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A 50-Year Legacy

feet-out-windowI was  hanging out my office window, which is on the second floor of a rehabbed old house, when the thought struck me: “Is this really going to be my legacy? Is this the way people will remember me?”

To provide some perspective, my office sits directly across from the Catholic church, next door to the Presbyterian church, catty corner from the public library, and less than a block away from the town square. Since I have a corner office with two windows, I almost always having a view of something interesting happening

From nuns doing the Macarena on the front steps of the Catholic church, to numerous political protests, to pedestrians being hit by cars (yes – pedestrians  and cars plural – it happens more often than you might think), to the priest wearing a skirt (he swears it was a kilt), I have a great vantage point – and some pointed commentary – on all of it.

I also have an insatiable curiosity, which means when I have questions or concerns, I simply fling open my office window, lean out, and yell to whomever I think will answer.

My colleagues and the regular passerby have come to consider this normal.

But on the particular day in question, I was yelling at a stranger whom I’d never before seen. He was walking an adorable, large, white fluffy dog, and I felt compelled to meet him (the dog – not the man).  So, I opened the window and asked.

The dog looked around confused. The man looked around confused. And, realizing that neither of them knew from where the request was coming, I told them to look up. They did, and I was invited to come on down for a meet and greet.

That’s when the thought struck me. “This might be how some people will remember me – as that crazy lady who was compelled to yell at a total stranger in order to meet his dog or who shouted questions from a second story window at the church custodian across the street.”

And then another thought struck me – “Who cares? At least that is an interesting way to be remembered.”

I’ve been thinking more and more about such things recently.

That’s because today is my 50th birthday.sunset

I am now a half a century old.

Statistics show that I have more years behind me than I have in front of me. My potential to accomplish great things will become more and more limited as the next years rush by me.

In other words, dreams of becoming the next great American novelist are now fading in the same way that hopes of suddenly blossoming into a great beauty faded at age 25.

But these superficial desires have been replaced by something far much more realistic.

Fifty years of living have taught me that life isn’t about my being embraced, or even appreciated, by the rest of the world. Instead, it’s about embracing and appreciating the world I’ve been given while, at the same time, never accepting that it can’t be improved.

It means I will probably always laugh too loud and talk too much because my enthusiasm can be overwhelming. It means my innate desire to share everything I’m thinking and feeling will always require my friends, colleagues and acquaintances to tolerate listening to yet another “Trina story,”  and it will mean I will always break into song whenever a song lyric is used in conversation.

It also means I will cry too much, defend the underdog, rally against injustice and never, ever let someone else make me feel guilty about my beliefs.

And if all of that, along with penchant to make friends with every dog I encounter, yell out of office windows, and constantly stop to take a photo every time I think the sky looks amazing, then so be it.

That is my legacy,  and I consider my life well spent.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 135

mickey mouseGrowing up, I always wanted a Mickey Mouse watch. I never did get one, but I can’t complain.

I’ve been to Disneyland and Disney World,  and I have my own pair of mouse ears. I may even wear those ears today in honor of Mickey Mouse’s 85th birthday. On November 18, 1928,  he was introduced to the world Steamboat Willie was released to the public.

There’s something about growing up and growing older with Mickey Mouse that always makes me smile.

Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

Birthday Reflections

With the passing of another birthday last week, I officially reached middle age. That’s according to my nine-year old daughter who provided the specific definition for me: “Middle age is when you are halfway to 88.”

The definition makes as much sense as any other age-related matter.  And I’m fine with the label.

That’s because, the older I get, the less important the number is and the more important the richness of the lessons I’ve learned.

I haven’t always felt this way.

I used to view age as something that came with benchmarks.  For example, by the time I was 25 I should have a good paying job. By the time I was 30 I’d have written my first book. By the time I was 40, I’d have travelled the world.

The problem was, I never lived up to my own expectations. When I was 25, I had a job that provided wonderful opportunities to be creative, engaged in the community and work with interesting people but, the salary certainly wasn’t good. When I was 30, the only thing I was writing were papers for graduate school.  When I turned 40, most of my travelling involved carting kids around from activity to activity. 

The whole age thing just wasn’t working for me – at least the way I had mapped it out in my head.

I realized I was never going to be rich of famous. And I was most certainly never going to achieve my aspiration of aging so incredibly well that I would surprise everyone by evolving into a stunning beauty as I got older.

So I changed my philosophy. I decided that maybe growing older isn’t about aspiring to have an impressive resume, a substantial bank account or the most talented, well-rounded kids. I’ve decided maybe it’s about how well we adapt and grow based on lessons learned.

 I’m not referring to the advice or platitudes that others feel obliged to pass on to us.  I’m talking about the real lessons learned – the ones that result from both the missteps and the great successes, from the awkward moments as well as the triumphant ones and from the poor decisions and the lucky breaks.

These are the lessons we wish we could pass on to future generations, but we just can’t.  Life lessons can’t be captured in a simple list of rules to live by. They reflect the unique path each of us has followed based on our flaws, strengths and desires. They reflect who we were and who we’ve become. And they reflect the beauty of aging.

So, now that I’ve reach that time in my life when I’m neither old nor young, I feel like I’m standing halfway up a mountain.  I can look down and see an amazing view and the long, winding and sometimes very steep path I took to get here.  And I can slow down a bit just to appreciate it. Then I can look up and see there’s still a path ahead of me, and I know the views are going to be even more spectacular.  I also know that even though the path may be steeper, the climb is going to be a bit easier because I’ve got a guidebook of life lessons to help me. And, along the way, I know even more lessons are going to be added to it.

Based on that, I think I’m really going to like being middle-aged.