Staying Alive At Fifty-five

Full disclosure:  Don’t let the title of this blog post mislead you.  
I am not fifty-five,
but I am staying alive.

A few weekends ago, I gathered with my high school classmates for our fifty-fifth reunion.  When the invitation to the gathering arrived in the mail months ago, I saw that the theme for the occasion was: fifty-five and staying alive.  At my age staying alive all these years after high school graduation is something to celebrate, and in truth, the sobering fact is that so many of my classmates did not live to see this reunion.  

I’ve thought about that theme a great deal since our gathering.  Here are some lessons I’d like to share with you.

Lessons learned at my 55th high school reunion 

  • Stay connected!  I made some of the most amazing friends in high school.  Thankfully, these friends are among my dearest friends today.  Do you know why?  It is because we have taken the time to stay connected.  And when I say connected, I mean connected.  Not only do we meet on a regular basis (four times a year), but we also take the time at these gatherings to really share about what is going on in our lives.  Without a doubt, no matter what, I know these girls will be there for me until my last breath, and I will also be there for them.  They are among my dearest and closest friends.
A month before our reunion we realized we had not met for way too long because when we set up our yearly schedule for gatherings, we had decided to wait until the reunion to meet after our early spring gathering.  In July, we had an impromptu meeting and those who could went to lunch.  There is something really special that happens when a bunch of 70+ year old ladies meet for lunch and spend the afternoon laughing.  Kathy, seated at the far end of the table on the left, planned the lunch and gave us each a rose as we left.  
  • Laughter makes you look younger!. Find those friends that make you really laugh.  When you laugh, the wrinkles around your eyes and your lips come from laughter so you can fool people into thinking that you are younger and don’t really have any wrinkles.  “Those wrinkles!  They aren’t from age. They are only there when I laugh.”  Well, maybe not, but I am convinced that laughter not only makes you look younger, it also makes you feel younger. 
  • The eyes never age.  I look into the eyes of some of my girlfriends from high school and I see the same girl I used to tap on the shoulder in English class while we were reading A Tale of Two Cities and ask her if she had the answer to the question I didn’t quite get.  I see her blue eyes, and we are both sixteen again.  I know her life story and know it has been filled with triumph and tragedy, but to me she is both a naive girl of sixteen and mature grandmother of 73.  Those eyes connect hearts and those connections have deepened over the decades.  In each other’s eyes and hearts, we will never really age.

  • Guys still love their cars, so pose with them beside their cool cars.  This guy restored this old car.  He and his car both look amazing.  

  • Treasure friendships that span the generations. Tell the stories that include those whom are no longer with us.  This guy’s parents were best friends with my best friend’s parents.  I remember those days when our parents were all still alive and they all would gather together for a summer evening barbecue.  They would be laughing and telling stories, and we would be the kids listening to their stories of long ago.  Now, our parents are gone, and we are left to remember those times and tell the stories of long ago.   It seems that as we age, there are fewer and fewer of our acquaintances whom knew our parents.
  • High school sweethearts are the best kind of sweethearts to have.  I came home from my fifty-fifth high school reunion with the very best gift that my time in high school ever gave me: my high school sweetheart, the love of my life, my hubby.  
Fifty-five and staying alive is something to celebrate.
I’m so very grateful I had the blessing of being able to do so.

Potpourri

Potpourri,
a mixture,
a collection,
a mixed bag,
a rag bag.
A blog post
becomes a collection of thoughts and activities when one has been 
away from blogging for over a month.

Where to start?

I had a birthday while I've away from blogging.



Daughter Amy and granddaughter Hannah came to help me celebrate.
We also celebrated Amy's birthday which is usually five days after mine.
Every four years there are six days between our special days.
I was born on February 28.
I gave birth to Amy on March 5.


Amy and Hannah brightened my birthday by being with me to celebrate,
and Amy brightened the house by putting together this vibrant and colorful birthday bouquet
which I enjoyed for days.
My son-in-law had to touch the flowers to see if they were real.
Thanks again, Amy.



All the kids sent me a Mother's bracelet that came from Sheridan and Ryan's shop, Hip & Humble.
I just love it!


After Amy and Hannah left for home, Jim and I took advantage of the beautiful weather we were having by taking a walk under beautiful blue skies in the Garden of the Gods.



We had a lot of cake back at the house, so Jim's daughters, their husbands. and children came over to help me celebrate later in the evening.

The next day, Jim drove me to Denver for a doctor's appointment.
After the appointment, we drove out to tour Amy's place of employment, a data storage center.
Once we passed security, we had to go through this gate to get to the front door where Amy met us.


We were very impressed by the entire operation that happens at such a place.
It was all quite interesting.
Amy is the company's human resources generalist.
The girl actually gave in and let me take her picture.
Mom's have to brag on their kids once in a while.


*****************
March has been such a busy month.
It seemed I lived at National Jewish Health during March as I was having many tests done.
I won't bore you with details.  I just had a lot of GI testing for chronic problems.
I am doing well at the moment and feeling good.
That is the good news.

******************

I've attended way too many funerals this past month.
One was for the mother of a friend.
One was a heartbreaking one of a young man whom had been a student when my husband was principal.   He was the victim of a senseless act of violence.

I also serve on the funeral committee at our church.
This last month, we've unfortunately been hit by quite a few deaths in our church.
Our committee puts on a reception for the family and other attendees after the funeral service.
This means that we usually work five or six hours putting it together and cleaning up afterwards.
The ladies on the committee have become very close,
and we have a lot of fun together behind the scenes.
At one funeral earlier this month, I was in charge of making the coffee.
The coffee maker malfunctioned.
Actually, the coffee machine was fine,
but the maker of the coffee (that would be me) put the wrong size carafe under the machine.
I had a huge mess on my hands.
Let's just say coffee was going everywhere, and it kept on flowing before I figured out what to do: forget about cleaning  up the mess and get another pot under the machine.
Then I cleaned up the mess.

We serve because we have served by others when we lost loved ones.
Now, we are giving back.
It is good to serve others during their times of bereavement.

**************

Two weeks ago, I hosted for my high school girlfriend get together.
Thank heaven's EH co-hosts with me!
I get so scattered getting everything ready that I am useless.
EH comes in and helps me set things up, get the food served, and she even stays and helps clean up.
She keeps things together while I flit around losing my mind.


The time with the girls is a celebration of fun, friendship, and food.
This time we had fabulous Mexican food.
As is our tradition, we gathered to lift a Margarita toast to those dear friends that are now departed.
Then, we feasted on homemade tamales, green chili, enchilada casserole, and the most amazing flan cake.  There were veggies, and chips and dip, cheese cake, too.
Needless to say, we had quite a feast.

Before we ate, we took our group photo on my front porch.
I used the automatic self timer on my camera for the first time.
Note that I barely got to my spot in the group before the camera took the picture.  
I'm just glad I didn't knock over the tripod.


I love these girls!
We are all so blessed to have each other.
Our friendships become richer and more priceless with each passing year.

***********

Jim and I took a road trip to see my mother last week.
I hadn't been over to see Mother since September.
Since she lives on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, I no longer make the trip in winter.
After checking the weather forecast, we determined the best day to make the trek.
On the day we left, snow started falling in the mountains.
I suggested a more southern route which my husband thought seemed too far out of the way.
In the end, he took my suggestion.
Terrible snow storms that included wind, blizzard like conditions, caused road closures on the route we usually take.
Thankfully, no snow fell on us, and we had very little traffic.

I'd not told mother we were coming until we left home because I didn't want to disappoint her in case weather prevented us from making the trip.
She seemed so happy and quite surprised to learn we were coming.

The morning after our arrival, I snapped this photo of Mother.
This photo captures so much about her.
She is enjoying her coffee and the newspaper as she does every morning.
The coffee cup says CSHS on it and has a image of her high school on it:
Colorado Springs High School.
Her green thumb is evidenced by the gorgeous orchids on her table.
I gave her those orchids last year for her birthday.
She'd never grown orchids before, but that didn't stop her from keeping them blooming a year later.
The painting on the wall is one she painted.
The smile shows she is engaged and engaging.

She tells me all the time that she isn't going to let anyone one do for her what she can do for herself.
She often tells me she gets up and cooks herself an egg and bacon every morning.
"I cook a real meal. I don't just pour cereal in a bowl.  I make a meal."
"If I stopped doing for myself I'd be done."


I asked if she needed to go shopping.
She did.
She needed make-up.
So, she got her spring coat on and off we went to the mall.



This woman, my amazing mother, will be 100 years old in May.

She has a new walker that allows her to get around better than when she uses a cane.
She stood up straight and tall and pushed that walker through the mall.
In my mind, I heard her short quickly paced high heel clad steps walking down the sidewalk in front our home when I was child as she came home
from Wednesday evening choir practice at the church in the next block.

Straight and and tall, all 4'10" of her tiny frame stepped out at a pace that amazed me as she pushed that walker.
Again, an image came to my mind.
I saw her pushing a baby buggy down the street towards the bus stop, clad in high heels, walking at a fast clip, she was going to town to do some shopping with my baby sister in the buggy,
and myself at her side.


This day, all those years later, we had lunch at the mall where she commented on hair styles and clothing styles.  She notices such things.  She's up on all the styles.  She doesn't like some of them.  I wonder if anyone even knows what style is these days.

Then we went to buy her makeup.
She said she needed one more thing while we were there.
She was out of Chanel No. 5 perfume and needed to get a new bottle.

Yes, that is my amazing mother.

**************

Today is Good Friday.
It was warm this morning.
I went out dressed in a light sweater and slacks and flats with no stockings as I went to the store.
This evening when we went to dinner, I was dressed in winter pants,  a warm sweater, and boots.
I put on my long wool dress coat that I had not put on all winter to wear to Good Friday services.
It was snowing like crazy all through dinner.
We actually had thunder snow where it was thundering and snowing at the same time.

We missed Good Friday services because of the weather.
It just didn't make sense to go out for night services on a night like this.

On Wednesday, we were snowed in due to a blizzard.
Earlier today, before the snow hit, I went out to buy groceries.
I've leaned to get to the store early when snow is in forecast.
I'm not sure if my daughter and her family will make it down on Easter because of the forecasted storms, but I thought I'd better plan as if she were coming.

I picked up the last of the asparagus at the store.
I picked up one of the last six hams that were left in the store.
I got the last of the daffodils; there weren't even a dozen in the last few I grabbed.
They had plenty of eggs which I needed.
Thank heavens, they also had plenty of jelly beans.
I love jelly beans.
The store manager told me that he'd not gotten shipments in for the end of the week
due to storm early in the week.

As I left the store, the parking lot was filling up fast.
I was glad I made it there relatively early.

I don't think we will have an Easter egg hunt on Sunday.
It would be hard to find eggs in all this snow.

Happy Easter!

*************








Basking in the Glow of a Golden Celebration

Fading summer flowers,
spent,
and long past their days of glorious blooming,
signaled that the last days of summer had truly arrived.

Are these flowers a metaphor for the weekend?
I wondered as I hurried out of the house and headed off for a weekend
 with my high school girlfriends.

Long in the planning, the weekend celebration of our
70th birthdays
had finally arrived.
I had dubbed this celebration:
Our Senior Trip.

At age seventy, some may think my girlfriends and I had reached an age beyond the blooming days of youth where there is not much to celebrate.
In our hearts we are still young girls,
but,
we have somehow reached the entry year to our eighth decade.


We came together 
to bask 
in the glory of reaching a milestone that none of knew could be so rewarding.


bask/
verb
  1. lie exposed to warmth and light, typically from the sun, for relaxation and pleasure
    revel in and make the most of (something pleasing).*

The Trip to the Celebration

A few of us decided to make the trip from the Colorado Front Range of the Rockies
to the Western Slope of Colorado
via the train.
The train left Denver at 8:05 a.m. for a five hour and forty-eight minute trip
through the Colorado Mountains.
I had not taken this particular train route since my sophomore year in college.
That was fifty years ago.
The entire trip promised to be a nostalgic one for me.

Jim got up early and drove me to Denver where I met up with the other six girls traveling by train.  
We were all very excited.


This railroader's daughter loves a train ride.

As the train wove its way up and over the mountains, a metaphor to describe the weekend began to take shape in my mind:

All is golden.

My History with the Group

I had the good fortune to join the Girls of '63 when I first attended Pueblo East High School during my freshman year in high school.  Pueblo East was a brand new high school in 1959 when my father, an agent for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, was transferred from Colorado Springs to Pueblo. I was a very frightened fifteen year old, naive and quite young looking for my age, when I was uprooted from my junior high and transplanted to the high school setting in November of '59.  I had lived in the same house all of my life before that move.  I had known my classmates since kindergarten.

When I walked through those doors of East High, I had no idea that I would make some the most important friendships of my life in the three years I proudly wore gold and white and cheered for the Eagles.  Immediately, the girls from my class began to make me feel welcome by inviting me to school events, or seeking me out to sit with the girls at lunch.  Soon I was attending sleepovers where we laughed all night and told each other stories about our lives.

One of the girls from this group introduced me to my husband.  Her sixteenth birthday(click to read this story.) was our first date.  Now, all these years later, she would be my roommate for our 70th birthday celebration.  

Twenty-two of us gathered to celebrate our 70th birthdays together in the beautiful Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  Yes, much has changed over the years, but in so many ways, nothing has changed.  Those friendships deeply rooted in our youth have flourished over the years as some have gathered quarterly for over twenty-five years.  We missed those who could not attend dearly and thought of them often.

It was my good fortune to join the lunch group about six years ago when I finally connected with some of the stalwarts of the group and learned of the next gathering.  I learned the truth of this quote below the first time I attended one of the lunches.  


This quote also came to mind so often during the weekend:
Your heart and my heart are very old friends.
~ Hafiz

The Celebration

We came together to celebrate attaining the age of seventy.  
We came together to celebrate friendship, 
perseverance,
 roots, 
heritage, 
our histories, 
our loyalty to each other, 
and each individual person.  

We came together to remember those we have lost.

 We shared stories of our lives while we have been living life.

We laughed.
We cried.

We came together to affirm our love for each other.  
We came together to express our support for each other as we move towards the future.

We are our own unique group of Golden Girls.


Here are some photos from our glorious birthday party:

We arrived at the beautiful old railroad station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  Our first task was to determine just how we would cross the river to our lodge on the other side.
We navigated the long pedestrian bridge and made it to our destination.
No taxi for us!


We all stayed at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge. We had free access to the hot springs pool and a free fabulous breakfast at the hot springs every morning.  Our rooms were wonderful.  We even were able to have a large ballroom for our birthday dinner on Saturday night.  Our fabulous planner, a Glenwood Springs resident with great connections, JG (In the flowered top) made all arrangements for us.  She did an outstanding job.  She is a party planner extraordinaire.  I also think she is  the original Energizer Bunny.  Where does this girl get her energy?

Our Party Planner
JG

The first night, we donned our Girls of '63 shirts for group photos that were taken by a professional photographer.  The poor woman charged with taking our photos must have felt like she was herding cats.  She had excellent "classroom management skills."  Many photos were taken.We had groups that included all those whom had attended kindergarten through graduation together.  I think about nine or ten of the girls were in this group.  That alone is an amazing thing.  About five or six of us joined the Class of '63 during high school.  I alone, did not graduate with the group because my father was transferred to Leadville, Colorado just before my senior year.  


After photos, we walked through town to go to a vaudeville show which was excellent and exceeded all expectations for entertainment for the evening.  As we walked through town we garnered quite a few reactions.  "Hey, were you all born in '63?"  I said I'd take someone believing we all were 63.  A passenger in a passing car built our egos with a whistle.  (Hey, it's been a long time since we've had a guy whistle at us.)

Saturday night we had our big birthday dinner.  So many did so much work to get everything ready, but JG outdid herself.  A florist by trade, she made our table centerpieces and dressed the tables in our school colors of gold and white.  Yearbooks and memory books were on each table.  We had individual table place markers with a picture from our high school yearbook.  SP made each of us a rose bookmark.  JG made the fabulous birthday cake.  


A history of our group was read by PS.  As is our tradition, we raised our margaritas as a toast to those we have lost too soon.  We wept as a list of all of the fallen Eagles from our class was read.  Too many are gone too soon.  A few of the girls went to great effort to set up a tree with photos of all of our fallen Eagles.

The weekend was all about friendship.
I have the best girlfriends.
I am so blessed.
My Girlfriends
Pure Gold
Some of my readers have remarked that they are amazed that this group has met on a consistent basis.  Truly, it is a remarkable feat in this day and age to have a group stay so connected for all these years. We owe PS for the gift of this group.  She is our organizer.  She keeps us together by setting the dates for our meetings in advance.  Those who can come to events, do so.  Those who can't come try to attend the next one.

The hostess for each gathering usually has a co-hostess who serves as a backup hostess just in case of emergency.  The hostess provides the main dish.  PS makes sure we have desserts, salads, and sides assigned to all attending. She even maintains a group photo album that includes a group photo from every gathering since the very first one.  PS had the vision of a 70th birthday party, and we actually made it a reality!  Thank you, PS!
PS reading the history of our group
The setting for the celebration could not have been better.  We had access to the healing waters of the Glenwood Springs Hot Springs for three glorious days.  The warm natural springs provided just the right place for bonding again with each other.  One day, I'm sure we spent at least three hours in the afternoon just standing in a large circle in the water, or sitting on sides with our feet soaking in the warm water, talking.  Yes, there was a lot of talking, talking, talking, and much laughter.  We cried a bit.  We marveled at the stories of our lives.  We were astounded that we actually had these hours together for such deep, reflective, sharing.  
The setting
DC & KM friends for 65 years

I felt younger and healthier after a weekend of soaking in the healing waters for hours on end.  Was this place the fountain of youth?  I remember looking up at the beautiful Colorado blue sky, feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, and gazing into the beautiful lined faces and sparkling eyes of my lifelong friends and thinking that life just doesn't get much better than this.

Too soon, it was time to go home. 


Throughout the weekend, we shared hugs, 
held hands, 
promised to be there to end.
DDI commented that next great challenge as a group would be loss of hearing.
Yes, we had a hard time hearing at times.
That is the reality of celebrating 70!



We had soaked up rays of sun and healing waters.
We relaxed and experienced great pleasure.


We reveled in, and
 made the most of
celebrating our 70th birthdays.

We basked in the warmth of our golden friendships.

* Dictionary.com

Savoring Those Final Summer Days

Why do we rush the seasons?

Am I wrong when I remember that seasons during  my childhood were more clearly defined?
These days, children go back to school in August while we didn't go back to school until
after Labor Day.

While the summer flowers are blooming, the grocery stores start selling mums.
Starbucks starts selling lattes flavored with pumpkin before I'm ready to think of fall.
The Halloween displays come out in August.
The retail stores must hurry with these displays because soon we will see Christmas displays.

The autumnal equinox arrives at 4:21 a.m. EST on September 24, 2015.
Until then, it is technically still summer.
That means:
for me
the sandals can still be worn, weather permitting,
as can the sun dresses,
the shorts,
the cropped pants.
I've put away the white pants and the white shoes.
This is reflection of those rules of proper seasonal attire  that are deeply ingrained in my head:
no white shoes or pants should be worn
 before Memorial Day 
or after Labor Day.

Until September 24, it is still summer in my world.
I'm not ready to move into fall yet.
My mind and my body just aren't ready to make that transition.

Yes, just as I wrote in my last blog post, I am still on the cusp of autumn.


Cusp

[kuhsp] 

noun

a point that marks the beginning of a change
a point of transition: turning point, edge, verge

Don't rush me.
I'm not ready to make the transition.

I do admit that  transitions are difficult for me.
Today, soon after my arrival to her office, my therapist asked me an important question,
"What are you doing to prepare for the fall and winter days that are coming?"
Has she been reading my mind?

Actually, I've been giving this topic a lot of thought.
I know myself well enough to know that I must prepare for the coming days when I can't enjoy the green grass, the leafy trees, and the beautiful flowers of summer.
I must plan for those days when I feel housebound.
Those days when the snow flies, the wind blows, and the roads are covered with ice are not days that I particularly enjoy.

What am I doing to make the transition into the seasons that are coming?

This is what I am doing:
I am hanging on to summer as long as I can!

Intentional self-care does not come naturally to me.

Summer is a time when I find it easier to adopt healthier habits.
Do you find that is true?
Here are some things I'm doing to help me transition from summer into fall in a healthy way.

Mental/Emotional Self-Care
Photographs of a favorite summertime vignette are captured to remind the heart during the dark days that no doubt will come in the following months that summer will again make its appearance.


Journaling is important part of maintaining my emotional and mental health.
I love to journal on the back deck in the summer.
I love to see shadows of leaves across the page as I write.
I always miss my outdoor writing times when summer is over.




Physical Self-Care

This season, the one we are still in, is a great time to try and get in shape.
I'm exercising outside as much as I can.
We live in the most wonderful area for walking.

See what I'm talking about.
Here is a wonderful example of the hoodoo rocks or mushroom rocks that crop up all over my neighborhood.
I never tire of looking at these beautiful rocks.
Look at the interesting shapes and textures.
Don't you just love my hoodoos?

Here is an example of another hoodoo  in my area.
Notice how the colors in the formation are different from the  colors in the example above.
I love this rock.
I call her my "Cat Rock."
I like to think she keeps a protective eye on our neighborhood.


Besides walking, as a preparation for when I can no longer exercise outside,
I am trying to get in the habit of making it to the club more often.
The old hip is acting up, so I have traded Zumba Gold for water exercise.
Last week I tried Aqua Zumba.
What fun!
After class, dripping wet, I decided to dry off by lounging outside in the sun.
As a nod to those days when I was a sun worshiper,
I actually spent ten or fifteen minutes just soaking up the bright sunshine before I had to make a hasty retreat to the shade.
This is another way I am preparing for the cooler days ahead.
I am soaking up as much sun as I can while I can.

I'm also looking after my past medical issues.
I just had the five month check on my pacemaker.
My life is greatly improved since that little device was implanted in my body.
According to the last check, I have ten years left on the battery, and
I'm using it 75% of the time.
I had no events of AFib in the last two months.
Technology is wonderful.
That little device helped to make my summer a great one.

Lifestyle

I truly am trying to establish a schedule.
I do better when I have to live by the bell.
Teaching schedules gave me that discipline.
I struggle to adopt my own schedule when one is not established for me.
It has been an even larger challenge to learn to adopt a schedule
now that my husband is working retail.
Some of you may remember that my husband, after working in education for forty-two years,
decided to begin a new career by working for Apple.
He loves his job, and his job is good for him, so I am trying to adjust to a schedule that changes
day by day.
Some days he works days.
Others he works nights.
I find it nearly impossible to establish regular times for the daily tasks of living.
Since I need a time schedule that is fairly routine,
I'm still working on finding balance in this area of my life.
In the meantime,
Boston and I mark time while he is gone by walking together in the evening,
or I read or write with Boston at my feet.
Make no assumptions that I have become the number one person in Boston's life;
he still won't eat while his master is gone,
and when his master comes home there is a love fest that takes place between these two.


I'm learning lessons from my husband during this season.
Fulfilling work remains important even during the retirement years.
As I leave summer, I am pondering this life lesson.

Spiritual Self-Care

One of the greatest blessing of the past year has been the time I have spent with a very special group of ladies from my church.
We call ourselves Monica Moms.
St. Augustine's mother was named Monica.
That is where the name for our group comes from.
We pray for our children as she prayed for her son.
Every other Wednesday, we meet for two or three hours to lift up our adult children in prayer.
The time I spend with these women in prayer are times I will forever treasure.

I'm blessed to have a mother who prays for me.
Just recently, I called her and when she answered the phone, she said,
"I was just praying for you."
She is nearly 100 years old, but she continues to pray for me.
I hope to have many more summers to pray for my children.
I rest in the assurance that those prayers will forever be found at the Throne of Grace.

People Support

Summer is a perfect time for lunch with friends.
I've enjoyed many long lunches with great friends this summer.

I'm ending off the summer by going on a three day trip with my high school girl friends.
It is our big 70th birthday bash!
We have talked about and planned this trip for years.
We wanted to enter the seventh decade of our lives in a big way.
We are going on our "senior trip."
Watch out.
The Girls of '63 are heading to Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

So, during these last days summer,
I'll be off traveling.

First,
I'm getting on a train with a bunch of the girls.
That alone will be a great adventure.
Once we all arrive at our destination,
we have three days of a very full agenda planned.

I think I'm capping off the summer of 2015 in grand style.


See you all in the fall.
Enjoy the final days of summer.















On Seventy ~ Reflections on Becoming a Septuagenarian

Last year about this time, a dear friend and I met to write.  We spoke of our upcoming seventieth birthdays.  We thought we should take the year to reflect on the milestone event that would soon be upon us.  What lessons would we learn as we approached the eighth decade of our lives?  What, if anything, could we learn about life before we became septuagenarians?

Having read many of May Sarton's journals over the years, I went in search of her book At Seventy: A Journal.  I knew I had read it before, but found I had gotten rid of it when we moved.  So, off to the library I went to find it for a re-reading.  Interestingly, I found little insight in this particular journal.  She did determine that during her seventieth year, she would journal for one entire year.  I thought I might try to do better than that.  I toyed with the idea of writing fifteen minutes a day for one year.  

We are now twenty-one days since my seventieth birthday.  Needless to say, I have not written everyday.  I have however had some reflections on reaching this milestone in life.

In At Seventy: A Journal,Sarton wrote, 
How is seventy different from sixty-five?  I don't see much difference, except that time accelerates.  The days go past with frightening rapidity, and so do the years.  It is plain that I am not ready for old age!  But then time does not stand still for old age I fear.  On the contrary, from all reports, it simply flies away, and that is what I am beginning to notice.  

Did her words ring true?
Is seventy different than sixty-five?
I thought I might take a look back.
What was my sixtieth birthday like?
Wow, talk about time accelerating.
My grandchildren were not teenagers when I was sixty.
Time simply flies away...
Mason was six and Hannah and Atticus were two.
I could hold the two younger ones in my arms.  Now they are all taller than I am.
I ventured up on the trampoline the day I turned sixty, just to see if I could still jump.
I could.
It is plain that I am not ready for old age! 
60th birthday
I was excited to turn sixty-five.
Having officially retired at age sixty-one, I was still working until sixty-five for insurance benefits.
At sixty-five, my medicare coverage kicked in and I was thrilled.
I felt good.
I was healthy.
True retirement was something I was looking forward to with great anticipation.
I had much I wanted to accomplish.
On the day of my sixty-fifth birthday, my high school girl friends gathered at my home.
It was a planned gathering that happened to occur on my birthday.
Here are some photos from that day.

The group photo, my photo at age sixty-five, and a few of the girls.

One cannot reflect upon reaching the eighth decade of life without remembering that dear ones have been lost along the way.
On that day of my sixty-fifth birthday, we could not know that
before the year was out, my girlfriends and I would lose Judy, our dearly loved classmate.
She had been fighting cancer, but she was well and looked so good that day.
In the photos above, she is sitting in the place of honor, the gold chair. 
Sadly, she did not reach the milestone the rest of reach this year of becoming
septuagenarians.

I also lost my dear daughter during my sixty-fith year.
She died three months after my birthday.
For half a decade, I have learned the meaning of bereavement.

At seventy, I am much different than I was at sixty-five. 

Mark Twain shared his wisdom at seventy:

I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way, by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else....I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road.
Mark Twain

My life was pretty simple in many ways until I hit sixty-five.
It was filled with some sorrow and disappointments, but mostly, I was quite pleased with the path my life had taken.
My children were grown and it seemed they had launched successfully.
I had just retired from a profession for which I still held great passion.
I thought I would continue to teach some, write some, travel some, and garden a lot.
Grief took away many of those plans.
In the past five years, I think I have come to think more deeply about what is most important in my life.
Also, I refuse to believe that just because I am seventy, I am old.

I prefer the following quote over Mark Twain's.

The first forty years of our life give the text, the next thirty furnish the commentary upon it, which enables us rightly to understand the true meaning and connection of the text with its moral and its beauties. 
Schopenhauer

The commentary on my first forty years won't be recorded here. 
(Let out a sigh of relief for that!)

At forty, would I ever believe I would be where I am today?
No, never in my wildest dreams would I have known what was in my future.
That is a good thing.
Along with the loss that I have suffered, I've know great joy.
I have been richly blessed.

As I reach seventy, I've learned I have treasures I always longed for when I was younger.

Today, I will touch on several treasures that only get better with age.

The Treasure of Friendship

There is great beauty in sharing the lives of those I knew before I knew much about life.
I made wonderful friends when I was a young, very naive teenager.
Now, the great gift of life is that I get to enter the eighth decade of my life with these dear women.
They gathered at my home last weekend.


Every time we get together, we hug on each other like long lost friends.
We laugh.
We share our stories.
We poke fun.
We encourage.
We know what we have is precious and rare.
We celebrate each other and the group.

This time we had several with us whom either have never joined us before, or live far away.
We have 50 years to catch up on with these few.
Kathy and Elaine, seen over the ham I cooked,
came early to sweep my doorway, 
set up tables,
keep me calm and focused,
and show me they are there to remember what I forgot.
We held a planning meeting so we could plan our big
Seventieth Birthday Party
that will be held in September.
We will go to Glenwood Springs, Colorado for three days of celebration.
I call our trip that we are planning 
Our Senior Trip.
The ladies heard of room rates, things to do, and dinner plans as we held our
Senior Meeting
in my living room.
Did I hear someone is bringing a case of white wine?
Someone else is bringing a case of red wine?
Goodness.
Watch out.
The true golden girls are getting ready to celebrate.


The Treasure of a Loving Husband

When my milestone birthday was drawing near, I knew I wanted to celebrate it in a special way.
I didn't want a party.
Who wants to clean the house?
My birthday falls on February 28, so it is not a good time for the children to come from out of state.
They have jobs and kids that keep them busy in February.
The weather is unpredictable.
Instead of a party, we decided we would go to Florida to celebrate my birthday.


I've known my husband as long as I've known the girlfriends whom I just wrote about.
Just like the laughter and the memories that I share with them, I share such wonderful memories of days gone by with my husband.
He has been that one that has always been there for me.
Even when I was a young woman, I knew the young man I first dated fifty-four years ago this week would make me laugh.
I knew he would always show me respect.
I knew he was one I could easily honor and respect.
I knew he would be a gentle, kind, understanding companion.
I knew he would give me a good life.
I just didn't marry this dear man until I was forty-seven years old.
Sometimes, youth makes one stupid.
Sometimes we get wiser with age.
At least, this man, the one I love, and I got together in the end.

Never would I have believed back in those days that at 70 Jim would be at my side.
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that.
Thankfully, he is here with me.
At sixty-five, when my life turned upside down, he was there.


At seventy, we acted like a couple of kids at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
We walked around wide eyed and forgot that our bodies were aging.
We laughed ourselves silly on rides that we maybe shouldn't have ridden.
Thankfully, neither of us had a heart attack.
Jim took a selfie of us just before we went for one of those crazy rides.


On Valentine's Day, two weeks before I turned seventy, my love and I walked on Daytona Beach. 
Now here's something to celebrate:
We both are septuagenarians,
but we still love to have those romantic moments on the beach.

We met as teenagers, and we get to enter the last years of our lives together.
Life doesn't get any better than this.
A Valentine's Day Kiss
2015
I'm learning this at seventy:

The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.
Irish Saying


Home for the Holidays

Reflections on the Holiday Season

Decorating the Christmas tree brings back so many memories of years gone by.
My festive Spanish bell purchased in Mexico so many years ago triggers memories of times with dear people whom were so much a part of my life in the 80's.
Humming,
Feliz Navidad,
I remember Christmas season trips to New Mexico.
I think of all the wonderful Spanish speaking students whom I taught over the years.
I think of the rich cultural traditions that others have during this time of year.


Some years a few new decorations are added to tree.
This year, dried wheat bunches from the Thanksgiving flower arrangement were gathered together and tied with Christmas ribbon to create a new decoration.
It will be a reminder of the wonderful Thanksgiving we shared with my son and his wife and son
and with 
my daughter and her son and daughter earlier this year.

My tree always is dotted with bells, lots of bells.
Somehow, many years ago, I started collecting so many bells that I decided that my Christmas tree would have a bell theme.
And so, to this day, bells hang on my tree.
The bells of Christmas.
Each bell has a story behind it.  
Each bell carries a special memory.


I love the bells of Christmas.
The angels.
The lambs.
The red berries.
The pine cones.
The red and silver balls.
The lights.
I love the beauty of Christmas.

Christmas decorations remain on display at my house until New Year's Day.
It seems we are so busy before Christmas that I rarely have time to sit and reflect about the true meaning of Christmas until it is all over.


Julie's tree,
the tree that holds only her special ornaments,
gives me great comfort,
but it also sometimes sends fresh shock waves through my mind
when I see her things in my house as a reminder that she is not here to put them up in her own place.


I'm never quite prepared for
 the scent of Julie
 that overpowers my emotions when I open the hat box that contains her Christmas ornaments. 
Yes, the tissue paper that she placed around each ornament still smells like her. 
It got to me again this year. 
I miss you, Jules.
 I love you. 
XO

***********

The holidays really began for me when my high school girlfriends all gathered for our holiday party on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
(That's me, surrounded by my girlfriends, 
smiling broadly,  dressed in orange, and sitting midway on the stairs.)


Oh how I love these girls!
As a group, and individually, my life is much richer 
because I met these awesome ladies over fifty years ago.
We giggle like school girls while we open our gag gift exchange.
You don't even want to know what we give each other!
We laugh so hard we can barely breathe throughout the day when we have our get togethers.
This year, Dove could not be with us, so she sent a bottle of real maple syrup from Vermont, where she lives, for each one of us.


We cry and give thanks as
we share our list of gratitudes for the year with each other.
Each of us feels loved and blessed because
we belong to something that is rare and precious:
a sisterhood of
of girlfriends
 with deep roots that began in the golden days of youth
 and has lasted until our hair has turned to silver.
We are there for each other no matter what.
As we get older, the "no matter whats" become harder to bear,
but we don't bear our trials alone.
Our friend with Alzheimer's called during our lunch.
Her husband placed the call so we could talk to her.
Three of the girls drove to Kansas this summer to bring her love and gifts from the group and to take her out for the day.
That's what I'm talking about.
These girls are true, forever friends.

**********

Soon, the next holiday was upon us.
Thanksgiving was so special this year.
Ryan and Sheridan brought oldest grandson with them as they flew in for a short visit for 
Thanksgiving.


We have plenty of chairs, but these kids like togetherness.

Firstborn grandson Parker is in his first year of college.
What a treat it was to have him with us during his short break!


Daughter Amy and her children were here with us too.
The siblings took over the kitchen for mom.
That is a good thing since I can't seem to put it all together like I used to do.
After a run through the neighborhood, they whipped up dinner.
(We also had a bit a lot of help from Whole Foods.)


I was one blessed and happy mom on Thanksgiving Day.
Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by my children and grandchildren.
Nothing.


The trip to my house was a quick one for the newlyweds.
I'm grateful they were able to come at all.
The day after Thanksgiving was Black Friday.
The next day was Small Business Saturday.
Sheridan, as a small business owner, took time to be with us, her family,
 before she was off for the Christmas rush at Hip and Humble in Salt Lake City.


*************
The day after Thanksgiving, Jim was also off to work at the Apple Store.
With me also working, this was a crazy, busy Christmas season for us.

Somehow, we managed to decorate the house,
shop for presents,
write and mail a Christmas letter,
and attend other holiday get togethers with friends and family.

My new best friends became the folks that own the nearby
PostalAnnex in the University Center in Colorado Springs.
I literally dropped gifts on the counter and asked, "Can you wrap and mail these for me?"
They did just that!
I didn't have to go to the post office or FedEx or UPS one time during the Christmas season.
Check them out for all your mailing needs.

A special event each year is hosted by my cousin and her husband:  The Cousin Christmas Party.
Thanks, Diana and Steve for again being such gracious hosts.
We shared great food and deep belly laughs throughout the evening.


*********
On Christmas Eve, we celebrated with Jim's daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren at daughter Thia's new home.
What a fun time we all had.


Christmas Day was a very quiet day for the two of us.
Jim said, "Don't get me anything for Christmas.  I don't need a thing."
I thought of a few things he needed.
First,
he needed new gloves that would keep his hands warm while he walks the dog
and navigates around his iPhone.
He needed technology friendly gloves.
"You can text while wearing these gloves," I said.
"No kidding?" he replied.
Then he happily tried them out and was quite excited about the new gloves.

He also needed another winter hat, one that he could wear to work.
He loved his new brown wool cap.


I also surprised him with new "tennis shoes" that he likes to wear to work.

Jim finds great comfort in honoring and remembering his heritage when we light the menorah.
On Christmas morning, my dear, dear Jewish friend in California sent me greetings via a text.
She then sent me a photo of her daughter and her husband, home for the holidays, seated in front of a lighted menorah.
I sent her this photo of Jim.



Jim spoiled me to death with many wonderful gifts.
He didn't listen to me either when I told him that I needed nothing for Christmas.

Cooking a large Christmas dinner has never been high on my list of things to do on Christmas.
Instead, I've traditionally made Christmas brunch.
This year, just the two of us enjoyed a brunch of chili relleno casserole, hash browns, a spinach salad, a fruit salad, and stollen. (We forgot we had also planned to have bacon.)
As we leisurely enjoyed our morning and early afternoon, I realized that we had not spent an entire day together without any obligations or work since mid-September.

Christmas Day the air was cool and crisp, but the sky was a brilliant blue.
We decided to walk in the Garden of the Gods.
We'd not been there in months.
Boston could hardly contain himself with joyful anticipation as we approached one of his favorite walking places.
We thought it would be the perfect day to enjoy the great outdoors now that all the summer tourists have gone home.
We were wrong.
Throngs of people had the same idea we did.
I don't know when I've seen this beautiful place so crowded.

Despite the crowds,
and Boston's over-enthusiastic reaction of being in a favorite place filled with lots of great smells,
 and lots of other people,
we enjoyed a crisp Christmas afternoon walk.


**********
Home for the holidays is an ideal I have carried in my head for a long time.
I envisioned that this meant all of our offspring would gather around the table with us to eat a Christmas meal, or open presents around the tree.

Divorce,
death,
and
distance,
the three D's of Christmas,
 have robbed me of much happiness at Christmas over the years.

This year,
acceptance of those things over which I have no control
allowed me to
celebrate,
with peace and joy,
a quiet
Christmas at home.









Reflections: My 50th Class Reunion ~ Pueblo East High School Class of '63

My inner processor has been on overload this week.
Sometimes I wish I could be like my husband and just attend an event and then be done with it.
That would not be me.
I must process the entire event to make full meaning of it.

Fifty years ago, I graduated from high school.
Just writing those words causes me great disbelief.
How can that be?
Where did the time go?
I will be attending two high school reunions this year because I moved just prior to my senior year.
Pueblo East High School in Pueblo, Colorado was my high school home
 for grades nine through eleven.
It was here where I met the high school sweetheart whom I would marry thirty years after high school.
The girlfriends from this class are among my dearest and closest friends.
I have written often about this wonderful group of women.  
We meet every three months for lunch, so I am well versed on the lives of these girlfriends who live nearby, but I had not seen many from this class for at least 50 years.

I was instructed by my dear friend, Donna to take good notes,

Donna & Sally 2010
so, Donna, here you go...

First of all, I missed you.  
I wish you could have been at the reunion with us.
I loved your response to the question I posed on whether or not you would be attending.  
You said,
Pity the girl that leaves the party early.
That certainly may have been true in high school, but
I found that all of us were so happy to see each other again that the pettiness that may have been there in high school seemed to melt away.  
I think you would have been happy to know that the reunion was a wonderful success that left us all basking in the glow of friendship.  We truly missed all who were unable to attend. 

Recaps:
Friday Night

I'm afraid, I didn't take many photos. I was having too good of a time just catching up with all of my classmates to take a photo.  Our first night of the reunion, we all gathered on the patio of Gray's Coors Tavern , home of the famous Pueblo slopper. (click on the link to read about the slopper)  Judiciously, I did not eat a slopper.  I did overhear a lot of conversations regarding those who chose to eat a slopper.  "I hope I don't have a gall bladder attack tonight."  I guess our age was showing when it came to food choices.  
A Pueblo Slopper
from
Gray's Coors Tavern

It was a hot Friday night in Pueblo.  The town was hopping.  There was a very big football game in town.  Central and Centennial were playing for the Bell.  Many were stopping by Coors on their way to the game for a quick hamburger.  Traffic was heavy.  It was hard to find a parking place.  Some things never change.  Friday night football games between the town rivals still create a sense of excitement.  Already, as we walked towards the reunion, I felt the years begin to fall away.  I was off to see my high school buddies.  

As soon as I walked onto the patio to register, I was asked to remove my sunglasses so those at the registration table could see who I was.  "The eyes don't change," I was told.  "You won't be recognized if we can't see your eyes."  True.  I found us all looking deeply into each others' eyes and seeing the girl or guy from long ago.  Also, some of us still had good enough eyesight to read the large letter name tags from a distance.  That helped too!  

My husband had thought he might skip out of the reunion early, go to the football game, and then return later to pick me up.  It was my reunion after all.  I sent him over to a table where other spouses were sitting and went off to connect with my friends.  Soon, I saw he was drawing his own crowd.  The underclassmen went over to see a favorite upperclassman, my hubby Jim.  He had as good a time as I did.  

Time after time, I found myself being spun around by a guy or gal I had not seen in 50 years.  "Sally French.  How long has it been?"  Someone asked me where a certain guy was.  I answered with, "He's that one over there that looks like an old Fonzie."  I was told to remove the adjective "old" from my description.  "Where is so and so?" was another often asked question.  "What, she has short gray hair now???"  "Yes, don't we all?"  

The evening was way too short.  I left thinking to myself, "We had the nicest group of people in the whole world in our class."  Truly I just could not get enough time with these people.  They were all so nice!
Saturday Recap

Many spent Saturday morning and early afternoon touring the old hometown.  I met up with my dear friends Dove and Eileen and Dove's husband David who heading toward the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot.  There were joined by Dennis, former class president, who was here from out of state.  He and I discovered our mutual history:  our father's both worked for the railroad at the same time.  He had even worked at the depot in as a baggage handler during his years in high school.  
Eileen, Dove, Dennis, Sally
Oh the memories this old depot held for me.  It was great sharing stories with my friends of their memories of the building.  We sat on an old railroad station bench for our photo.  We then posed in front of the building for another photo.  

Sally, Dove, David, Eileen

Somehow, Dennis and I started discussing the work of William Stegner.  I imagine it began when I told of recently reading Angle of Repose.  From there, we then began to discuss what I am currently reading, Crossing to Safety.  I could not help but draw parallels from that book to the weekend.

Saturday Night Recap
"The Trajectory of Our Lives"

Again, I didn't end up taking many photos on Saturday night.  (Dear Blogging Friends, aren't you glad?) I was having too good of a time chatting and catching up with friends to take photos.  

Here are a few:
Our awesome leader:  Carol and husband Andy worked tirelessly to keep all reunion committee members on task.  The reunion was a huge success.  Thanks, Carol.

Elaine and Marilyn worked so hard on the planning.
Elaine & Marilyn

Iris put together a phenomenal "year book."
Iris & Ginger
Loyal Eagles
These two can still light up a room with a smile.
Sharon & Kathy
The table decorations were made by Carol D.



I think she would be voted homecoming queen again if a vote would have been taken.

Carol D. and Cliff J.
Val brought her cheerleading outfit.
It was made of wool.
The waist was tiny.
It had been lovingly preserved.


Val is still one of our great cheerleaders!  I can always count on her for the best hugs.
She is always in your corner cheering you on.
Love you, Val.
Val & Sally
Kathy, pretty in pink, or any other color, handled all the finances for the reunion.
What a job!
Here she is with Frank, Ray, and Ray's wife.
What wonderful people these four are.
Kathy, Frank, Ray, and Ray's wife

Karen, Val, and Dennis caught up on the past 50 years.
Karen, Val, & Dennis
Annette says that Jim taught her to drive.
She says she is a good driver and has him to thank for that skill.
Annette & Jim
I love these ladies!
Here is a photo of just a few of the girls who mean the world to me.
The EHS Girls of '63
It was a treat to spend time with the guys from the class also.
After the reunion, I could not help but think what a wonderful group of men this photo represents.
I am proud to know each these men.
The EHS Guys of '63
Sunday Recap

On Sunday morning, the group gathered at the high school to tour the school, and to enjoy a continental breakfast.  Jim and I attend the breakfast and then left for home.  I understand the tour of the school was great fun and brought back many happy memories for all who took the tour.

Reflections

I was an interloper of sorts to this group.  I did not go to grade school and junior high with these 'kids.'  I moved to Pueblo and joined this class in November of my freshman year.  East High School was a brand new school.  It had been built to handle the great influx of baby boomers who had reached high school age.  In 1959, Pueblo, Colorado was larger than Colorado Springs, my hometown where I had attended grades K - 8.  I joined this convocation of Eagles when they were taking its first year of flight. It was great fun to be a part of a brand new school creating new traditions.

I was welcomed into this group immediately.  We had such good times together.  There were:  sock hops, bon fires, rousing football and basketball games, proms, homecoming parades, and exciting pep assemblies.  We drug Main after games on Friday and Saturday nights.  We ate the best French fries after these games.  We had slumber parties where we talked and laughed all night long.  I loved my times at East.  And then, my senior year my father was transferred to another town and I had to leave the nest and go to another school.  I did not graduate with these classmates.  No one seems to mind.  I am still one of them.

Pueblo, Colorado is a steel town.  It is a blue collar town.  It is a town of immigrants.  It is town that has gone through hard times.  It is a town where people don't forget their roots.  Life is centered around family, school, and church.  Ethnic and cultural foods and traditions, religious affiliation, and familial ties are greatly honored.  Perhaps that is why these people are such nice people.  I just kept hearing from everyone at the reunion that we sure had a nice group of people in our class.  We seemed to just enjoy being together again.  

I found it interesting that we didn't seem to need to listen to or dance to the old tunes from the '60's like we did at other reunions.  I think this reunion was not so much about a look backward where we were trying to recapture those days of our youth that had vanished.  This reunion was more about reflecting on how short life is, and about how important the people in our lives are.  

When the former class president spoke to the class, he said he wondered if any of us ever even imagined this day that would occur fifty years later.  I'm sure I did not.  I thought we would be forever young and idealistic.  Fifty years ago we had no idea how much the world and our lives would change. The 60's were in their infancy.  Martin Luther King had not had his March on Washington when we graduated.  The Viet Nam War was just beginning.  President Kennedy had visited Pueblo in the summer just before our senior year.  We could not imagine that he would be assassinated before 1963 was over.  Our dreams for the future were just as hopeful as those our parents had instilled in us, the generation that was born just after World War II.  We were all born just as the war was ending.

As I have reflected over this reunion, I find it hard to sum up my emotions.  Mostly, I came away with a sense of gratitude for a time, a place, and for the people who were there with me in that time and place.  Dennis, our class president, spoke of the trajectory of our lives in his remarks.  Certainly, we had all been launched from this same Eagle nest with great dreams to soar through the future.  Now, fifty years later, to me, and I think to others, it did not seem to matter to what heights we either soared or did not soar.  It only seemed to matter that we were able to be together again.  The flock had made it safely back to our beginnings.  

The words of Terry Tempest Williams in her introduction for one of the editions of William Stegner's Crossing to Safety   sum up the thoughts I have been processing about attending this milestone:

Stegner shows us again and again that it is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships that not only support a good life, but create one.


As I grow older,
I value these primary relationships and experiences more than I ever could have imagined 
when I was younger.

Thank you, 
East High Class of '63
for your
love,
support,
and friendships.
I can't imagine what my life would be like without you.

Your laughter echoes in my ears.
The tears you have shed as you have shared your trials and triumphs with me are stored in my heart.
You have made my life rich and full.

You are all Golden Treasures!

Takeaways

A recap of the gathering of my high school girlfriends:

As some of you who regularly read my blog know, my high school buddies and I gather every three months for a get together.  This time, I was the hostess.  It was the first real party at my new home.  I was so excited to have my girls properly "warm" my new home with their presence.  

Whenever we gather, we spend nearly entire Saturday together.  We have our routine.  The hostess selects the theme and prepares the main dish.  The others bring the rest of the food.  We begin to gather around 11:00 and start off by catching up with each other while we munch on the appetizers.  In the past, margaritas were prepared in a blender so we can toast each other and remember those of our group whom have passed on.  This time, Ginger made that job easier.  Why didn't someone think of bringing already prepared mixed drinks before?  

All we had to do this time was make the "virgin" drinks.  I got out my new Vitamix to make those "unleaded" drinks.  Since I didn't have on my glasses, I pushed the "hot soup" button instead of "frozen desserts."  Oh well, it all worked out.  Someone saved the day by catching my mistake and the virgin drinks were mixed correctly.  Toasts were made, and we remembered our dear classmates who are no longer with us.  

Now we could get on with the party.  Pam set up the staging area for our group photo.  We have to do that before we eat so we don't forget to take that all important photo for the scrapbook.  Also, we must take the photo while we still have our lipstick on! 

After the official photos are taken, it is time to get the food on the table and eat.
Pam cuts up the corned beef

We had plenty of wonderful food

Val serves up her green jello
When my husband and I were looking for our home, I had several criteria that I said must be met.  First of all, I wanted a kitchen where friends and family could gather around a kitchen table, and yet there would be room for those who are cooking to have room to cook.  This house fits that bill perfectly.

Next, I needed a formal dining room that was big enough for me to use when entertaining my high school girl friends.  That was a priority when it came to selecting the perfect house.  With each house I visited on the house hunt, I would ask myself, "Could I seat everyone in close proximity to each other for luncheon gatherings?"  Check that off the list.  This house works perfectly for that too.   

Takeaways from our time together
Takeaways definition from Dictionary.com:
"conclusions, impressions, or action points resulting from a meeting, discussion, roundtable or the like"


As a teacher, I often asked my students to record takeaways after a roundtable discussion about a book we were reading.  As a teacher, I often recorded my own takeaways after a conference I attended.  And so, as I reflected on the time I spent with my dear high school girlfriends this past week, it is no wonder that it seemed appropriate to record the takeaways I want to remember about not only this group, but also about our most recent gathering.  

  • It takes a long time to grow an old friend.  ~ John Leonard  Friendships as deep and rich as those in this group do not happen overnight.  They were first formed when we were young girls, but they have been nurtured and treated with great care for decades.


    • Of all the secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood the most divine was humor. ~ Rebecca Wells The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  Carol showed up in her outrageous St. Patrick's Day hat.  I teased that she would get me kicked out of the HOA if she walked down the street in the hat.  One of the things we do best as a group is laugh.  We have many deep belly laughs when we are together.  Sometimes, my stomach will actually hurt from laughing so much when we are together.  It is just great to laugh with your girl friends.  What a blast we all still have.  



    • A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.  ~Lois Wyse
    Since our  70th birthdays are not that far down the road, we decided we should start to plan for a weekend get away to celebrate reaching that important milestone in life.  We will have sleepover of sorts by getting away to a bed and breakfast for the weekend.  I remember those sleepovers when we were 16 and 17.  I wonder if the guys will try to crash our 70th birthday party sleepover.  I doubt it.  One of the girls asked if we'd noticed how the guys in our class seem like old men.  

    • I have a lot of fun.  If something isn't fun, I don't do it.  ~ Kathy Eisert Lautaret  Kathy, our Irish princess because she had the most Irish blood in her, said this when we were sharing our updates in our sharing circle after lunch.  I love her attitude.  This is definitely a takeaway I want to remember.  Fun, is must be a part of life.  I am trying to remember to incorporate a bit of it into my life everyday.  Thanks for the reminder Kathy.
    • A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.  ~Donna Roberts



    • I think about little girls going off to kindergarten holding hands to support each other and now as we face 70 we support each other– symbolically holding hands maybe. ~ Iris Clark  Iris sent out this sentiment via an email after the gathering.  In a nutshell, she summed up the beauty of the group.  We do hold each other in our hearts and by the hand.  We share our latest joys and challenges during our sharing time.  This time, Pam brought a timer.  We only had five minutes!  If we took longer we would be driving home in the dark. 
    And so the greatest takeaway of all is: 
    • Hold a true friend with both your hands.  ~Nigerian Proverb



    I am richly blessed by these beautiful ladies.  I love each one of them so dearly.  What a treasure you all are.  

    Treasured Friends ~ Treasured Times

    Every three months, my dear high school friends meet for lunch.  This has been going on for over twenty years.  Most of us live scattered along the Front Range of Colorado from the Denver area to Pueblo.  The drive doesn't stop us from getting together.  We have our calendars marked three months in advanced for the next scheduled meeting of the group.  It seems there always a few who can't make it, but we nearly always have at least 12 to 15 girls (ladies) in attendance.  


    In 2010, the weekend of a class reunion for the first four classes of our school, we held a special breakfast gathering for all of the girls from our class who were in town for the reunion.  That was our largest gathering ever.
    EHS Girls of '63
    Summer 2010




    Yesterday, we had a very special Saint Patrick's Day gathering.  Originally, we were supposed to meet at my house, but Iris stepped up to the plate as the back-up person and held the party at her house.  Thanks, Iris!  She made sure we would all be decked out in a little green.




    There are some great traditions that group continues to hold:

    • The hostess provides the main course or meat dish.  This year since our gathering was held on St. Patrick's Day, two others and I fixed corned beef.  



    • The others always bring the side dishes, appetizers, and desserts.  This time we had wonderful potatoes, boiled cabbage, a dish that combined cooked carrots, parsnips, and parsley, salad, Irish soda bread, and wonderful Irish oatmeal cake.  All of it was simply delicious.
    • The group always makes a toast to those who have passed on and are no longer with us.  The toast started to honor Shirley Boyce, one of the original founders of the group, who passed away from breast cancer a number of years ago.  Now, we also remember our dear Judy who passed on in November of 2010.
    Making a toast to those who have passed on.
    December 2011



    • Before the margaritas are mixed, we always have to find out who the virgins are.  Or, at least we find out who wants a virgin margarita.


    The three virgins
    • We also must take the group photo as soon as we get there.  This is done right away so we don't forget to take it, and so we still look somewhat fresh.
    EHS Girls of '63
    Spring 2011


    EHS Girls of '63
    December 2011

    • We try to always have a time when we sit down and go around the circle and update each other on what is happening in each other's lives.  This is where we celebrate the victories or support the hard times.  This group of ladies have all been through some rough things such as cancer, high blood pressure, loss of spouse, illnesses, loss of children, and divorce.  They are truly there for one another, and they have made the commitment to each other to be there when there is a need.  The deep concern, love and support that this group gives is just amazing.
    Each time we get together, I am reminded that when my girls give a hug, they mean it.  


    A hug from a favorite hugger:
    Val
    Getting hugs
    &
    Getting the food set up go together




    While no one is celebrated more than any other, we did have a few special attendees and guests yesterday. Dove came all the way from Vermont to attend the gathering which also happened to coincide with her birthday.  


    Dove & Sally
    March 17, 2012
    Back in September of this past year, Dove and I were together at her beautiful home in Vermont on the same day as the girls were meeting back in Colorado.


    Dove & Sally
    Vermont, September 2011

    Dove & Eileen catching up
    and reminiscing about days going as far back as kindergarten
    A birthday cake was in order since it was Dove's birthday.  I wrote about Dove in this post.  The first date with my husband was when we attended her 16th birthday party. She is the person who lined me up with this wonderful man I married.  Thanks again, Dove!

    .

     In 2010, the group met at my home on my birthday.  I remember how thrilled we were that our dear friend Judy was well enough to join us.  She is sitting in the gold chair.  She had been through a really rough spot just before our gathering, but she made sure she joined us.  A few months later, her illness in remission, she looked so well and healthy at our summer reunion gathering.  (She is seated in the front row of that photo and is wearing a turquoise colored pair of slacks.)  Sadly, she would pass away just months after that.  True to the commitment this group has to each other, and true to the love they have for each other, many from the group met at her bedside as she was moved to hospice and just a short few hours before she passed away.  
    EHS Girls '63
    February 2010


    Yesterday, the other special guests who joined us for dessert were Judy's granddaughter Maddie and her husband Ted.  It was so good to see Maddie, who seems to be doing so well.  She totally got into the St. Patrick's Day theme and made sure she was decked out in green from head to toe.  




    EHS Girls '63
    with Ted & Maddie
    March 2012
    As Dove drove me back to my house, we talked about how wonderful the gathering had been.  It was the first time Dove had actually been able to attend with us.  Although she had been at the summer reunion in 2010, she had never experienced the small intimate group.  We remarked how wonderful it is to be with the girls we grew up with. I find these times together with the group so affirming and grounding for me.  I think Dove summed it all up best when she wrote on Facebook,  I felt very nourished and energized by spending a few hours with them. Wonderful open hearted hugs and deep caring for one another, the power of women is a beautiful thing to experience.


    There is an authenticity to the group that one seldom finds.  We know where we came from, who we are, and what we have been through.  Some of us knew each other's parents and siblings.  We remember the neighborhoods we grew up in together.  We remember our teachers, and we remember how we just never had enough time to talk and got in trouble in class because we couldn't stop talking.  In fact, we shared and talked non-stop from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m yesterday.  Then, sadly the clock said we had to part again, but we will meet again in three months.  

    The Golden Girls - More Precious Than Gold

    We're not the girls from the Ya Ya Sisterhood, but we are a bunch of chicks who became friends when were East High Eagles.  Our school colors were gold and white.  Our school was brand new when we first entered its doors as freshmen back in 1959.  Some of us came from the East side of Pueblo, Colorado, a steel town. The East side in those days was mostly made up of middle-class working families.  The rest of us came from Belmont, a new development that had sprung up on the Northeast side of Pueblo in the late 50's and early 60's.  We began social networking by passing notes in class, talking to each other in class, and eating together at lunch.  We bonded in pep club meetings or after school at the football and basketball games.  We went to sock hops, proms, and slumber parties together.

    Then, we graduated from high school and went our separate ways.  We married.  We had kids, or not.  Some got divorced, some didn't.  Some married classmates the first-time around, while others, like myself married high school sweethearts the second-time around.  We are children of the '60's so we have all traveled very divergent paths.  

    At least 30 years ago, two of the girls got together and decided to invite others from the class of '63 to join them for a get together.  They had so much fun, they decided to make it a regular event.  Thus, this special group of women started a tradition that becomes more precious as each year goes by.  Pam S and Shirley Boyce were the original two who began the group.  Shirley sadly passed away a number of years ago, but we all continue to meet three times a year.  We always lift a glass to remember Shirley, but sadly we are now naming others who have left us through death.

    Yesterday, was our first meeting for this year.  Since Kathy M. missed the Christmas get together, we decided to have our spring meeting at her house.  That's what happens if you miss.  Your house gets selected for the next gathering.  Kathy was gracious enough to go along with our plans to have a party at her house.  This meant that she even sent her Abby Lynn to her neighbor's house to play with Molly while we had our party.

    Kathy & Abby Lynn
    with Molly and Molly's mom

    I love the hugs my high school buddies give.  When I am greeted by them, I know I've been hugged.  I love laughing with my high school buddies because when I laugh with them, I know I have laughed.  We laugh often and loudly.  As soon as one of us walks through the door, there are hugs all around, and there is laughter and joy in the air.


    As is tradition, we gather for our group shot before we do anything else.  We want to get that done while we still have our lipstick on and our hair is properly arranged.  Plus, we don't want to forget to take the group photo.  We have to have some way of remembering where we were last and who was there.

    Speaking of remembering, it seems that Eileen couldn't remember where we had our Christmas party.  She said, she remembered we'd had a Christmas party but couldn't recall where.  "Eileen," I said, "we had it at your house!"  I told her I had pictures to prove it.  So, here are the photos from Christmas.

    Eileen, your new kitchen is just wonderful.  You look great in it.


    The table you set was just beautiful and very festive.  And we all loved the lamp that you brought back from Mexico.


    Here's the group that gathered for Christmas.  We all don't make it to every get together.  We miss the ones that don't make it.  


    In September, we had a school reunion for the first four classes of our high school.  Our group of girls got together for brunch and had a wonderful time because we had so many there that had traveled from out of state.

    As is our tradition, we mix up margaritas so we can toast Shirley Boyce, one of the founders of the get together.  This time as we gathered, we also sadly remembered Judy who passed away late this fall after a hard fought battle with cancer.  Judy is sitting in the front row in both of these photos.  She is dressed in turquoise in both photos.  


    The margarita glasses are all lined up and ready to be filled by our excellent drink mixer.


    Val lends a hand and adds some humor to occasion.


    Three of us are still virgins.  Well, anyway, we drank virgin margaritas.  I pointed out that the virgins are still fluffy while the rest of them are flat.

    Three fluffy virgins

    I guess you could say that Kathy M was our guest of honor.  She attended the get together for the first time.  She came all the way from Kansas to be with us.  I was so excited to see Kathy.  I'd not seen her for since high school.
    Kathy X 2

    Kathy X 3
    or
    A Kathy Sandwich

    We always have lots of good food to go with our drinks and laughter.

    Before we eat our meal, and after our group photo and toast, we gather in a circle and catch each other up on what we have been doing since our last gathering.


    This group of women are the most caring and compassionate friends you could ever meet.  Some are now widows.  Some are in remission from cancer.  Others are caring for older parents.  Some are dealing with other heavy burdens that call for support and love.  We laugh and cry as we share our stories.  We are there for each other.  Pam reminded us that we can call a special meeting whenever we need the love and support of the others.  

    When Judy was nearing the end of her life, many of the group drove to Pueblo to be with her in the hospital.  While they were at her bedside, it was determined that it was time to move her to hospice.  The girls traveled to hospice to be with her in her final hours.  We have promised each other that we will do this for each other.  These girls are good for their word.

    We met at 10:30 in the morning.  We ate hor d'orevres, took photos, shared our latest news, and then we ate dinner.  Kathy, as hostess, prepared the main dish.  It was delicious pulled pork and beef brisket.  We had wonderful salads and side dishes to go with it.  We also had three different luscious desserts.  As I looked around at my dear high school friends as we gathered around the table to share some food, my mind went back to high school.  I remembered sitting in the school cafeteria with these same girls.  I remember that they would remember each other on birthdays when we were in high school by bringing a cake to school to be shared at lunch.  I'm sure none of us ever imagined that we would continue to gather all these years later to share some food, laughter, and friendship.  But here we are, nearly 50 years after we graduated from high school still enjoying each other.  

    We are all the same girls.  We haven't changed.  That is what I love.  I look in each girl's eyes, and I see my high school girl friend.  She is still there.  She is still young at heart.  We still laugh at our silly jokes.  We still get out of control with our girlhood sense of fun.  We also cry with each other because we love each other.  We treasure the time we have together.  These friendships have stood the test of time.

    Conversation over dessert

    Finally, at 5:00, after setting the place and date for our next meeting, we reluctantly begin to gather our things to go home.  It is hugs all around again.  We say our good-byes.  Our hearts are all a little lighter because we have laughed, we have cried, and we have again been blessed by the gift of friendship.

    My East High School Girls of '63 are the best!  
    They are the golden girls.
    They are more precious than gold.