You Win at Life

A few weeks ago a Facebook friend posted her results from one of those little 10 or 15 question multiple choice quizzes that purport to read your personality or your future.

“I make history!” she said.  “What answer did you get?”

She is an educator and a former colleague of mine.  We share a common understanding of the value of history and core education. The test sounded interesting.  Not the kind of test you put a lot of stock in like Myers Briggs or even Rorschach, but just for fun.

So, I clicked the link. I had my fun.  I got my answer.

You win at life!

What?????? I must have clicked a couple wrong answers along the way.  Me win at life?  Obviously, that was not a very credible test.  I took a quick glance over my history and laughed.  But shame followed closely on the heels of the laughter.  Because, you know, it’s not nice to win.  Or is it?  When you win, does it automatically mean you have manipulated, cheated, intimidated, made someone else your step-ladder to success?

I dwelt in faulty thinking for a spell, second-guessing past success and past mistakes and chastising myself for being so transparent that a recreational test found me out.

This is precisely the type of emotional cerebral activity that garnered me the accusation that I think too much.

Is it wrong to succeed above your fellow man, or is winning at life an opportunity to raise others up?  When I look over the past decades, I see I have reinvented myself many times just to survive. Does that make me a winner?

Maybe, just maybe this little test was meant to encourage, not to chide.  After all, when you take a quiz titled, “Which Disney Star are You?” Everyone ends up a star.

So, my friend makes history and I win at life! That is palm reading I can live with, a daily reminder:

Be encouraged!

You can get through this!

You win at life!


Patti Hill, Gilbert Grape and One Tin Soldier

When I first saw the movie, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” I sat and wept quietly at its conclusion.  My brother, a fan of the film, questioned my tears. “It has a happy ending,” he argued. But I could not bear the relentless burden of caretaking and parenting of a parent that Gilbert was called on to carry.

I feel the same crushing weight for Amy in Patti Hill’s story, “The Queen of Sleepy Eye. “ The mother is relentless in her dependence on Amy.  No 17-year-old should be called on to raise a parent.    This type of dependence demands boundaries, but it is a bit ticklish for an underage child to set them and still remain respectful to the parent. But here’s the rub; Amy herself is not perfect.  She scolds.  Some of her actions are scoldable.  She judges and her pride goes before a fall. Been there, done that.  I’ve also made promises with the best of good will and self-control and then broken them.

This is a book every Christian should read. Using your children for your own glory or sustenance is a theme oft repeated in life.  Manipulation is a tool frequently employed by many parents, but not often acknowledged in Christian fiction – which this is.

The first third of this book reads like a textbook psychology case study.  The later portions are for Christians only.  Were you raised steeped in the same type of Christianity as I was?  A few decades ago, we would have grieved for every last character as they fell from Grace. With tears in our eyes, we would have shaken the dust off our feet and moved on just like some of the church people in Hill’s book.  But the ending Patti Hill crafts is an ending where, with the reader’s sympathy and understanding, the characters fell into Grace.

And oh, how I loved the hippies, and Patti’s portrayal of Paonia.  Wait, that was Paonia, wasn’t it?  And I know these church people, which, unfortunately, is why I shy away from Christian fiction these days.

Are you a baby-boomer?  Do yourself a favor and read this book.  It will resonate like “Forrest Gump,” or “Gilbert Grape,” or “One Tin Soldier.”

This fabulous decade

Remember the days when you went to a photo sitting, waited two weeks for the proofs, chose which you liked and waited 10 more days for the prints? I had a birthday a month ago and I’ve been waiting on the proofs for a few weeks.  The proof that I really am older and the proof that this next decade will be even better.

Somewhere along about the age of 40 I realized that every time I approached a decade marker I got a second wind.  I was curious to see if that would happen this year as I completed yet another decade.   Looking back; this has been a fabulous decade!

During the last 10 years I ____________________________________________

  • Completed a bachelor’s degree graduating magna cum laude
  • Saw my daughter graduate high school
  • Watched my youngest son graduate high school and launch into the adult world.
  • Cheered as my daughter graduated college
  • Completed a manuscript for a children’s book and saw it all the way to independent publication
  • Actually got paid to write – every penny counts
  • Got to interact with four grandchildren
  • Travelled by train to San Francisco and Seattle
  • Packed all the necessities of existence in a Subaru and moved 1000 miles solo
  • Taught classroom music fulltime
  • Taught piano for enrichment
  • Completed a women’s fiction manuscript which will probably never see the light of day
  • Got paid to play the piano
  • Took in as many events, travels and concerts as time and money allowed
  • Hiked all the trails of Colorado National Monument
  • Returned to retail store management and found I loved it

And now, I am beginning to plot and plan how I can see more National Parks, hike in more beautiful places, make more music and write publishable manuscripts in the upcoming decade.

A fabulous party

For the first time in 60 years, I planned my own birthday party and paid for a live band – just because I love music and I love raising young musicians.  This is how the band looks…

…but not really how the band sounds. iphoto correctly guessed my generation when it automatically chose the audio.

The band?  They are indie innovators and accomplished musicians. In reality this is how the band sounds 

These musicians? They are my children.  My greatest accomplishment was raising them to adulthood and allowing for or providing for as much music in their lives as possible.

Kevin, Philip, Andrea
Kevin, Philip, Andrea

Regarding thirst and sex

I used to hate water. But my body needed it and persisted in letting me know through thirst. Often, I mistook the intense need to ingest something as craving for food when what I really needed was to hydrate myself.

So too, I somehow came to regard sex as affirmation. Just as everyone needs water, we all need affirmation. Yet, a physical relationship is not the exclusive fix for emotional fulfillment. In fact, relationships can be quite unreliable as sources of affirmation.

Perhaps my greatest achievement over the past decades is my proper response to feeling thirsty, hungry or desperate.

Nowadays I keep a water bottle handy, drink heartily and then see if I am still hungry. When I am truly hungry, I make wiser choices of foods that nourish. When I have been a little short on affirmation and am therefore craving a relationship; I acknowledge that need and turn to other options. Maybe creating a story or time spent journaling will give perspective. Perhaps, just a good book to read. Most assuredly, what I need is some solitude and a hike in a beautiful place.

The affirmation of sex, or the quenching of thirst with food, is only coping for the moment; but the benefits of a tall glass of water and a long walk in nature build health for a lifetime.

Alexander Lake, Grand Mesa
Alexander Lake, Grand Mesa