just being bonnie

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all in

IMG_3076integrity:  the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness [wikipedia]

Recently, I participated in a reflective conversation among friends where we described each other with a single word. A couple said “integrity” for me. A short time later this word came up again when I stepped down from a volunteer position and received parting words from my colleagues.

I readily admit to being too lazy and not creative enough to even try to manipulate situations through deception. As a young adult I just ‘lived,’ underpinned by the values instilled in me as a child. There was little understanding of the possible results of my good or bad behavior.

Age and a soft search for meaning in life reinforced that engaging with and trusting the universe (life) provided opportunities I could not imagine on my own. Fighting nature only created tension. Letting go and being comfortable with the uncertainty of riding the wave opened up the world of possibilities and joy, even when not clear where it was headed. And, my moral compass provided the foundation for sincere and fulfilling relationships.

Today, I have a proactive desire to surround myself with friends and family who share this character trait — those I can trust and who know they can trust who I am — confident, smart, compassionate, selfless. While patience is another trait I have been accused of possessing, I quickly tire of fragile egos with their insatiable need of stroking and that require stepping on the backs of others. In my mind this breeds insincerity and exaggerated boasting (so nauseating). I also cannot tolerate a lack of scruples. Strong principles protect others as much as ourselves, in our communal best interest and selflessly looking out for each other. Selfishness, on the other hand, seeks short term personal gain or satisfaction without regard for the damage to the well-being of those around us. Honesty and a strong moral compass allow relationships to be robust, amazingly fulfilling, and mutually supportive — all in.

While I try to maintain my integrity, I am not perfect. I have my weaknesses, vices, and darker desires. But I commit to not intentionally deceive or take advantage of another’s weakness. If I make a mistake, I promise to correct and apologize as quickly as possible. If I am not aware of what I have done, I hope that my friends and family have enough faith in me to bring it to my attention and work with me to make it right. The remainder of my life is too short to tolerate the presence of anyone who selfishly steps on my trust and tries to gain at my expense — sacrifices their integrity through lies and immoral acts. Upholding integrity earns respect, admiration, and love. The irony is that a lack of integrity ultimately backfires into a lonely existence whereas strong integrity pays off exponentially with the richest relationships.

Transitioning into the best part of my life (working through my own mid-life traumas) has been extremely painful — psychologically, emotionally and physically — and at the same time I’m gaining life-fullness as my self assuredness and compassion are returning and growing. Fighting through this alone, I regret that my pride has prevented me from sharing more. My closest friends and family are not just there for the good times but also to help each other through the tough. We need each other. I want to be surrounded by those I can trust to be completely supportive through the fun and the trials — all in.

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Pheasant Hunting

IMG_1795For the third year in a row, a year-end field team is verifying utility installed energy efficiency measures in homes. Most of them in Detroit. Most of them lower income. And, we have stories to tell.

The initial image going into Detroit is dominated by abandoned, burned and crumbling buildings. After decades of exodus, it infects every neighborhood. Upon closer look, these neglected structures and their sites are oddly clean. Scavengers pick over them repeatedly for every salable or usable item. Nearby residents, in an attempt to reclaim control of their neighborhoods, persistently collect the blowing trash. Years of wind, rain and sun scour the remnants like skulls in the desert. These piles of destruction are transforming into the ruins of an industrial era.

After weeks of navigating the city, a more conscious notice revealed the thin tough layer of humanity. People live here. A Danish bakery, a Polish market and a Coney Island are still in business because others failed first and those that remain need to eat. Scotty Simpson’s Fish & Chips (third owner but original decor from 1950) in Riverdale only takes cash. Harry very graciously told me to just pay the next time I come in. Alicia at Motor City Java House (Detroit’s original and home base for Motor City Blight Busters) in Old Redford knows my name. A trustee at the Church of the Messiah in Islandview wants to motivate the individual members of his congregation to take responsibility and control in charting a new course for their energy use. The pillars of the community are already here.

After a couple years of wandering these neighborhoods, a unique layer in the landscape revealed itself. In a fairly dense neighborhood of 1940s brick four-plexes, a beautiful fat and happy pheasant trotted across the street in front of my car. Thinking it was a rare siting, I told everyone for the next few days. A local property manager smiled at my excitement and then enlightened me. The pheasant population has been growing consistently on the east side, not on the west side, as nature is taking back large sections of the city. He described a blind of waist high grasses a few blocks away where he estimated dozens lived. I would only see them if they were flushed out of hiding. I found the blind. Even if I didn’t need to keep moving to get to my next appointment, I don’t think I could disturb them. I am not a hunter.

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double booked

IMG_0053We’re closing in on 6 months. While I was looking into the idea of making a real estate investment in a resort community, we discovered we were already sitting on an income property.

From 3 couples over four consecutive nights on our first weekend to a young new grandmother from the UK for 2 weeks in October … our guests are effortless, and in fact a downright pleasure, but the change over between reservations was way too tight and not fun.

Coordinating check-out and check-in times, running sheets and towels through the laundry, wiping down the rooms and polishing the bathroom, tidying the rest of the house, stocking the frig, being home to greet them upon arrival … the popularity really surprised us. And we have day jobs. While we like to keep our house pretty neat and clean, suddenly we found ourselves cleaning 3 rooms that we seldom used multiple times over a few days. It became a chore when it had to be done within a tight window defined by someone else. On the other hand, when we had a few days between guests to slip the tasks into our schedules the stress fell away. It didn’t seem like much work at all.

My solution … allow at least one day between reservations. It’s easier on us and on them if we can simply be flexible about arrival and departure times. We don’t need the money so there is no pressure to accept everyone and fill the calendar. Their planning and their entire stay should be as easy and enjoyable as possible. They just tell me the time to expect, there is no negotiating needed to make sure we can prep the rooms, we communicate by text as they get closer and in the worst case I could leave a key outside and have them call me when they arrive. 

To minimize frustration by those looking to make travel plans, I now block out the day before and the day after each reservation on our calendar in addition to any dates when we’ll be out of town. It’s hard to tell someone no, even if you haven’t met them, so this way they don’t even inquire unless it already works for me. I also inform new reservations that I’ve done this in case they want to change their start or end date … I may be more flexible than it appears and this has come up a few times.

We’re feeling like veterans. After 6 months, we’ve figured out how to handle most situations that come up. Except. Except, handling conflicting date inquiries at the same time. Again, I have a hard time saying no. And, I didn’t. While overlapping requests have happened 3 times, the first two times only one request followed through. I was saved without doing anything. But not the last time. Most inquiries come from people new to the system and I didn’t fully understand how to use the reservation initiation and confirmation steps to help me navigate this. Tomorrow night we’ll be in the basement on an air mattress.

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how far do you run?

IMG_4861My mother views the world through rose colored glasses. I don’t imagine her ever taking them off. She resists if I challenge her. Everything is pretty and good. She sees the best in everyone, every place and every situation. While it makes her very pleasant to be around, any praise loses its significance. How good is anything when she says that about everything? Naively, I think she really thinks this way. Could it be this is just the face that keeps her happy and the world beautiful? Could it be that she does think about the darker side but would just prefer not to? If she thinks the world and everyone in it is good, then it is. Reality is our own perception of reality.

On the other hand, I imagine myself being much more realistic about the world around me. Constructive criticism seems more helpful in putting people, places and events into perspective. Not to be unkind, just objective. We can have a comparative conversation. I can rank opinions and use that information to make decisions about where to put my limited effort. Life is short.

Going through airport security in Detroit this morning, a security person came up to me as I was tying my shoe laces. He asked me how far I run. I don’t run, but he thought I looked like a runner. I told him I’m a walker but I should run. I was flattered and walked away feeling like I should run. Not right that moment, but like I always think when feeling I could be more athletic, sometime in the near future. Maybe next week.

It didn’t occur to me until I was off to my gate, that as a security person he may have been asking an unassuming question to see how I would react. Then I also realized that I almost always take people at their word and don’t tend to analyze or try to figure out what they may have really meant. I am gullible and never get the joke or tease until after everyone else is laughing, and sometimes it takes longer. I want to believe I had a pleasant impromptu conversation with him, that he was being genuinely flattering and that I look like I’m in good shape. I don’t want to spend a moment thinking anything else because he made me feel good. I have my rose colored glasses on and life is too short to not be wearing them.

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Enjoy the ride

These two young beasts are being raised to join the PBR circuit. This may be the only sport where the animals have a decided advantage. Look at those faces. They’re mean. Look at the bends in that fencing. They’re daring you to even think about getting into their corral. The crazy young bull riders will be thrown every time. It’s the only way to get off. Landing on their back or on their head, they pray their momentum is in the opposite direction of the bull’s or a hoof may add punctuation. These male monsters will never be tamed, but after their performance they trot happily out of the ring appearing to relish in the cheers. They’ll retire to a pasture as breeding stock, but the cowboys will live with painful memories of each throw. Why do they ride?

Last month I joined my sister and my mother on a short week to Breckenridge to visit my brother. I’ve made this trip to the mountains often to ski or hike but my only expectation this time was to hang out with my immediate family and let the time unfold. To live in and enjoy every moment. We’re all pretty easy-going so we relaxed and took turns suggesting the next activity … Quandary Grill, a nap, a drive up the resort road to Devil’s Crotch, Daylite Donuts, a trip over Boreas Pass to FairPlay, horseback riding in the rain, Blue Moose, Patagonia, Mountain Outfitter, Rita’s, Whale’s Tail, Cool River. We don’t have unrealistic expectations of each other or carry emotional baggage, so we can just be together and smile at each other. While this feels pretty lucky, why should we spend time any other way. What makes a good ride? It’s who you’re with, not where you are. It’s being in a place where we can accept and embrace our differences.

My brother was a herdsman (breeding dairy cows) and has a charming self-consciousness about his fragile masculine image. As a cow-man he absolutely would not have been caught dead working with horses. They’re worthless. Well, maybe so, but now he not only works with horses, he’s managing a rodeo. And, he wears a cowboy hat! The transition has been much easier than he would have expected. He’s always been happy but seems even happier now. Why is this the ride of his life? It’s not only who you’re with, its also sharing the experiences and interests of those who are important to you. He’s living close to his daughter, he’s enjoying working with his son-in-law the rancher, and the move was necessary for his wife. That whole package happens to include horses and now the whole family’s become interested in horses.

Where will the next ride be? This trip came together when we were all in Harbor Springs earlier in the year. The conversation naturally included imagining a visit to Breckenridge. My sister had not been there and was not particularly interested in the mountains, but before my brother left we picked a week that worked for just the four of us. Serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. What will chance bring next? It cannot be forced and is happening all the time, so every day …

I am enjoying the ride!

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Eating alone

Eating well alone. Tomatoes, onion, hot peppers, cilantro and eggs from Farmer John, jazzed up with Smoked Cheddar from Tacklements and way cool with Iced Coffee.

A half share is a lot of veggies to consume by myself. The way I prepare them though … humbly amazing. Most of it I cook as soon as I get home so its ready when I want it. Kale sautéd with garlic (on bruschetta), zucchini ratatouille with hot peppers and tomatoes and cilantro, Niçoise potato salad, hard boiled eggs, blanched green beans and smoked rainbow trout. Eating well but alone.

Did I mention Blueberry Frozen Yogurt? To soothe my lonely blues. Peaches?

They talk about the important ingredient of love that cooks can bring to the food they prepare. Love for what we’re creating but also love for those we’re feeding. I have a healthy love for myself, but slight in comparison to the love for my favorite dinner date.

I love you, my missing ingredient.

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When Dave left on his fishing journey last Sunday, I created a small list of what I was going to do while he’s gone. Not a long list or any big projects but just a list that I could read off when asked what I did during this free time. Just enough that I wouldn’t feel guilty about not doing much.

The list included reading something. While I’m enjoying the freedom I feel with my e-books where I can pull them out whenever I find myself in a place by myself (on my Air and iPhone) and read just a few inspiring pages, I also have a library with lots of printed books I haven’t read. I was looking for one with at least a slim connection to the trip Dave was taking. Hemingway, The Short Stories. I like the idea of ‘short’, because I can stop after any one of them. I don’t have to finish the whole book. Of course he is the classic author fisherman. I also like his style and characters … not sure why I haven’t read much of his work.

I’m through the first three stories and the main character has died in each. It could be depressing but I’m actually hoping for more. Not sure what to think about this yet.

I tripped today. I remember doing this in almost the exact same way last summer. The toe of my Mephisto sandal caught on a raised section of sidewalk. In both cases I was distracted. It’s not that I have to watch every step, but my entire attention was elsewhere so even my peripheral vision was blind. Last year someone I know caught my attention and this time I was texting while I walked. I don’t remember having tripped like this before last year but I expect I have at some time. First it’s embarrassing (I saw no one that saw me this time) and it made me feel clumsy (since it’s the second time in a year should I feel like I’m losing my reflexes?).

My iPhone has added complexity and distraction to the calmness I generally feel. Texting while walking. When it happened I used all my strength to try to catch myself in the slow-motion steps forward but there was no way to stop the downward momentum of my shoulders. I saw a slim edge of grass and set my intention toward it, my iPhone dropped out of my hand, and my left ankle bone and right palm touched the pavement when I landed. Looking up I saw my iPhone was face down on the concrete at the end of the earbud cord. At Erica’s house she pulled out some antiseptic and bandaids to patch up my ankle bone. Several times during the day I checked the face of my iPhone … I still cannot detect a scratch.

My take-away: I don’t need to get a sleeve for my iPhone! Complexity has lead to simplicity. It’s so beautiful when it’s left naked.

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Hello world!

After spending the last year drafting a website in iWeb, unsure where to make it live or even if it was ready, then I invite Diane for dinner and this is out there with no more than a picture and a title. Both of which have changed a couple times in less than 24 hours. And they’ll change again … but that’s the point, to be able to keep playing with it. So I might as well get started because there is no end, until I end.

My idea is to have a journal that will not only grow but can change, allow me to restate my thoughts and perspectives as they evolve. One of the things I LOVE about being over 50 (and yes there are lots!) is that the best parts of life have become much simpler while the most interesting parts have become far more complex. Feeding myself, spending time with people I enjoy, doing nothing, being in the same room with Dave, … are without guilt and the whole of myself is in those moments. Recipes, personal relationships, electronic devices, problem solving, … are full of options, nuances, conflicts and possibilities that can always provide a new way to look at them (without end).

I expect I’ll focus more on pages rather than blogs, but we’ll see how it goes.

Welcome to my world!