Superbowl – It’s not all fun and games

It’s the Superbowl calling!  Come to Phoenix for a week.  It will be fun!

I’ve made it a practice to say a hearty Yes! when an opportunity for adventure knocks.  And when my friend Sallie knocks I know that fun and adventure will always follow and whatever I say yes to will stretch me in some new way.

Vendors were hawking high-priced Superbowl gear everywhere - even in our hotel lobby.

Vendors were hawking high-priced Superbowl gear everywhere – even in our hotel lobby.

Well, a couple of months ago Sallie called and asked me to work for her at the Superbowl It was definitely an adventure and I was truly stretched.  And stretched and then stretched just a little more.  I was 66 when I flew from Portland to Phoenix and felt closer to 106 when I returned home eight days later.

It has been several years since I have felt the near constant pressure of putting on back-to-back high level events.  I was definitely rusty and out of shape.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task.  I was terrified of failing in a huge way like leaving a VVIP stranded at the airport, or at the golf course or dinner.  I worried about giving wrong directions to one of the many vehicles we had moving about town or sending a bus loaded with special guests on a merry trip to nowhere when they were supposed to be at Taste of the NFL.  (That almost happened).

I had been dubbed Transportation Czar for the week.  And it was a test of my ability to step up and Get ‘R Done.  I think I rose to the moment.  I hope I did.  I worked 18 hour days/nights and let me just say I felt every one of my years.  My brain always seemed to be a beat or two behind.  I hung in.  I bucked up.  I made it work.  And in a very strange way, I was proud that I still had it.  Even if “it” was a little slower and sometimes had a short fuse.

Thank you Sallie for inviting me to join you in another great adventure!  I can’t honestly say it was fun.  But it was a great opportunity to stretch and it certainly gave my aging brain cells a workout they haven’t had in a long time.  A few probably fell out, but I think we blew off a whole bunch of gathering cobwebs as well.


Getting ready to watch the game in the hotel lobby bar with a group of cheering strangers was actually fun.

When I told hubs I was going to Phoenix for the Superbowl, his eyes lit up.  “Can you get me a ticket?” he asked hopefully.  “No chance in hell.” I replied.  When I told him that the closest I would get to the game was sitting in a shuttle bus in the parking lot, he felt much better.  He even smilled!  He and Mr. Ricky had a great time at home without me.  And he got to watch his favorite team pull off an amazing win – all in the comfort of his recliner chair with a beer and a bag of cheese puffs.


Home again! Feet firmly planted on our beloved carpet at PDX.

Life is good!  And as hubs is famous for saying, “Just keep saying yes until you have a reason to say no.”   Yes is where adventure lives.

Go Hawks!




Rock on Older Ladies

Rock on Older Ladies!

When I saw this video I knew I had to share it on the blog.  Enjoy!

Hubs and I are lacing up our walking shoes and heading out to the Columbia Gorge for a birthday weekend celebration and lots of walking at the Columbia River Gorge Biennial Classic Volkswalk event  at Cascade Locks.  With 600+ walkers from all over the world, 13 different walks and 1 bike ride, plus fun social events, and lots of new people to meet I know it’s going to be a great time.  Now all we need is some sun.

Enjoy this toe-tapping tune and share it with women everywhere!

Cheers to weekend adventures and older women.

Rock on.


Ducklings ~

Last week I took an after dinner camera stroll along Lake Oswego.  I sat for a long time watching a mama and her ducklings.  Some days I feel just like these little guys.  The pond looks deep and the water murky.  It feels safer to just sit on the rock and bask in the evening sun.  ducklingonarock

Or hang with my bestie… ducklingpair It all looks a little too scary… ducklingtestingthewater But, what I (finally) know for sure is that when I close my eyes, hold my nose and dive in… I bob along just fine.  Sometimes better than fine.  I find joy in the adventure every time I flex my bravery muscle. ducklingswimming Maybe that’s why they call it getting your ducks in a row.

Have a happy weekend.  I’m off to play with my Colorado besties.



What Makes a Great Partner ~ the sequel

This video says it all about being a partner and a friend.  And, if you read my earlier post on partnership, you’ll agree that these two have #4 (comedian and straightman) down pat.  Go girls!

And to my dear sister…may we be our own version of Irene and Alice 30+ years from now.

Cheers to best friends and partners everywhere,


And thanks to Steve Harvey for sharing two amazing women with us.  They are truly an inspiration.

5 Tips for Going the Distance From a 94 Year Old Champion

It’s dark.  it’s cold.  it’s raining.  And Nancy is not out there walking in it.  Just a few months ago, I was putting  in 20-30 miles a week.  And now?  I’m walking from the couch to the refrigerator in my toasty new UGG slippers.  I admit it.  I’m a fair weather exerciser.  The gym is my back-up, but I don’t love it.  Okay, I do love Zumba, but this time of year the classes are so full it’s almost a combat sport.  I haven’t done a downward dog in many moons either.  Yoga is great for your body, but where’s the cardio?  That leaves the hamspter-wheel, I mean treadmill.  BORING.  Mind-numbingly boring for me.  Last weekend’s long hill walk in the bright winter sunshine was a tonic, but we don’t have many days like that in the months ahead.  I need to get my walking mojo back.  Pronto!

So, I munched the last of my Fancy Nancy’s Tropical Toffee and went looking for some sorely needed re-motivation.

I found exactly what I needed in a Parade Magazine article by Bruce Grierson who shared the inspiring and very motivating story of 94 year old Olga Kotelko.   A retired Canadian school teacher, Olga entered her first masters track and field competition at 77 and is still bringing home the gold.  She is the only woman over 90 who competes in the long jump and high jump.  Makes you feel like a bit of a slacker doesn’t it?  Well it did me.  I found the perfect role model in Olga.

I’ve read all the statistics about healthy longevity and exercise.  If the current science is correct and longevity is 75% about lifestyle, then we could all take a few pages from Olga’s book.  Will I be doing the high jump at 94?  Probably not.  Heck, I didn’t do the high jump at 14.  But, I will do everything in my power to be walking and dancing and kicking up my heels for as long as I can.  Olga is what researchers  call  a”super senior” – folks who are remaining sharp and healthy deep into old age.  Who doesn’t want that?  Besides, I’m somewhat of an over achiever so any title with “super” in it title really appeals to me.

How do Olga and other super seniors defy the odds?  Here are five of Olga’s habits that are well worth making your own:

1.  Put down the paper and lace up your sneakers.  Yes, it is that simple (and that difficult), but here’s a little added incentive.  We already know that exercise is important to your body, but Increasing evidence suggests that it is also great for the brain.  Want to fend off dementia?  Of course you do.   Well it might just be that taking a walk or a zumba class is better for your brain than completing every square in the New York Times Crossword.  Well then, what magic might happen if we did both?

2.  Stand Up!   Or at least get up.  We all sit too much.  I sit for hours every day at my desk – working, blogging, doing research, doing homework, writing articles.  Whatever. Then hubs and I hunker in front of the TV and sit some more.  Like most Americans, we are active for 1-2 hours tops and sedentary for the other 23 hours a day.  Desk jobs are unhealthy.  Extended periods of sitting can lead to serious problems like high blood pressure, blood clots and perhaps cancer.  Even in people who are deemed fit.   As the Parade article states “The painless act of rising from your chair pumps blood from the feet to the head, it helps tune your vestibular system, which helps maintain blood pressure and keeps you steady on your feet”.  Well, okay then.  It’s time for a few laps up and down the stairs.  I’ll be right back…

3.  Eat real food – most of the time.  If it comes from the ground, eat it.  If it comes from a can, bag or box, think twice.  Allow for the occasional really good indulgence.  That has been my motto for quite a while and I hope it’s working.  Like Olga, I don’t skip meals and then fill up on junk food at the Jack In the Box drive through.  Thankfully, I gave that up years ago.  Olga eats four or five times a day and not much in the evenings.  I like this simple approach.

4.  Become a creature of habit.   Olga’s point is that it helps to make exercise a routine and stick to it so that eventually it becomes a habit.  Easier said than done for me, but I have the perfect role model right here at home.  Hubs, goes to the gym 4 or 5 mornings a week, plugs in his ipod, climbs on the treadmill and listens to the same 20 songs over and over again.   Olga does the same thing at the track, but instead of Meat Loaf, she’s plugging in to Mozart’s Piano Concerto.  Whatever works.  They are both in it for the long haul.  I am too, but I need to change things up or I get restless and slack off.  It’s the “Just Do It” motto that creates the exercise habit.

5.  Give yourself a High-5.  On the 80’s TV show Coach, Luther was the bumbling assistant whose motto was “set the bar low so you will always be successful”.  It got a laugh on the show, but it’s not such a bad idea.  We tend to set lofty goals and then beat ourselves up when we don’t reach them.  Sometimes the goal can be as simple as “take a 10 minute walk” or “just go to the gym for 15 minutes”.   Easy goals get you going and you will probably walk longer or workout more than you planned once you are out there.  Give yourself a mental High-5 when you’re done.   Even better, find a workout buddy and cheer each other on.

Here’s my favorite part of Olga’s story ~ Recently she was at an airport going through security.  As usual everyone began removing their shoes but Olga didn’t.  A sign said that you didn’t have to if you were over 75.  “Excuse me, ma’am” the security agent asked.  “How old are you.?”  “Ninety-three,” Olga replied.  The agent was flabbergasted and asked her again.  “How old?” “Ninety-three” She said again.   “What’s your secret?”  the skeptical agent asked.  Olga’s reply?  “Enjoy life.”   A huge grin spread across the agent’s face.   She nodded her head and turned to her supervisor somewhere behind the barrier and announced, “I quit.”

And there’s the motivation I needed to get out in the cold, damp, dark and walk, walk, walk.  Even and especially if it’s walking to the gym.

Thank you, Olga, from a former Canadian and brand new fan.

See you on the road.


Bruce Grierson has a new book What Makes Olga Run?  The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer.  It hits the bookshelves January 14.  I can’t wait to read it.


Female Nomads ~ retired women are taking to the open road

My friend Lois is a nomad.  She’s also single and pretty much retired.  Lois doesn’t have a huge income or the security of a well-stocked trust fund.  And yet, Lois has one of the richest, fullest lives of anyone I know.  This delightful, spirited woman lives in a 10 foot 1965 vintage Aloha trailer that she pulls with her aging Mercury Montero.  Freedom?  Oh my! She’s got that in spades.  A couple of weeks ago, Lois waved goodbye to Portland’s rainy winters and headed south with “Li’l Homey”.   She shares her travels and nomad lifestyle on her blog Playing a New Game.  Thank you Lois for  inspiring the gypsy hiding in me.Lil Homey

These days more and more senior single women are taking up life on the road.  They are firing up the RV or hitching up the trailer to explore the highways and back roads all across the country.  They are creating new communities and making friends as they go.  And, while there are are some very interesting challenges in this lifestyle, these gals are rising to the challenge and loving their new home on the road.

If you are feeling the call of the open road as a retirement option, check out these very informative links for more information and a some stories that are guaranteed to make you smile

Unlikely Nomads ~  the Christian Science Monitor

Happy End of the Road for RVers – Assisted Living on Wheels ~ AOL Real Estate

And, finally, if you are not sure the RV life is for you, perhaps you like to give it a try for a night or two in one of the beautiful vintage trailers at the Shady Dell Resort in Arizona or one of the eight cuties available in Bend, Oregon at Cowgirl Cabins.

Who’s in for a Wild Women’s Weekend this summer at Cowgirl Cabins?  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it.

See you on the road.


Passion + Purpose = One Powerful Grandmother ~

          An international grandmothers movement is underway.               Grandmothers have never worked so universally and effectively for social, economic, and political justice.

I’m honored to have been invited to participate in a blogging campaign in support of Grandmother Power.  I am truly inspired by the women I know personally and those I read about or see in the media who are so passionately and so creatively and often so quietly taking actions big and small that are making our world a better place for our children and grandchildren.  This powerful movement is sweeping around the world and I want very much to be a part of it.  Count me in!

I thought it would be fun to post grandmother stories all week.  Stories by grandmothers, stories about the unique joy of being grandmothers, and stories of amazing and brilliant grandmothers who have not only inspired me and changed my life, but are using their grandmother power to light the way for so many others.

I say we start with amazing and brilliant ~

Paola in Kenya  Photo credit - Norma Adniambo

Paola in Kenya
Photo credit – Norma Adniambo

I don’t think there could be a better way to kick-off our week of celebrating the power of grandmothers everywhere, than to share some insights, experiences and words of wisdom from Paola Gianturcothe powerful grandmother and creative force behind Grandmother PowerPaola has opened our eyes and our hearts with her beautiful photographs and powerful stories of women making a difference all over the globe.   I’m excited to share Paola’s story, in her own words, of how she made the leap from exhausted executive to her brilliant and powerful Second Act as a photojournalist.  She is truly an inspiration to so many of us who are still trying to figure out what’s next.

Nancy:  Paola, women over 60 are a huge untapped resource in the world.  For many of us, some time after 50 is when we finally begin to find our true voice and start to feel those first twinges that maybe there’s something more we are here to do.  What words of wisdom and advice are you able to share as someone who felt that call and followed your heart?

Paola: After 35 years in marketing, advertising, public relations and corporate communications, I decided to teach too…and at the end of one year, I’d earned two years worth of money (bought myself a year), had one million frequent flier miles (could fly and stay virtually anywhere free), and I was exhausted!

At 55, I had been walking on Mount Tamalpais (Mill Valley, Calif.), asking myself “What next, what now?” without answers. I decided to take a year off and do only what I loved most (photography and travel in the developing world) and wanted to learn next (about women’s micro-businesses). My “one-year sabbatical” became my first book and a second career: documenting the lives of women all over the world.

Nancy:  What inspired you most on this journey?

Paola:  I was inspired by the strength and stories of women everywhere. At first, I worried that the women I interviewed would see me as so different from them that they wouldn’t tell me anything.  But in fact, people don’t travel to listen to the women I met (who were mostly rural, mostly poor, mostly ill educated) and they told me things I would never have asked. Like all of us, they wanted to be witnessed and wanted their voices to be heard.

Sharing a laugh with women in South Africa in 1996. Photo credit - Toby Tuttle

Sharing a laugh with women in South Africa in 1996.
Photo credit – Toby Tuttle

Nancy:  How has the path unfolded for you?

Paola:  Having worked in large corporations where I’d learned to set objectives, define strategies and tactics and “make it happen,” I was amazed how my life unfolded. Each step was one that I couldn’t possibly have planned. For example, the books developed out of each other. As I packed my cameras having interviewed embroiderers in the desert of Gujarat, one said, “Come back in the fall and we’ll teach you the dances we perform all night to honor the Mother God.” I did, and that experience turned into my next book, Celebrating Women.

Nancy:  What kind of support did you have and how did you reach out to create a new network?

Paola:  I  have a husband who had two million frequent flier miles of his own, which he gave me.  That made it possible to do more books. Lots of husbands wouldn’t have liked it that their wives travel alone for weeks at a time, but David cooks for himself and does his own laundry even when I’m home. When he got lonesome, he began working at a drugstore in the evenings (husbands have thought of worse things to do while their wives are away!) And he has always cheered me on. Because I was stepping into a whole new career, David was my “support-network” at the beginning.

Nancy:  You left the corporate world to step back from stress and exhaustion.  It looks like you have ramped up a very busy life again.   Are you able to keep a good work/life balance these days or are you happiest when you are going 120 mph?  I think that word “balance” is very different for each of us.  What does it mean to you?  What do you do just for fun?

Paola:  Busy is not necessarily the same as stressful. if you’re doing something you feel passionate about, you can go 120 mph without even noticing it! (People ask why I don’t have an assistant, but I can’t imagine giving away such fun.) I recognize that my life is not for everyone, and my idea of fun is unique.

I love traveling to places most people don’t go and sitting on the floor of huts listening to interesting people. It is creatively challenging to photograph them well; I am always learning and growing.  For each book, I may travel over three years, taking a number of 3-5 week working trips. I shoot in the early morning and late afternoon when the light is good, interview mid-day, and write after dinner. By now, I’ve worked in 55 countries.

Paola with Iranian Students in 2008 Photo Credit - Nancy Williams

Paola with Iranian Students in 2008
Photo Credit – Nancy Williams

Drafting each book takes a year and during that time, I am a hermit. I get up, go to the computer, get up and go to bed. My “break” is to watch the rainbows that spin from the prism in my office window every afternoon and I marvel at how lucky I am to get to do challenging, difficult, important work.

The last few months before a book is released are very demanding: working with the editor and designer, writing the website and working with the web designer, creating direct mail pieces, arranging book tour details, creating slide presentations, planning press with the PR people. In the midst of that crunch, I always vow that I will figure out a calmer way to handle those four months next time. But I haven’t yet.

Promoting the book is a different kind of fun. My books are all philanthropic projects so selling books means raising money for causes I care about: 100% of my author royalties from Grandmother Power go to African grandmothers raising children orphaned by AIDs. My work has meaning and purpose.

For relaxation? I read. I watch movies with my husband. I play with my Grand Girls. Swim. Go to the gym (without which, at age 73, I’m convinced that none of the rest would be possible).

Nancy:  Did becoming a grandmother create a new lens through which you see the world?   How so?  Were your grandchildren the inspiration for your latest book?  What do you hope this book will achieve?

Grandmother Power -  Paola at home with her girls

Grandmother Power – Paola at home with her girls

Paola:  Because I am a grandmother, I wondered what grandmothers were doing other places. I discovered an unheralded, international activist grandmother movement, full of women who thought (as do I) that this troubled world is just not good enough for anybody’s grandchildren.

Grandmother Power, was inspired by African grandmothers who were raising children orphaned by AIDS. I met so many of them when I was working there in 2006 that I left convinced that grandmothers hold the future of the continent in their hands.

Grandmothers today are younger, better educated, healthier and (in the Global North) more career-experienced than they have ever been. As Boomers become Grands, they (who came of age in the 1960’s) know they can change the world because they did. In other words, the days of the “knitting, tatting, rocking-chair-ridden grandmother” are long gone.

But many grandmothers in the US are not yet part of the international activist grandmother’s movement, perhaps because they don’t know about it. And that’s a waste of a lot of urgently needed talent.

Nancy:  I want to be part of the Grandmother Power Movement and I am sure lots of women reading your story will as well.   How can we get involved?

Paola:  I hope Grandmother Power will inspire those who are not yet engaged to collaborate to make the world a better place. To start, join, support and network with grandmother groups. I’m convinced it will take all of us, Grandmothers and GrandOthers, working together, to create hope and possibility for our world.

Nancy:  In your book, Grandmother Power, you photographed and interviewed grandmother groups all over the world.  What is your process for locating your subjects, making contact, establishing rapport and getting to the heart of their story?

Paola:  I do preliminary research on as many as 70 different groups, then select 15 that, together, present a balanced variety of issues, ethnicities and geographies. (I make sure the groups are on the United Airlines routes so I can fly there free!)

I email the head of each group, describe my concept, and ask if the organization would like to participate. When I arrive, my interpreter and I meet with the group’s leader, and decide whom I will interview and when. My interpreters are almost always local women; their English may not be perfect, but bringing in a well-educated “city woman” as interpreter is a nonstarter; no one will talk.

I begin every interview by showing pictures of my family and showing my books so the woman will understand who I am and what she’s getting into. I never take pictures until after she has talked for at least an hour and I have a sense of who she is and what pictures might reveal her world. The interviews feel like conversations, although I explore areas I’ve defined carefully in advance. At the end, I always invite the woman to ask whatever she wants to ask me. Turn about is fair play!

Because it’s important to me to represent the women well, I send every chapter draft to the interpreter to read to each woman so she can correct any factual inaccuracies.

Nancy:  Do you develop lasting friendships with some of the women you interview or follow up on their lives after your time together?   I’m sure each meeting touched you in different ways.  Have you seen any direct impact of your stories on their lives?

Paola:  Yes, I stay in touch with many of the leaders of the groups that are featured in my books, and feel blessed by their friendship.

Paola with Yasmina in Panama in 1997 Photo Credit - TobyTuttle

Paola with Yasmina in Panama in 1997
Photo Credit – TobyTuttle

And yes, I have been astonished and awed, to see the direct impact of my books on women’s lives.  For example, I went back to India to work not long after a catastrophic earthquake and saw all the women in one village rebuilding their huts with funds wired by a reader of my first book. I was so touched that I wept.

Nancy:  What’s next?  Do you have more stories to tell through your photographs and books or do you have other visions to conquer and roads to explore?

Paola:  I always have a file of ideas of what to do next. I won’t open that file until January 2014. Until then, Grandmother Power is where the action is. For example, The Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan will present a Grandmother Power exhibit from September through December 2013.

Nancy:  And, I finally a much more lighthearted question – If you were a pair of shoes, what kind would you be and why?

Paola:  “Strappy black sandals, flats. I’m comfortable being casual and being fancy—and summer is my favorite time of the year.”

Thank you, Paola.  Your purpose and passion have inspired me once again.  My mind is buzzing with ideas!


Taking the plunge ~ a swimsuit shopping adventure

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a friend and avid Just a Backpack fan, with a very interesting proposal.  Would I be open to having guest bloggers?  Hmmm.  Maybe.  Not sure.  How would that work?  Lot’s of questions and no answers at the time.  It took a while, but it finally hit me – this blog is all about seeking new adventures in our later years.   I love sharing new ideas and experiences with my readers and my hope is that they create a spark to dip your toes in the water, give it a try, and then hold your nose and dive right in when you find something that looks interesting.  So, when Judy thought she might like to give writing a blog post a try – I’m here to give her a wholehearted Yes!  You go girl. 

And, now Judy is taking the plunge and making her debut as our very first guest blogger.

* * * * * * *

Is there anything as daunting and terrifying as shopping for a new swimsuit when you’re a “woman of a certain age”?  Truth be told, when I’ve been any of my ages, I’ve had body issues that made bathing suit shopping anything but fun.

A trip to Palm Desert and sunshine was the impetus for this particular shopping adventure.  I’d put it off as long as possible.  I even thought I’d wait until I got to California to shop, but I didn’t want to waste precious sunshine time in a store.  My old bathing suit still fit, sort of, but the straps made a crackly sound – which meant the elastic was gone.  So I had no choice.

A swimmer friend recommended Macy’s or a shop out of my usual traffic patterns.  So I checked the web and found Popina’s  – a local swimsuit shop that even has a selection of their own creations.  I asked the woman on the phone if she would help me find a suit that would make me look good.  “Oh, yes,” she replied, “and we even have beer.”  Surprised, I asked how beer could help my tummy look smaller.  “It won’t, but it will make you feel better”.  This sounded like it could be fun.

Popina's ~ a little slice of heaven in Portland

Popina’s ~ a little slice of heaven in Portland

With trepidation, flip flops and white legs, I drove to Popina’s the following day. This is a fun store, full of sunshiny decorations to get you in the mood. I was the only customer in the store at 11:00 a.m. and Kristen gave me lots of personal attention, which was exactly what I needed.   She really knew her stock and listened to what I wanted.  The racks at Macy’s would not have done that.

I learned that there are now suits that are chlorine resistant so they won’t break down easily from the chemicals.  She brought me a selection of suits to try on and they actually looked pretty good – until I looked in the rear view mirror.  No, the suit didn’t make my butt look big  – it was discovering I had back fat and the suit accentuated it.  Where did that come from? Too much information to share – too matronly. This hadn’t shown up in clothes.  This can’t be me!  I’ve had lots to contend with in the past several years – like  a kidney transplant – but not back fat!  Ughhh!

Kristen to the rescue – She totally “got it” and found a suit similar to the one I liked, but it was cut higher in the back – which made it much more flattering and kept the back fat in check.  Within about 45 minutes, start to finish – I  bought a new suit that I actually like.  Definitely a more fun than traumatic experience.  I didn’t drink the beer, but now I was totally ready for the sunshine.

Where's the pool?

Where’s the pool?

My trip to Palm Desert and sunshine was wonderful.  But the most delightful part was being amongst active women, all of a certain age, and with many different body  types… all of them enjoying life.   Having fun in the sun does not mean fitting into an itsy bitsy teenie weenie.  It does mean being who I am – a woman of a certain age, enjoying my good health, my body and my life.             ~Judy Romano~

 * * * * *

Judy and her husband sold their business a couple of years ago and are now exploring their own second acts in retirement.  She loves discovering all of the new possibilities and adventures life is bringing her way.  These days, Judy calls herself a very happy dilettante.

To Violet ~ with Gratitude

Ensconced in her window seat in the front of the plane, tray table down, sorting through all of the treasures she had stashed into two cotton carry bags, a most delightful slip of a woman looked up as I moved in to take the aisle seat.  She smiled at me and her blue eyes twinkled.  Wispy white hair peaked out from the sides of her knit cap and a fringed pom-pom danced on top.  The word elf came to mind.  I sensed this was going to be more of an adventure than my usual Portland to Phoenix flights and boy was I right.

Her name was Violet and when I sat down next to her on that flight a few years ago, she was 86 years old.  She wasn’t an elf at all.   She was a treasure and a very special gift.

For the next two hours and twenty minutes Violet regaled me with stories of her life and the wisdom of her years.  She talked and talked.  I listened and learned.  For Violet, life had always been, and still was, one hell of a grand thrill ride.  At 19, as a young war bride, Violet and her baby moved to Portland where she found work in the shipyards.  Yes, she was the real-deal Rosie the Riveter.   Husbands, jobs, kids, moves, grand kids, births and deaths – the daily act of creating a life well lived that often seems so mundane to many of us – came vividly to life as my new friend spun out tale after tale.   Just an ordinary life some might think, but oh not so.  What Violet knew and what so many of us miss – what makes every life special and unique and amazing – is when we pay attention to the details, embrace the challenges, open to the opportunities. It’s in how we choose to experience each of our moments.  Violet chose to see adventure.  She chose joy and she chose to stop and savor the tiniest details.  She has never stopped exploring or learning.  She loved meeting new friends.  And, at 86, this beautiful lady was just beginning her latest adventure as she flew across the country to Oklahoma City to take up residence in a new apartment.  She couldn’t wait to settle in, get herself a computer and start using the internet.

Opinions?  She had (more than) a few – on the health benefits of dark chocolate and avocados.  That most doctors didn’t know what they were talking about and nobody would benefit in the long run from popping prescription drugs.  She told me she loved people but was pretty much over sex.

Two hours flew by (pun intended), we landed in Phoenix and reluctantly I had to leave.  I gathered the paperwork that I not even bothered to look at and stuffed everything into my travel bag.  As I stood in the aisle waiting to de-plane, Violet called out “Goodbye Nancy!  Goodbye.  And say hello, say hello to all the people I haven’t met yet.”

Over the next few days, Violet kept coming into my mind.  Not her words so much, just a  feeling.   You could say this was just a chance meeting with a lovely old lady on a plane.  I choose to believe that Violet was a gift to me on that day.  A beautiful reminder of things that I often forget in the busyness of being – I forget to remember to PAY ATTENTION.  If you ask me what I did last Tuesday, I’m not sure I can recall.  It’s all so much, so fast, so busy and it often feels like I’m just sliding through.  Getting it done, but not savoring it, not really seeing it, sometimes not feeling it.   The magic is in the moment and Violet knew that instinctively.  Me?  I’m still learning.

It’s that time of year when we pause for a few moments to remember all that we are grateful for.   Today I am grateful for the special “elfs” that pass through my life sprinkling the wisdom I need, just when I need it most.

Thank you Violet, wherever you are.  I hope we meet again someday.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

A Pair of Classics ~

Meet Margaret Dunning, at 102 years very young, I’d say she’s definitely a classic and so is her 1930 Packard 740 Roadster.  Yes, Margaret still drives and in fact she is still showing her classic beauty at concours d’elegance.  In a recent appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours, she told the audience that she changes her own oil and spark plugs and that “Before old age overtook me, I could scoot under the car very nicely.”  Margaret owns several classic vehicles.  The Packard may be her favorite, but these days you’re like to  see Margaret driving around her hometown of Plymouth, Michigan in a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.  It’s her “everyday car”.

Margaret, you are an inspiration to us youngsters in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  A true classic.  Keep on driving!

Both videos are from Utube.