”

This coming week, I challenge you to recognize the negative aging beliefs and stereotypes you see and hear and say to yourself. You will be surprised at how often these occur.

Who is Listening?

In 1977 NASA launched Voyager I and Voyager II to fly by Saturn and Jupiter, collecting data that has increased scientists’ knowledge of those planets and our solar system. In 2012, Voyager I reached interstellar space, making it the most distant human-made object in existence. Both spacecraft carry a “time-capsule” called The Golden Record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the story of our world to extraterrestrials. (source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Various labs and universities have transmitted messages into space over the years. Other scientists have setup huge arrays of antennas to listen for transmissions from space. At this point, we do not know if anyone is listening to us. Our antennas have picked up signals from space, but whether these sounds are being intentionally transmitted has not been determined.

But I don’t want to talk about space communication.

Devices and Pets Listen

Sometimes the best listeners in our lives are our pets and our smart devices. We ask Siri about the weather, for directions, for movie suggestions. We ask Google to find a nearby restaurant or entertainment venue. We ask Alexa to play music or add something to our shopping list. And these devices always respond. They listen to our questions or requests, and they respond. Some may say they are listening too much.

Our pets may not respond to our requests, especially if the pet is a cat, but they generally let us know that they love us and are happy we are there.

Listening professionally

Listening professionally is what I do. When interviewing guests, I am always listening to what they say so I can keep the conversation going and ask thought provoking questions. When I am coaching clients, I listen for what they say and for what they may not be saying, to help them gain insights into what is holding them back or causing them unease.

My training as a coach taught me to practice active listening, ask powerful questions and acknowledge and validate what is being said and felt.

Non-conversations

It seems that the art of conversation is being lost. How many times have you been to a restaurant and watched groups of people sitting together, but no one is talking. They are all on their devices. Even the children are on their devices. No one is talking and no one is listening. If you do get involved in dinner conversation, is there really listening going on? Is everyone talking at once? Or maybe the conversation goes something like this.

Ted: “My boss is such a jerk. Last week he called me out in front of my co-workers.”

Bob: “My boss never gives me any feedback. I don’t know if he is happy with my work or not.”

Ted: “I am going to start looking for another job. I don’t need to be treated like this.”

Bob: “My clients seem happy with my work, I am hitting my numbers. I am just going to keep doing what I am doing.”

Does it sound like they were responding to each other or were they each having their own conversation? Yes, they were both talking about work, but there was no acknowledgment of what the other person said.

Another familiar conversation could sound like this.

Ann: “I went to the gym today. Managed to do 30 minutes on the treadmill and worked arms and abs for another 30 minutes.”

Lynn: “Oh, well, I am doing 30 minutes of elliptical training every day, with high resistance, and then I do an hour yoga class twice a week.”

Again, same subject, but this time, Lynn is one-upping Ann. No acknowledgement of the accomplishment that Ann obviously feels good about.

The truth is most people don’t know how to listen. They listen while thinking about their response. The don’t listen to hear.

Acknowledge and validate

This is one of the most important lessons we learned in coach training. It is not as simple as it sounds, but it is a powerful way of letting someone know they have been heard.

Let’s go back to the conversations above.

Ted said his boss was a jerk for calling him out in front of co-workers.

Acknowledgement and validation would sound like, “Wow, that must have felt awful. I can see why you are upset with your boss.”

This simple statement gives the person permission to continue with their story because they feel heard. It can help them process what happened and then move on.

In the other conversation, Ann talks about her accomplishments at the gym.

Acknowledgement and validation would sound like “Good for you. Sounds like you are feeling good about pushing yourself to get to the gym and complete your workout.”

How much better do you think that would feel for Ann to hear that response rather than having you tell them how much more you do?

Many times, acknowledging and validating is all that person needs to feel like you are hearing them. They don’t need you to fix them. They don’t need you to one-up them. They don’t need you to tell your version of a similar story. They simply need to be heard. Once they feel heard, it is your turn to share.

Listening is a skill that can be learned, and when you listen you are building intimacy and relationship. This week, why don’t you see how often you can acknowledge and validate when talking with a friend or family member. You may be surprised at how different the interchange feels. You will be giving the other person the gift of being heard.

The Tragedy of Life

“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin living it.”

W.M. Lewis

We go through stages in our life. As young children our job is school and learning. Once we are in college, we are starting our adult lessons as well as preparing for a career. Life begins to speed up after that.

  • A first job
  • A first home
  • Possibly marriage and a family
  • Promotions (which could mean more working hours)
  • Another job
  • Another home
  • Raising a family
  • Accumulating stuff
  • Sending kids off to college
  • Parents declining health

And one day, you are ready to retire … or maybe you are not ready to retire but because of circumstances you are no longer working. You feel lost. The question of “Who Am I” is large. And the more we sink into depression or uncertainty or fear, the harder that question becomes to answer. Who am I if I am no longer an educator or an architect or a manager or a pilot?

I think one of the tragedies of life is that we give up on life before we get to live the next chapter.

We did all the things we thought we were supposed to do. We lived up to others’ expectations of us. What we forgot to do was ask ourselves what we wanted to do and who we wanted to be. And now we feel lost, and we don’t even (think) we know what we want to do and who we want to be.

“I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” ~ Charles Horton Cooley

I believe we do know, we just are not used to listening to that quiet inner voice. It is a very quiet voice because it has been ignored for so long. The voice may start out as a whisper, and if we do hear it, we are probably going to discount it because we think our friends and family may think we are crazy if we listen to it. We may hear many competing ideas from this little voice because it has been bottled up for so long.

What I encourage people to do is try something, one thing and see how it feels. Take a risk.

I started out in technology. The companies I worked for over the last 30 years kept going through downsizings and I kept looking for my next gig. Finally, I had enough. I bought a franchise that taught art to kids in afterschool programs and camps. It was fun, and it was fulfilling. The kids and the parents loved it. It just was not profitable. I sold that business and went back into corporate. But by then, I knew I was not doing what I wanted to be doing and I was not listening to the inner voice that had some ideas.

I started working with a life coach to try to figure this out. Somewhere along the line she said, “you’d make a great coach!” LIGHT BULB MOMENT. I knew then and there, that was what I wanted to do. I began researching programs and became certified as a life coach in 2013. That little voice in me was celebrating. It had been telling me throughout my career that I wanted to help people find their purpose, find meaning in their lives, and live fulfilling lives. Now I get to do that through my show and my coaching program.

This comment from a past client says it best. We do start out confused, and we can begin to discover the many options that are available to us.

When I began this course with Wendy, I did not know where I was going from here. My aging and responsibilities were so heavy. As I began, I quickly realized that I am approaching the next chapter of my life and there are lots of options. I learned more about myself and how I view my world. I recommend to anyone who is afraid of life changes to give this wonderful course a chance.  I have never felt so relieved and peaceful about what lies ahead whatever that might be.” ~ Lynn

I would like to close with a quote from Simon Sinek and a takeaway from Helen Dennis. He wrote the book Start With Why. He said “We have no choice, we must all die. How we live, however, is entirely of our choosing.”

Helen’s takeaway is in the video clip.

Long-Ago Friends – My Walkabout with Susan

I had not seen Susan in person in over 35 years. We had worked together at Digital Equipment Corporation in Alpharetta, GA before it began downsizing and was eventually sold. At the time, we both had two young children, one boy and one girl each. Susan was married, I was in a relationship, so we did not spend much time together out of work. But we were friends. We connected as mothers; we connected as women. We were working in the support center, and it was a great working environment, and Susan and I were more interested in exploring the depths of thought and meaning, then whether someone’s printer really worked. Not really … I mean we were good at our jobs.

When we had a chance to talk, between calls or over lunch, we talked about relationships and feelings and our kids, not about computer programs and hardware.

For our reunion and walkabout, we had arranged to meet at her son’s house, the one we called Little Eddie. Little Eddie is now the daddy of three little boys! He said he remembered being at the office with his mom sometimes and meeting me. Her husband, also Eddie, was there too. What a treat to see both Eddies and the little ones.

Her son pointed us toward the Lullwater Preserve on the Emory University Campus for our walk.

Trail in Lullwater Preserve

We had occasionally stayed in touch over the years, but not on any regular basis. I left the Atlanta area in 1996 and moved to Maryland. We connected on Facebook.

What do you talk about after 35 years? Our kids, and now grandkids, feelings, relationships and aging. Our kids all seem to be doing well. She has young grandchildren. Mine are all tweens or teens now. Susan is still married. Eddie  retired early for health reasons. Susan is contemplating retirement, with some hope and some trepidation. The trepidation is financial. Like many of us, they have worked and saved and realized that they probably have not saved enough to last a lifetime. And like many of us, there is a desire to pursue something meaningful while we still have time, and we still feel well. But giving up the security of a regular income is scary. Susan is now in real estate, has been for the past 25 years. Obviously over the past several years this has been a wonderful industry to be in and she is good at it. She talked about working with a builder and hoping to close out her career with him, but what’s next?

Her husband’s health is not good and many of the things that Susan might want to do, he would not be able to participate in. She has some feelings of guilt about leaving him alone too often while she tries to pursue new interests.

She has suggested many times ways that he walk more or eat differently. She also knows that she is not in his body and she has to trust that he is doing the best he can for himself. As she said “you can’t make a person change or do something he doesn’t want to do.”

But it does not have to hold her back from what she wants to do. Susan has become stronger over the years, and is more willing to speak up for what she wants, and fortunately Eddie does not ask her not to do something.

We both talked about the state of the world and our concerns. And how it might impact our grandchildren’s lives. It got her thinking about what she might do to get involved and feel like she is making a difference. Right now, Susan is in the phase of “endings,” leaving a career that has been good for her and the reputation she has built. She is also entering the “neutral zone,” the phase where you don’t know what is next, where you need some quiet time without a plan, a time to simply reflect on yourself. It is generally in the neutral zone where new ideas will come to you that you might want to test out, without fully committing until something feels right.

We ended our walk with a stop at a local coffee shop to cool off. If I am honest with you, we didn’t want our time together to end, and we promised we would stay in touch. I am happy to say that we have already spoken again this week and hopefully I will get Susan to visit me in Greenville sometime.

There is an old Girl Scout song that feels appropriate to end this story with.

 “Make new friends, but keep the old

One is silver and the other’s gold.”

Literacy, librarians and labels

Shhh! That is the sound of the librarian when you are caught talking.  Before my walkabout with Prudence, that was my stereotype of librarians. The label I gave librarians was quiet, demure people who loved books. It is true that Prudence loves books. It is also true that she speaks quietly. But she is passionate about literacy and learning and being responsive to customers. The bias I had that all librarians are demure was about to be changed. Let me take you on our walkabout from the new Unity Park in Greenville, SC to Falls Park (also in Greenville) and back.

History of Greenville, SC Parks

In 1907, Harlan Kelsey was commissioned by the City of Greenville to recommend improvements and projects that would beautify the city. He came up with a report that identified a series of potential parks along the Reedy River.  The first park, Cleveland Park was completed 20 years later. Falls Park on the Reedy was built 100 years after Mr. Kelsey’s report.  The third park, originally called Mayberry Park, was first commissioned as a segregated park for the children that could not play on the other ball fields in Greenville.

In 2002, The Reedy River Master Plan called for the construction of a new park in the area of Mayberry Park along the area that was to become the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The Swamp Rabbit Trail opened in 2010, as a rails to trails project. After extensive restoration of the banks of the Reedy River the new park, Unity Park was opened in 2022 on part of the same land as the original Mayberry Park.

Welcome to Unity Park

What I learned about librarians

Prudence and Lucy, her Cavalier King Charles pup, picked me up around 10:00. I had met Prudence a couple of times, but we never really had a chance to talk and get to know each other, so I was looking forward to our walk.

Prudence retired as the Executive Director of the Library in Greenwood, SC about 2 years ago. My label of the “librarian” was about to be upended as I got to know Prudence.

She began her career in Athens, GA as a children’s librarian. The Director there tasked her with getting children’s classics for her branch. As she got to know the children, she learned that what they wanted to read were Nancy Drew books, Hardy Boys books and Amelia Bedelia books. Prudence’s desire was to have children reading, so she ordered multiple copies of these books. When her director found out about these purchases, she was not happy and “wrote her up” for insubordination. As a young librarian, Prudence was upset about being written up. In fact, she said this was the only time she actually cried at work. Her co-workers staged an “intervention” to let Prudence know that they supported what she had done and offered her encouragement. Thus began her career as a librarian who spoke her mind and provided learning opportunities to the community.

Eventually, Prudence was recruited to be the Director of the Greenwood County, SC Library, where she worked for 23 years before her retirement as Executive Director. Part of her work there was the building of a new library. She had to work with the county council and raise funds for the new building. It opened in 2010.

As the Executive Director of the Greenwood County Library, she was in charge of the programming. She brought in speakers, experiential activities, and movies, all designed to grow attendance at the library and to provide educational activities for the community. Prudence was able to get grants to provide additional educational materials for the library. One time she got a grant to present an exhibit about the Muslim religion and culture. This exhibit was met with some protest and resistance in Greenwood. She held firm in presenting the materials and many people did come to visit and learn.

She also told me about a “wild” library convention she once attended. This story will really challenge your idea of the quiet, demure librarian. At the end of the first day, many of the librarians went out to dinner and clubs. One group got pretty rowdy and was asked to leave a particular club! The next night, Prudence and a few other librarians happened upon the same club. The owner stopped them at the door. “Are you librarians?” he asked. When they told him they were, he did not want to let them in. They assured him they were a different group and would not cause any trouble.

Labels are a funny thing, aren’t they? We have an image of professions like librarians or engineers or scientists or performers. But the people in these professions are just people, with a particular interest. That does not mean they all have the same demeanor or beliefs. Labels limit what we see.

Prudence loves to travel. She has taken part in a photo safari in Kenya, and she is now on a trip to Italy, Austria and Switzerland. She spent time caring for both of her parents.

Literacy passion

Literacy is Prudence’s passion in retirement. She is now working with adults working to get their GED’s through the Greenville Literacy Association. She is finding her sense of community in Greenville through the Rotary Club she joined and the church she joined.

Thanks to Prudence and Lucy for good conversation and a nice walkabout.

What I learned in culinary camp

I didn’t go to culinary camp. My 15-year-old grandson did, and I got to enjoy the results.

Being a grandmother is one of the greatest joys of my life and it can be challenging. Like parenting except you are not their parent and you don’t see them regularly, so you get to know them anew with each visit.

When the grandchildren were little it was easy. They were giggly and playful, creative and loving. All I had to do was show up and we had fun. Occasionally one of my children (their parents) would correct the way I said something or did something. Ways of parenting continue to evolve. But mostly it was just hours of sitting on the floor playing or walking to the park and playing or exploring new places through the eyes of a child.

As they have transitioned into teens, the interactions are different. This is to be expected. They are discovering who they are, separate from their parents and grandparents. And, as I remember from raising my two children, each one of my four grandchildren is different.

Griffin, the grandson who was with me during this week of culinary camp has gone through several iterations of interest. He has always been creative. As a small child he created “fairy houses” out of sticks and leaves and flowers, in the hopes that the small creatures would come visit. He developed an interest in art for awhile and was quite good. Now he expresses his creativity through playing percussion in the school and city orchestra and through cooking. Mostly baking, but he is adept in the kitchen when creating meals also.

He is also a very self-contained young man. He does not need a lot of conversation. As his grandmother, I wanted conversation, I wanted to know what he was thinking and feeling and dreaming about. We developed an easy flow. I shared with him some memories of his childhood or memories of his mother’s childhood. I shared with him things I was thinking about. I would ask a few questions and got some short answers. And then I would just smile at him and love him. At this stage of his life, this is who he is. He is respectful and easy going. He even humored me by learning to play dominoes with me. I could tell the game bored him, but he played anyway, for short rounds. We learned to respect each other’s needs for quiet time and for interaction.

And culinary school … he did love that. He came out every day with boxes and containers of desserts and confections they made. So much sugar! But on the ride home is when he was the most talkative. He would tell me about the partner he had each day. He would tell me what they made that day. He would tell me how much he enjoyed the state-of-the-art kitchen they were working in.

What I learned in culinary school is that too much sugar hurts my stomach, but I already knew that. I had to taste everything he made, and I am glad that camp is over and most of the goodies have gone home with him.

I learned that I like sharing space with my 15-year-old grandson, even if we don’t talk much. We had dinners together, we played dominoes and we took a couple of walks together. Just being together and accepting that we loved each other was enough. We did not have to engage in deep conversation.

I also reminded myself that I have no idea how I worked and raised two kids on my own and got anything done. I certainly fell behind on some of the Hey, Boomer things I intended to do this week. Which means I also reminded myself about priorities. Family first, essential work next, and everything else can wait.

It was a good week.

Climb to Glassy Mountain – walkabout #10

Annie is the one person I have been friends with for close to 40 years. We have known each other since our children were in the 1st and 2nd grades. Even though we have not lived close most of that time, the friendship has endured. Being with her is like coming home. It is so comfortable. We always talk like we see each other every day, only we see each other every few months and rarely talk in between those visits.

On this day we decided to meet at Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, NC. The home was built in 1838 and Sandburg and his wife Lilian and their youngest daughter, Helga, moved in in 1945. They built 5 miles of trails around the property for Sandburg to wander. The house and property was sold to the park service in 1968, a year after Carl Sandburg died.

“It is necessary now and then for a man (or woman*) to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and ask of himself, “Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?” 

~ Carl Sandburg

We started our hike with a walk around the pond and then out to see the goats that Lilian introduced to the property when she moved there. The billy-goats were feeling friendly this morning. Two came to the fence to be petted, one with a long white beard and the other with big, floppy ears. I think they probably were hoping we would give them some food, but all they got were some pats and head scratches.

The morning air was cool and damp. The leaves and ground were covered with dew, making walking a bit slippery. The birds and frogs were chatting and chirping, welcoming the day.

After our visit to the goats, we took the trail to Glassy Mountain. I had hiked this trail once before with Annie and remembered it being strenuous. It is a short trail, just a mile and half each way to a large, bald rock that looks out over Mount Pisgah, part of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain.  But on this day, I was struggling.

That opened up the conversation about how our bodies are changing and things that we had done easily when we were younger, were not as easy now. And there is more awareness of injury. How we process this awareness impacts how we feel about ourselves. Accepting that we experience exercise or activity differently in our bodies than we once did, does not mean that we stop doing these things. And it does not mean that we beat ourselves about not being as strong or able or flexible or any of the other things we tell ourselves.

As Paul Long said when I interviewed him. “Where attention goes, energy flows.” Shifting our attention to what we enjoy about the activity and how we can enjoy it, will improve the overall experience.

Annie and I love the mountains and we want to get out on the trails as often as possible. I learned that she had been hiking with a friend weekly the last 2 years. This has helped her keep her hiking legs during the pandemic. I have only recently started back hiking, really since this spring. I am working on getting in shape for my trip to Glacier National Park in July. I was disappointed in myself that I was struggling to climb Glassy Mountain and we eventually turned back. Was it the stomach upset I was experiencing that made the climb more difficult? Was it the pace we were keeping or the high humidity? Was it being out of shape and older? Probably all of that. But staying in this mindset of disappointment was taking away my enjoyment of our time in nature and being together.

The mindset shift was to accept the limitations I was feeling this day. This happens. Some days we feel more physically fit and more energized than other days. Acceptance.

My joy came from spending time with my good friend, not getting to the top of the mountain. That will be for another day. I will be back!

Who are you now? The importance of purpose

Every article about roles and transition starts with a recitation of all the roles and/or transitions the author has gone through.

This story is not about me (until later). This story is about some of the people I have worked with or known, as they were going through transitions. One of the stories is not happy. One has a positive outcome. And then my story ties in purpose.

The names of the people in this article have been changed.

Greg – Lonely and lacking purpose

There was Greg. He was in the Senior Executive Service with the US government. He had a staff, notoriety, and responsibility. He set agendas, investigated safety violations at nuclear facilities, sat in a lot of meetings. Every weekday morning, he put on a shirt and tie, commuted into Washington, DC, and every weekday evening he came home exhausted and counting down the days to retirement. He also talked about all the people he knew who had retired and died shortly after retirement. He was afraid that would happen to him.

He was looking forward to long days on the trout streams, time sitting in tree stands waiting for deer to appear. He did some of that. But he was lonely. He had not developed friendships outside of work. He had a difficult relationship with his son. His marriage had ended. When he wasn’t hunting or fishing, he had little sense of purpose. His roles in life had changed dramatically and he was not adjusting well to that.

As he predicted, he did develop a terminal illness and passed away within two years of his retirement. I do not believe this happened just because he was lonely and purposeless. He was also a smoker. But in the end, he did not have the desire to get healthy, change his live, develop meaning in his life and I do believe that contributed to his death.

Sally – excited about new possibilities

Sally, on the other hand, knew she needed more in her life. She had retired as a teacher for children with special needs. She told me she always had a plan and now, after two years of retirement, she was floundering. She had lots of thoughts and ideas about things she might like to do, but no plan, no direction.  After a few months of coaching, she was feeling rejuvenated. She had a direction, a 6-month and 12-month plan. She was discovering new roles and new purpose for her life.

She decided to go back to school to study some creative work that she was excited about and that she thought would be beneficial if she worked with kids again. The course work did not work out, but she found some local artisans that she developed a relationship with and began learning from them. She learned that she was emotionally strong and resilient. She recognized her ability to connect with people with humor, empathy and support. She is experiencing more energy and enthusiasm for what is next.

Finding my purpose at this stage of life

What about me? I did not start my adult life with strong role definitions. I dropped out of college to get married, I was a mother at 23 and divorced with two children at 28. At that time, I went back to school to get my degree. Even as I went to work to support my children, my strongest role definition was as Mom. I took pride in my work and earned approval for the work I did, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be a good Mom. One of my most difficult transitions was when my children left home and I was no longer “needed” as Mom. It took me several years to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I went to Georgetown University and earned a certificate in Change Leadership in 2000. I took coach training and became certified as a coach in 2013. I had my own business for a while, a KidzArt franchise. I went back into corporate as a Director of Training. Lots of roles, but I still did not feel like I had found the role that felt right for this stage in my life. Until I started the Hey, Boomer show and started coaching people going through the transition from their career to what’s next. Now I am a broadcaster/podcaster and coach. I am also still a mother and a daughter and a sister. I am a member of some organizations. I am a friend. But when someone asks me what I do, I say I am a broadcaster/podcaster and a coach.

Finding a purpose, finding a meaning, feeling useful and relevant are three important attributes for a successful transition. From the stories above, you do not see BIG CAPITAL P- Purpose. You saw that Greg felt lonely, he had lost his sense of purpose when he walked away from his work. You saw Sally find a sense of purpose in her creative work and her desire to share it with children. And you see me living my purpose in bringing you guests with important and meaningful messages, and coaching people in transition or getting ready to transition, to find their sense of purpose and meaning.

The graphic says that “Life begins with purpose.” To me this means you have a sense that what you spend your time doing has meaning. It may be teaching English as a Second Language, it may be developing new cooking skills, it may be learning to be a master gardener, it may be volunteering, it may be registering people to vote. Whatever it is for you, it gives you meaning and energy.

My next coaching program, called “What’s Next” is starting on August 2nd. It will run for 6-weeks. For more information check out https://heyboomer.biz/coaching

What can we do as elders?

I am a grandmother, and my heart is breaking for the families in Uvalde, TX. I am a grandmother, and I cannot imagine how my children and grandchildren are processing another school shooting. I cannot imagine parents worrying about sending their children to school. School is supposed to be a safe place for children. And the children, they are still adjusting to being back in school after being afraid of the Coronvirus. Now, how many children have increased trauma because of the fear of gun violence?

When we grew up, the most safety training we got in school was how to line up for a fire drill and where our rendezvous point was in case we got separated from our class. Now, students and teachers go through active shooter drills.

Before I moved to SC, I was living the Northern Virginia area. I lived there when the Beltway sniper was randomly shooting people in parking lots and at gas stations. I remember being scared whenever I had to fill up my car. I would try to put myself between the car door and anyone who might be shooting from in front of me.  I remember being scared walking through a parking lot and looking around and trying to get inside as quickly as possible. That was back in 2002. It ended. The sniper was caught.

Today our children and grandchildren have no sense of an ending where they can resume feeling safe. Everyday they face the risk of being someplace where there might be an active shooter, most likely with a semi-automatic weapon.

We, as the adults in their lives, do our best to help them feel some sense of safety and security. But the question is;

“How do we stop gun violence?

NBC News reported that 2200 children died from gun-related deaths in 2020.

The number of active shooter incidents — which the FBI describes as events in which someone is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area — has reached new highs in the last decade. There were 61 active shooter incidents last year, according to FBI data, which topped the previous year’s record of 40 incidents

KILLED.

Are we becoming immune to this word? Violence is reported to us every night on the news. Images of death, both from Ukraine and local violence appear in our social media feeds. Local news tells us about someone being KILLED at least weekly, if not more.  But the word is used so often are we becoming immune?

How do we stop this gun violence?

Children need to feel safe at school. The pandemic has already stressed their feelings of security. Parents need to feel safe sending their children to school.

I am not anti-gun. My late husband was a hunter. He did not need a semi-automatic rifle to shoot animals. I personally did not understand hunting, but he grew up hunting and he loved the sport of it and being in nature. He studied the sport, practiced, and donated what he shot to Hunters for the Hungry.

What I don’t understand is how anyone can be opposed to background checks before purchasing a gun? How can anyone be opposed to a waiting period, a cooling off period, before purchasing a gun? I know the arguments, if we make it more difficult to buy a gun legally, only criminals will have guns.

Most of the legal gun owners are not murderers. Why do many of them so adamantly defend their right to own all types of guns, without any background checks or safety training or cooling off period? These guns they defend may end up one day taking the life of their loved one.

A little history

Did you know that the NRA was started in 1871 to improve the marksmanship of men so that in case of another war, our militia would be prepared? It also promoted the British sport of elite shooting.

Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian, wrote in her newsletter yesterday that “In 1931, amid fears of bootlegger gangs, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children; to require all dealers to be licensed; and to require background checks before delivery. It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act, and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.

It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that their focus shifted away from sport and riflery to opposing “gun control.” You can read her full article here and subscribe to her Letters from an American.

How can we stop the senseless violence? Diane Wolke-Rogers, a history teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gave a TED talk, about 2 months after the shooting at the high school. It is emotional as well as a history lesson on the 2nd amendment and the beginning of the NRA. Well worth listening to. 

So, what can we do? Get involved. Call your congressmen. Vote. Please don’t tell me my vote doesn’t count. Maybe I won’t be able to vote out Lindsay Graham. But the more of us who vote, the more our voices will be heard, and one day, one day, we will evolve into more compassionate human beings. 

We are the elders, the grandparents, the generation of “make love, not war.” We are the role models for our children and grandchildren. Show up for them. Get engaged for them. Let’s leave behind a legacy we can be proud of.

Defining our Choices – Walkabout #9

Holly is my web designer and we had been trying to catch up for our walkabout for probably 6 weeks. Something kept getting in the way and it was delightful to meet Holly and Daisy in Falls Park last Friday.

Meet Daisy

Holly and I met about 9 months ago for coffee in Flat Rock, NC. We sat outside and as we talked, we discovered things we had in common, like UNC-Asheville, single living, being business owners, politics … It was one of those encounters where you feel comfortable right away and are sorry when the time is up, and you both know you have to leave.

As I mentioned, we both own our own businesses, and we recognize the challenges and rewards of working for ourselves. The loneliness of having to be our own inspiration and motivation, as well as appreciating the solitude needed when creating and thinking. The concerns when business is slow and no money is coming in and the rewards of delivering a good product.

We have also been going through an evolution in our businesses. Holly was an event planner who started creating websites to promote events. She was a marketer who used her skills to promote the events on social media. The more she did this work, the more she realized that she really enjoyed the creativity of website creation, and she has migrated from event planning and marketing to creating web designs that help businesses and organizations present themselves in their best light.

When I started Hey, Boomer, it was in response to the pandemic shut down. I knew I needed to feel relevant and useful, and I thought there would be a lot of other people who felt that way also. At the time I really had no other plans than to present an inspiring live show on Facebook. Since that time two years ago, I have learned so much about producing a show and podcasting. I have also been using my coach training to develop and provide What’s Next Coaching to those who are looking at this next chapter of life with some anxiety and confusion. So, my business has been transitioning from delivering one live broadcast a week, into simultaneous live broadcasting, podcasting and coaching.

How nice to have a friend to talk with that can relate to these kinds of changes.

The Park

Falls Park was particularly lovely as we walked the trails within the park. Lush greenery lined the paths and many of the flowers and bulbs were in full bloom. We slipped in behind the stage to walk the stairs there and enjoy the sounds of the creek as it runs down the hill to the Reedy River. This also gave Daisy a chance to lap up some of the cool waters of the creek.

The temperature was perfect. Started out cool and looked like rain, but it warmed up and the clouds cleared. As we wrapped up our walk, we sat outside with coffee and continued our conversation. Seems to be a pattern of coffee drinking with us.

Defining Your Lifestyle

Holly and I have lived on our own for a while. There are parts about living alone that we really like. We are the masters of our own time. We can have as much quiet time to read or work or write as we want. We can wake up when we want to and go to sleep when we want to. We can eat what we want … when we want. We can listen to any music we like or watch any TV show we like. Solitary living can be very nice, especially if you have introvert tendencies. We both find that we need our quiet time to recharge.

And yet, we both enjoy being in a relationship. It is figuring out how to share space and share time that is the challenge (opportunity), especially at our time in life when we have set patterns and habits.

We talked about this. We talked about reframing our thinking around this. We don’t have to share space and time the way anyone else does. We can define, with our partners, how it works best for us. Is one of you a morning person and the other likes to sleep in? Do you prefer to read at night and your partner wants to go out regularly? What about meals, are you a meal planner and they like to graze? Is marriage in the cards, living together, or living apart – together, which is gaining popularity. Probably not a one-time conversation, but an important conversation.

Boomers – redefining again

The Boomer generation has been one of redefinition. From the women’s movement and birth control, to couples choosing to have children or not, to women having careers and now redefining this next chapter of our lives.

What’s Next is up to each of us. Politically, socially, environmentally, culturally, we can all choose how we want to create our own realities and involvements.

Trust Your Instincts and Carry Water

Walkabout #8

We were on a mission, to find the pond at The Star Fort – Ninety Six National Historic Site, a revolutionary battlefield in Greenwood County, SC. The last time we had walked this site, the trail to the pond was closed. I thought I had a good remembrance of where the trail to the pond was.

First Misdirection

We were hardly parked and out of the car before we ran into someone we knew who was just finishing up her walk. After a short exchange of hello’s, David asked her if she knew where the pond was. She was sure she knew, and she sent us off in the opposite direction from where I thought we should go.  “Walk to the structure that looks like a fancy deer stand, go left off the paved path, and that will take you right to the pond.” David felt confident, I was not so sure, but off we went to follow our friends’ directions. Going left by the fancy deer stand took us a short distance to a gravel road. Hmm, which way here? Right or left? There were no signs indicating the direction of the pond. We went right for a little way, but having no idea where we were, we back tracked to the paved trail.

Second misdirection

Seeing another walker resting on a bench about 100 yards away, we thought we’d ask him. He was certain also, that he knew where the pond was. He even pulled out his All-Trails app to try to show us. “Go straight” he said. “You can’t miss it.”

We headed off in the direction he pointed (again opposite of where I thought the pond was), and kept going straight until we ran into another gravel road, or maybe it was the same gravel road we had recently been on? Right or left? Again, no sign. This time we turned left and after a short walk we saw the main road ahead. Not wanting to walk the black top, we veered off onto another path that we hoped would take us back to the parking lot of the Star Fort Historic Site.

Omen?

Some animal had lost its life on this section and the skeleton was scattered around the trail. Was this an omen that we were again headed in the wrong direction. By now, I was trusting my instincts and felt that we were headed back to the parking lot.

Backup Support

Once we got to the car, David was ready to be done. He was frustrated and his Fitbit told him we had walked close to 5000 steps. I didn’t want to give up, but I did want a drink. And I wanted to find that pond, fulfill our mission. I talked about the sense of accomplishment we would feel once we found it. I said I should have trusted my instincts in the first place and headed off in the direction I remembered. David looked skeptical. I suggested we go to the Visitor Center and ask the ranger. He agreed to that.

The volunteer at the desk, and the ranger, pulled out a map and pointed us in the direction I originally wanted to go. “Take the Goudy Trail to the Cherokee Trail,” they said, “and that will take you to the pond.” We were barely out the door before the volunteer came out and said she would show us. She hadn’t been to the pond in 6-7 years, and she thought going there again was something she wanted to do. David seemed to feel better about having a guide, and off we went.

Donna, the guide, was a history buff. She shared some history with us, not specifically about Star Fort, but interesting stories. We also talked about how she lost her husband to Covid. We talked about her granddaughter who was having a baby soon, her job as an administrative assistant at Lander University for 30 faculty members and should she stay in her big house or downsize. Walking and talking we passed an unmarked crossroad trail. She didn’t notice it. I wondered about it.

A little way past that, Donna stopped. She thought we had gone too far. She was unsure. I mentioned seeing the crossroad trail. We decided to head back and look for the sign that would indicate it was the Cherokee Trail. There was no sign, but looking at the map, we all thought this must be the Cherokee Trail. We agreed to try it.

The Cherokee Trail – maybe?

It was a nicely shaded trail; wildflowers were expressing their delicate new growth along the side of the trail and we kept walking. And walking and walking. By now, we were trusting my instinct that we were headed in the right direction, following the blue blazes on the trees, because there still had been no sign. In his beautiful, deep voice David said, “I see water through the trees.” We had found the pond! Success!

It was now close to lunch time, and we were hungry. We also had made the mistake of not carrying water and we were thirsty. We had achieved our mission after four miles of walking in almost every direction. Time to head back to the fort parking lot and get lunch and water.

Lessons Learned

Why didn’t I trust my instincts initially? Our friend seemed so sure, it created some self-doubt in me. And yet I have learned over and over in life to trust my instincts. I can say without hesitation, every time I made a choice that seemed to be counter to my instincts or my intuition, it did not turn out well.

I did feel a sense of accomplishment that we found the pond, but we did not linger. As I said we were hungry and thirsty. Next time. Now we know where we are going, and we will be more prepared. Even David was glad we continued on. He told me so later.

Have a sense of adventure. I had my phone with me so if we had become hopelessly lost, we could have called for help. I did open the All-Trails app and was able to track where we had been and where we were going.  Reasonable adventure adds spice to our lives. I do not want to jump out of an airplane or bungy jump off a bridge. If that is your thing, go for it. But I like to push my comfort zone a little bit, just to know that I can.

Always carry water on a trail! Enough said about that!