I've decided that HOPE is how we build our lives.

When we're young, but old enough, we hope to be a little older. So we can "do" stuff. Drive a car. Make our own decisions. Vote. Buy a drink.

Then we hope to find the right spouse. Someone to grow old with.

We hope our children will be successful and happy. At some point we all just hope for happy.

We hope we can travel a little. Fill our shoes with sand from different places. Enjoy the world we live in.

Then we hope for enough money to live on. We don't need to be extravagant. We just want to experience a few things before we're beyond our physical ability to do so. And pay the bills.

We hope for spots of joy in our lives. From pets or hobbies or friends... something to make us smile. Man, those things can charge our batteries, don't you agree?

The idea of hoping for health isn't always sustainable. And because we don't get it doesn't mean we aren't worthy. It just means that it wasn't in the cards. Health will eventually crap out on all of us.

And finally, we hope to leave this world a better place. Swelled hearts. Fond memories. Things that people will touch and think of us. A sentence fragment that will immediately bring a smile.

All of these things are how we build our lives on hope.

But when we build our faith, we need more than hope. We need more than belief. We need to KNOW.

Take a look at where you are. You know I love and respect you if you don't believe. But wouldn't it be cool?

And for those who believe, wouldn't you feel even stronger if you knew?

It's all better with friends.

Chutes and Ladders and Death, Duh

I remember when my last living grandparent died. It was like I'd moved one step up the ladder.

You know the ladder I'm talking about. The Ladder of Life. Which, as we all know, culminates in death. Okay, yeah. It should be called the Ladder of Death. But can I just say that sounds oppressive?

While we've all been conditioned to want to climb the Ladder of Success, I don't know of one person who wants to climb that other ladder, regardless of what we call it.

When my mom died, I needed to focus on the spiritual elements I believed in and not my sense of loss, which I believe was ultimately selfish. When I cry (and I still do) it's all about me and my loss and not about her. Not really. Even when I think my focus is on her.

And then there's that damn ladder.

I've lost a friend. Theodora Smith battled breast cancer for ten long years. She was one of the most loving and creative and charming and positive people I've ever known. She died when she was only 49. I remember going to see her during one of her many hospitalizations with the goal of helping her feel better. Guess who left feeling more lighthearted—and not because of anything I'd done? Yep. Me. In the game, Chutes and Ladders (if I remember right) "chutes" send a player flying down. In the reality of Thee? She shot up far beyond the reach of any stupid ladder.

So there's that.

When I have another friend or loved one who I lose (and unless I drop dead first, it's gonna happen), here's what I want to hold onto; here's what I want to remember and focus on:

Death is a corrupt term. It's only about loss. Selfish loss. It robs us of that feeling of unconditional love. So I want to forget the idea of death.

I believe that when a person dies, they leave our physical plane and transition into another place. What will save me, save my sorrow that isn't linked to selfishness, is to think about their fabulous transition, and the joy it means for them.

Oh, and... there's nothing wrong with enormous sob-fests when we remember those who we've lost. My mom died in 2008 and it's only been in the last few years that I've gotten a handle on scheduling my selfish moments when I cry my eyes out with loss.

Schedule? Really? 

I can feel the need building and I can play a certain song. With those notes tears will flow, my nose will run, and my eyes will get red and swollen. It's ugly but it's a release. I know it's selfish. But hey... I'm human.

And then, after some sadness, I'm okay.

You've all heard about the reason newborns cry... they've transitioned into a completely alien world from the one they've been in for a few months. Well, after a few decades and a little preparation, I'm hoping the transition for me and my loved ones will be nothing less than exciting. No tears. Because we, at that moment of transition, anxiously await what comes next.

We'll go from Chutes and Ladders to Rocket Ships and Wonder.

Are you with me?

It's all better with friends.

One of THOSE Birthdays

Yesterday I turned sixty.

How did that happen? When did the long haired hippie-wannabe morph into this person with "bling" in her hair?

I can remember that neither forty or fifty was a big deal. So why is sixty feeling so weird?

It's because "sixty" doesn't compute with the idea I have of myself. Sixty sounds like it's time to face the fact that I truly am getting old. To admit to being a "senior" citizen. To give up dreams.

Damn it. I don't care if I'm sixty or seventy or eighty or a hundred. I hope I will always have dreams. Always have something I want to accomplish. Always have a reason to wake up every morning with joy about something other than the simple fact that I'm still alive—which is not to say that won't be a good thing.

Let me die while I'm in the middle of writing a scene. Or planting a flower in a pot on the deck. Or getting ready to meet a friend for lunch. Or making something I know my husband will love to eat. Let me die when there is clearly something that will come next.

Don't let me die with my gear stuck in either Park or Reverse. When my engine bites the dust, I want to be in Drive. Even if my motor has major problems, let me go out in the highest gear manageable.

And sixty is strong. Powerful. My health is good and I'm pretty much cruising.

So sixty? Pffft! It ain't nothin'. I get that. Mostly.

How are you feeling about this getting older gig?

It's all better with friends.