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.

Happy Birthday to My Husband

 Memories of those days long ago 
have become a bit blurred around the edges.


the focal point of my life when I was sixteen,
and you were seventeen,


 all that my young girl's imagination
 desired in a young man
 to whom she could give her heart.

We were young,
but we had our dreams for the future.

You were so steady.
Always the good 
you were popular with your peers and your teachers.
the student athlete,
thrilled my heart,
as I, sitting on the grass at Runyon field,
watched you play first base with such confidence and skill.

You, King of the Sock Hop,
a senior,
big man on campus,
brought me,
a sophomore girl, with absolutely no self-confidence,
to that dance where you reigned as king.

You were genuine.
A real gem.
I wasn't the only one who realized what a great guy you were.
All the other girls in the school voted you as king of the sock hop.

Those long ago days left me with such sweet memories:
drives in your car dragging Main,
City Park, where we would ride the merry-go-round,
picnics in Beulah, 
and your graduation from high school.

You told me the night you graduated what you would do with your life.
You said you would teach when you finished college.
You said you wanted me to marry you when we were done with college.
I was only sixteen.
You were seventeen.
I knew you would accomplish all you said you would accomplish.
You did.

You worked hard to pay your own way through college.
You taught German and English.
You became a high school counselor.
You became a high school principal.
You even married me.
That took a bit longer.
I never had the good sense to marry you until thirty years after that first proposal.

I carry many images of you in my head.
Yours is my favorite face to photograph.

In this one,
you are in your element.*

that intangible aura of leadership,
is captured so well in this, 
one of my favorite photos of you.
This photo captured so much of you.

Your sparkly brown eyes framed by scholarly looking frames on your glasses,
are focused on the student to whom you are so intently listening.
That's you.
You are engaged and engaging.
The smile on your face reflects
your kind, fatherly heart,
and your sense of humor,
and of how much you love being with young people.

You are dressed in your black jacket South High School that you wore to all those football games.
The Colt emblem,
strategically placed over your heart,
speaks of your love for and devotion to the school where you served as principal.

You, the son of refugees, had donned this warm jacket for the ferry ride over the cold choppy waters to Ellis Island.
This place, a gateway for so many of the ancestors of your students,
was not the gateway for your family.
Your parents were refugees from Germany.
They escaped the Holocaust.

They had such dreams for you,
the son born on American soil,
the son born after your dear parents had taken such an arduous journey from Nazi Germany.

Your father wanted you to be a teacher,
"It is a noble profession," 
he said as he advised you during one of those treasured talks you would have with him on the front porch of your home during your youth.

He died during your first year of teaching.
He did not live to see you flourish in that noble profession.

I am the one able to see you come full circle from those days of 
to this one moment in time 
in your element,
fully engaged with the student toward whom
your head is slightly bent
give credence to the school motto which has become your legacy:
Do Right.
Be Kind.


Tomorrow is your birthday.
When I look at your kind and loving face,
I know how blessed I am to have you in my life.
You, my dear husband,
have kept those traits that I recognized so many years ago.
Your faithfulness towards me is never in question.
Your love for me and your family has remained strong and supportive through so many storms of life.
You continue to make me smile and laugh at your great sense of humor.
You are so down to earth and loving.
You send me cute, loving little notes and emojis from you latest gadget, your Apple watch throughout the day.
You make me smile.
You bring joy to my heart.

So here we are in seventies.
How did we get here?

You never seem to age.
You continue to work at your new career at the Apple Store.
You come home from work full of enthusiasm and energy.
You are not one to retire.
When you are home, your favorite thing to do is to walk our dear Boston.
You love your boy.

Our lives are rich in love and companionship.

Your life has been a gift to me.
All those characteristics and traits that I hoped for in the man I hoped to marry someday when I was just a young girl
truly are embodied in you, 
my dear and cherished husband.

I love you beyond measure.

Happy birthday.

Credits: * I did not take the photograph of you on the ferry to Ellis Island.  It was captured by the mother of a student, the gifted writer and photographer Cathy Ames-Farmer.  

Observations on Then and Now

Observations and Reflections 
on Then and Now
1962 vs 2012

This morning, as I stood idly at the counter of Starbucks waiting for the barista to make my de-caf, skinny cafe latte, or as one barista called my coffee choice, "a why bother," a girl dressed in a high school letter jacket and sitting in the cab of her truck waiting for her morning coffee at the drive-through window caught my eye.  Her make-up free face looked tired and a bit harried.  My first thoughts were, "She's a bit late for first period.  School has already started."  That was the teacher in me.  Then I thought how harried she looked.  It seemed to me that a girl of seventeen or eighteen just should not look as if she were the mother of three and in her 30's.  I don't remember looking that tired and overwhelmed in high school.
Coffee Shop Reflections

Suddenly, I found myself comparing my life as a teenager, a senior in high school, to what I found myself observing of a quick snapshot into this girl's life.

As a senior in high school, I did not stop by a coffee shop on my way to school to pick up coffee because:
  • I did not drink coffee.  I ate two pieces of toast and drank a glass of milk, both of which were prepared by my mother every morning of the world before I went to school.  I didn't like breakfast in those days, but my mother insisted I eat something, so I did eat what she fixed me.
  • I did not drive.  My father drove me to school every morning of my senior year at Leadville High School.  My first class, college prep English, started before 7:00 a.m.  Mornings were very cold at the two miles high altitude where we lived.  I would freeze just sitting in the car as my father drove me school.  
  • I did not drive because I did not have a driver's license.  My father didn't support the idea of me having a driver's license.  He insisted I learn to drive, but he saw no need for me to have a license to do so.  Once my driver's learning permit expired, and I knew how to drive, I never got a driver's license until I was 21.
  • I never would have had my own car, nor would I have had access to a car.  My father would never have even dreamed of getting me a car.  He wouldn't let me get a job during the school year either, so I wouldn't be able to earn the money to get a car.  In fact, the idea of having my own car never even entered my mind as a young woman.  Very few of my friends had a car.  A few guys had a car, very few, and my girl friend Mary had an old '50 Ford.  Other than that, it was just unheard of in my town for high school girls to have cars.
  • If I had a car, and if there had been a Starbucks or some other coffee shop to drive up to and buy a cup of coffee, and if I had drunk coffee at the time, I would not have had any money to buy a cup of coffee, and I would never have dreamed of all the coffee drink choices there are today.
Even today's visit to a coffee shop is a rare one for me.  I had some time on my hands after dropping my husband off for a medical test at a hospital near-by and thought I would settle in with my book and a cup of coffee while I waited for his call to pick him up.  After observing the girl in the truck,  I couldn't help questioning whether I would have liked to live today's teenage life, or if I preferred the life I lived as a teenager.  With my 50th high school reunion coming up this year, it only stands to reason that times have changed.  

I'm thankful I came of age at the time I did.  My life was much more sheltered than the lives of so many teens today.  Since I was under my parents' roof, I was also under their rules.  These rules protected me in many ways.  I didn't have the responsibility of driving.  I didn't have to have a job during the school year.  My father thought there was plenty of time for having job responsibilities later in life.  My mother made many of my clothes, or I made my own.  I had a difficult schedule at school, but I also had plenty of time to study.  I loved to read and spent hours doing so.  I didn't have anything handed to me.  Whatever clothes I wanted beyond the basics made by my mother or purchased just before school started, I bought with the money I made as a car hop at the local A&W across the road from our home in the summer.

I had a very active social life with much time spent at Teen Town dances, attending ball games, taking jeep tours with my friends in the mountains, hiking, biking and having a lot of fun just "dragging Main' with the lucky ones who did have cars.  I was not a cheerleader; I was too clumsy for that.  I was involved in drama and acted in high school plays with lead roles.  I was elected homecoming queen.  I guess I must have been popular.  

If there is one regret, it is that in those days, before Title IX, girls did not participate in sports at school.  There were no teams for girls at school.  I wish I could have had the chance to develop my skills at a sport.  

The early sixties was a different time from now.  We did our research projects by using note cards, and I typed my senior paper on an old upright typewriter.  We listened to records and danced to the Loco Motion, Wipe Out, and Our Day Will Come on recorded '45's.  We watched Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and The Ed Sullivan Show on television.  

There were no coffee shops that I knew of in our town.  A memory stands out in my mind of walking to a bakery after school before play practice would begin.  We would buy the most delicious cream puffs and eat them as our after school treat.  On a Saturday, we would go to a restaurant with a group of us and order cokes and French fries and take up the booth for a very long time talking and laughing with each other.  We didn't text; we talked.  Our talks were sometimes long and quite philosophical.  We didn't facebook; we had lots of face to face time.  All I remember is that high school was a fun time in my life.   I had a chance to gain my own identity.

The summer after I graduated from high school, just before I left for college in the fall of 1963, I visited my boyfriend's home to say good-bye.  I am now married to the one who snapped this photo of me in front of his parent's home.  High school provided me with a time when I made life time friendships.  It also was a time when I met my true love and partner for the second half of my life.  I remember how proud of me Jim was because I had earned a scholarship for college tuition and was going away for college.  Dressed in my new shirtwaist dress, I thought I was the picture of a college girl.  Now I think I look terribly young and if naiveté is written across my forehead.  When this photo was taken, I had wonderful dreams and goals.  I am happy I reached all of them.  I do wish I'd had higher goals and loftier dreams.  It was a different time then.  Women didn't really think of doing much except being a wife, teacher, or nurse.  For the times, I am happy with my choices and that I accomplished what I set out to do.  I wouldn't trade the time in which I came of age for anything.  I grateful I grew up when I did.

Leadville Colorado "On Top of the World"

Journal Cover
Moods & Memories
Code 2794
Current, Inc.


I am a Colorado Girl.I was raised at the foot of the beautiful Pikes Peak.I like to think it was the first thing I saw as I left the hospital after I was born.

Mountains, I loved them all of my life.

Memories of A Colorado Mountain Girl

I recently came across a journal I had started in my thirties. I remember buying the journal when I lived in Utah.  I saw the Colorado State Flower on the cover and I had to have the journal.  I missed my home state so much at the time.  

No one knew back in the 80's that the beautiful flower, the Columbine, would someday be linked to one of the worst school tragedies in history.  For me, at that time, the Columbine symbolized a time of innocence and of beauty as I would recall the many times I saw it growing wild in the mountain during my childhood and youth.  On the inside of this particular journal, I wrote, "Memories of Leadville, and of my youth."  In my heart, I still associate Columbines with innocence, but it is now more about lost innocence.  Yet despite the grief, shock, and pain that Columbines symbolize because of that fateful day at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999, I continue to love this flower and think of it also as a symbol of not only a day of innocence, but also as a symbol of hope for all that is good in youth.

Leadville ~ The Setting for My Youth

That Means I am a true mountain girl.  Anyone who has lived two miles high deserves that distinction.  Some of the best years of my life were lived in the shadow of Mt. Massive.  Living in Leadville, Colorado is an "On Top of the World Experience."

When I was just beginning my senior year in high school, my father moved us from the flatlands of Colorado, Pueblo, Colorado, to the rarified air of Leadville, Colorado.  I was heartbroken when he did this.  Little did I know how much Leadville would figure with such prominence when I recall the happiest times of my life.  

One of the first entries in my new journal was a recollection of my time spent as a young girl in Leadville.  I wrote:

This picture brings back memories of Leadville and the many pines out on the road toward Turquoise Lake.  It must have been February and we were decorating for a school dance - "Winter Wonderland."  We went out collecting pine branches & tumble weeds - the tumble weeds to be sprayed white and decorated with tiny lights.  We must have gone after school - it was cold! The world was white and glittery, the sky was black, clear, and starry as only a Leadville night can be.  I still remember crunchy footsteps in the snow and dragging branches and tumble weeds along the snow.  It was perfectly quiet except for this sound and the laughter from the excitement of being young and gathering natural decorations for a dance.  

I remember: the cold, my feet felt like they were frozen to the ground, the peaceful beauty that surrounded us, and the freedom of youth.  Also, I remember the power and the faith that I felt at that age.  

Nothing is more beautiful than a Colorado blue spruce being covered with soft, thumb nail size snow flakes in a light snow storm in early evening.  

February, 1963, I turned 18.  I wanted to stay there forever.  The future seemed bright.  The past was happy.  I had nothing to regret or sorrow about.  The present was perfect.  I was living in a small mountain town.  In fact, I was new in town, and everyone had been so friendly.  I was popular and had many friends who were fun and intelligent.  

The entire town was ours to roam. It had a colorful past, and it fascinated me.  There were old houses that were from the silver boom days.  Some of the sidewalks were still wooden.  The hardware shop, the barbershop, the church, the school were all functioning museums.  Up on the hills were abandoned mines.  At night we would go up there and tell ghost stories about them.  They were pretty scary too.

The scenery was out of this world...

For those of you who want to see a short video about the place that I called home, the place I love so dearly, the place that hold such wonderful memories, I have included this wonderful video.  I hope you take the time to watch it.  Enjoy.

If you ever get the chance, visit this wonderful mountain town.  You will love it.  By the way, I did work for the Chamber of Commerce in Leadville one summer while I was in college.