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Art by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

These days there seems to be a month for everything. In March, there’s Sing-With-Your-Child Month, Appreciate Dolphins Month, Berries and Cherries Month, Mad for Plaid Month and National On-Hold Month – and that’s just to name a few of the many I usually never hear about, nor celebrate.

On a more relevant note, at least to me, is that March is National Women’s History Month. I’ve come a long way from being raised in a time when women’s proper place was thought to be married, barefoot, and pregnant to thinking I should have the same rights as a man.

My original perspective was that women’s fight for equality began in the 1960s and ‘70s, spurred by women like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, and the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.

These were the years that marked the beginning of my awareness of inequality and unfairness in the world, and not just for women. Not surprisingly, these years coincided with the beginning of my 37-year journalism career and my personal fight for equal pay for equal work.

History, however, tells a different story. While there are many individual stories going way back in time, the big fight for equal rights for American women began in 1869 with the founding of the National Women’s Suffrage Association by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who along with women like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Hull, fought for women’s right to vote.

This resulted in an 1884 decision by the Supreme Court that citizenship does not give women the right to vote. Women didn’t give up, however, even though many of them were severely harassed or even jailed simply for continuing to fight for the vote.

Then, in 1913, thousands of women marched on Washington D.C. demanding the right to vote, a right that was finally achieved nationally in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment. As a writer, I think of all the stories, told and untold, that led up to this momentous occasion. I also am still astonished that this took place just 19 years before I was born.

It’s because of these strong women of the past that I have the privileges I do today. And I’m thankful. Yes. National Women’s History Month is one I will celebrate.

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.

A Brain Full of Questions

Aging My Way

I came across a quote by John F. Kennedy this morning that I thought was worthy of being copied into my journal.  “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought,he said.  As I don’t want to write about politics today, I’ll let you put your own understanding and meaning to these words.

Meanwhile, I frequently copy quotes into my journal. Usually, they are ones that cleverly and inspiringly put into words something meaningful to me, sometimes even causing me to rethink a subject.

One quote that came to my wandering/wondering brain this morning was the well-known (well at least it sure be familiar to some of you) was “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  As I added those words to my journal as part of my thoughts, I wanted to give credit to the author.  My brain was telling me it was Benjamin Franklin, but then the old reporter adage, “double check even if your mother says it’s so,” sent me doing some quick research.

I’m glad I did because I discovered that the phrase was first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He penned the words in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu in 1839.

As so often happens, that search sent me on another search. Why was Edward’s last name hyphenated? The answer was that his father’s name was General William Earle Bulwer and his mother’s name was  Elizabeth Barbara Lytton.

Now that seemed odd to me, as in those days women were still considered property.  So, who was Elizabeth?

My research continued and I learned that she was a member of the Lytton family of Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, England. After her father’s death, Elizabeth resumed her father’s surname, by a royal license of 1811. That year she returned to Knebworth House, which by then had become dilapidated. She renovated it by demolishing three of its four sides and adding Gothic towers and battlements to the remaining building.

She lived at Knebworth with her son, the writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton, until her death. Because of a long-standing dispute she had with the church, she is buried not with her ancestors at St Mary’s Knebworth, but in the Lytton Mausoleum.

Hmm. I wonder if the dispute had anything to do with women’s rights. But what’s the significance of Knebworth House. My brain was still on a roll.

It’s an English Country House (Looked like a mansion to me), according to Wikipedia, that has been the home of the Lytton family since 1490. Furthermore, the grounds are home to the Knebworth Festival, a recurring open-air rock and pop concert held since 1974, and until 2014 was home to another hard rock festival, Sonisphere.

And suddenly I realized the morning was almost over. This happens a lot.

It’s a good thing I’m retired.

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.

On Being a Writer

My former newspaper colleague and dear friend Charlie Trentelman has been browsing the archives of The Standard-Examiner, where I worked for over 20 years. He came across these old clippings and emailed me a copy. Ah! … The memories.

Aging My Way

Laurie Lisle, in her memoir Word for Word said perhaps one of the reasons she wanted to be a reporter is because she could ask anyone about almost anything.

I remember responding to that question a few times in the same way. Of course, it went much deeper than that, with the most important thing being that I wanted to write, and I wanted to be read.

That’s why I blog. It’s why I wrote Travels with Maggie, why I am the staff writer for Story Circle Networks’ journal, and why, occasionally these days, I still submit articles to a variety of publications.

And if that isn’t enough, I fill a page or two in my personal journal most days.

I write because to not do so would be to not breath. I consider myself blessed to have found this passion in my life when I was 25. It happened about 2 a.m. in the morning when I couldn’t sleep, and for some unknown reason found myself getting up and writing about an incident that had moved me deeply the day before.

The only thing I had ever written before this were high school English assignments, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. But I had been, from the time I first learned the alphabet, a bookworm. I read every opportunity I got, from the words on a cereal box to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In my mind, writers were a breed so far above me that I couldn’t picture being among them.

In fact, it was a dozen or more years after I was supporting myself as a newspaper writer before I finally realized I was actually one of them. And even longer after that before I could actually call myself a writer.

It has now been 58 years since that devious writing bug infected me — and changed the whole trajectory of my life.

I’ve come to love that bug with all my heart.  And I’m still writing and hope to be right up until the day I die.

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.

The Gift of Having Pets  

Chigger — Art by Pat Bean

I came across a blog this morning about the gifts your pets bring to you.

The first thing I thought about was Chigger, the cat my son rescued in a canyon during a snow storm. She was quite tiny, probably less than six weeks old, when he dumped her in my lap on Christmas Eve and said “Merry Christmas Mom.”

She got her name at about 2 a.m. the next morning when I wanted to sleep and she wanted to play. Nothing, I thought, is pestier than chiggers. Chigger and I spent the next 18 years of our lives together.

One of the first things she gifted me with was a bird – this was before birding became one of my passions so I have no idea what species it was. But it was alive and seemed unhurt. I quickly shut Chigger up in the bathroom until I had released the bird, which because of my love of wild things, I was glad to see could quickly fly away.

Chigger let me know she was pissed, and never brought me another bird. Instead, she chose to bring me dead field mice – often.

Then there was my Cocker Spaniel Peaches. She and Chigger were pals, although I never knew until both were aged and hard-of-hearing, and I spied them sleeping curled up together. This, I thought, was a very good friendship because it was a time when I worked long hours and they were home alone.

The only gift Peaches ever brought to me was a tennis ball – and that was with an ulterior motive in mind. She wanted me to throw it for her to fetch – over and over again.

My current canine companion Scamp occasionally brings me a toy to throw for him to chase, or to initiate a game of tug of war, but mostly he expects me to give him gifts. He especially likes to receive his own piece of mail.

He sits in front of me expectantly after I bring in the mail, clearly asking me with his eyes: “Where’s mine, where’s mine?”

So, I give him an envelope or piece of junk mail, and he bounces off happy. A while later, I find myself snooping down – it’s good exercise – to pick up tiny bits of paper scattered around the house. It’s always made more difficult by Scamp trying to rescue as many of the pieces he can. So much fun.

But the best gift all my pets have given me has been unconditional love – and they always know when I need it the most.

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.

Super Bowl Morning

Antelope Island in 2002. The water level of Great Salt Lake has dropped significantly since then. — Photo by Pat Bean

Aging My Way

“It’s quiet, peaceful. My soul feels blessed,” I wrote in my journal on March 19, 2002. This was the winter that I visited Antelope Island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake at least once a week. My companion was usually only my canine companion Maggie — and I usually had the 42-square-mile island almost to myself, given that there was often snow on the ground.

It was a very busy winter for me. As city editor in charge of my Ogden newspaper’s coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics, whose downhill ski events were all being held in the paper’s backyard, Antelope Island was my recall to sanity.

 I also thought of the lake and island as my personal Birding 101 Lab. It was here, with the help of birding field guides, I learned to identify ducks and swallows and shorebirds and songbirds all on my own. And I recorded it all in my journals.

The robin and meadowlark sharing a tree and seemingly trying to out-sing one another. The magpie stealing food from a golden eagle. A chukar sitting on a rock staring at me as I drove past. The rainbow of sparkling color on the starlings’ black feathers. The lone pair of Barrow’s goldeneyes among the flock of common goldeneyes. The pair of ravens that always seemed to appear near the curve in the six-mile causeway to the island.

And not just birds. There were bison, which sometimes blocked the road, and  prong-horn antelope that kept their distance, and the porcupine asleep in a tree, and especially the lone coyote that followed me across the causeway one morning.

Rereading my words from over 20 years ago, while sitting here over 800 miles away in Tucson on a cold, but sunny morning, drinking my cream-laced coffee, I smile. It’s a good way to start Superbowl Sunday.

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.

The Red Bird

A quick painting of a Northern Cardinal I made in a sketchbook 10 years ago. I see I drew the leaves better than the bird, but I did capture the familiar bird’s flamboyance.

Aging My Way

Looking out my bedroom sliding glass door, I saw a red bird sitting on the fence, exactly where mourning doves sit almost daily, and where once in a while a Cooper’s Hawk perches, quickly frightening the doves to scatter.fla

One of the hawk’s favorite meals is smaller birds.

And that includes the Northern Cardinal, the male red bird that graced me with his presence as I drank my cream-laced coffee this morning. I suspected the less colorful female was nearby, but I see her far less often.

The cardinal is one of the birds I grew up with, for a long time knowing it only as the red bird. It’s now become one of the few birds whose voice I can recognize. Sometimes it sounds like cheer-cheer-cheer, other times like pre-tty, pre-tty, pre-tty. Since it doesn’t migrate from season to season, it’s always around, although it’s often called the winter bird.

Photographers and artists love to capture its brilliant red feathers against a snowy background, and Christmas cards abound with such images. Another example of this red bird’s popularity is that seven states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia – call it their state bird.

And it’s the mascot for Arizona’s NFL football team. I note this last because since I have now lived in Tucson for 10 years, it’s something I should know.

But what I like best about the cardinal is that it was my grandmother’s favorite bird. And seeing one always reminds me of her.

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.

What I know at 83

Art by Pat Bean

“My mother always used to say: The older you get, the better you get – unless you’re a banana.” Betty White, as Rose in The Golden Girls.

Aging My Way

I’m about as far from perfect as you can get. Even so, I automatically resist following advice. The words “you should” have my brain saying “No” before the next words are spoken. Just ask my friends.

But having spent 83 years living a roller coaster life full of experiences and emotions, I have learned a few things along the way.  

Like not to waste time on excuses, but just to do whatever it is I should or want to do. OK, of course, I don’t always do it – but I know I should.  

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is to treasure my friends and family – and to take nothing personal because it almost always isn’t.

I’ve discovered that making decisions doesn’t have to be scary, because you can always change them. Wrong decisions and mistakes are how one grows. Or as Leonard Cohen said: “There are cracks in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”   

I’ve also finally figured out that you can’t learn anything when you’re the one talking. And at 83, I know how important it is to never stop learning or trying something new every day. Another hard lesson for me was to not regret or worry about the past, just try to live today the best way I know how.

But the best thing I’ve learned over the years is to wake up every morning counting my blessings. It always puts life’s little nags in perspective.

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.

Forest Gump Point

Forest Gump Point — Monument Valley from Scenic Byway 163

“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.” — Josephine Hart  

You know how you see something, and your mind gets stuck on it, and then you keep seeing the same thing over and over again.

That happened to me this past month. It started when I read an Atlas Obscura story about Forest Gump Point. The story was accompanied by a photo which showed a scene I had passed by at least a dozen times and had even stopped to explore a few of those times.

The Point, illustrated in the article, is the view one gets when traveling the 64 miles of Scenic Highway163 through Arizona and Utah, 44 miles of which goes through Navajo Nation land and Monument Valley. I purposely took this route many times — simple because the magnificence of the views awed me.

The red-rock mesas, buttes and spires are the remnants of rock formations that were over 25-million years in the making, according to geologists. Some of these wonders can be seen in the background where Forest Gump stopped running.

But long before Tom Hanks portrayed Forest Gump in the 1994 movie, Monument Valley was a favorite of movie directors. Probably the most famous use of the spectacular scenery was in the 1939 film Stagecoach starring John Wayne. It can also be seen in movies like The Searchers, The Eiger Sanction and Easy Rider and has even been featured in the popular television series Dr. Who.

In recent weeks, I’ve seen images of the scenic valley more than half a dozen times. Each time made me want to take a road trip – enough so that I looked at a map and discovered that it’s only 462 miles away from my home in Tucson.

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.

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.