the land of enchantment & a little magical thinking…

Driving around New Mexico last week made me feel like my 23-year-old self, even though I was competing in the National Senior Games. In 1989 I almost moved to Santa Fe with my college friend, Melissa. At the very last minute, we somehow decided quite randomly to move to Vermont instead. My post-college and midlife selves uniquely collided while I drove around soaking up all of the beauty I was drawn to thirty years ago.

Somewhere Between Santa Fe & Albuquerque

The National Senior Games is a subculture I’m so proud to be a part of now. If you’re at least 50-years-old, regardless of your athletic ability, you should find out how to participate. There are so many options—archery, bowling, table tennis, swimming, track & field, cycling, basketball, golf, road races, volleyball and more. Check out the senior games in your region, many are open to out-of-staters. I might hit Nebraska’s games when I’m visiting South Dakota in August. https://nsga.com/state-games

One year ago at this time, Dad sat in his truck and watched me practice throwing the discus in my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. I wanted to take this trip to the National Senior Games in Albuquerque with Dad. I prefer a lot of time alone, just like he did.

Funny things happened that made me feel like he was indeed traveling with me.

  1. When I arrived in Albuquerque, I got my rental car and headed north to Santa Fe. While looking for a radio station, a song, Dad surprisingly loved came on: JUKEBOX HERO by Foreigner. I sobbed.
  2. I had a headache when I arrived in Santa Fe late afternoon, so I (we) laid down to watch TV…Everyone Loves Raymond was on. Dad watched it all the time.
  3. I wasn’t really hungry for dinner after resting, all I wanted was ice cream—Dad’s all-time favorite food.
  4. The morning I went to throw, in the lobby of Hotel Albuquerque I met two Vermonters who played on a men’s 75-year-old basketball team. They reminded me of Dad and they were so encouraging. I promise them I would go watch them play in the afternoon.
  5. I went to the University of New Mexico’s track and field complex to compete (I got 5th place, but didn’t throw as well as I had been practicing). However, I learned something about myself and my over-reliance on Dad’s spirit to give me the extra boost I was hoping for. 2019 Vermont Results LINK: https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/more-vermont-gold-in-tennis-track-and-field-and-swimming/
  6. That afternoon, during a time-out, Stan and Don came to ask me how I did and told me to go watch the Detroit Metros play (former NBA player on their team). I did. I smiled when I walked into that game, the Detroit Metros were playing South Dakota, yet another sign from Dad. I went out or burgers, fries and milkshakes with them after they were done. A perfect end to my (our) day.

So, with all of these coincidences, I put an inordinate amount of faith in Dad’s presence with me while I competed. When I got to my last throw in the finals, I truly expected Dad to give me the extra oomph I needed to win or at least take the bronze medal. When I didn’t throw even as well as I had been practicing, I was disappointed.

I kept going over my throws in my head. I realized that I actually relinquished some of my personal inner strength & preparation, relying instead on some form of magical thinking and faith in Dad.

We can have faith in all sorts of ways. However, now I understand that faith alone doesn’t take me off the hook from utilizing my available resources, common sense, inner strength, and resilience.

Tinkertown Museum

http://tinkertown.com/

Dad, understanding the nature of faith might be the most important coaching you’ve done in my entire lifetime.

Thank you.

PS I will do my best on July 13th at the Vermont State Games. https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/schedule/

dreaming of epic failure…

Last night I awakened at 12:45am in a sweat with my heart racing. In my dream, I threw the discus so poorly in the competition that I blanked out my final five throws. I was being consoled by fellow senior athletes and we were laughing our asses off, sharing stories of our epic failures.

So, with my fear of total failure subconsciously out of the way, I now have to prepare myself to do my best. YIKES! Failure, I’m pretty comfortable with (especially as an artist, things fall apart all the time), success and having to put my money where my mouth is, I find far more daunting.

WHAT IS FEAR TO YOU?

Fear isn’t always to be stuffed away and avoided. Try inviting fear in, get curious about what it’s trying to tell you? It may a gift to you so you can see what needs to be confronted in your life.

NOTE: Today, I’m going to the rattlesnake museum. I’m am so afraid of snakes, I thought it might be a great way to prepare to compete tomorrow.

This hasn’t been my favorite year of my life-loss, sorrow, transition, cut-off, illness and so on. However, I’ve learned a lot and I’m proud of my resilience. We have to remind ourselves (often) of all the times we made it through life’s many challenges.

We are so much stronger than we think.

For inspiration, the spirit of my Dad and I are heading out to the track and field complex at UNM to watch the finals in the sprints. The first race is the 90-104-year-old women and the 50-meter race. Damn, if that isn’t inspiring, what is?

on perspective…

PERSPECTIVE noun

:the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

I don’t always want to see things from other points of view or walk a mile in another woman or man’s shoes. I don’t have to first feel empathetic or sympathetic before I actually understand my own thoughts.

Maybe it’s best to let our perspectives have their way with us, initially anyway, keep what’s informative and then get curious about how other people view things.

The key I suppose, is not waiting so long that rigidity sets in and we become unable to change course, even as we acquire additional information.

My Perspective

“Shoulda taken a break, not an oxford comma Take what I want when I wanna”

—Billie Eilish lyrics from my strange addiction

Instead of rushing in to validate someone else’s perspective the way I’ve been conditioned to do, understanding what’s happening to my own nervous system regarding an event or circumstance seems well worth practicing.

I’m gonna take a break…more than an oxford comma. After all, I’m not often being chased by giant predators as my lizard brain endlessly tries to trick me into believing. I usually have the time to take a minute.

Thank you Willa, Lucy and Ellis for introducing me to Billie Eilish. Damn she’s really something.

women of deliberate backbone

ancient, adventurous, creative & protective

I’ve been so inspired the stories of women lately exhibiting remarkable backbone, even in light of very challenging circumstances. I think we all have a little more backbone in us when it’s required. As I created the stories of these women and the various backbones they’ve had to summon to carry on: ancient, adventurous, creative and protective.

What type of backbone is required of you right now?

ummmmm…more cowboy stuff

I had the pleasure of spending time with my great-nephew, Liam a few weeks ago. My daughter (Willa), our Vermont friend (Jen Wool) and I were hanging out with him. He wanted us to find (and keep finding) cowboy videos on our phones and stories of cowboys in South Dakota Magazine. He couldn’t get enough.

Every time a story or video was over, Liam would say, “ummmmm…more cowboy stuff”. This became our catch phrase for the week.

Correct if I’m wrong Liam, however, I’m pretty sure you’re telling us to always seek out more of whatever sparks our interest. Ummmmm—for me, it actually is more cowboy stuff. Certainly in my artwork and photography anyway. Thanks buddy. You’ll surely be missed.

unprofessional networking

Until the last few years I’ve seen myself as a bohemian mother, artist, memory maker and caretaker/gatekeeper of developing minds. I’ve viewed my life’s work as the unrealized career of a woman who struggles with organization and focus…not anymore. Actually now that I even saw myself like that, it seems like total bullshit.

I thought as my children grew up that they might be disappointed in me that I didn’t have a traditional career. Talk of the other moms who were doctors, lawyers or therapists sometimes resulted in a sense of less than for me. I assumed my children would all want the total opposite of my life—high powered jobs with days spent kickin’ ass and taking names. Not days filled with kids, carpools, chores, errands, creative work (rarely sold), homemaking and hanging out with friends.

I know many families are unable to have a parent at home, a luxury indeed (especially regarding health insurance). However, increasingly folks find themselves in work/home situations that require a lot of strategy to keep things humming along. Commuting to other cities during the week, working remotely, running home businesses or freelancing are such common scenarios of modern life.

Now, five months into the identity shift of my empty nest, I thankfully see those family years so differently. Creating a home, trying to model a healthy marriage, nurturing my community, making art and being the historian-in-chief was an education deeply connected to my values and interests, there wasn’t a moment wasted (OK, maybe a few).

My years of unprofessional networking created my superpowers.

The world should watch out for parents who stayed home to raise their families. We maybe don’t have the references, titles or 401Ks that our peers have. However, we’re digitally savvy, well practiced in the art of endless diplomacy, good listeners and mighty grateful when our efforts are acknowledged. And now with the dailyness of busy family life behind us, we can do damn near anything.

more prairie stories…

 

 

more musings on noticing…

vintage brain imageIf all thoughts are creative & inform our reality, then noticing our thoughts must be a survival skill of sorts.  We can see our though patterns emerge by paying attention. I think about this, I feel hopeful.   If I think about this, my heart races.  If I think about this, I feel rage.  We don’t have to stuff our negative emotions, they’re trying to tell us something.  It just means asking questions about why these particular thoughts are so front and center right now.  WHY?

Here’s my noticing list from this morning…6 to 8am.  

jeff guitar

MUSIC & HEART My husband plays Summer’s End by John Prine on the guitar.  Today, there was a story in the NEW YORK Times about this gorgeous song.  Jeff watched the video through the eyes of a father.  I watched through the eyes of a child.  Summer’s End video & lyrics

DEFINEI learn something when I look up the definitions even of common words.

  • FEAR/transitory adjective—1.to be afraid of  2. to have a reverential awe of 
  • OTHER/adjective—1. not the same  2. different
  • EQUAL/adjective—1. like for each member of a group, class or society

THOUGHTS ON GRIEF: Elizabeth Gilbert from the Brain Pickings Newsletter.  

“People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I’m not always sure how to answer that. It depends on the day. It depends on the minute. Right this moment, I’m OK. Yesterday, not so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see.”

INSPIRATION: An 18-year-old delivery guy at Steve’s Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan does something so full of heart.  Steve’s Pizza story on CNN7-hour-pizza-delivery-today-main-1810189_a0db2dd96262d42e1c69d835cc03dcd6.fit-2000w

 

ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL: South Dakota’s democratic gubernatorial candidate, Billie Sutton was on Morning Joe today. www.suttonforsd.com FORK IN THE ROAD south dakota by Lisa Lillibridge

I believe that differing viewpoints bring dynamic ideas to our challenges whether in our civic, social or private lives.  

A fork in the road indeed for the good people of the 605. 

fork in the road defined

 

 

 

 

 

horizontal mystery ship—for Dad

HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP

when you leave at seventeen
rarely home
more than two weeks at a time 
months, years and decades
can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood

only once
in the summer of ‘88
a recent college grad
wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled
my tonsils required more
I stayed a whole month

once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas
off to the southern hemisphere
a young pioneer 
in search adventure
and different stars

now, when visiting 
after a lifetime lived elsewhere
grey hairs visible
no matter my efforts
I find myself
sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts

driving Dad’s truck 
windows down, hair blowing 
mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty 
the prairie 
a determined cellular homesteader 
forever staking a claim in my blood and bones

I want to sneak out to the bar
play Space Invaders
sadly, no longer a standard
unlike 1982
drink beer, eat junk food
and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up

Looking back with midlife sensibilities 
I realize
those late nights in high school
tenth grade, I believe
laser focused, playing Space Invaders
provided a surprisingly valuable education 

initials entered, quarters stacked
protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens
monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance 
my peripheral vision unknowingly trained 
to notice things beyond immediate scope
bonus points pinged
while friends waited impatiently

twenty more minutes, please

under a waning August moon
only one lunar phase ago
I was still my father’s daughter
a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager
pretending time actually plays tricks
wanting desperately to disregard reality 

one more visit on the calendar
one more phone call
cheeseburger or ice cream cone 
one more evening watching
Everybody Loves Raymond
M.A.S.H. 
or Mayberry RFD

twenty more minutes, please

quarters stacked no longer
Space Invaders
the nearly forgotten teenage relic 
of a heartbroken
fifty-something
fatherless daughter

once again, 
I am protecting my bunkers
monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship
paying very close attention
to what's just beyond my immediate scope

just twenty more minutes, please

grief is messy & highly caloric.

I lost my Dad in the early morning hours of August 30th.  He was a generous, loving, humorous and complex man.  He also was in a great deal of pain. Thankfully he no longer is.  But, damnit, he isn’t here anymore either.  Now, I’m in pain and I would like to talk with him about what bullshit it is to lose someone I love.  He knew this pain, he lost his baby brother, my Uncle Tom, almost exactly one year ago.  

I flew home to South Dakota from Vermont the morning Dad died.  I wept through both airports—Burlington, Vermont and Chicago’s O’Hare. I had a light blanket wrapped around my shoulders that dried my tears as needed.  I walked to my gate in Chicago, blanket draped and carrying a garment bag.  I caught the eye of a few people who offered nods of acknowledgement and held my gaze, maybe understanding that grief is messy.

Oddly, I kept hoping I could tell someone, anyone that I just lost my Dad.  I now understand what to do if I see someone else in the shape I was in.  To hell with privacy.  I will offer a hug.  Or I will buy them a coffee.  Or I will ask them why they are crying and listen, even if I only have a minute before my flight.

I arrived mid-afternoon.  Flowers, casseroles, baked goods, fruit baskets, cheese and meat trays had already begun arriving at the house.  The doorbell was ringing.  The landline was ringing.  Our cell phones were ringing and pinging.  Hugs and tears filled Mom’s back entryway and helped eased the weight of it all.

I knew the process of the “business” of death wasn’t going to be easy.  However, writing the obituary, picking out Dad’s casket and clothes, making phone calls and so on—these things kept us busy.  Busy is needed those first few days.  Making arrangements gave us something to focus on with a deadline, providing a little scaffolding to a messy emotional process.

There were times before the prayer service and funeral, I wanted the whole world to just leave me alone in my sorrow, because I just lost my Dad.

Thankfully the world didn’t.

I’m now keenly aware of how I didn’t give nearly enough attention to the loss of other people’s parents.  I’m sorry if I seemed cavalier.  I just didn’t know how much even a small gesture could mean.  I always thought of grief as a private process.  I understand better now what’s necessary to get through it all.

I’m so sorry for your loss, no matter how many years it’s been for you.

The outpouring of love, time and culinary talents from the good folks in Burke, South Dakota made it the whole process a lot more bearable.  No one would’ve loved having all of those goodies around more than John.  Right, Dad?  Although I think he would’ve hidden the bag of Dorothy’s famous peanut butter cookies in the freezer and pretended they were already gone.

I’m grateful to you all.  Thank you so much.

pie and coffee.JPG

PLEASE NOTE:  Is there a metabolic trick that helps burn the calories (mostly from homemade baked goods) that are delivered to the family during a time of loss?

grief + baked goods + casseroles + visiting + crying + fatigue = COMFORT

____________________________________________________________________

John Lowell Lillibridge lived 79 years, 3 months & 21 days.

Rest, in peace, Big Guy.

You will be greatly missed.

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