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Aging My Way

“Today is my favorite day,” said Winnie the Pooh.”

Well, since today, Jan. 18, is Winnie the Pooh Day, it’s a good day for him to say that. But I think this is how this loveable cartoon character begins every day.

          It’s a great way to look at life, and one I’m striving to adopt for 2023, even if I’m had to make a few recent changes in my lifestyle, like moving from a third-floor to a ground floor apartment and using a rollator if I’m going to walk more than half a block.

Pride, be damned, I would rather walk, which the rollator allows me to do pain-free, than be a couch potato. So, yes, today is a very good day.

But looking back — which is something you do a lot of when you’re 83 – I realize I’ve had thousands of great days, like the ones each of my five children were born, and the grands and the greats in the years following.

Then there was the day I walked into a newspaper newsroom, and truly felt at home for the first time in my life. It would continue to feel that way for the next 37 years. I was truly blessed for finding work and a career that made me happy.

I delighted in the days that I took grandkids on their first roller coaster rides. And how can I ever forget my first ride down a river through white-water rapids, something that would continue to give me unrestrained joy for the next 25 years.

And the days I bounced around in an open-to-the-sky Land Rover chasing African wildlife across Kenya and Tanzania with my forever friend Kim.

 And all the days I traveled around this country in a small RV with my canine companion Maggie. And the day my book, Travels with Maggie, came off the press.

They were all favorite days. As were all the days I spent birdwatching. Each was a favorite day, even if the birds were scarce.

And I’m thankful for all the friends I’ve made and the good times we’ve had since I settled in Tucson in 2013. I’m thankful for every one of those past days, and for those that I know are still ahead of me, too.  

So today, to echo Pooh, is my favorite day. And it will be my favorite day tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, an enthusiastic birder, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.  

And Why the Hell Not?

Jungle Aviary by Pat Bean — Sometimes my thoughts are as jumbled as this charcoal sketch

Aging My Way

“Frequently, while I’m reading, a sentence will grab me; and force me to stop and think. And then I reach for a special notebook where I record every Damn Fine Sentence that’s made me stop,” wrote Dawn Downey

When I read that statement, I immediately identified with the writer. This is me, I thought. I’m often copying down sentences that are examples of great writing, or sentences that make me stop and think, or ones that make me search out more information on a subject.

The truth is I’ve copied down a lot of what other writers have to say over the years; sometimes because the writing itself sings to me, sometimes because it makes me rethink ideas past their time, and sometimes just because I find the writer’s thoughts interesting or meaningful.

But I’ve usually written these things down in my daily journal, and then they get lost in the written jetsam and flotsam of an unorganized brain that hops around and around from one varied thought to another.

Dawn’s words, however, spurred me to consider keeping a similar journal to the one she wrote about. As I was mulling this idea over, I came across a sentence I had recently written down in my current journal, one that posed a simple question: “And why the hell not?”

It struck me that this was a sentence with a lot of strength in it. The outcome of all this dazzling brain work was that I did start my own Every-Damn Fine-Sentence Journal.

“And why the hell not?” became its first sentence.

This same sentence has gone on to become a mantra for me, one that reminds me to both make better use of my time, and as a dare to do something new or different.

I think it’s a damn fine sentence. What do you think?

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, an enthusiastic birder, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Saw-Whet Owl — The silver lining of aging is that I have more time to observe birds and paint them. — Art by Pat Bean

As An Old Broad Sees It

I married young, had five children, then joined the work force a month before I turned 28. I was lucky. I fell into a job that I loved so much that I overlooked how hard I struggled to make it all come together as a working mom. I actually believed I could have it all. That makes me laugh now. Today’s women are wiser.

I joined the work force in 1967, long before the much-needed Me-Too Revolution took place. It was also a time in history when women, in large numbers, were finally speaking up for equal opportunities and equal rights and pay as men.

We women have come a long way since then. Just one example is that in the 1960s, women accounted for only 3 percent of the nation’s lawyers. Today that number is over 40 percent. Ruth Baden Ginsburg pointed out the growing numbers of female lawyers in her book My Own Words.

But on a more personal level, I see my granddaughters struggle with finding jobs that they enjoy, but also jobs that let them have a life outside of work. And they are not alone. Just this morning I came across two articles, one in the N.Y. Times, and one that just popped up because I was reading the Times piece. (Sometimes I think the computer gods know more about what I should want than I do.)

Wrote Roxane Gay in the Times article: “… People want something different, something more. They want more satisfaction or more money or more respect. They want to feel as if they’re making a difference. They want to feel valued or seen or heard. They want the man in the next cubicle to chew less loudly so they are afforded more peace … They want to have more time for themselves and interests beyond how they spend their professional lives. They want and want and want and worry that they will never receive the satisfaction they seek.

I’ve heard the same thoughts from my granddaughters.

These are thoughts this old broad, raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression, is only now beginning to hear. During my parents’ era, the main concern was simply for the man of the family to have a job, hopefully one that the family could survive on, never mind if he liked the job or not.

I remember hearing my father say, when my mother finally went to work after the children were all gone, “her salary only pays for what the IRS now charges me in taxes.” This wasn’t true but it salvaged his pride that his wife was working. She, actually, was a better provider than he had ever been.

Now retired, I have time to reflect on all the advances we women, and men, have made over the years. l think having a life outside of work is a worthy idea, especially, since as a journalist of my era, I met hundreds of people who hated their jobs but didn’t have the advantage of quitting, or so they thought.

If I hadn’t fallen into a job I loved, and which gave me all the satisfaction I needed, I could have been one of them.

Now, I’m just an old broad enjoying her retirement, and having time to look at the world a bit differently. I find this quandary of life and its many changes fascinating – but glad I’m not in the middle of the quandary. Being an old broad does have its silver linings.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, enthusiastic birder, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

When Ideas Collide

Sunflowers in a fish bowl? Now that’s a debateable idea. — art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

I’m reading My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom I’ve admired ever since hearing her answer to the question: How many women do you think should be on the Supreme Court? “Nine” was her reply, noting that nobody thought anything was wrong about having nine men on the court.

But although I admire her for that statement and looked at her as one of my feminine role models, I kind of disagree. If nothing else my 83 years on this planet has given me, I’ve learned that women and men think differently.

And in my opinion, as a former journalist, that’s not a bad thing. It provides a greater scope of possibilities for coming up with the best solutions to problems or situations. Or as the saying goes: “Two heads are better than one.”

My personal fight over the years has simply been one to have the same opportunities, and the same pay for the same work as men. And the opposite, as well.

And that brings me to Ruth’s tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was often on the opposite side of an issue than Ruth. Even so, the two were best friends.

Wrote Ruth about this dichotomy: “I attack ideas, I don’t attack people. Some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job.”

These words console me in my own life, because like so many other people these days, I have friends and loved ones on the opposite sides of the political polarization that has Americans at odds these days.

I think it couldn’t help but be a more pleasant world if more people thought like Ruth – and attacked ideas instead of people.

What do you think?

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

If you looked in the mirror and saw this, you would say the S-word too. — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

I moderate a small Story Circle Network writing forum, and often provide a writing prompt for the group, suggesting they write about it for 20 minutes.

A recent prompt was “Four-letter Words.’ I added that mine started with an S.

The prompt brought about the following email conversation, which made me smile. Maybe you will too.

Lucy:  I did write the prompt about 4 letter words, and I use the S one too.  Sometimes it best describes what I need it to.

Me: Just now answering email Lucy. I feel closer to you knowing you use the S-word too. For me it’s all about frustration. I started using it in the early days of computers – when the Mergenthal computer I used at work would eat my copy.

Vicky: The s* word rules. It’s so fluid and close to “O crap” enough that it serves when nothing else does! Shit, shet, shit!

Nancilynn: I’ll never forget hearing old Sister Pat, the Board Chair walk past my desk with a sheaf of papers as she uttered “Oh Shit” and not under her breath. It goes to show how a well- used phrase can imprint a memory on you!

Me: Someone once told me that you can say shit and still remain a lady if you pronounce it with a Texas accent and use three syllables. That was shortly after I moved to Utah from Texas. I still sometimes pronounce it sh-ie-et! Loving this conversation

Lucy: My mother never cursed or allowed us to.  One morning I was upstairs getting ready for school when I heard her downstairs let out a very loud SHIT!!  She immediately rushed up the stairs to tell me she was sorry and then showed me her burned hand.  We both laughed and the S word was from then on allowed, except when Grandma came over.

Nancilynn: Well, that just goes to show you.

So, what’s your favorite four-letter word?

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Written words meaningful to me often find their way even into my sketchbook. — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

In the 1980s, I became a big fan of Dorothy Gilman’s books and many of the words spoken by her unlikely heroine Mrs. Pollifax, ended up in my journals. Her telling someone that we can’t live our lives the way we set a table especially spoke to me, because that was exactly how I was trying to live my life at that time.

While knives and forks may be arranged in perfect order, I was learning that it would be a cold day in hell before my life would work like that. Mrs. Pollifax helped me accept this, and was also a rung for me to hang on to as I passed through a messy season full of challenges, love, heartbreak, and almost too many changes to count.

While my life is more peaceful and calm these days, I still treasure the written word. Perhaps it is because I, too, am a writer. Whatever, I just know I’m thankful for the inspiration and enlightenment printed words have given me.

It seems as if for every emotion, every passage (Gail Sheehy’s Passages. 1976) I pass through, some writer had the same thoughts, the same emotions. Their words let me know I’m not alone. Which is why my journals are full of quotes that were meaningful to me.

The first quote I remember striking my fancy happened in high school when the class was studying Shakespeare. “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Those words mean even more to me today than when I first wrote them down.

I’ve learned that certain writers touch my inner thoughts time and time again. Dorothy Gilman, John MacDonald, Robert Frost, Louise Penny, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Sandburg, Gloria Steinem, Mercedes Lackey, Edward Abby, John Irving, Rod McKuen, Jan Morris, even Hunter Thompson in my crazy moments. And so many, many more.

Once, during a period of insecurity, I came upon the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay that cheered me onward. “Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand. Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand,” she wrote. I didn’t read these words in a book by Millay, but rather in a biography of Margaret Mead, who had also found meaning in the quote.

Meanwhile, the words of Rod McKuen were, and still are, one of my favorite quotes. “Nobody’s perfect, and that’s one of the best things that can be said about man.”   

 Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

I’m thankful I had my canine companion Scamp at my side during the good and the bad times of 2022.

Aging My Way

 It’s that time of year when I put together a list of 100 things that I’m thankful for. In no specific order, my list for 2022 includes:

  1. That I got my leg and back pain under control after a setback that put me in a dark place for over two months.    
  2. For all the friends and family who were there for me during this time.
  3. For finding a new first-floor place to live in so quickly after being forced to give up by third-floor apartment that I lived in and loved for almost 10 years.
  4. For loving my new home.
  5. For my canine companion Scamp, who worried about me and was beside me my whole painful journey.
  6. And even for his stubbornness not to use the small fenced-in patio area for his toilette, since it means I get at least some daily exercise because I have to walk him, even if it means using my new rollator to do it.
  7. For my regained zest for life and search for silver linings.
  8. For the world’s multitude of book writers – and that I’m an avid reader and also a writer, because it means I will never be bored.
  9. For the birds that visit my new place.
  10.  That a granddaughter and her wife were able to move into my same apartment complex so there would always be family close by, and especially for the love they have given me.
  11.  That I am once again able to take care of my own needs – mostly. I can’t lift anything heavy.
  12.  For my writing colleagues, and Story Circle Network, the women’s writing organization that has been my support group for 12 years now.
  13.  For the brilliant colors of fall.
  14.  For the luxury of a hot bath.
  15.  For Reese’s peanut butter cups.
  16.  For trees, especially the two giant blooming oleanders and the cottonwood that grow in my small patio yard.
  17.  For the wonder of the Internet’s instant information source and for its connection to friends and family – but also for my sense not to believe everything I read.
  18.  For soft comfortable pajamas, which I could live in all day if I didn’t have to walk Scamp.
  19.  For my rubber tree plant, which came back to me 12 years after I left it to go galivanting around the country in my RV. It likes its new home.
  20.  For grand and great-grandkids and their wonderful parents, and for all my kids and their families.
  21.  For a happy hour, anytime, with a Jack and Coke.
  22.  For live theater, especially on a local level that offers affordable tickets.
  23.  For new friends.
  24.  For stimulating conversations, even if it’s just with myself and my journal.
  25.  For Dusty, who is Scamp’s best canine friend, and who I’ve babysat while her mom is at work for nearly 10 years now.
  26.  Warm, soft blankets on cold days.
  27.  Air conditioning and heating.
  28.  For my journals – and that I’ve been keeping them for 50 years now.
  29.  The mountain view from my bedroom window.
  30. The solar lights that brighten up my patio at night.
  31.  Scamp’s great groomer, especially because he has a bad report card and no one else wants to groom him.  
  32.  For audible books that make lying awake at night a pleasure instead of a pain.
  33.  A hot cup of tea. Lemon-ginger is my favorite.
  34.  For libraries. May they never go away.
  35.  Receiving, and writing, snail-mail letters from old friends who haven’t forgotten how to write them.
  36.  The smell of the desert landscape after a rain.
  37.  For all the good memories I’ve made in my 83 years on Planet Earth.
  38.  For kind people.
  39.  For the comfortable Roadhouse Cinema where I can watch matinee movies on the big screen and eat lunch at the same time.
  40.  For the colorful, fun paintings, mostly mine, that brighten up my white walls.
  41.  For comfortable shoes.
  42.  For good surprises, not the flat tire or my car won’t start kind.
  43.  That decisions can be reversed.
  44.  For my comfortable new mattress, which I finally broke down and bought this past year.
  45.  For Advil.
  46.  For my chicken and rice, which is my comfort food for days that need to be made more joyful.
  47.  That I got to make a road trip to Texas this year before my leg pain hit me, and reduced the distance I can comfortably drive.
  48.  For jigsaw puzzles, which I love to build.
  49.  For board and card games and healthy competition.
  50.  For Social Security.
  51.  Modern appliances so I have time to read.
  52.  The Desert Bird of Paradise plant that blooms all around my new apartment complex. The orange and red blossoms have become my favorite flower.
  53. My morning cream-laced coffee.
  54.  For the tiny gnome garden my long-time friend Kim created for me around my cottonwood tree when she visited me from Utah.
  55. For laughter in my life, even if it’s at myself.
  56.  That I’m finally learning how to use a smart phone after fighting against making it a priority for years. `
  57.  For the tall lamp I found at a thrift store for $12, and which brightens up my living room.
  58.  For all the strong women who have influenced my life – too many to name.
  59.  For my curiosity and the insatiable longing to learn something new every day.
  60.  For sunrises and sunsets.
  61.  For Pond’s moisturizing cream, as nothing else seems to work for me.
  62.  For butterflies, which I seem to have seen, and painted, quite a few this past year.
  63.  For gardenias, because their smell reminds me of my grandmother.
  64.  That I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
  65.  For all the rollercoaster rides I took when I could.
  66.  For rivers, and lakes and waterfalls.
  67.  For twinkling Christmas tree lights.
  68.  For my wrinkles and experiences.
  69.  For hugs – and doggie kisses.
  70.  For a new haircut.
  71.  For my heating pad when my knee is hurting.
  72.  For a good pen.
  73.  That I discovered Louise Penny’s Inspector Garmache series this past year. I’m on Book 11.
  74.  For a rainy day, and the excuse it gives me to curl up on the sofa with a good book.
  75.  For my home physical therapist, who helped me get better.
  76.  For the colorful clay turtle my friend Jean brought me back from Mexico and which now brightens my patio.
  77.  For local parks with paved trails that accommodate my rollator.
  78.  For my Kindle.
  79.  For cheddar/sour cream potato chips.
  80.  For being able to still drive, if only for short distances.
  81.  For being born in America, and for the privileges I’ve had as a woman because of it.
  82.  For the corny jokes a son tells me during his daily calls.
  83.  For no longer having to pay long-distance charges to talk to a loved one.
  84.  For America’s national parks and scenic byways, and for being able to see and travel so many of them.
  85.  For the great horned owls that I got to see grow up this past year.
  86.  For the daily e-mails I share with a daughter-in-law.
  87.  For artists whose paintings inspire me, like Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Donna Howell-Sickles’ cowgirls.
  88.  For talking once again to an estranged loved one.
  89.  For my improved vision after cataract surgery.
  90.  For my microwave, which heats up leftovers so easily.
  91.  For the howl of nearby coyotes.
  92.  For the saguaro cacti that can be seen all around Tucson.  
  93.  For antibiotics and vaccinations.
  94.  For wrinkle-free clothes – and the fact I don’t own an iron.
  95.  For new sox and underwear.
  96.  That I enjoy my own company and never suffer from loneliness. Having the time and solitude to connect the dots of my life is a treasure.
  97.  On the other hand, I love company, including drop-by friends who always make my days more interesting.
  98.  Rainbows, of which I’ve viewed quite a few this year.
  99.  My renewed interest in finally writing the memoir about my journalism career.

100 And last, but not least, I’m thankful for all the readers of my blog. Thank you.

Just some doodles — but I liked it and so I kept it. — Art by Pat Bean

Aging my Way

Some days a thought pops into my head and then keeps rolling.

For example, this morning I came across a quote by Isaac Asimov, who wrote that the most exciting phrase to hear in science is not “Eureka, I found it,” but rather “Hmm, that’s funny.”

The thought made me laugh out loud.

Then a frame from the commercial of peanut butter and chocolate colliding to create peanut butter cups flashed across my brain. Perhaps that was because I had recently received a surprise box from my guardian angel daughter-in-law that included some Reese’s minis, my favorite candy.

Then my thoughts jumped to art, and I thought of my watercolor paintings and the pieces that were created, as Bob Ross used to say, by happy accidents. Art, I might note, that I often liked much better than the pieces I had spent hours trying to make perfect.

And then the words of Leonard Cohen popped into my head: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I especially liked this thought because I’m come to know my own cracks – and appreciate them.

And then my curiosity sent me on a search to find things that had been created by accident; The list I came up with includes: rubber, Viagra, Teflon, gunpowder, safety glass, corn flakes, post-it notes, Velcro, x-ray, and penicillin.

And then my clock alarm rang. It had been set for 20 minutes, during which time I was supposed to be writing on my memoir, Between Wars. The page before me was blank.

I had set the timer because these days my body needs to move so as not to stiffen up. So, I got up, vacuumed my living room, reset my timer and wrote this blog.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

The Years Have Changed Me

Just as a butterfly changes from a caterpillar so have I changed … Art by Pat Bean

Aging my Way

What I write is a record of what’s currently banging around in my mind. Sometimes my thoughts, once shared though a pen on a blank page or my fingers on a computer’s keyboard, surprise me. Just as often they help me connect the dots in the tangled web of my thoughts.

Sometimes I choose to share what I’ve written, and sometimes I don’t. It may be because what I’ve written is a jumbled mess, or it may be that I think it’s too personal.

But what I do know is that what I’ve written one day, I won’t be able to write another day. Even a small span of time will have changed how I view life.  This is the joy, and the beauty, of being a journal keeper.

For 50 years now, I’ve written down my thoughts. Sometimes the journal keeping is sporadic, especially in the earlier years when six months or more of my life is sometimes missing. Sometimes, however, I’ve journaled daily, as is the usual case these days.

I like having a record of my life, one that shows me how much I’ve changed, how much I’ve grown, how sometimes I’ve even made a U-Turn in my core.

I’m thankful I’m a writer and journal keeper because, as Vita Sackville West said, “The writer catches the changes of his mind on the hop. Growth is exciting…”

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.

Learning from Experience

Watching the Sun creep towards the Watchman Campground at Zion National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

Aging my Way

Not sure what my brain was up to this morning, but after reading some words by Eleanor Roosevelt — “You gain strength, courage and confidence in every experience … You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along” – I thought of a few things I had lived through.

Like falling asleep in a hot bath and dropping the book I was reading into the water. Or sitting out a windstorm in Amarillo and being thrown six feet onto the ground by a huge gust when I opened the RV door.

I guess what I learned from those experiences was to not fall asleep in the bathtub, and to stay inside when the wind was gusting. Of course, I did continue to read in the bath (it was a safety zone away from my five children) and I still go outside on windy days.

Knowing is not always doing.

Then I remembered a horrible, horrible morning back in 2009 (that was how I referred to it in my journal) when I was camped out in Zion National Park. I had spilled coffee grounds inside my tennis shoes, used hand lotion instead of conditioner on my head, and then discovered my RV wouldn’t start because I had forgotten to turn its lights off after coming through Zion’s mile-long tunnel. To make things even worse, I couldn’t find my driver’s license.

Then a friend came along and got my RV started, and then found my driver’s license. While he couldn’t do anything about my hair, he fixed us both some coffee – with fresh grounds – while I dumped the ones in my tennis shoes in the trash.

As we sat outside and drank the coffee, with a little Irish Cream added to ward off the chill until the sun creeped up and over the red-rock ridges to our east, I knew what I had learned that day. It’s good to have a handy friend.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is an avid reader, the author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), is always searching for life’s silver lining, and these days aging her way – and that’s usually not gracefully.