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I’m thankful for the great horned owls that make their home in my Tucson Catalina Foothills apartment complex. — Art by Pat Bean

My Blessings are Many

          I no longer believe the Thanksgiving story I was taught as a child, but the day is still a good one for acknowledging our blessings, of which I have many.

          These are some of them:   

          My renewed good eyesight, after cataract removal and recovering from botched surgery on one eye that left me in pain for a month this year.

That I’m addicted to bird watching because it brings me much joy.

          Scamp, my canine companion who brings love and balance to this old broad’s life.

          That I better remember the good times of my life instead of the bad times.

          Air conditioning, because summer temperatures in Tucson can exceed 115 degrees.

          Advil and my pain doctor, both of which keep this 82-year-old arthritic up and walking.

          That I’m a writer who has kept journals.

          A hot bath before bed.    

          Family and friends. They are the most valuable treasures in my life.

My continued zest for life and learning new things.

Trees, each unique and beautiful in its own way, especially Aspen trees in the fall when the leaves look like golden coins and shimmer in the sun, and play music in the wind — and that I got to see them this year.

My computer and the Internet, which instantly satisfies my curiosity on most subjects, and keeps me in better contact with those who live far away, like seeing my seven great-grandchildren grow up.

Deep conversations about books, life and the world with agreeable people.

Comfortable clothes and shoes.

My chef friend Jean’s chocolate chip cookies and our weekly happy hours on my balcony.

Blank journals to fill, and filled ones to reread.

That I’m an optimist and not a pessimist.

Shared birthday experiences this year, a tradition, with my long-time friend Kim.

Long, solo drives on scenic backroads, like 89A in Arizona and Utah.

Daily emails from my daughter-in-law, Cindi, who also sends me surprise care packages occasionally.

That I have the ability to laugh out loud, especially at myself.

A rare day when political bullshit doesn’t raise my blood pressure.

Discovering a writer new to me who has written many books. There were several this year, including Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay’s Rules of Ten series, Ella Jameson’s Hetheridge series, and Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series.

          My Story Circle Network’s support team of awesome female writers, who’ve now been in my life for 11 years.

          Color in all its forms: lemon yellows, cardinal reds, forest greens, sky blues, ocean turquoises, rainbow pastels, and orange and purple sunsets – just to name a few.

A renewed relationship with my oldest daughter, Deborah, who shares my love of good books and writing.

Oreo cookies, my go to when I absolutely must have something sweet and chocolate.

Card games with my oldest granddaughter, Shanna, and her wife, Dawn, who moved to Tucson to be near to me, and who live in my same apartment complex.

My mornings with cream-laced coffee and the New York Times.

          Tucson’s colorful sunsets.

          A Jack Daniels and Coke nightcap.

          My oldest son, D.C. who checks up on his old mom to make sure she is still alive every day.

          The few TV programs I enjoy: Survivor, Amazing Race, The Challenge, Sunday Morning, and that I can stream them on my computer because I don’t own a television.

          Live theater, which sadly has been missing from my life during these Covid times, but which is slowly coming back.

          The Catalina Mountains, whose many moods I see daily as I walk my dog, Scamp.

          Hugs.

My monthly Social Security Checks.

          Scamp’s groomer, Vaune, because he’s a handful and no one else wants to groom him.

           Audible books to keep me company at night when I can’t sleep and reading a book in bed hurts my neck.

          People who are kind and non-judgmental.

          A soft blanket to wrap up in on a cool day — Tucson does actually have a few — and flannel pajamas and sheets on cool nights.

          Snail mail letters from old friends.

          Colorful jigsaw puzzles.

          Flowers, all kinds but especially the gardenias that grow here in my apartment complex and remind me of my grandmother’s home.

          Watching Scamp and his best friend Dusty curl up together on my bed when I’m on my computer. I’ve babysat Dusty for eight years, and she and Scamp follow me from room to room all day long.

          Piddling with watercolors to create art.

          Rainbows.

          Readers of my book and blog.

          Surprises.

          Modern day appliances.

          Vaccines, of all kinds, that have made the world a safer place to live and saved my children from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and small pox.

          Grocery delivery.

          Learning new things.

          Armchair travel when I can’t do the real thing.

          A bold, black-ink, and smooth moving bold black gel pen.

          Morning snuggles with Scamp.

          A thick, rich chocolate milkshake.

          A new toothbrush.

          A good massage.

          Dinner leftovers for breakfast.

          Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

          Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

I can’t count the number of Lassie books, movies and TV programs that have left me in tears. How many of you young oldsters remember this photo? And who the young boy is? And did you know that Lassie was usually portrayed by a male dog.

A Good Old Girls’ Club in the Making

I haven’t seen a movie or television show that has left me crying in at least a couple of years. Now, you should know, when I make this statement, that I have cried a water tank full of tears over the years, beginning with books like Lassie, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Black Beauty to a couple of Marvel movies.

Surprise of all surprises, the crying jag was restarted with Wednesday’s night’s episode of The Challenge All Stars, Season 2.

Now I know that people consider this peace-loving 82-year-old a bit strange — for someone who doesn’t like conflict, nastiness and mean people – because I’m a fan of both Survivor and The Challenge, whose weekly episodes usually display all of these traits.

I excuse myself because the participants are all playing a game, like Poker, in which dirty tricks, lying and outwitting your competitors are all allowed –Actual hitting gets you expelled from the game. I love the outdoor adventures and competitions. And amazingly, I also find memorable minutes of good sportsmanship and of finding some good in even the meanest people.

I’ve watched every episode, so far, of Survivor. I came late to The Challenge, but have watched as many episodes as have been screened.

So, what, you might ask, made me cry in The Challenge. It came at the end of a combined puzzle and weight-pulling competition, where one of the two female competitors simply wasn’t strong enough to do the weight-pulling, The other woman, by the way, outdid even the two men who competed in the same competition earlier, which, of course, thrilled me.

When the female winner finished, she went over to her competitor, and said “Come on, we’ve got this.” She then helped her pull her weight to the finish line so the woman could finish strong. It was one of the best female support actions I’ve ever seen. Even some of the bystander competitors even had tears in their eyes. (Just to note, I have seen men support their losing competitors in similar ways many times.)

But both these two women are mothers – and not so young anymore. The All-Stars episodes brought back players from 15 or more years ago. I found it very inspiring to see women staying active and supportive of their gender. Perhaps it’s the start of a good old girls’ club to compete with the good old boys’ clubs that have been going strong for way too long.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Kindness Knows No Gender

Chickadee and berries. — Art by Pat Bean

Fingers Take Over Brain

Amy Hale Aucker, in her book Ordinary Skin, writes about her choice to camp in a primitive area near a natural hot-spring pool despite warnings against doing just such a thing. While her mother only told her to be careful and not talk to strangers, others asked where she was going to plug in the hair dryer.

Even the campground host Jim, an older gentleman, asked if she was sure she wanted to do this.

She did, and she talked to strangers, even a rough-looking vagrant who joined her in the hot pool one night. Jim just happened to wander by, a few times, just checking out the campground. But Amy knew that he was making sure she was OK.

“He was taking care of me,” Amy wrote, noting that other men had also taken care of her during her life.

My first thought on reading this was the campground host, also an older gentleman, who daily checked up on me at a lonely Michigan campground during my solo RVing days.

It felt nice. Taking care of women was how most men were raised in my generation. And some of then took it very seriously. But then along came the female rebellion, when women decided things like opening doors for them wasn’t a good thing at all because it let the man feel superior.

Ha! Men have felt superior from almost the moment they were born, often simply because of the way they were treated by their loving parents, who gave them more freedom than their sisters, and made sure if there was only enough money for one child to be educated it would be them.

I was even told by a male high school teacher that females had no reason to go to college. They would be taken care of by a man. I remembered that clearly the day I realized nobody in my life would be taking care of me, but me. I had no problem with men opening doors for me. All I cared about was getting equal pay for equal work.

That, at least, was/is my generation, and I’m an American woman. In some eras and countries, female babies weren’t even allowed to live. Even today, in some countries, women can’t walk outside their homes without a male escort.

Hmmm. This essay took an unexpected turn, which often happens to me when I have my fingers on a keyboard and they take charge of the brain. My original thoughts were to compare Amy’s experience of Jim looking out for her, with the times men looked out for me.

And, like Amy, I, too, wouldn’t let the fear of being harmed by men stop me from doing the things I loved to do, like my solo RVing across America, or hiking a mountain trail alone because that was my favorite way to be in nature.

And also to note that if I saw a man with his hands full, I would quickly open the door for him. It’s the little courtesies between us all that make life more pleasant. And we don’t have enough of them in the world today.

Sorry for the detour from my first nice thought. But it’s hard escaping the real world.

Kindness, meanwhile, knows no gender.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

A Writer’s Nightmare

A storm’s brewing — but the sun will come out tomorrow. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

Trying to Think Positive

          Sometimes stuff – translate shit — happens that might be a blessing in disguise. At least that’s what I would prefer to think about losing a writing folder on my computer.

About a year ago, I started writing a book about my journalism years. I’ve titled the book Between Wars, because it’s how I see my 37-year newspaper career.  My first significant bylined story was an interview with a mom whose son had been killed in Vietnam – we cried together; and one of my last pieces was an editorial urging the president not to take us back into Iraq a second time – he didn’t listen.

          Anyway, I got about 10,000 words into it when I realized what I had written was garbage. OK, maybe not quite garbage, but I’m a writer, and like most writers, I usually feel that what I write is never good enough. But this time I believed I was right – my narrative bored me. So, how in the heck was it going to keep readers turning pages

I finally just put the project away because I couldn’t figure out a way to go forward.  Lately, I’ve been reconsidering tackling the project again. Perhaps you’ve even noticed that I’ve been using my blogs, writing about journalistic events in my life, to stimulate my thinking. And I started a new computer folder to keep track of research and ideas for the book.

          Yesterday, I decided it was time to go back and read what I wrote a year ago, and salvage anything usable. The folder, however, was missing – which had me saying that four letter S word numerous times.

          Had I accidentally deleted that old Between Wars folders when I had done a cleanup of my computer a couple of weeks ago? Maybe. Then I started asking myself if that was actually a bad thing? Or was it a good thing because it meant I truly had to start over?

          After a bit of wailing and hair-pulling, my silver-lining syndrome kicked in and I began thinking positive. But excuse me while I stamp around and rage, and maybe even cry, for at least another hour.  

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

On the Road with Charles

One of Charles Kuralt’s On The Road RVs on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. — Photo by Pat Bean

The Joy of Soft News

          “The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines,” wrote Charles Kuralt, a role model for both my journalism career, and the nine years I traveled the back roads of America in a small RV with a canine companion.

           Kuralt began his On the Road television series in 1967, the same year I began my 37-year journalism career. The first time I saw one of the segments, I knew he was the kind of journalist I wanted to be, one who reported on good people who lived their lives quietly, each unique in her or his own way.

          I, partially if not completely, met that goal. While I did cover the nitty-gritty political stuff, and horrendous child abuse and murder trials, and even the tragical September 11,2001 terrorist attack, I also wrote many upbeat stories about interesting, good people involving uplifting achievements and events. I considered every one of those stories my job’s silver lining.

          In 2006, after I was retired, I visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where my favorite exhibit was one of the six On-the-Road RVs that Kuralt used during his 20 years to find and report America at its best. I blogged about it at the time, and later wrote about the experience in Travels with Maggie.

          Kuralt’s influence on me came back to my mind yesterday when I was reading one of my journals and came across the notes about my museum visit. Curious to know how long Charles had driven the back roads of America — it was 20 –led me to the internet, and the discovery of our 1967 connection. It also led me to discover that segments of On the Road can still be seen today.

          So, if you want an escape from today’s hard news, check it out at 20 Years On The Road with Charles Kuralt – Bing video Or you can just type in a search for Charles Kuralt videos and a bunch of links will pop up.

          Have fun.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

This painting is nothing more than blobs of color, but they come together to make a whole that is pleasing. This watercolor was also painted by two different people. Is there a lesson here? — Art by Pat Bean and Jean Gowen

An Unlikely Hero

A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.”

“One thing is clear to me: We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves.”

“What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

“The imperative is to define what is right and do it.”

“Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.”

“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.”

While doing some research for a story, I came across the above quotes. They touched my heart, and had me asking why aren’t our leaders saying these kinds of things today. 

If you hadn’t already guessed, these words came from a tall, outspoken, husky-voiced Black women from Texas, Barbara Jordan, whom I was privileged to write about in my early journalism years. She was from Houston, and I worked for a newspaper just 50 miles away.

 Barbara (1936-1996) was the first Black woman to be elected to the Texas State Senate, and in 1972, she became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

She served three terms before retiring to become a professor at the University of Texas. While Jordan’s quotes from above touched me, this one chilled me to the bone: “But this is the great danger America faces. That we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual. Each seeking to satisfy private wants.”

I think she perfectly described America as it is today, and it deeply saddens me. What do you think?

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Then Being Then

I never felt like a fish out of water when I was in a newsroom, but there were many times I felt like I was alone in a fish bowl with everyone keeping an eye on me simply because I was often a woman doing a man’s job. — Art by Pat Bean

A Shared Past

I’m listening to Madelaine Albright’s latest book, Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir, which she reads herself. As I read, I find myself greatly identifying with the author because of our shared years of experiences. She’s 84 and I’m 82.

Although I never reached the fame Madelaine did, we were both working mothers during a time when that was looked down upon; we both survived working with men before the Me Too Movement; and we both side-stepped inappropriate work-involved situations so as not to hurt our chances of advancing in our jobs. 

Madelaine, I thought, summed it all up with her comment after an incident involving a male chauvinistic quip while she was seeking campaign funding during a Dollars for Democrats fund drive. One man told her he had “No money for Democrats, but five dollars for you babe.”

“Then being then,” she said, she chose to simply ignore the comment and move on with her task. It made me remember the many times something similar happened to me and I, too, ignored it.

Madelaine and I also both lived through a time of female firsts, like the first woman to become a Fortune 500 CEO, the first woman to drive in the Indy 500, the first woman on the Supreme Court, and on and on. As a working journalist when these events and many others on lesser scales happened, I wrote newspaper stories about the achievements – to the point I never wanted to do another first woman story in my life.

On my own personal level, I was the first woman to infiltrate several, all male newspaper editorial decision-making meetings. I quickly learned that the first words out of one of the men’s mouths would be: “OK guys. We have a lady present. We have to watch our language.”

Translated, I understood that to mean she can’t handle our world, and considered it a big put down.

While I’m not exactly fast on the uptake, I think I got this one right for then being then. I, who never cussed, followed the man’s comments with my own. “That’s right. You mother #@&*%#* sons of a #@^%&* just better watch your language.” That got a laugh, and the point across that I could handle just as much as the men could.

And that’s kind of how I handled most of my career. While I one hundred and ten percent supported the equal rights movement back then, I never talked about it at work, or complained when I wasn’t treated equally, (well, except for equal pay for equal work) because I saw that feminist-talking women were thought uppity and the Good Old Boys Club – why in the hell isn’t there a Good Old Girls Club frustrates me — edged those women out of advancement. I saw it time and time again. Meanwhile I stood by feeling helpless … Because, as Madelaine said, “Then being then.”

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

These tiny purple flowers grow all around my apartment complex. I try to always take the time to stop and enjoy them. — Photo by Pat Bean

          I just started reading Ordinary Skin: Essays from Willow Springs by Amy Hale Auker, and it touched my soul before I had even finished the first page. Amy talks about imagining her wings and fins and claws and then catching the light of the day and snuggling back into her ordinary skin.

I read books for many reasons: To learn new things, to escape to new worlds, to discover that others can feel as much of an outcast as I have most of my life, to share experiences, and to be inspired to live better and write better.    

          Amy’s book is a series of essays inspired by her life on Spider Ranch, which covers a sprawling 72 square miles of Central Arizona landscape whose elevation ranges from 3,400 feet to 6,100 feet. It is full of canyons, bears, cactus and cactus wrens.

          It’s about a woman finding its beauty and her place in this landscape, just as it was in her first book of essays, Rightful Place. That book’s setting was the Texas Panhandle’s Llano Estacada.

          Books like these, and the many others I’ve read that involve wild, rural and isolated lands as inspiration, inspire me to write my own essays about finding my own place in the landscape, like I sort of did in my book Travels with Maggie.

          But instead of living on a sprawling ranch today, I live in a large apartment complex. Thankfully, its located in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, is surrounded on one side by a tiny bit of undeveloped desert, and has three landscaped courtyards where flowers grow, and giant Ponderosas, Russian Olive, tall Palms and other trees provide shade for the Sonoran Deserts’ blazing hot summers.

          Living alone provides me with all the solitude I need, and daily walking my canine companion, who wants to say Hello! Please scratch my ears! to everyone he meets, fills my need for human interaction.

          Hummingbirds daily dance around my two third-floor balconies, a pair of Great Horned Owls serenade my evenings with their hoos, while coyotes sometimes howl in harmony. As an old broad who has had her fill of yard work and owning homes that had to be maintained, apartment living suits me.

          Life is good. Especially since I have books to let me imagine different landscapes and lifestyles.

          Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Great Horned Owl — Art by Pat Bean

          The western sky was glowing orange and purple as I walked down the stairs from my third-story apartment to give my canine companion Scamp his last walk of the day. I stopped to watch — while Scamp watered a couple of trees — as the fiery scene slowly vanished below the horizon. Never have I lived where such a late evening sight happens most nights of the year.

          And just as the colors coalesced into the dark hues of night, our resident female Great Horned Owl silently swooped across the courtyard to land in the giant Ponderosa where she often sits for hours. She and her mate have raised chicks here in the apartment complex all but one year since I moved here in 2013. It’s easy to tell the genders of the pair because the female is about a third larger than the male, a common trait of raptors.

          The night felt magical, as if the Sun and the Owl had put on a special performance for my eyes only. Such moments seem to happen to me a lot, but I never tire of them. While I still have itchy feet that wants to explore all the places I’ve never been, I’m glad my own backyard can still thrill me.

          Richard Bode, author of First You Have to Row a Little Boat, said he once met once met a man who had visited every exotic place from the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall, but then admitted he hadn’t seen the songbirds in his own backyard.

          I met quite a few people like that when I was traveling this country in a small RV. People, like me, came from all over to visit some waterfall, cave, or other wonder of nature, and the person who lived just 10 miles away had never taken the time to view it. How sad.

          If ever there was a time that we needed to be given proof that beauty and wonder can exist amongst chaos, these days are it. I need sunsets and owls, and colorful flowers and fall leaves, and hummingbirds and coyotes to keep me sane.

And thankfully, they’re all just outside my apartment door.

          Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Keeping Busy With Birds

A bit messy but I never would have tried this Black-Capped Chickadee post without taking the art class.

I took a bird history/drawing Atlas Obscura Zoom class yesterday afternoon. The instructor noted that birds evidently had a lot of fans, judging by the number of participants who signed up for the short course.

She’s right. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey, 51.3 million Americans watch birds, and the hobby is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in this country.

I became one of the addicted in 1999. And my life has been richer because of it. My latest way to watch birds, given that Covid’s isolated me from taking field trips with other birders, are live bird cams. Check out explore.org if you are interested.

This morning I watched a bald eagle sitting on a snow-filled nest near Decorah, Iowa, a blue-gray tanager at a Panama fruit feeder, and puffins in a burrow off the coast of Maine. I especially like watching the fruit feeder because I personally have to identify the birds that visit it, which often involves an extra bit of research.

I’ve kept a life list of birds I’ve seen personally in the field for 22 years now – 700 plus different species. The list grew rapidly in my early years of birding, but now grows only by one or two birds a year, if I’m lucky.

So, I’ve started a second list of virtual birds. The criteria for this list include a good visual observation, location of the bird, and a bit of research about any bird I list. My impossible goal is that the list will eventually grow to 10,000 bird species, which is almost as many birds as there are on this planet.

As an avid list maker, and an old broad who is retired, it’s an ideal activity, as is drawing birds. It was a fun class that began with the instructor noting birds evolved from dinosaurs. I already knew that. Did you?

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.