In the Time of Gathering, Some are Better Off Alone

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

 

Image from Office of War Information, 1942, wikimedia commons.

Image from Office of War Information, 1942,
wikimedia commons.

 

Most of us will have mixed days. A bit of hassle and a family fuss getting out the door. Then we will roll our eyes at Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it will all be good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving will be a gut-wrenching ordeal — an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life but the crumbs of inadequacy and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

 

Canstock 2014 Girl Alone with Suitcase

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you too will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

 

 

Wherever you are in Life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, we wish you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

And Boys Become Men

By Piper Bayard

Thirteen years ago today, a generation of little boys and girls learned that there are evil people in this world whose only desire is to kill everyone they cannot control. Even as children, it ignited a passion in them to protect the innocents. Those boys and girls are becoming men and women.

Tonight, my son’s friend is coming to dinner. He ships out to boot camp at the end of the month. He is only one of many.

Today, I not only remember the souls and the innocence we lost on 9/11, I also salute those who are still responding by dedicating their lives to keeping that relentless evil in check. And with all I am, I wish I had something more to give to those young men and women than steak, potatoes, peach pie, and a mother’s prayers.

Never forget.

Success Lessons from Parker the Drama Dog

By Piper Bayard

Meet Parker.

 

MyPhotos Parker Standing

 

 

We got Parker from the Humane Society when I had a feeling there was a dog waiting there that would be a perfect fit for our family. Parker had been taken back twice because he doesn’t play well with others. He almost completely ignored us during our initial visit, and he was about twenty pounds overweight. Perfect, right? Yes. We saw it that way, too.

Once we got him home, we also discovered he was terrified of everything from the vacuum sweeper to the guinea pig to the staircase. But after three days and two pounds of ham to coax him up the stairs, he relaxed into a self-contained, happy pup that blended well with the family. And the best part? He didn’t seem to shed much at all.

Then came the bait and switch. We got back from Vancouver Island to find Parker had started to shed while we were away. In fact, it seemed to be his new mission in life.

In a heartbeat, I had dog brush in hand and was calling our little fluff factory to the back door. But he would have none of it. Every time I stroked him gently with the dog brush, he yelped and snapped. I couldn’t even pluck away the loose tufts of hair without him acting like I was ripping off appendages.

So I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. Traumatize the dog, or allow him to coat us and all of our belongings in his tresses?

DD and I decided to take Parker for a walk and contemplate the situation. While I glared at the dog and DD laughed about the matter, she started flipping the rope leash up and down along his hind end, coaxing off chunks of fluff and leaving his tuchus looking like a topographical map of the Rocky Mountains. Parker was so distracted by all of the sights and smells around him that he didn’t notice.

That made me bold. Every time he stopped to sniff some marvelous delight, I ran forward and started grabbing out handfuls of hair. By the time we finished the walk, it looked like we’d shaved a bear on the path, and Parker didn’t notice or object once. Clearly, when it came to helping him shed, Parker was a drama queen.

 

MyPhotos Parker's fluff

 

 

The next day, I took the brush with me on our walk and encouraged Parker to sniff every rock, plant, or animal trace we crossed as I left a trail of dog hair tumbleweeds to mystify joggers through the day.

I decided to push it and took him out on the porch at home and continued my work. Without a walk to distract him, he began yelping and snapping again, but this time, I knew I wasn’t hurting him so I gave him a firm ‘no’ and ignored his fussing. He soon settled down.

 

MyPhotos Parker sitting by fluff

 

Now, Parker still hates brushing, but he tolerates it, and I don’t have to feel like a tribble every time I lie down on the couch. And the best part? After I took charge and told him to knock off the drama, he trusts me more than ever, and the new problem is not tripping as he  walks on my heels all day.

 

Success lessons? Some fears are nothing but bad habits, and discipline will save the day when indulgence fails.

What does your pet teach you about success?

All the best to all of you for knowing when to take charge.

The Pool Walker’s Creed

By Piper Bayard

Long ago, Holmes and I discussed the fact that we’re no good to each other dead. As we age, we have to work a little harder at that not getting dead thing than we used to. So we agreed that our bare minimum fitness requirements demand that we walk at least one mile every day. For Holmes, that translates into a 12-mile vertical hike. For me, that translates into . . . walking at least one mile a day.

I don’t talk much about my health issues. Hell, they bore me. I can’t imagine that they would interest you. But as it’s relevant, I will share that I have moderate arthritis in my hip and back. “Moderate” means enough to hurt all the time, but not enough to take any permanent surgical measures. It also means that I am genuinely in the “move it or lose it” stage of life, and sometimes, walking my mile is an agony. As a result, I have become that which I used to dread. A pool walker.

 

Pool Walker. Not me. She would kick my butt.

Pool Walker. Not me. She would kick my butt.

 

The gyms I go to always seem to have those windows in the workout room that look out over the pool. I can’t pretend to know what everyone thinks when they’re climbing their mountains on their stair steppers and ellipticals, but I was once guilty of gazing out at that pool and thinking, “I’m working hard to put off the day when I, too, will be a heavy-set blue hair who can do no more than walk around the lazy river.” Ah, the vanity of ignorant youth!

Then came injuries and age, and I found out first hand that deterioration comes to us all. We can only hope that we live in such a way that character and wisdom balance us when we lose the ability to Salsa all night in high heels.

Fancying myself to be someone who always does what she must, I swallowed my pride, put on my mom-style swimsuit, and went to a pool walker class. What I found was that it stretched muscles I never knew I had. It left me sore in a good way, and nothing genuinely hurt the way it had for so long.  I also found that those heavy set blue hairs kicked my butt. They have to have some serious balance and poise to do all of their calisthenics against the current. Shame on me for ever thinking pool walking was somehow a lesser fate.

I hate swimming. I hate swimming pools. I hate what swimming pools do to my skin and my hair. . . . No one sets out in life to be a pool walker. No one. We are all there because it is what we have to do to stay active, alive, and useful to ourselves, our families, and our communities.

So for myself, my family, and my writing partner, I take the Pool Walker’s Creed:

I will never quit. I will brave every child-ridden kiddie pool, every rude teen queen in a bikini, and every derisive glance from the young studs who are trying to impress the teen queens in bikinis. I will forge every toppling current in every lazy river if that is what it takes to avoid unnecessary pill-popping, surgeries, and deterioration, so that I will stay as strong as possible for my family, my friends, my partner, and myself. Because the only thing worse than working out, is not being able to.

What have you done to survive that you never thought you would do?

We are They

By Piper Bayard

Remember all of those Jeff Foxworthy “you might be a redneck if” jokes? I didn’t know I was a redneck until Jeff Foxworthy identified me.

“If you’ve ever honked at chickens while pulling into your driveway . . .”

Chickens in driveway canstock

Didn’t everybody?

“If there are more than five McDonald’s bags in your car . . .”

Hey. I needed something to cover the bare springs on the front seat, and that cheap old tablecloth I hid them with was kind of pretty.

“If you met your spouse at a family reunion . . .”

Well, we didn’t actually meet at a family reunion, but we could have. It’s a long story.

So when I went to law school in my 1969 Volkswagen Beetle that left me stranded more times than I “forgot” to look for my toddlers while playing hide and seek, let’s just say it was something of a culture shock.

I remember getting my class schedule and wondering why I had a class in “torts.” Weren’t torts* fancy French pies? I’d only just learned that, and I was still proud of being so worldly.

I sat through my first two weeks, reading opinions by Mr. Justice Black, Mr. Justice Douglas, Mr. Justice Stevens, etc. and thinking, “Boy, there sure are a lot of judges named ‘Justice.’” No, I’m not making that up.

It wasn’t just the classes that had me feeling like I’d wandered into the Twilight Zone. It was the people. I’d just spent almost a decade living in the poverty culture of New Mexico with one foot on the street and the other on a banana peel. So when my upper class classmates would say they were broke, I would invite them over for dinner and send them home with the leftovers. That’s what decent people do, right? They thought I was insane. After a year or so, I finally grasped that “broke” in trust fund lingo meant going skiing at Copper instead of at Aspen this week.

But the biggest shock of all was finding out that no one was out to get me. Living in a poverty culture, I became ingrained with the “They” mentality.

They are out to get Us, making mandatory insurance laws so we have to choose between eating this week and insuring our cars. They are trying to keep Us down by raising tuition costs because They don’t want Us in school with their kids. They are always profiling Us because They are afraid of Us.

Along with that perception was the idea that They never have to work for what They have. They are all greedy and privileged and look down their noses at Us.

image from openclipart.org

Are you perceiving a bad attitude on my part? You betcha. I didn’t just have a chip on my shoulder, I was proud of having earned the chip on my shoulder. I went to law school to become a warrior for my people, the poor and downtrodden, against the tyranny of They.

As you might guess, I was not the only person who showed up on the doorstep of the Hall of Learning thinking that I knew something and wanting to teach the world a thing or two. I found, in fact, that law school was a distillation of bad attitude. A collection of shoulder chips, and, to my surprise, many of those resentments were directed at me.

While the majority of my fellow students of all races and faiths were stellar individuals, I also knew wealthy African-Americans who would not speak to me because I was white. A few wealthy Latinos told me outright they would not work with me because I was white. I knew Native Americans who treated me with disdain because I’m white. And I knew people of all races and financial classes who would have nothing to do with any of us, not because of our races or our financial classes, but because of our bad attitudes.

In summary, I was standing there pointing a finger at wealthy people of all races and faiths, only to turn around and find many wealthy minorities pointing a finger at me, finding me indistinguishable from the people I labeled as “They.”

Is this sounding incredibly stupid yet?

That’s when I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. We are They. Each of us is a “They” to someone, and that someone is probably someone we don’t even know exists.

The fact is that I loved being different and special in my sense of persecution. I loved thinking I was important enough for entire groups of people to conspire against me at a governmental level. It gave me a tribe. A people. An identity, an enemy, and a purpose. But it was a lie. A self-deception of perverted elitism that kept me from succeeding in life, because the bottom line is that no one wants to work with an assclown.

I buried my chip and opened my heart. It was a struggle to find a new sense of self with so much of my identity having been tied up in being a redneck reject from a place where there were only two colors of people, Poor and They. But what I found was that, though people live and relate differently at different financial levels, there are genuinely good people everywhere, and while some people are actively hostile, they are the true minority.

When have you been a fish out of water? When has your attitude held you back?

All the best to all of you for a week of harmonious integration.

*A tort, for those of you who, like me, didn’t know, is a civil negligence case. For example, if you bring a civil lawsuit over a car wreck, it is a tort.

Looking Back at Fifty — You Can’t Fix Stupid

By Piper Bayard

I turned fifty in 2013, and in my life, I’ve learned that growing old sucks. Small strains take months to heal, old wounds are new aches and pains, and where the young woman I was had the world for a smile, the woman I am now knows the treasures only won with my labor. But as far as I can tell, growing old still beats the alternative, so I’m still doing it. At least for today.

While turning fifty is a traumatic event for so many people, I find it a release and a relief—an opportunity to embrace my inner curmudgeon. I’ve now earned the right to regale young people with my cautions and advice. If I had to narrow it down to ten gems, here’s what they are . . .

Canstock Treasure

  1. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting.
  2. If you change yourself, you will change your world.
  3. Embrace your deepest fears, and they will guide you to fulfillment and purpose—unless it’s a fear of bungee jumping. It’s probably okay to pass on that one.
  4. The best exercise is the one you will do.
  5. Be the person you want to meet, and you will meet the person you want.
  6. If your head is full of what you think you know, you have no room left to learn anything.
  7. It’s no skin off your butt to be kind.
  8. Everyone’s a head case. The only real question is if they are a head case you can live with.
  9. You can’t fix stupid.
  10. Intelligence is the ability to learn from your mistakes, and it has nothing to do with IQ.
  11. If you didn’t give birth to them or marry them, you’ve got no business criticizing them.
  12. Donuts are the world’s most powerful social grease, particularly at your kids’ school office.
  13. Never sweat the count. 🙂

What are the gems you’re willing to share from your experience? Come by our new site, Bayard & Holmes, and leave a comment. 

Looking Back at Fifty

Wishing you all a 2014 full of wonder, grace, and helpful life lessons. Happy New Year!

Coping with Holiday Cheer in the Face of Loss

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Today we are pleased to welcome Sally Carey. Sally is a veteran Bereavement Coordinator for Hospice of Covenant Care in Westminster, CO. She has served the populations of the Denver area, helping people heal from the loss of their loved ones, for over ten years. In recognition that the coming holidays are often the most difficult time of the year, particularly when we have suffered a deep and recent loss, we asked Sally to share her tips on how to make it through the holiday season.

Canstock Grief Statue

Ho, Ho, Hum

Coping with Holiday Cheer in the Face of Loss

By Sally Carey

The holiday season, under the best of times, brings it own stressors and expectations, which we have all learned to manage or mangle, for better or worse, over the years. Congratulations on learning how to keep a grain of your sanity intact, hopefully without leaving too many bodies in the wake of seasons past!

But what do we do when we’ve had some serious, life-challenging or life changing event like illness, job and/or home loss, estrangement, divorce or separation, or even a death, and the happy, happy holidays are assaulting us at every turn of the channel? I know the fantasy of a Hawaiian vacation or leaving the country altogether might be appealing, but most of us don’t have that option. We still have to figure out a way to get food and find shelter from the storm of good cheer while holding down the fort.

For the rest of Sally’s excellent guidance, come on over to our new site, Bayard & Holmes. While you’re there, remember to register. We would miss you if you were left behind.

Bayard & Holmes

Coping with Holiday Cheer in the Face of Loss

by Hospice Bereavement Coordinator Sally Carey

Never Forget

image by Gerrit, wikimedia commons

image by Gerrit, wikimedia commons

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

A profound thank you to all who serve our nation in the armed forces. May we at home honor you with integrity and decency, that your sacrifice my never be in vain.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Pictures from the Flood Zone

Until last week, I didn’t know what a flood looked like. In fact, before this past week, I had the complacent notion that the world would stay pretty much as it was when I was born, at least for the duration of my time on it. After all, how often does a 500-Year Flood actually happen in MY lifetime? And while I’ve long understood that the most apocalyptic events of our personal lives can happen in an instant, I had never seen how quickly such changes can happen on our planet.

This was a sidewalk near Erie, Colorado, with a bridge well over a small stream. The water had topped it during the night, and large parts of the sidewalk are gone.

Foot Bridge Under Flood (c) Piper Bayard

Foot Bridge Under Flood
(c) Piper Bayard

Normally, this bridge over the Left Hand Creek in Longmont, Colorado, has 8’6″ clearance over the sidewalk that runs underneath it next to a shallow stream. As you can see, there is a reason that bridge above it is so wide.

Bridge over Left Hand  Creek (c) Piper Bayard

Bridge over Left Hand
Creek
(c) Piper Bayard

And this is the scene downstream from that bridge. The neighborhood next to it was evacuated in preparation for a release from the dam above at Nederland. Normally, there is a foot path where this raging river is. Note the uprooted tree.

Left Hand Creek during the flood of 2013 (c) Piper Bayard

Left Hand Creek during the flood of 2013
(c) Piper Bayard

Up the road, the town of Lyons was devastated. No one was being allowed up the canyon toward Estes Park, but check out the water line on this building at Leukonen Brothers Stone at the edge of town. The owners had already cleaned out the mud next to this office, but a few feet out from it, their inventory was half buried in several feet of muck from the nearby river.

Water Level at Leukonen Brothers (c) Piper Bayard

Water Level at Leukonen Brothers
(c) Piper Bayard

Before last week, this was a flat pasture with a solid dirt road running through it.  A small stream passed under a bridge a hundred yards away. The river broke its banks upstream, flooded the pasture, and took out this stretch of road. The gap is about 100′ across and 15′ deep. There’s a free hanging gas line stretching across the gap, creating the ripple to the left of the picture. Below is a massive electrical pole. I’m afraid the picture doesn’t do the depth justice.

Former Road, New River (c) Piper Bayard

Former Road, New River
(c) Piper Bayard

This is the new river downstream from the washed out road. The day before, it stretched across the entire area in the picture, flooding houses downstream in a plain roughly 1/3 of a mile wide.

New River, Former Pasture (c) Piper Bayard

New River, Former Pasture
(c) Piper Bayard

This is another river that re-routed near Left Hand Canyon, just outside of Boulder. Its bridge is a couple hundred yards to the left, relatively unharmed.

New River Path Near Left Hand Canyon (c) Piper Bayard

New River Path Near Left Hand Canyon
(c) Piper Bayard

And the picture of the day — when life gives you mud, have a mud race. Well played, Boulder. Well played.

Boulder Mud Race (c) Piper Bayard

Boulder Mud Race
(c) Piper Bayard

As I traversed the area, I saw furniture drying on lawns and spoke with numerous exhausted workers restoring gas and water, as well as National Guard soldiers securing dangerous areas. Above me, the Chinook helicopters made their rescue runs, still hard at work rescuing those who are stranded in the mountains. No whining, and no slacking. Just the steady press and determination that we will push through this to better days.

For more pictures of the flood zone, see Susie Lindau’s excellent coverage at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. Storm Chasing Through Boulder’s 100-Year Flood

All the best to all of you for facing life’s overnight changes.

Piper Bayard

Which One Are You?

By Piper Bayard

Do you ever get ticked off at the strangers around you for doing things you think are thoughtless, rude, or stupid? Yep, I do it, too.

So today I’m going to fess up.

  • I’m the one who spends three minutes balancing the grocery cart in just the right crack so that it won’t roll into a parking space or hit another car, when I could actually take 30 seconds and return it to the cart corral. In my own defense, I do that on purpose. People with infants in car seats or old people who need to lean on those carts and can’t get into stores if they don’t find one in the parking lot that’s closer to the door than the cart corral.
image by Stilfehler, wikimedia commons

image by Stilfehler, wikimedia commons

  • I’m the one who does not keep an answering machine, but leaves a five minute message on yours. I have no defense for that.
  • I’m the one who orders the California bacon avocado burger, “But could you please leave off the lettuce and tomato, and sauté that onion? Oh, yes, and could you please make it with chicken instead of beef? And can you put it on a gluten free bun? . . . No, wait. I’ll have the crispy chicken salad, instead. Ranch on the side.” I tip very well if the waitress is polite about it.
  • I’m the one who slows down when you tailgate me. Hey, if you’re going to crash into me, I would prefer it be at a lower speed, thank you.
  • I’m the one who will be late to her own funeral.

So now it’s your turn. Which one are you?

Please tell me so that the next time I see someone doing what you confess to, I will remember you, and I will be patient. Thank you for making me a better person.

All the best to all of you for surviving your own pet peeves.