Happy Celebration!

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” ~ Marianne Williamson

My life has included many different cities and states and each move has taught me a little bit more about the importance of community and why we should try and build it wherever we are.

In some ways, the actual definition of the word community is a bit contrary to modern-day realities. Depending on your situation, it can be challenging to find a group of people with whom you share common interests, attitudes and goals or have a common characteristic.

As the world becomes both more divided and diverse, we have to find ways to look past the obvious and seek to find the commonalities. While we come from different ethnic origins, have varying political beliefs and refer to God by the name associated with our religious beliefs. At our core, we have more in common than we don’t. I believe that finding this common ground is key to all of us coming together in a way that allows us to have different points of view and to share them with the intention of both teaching and listening.

I thought I understood this, but my neighbor’s daughters have unknowingly taught me many lessons in this area.

My neighbor’s homeland is Saudi Arabia and they have lived in the U.S. for I’m guessing about six years, Texas before Syracuse. Yesterday, during our sidewalk chalk art afternoon, I learned that three of the four kids were born in Saudi, the oldest daughter was born in Pakistan.

What I learned was amazingly simple. Kids are kids, no matter where they were born or raised. They have favorite subjects in school, and there are subjects that they dread. Siblings fight, but they also love each other fiercely. Kids pull pranks on each other and do their best to get out of doing chores.

It got me to thinking if kids are kids no matter what – doesn’t that mean that people are just people? At least when you strip away all of the baggage, we seem to accumulate as we grow up.

My neighbors recently confirmed this notion through a recent act of kindness and generosity.

They are celebrating Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest festivals in the Islamic faith. This year it begins on 7/30 and ends on 8/3.

Friday afternoon, the girls (my sidewalk art buddies) rang my doorbell and offered a basket of sweets for me to choose some from. The oldest girl said, “We are celebrating a holy holiday and want to say thank you.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Happy Celebration!”

A bit later in the evening, my doorbell rang again, and this time, it was all of the girls in the family, including the mother.

She offered me something tucked between two paper plates, and said, “I am sorry you weren’t able to come and share doughnuts with us earlier, but we wanted to bring you one.”

I explained that I had been working and would have loved to be there with them to share, and of course, I accepted it graciously.

I asked her the name of the celebration, she responded, “Eid al-Adha” and was kind enough to spell it for me so I could look it up later.

I asked her about the celebration, and she explained the history. I will need to do more research to share it, but, the crux of it is, that kindness is everything, something that is common to all religions.

At the heart of the celebration is to recognize and acknowledge sacrifices and to share with others. Sharing gifts of food is one of the traditions.

It was a simple but meaningful conversation.

My last question to her was, “What is the proper way for me to thank you and show my honor for your holiday.”

She simply said, “You told my girls, Happy Celebration, you did it just right.”

Community is all around us, sometimes you just have to work a little harder to find and build it. It’s incredibly rewarding when it happens.

One Good Thing

March 20, 2020, was the last day my team worked in the office before the state of N.Y. shut down because of COVID. Since then, we’ve been working from home.

It’s been an interesting transition and a combination of the company scrambling to procure devices such as laptops and technology to enable easy remote access and people being willing to use personal devices to continue to be productive and effective.

We are executing on a huge website replatforming project – working remotely isn’t necessarily the best way to facilitate this. Unlike the norm, my team has more than doubled in size during this unprecedented time – going from three members (including me) to seven. These are some tough circumstances under which to build a team and to launch a new website. But, against all the odds, we have, thanks to the wonderful people on my team.

We have daily remote calls, sometimes we’re all on camera, sometimes no one is, and sometimes it’s a mixture. The essential things are, we meet every day, and people know they have a choice about whether or not to be on video.

When we started our remote daily “stand-ups,” I asked everyone to start the call with “one good thing” that happened the previous day. My original intent was to help us all stay focused, for at least a moment, on gratitude. It’s turned out to have quite an unexpected and unintended positive outcome.

We’ve gotten to know each other better during a time in which the team is onboarding new members from both outside of the company and within the company, but from different groups. From my perspective, it’s been a really unique time and way to do team building.

There’s no substitute for in-person interaction, but we’ve made the best of it. We share lots of things, from recipes, to what we made for dinner the previous night to sidewalk chalk adventures.

Here are some things I’ve learned about my team members (using initials, so I don’t infringe on anyone’s privacy).

A.B. is from Korea and is relatively new to our industry. She is eager to learn and more than willing to embrace feedback. A has recently started to explore the world of visual art and recently was brave enough to share her drawings with the team, something we all appreciated. She very much enjoys movies, books and food from her native land, and during the pandemic has been able to connect with many of her friends from all over the world. Her face lights up when she is delighted and that is often.

R.B. has been living in Buffalo since the pandemic made landfall, which has been good for him. He’s had time away in a positive living environment and away from his toxic roommate in Syracuse. As the mom of kids who’ve experienced some toxic roommate experiences, I totally get it. Even before he temporarily relocated to Buffalo, he had started to discover his talent in the kitchen, and it’s grown from there with an appreciative audience to share dinner with. He’s also exploring the world of clothing design – great things to come, no doubt. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that his dog has been surrounded by cats for the summer, and it has resulted in some very amusing anecdotes.

S. E. is the mom of two beautiful children just starting out in the world, a 4-year-old and an infant, not a newborn – but not yet a year old. Her 4-year-old daughter is now dabbling in sports such as t-ball and is loving it. Both of her kids enjoy neighborhood gatherings and family outings to explore the area. According to her daughter, S’s husband, in addition to being a medical professional, is also a lawn care professional who is bringing life to the lawn in their newly built home. Last but not least, she’s a caring person who makes treats for others in her neighborhood.

S.T. loves the outdoors and spending his time biking and hiking. He also loves to read – Stephen King is one of his favorite authors, and he’s also a fan of podcasts and is always connecting the dots between events. If you want a recommendation for an outdoor escape, he’s definitely a go-to person. He loves dogs, is very handy at remodeling – and has made substantial home improvements with the help of Home Depot during the past few months.

T.C. is a jack of all trades, and more than competent at all of them. He’s a vegan chef, a Moped rebuilder, and more than handy around his house. T is a wonderful dad, who loves his daughter beyond words, it’s touched me more than once to see their morning hug. He also is an excellent reference for where to go in the great outdoors – and also where to go to get great craft beer. He loves helping his friends, even though he hasn’t necessarily come out and said that, it’s obvious – and I have no doubt they appreciate him as much as he appreciates them.

T. R. recently moved into a house with his fiance. They’re planning a wedding for October of 2021. He has a new baby sister, whom he’s gotten to see twice during this strange time – looking forward to more pictures of her as she grows. He’s done a fantastic job of making his new house a home, and one of his latest projects is making sure the new grass seed takes hold. He and his fiance enjoy quiet nights at home together. One of the things they enjoy doing together is cooking, perhaps especially making meatballs together to put in the freezer so they can enjoy meatball sandwiches together.

I imagine my team has learned a few things about me as well, but I’ll leave that to them. I’m just grateful to be working with a group of people who are so willing and able to make the best of things.

#metoo – I am not to Blame

I Speak for Myself

My brother recently recommended a writing course through Coursera to me via email. It’s similar to the platform I began taking writing classes through, called Ed2Go. Both platforms offer a wide variety of virtual courses at a very affordable price. Coursea has a more formal peer review process, which will be interesting to experience.

I registered for “Memoir and Personal Essay Writing” and just submitted my first assignment on time I might add. The assignment was called “Context in Memory,” and the instructions were to write a to a teacher or mentor recount a personal experience that had a notable impact on your life. The additional challenge was to incorporate a reference to an event that made headlines during that time and attempt to connect the experience to a significant social awareness that you didn’t possess at the time.

I’ll be curious to receive my grade and read the peer reviews in a few days. I thought I’d share it on my blog as well.


Dear Lona,

I think about you often, especially now that I’m an adult and have started retaking piano lessons. It’s the second time in the past 15 years that I’ve brushed off the keyboard and rediscovered the joy of creating music. Both of my teachers have been grateful for your instruction, particularly as it relates to good fingering while exploring a piece of music.

High school is never easy, which I’m sure you knew only too well, being the mother of teenagers yourself.

Looking back, I think one of the most difficult things about being a teenage girl, are the feelings of doubt when it comes to your own beauty and self-worth. In my case, which I don’t think is unusual, these feelings combined with a naivety about the ways of the world.

The longing to feel attractive, combined with a lack of understanding of how some men operate, can leave a young girl or a woman open and vulnerable to sexual harassment.

As far as I know, it wasn’t until 1976 until the Court ruled in favor of a woman who filed a quid pro quo sexual harassment suit against her boss. Diane Williams worked as a public information specialist, and bravely chose to refuse sexual advances as threats, or perhaps rewards for her performance, from her boss Harvey Bison. The sad and angering thing is that she was terminated from her position in 1972. It took four years for her to receive justice.

At the time, I had no awareness that this landmark event had transpired. My world was wrapped up in the world of High School and trying to fit in. In addition to the swim team, I joined the debate and drama clubs.

I loved both, and until an unfortunate event at a debate competition, I secretly dreamed of being an actress on Broadway or a powerful attorney who lived somewhere cool.

As I recall, I was one of the only females on the debate team. You may have gathered this, but I didn’t consider myself to be particularly attractive, but looking back, it seems that the debate and drama coach did.

As we were walking into the competition venue, he pulled me aside and advised me in the following way, “Beth, the coaches for these debates are all men. I’d like you to unbutton your blouse another three buttons. That will help to win them over to our team.”

I had no idea what to think. He was my teacher. But what he was asking me to do just seemed wrong, and I didn’t do it. Our team won the competition without my cleavage. However, the experience scared me, because I was convinced that I had done something to deserve the request. I didn’t comply; instead, I quit both debate and drama.

Little did I know that thirty years later, unfortunately, after multiple similar life experiences, the #metoo movement would begin.

I wish I had realized that I could have and should have trusted someone like you or my parents with the truth of what happened to me. But like so many women, I was ashamed and felt responsible for every occurrence of sexual harassment during my lifetime.

Finally, as a woman of a certain age, I have come to complete peace with it all and no longer feel any sort of responsibility for the actions of others. I’m also much wiser and will not fall victim to such treatment ever again.

As you taught me the piano, and many other things, such as how to laugh and enjoy life. I hope to use my experiences to help other women avoid and recover from such abuse.

You are missed deeply by all who knew you.

With much love,

Beth

Being Mugged at Gunpoint, not an Everyday Experience…

Philadelphia Magic Garden outside wall

In May of 2019, I visited my youngest son and one of my best friends in what has become one of my favorite cities, Philadelphia.

Friday night we had a grand reunion gathering with many friends I had grown to love during my time in Pennsylvania. Good food, lots of laughter, and reminiscing. They all enjoyed meeting my son.

On Saturday the two of us drove to Bethlehem, PA to spend time with his girlfriend. We had a very enjoyable day. It was filled with a wonderful Greek food festival, followed by a horrible wine tasting event and ear screeching music – the stuff memories are made of – lol.

When we returned to Philly, we called my friend and arranged to meet behind his condo so I could buy him at least one glass of wine to thank him for his generosity over the weekend.

Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly.

The three of us were walking nonchalantly down the cobblestone path that connects my friend’s condo residence with the wine bar we were walking toward. We were laughing and talking about the events of the day and looking forward to catching up further over a glass of wine.

Out of the blue, three men stepped out of the shadows and pulled a gun on us. We all froze in unexpected surprise and bewilderment.

The guy that was in charge demanded that we get down on our knees, we did. Before that, they frisked us all and pulled out my friend’s wallet as well as my son’s and ripped the backpack off of his shoulders.

In the end, they stole all of our phones, $200 in cash from my friend – also his car keys, driver’s license, and credit cards, as well as my son’s ID.

After kneeling against a stair stoop with a gun held to my head (Words I never imagined myself saying), we waited for them to leave and in a harried moment, I convinced a woman to let us use her phone to call the police.

She looked scared at first, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that we were for real. The police showed up in seconds. This was far from the first time they’ve had a similar incident. I’m just going to say that going to Police Headquarters to make a statement is far from a pleasant experience, in oh so many ways.

The material losses were small ones in the grand scheme of things. We all made it through the ordeal safely, and while more than a bit rattled, it could have been so much worse. It’s simply one of those things that you never expect will happen to you.

I’ve honestly had a really hard time letting go of the experience. I still find myself jumping at unexpected noises.

Perhaps this will change over time.

Words are how I process.

 

 

Color Blindness and Assimilation, Food for Thought…

I’m currently listening to the thought-provoking book How to Be an Antiracist by  Ibram X. Kendi.

As a white woman, ‘of a certain age,’ I grew up believing that being ‘color blind’ was the equivalent of being antiracist. This, to me, has been a belief that racial classification does not limit a person’s opportunities. The reality is, it does.

The underlying falsehood associated with being color blind is that it ignores the fact that to succeed in the U.S. and perhaps in the world at large, is that it’s necessary for people to assimilate themselves into a society dominated by white men.

I’ve just begun the book, but the clear message from the author has already prompted me to take pause and evaluate my points of view as it relates to racism, sexual discrimination and prejudice exhibited toward individuals who identify with the LBGTQ community. As open-minded and accepting as I believed myself to be, I’m quickly learning that there is more for me to grasp.

There’s no denying that the struggles and oppression faced by the black citizens of our nation have been egregious and have persisted for centuries, it also strikes me that the attitudes regarding the need to assimilate apply to many of us.

For centuries women have been considered to be inferior to men, and still, in 2020, they continue to bang their heads up against the glass ceiling. It seems as though the only way they can break through it is to adopt a harsh and cut-throat approach to the world in which they are trying to succeed. I regularly shake my head in dismay at many of these women who seem to have abandoned what makes them women in favor of achieving in a ‘man’s world.’ People of the LGBTQ community have also hidden their truths until the last couple of decades.

A key difference is that if your skin color is white, regardless of whether you’re a woman or identify with a sexual orientation other than straight, it’s easier to assimilate into the white male world. You can ‘hide’ your identity and your viewpoints on life if you feel the need to.

If you are a person of color, it’s impossible to mask who you are, God forbid you are both a person of color and a woman or sexually identify with a gender that doesn’t match the stereotyped expectations,

While I abhor what has happened recently with the brutal murder of George Flloyd, an event that has triggered a worldwide movement toward awareness and a cry for a compassionate, equitable, and consistent execution of the law – I am also grateful.

Recent events have caused me to remove myself from my comfort zone and examine my contributions to the problems and consider ways to be an active part of the solution, in my own way.

Building Community During COVID19

My move to Update NY has been a tough one for a variety of reasons, one of them being, it’s been challenging to build community and make friends. Something I’ve prided myself on finally learning how to do when moving someplace new.

I intentionally moved into a townhouse community over an apartment because I hoped that because we would all be living side by side with mini-yards and driveways, it would be easier to form connections than in an apartment building. Turns out I was wrong.

December was not the optimal month to move to one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. and expect to make friends. My new job and moving in kept me more than busy during the first several months after arriving here. Finally, summer came, and the pool opened. I thought, here is my chance to meet some people to invite for brunch.

Wow, what a rude awakening I experienced.

After several conversations with a couple (in my age range), I said to the wife, “I really like to build community when I move somewhere new, and brunch is always a fun meal to share. Would you and your husband like to join me some Sunday?”

She looked me straight in the eye and responded, “No, we have enough friends.”

End of conversation.

It’s a good thing I’m persistent because I’ve met some wonderful friends as an extension of meeting a gal while volunteering at a local state park. The friendship has grown, and I’m now part of a group that I refer to as the “Bunco girls.” We meet once a month and play bunco, which is a perfect game for me. The rules are easy to understand, and it’s mostly about catching up with each other, laughter, wine and snacks.

My network has continued to slowly expand within the city, but I still had not managed to make any connections where I live. I was on the verge of hosting brunch for my new next-door neighbors, and then COVID hit, needless to say, they haven’t been over for brunch.

Finally, the sun came out, the skies turned from grey to blue, and the temperatures invited people to spend time outside. A welcome change that also led to an unexpected event.

Saturday, I had the first neighborhood/community experience that I’ve had since moving to Syracuse.

I spotted a little turtle crawling out of the natural grass in the middle of the common area behind my townhouse.

Naturally, I quickly pulled out my phone to try and capture the moment.

Lazurus the turtle

Before I knew it, Gavin (10) and Kenna (5) were beside me watching the little guy’s movements.

They live two doors down from me.

I didn’t know for sure if the turtle was a male, so I asked Gavin how we could figure that out. He said, “Well, we’d have to pick it up and look underneath. But I’m pretty sure it’s a boy.” I nearly fell over laughing.

After we watched the little turtle crawl back into the grassy space that he emerged from, we went and shared the experience with their mom. We all agreed that the turtle needs a name.

I told them about the turtle that hangs out on my mom’s patio – he always looks like he is about dead, disappears, and then he comes back. She’s named him Lazarus, which is very fitting. They all got a kick out of it.

The kids are going to come up with a name for the turtle and let me know what it is. We will have some fun watching it throughout the summer.

Sunday was even more special.

It got off to a bit of a rough start, but in the end, it was a beautiful day. Not only was the weather picture-perfect, but we also had a fun family zoom call, and I finally had the opportunity to visit with my next-door neighbors – Ben and Jen.

The best part of the day, though, was creating some artwork on my driveway with sidewalk chalk.

After drawing in a few leaves, I realized that I had drawn an enormous tree and was starting to wonder how in the world I would ever finish it. Just then, my neighbor’s wife came out – followed by her youngest daughter.

We chatted a bit, and I asked Amira if she wanted to help me finish the tree. She shyly nodded yes, and then skipped over to my driveway.

I picked out three colors of green chalk and handed them to her, showed her how to draw a leaf, and then we went to work in companionable silence.

Tree Driveway Art Close Up

I was explaining the need to create some grass at the bottom of the tree to anchor the tree. I said, “We can’t leave the roots hanging out all alone, they need someplace to live.”

She nodded with understanding.

We finished the grass and were just getting ready to start the wildflowers when her older sister joined us. I said, “Pick out colors that you want to use for flowers, and I’ll show you how we’ll make them.”

They both listened intently as I demonstrated my technique. The three of us did a fantastic job.

Tree Driveway Art Flowers.2

Afterward, we stood back and admired our beautiful work of art.

Tree_Driveway Art

A bit later, as I was finishing my domestic chores, the doorbell rang, and on my step stood four neighborhood kids, including the two sisters from next door.

With sweet politeness, they asked, “We were wondering if we could use your sidewalk chalk to draw.”

I responded, “Of course you can, thank you so much for asking so nicely.”

The older sister, with some hesitation, asked, “How much may we use?”

I said, “You may use all three boxes. All I ask is that you put the chalk back in the boxes and back in front of my door. Have fun and create beautiful art!”

The boxes of chalk were indeed returned to my front door, and the neighborhood is blessed with new sidewalk chalk art.

Sidewalk Chalk Art.kids

It turns out it’s possible to connect with neighbors, even during a pandemic. It just takes patience, and in some cases, a bit of sidewalk chalk.

#Blacklivesmatter

To say there has been a lot of controversy, conflict and unrest over the past week would be the understatement of the year.

The violence that has erupted across the country is, unfortunately, not a new occurrence. Unwarranted brutality and violence toward the black citizens of our nation began when they first became enslaved and were forced into lives that were riddled with cruelty, injustice and sickening forms of physical abuse.

Racial riots began as early as 1866 in Memphis, Tennessee, during the early stages of Reconstruction.

To this day, the KKK still has an active presence, despite their supposed declining long term trend of people being associated with the nefarious organization. I can’t help but wonder if their ‘declining membership’ hasn’t just been replaced by the skinheads and neo-nazis of the world. In fact, I’ve read articles indicating that the white number of active hate groups in the US has reached a 20-year high.

From my perspective, the hashtags and signs that say #alllivesmatter and #bluelives matter are missing the point. Yes, all lives matter and I have a deep respect for the officers in our communities who genuinely are in the police force because they want to serve and protect. I believe, they minimize the current issue at hand, the violence toward black members of our communities.

There is no denying that the violent, brutal discrimination against African Americans in the US is egregious. The most recent example is the murder of George Floyd – but it’s far from the only one.

A little over a year ago, I was mugged at gunpoint in Center City Philadelphia. I was with my youngest son and one of my best friends. A phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say, is, “He held a gun to my head.”

The criminals happened to be three young black men.

I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have an effect on me and the way I react when I see young black men wearing hooded sweatshirts and avoiding eye contact, especially at night. I also know that if it had been three young men of any race, I would have experienced the same reactions. To be honest, I’ve grown to have a very wary response to any young man who looks like he’s up to no good. I think that’s pretty human.

I am rational enough to know that my reaction to the situation is not a reflection of how I feel about the black population of our country. It’s a reaction to the situation I experienced.

As one of my close friends says, “There are bad eggs in every basket. It doesn’t matter what color they are.”

Let’s stop focusing on the bad eggs and turn our attention to what the systemic issues are. We have a fundamental problem with racism and violence and for whatever reason, many people seem to generalize and lump people together by their ethnic origins.

Have you seen the video of George Floyd’s brother praying and pleading with people to honor his brother’s death with dignity, not violence? It’s powerful.

All of us need to educate ourselves about the culture and history of those that are different from us. I definitely have not done enough of this, but plan to expand my education beyond a visit to the Harriet Tubman Museum. (which, was remarkably insightful)

I thought I understood…but I didn’t

The climate in the U.S. is in such an unbelievable state of turmoil, hatred and discord. Racial tensions are higher than ever, and I remember watching riots in the ’60s on the news. I didn’t think it could get worse than that.

I’ve always considered myself to be an inclusive person, someone who understood and empathized with people in situations and from backgrounds different than mine. I was blessed to be raised by parents who strive to understand the world outside of their own.

My first introduction to real-life violence and injustice was shortly after graduating from college. It involved a heart-breaking visit to the hospital, a friend of mine had been beaten within an inch of his life simply because he was gay.

I thought I understood. But now, I’m reasonably sure I didn’t.

One of the very odd things that has happened as a part of my move to Syracuse, NY – one of the least diverse places I’ve ever lived, is that I’ve become very close friends with a wonderful young black man.

He’s become not only a valued colleague at work, he’s also become one of my best friends.

Recent events have, rightfully so, ignited anger within him.

Throughout our friendship, he’s shared stories with me. Like the time he was pulled over by the police in his parent’s neighborhood while driving their car. The assumption was, he had stolen it.

So wrong.

We can’t put ourselves in another person’s shoes if we haven’t lived their reality. But, we can speak out about injustice and stand up for what’s right.

At Last, a Break from the Clouds and Monotony

It’s April 26, 2020, and today marks the 38th day of self-isolation and the shut-down of nonessential businesses in New York State. I was shocked when I did the math and realized that millions of Americans have been at home for just over 10% of the current year, no wonder we’re going a bit stir crazy.

I was forewarned before moving to Upstate, NY, about the overcast nature of the weather. Although I thought I was mentally prepared for it, the reality is that the cloudy, rainy, dreary days far outnumber the sunny ones. This year has been compounded by the need to stay at home, below-average temperatures, and snowfall as recently as a few days ago.

Yesterday there was finally a break in the weather pattern, and it was a gloriously sunny and mild day. I met up with my friend Rodney, and we went for what I thought was going to be a leisurely stroll around one of the state parks. It turned out to be so much better than that.

Green Lakes is a magnificent park. Even the entrance is strikingly scenic, with its evergreen lined paths to the hiking trails.

Evergreen lined entrance_Green Lakes

The paved path leading into the park met my initial expectation about the nature of the walk, it was a bit hillier than I imagined but still reasonably easy.

As we reached the top of the hill and the first glimpse of the interior of the park and the area my friend wanted to give me a walking tour of, my impressions began to change a little. Instead of a paved path, the first walking path he showed me was covered in a blanket of emerald green grass.

Grassy Path at Green Lakes

The path was flanked by Reed grass (I think that’s what it is) and trees that are still waiting for weather warm enough to coax them into spring.

We didn’t take this path, but seeing it did alter my expectations a bit – the trails wouldn’t be paved, but I anticipated the walk would be a little more challenging, but very manageable.

Fast forward through the rest of our six-mile ‘walk.’ There were steep hills and gentle inclines, smooth grassy paths, and dirt paths spotted with tree roots emerging through the earth as well as a few rocks scattered here and there.

Our final descent involved a steep hill with a very narrow dirt path that contained more than one spot peppered with small loose rocks. Steep Trail at Green Lakes

We stood at the top of the hill, and Rodney said, “Beth, I’m so sorry! I forgot about this hill.”

I responded, “It’s ok, I’m up for the challenge – let’s do it!”

Rodney and Mo (short for Geronimo), his trusted Chocolate Lab, were sure-footed as they began the downward climb. As for me, not so much – I was hesitant at best, but determined to make it.

I could tell I was making Rodney nervous, and he was concerned for my safety because he kept stopping, turning around, and coaching me. “Place your feet a little wider apart on this next part of the trail, oh, and walk to the left. It’s wider, and there are fewer loose rocks.” Through his coaching and a virtual helping hand, I made it safely to the bottom of the hill.

All I can say is I felt accomplished after doing so!

It was a far different walk from my usual stroll around the flat and uninteresting streets of my neighborhood. Instead of listening to my book, I listened to nature and engaged in conversations filled with good-natured banter.

It was also nice to see people outside of the grocery store, albeit in masks and from at least six feet away. It somehow still felt a bit more normal than the past few weeks have seemed.

The walk, or the hike, was life-affirming and a reminder that as we go through our days on this earth, we will experience both easy and challenging times. But when it’s all said and done, if we face those challenging times head-on and accept help along the way, life is truly joyous and rewarding.

The little lake at Green Lakes