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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.

The Season of Old Age

Cattle Egret — I wonder if birds worry about aging? — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

There’s all sorts of advice out there in the media world these days about not letting yourself grow old. This morning I came across a piece that indicated no one should feel old until they’re well into their 80s, and that even then it was iffy.

Hmm… Well, I’m into my 80s.

Some days I feel old, and some days I feel younger than I was in my 20s and 30s, when I was bogged down with child care, a career and catastrophes around every corner.

I love not being responsible for anyone but myself, and not having to get up to the sound of an alarm clock – although sleeping in for me means I’m often up even before the sun. I’m a morning person.

The change in my life at my age is that if I feel like going to bed at 7 p.m., or even 6 p.m., I do so. And when I stay up until midnight, or later, it’s because I want to, not because I have responsibilities to fulfil before I can finally crawl beneath the covers.

I feel young when I can get out into nature and bird watch – and forget that I’ll never again make it up to the top of the mountain to see peregrine falcons flying beneath me.

I feel young when I’m behind the wheel of a car taking off for a road trip. The feeling lasts until my body screams: Stop and rest! And that happens well before dark. But then I never liked driving in the dark anyway. I want to see all the wonders I’m passing.

I feel young when I’m socializing with old friends and laughing together with them about the good old days. Of course, they weren’t all good, and these days aren’t all bad. At my age, you realize that nothing is ever perfect, but that what goes around comes around.

Age, meanwhile, has brought me peace, and a love for myself that youth kept just beyond my reach. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  I’m in the season I was meant to be in. So, pains and wrinkles be damned, I’m going to take each day as it comes – and be thankful for it.

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.

Eighteen Missing Cats

Cat No. 13: The Blue-Eyed Cat — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

I just realized I’m missing 18 cats – although I don’t own a single one.

Some people start a task and then finish it before starting 10 other projects. That’s not me. I get bored or distracted, bereft of ideas or anxious that I’m going to miss something, and then I go off on multiple tangents, leaving behind unfinished manuscripts, art work, and numerous other projects.

I don’t know if its old age setting in or something else, but I’ve decided to either finish a multitude of unfinished writing projects and folders full of art projects – or toss them as lost causes. I want to clear the decks for new ideas and new projects after crossing into new territory and a new season in my life.

Regarding the missing cats, I just came across the folder containing my artistic depictions of 12 cats. Eighteen, I realized, were missing. Almost two years ago, my brain reminded me, I had undertaken an art challenge to draw 30 cats. I even blogged about the challenge and posted art of the first cat on Feb. 3, 2021. That was followed by posts featuring 11 more cats.

As I recall, I had wanted each of the cats to be different, but that after 12, I ran out of ideas. I meant to think on the cat project a day or two and then complete it. But, of course, that never happened.

I’m not willing to toss the idea yet, however, so here’s Cat No. 13, with more to follow if the ideas flow. Age has given me the wisdom to stop making so many promises to myself … and the freedom to let each day take me where it will. I’m liking that.

Meanwhile, I’m now only missing 17 cats.

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.

Nature scenes take away the cacophony in my brain. — Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

When I was a kid, I read few children’s books, having graduated into adult fiction almost as soon as I could put words together into sentences.

I mean, how boring is: See Dick and Jane run with their dog, Spot. While Theodore Geisel’s first children’s book, And to Think What I Saw on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937, and I was born in 1939, I don’t recall ever seeing a Dr. Seuss book until I bought them for my own children in the 1960s.

My reading of adult books at such an early age, however, meant that I often came across words I didn’t understand. I simple passed over them, guessing their meaning from the context of what I was reading. But then came the day – I think I was about 11 – when the word cacophony had me stumped.

I remember rummaging through the chest of books that I had inherited from my late grandfather’s library, which included the complete works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens and even Kathleen Windsor’s Forever Amber – which I had to read a second time when I was older because a classmate called it a “dirty book – until I found a well-worn thick Webster’s Dictionary. I had known it was there, but I had only opened it once, thinking it was as boring as Dick and Jane.

Cacophony, I learned, meant a bunch of loud, discordant sounds. There was more, and I was fascinated. It would take more than a decade after that incident, before I had even an inkling that I wanted to be a writer. But I never stopped searching out the meaning of any strange, new words I came across.

At this point in my life, I absolutely love it when an author sends me scrambling for a dictionary. While the tattered Webster is long gone, I now resort to the internet to find meanings and answers.  

I do this almost daily, especially when I’m reading books written by authors like Peter Matthiessen, who casually uses such words as leucogeranus, and japonensis. Discovering the meaning of such words means I’ve met my goal of learning something new for the day.

Cacophony, meanwhile, is still one of my favorite words. What is yours?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.

It’s Nice to be Got

We are all strong — and in our own way, each of us is perfectly enough, I imagine this wise old bird saying.

Aging My Way

          I am a strong woman — most of the time. Let me see someone hurt an animal or a child and I am standing tall and vocal and ready to do battle. And I was 110 percent into fighting the tough battle for equal pay for equal work when I was a working journalist.

          However, that strength didn’t extend into all areas of my life, including many instances of ignoring career and personal injustices. And I haven’t gotten much better with age. One example is that I would rather take a loss than return an unwise purchase.  

Most recently, I have let the promised trim of the two Oleander trees in the patio area of my new apartment go undone ever since I moved into the new place on August 20. Yeah, I made two half-hearted requests of the apartment manager, and even cornered one of the landscape guys – without success.

Then I started trying to trim the trees myself because I didn’t want to ask anymore. I’m not sure what this reluctance is all about, but I do know I have one granddaughter, Heidi, who takes after me. We tell her to get her sister, Lindsey, to act as her voice when something is serious. Lindsey takes no prisoners.

 And neither does my granddaughter Shanna, who also lives in my apartment complex. She recently took off from work for a few hours to corner the landscapers and demand they trim her grandmother’s trees.

The result was that I soon watched the workers through my sliding glass doors go about doing the job. They not only trimmed the trees but gave my patio area a good raking to take care of all the fallen leaves. And when they finished, they gave me a thumbs up.

I’m not exactly sure what Shanna said to them, but it certainly worked. When I thanked her, all she said was: “I got you Nana.” It’s nice to “be got.” 

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.

Bird Watching on the Side

A dull version of the Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, a bird that sneaks across Mexico’s border into Arizonia.

Aging My Way:

          I keep a list of all the bird species I see flying free in the wild. So far, I’ve seen 712. It’s been that way for a while, but I thought I had finally found two new ones this weekend.

As I set and partied outside to celebrate a friend’s birthday in the town of Sahuarita, a brown hummingbird suddenly caught my attention. This was after another bird flew into my sight and landed in a scenic dead tree.

I suspected this latter bird was a kite, but I wasn’t sure what species. My host Doris said someone had told her it was a Mexican bird, which made sense since we were partying in Southeast Arizonia near the border with Mexico.

I had no idea the specific species of either bird until I got home and looked in my birding field guides. I have two. My favorite is National Geographic’s Birds of North America. But I also use Sibley’s Guide to Birds, when I’m stumped or want a second opinion.

While I couldn’t say with surety what the Kite species was, because I didn’t get that close a look, I basically ruled out anything but a White-Tailed Kite, a bird I had previously seen on the Texas Gulf Coast at the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. This meant that even if my identification was spot on, it still wouldn’t count as a new bird.

I was more confident about identifying the little brown hummer. Despite its plainness, I was about 90 percent certain it was a Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, as it’s the only brown hummer that can be seen in North America, and then normally only in Southeastern Arizonia. This one was most likely a juvenile whose crown hadn’t come into its color yet, or one whose color wasn’t visible to me because I wasn’t looking through my binoculars at it. Some violet crowns, or so my field guide alluded to,  have color crowns that are duller or darker.

Anyway, I would really like to go back and have a second look at the hummer through my binoculars. I’m still kind of hesitant about adding it to my list – so, despite my high hopes my list continues to stand at 712.  

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.