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If my art had to be perfect, I would never draw. As Leonard Cohen said “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

I’m Not Perfect, But I’m Enough

“Doesn’t it feel fabulous to be an entirely reborn person with flawless habits, unbroken willpower and a rose-tinted view of the future? Oh, that doesn’t describe you? Me neither.”

The above comment, which I recently came across in an opinion piece about books to read in the new year, had me belly-laughing. I rarely get through a week before any New Year’s resolutions I was foolish enough to make are broken.

Once upon a time, but not in a galaxy far away, this foolish writer strived to be the perfect wife and the perfect mother. The milestone marker in my life, which didn’t happen until I was in my mid-30s, was the day that I realized I didn’t have to be perfect. And not only did I not have to be perfect, I no longer wanted to be perfect.

When someone assailed me about something I had done wrong, I began simply replying “You’re right,” which always took the sails out of whoever was harassing me. I even reveled in the childish delight of their dismay.

But while I’m not perfect, I’m enough. I’m not mean, and I have never intentionally tried to harm anyone. I take pride in knowing that, and that I’ve finally joined the rest of the human race in not being perfect.

Now, as for books to read, if you’re a mystery fan, but would like a little something beyond cozy, you might want to check out Louise Penney’s Inspector Gamache series. I recently discovered the books, which delve deeply into just how imperfect we humans are. I’m currently reading The Brutal Telling, which is Book 5 of 17.

I love it when I find a new author who has a long series. Now, that’s what I call a perfect moment.

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.

Believe in Yourself

Shoneshone Falls, as painted by Thomas Moran. One of the nicest things about Twin Falls, Idaho was its scenic location near the Snake River Gorge and this waterfall, which was located just six miles away from my home in town. The original of this painting was found in the local library during my two-year stay in the small Southern Idaho town. I remember those days, and my former boss, Steve Hartgen fondly.

Men do, Too Many Women Don’t

I recently received news that Steve Hartgen, the former managing editor of the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I worked as regional editor for two years in the mid-1980s, had died.

I had accepted the job at the small local newspaper during a transitional time in my life.  It was the first time that I was entirely on my own. Divorced and with all my children on their own in the world, I was kind of full of myself.

Steve was a hard-nosed newsman who didn’t go easy on his reporters when he didn’t think they were doing their best. I respected him, and we got along well, mostly I think because he allowed me to stand up to him when I thought he was wrong. I never thought of him as sexist, but several of the female reporters did. They complained to me — because I was a woman like them and would understand — that our managing editor was harder on women than he was on the male reporters.

I didn’t see it that way. There was no question in my mind about Steve being hard on the female reporters, because he was. But as I saw it. Steve treated both the men and the women exactly the same harsh way. So, what was the difference? I asked myself this question, and then began to look for answers. It didn’t take long for me to come to a conclusion.

 When the men received a lecture from the managing editor, they listened, nodded, then afterwards shrugged it off, not convinced they had done anything wrong, certainly not something they should worry about. The women, meanwhile, took every word of the boss’ admonitions to heart, some even crying about it. They feared being fired, and always promised to do better.

The difference was clearly the amount of self-confidence the men had, and the lack of self-confidence the women suffered from. It was something I had seen before but not understood, and something I would see again many times during the remainder of my journalism career.

I learned a lot from working with Steve Hartgen those two years, especially the need to stand up for myself because no one else probably would. As to Steve, he will be missed. The news media needs more of his kind today: Hardnosed newswomen and newsmen who believe facts and truth are important for readers to know, but especially those whose only agendas are truth and facts and not their personal agendas.

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.

Schadenfreude

Thistles look pretty but are prickly, just like us humans.

The Meaning of a New Word

I was scanning through the New York Times this morning in search of something to write about when I came across the word schadenfreude. As usual when I come across a word I don’t know – and this has been a habit even before I hit my teens – I stopped reading and looked the word up.

Schadenfreude means taking pleasure from someone else’s misfortune. Now who in the hell would want to do that, I instantly thought. But then I remembered how much pleasure it gave me over the years when I heard my narcistic ex-husband was having a bad time. So much for my momentary feeling of superiority.

And I knew if I thought about it longer, I would come up with other instances in which I took pleasure from someone else’s pain. We humans are not a nice lot. I’ve long known this, but it was confirmed in my head even stronger after reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a book I highly recommend, by the way.

The book concluded that we humans were the cause of most extinctions and that groups of more than 100 humans quickly found something to go to war over – beginning with religion and politics. The big item in today’s news that has everybody disagreeing is Covid. Masks, no masks. Vax or no vax. Isolation or herd immunity.

I wonder how humankind is still managing to survive?

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.

 

Scamp on my bed waiting for me to get dressed to take him on his morning walk.

Does a Dog Count?

The number of people living alone is increasing, up noticeably since 1990, I recently read.

 Not surprising to me, as it’s how many of my friends live. I’ve now spent exactly half of my 82 years living alone. And I love it. While I have married friends who are quite happy sharing living quarters, I also have married friends who envy my lifestyle.

Looking back, I now think I’ve aways wanted to live alone. It’s amazing what you discover about yourself as you grow older, like why I sabotaged my own search for a true soul mate after I divorced the man I had married when I was just 16. He certainly hadn’t been that soul mate my heart so desired.

But wanting to live alone doesn’t mean that I don’t want people in my life. As Barbara Streisand said, and I believe: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Perhaps it’s selfish, but I want to eat when I want to eat, go to bed when I want too, whether it’s 7 p.m. or 2 a.m., and be alone when I want to be alone.

One realization that I’ve always felt this way came to me when I realized that in my visualization of a lifetime dream of traveling this country full-time – which I did for nine years in a small RV – no other person was ever with me.

Well, I did have Maggie during my travels. And now I have Scamp as a canine companion. Maybe technically, I don’t live alone. And while I can go to bed anytime I want, Scamp demands that I wake up with the sun to take him for a walk.

Instead of being grumpy about this, I realize he’s my balance to a better life. I need to get up, and I need to keep moving.  

The truth is, each of us, has to find what works for themselves. There’s no one right way.  I feel blessed because I have found what works for me.

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.

Goal for a New Year

New Year’s Eve with loved ones, friends and the Beasties. I’m the old lady everyone is sitting on.

On Hold for What Seens Like Forever

          A recent New York Times headline had me nodding my head in agreement. “A Nation on Hold Wants to Speak to a Manager,” it said, then went on to talk about how people are losing it, and not just after spending endless hours waiting to talk to a real person on the phone.

And not just screaming about it – as I did a couple of days ago when I couldn’t stand one more minute of the annoying music that was playing while I was waiting to cancel a wellness appointment with my doctor. I felt fine and didn’t want to risk getting Covid from a crowded waiting room.

People are getting abusive when the grocery store is out of their favorite cheese, airline passengers are becoming violent, and road rage abuse and resulting deaths are no longer a rare headline.

Now, I’m not a patient person. In fact, before I took up bird watching 23 years ago, I kind of felt patience was an excuse for couch sitters. Age, of course, has taught me better.

But for the first time in my life, I’m entering a new year with not much hope that it’s going to get better. That’s hard for me to say because I still do believe every bad thing that happens is followed by a silver lining. You don’t get the job you wanted but you end up in a better position. You move to a place where you know no one, but it forces you to better stand on your own feet and you eventually make new friends.

But patience is required before those things happen.

I don’t know about you, but this coming year, I am going to just live each day trying to fully enjoy mundane little things, like the laughter that flowed through me this morning when I walked my canine companion, Scamp.

We met up with Rhonda, who was walking her dog, Buddy. The two dogs immediately greeted each other doggie style – by sniffing butts. Then they both peed on the same tree.

“We have our e-mails, and dogs have their pee-mails,” she laughingly said.

Perhaps laughter will help me get through this coming year. I sure hope so.

Happy New Year.

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.

The Face in the Mirror

I’ve discovered with age that about the only regrets I have are the things I haven’t done. Thankfully that’s not too many, so I’ll just try to age as gracefully as I can.

Not a Pretty Sight

I’ve never been one to spend much time looking in a mirror, usually just for getting my night-tangled hair in some semblance of order and brushing my teeth. Except for hating my freckles when I was a young teenager and using thick makeup to hide them for a couple of years, I’ve pretty much always gone with the natural look.  

 I gave up mascara in my 40s because it irritated my eyes, have never thought I looked good in lipstick, and stuck with a simple base with sunscreen and a little blush as my only makeup. Well, if you want to be technical, I did color my hair for over 50 years.

When young, I had pale blonde hair, but it darkened to dishwater blonde after I had kids. Too my delight, I discovered Clairol’s Nice and Easy No. 99 returned it to its original color. But then, about six years ago, I let it go natural. Today it’s pale gray and turning whiter each year – and getting thinner each year, too.

This morning when I looked in the mirror, I saw an old lady with wrinkles and age spots. I wanted to think that a stranger was standing in from of it, but I finally had to admit. I was looking at myself. I didn’t even look as good as I had that first glance in a mirror after 16 days at the bottom of the Grand Canyon without them.

I guess it’s time to follow Jessamyn West’s advice: “Groan and forget it.” Or maybe I’ll just close my eyes the next time I stand in front of a mirror.

Perhaps, I’m vainer than I thought.

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 morning sunrise in Tucumcari, New Mexico chases the darkness away. — Photo by Pat Bean

I recently read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s New Year’s poem, which was written in 1850. It quickly struck me that he could have well written the poem as an ode to 2021.

“… Ring out the old, ring in the new. Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go,
” wrote Tennyson.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind, for those that here we see no more. Ring out the feud of rich and poor … And ancient forms of party strife … Ring in the love of truth and right … Ring out old shapes of foul disease … Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace …Ring in the larger heart, the kindlier hand. Ring out the darkness of the land.”

In 1850, America was heading toward a Civil War that would pit families against their own families, even brother against brother. In China, the Qing and Han Dynasties were fighting each other, and India was beginning to revolt against Britain – just the bare surface of a world seemingly gone amok – sound familiar?

It’s as if history has taught us nothing.

 I kept thinking about this yesterday until I watched a show about the life of Rita Moreno, a Porta Rican actress who survived sexual abuse and discrimination to win an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony. Her Mantra: “Damn the shadows, here’s to the light.”

  Hey Rita, here’s to you. And to the light. May we all find it in 2022.

 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.

Happy holidays to all.

          It’s that time of year again. The time when I start thinking about resolutions for the New Year – even though I’ll probably break them before the first week of January has passed.

          The past two years, 2020 and 2021, haven’t been particularly great years for me because of Covid, but then that’s true for just about everybody. And being retired, 82 and with a small but adequate fixed income, I’ve fared far better than most. So, I’ll quit my whining and look for the silver linings.

          That’s harder this morning because the virus reared its ugly head and stared me straight in the face. My granddaughter and I had planned a road trip to Whitewater Draw two hours outside of Tucson to watch sandhill cranes. That was canceled because my granddaughter was with a friend who had been exposed to the virus. Since she loves me, she canceled our outing.

          Sh-ee-t! (I was raised in the South so this is how my favorite consternation word comes out sounding) I’ll be eating the picnic lunch that I had already prepared for the trip by myself today. Of course, there’s a silver lining with that. I won’t have to cook.

          Meanwhile, I love my own company and sharing that solitude with my canine companion Scamp – so I never feel lonely. That’s two more silver linings right there.

          But as a mother and working woman who once never had a moment to spare, I have now become the sole CEO of my own life. And while at my age, one has learned to let a lot of things go, I still want to make my days meaningful. Time, which passes so silently – and quickly – is very precious to me.

          That’s why I’ll be spending the next few days making a list of my New Year’s resolutions. I want to write more, learn more and be more. But I especially want to spread a message of kindness, which I believe the world is sadly in need of these days.

          Will you help?

          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.

Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. — Photo by Pat Bean

Connections

I just learned that when the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum renovated its hummingbird aviary in 1992, the new hummingbird nests kept falling apart. Museum workers scratched their heads for a while, but finally realized why this was happening.

 During the renovation, all the old vegetation inside the aviary was   removed, and replaced by new plants. The removal took away any spiders that inhabited the vegetation and the hummingbirds needed the web spiders produced to hold their nest materials together. The problem was solved by workers gathering branches that held such webs, and placing them inside the aviary until the spiders could reestablish their presence.

While digesting this bit of information, I came across a mindfulness tip about how to stay calm during these chaos-filled days when the news is all about Covid, political shenanigans and tornado deaths. It came from TV writer Cord Jefferson, who said traditional meditation didn’t work for him. What did, he said, was to just get lost in the gentle pulses of jellyfish for a short mindfulness break during his workday,” Cord then noted that Monterey Bay Aquarium has a jellyfish cam that can be bookmarked on a phone or laptop browser.

I’ve watched hummingbirds at the desert museum and the jellyfish at the aquarium in person, and found both these things calming. I think it’s just letting ourselves get out of our heads a bit that does the trick.

But reading these two stories back-to-back, made me realize how interconnected we beings on this world are. And by beings, I don’t just mean we two-legged sapiens. It’s certainly something to think about. Meanwhile, if you’re in Tucson or Monterey, you might want to check out the desert museum and the aquarium. Both are great places to visit.

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.

Madelaine Albright and My Granddaughter

          I had an enjoyable conversation with my granddaughter and her wife last night about working women and overcoming myths about the female gender, long considered the weaker sex.

          Having myself given birth to five children, I find that idea seriously demented, but I’ve heard it hundreds of times in my 82 years.

          Then, this morning, as I was reading Madelaine Albright’s book, Hell and Other Destinations, I came across the chapter about her pins, and the suggestion that she write about them.

          Her answer was a resounding “No way,” noting how demeaning it would be for the first woman secretary of state to write about her jewelry. It would be like one of the male presidents writing about their ties, she wrote, despite the fact that she often wore pins to convey how she felt about an issue. Just as one president was known for saying “Read my lips,” she became known for urging others to “Read my pins.”

          Some years down the road, Madelaine relented. While the Smithsonian put together the pin exhibit, she wrote Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewelry Box.

          In writing about this, Madelaine noted that in her day – and my day —   women emulated men in order to succeed. It’s time that ended, Madelaine suggested, noting that “punctured earlobes do not mean a leaky brain.”

          Now that’s a quote I’ll keep in my head for the next time my granddaughter and I have a gender conversation. But then she, and her wife, already know that women don’t have to emulate men to succeed.

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.