Roam, If You Want To

I’ve always loved the song by the B-52s that encourages us to “Roam, if you want to.  Roam around the world.”

I’m a firm believer that travel teaches us things that watching a documentary can’t.  I love that we can learn a great deal in advance from the travel channel and from travel writers, especially if our budgets don’t allow us to go to the places our imaginations long to. But there is truly nothing like getting yourself to that place and smelling the smells, hearing the sounds, feeling the heat, humidity, or ocean breeze, tasting the local flavors, and intuitively sensing what it’s like to live in that particular part of the world.

San Jose was a hot mix of the highly diverse geek culture that drives Silicon Valley along side the  homeless who make their beds on a park bench or museum step and use the dancing water display to cool off or clean up like the many children who flock there in lieu of a public swimming pool.

Since my internal clock was still on central time, I became an early bird and used this time to slip on my sneakers and walk around the city as it slowly awakened.  This became my favorite time of the day because the streets were empty, the temperatures were still cool,  I could take random photos, and smile and say “Good Morning!” to total strangers, and find a produce market where I picked out some of the sweetest and tastiest fruit I’ve ever had.

Every day has this grace period when it reveals its true nature before getting lost in the hustle and bustle of business. I supposed the same is true for us if we take a few moments to meditate before we medicate with caffeine, daily news, or drama.  Had I slept through it or even blogged through it, I would have missed the magic.

So today, even though I have so many words in my head to share that have no choice but to let a few tumble out, I’m saving the rest for later in the week so that I can go out and experience the Monterey Peninsula this morning.

Yesterday I moved us from the Taj Mahal of hotels in San Jose to what Bob thought might be Couples Camp at Asilomar in Pacific Grove.  He’s kind of right since this place was a YMCA camp for much of its history.  While I have no problem and actually prefer no television and sparse surroundings (less distractions for a writer), I can see where the equivalent of a dorm room might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

However, we do have an ocean view and an intricate system of trails that will guarantee our FitBits vibrate with the thrill of 10,000 steps.  This is a gorgeous place for families and groups to gather for connections of all kinds.

This afternoon we hope to connect with some whales on our whales watching excursion.  Actually, my #1 goal is to not get sea sick so that I might fully appreciate a humpback should I see one.  The sea otters are also on my must see list.  I’d so like to bring a couple home to keep in the Maquoketa River, although I know that’s not possible.  Bob just suggested I might find some in Otter Creek, a small town next to us in Iowa.  (Inspired by the Blogher conference, Bob’s now considering a side gig as a humor blogger.)

So even though I could write all day and tell you how many ways my world has changed in the last week simply by getting myself out in it, I have some waves to catch, salt to smell, sand to squeeze between my toes, and whales to talk to in my best Dory whale voice.

In the meantime, I hope you discover a little magic in your day today.

California Dreaming

There are many indicators I am not in Kansas (or Iowa) anymore besides the fact that Toto (or Abbey) is not by my side.

Exhibit A – palm trees.

Arriving on Planet California is an intoxicating mix of sunshine, excess, glitz, traffic, technology, fruits, nuts and flowers mixed with an abundance of beautiful people, homeless people, and people from just about every culture or walk of life.

San Jose is the heart of Silicon Valley and technology rules this town.  It’s a fitting place for me to be attending my first blogging conference.

Naturally my head is spinning as I soak this all in.  But fortunately, this tribe of Blogher women and a few men are more than willing to welcome me into the fold and teach this old dog some new tricks.

Stay tuned….

 

Movie Review Monday

Back when I thought I could create anything and figure out a way to  sell it, I came up with an idea to create a Movie Critic Kit.  I had the whole thing figured out from packaging to marketing, convinced it would be a fantastic way for friends to recommend their favorite films not only their to friends, but film aficionados everywhere.

The idea was basically one would recommend a film in a way  that revealed as much about the reviewer as the movie.  This would be designed not so much for mainstream movies but those independent, quirky, lovely movies that never get the big release or audience they deserve.  This would be ideally suited for independent, quirky, lovely reviewers who often don’t get heard but have a unique point of view. 

Okay, maybe you understand why I couldn’t retire off the deal?

But my love for quirky, beautiful, off the beaten path movies remains and whenever I stumble upon a place that shows these kinds of films in Iowa, where I now live, (I only say this only because they were around every corner in Santa Fe, where I used to live), I get extremely excited.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled into the fabulously funky Mindframe Theater in Dubuque to see a movie called Begin Again.  I love this theater not because you can buy beer in a bucket or caramel corn as well as popcorn and they have exquisite sinks in the bathrooms, but because they show my kind of movies.

Bob has learned to follow my lead in movies even though he’s had many opportunities to doubt me.  Saturday night was no exception when he looked around the room and came to the conclusion, as he did at Jersey Boys, that we were the youngest couple in the room.  Clearly, the younger set had gone to see Sex Tape.

But I was on a mission.  As soon as I learned this movie was produced by the same people who gave us Once, I knew we were in for a treat.

I so love stories of unlikely artists who become successful in their own way and time.  The thing I particularly loved about Begin Again is that it is showing us how not only the music industry but our whole culture is shifting to giving our gifts away.  Ironically, in doing so, we find support in unsuspecting places.

We all have a light inside of us that burns brightly for something or someone or a cause or a cure.  Yet with all of the competing voices, it’s hard to believe our voice will ever get even 15 minutes of fame.  Marketers will tell us we have to be edgier, more outrageous, more in your face or whatever.

This movie reminds us we just have to be authentic, genuinely love what we do, find  others who are similarly passionate and committed and willing to do it not for eventual fame and fortune, but because doing so heals us, it saves us, it sets us free.  As I have said before, we must let our art heal our hearts.

One of my favorite things to witness is watching people do what they are naturally gifted at doing but unassumingly unaware of how good they are.  Their generosity and spontaneity and creativity is contagious.  Yeah, we all want to get us some of that mojo, charisma, whatever you choose to call it.

The thing is these people live among us, quietly going their rock star thing without needing to have their own reality show to validate their egos.  But amazingly enough, people flock to them. Check out any of those people who have given a TED talk.

Of course having a viewing audience helps, but with the Internet, anything can go viral… for better or for worse.  Worse would be what I’m assuming happens in the Sex Tape movie.

But in Begin Again, the power of the Internet is used for good.  I don’t want to give away the ending, so I’ll leave it at that.  And this – do not expect anymore than two judges from The Voice to show up in the film.

If you are at all inclined to quietly make some noise, be daringly different, and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes, do yourself a favor and see Begin Again. And if you live near Dubuque, check out Mindframe Theater.  If you don’t like it, you don’t ever have to follow me into a movie theater again.  Only Bob does.

But if you do, I have more reviews for you!

Share if you dare in the comments believe. 

Good Dog, Stay

There is nothing quite like the excruciating pain of losing an animal companion.  Whether that be canine, feline, equine, or bovine, when we have to say goodbye to a being that loves us like no other, the grief seems unbearable.

When a person dies, people understand that it will take a considerable amount of time to process the loss.  Yet when a pet dies, the expectation is not so magnanimous.  Some suggest “replacing” the pet as soon as possible.

But as anyone who has ever been loved by an animal will tell you, these creatures leave paw prints on our hearts that refuse to be replaced.  Their mischievous shenanigans, annoyingly cute little tricks, and insistence on undivided attention will be the things we miss the most.

A year ago I had to put my dog Malcolm down after 17 years.  Ours was a very intricately woven bond.  His loyalty was so fierce, I knew he would not leave me even though he was in intense pain.  He not only changed my life the day I walked into Operation Kindness, he saved it.  He more than lived up to his side of the deal and stuck with me through thick and thin.  I needed to live up to mine and be brave enough to let him go.

We had traveled the country together and met more dogs in more places than most people and dogs do.  We’d regularly go out for a walk and return with 3-6 neighbor dogs in tow, making me Penny the Pied Piper of Puppies.

There is something so comforting to me about the company of dogs.  Maybe it’s that my dogs and I can communicate without speaking.  Or it could be that they think I’m a good cook, hilarious, beautiful, brilliant, generous, and have great taste in leashes.  They know when I need to exercise, eat, sleep, or shower.  They know when someone or something is threatening me.  And vice versa.

They allow me to pretend I’m the boss of them, but we all know the truth.  And even though I scold them for dropping the best, most durable balls in the Maquoketa River within 10 minutes of taking them out of the package and other bad behavior, they refuse to point out my mistakes or bad behavior.

My friend Susan and her dog Sophie gave me a pillow that says, “To error is human, to forgive canine.”  That pretty much sums up it up.

For these and a hundred other reasons, I offer the most heartfelt condolences to those who lose their animals companions.  Animals complete us.  They make our families fuller.  They make our lives richer.  They provide unconditional love and acceptance.  Not to mention unlimited writing material and photo opportunities.

My good friend Karen lost her sweet Callie last weekend.  There are no words to ease her pain and talking of Callie will continue to bring tears to both of our eyes for quite some time.

So in honor of our four-legged furry friends everywhere, let’s offer up a prayer or two of gratitude that these amazing creatures choose to spend their limited time among us and teach us how to sit, roll over, and fetch our farthest reaching dreams.

If only they could stay longer.

Share your favorite pet story, trick, photo, memory, etc. below.

This is a picture of me and Abbey, the beautiful, gentle yellow lab who joined Malcolm and me and made the last two years of his life so much spunkier.

Photo by Lucas Mitchell.

It’s Gonna Cost You

Although I do not consider myself an expert on microeconomics, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunity costs.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines opportunity costs as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”  For example, you might decide to go to school before pursuing a career, believing the potential income earned after obtaining your degree will make up for the income lost while attaining it.

Theoretically the concept is most useful when applied to making everyday decisions about how best to spend limited time or money or even calories.  Six raspberries or one M & M?  Go to a concert or buy a Bose

 Since I’ve been making many life changing decisions this year I have had to consider not just the cost of doing something, but the cost of not doing something. 

 With this in mind, I decided it would cost me more not to attend the Blogher Conference in San Jose next week and find my midlife blogger tribe than to attend. 

Lo and behold, the planets aligned, the frequent flyer miles added up, and I did enough blogging to throughout the year to take myself seriously enough to run with the big dogs, or big blogs, as the case may be.  Not one single thing about the trip is guaranteed, except the room, of course.

I learned early on that leaps of faith are not for the faint of heart.  No, no, no. Payment is required in full and up front regardless of the outcome. 

So yes, my big adventure is going to cost me.  Just like giving up sugar and flour and pasta has cost me.  Like getting braces will cost me.  Like revamping my website will cost me.

But lessons that come with a cost are not easily forgotten.  Perhaps that’s why we gladly pay in terms of time, money, discipline, dedication, and occasionally, disgust.  We are hard wired to work for our rewards.  If they come too easily, we feel unworthy of them.

So next week when I am sufficiently humbled by bloggers half my age doing outrageously bold and brilliant things without once doubting that they can, please remind me I am capable of the same things.  And I will gently remind you with every subsequent post that the cost of your dreams is worth every penny.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On

It’s been one of those ready-fire-aim years where I’ve started before I’m ready, leaped before I’ve looked, and flown entirely by the seat of my pants.  But for all intents and purposes, that was what was required.

I’ve learned that nothing really goes the way I think it’s going to go. The best I can do is prepare as much as possible and then take action.

Some things can only be learned along the way.  I can study those who have attempted similar stretches of the imagination.  But there’s nothing quite like first hand experience to give me the confidence or humiliation necessary for me to be able to master whatever the next step may be.

The good news is big, bold steps are not required in the course corrections I am charting these days.  Baby steps are really the only way I can navigate the tsunami of change that each new step ushers in.

I have held some BHAGs (Big Harry Audacious Goals) closely for many years without making any real progress.  Part of the reason is I had no system of accountability.  The other part is I told myself I’d have more time later.

Then it occurred to me that I might never have any more time in the future than I have right now to write another book, launch a couple of different websites, learn how to prepare healthy meals, straighten my teeth, or connect with those who matter to me.

If I can’t manage the time I have right now, how will I manage more later?  I think the universe in its infinite wisdom is always giving us opportunities cleverly disguised as challenges.

My challenge at the beginning of the year was to write 500 words a day for 30 days.  If I couldn’t write 500 words a day, how could I expect to write another book?

Next came B-school.  I knew if I wanted to have a successful online presence, I needed to learn from someone who already does.  Throughout my life, I have learned to go to the source.  I’ve never regretted a single dollar I’ve spent on my education.  This was no exception.

Because of B-school I realized I needed to change my website, my blogs, just about everything pertaining to my business plan.  This prompted the move to WordPress and the general reconfiguring of my blogs.

I decided posts like this one are best suited for www.pennyplautz.com.  If you would be so kind as to follow me by adding your email to the bottom right hand of the page, you will continue to get these posts emailed to you hot off the press.  Not to mention a few extra goodies.

As for Midlife MacGyver, I’ve got some brand new material that I’m planning to roll out, one baby step at a time.  I hope that you will stay with me during this adventure as well.  If you click here and then click the follow button on that page, you’ll get those posts delivered to your Inbox as well.

Right now the two pages look alike, so don’t worry that you may have signed up twice. They will eventually be two very different sites, but for now, I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose any information or followers in the transition.  You can always opt out at any time.

I want to shift the focus more to the issues that specifically arise at midlife and make it a little more informative and provide you with questions, answers, options, but mainly inspiration so that you can truly make the most of midlife.

Which leads me to the third big shake up of 2014.  This is probably the most challenging of all because it requires an enormous amount of planning, resolve, and delayed gratification on my part.  I’m changing the way I eat and cutting out most of the foods I hold most dear… namely pasta, sugar, flour, and wheat.

After a visit to a functional medicine doctor and about 20 different blood tests, I’m now taking more supplements than most body builders.  I’ve sworn off the stuff that makes me feel fat and fuzzy for the most part.

As a former fitness professional and wellness consultant, I simply couldn’t accept what was happening with my body as inevitable once I reached a certain age.  So, the first part of the Midlife MacGyver blog I’m going to address is Body Confidence at Midlife.  I wrote a book called Body Confidence in 2007.  Now I want to take that a step further.

Some other areas I’ll include are Mating and Dating at Midlife, What (Not) To Wear at Midlife, Making Meaning at Midlife, RelationShifts, Money Matters, and Downloads From the Divine just to name a few.  Most of these areas will not be ready right away.  Patience, grasshopper.

I’ll be inviting guest bloggers to join me.  If this is your area of expertise, please let me know.

I want Midlife MacGyver to be a community where we all have something to contribute and learn.  I hope to bring back many new ideas and resources from the Blogher conference I’ll be attending in two weeks.

But for now, I simply wanted to let you in on the big plans so you know what all the moving and shaking is about.  I hope you’ll continue to read this blog and be an essential part of the Midlife MacGyver tribe.

What about you?  What are your BHAGs?  Share if you dare below.

Live Free or Die

Possibly the best-known state motto of all, the New Hampshire motto, “Live Free or Die,” is the exact sentiment required for a group of visionaries to cut the ties to the motherland.

A few weeks ago we were changing our wall of fame (aka bulletin board) at work from our recent graduates to something a little patriotic.  We had the background figured out and were looking for something sensational to put in the middle.

We decided the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights and possibly the Constitution would be fantastic.  Much to my delight, I was able to find a copy of all three of these documents on some poster size parchment paper.  Using my Amazon prime, these documents arrived on my doorstop in two days and cost me less than $20.

 

 

I so love getting packages and was super excited to get these documents.  It was thrilling to read the words and touch the names and think about the tremendous courage, vision, and outrage these people must have felt to declare their independence in such a bold and committed way that would surely take its toll.

When I first started looking for the documents I came across this reading of the Declaration of Independence by Hollywood’s finest.  Apparently it was intended to be read aloud to have the most impact.  I must say, hearing it made me appreciate it our forefathers and mothers even more.

It could be that I never actually read the entire Declaration of Independence.  Thanks to School House Rock, I knew a fairly impressive amount of The Preamble to the Constitution, but the only thing I really remember about the Declaration of Independence was the story about John Hancock’s signature.

Our ancestors had to be huge risk takers to even get on the boat, cross the ocean, and arrive in a place where they’d have to start from the ground up.  None of my adventures can compare to that.  Someone always has left the light on for me.  Even if it’s Motel 6.

It’s only fitting that we take a day to commemorate all that has been done, sacrificed, and paid to insure we are a country of people who are free to do, be, and have all that we are willing to fight for or make peace with.

However you celebrate the holiday, you might take a moment to recall the things, ideas, and people you value most.  What would you be willing to declare, knowing it could cost you everything?  What would be willing to sign so that the whole world knew where you stood?

As you know from a previous post, my dad will tell you I came out of the womb with a declaration of independence branded on my being.   Consequently, freedom is a pretty big deal to me.  Fireworks are definitely required.

How about you?  What would you declare?  What would you include in your personal Bill of Rights?

Share if you dare below.