My husband thinks I’m cheating. Gratitude Experiment: Day 33

My husband thinks I’m cheating on him. With my blog, that is.  Not really, but I’m a tad paranoid about it.

It is my own little rabbit hole and on many occasions, he’s ready for us to leave to go somewhere or start a project (that was probably my idea in the first place) and here I sit, glued to my computer, blogging away. “Just one more minute,” I say. He’s learning (even better than he already knew) that a minute can easily become an hour.  It’s far too easy and enjoyable to sink far, far  into the blogosphere, through layer after layer of connections. Every day I seem to find a new blog that inspires me or one which shares a similar voice.  Which keeps me going.

This new universe of blogging really is like a great big cocktail party for networking and connecting. And instead of a business card, people are exchanging blog urls. My writing coach (for my other writing that I’m working on) used that analogy and it is the perfect way to explain how it works.

I’ve come across such interesting people who are wonderful writers in this blogging universe.  I am truly enjoying every minute of it. I’m also delighted that many are enjoying my blog and following. It’s a terrific cocktail party, one that I don’t even have to dress up to attend. For all of this, I am grateful.

I’m Seeing Purple. Gratitude Experiment: Day 32

I walked in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this morning. What a terrific feeling of hope and camaraderie to walk away with. Last year the Denver walk broke its record with 8,000 walkers.  I guarantee you it was an even bigger crowd today.

I walked with a good friend who walked in memory of her mother who she lost to Alzheimer’s three years ago.  And I walked in memory of my Aunt, who we lost to Alzheimer’s a year ago this month and in honor of her sister, my Mom, who I’m losing to Alzheimer’s a little more each day.  I drew a picture of them on a huge sign they had for people to paint memories of their loved ones.

In a sea of purple, I saw photos on the back of so many walkers’ shirts. Photos of loved ones lost to this hateful disease. The thought that so many like me are fighting this fight is both comforting and terrifying.

This disease isn’t going away anytime soon, as the numbers continue to climb.  Yet it seems like the world is in denial about this disease and how very real it is.  Perhaps it doesn’t seem as real because you don’t visit anyone in the hospital when they have this disease?  And because you never hear anyone with it describing their suffering?  Because they can’t speak for themselves.

But it is very real.  And someone new is diagnosed every 68 seconds.  And by 2050 it will be someone new every 33 seconds.

Ironically, federal funding for Alzheimer’s research pales in comparison to that for other chronic diseases. According to University of Mississippi Medical Center, the $450 million allocated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is equivalent to less than 15% of the research funding for HIV/AIDS, less than 11% of funding for cardiovascular disease research, and less than 8% of funding for cancer research.  And for every $28,000 spent on Alzheimer’s patient care, only $100 is spent on research.  In fact, the government funds more nutrition research than it does Alzheimer’s research.

I recently had the privilege of listening to a scientist discuss research initiatives and progress made. Scientists believe we are getting close and even at a tipping point.  We just need a commitment from the federal government to fund research.

And we’re getting there. In January of  2011, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was signed into law by President Obama. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) will create a coordinated national plan to overcome the Alzheimer’s crisis and will ensure the coordination and evaluation of all national efforts in Alzheimer’s research, clinical care, institutional, and home- and community-based programs and their outcomes.

But it’s going to take much more. The public has to make it known what our federal priorities with regard to the impending Alzheimer’s epidemic should be, especially given shrinking budgets at every turn.  More people need to speak up and take action, contact their Congress representative or become advocates through the Alzheimer’s Association.  To put faces on the need. The website of the Alzheimer’s Association has advocacy pages dedicated to helping you do just that.  I know this is  a blatant plug for my cause, but I know with every molecule in my body that you DO NOT want to watch this happen to anyone you love.

If you’re still reading this and you’re not exhausted, I commend you.  And I appreciate you taking the time.  I’m truly grateful that you are reading this, that I went on that walk today, and that we can end this.  Let’s do it.

What happened to the Wonderbread prizes? Gratitude Experiment: Day 32

If only I still had my Flintstones and Bugs Bunny grape jelly jar glasses.  They were awesome.  I used to love our full collection of Welches jelly jar glasses accumulated from the absurd number of peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches I used to consume after school each day in the mid 1970’s.  I drank cold milk in my groovy jelly glasses and sometimes I had Spaghettios on the side (the uptown kind with the little frank slices).

Long before fast food chains started offering lovely “collectible” glassware, grocery store food brands gave away killer loot and I lived for that stuff.

I remember the prizes in the cereal boxes – maybe they still do that?  But I’m sure the ones back in my day were better — and probably nice and hazardous and choke-worthy.  Oh yeah, plastic rings, fake tatoos, little plastic toys definitely small enough to choke on and probably some flammable or lead based prizes.  I specifically remember Fruity Pebbles always having the better prizes and because I didn’t like that brand, it always put me in a cereal choice conundrum.  Sometimes I would even forfeit cereal flavor for prize selection.

And I will never forget the smell of fresh white bread as I took each piece out of the bright red, blue and yellow, polka dotted Wonderbread bag as soon as we got home from the grocery store.  I had to get to the plastic wrapped flat prize at the end of the package, dust the crumbs off, rip open the plastic and stare in awe of its fabulousness.

Sometimes those Wonderbread people (I wanted to use another word) even taunted me and I could see the prize through the end of the package through a little clear window at the bottom.  Talk about pure torture. I may have ripped into a few packages on the ride home, covering my mom’s gigantic 1977 Thunderbird’s black interior and vinyl seats with white bread crumbs.  Battlestar Gallactica, ET, and Hanna Barbera cards were the best. I’m sure my Mom was thrilled with the condition of the bread slices after I handled each piece (ick I would freak on my kids if they did that) and jammed them all back into the bag.

I don’t have any of those fabulous prizes any more but my Mom did manage to save my complete Kool Aid character plastic mug set and they are in my kitchen cabinet.  The one pictured above I just found on ebay, it was my favorite. I think I had to collect a certain number of proof of purchase seals from Kool Aid packets and mail them off to get the cups one at a time (and I got like twelve, from grape flavored Kool Aid. Clearly I was obsessed with grape flavor anything).   Those were the ‘grape to excess’ days.  And surprisingly I still have my teeth, especially when I think of all the sugar we poured into the pitcher.

I have no idea what made me think of all of these Wonderful goodies today, but I know I’ve been writing about heavy stuff lately and my brain was starting to pulsate.  And it’s the end of the week and I’m toast.

What food kiddie prizes do you remember?  Did you have a favorite? Leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite was.

Thanks for reading.  Maybe I’ll have a martini in my Kool Aid cup tonight. And for that I will be very grateful. Happy Friday.

Why Alzheimer’s Is a Drag. Gratitude Experiment: Day 31

Even though it goes against the grain of my 100-day Gratitude Experiment, I feel the need today to write about why my Mom having Alzheimer’s is a drag.

I’m convinced that some gratitude will come to me by the time I finish writing this.  And I’m hoping these thoughts will help my readers cherish every moment they have with their loved ones.  And take nothing for granted.

My Mom having Alzheimer’s is a big fat drag because:

1. I wish I would have spent more quality time with her before she got sick.

2. I wish I had asked her if her favorite color was still yellow when she could still tell me.

3. I wish I would have paid better attention to the signs in the beginning.

4. I desperately wish for rare moments of clarity to happen when I am near.

5. I worry about her dignity.

6. Most healthcare workers have no clue how to treat a person with Alzheimer’s.  And it makes me want to help change happen.

7. She is afraid to take a bath.

8. I wish I could remember the name of that flowery lotion my grandmother used to give her every Christmas.  And I wish I had someone to ask that would know.

9. I worry about my Stepdad being sad and tired.

10. I worry about my Stepdad getting hurt and me not knowing.

11. I wonder how much of what I say she understands.

12. I wonder if I offend her by babying her.

13. I  wish I had taken better notes about my family history.

14. I wish I really knew when all this started – so hard to tell.

15. I worry about when the next shoe is going to drop.

16. I think about how she would not want to be this way.

17. I worry that she is frightened and she can’t express it.

18.  I’m scared to death it’s going to happen to me.

On the other hand, I am still able to be grateful because:  (whew, glad some gratitude came through)

1. I love it when I have what seems like a tiny a breakthrough with her.

2. I am happy when she smiles her old smile.

3.I love to be silly and make her laugh (when I use Three Stooges type humor it cracks her up).

4. I can tell she enjoys changing the bed sheets with me.  Especially if I’m silly while we’re doing it.

5. She’s still my Mom in there.

6.  I love that she said  really sweet things to me that day a year ago when I did her hair for her, when she was better able to comprehend and talk.

7. My stepdad is solid as a rock, and I love him for it.

8. I’m lucky that she lives close now so I don’t worry even more.

9. I can have these tiny moments of joy with her to always remember.

Thanks for reading.

Reason to Think. Gratitude Experiment: Day 30

Today I learned very sad news about an old school friend who lost her son to suicide this morning. He was only 16. On the outside, this handsome young man seemed to be a kid that had absolutely everything going for him. My heart aches for their family and my stomach is weak at very the thought.

Though I do not know details about events leading up to this tragic event, it makes me want to stand on my little soap box for a bit about depression.

Depression is real. It exists. It is not made-up or imagined.  Clinical anxiety and depression are neurological disorders, and are due to an imbalance of chemicals, such as serotonin, in the brain.  It cannot be wished away.

Our society as a general rule does not take depression seriously and tends to paint it with the biased brush of weakness.  This is mainly because it is misunderstood. And when people don’t understand, they can often jump to conclusions, just like in politics or anything else. But depression can happen to anyone, big or tall, male or female, old or young, weak or strong.  It can happen for a short time or it can happen for a long time. There are many hereditary factors as well as external factors that can affect the odds of someone experiencing depression.

According to, as many as two thirds of people with depression do not realize that they have a treatable illness and do not seek treatment. And only 50% of those diagnosed with major depression receive any kind of treatment at all.  Until it is better understood by the public and even health providers, the stigma will continue to outweigh the benefits of diagnosis and treatment.

It is important to note that depression is very common in teenagers, as well as adults. Suicide, most often a result of depression, is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 years old and the eighth leading reported cause of death in the United States.  Male teenagers are much more often successful at suicide attempts.  According to Wikipedia, American males between the ages of 20 and 24 have a suicide rate that is seven times higher than that of women.

For teenagers, changes in behavior, friend choices, academics and attitude must be more than noticed.  They must also be addressed head-on, with professional help if needed.

I must also note that therapy is very misunderstood by society.  Participating in psychotherapy is not a sign of weakness. Actually it is quite the opposite.  It requires a willingness to dig deep into self, and to understand complex patterns of thinking. It’s for those with the type of grit necessary to turn their own heavy handed mirror inward and accept themselves, flaws and all. And as a reward, students of therapy get to grow by leaps and bounds from the knowledge gained.

Today, while I am truly saddened for my friend and her family’s great loss and the sorrowful days ahead, I am thankful for the knowledge that depression is slowly becoming more understood by our society.

A Place that has Stuck with Me. Gratitude Experiment: Day 29

On a recent trip to Seattle I came across one of the more random attractions that I have ever seen.  Also one of the most beautiful.  And one of the germiest.

The Market Theater Gum Wall, a popular Seattle tourist attraction, is a fifty foot stretch of bricked wall in an alleyway that is completely covered in used chewing gum.  It is located in Post Alley under the famous Pike Place Market, known for its fishmongers who throw fish when customers purchase them.

The globs of gum are several inches thick in many places and reach up to 15 feet high in places.  There is a piece of gum that seems to represent each color of the rainbow on this wall.  It is quite intricate and wonderful.

Apparently in the early 1990s, as people waited in line at the nearby theater box office, they started sticking gum to the wall.  The theater company tried to clean it two different times, but eventually gave up.  And the wall was named an official city attraction in 1999.

There are even surprises of art within the gum display – hearts, names, peace signs, you name it. One of the photos I took of the wall serves as the background on my phone screen.  So I think about it almost every day. And I’m going to paint it.

I love this wall despite the fact that I am a complete germaphobe.  I love that it has history.  I love that it has germs.  I love that it is manmade and that it doesn’t plug in or light up.  And that people appreciate it for what it is.

I’m glad I got to see the Gum Wall and I know I will see it again. For all this I am grateful.


My Kimono Won’t Close. Gratitude Experiment: Day 28

My husband uses the term ‘open kimono’ to describe my transparent ways.  It’s because I’m not physically able to tell you one thing and really mean another, even if I tried really hard.  And why I would really suck as a salesperson selling anything that I didn’t believe in.

It explains why women who host home trunk show clothing parties, jewelry open houses, or cooking gear parties can’t stand it when I’m one of the guests.  Because everyone there knows that I’ll tell you if you look 30 pounds heavier in the latest trendy vest or if you look like you’re drowning in the latest fashion-forward floor-length dress.  Usually ten minutes in, guests realize that I’m someone who will give them an honest opinion despite its potential impact to a bottom line. defines the ‘open kimono’ phrase as: (adj.) – business marketing plan that allows consumers to know what’s behind the entire operation, with no secrets kept inside the proverbial kimono.

Some say the phrase dates back to feudal period of Japanese history, when warriors or adversaries would open their kimonos as an offering of trust to show they had no hidden weapons.

My open kimono explains why those who are friends with me know right where they stand with me at any given moment.  I don’t attempt to hide joy, worry, appreciation or aggravation. (I’m actually not sure if I would be physically able to.) I’ll tell you if you’ve hurt my feelings or upset me and I will be completely honest about it.  I’ll also make sure you know if you’ve touched my heart.

I cry at school plays, I cry at weddings, and I cry when I sing Amazing Grace because it reminds me of my grandmother who cried when she sang that song.  I still cry when I say goodbye to my parents after a trip back home. And sometimes I cry when I tell a happy story that makes my heart swell.  And I’m okay with all of it. Even though tears make stoic types uneasy, I know that letting my guard down allows me to tap into depths of emotion that left untapped could make me stale.

Sometimes I think about closing my kimono a little more often.  But then I remember what a fleeting gift this life of mine is.  So why waste time not getting to what’s real when it could all change tomorrow.

I realize this is who I am, open kimono and all.  And for that I am grateful.

Sunday Costco Survivor. Gratitude Experiment: Day 27

My heart started beating faster than usual the second I flashed my red, white and blue card.  The fluorescent lights — or maybe my eyesight — began to flicker and there I was, surrounded by a sea of  carts and aggressive shoppers.  I had to get myself into a defensive shopping mode.  The thought of it exhausted me.  Why did I come to Costco in the middle of the day during a weekend?

I should have known better.  I even picked a different location than usual, thinking it would be less crowded.  As soon as we pulled into the parking lot I knew I had miscalculated.  But I was committed and there was no turning back.

I took a deep breath and forged my way through the point of purchase items, dodging little kids with dirty faces hanging from baskets every few feet.  Then I realized, all I could see was blue and orange. Broncos shirts were everywhere.  Even Broncos pants, hats, maybe socks.  Crap, I forgot it was the first official Broncos game of the season (clearly my household is not in sync with professional sports schedules).  And I’ve learned that Colorado people are even more insane about Broncos games than Oklahoma people are about OU and OSU games.  Which is semi-maniacal at best.

They must have all come to stock up on snacks for the game. It was war and I was about to get bloody.  And all for some cases of bottled water, a gigantic container of dish detergent and a case of flautas.

As I made my way back to the food section, I looked down, and then gasped. I was only wearing sandals.  Clearly I wasn’t prepared.  I couldn’t quit thinking how much it was going to hurt if someone ran over my toes with their shopping cart wheels of fury. I winced at the thought.  And as I circled back to find the shredded cheese (enough to feed the White House staff), I overheard a woman telling her friend “They’re like sharks in here…. we need to be more aggressive or we’re going down!”

Then my stomach rumbled and I realized I had come to Costco hungry.  Damn, not a good idea, and especially not on this kind of day.  I started scouting for the samples tables.  And forget that healthy stuff, I wanted something good. But there were swarms of  people with bad manners looming at every food sample table, and grabby hands everywhere.  I wondered what kind of training the food sample people must undergo in order to be able to protect themselves? But I really wanted to try a bite of the jalepeno cheese sausage to tide me over until I could escape.  I battled on.

A few hundred dollars later (“Since we’re here and all.. might as well pick that up.”  I think that phrase is subliminally programmed into each shopper’s mind by way of the cart handles or something.  Either that or “Apocalypse approaching!”), we headed for the check out area.  This is when my husband realized he should have gotten me out sooner.  Suddenly my eyes went wild, and I was determined to find the shortest line and knock anyone out of the way who was hesitant or undecided.  I was starting to think my life depended on it. I had to get out.

Then the lady in front of us starts thumbing through the coupon booklet – not one second before she was already at the register, a huge line behind her.  The checker was going to lose it and we all tried to remain calm.  This was not the day for dorking around with coupons to save $2.50 when you’re spending $450.00.

Finally, we made it out… (go to the light CarolAnn)…and I took a deep breath of non-commercialized air.  Our cart was stacked as if we had fourteen kids and 32 grandkids to feed.  But by God, we had some good, institutionally sized food to tide us over.

Today, I’m grateful that I won’t have to grocery shop for a long while. But mostly that we made it out alive, toes intact.

When I grow up. Gratitude Experiment: Day 26

I want to be like my neighbor when I grow up. He lives across the street from me. He and his wife raised all of their children in that house.  Their kids now live in various states, with children of their own.  I think he is very close to 90 years old.

He yells ‘Hi neighbor!’ to me from across the street every time he sees me. He calls me by the wrong name sometimes but that just makes me smile all the more. I have never seen him unhappy.

I have to speak  loudly when we chat because he is very hard of hearing and has Meniere’s diseasean inner ear disorder that affects balance and hearing. Many afternoons you can see him jogging or riding his bike around our neighborhood. He tells me that he thinks if he just keeps active maybe he can jiggle things around enough up there in his head enough that it will work itself out.  He also just quit skiing black runs about four years ago. For real. (I’m doing good to ski blue runs.)

When we have big snows, he uses his snow blower to remove snow from our entire cul-de-sac’s sidewalks. And sometimes he does all of our driveways too (we live in a small cul-de-sac thank goodness).

He has a killer old red sports car that he drives every clear day.  I can hear its engine rumble as he zooms off each morning with his hat on that reminds me of the one Gilligan wore on Gilligan’s island.

On trash pickup days if I’m gone after the truck as come, he returns my trashcan to the back of my driveway for me.  And he does this for all of us. He also brings us all a jar of home-made jelly from his church sale during the holidays.

He has a compliment for me every single time I talk with him.  And he calls me when he needs to know how to do something on his computer, always ever so thankful for my help.

Today I am grateful that I get to live by this great guy who provides me with a wonderful example of how to live life. I hope I can be like him when I grow up.

Breakfast Club Flashback. Gratitude Experiment: Day 25

Today as I sat waiting in the high school parking lot to drop off my son’s tennis equipment before he left for a tennis match, I was transported to another world.  Actually back to my world back in high school.  And the world according to the Breakfast Club movie in 1985.

This movie has been hailed as one of the greatest high school films of all time, by John Hughes (God rest his fantastic movie making soul).  And the song – “Don’t You Forget About Me,” that instantly reminds my generation of scenes from the movie that have stayed with us since.

The movie follows  five students—Allison Reynold (Ally Sheedy),  Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (my favorite Anthony Michael Hall),  and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) as they surprisingly find common ground with each other throughout a single day of detention on a Saturday.  Each student represented a different clique or stereotype within the school.  If you haven’t seen it, rent it.

Watching the disbursement of high schoolers on a Friday after school took me right there. I watched each stereotype pass the front of my car. During a phase when I am feeling a little old and thinking things are so very different, I suddenly realized things really didn’t seem that different. Had nothing really changed except for the fact that they each had a cell phone and ATM card in their pocket?

The ‘Jock’s (although in this case both male and female) were gathered on the sidewalk high-fiveing each other.  The ‘punk’ hard edge type kids were all walking alone with a jolted gate, looking very guarded. I even saw one bump into a jock, then the jock got upset and held his hands out just like in the movies (if only he had been wearing a letter jacket), then the punker extended his hand and they shook hands and did a “bro” hug.  I should have been filming as it was stereotypical perfection.

Then I also watched as the many ‘princesses’ dialed for their rides exhaustedly while flipping their hair in frustration and simultaneously watching peripherally to see who was checking them out.  Then came the ‘brainiacs’/nerds as I watched them attempt to talk to the cute girl jocks while the huge guy jocks with gelled hair stood to the side fanning their feathers.  They didn’t stand a chance but I was rooting for them.  And I sadly watched a ‘misfit’ walk out to her car alone.

Maybe they will all be in detention together one day and bond over their similarities, but I doubt it.  More likely, they will all find themselves in different cubicles of the same corporate world and bond over the lack of sunlight.  Sorry, that was dark.

Today I am just grateful that the world isn’t really racing ahead as fast as I thought.  And that makes me happy.

Global positioning gratitude. Gratitude Experiment: Day 24

The other day my son asked me how people used to get around before Global Positioning Systems, or GPS.  I’ve gotten so accustomed to relying on a GPS to help me find my way, I actually had to think about it for a while.

I told him that  for years we used to look a lot of things up on MapQuest and print out directions to take with us before we left .  And before that, we made sure the car was stocked with maps of whatever state we were crossing or city we were in. I remember driving across the country for two days with at thick  notebook of maps for each state we crossed.  And I’m pretty sure we padded a lot more time into car trips in case we got lost.

Just the other day I found a stack of car maps in my garage and couldn’t figure out what to do with them.  I didn’t have the heart to throw them away.  I’m sure there’s some kind of craft project I could do with them, if I was crafty.  Wallpaper the dining room with them?  That could be cool.  And come to think of it, should maps be saved in case there is an Apocalypse and we lose power to map by computer?  Something to think about.  Clearly, we take computerized mapping for granted.

All who know me realize that calling me geographically challenged is an understatement, so I am especially reliant upon my GPS.  One of my dear friends who I have known since second grade is equally challenged in this area.  Back in college, we were known to entirely miss highway exits and end up an hour out of the way — sometimes in the wrong state — before we realized.  We went off of memory for some road trips, and that was a dangerous prospect when the two of us were in a car together. Did I really just admit that?  Yes.

I used to call another dear old friend my “Geographical Yoda” because if I was lost  anywhere in my home town, I could call her and she could direct me by phone.  She was my OnStar before OnStar existed.  And I didn’t even drive a Cadillac.

I think of the generations who have never known mapping any other way and I am glad that I can read an old fashioned map (for the most part).  But today I am ever so grateful for my GPS.

A Bittersweet Solstice Approaches. Gratitude Experiment: Day 23

Bittersweet defined is a combination of both bitter and sweet – a feeling that is both happy and sad at the same time. This familiar emotion finds its way back to me each year, just as the first signs of Autumn find their way back to us all.

It’s my favorite time of year and always has been, flooding me with memories of autumns past.  The smells of damp leaves and firewood, the crisp air that fills my lungs, the glorious colors that open my eyes to nature each year, and the sound of fallen leaves underfoot.  My very favorite season.

The approaching September equinox called out to me today, as it does each year when the summer’s curtain draws to a close.  Letting me know that fall is approaching and the time for winter is near. It’s sad to see the summer end, but also sweet to see the cycle complete.

There are two equinoxes every year – one in September and one in March.  When the length of day and night is almost exactly equal all over the world, with seasons opposite on either side of the equator.

Derived from Latin, the word equinox means “equal night.” I explained this to my kids as I drove each one to school this morning, and as I do each year when the sun on the horizon nearly blinds me as if to awaken me from a summer’s sleep.

The autumn equinox happens each year, the moment the sun crosses the equator, always on September 22nd, 23rd or 24th. On any other day throughout the year, our planet tilts away or toward the sun.  But not on each equinox, when the sun shines more directly upon us than any other days of the year, as if to remind us of our smallness in the universe.

Thirteen years ago on September 22nd, just before the autumnal equinox, my sister crossed over and left this world, just as the sun crosses over the equator.  The sun was blinding her way that day, or maybe calling her toward it. It was also my mother’s birthday.

I’m really not sure what God and the universe had in mind that day, but I’m determined not to let it zap the gratitude out of me as I gear up for this month’s memories, filled each year with emotions, both happy and sad.

When I see the sun each morning so boldly reminding us of its presence near the horizon, I know it is a bittersweet reminder for me to plant the seeds of both appreciation and caution for all that is. Today I am grateful for the sun and all that she reminds me to be thankful for.

Observations from the trail. Gratitude Experiment: Day 22

Almost every morning for this last month, I’ve had every intention of quickly throwing on some shoes, putting leashes on the dogs and getting out there to walk on the many trails in the beautiful open state park right by my house. I would be crazy not to.

But  my self talk hasn’t been convincing enough.  When it comes to regular exercise, I seem to go all-out or not so much out-at-all.  And lately it’s been more the latter.  I am determined to become more consistent. And I’m saying this so that someone out there might hold me accountable.

However yesterday I took advantage of a beautiful (although hot) day and took  a long hike. My pups were ecstatic to have the opportunity to sniff smells other than the routine scents of my neighborhood streets. My husband, who participates in 75-mile bike rides without breaking a sweat, was pleasantly surprised that his less that athletic wife wanted to take a longer walk than our usual easy neighborhood loop.

On our walk I made some observations from the trail.

I should note here that in shared trail situations I am borderline overly polite and will always try to make room for someone  approaching  from behind or in front of me.  I will also at least make an attempt to say hello or acknowledge with a nod. This is not the case with everyone and I find it fascinating to observe.

My sometimes cynical but realistic husband says this quite possibly puts me at a disadvantage in the larger world scheme of things where it’s every man for himself.   This, and not having a duplicitous bone in my body.  But at any rate, I’m not changing my ways anytime soon.  (And I like to think this helps cancel out my negative karma from occasional minor road rage flare ups.)

First noticed were the the friendly, comfortable in their skin, outgoing walkers.  I’ve decided these are mostly women (usually in pairs) or older men who are usually walking with a friend and/or dog.  They’re walking at a good clip, but they aren’t so hard core that they can’t look up and say hello as you pass by.  They make room for others as I do.

Then there are the dog walkers. They are also usually friendly and mostly women. Not uncommon are comments on how cute my scruffy dogs are.  They definitely make room for passing on the trail. Until, that is, my one less than social dog begins to panic at the sight of another dog and they speed up with a concerned look as if Cujo, our 24 pound adopted mix with a partial set of teeth,  is coming to eat their dog.  (We have tried for years to make him more comfortable around other dogs to no avail.)

Next are the runners, usually in pairs.  They don’t talk much and usually have earphones in place.  They pretend like they are going to make room for others on the trail but they really have no intention of doing so.  Because if you are only walking, you really don’t deserve any special effort on their part.

The casual bikers are usually biking families that almost always have a child lagging far behind and they are trying to seem patient about it and not lose their cool because people are watching.  They have good intentions of making room on the trail, but their circus train of bikes prevent it.  They are just happy to make it past us.

The semi serious bikers are next.  They are usually by themselves and always very courteous to alert you when they are approaching with “on your left.”  Sometimes they even nod a hello.

Next we have the hard core speed bikers who race up behind us one at a time with their fancy bike race shirts and helmets.  They will most likely only graze one of your legs after approaching without a warning or a peep. And certainly without losing any speed on your behalf.

And my favorite part of the trails is the expansive underground network of prairie dogs with their intricate alarm procedures.  As our trail approaches each mound, a prairie dog scout sounds the alarm for all those nearby.  The high pitched chirping signals the little guy at the next mound.  He then dips down right as the trail gets close and immediately the prairie dog at the next mound sounds his chirping alarm.  This cycle repeats for long stretches and kind of makes me wonder what it would be like to be a prairie dog.

In the end, I am embarrassed to admit that I am a little sore the next day from our long, hot walk.  But I am glad that I am physically able to get out and take a walk, for this alone is a luxury for some.  And also that I have such a beautiful trail system at my disposal, speed bikers and all.  For these things, I am grateful.

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Snide. Gratitude Experiment: Day 21

I knew in the back of my mind that it would probably have to happen at some point. But I was hoping just maybe I would get lucky and it might never happen to this one. But it has.

My youngest, my baby, my clone (poor guy) is becoming a rather sassy teenager. He’s still his kind and helpful self about 70 percent of the time.  But his new sassy self, the one disgusted by the ridiculousness of anything that I ask or suggest, is in session the other 30 percent of the time these days.  It’s during these times that his voice is a little sharper, his patience a little thinner, and his door is more often closed than not. His dry wit in both versions continues to impress me.

I am still in denial that this is even happening to my youngest offspring.  My logical self knows it isn’t personal. And knows that its part of the deal and this too shall pass.  But my illogical, more emotion-driven self is somewhat devastated half the time, wishing I could turn back the clock for a while.

The rest of the time I am able to maintain perspective and crack the respect whip with a facial expression that my boys say is frightening and hilarious at the same time.  Apparently my eyes squint with a spooky stare and my mouth turns into a version of our Shih Tzu mix pound dog’s under bite (but with a full set of teeth). I use this technique when I glare at them and wait for behavior correction or an apology.  I think they choke back their laughter and compare notes afterwards.

Luckily that majority — the stuff that makes him who he is — is priceless and makes me beam with pride. So for now I’m going to focus on being ever so grateful for his sharp-witted, perceptive and compassionate self that reappears when I’m least expecting it.  That way I can soak in every bit of it during the years left before he flies the coop.