Friday, December 28, 2012

A True Freedom

Look what I have:  A set of great new CDs to listen to as our friend Craig chauffeurs us on a wine-tasting adventure. 

Live Tedeschi Trucks Band...a GREAT CD!
This was the start of my 50th birthday celebration in November--four days secretly planned out by Dave.

What a great tradition that's taken hold in our three years together:  We create a birthday adventure for the other person. An adventure that we enjoy together.

First stop.
This year's was not only a celebration of my entering a new decade but also of the Mother Lode region of our beloved California.  We started by going to seven (yes, seven!) wineries in Amador County, east of Sacramento.

It's like old Napa there--mainly small, independent wineries; lots of personal attention from the staff; and no charge for wine tasting.

 And, oh yeah, it's beautiful.

Lookin' cool in hard hats.  The equipment is half the fun of ziplining.

Who knew there was a zipline in the middle of the state?  In three years we've ziplined in Alaska, the Santa Cruz mountains, and in Hawaii.  So why not another?  This is just one line, but fast and long--quite impressive!

Mother-Daughter masseuse team
After ziplining, we had a couples massage in the Gold Rush town of Murphy's. 

We spent that night in another Gold Rush town:  Angel's Camp.  I hadn't been there since I was a 17-year-old boogeying to the Doobie Brothers, Toto, and Huey Lewis at Mountain Aire Music Festival.

Moutain Aire 1980, with my friend Nancy

Angel's Camp is a charming one-strip Gold Rush town with a fantastic B&B called Cooper House.

Super Duper Cooper House
Cooper House used to be the home and medical practice of a Gold Rush-era doctor.  It's now owned by Rob and Tey who, in Rob's words, "want it to feel like the home of a relative you've never met before."

Cozy at Cooper House
I'd say it feels like the home of a relative who has great taste.  Tey used to work for Gumps in San Francisco.  He spent years collecting the furnishings that B&B guests now enjoy.  The breakfast was yummy, and round-the-clock you can help yourself to coffee, tea, and wine in the shared living space--where we also enjoyed relaxation and conversation with a Danish family. 

The next day we went here:

Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the distance.

Yosemite.  Jewel of California.  It'd been years since I'd been there, but it holds a special place in my heart because it's where my parents met.

Mom and Dad in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
In the 1950s, my mom (who died this year) was a nurse there.  Dad worked there as a tour bus driver one summer during his break from Chico State.  They loved Yosemite.  We spent several vacations there, and once they took us for dinner at the Ahwahnee.

That's where Dave and I had dinner that night, in the stunning Ahwahnee dining room.  Our server told us she's worked at the park for 30 years...and she's only 15th in seniority.  Sounds like some people visit Yosemite and never leave.  I get it.  There's a mystic pull to the place, with its ancient granitic presence.

View of Upper Yosemite Falls from the window of our Ahwahnee suite.

I can't describe Yosemite any better than did Ansel Adams when he said: “Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”

We discovered that Thanksgiving weekend is a great place to visit Yosemite.  The air is crystalline, and the people spare.  Few tourists:  that's rare in Yosemite.  So not only do you get to take popular hikes in virtual solitude, but the staff has time to give you special attention.  In our case, that mean a free upgrade to a suite!

The Library Suite:  Suh-weet!
The morning of my birthday, I luxuriated in opening presents before the fire and eating the most delicious room service breakfast we'd ever had.

View from living room window of the suite.

The Library Suite offers an old-fashioned sense of luxury, with leaded glass windows, golden wood paneling, and books galore.

On our hike that day we saw dozens of nearly-tame deer who all but posed for pictures.

I kept thinking about how grateful I am that our government has protected some of the most life-giving, eternal features of our country.

My 50th year is a hallmark in my life, but a drop in the stream of eternity.  On this trip, my past ghosted through my present.  I stared at Half Dome and thought of my parents, and of the man in my life who loves this world, and me.

I felt both the grandness and the infinitesimal qualities of being human.   As John Muir once wrote, in nature "life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Year to Remember

Hawaiian sunset vows

This has been a watershed year, my 50th. I'm grateful I was able to spend hours with Mom--snuggling with her, listening to Hawaiian music, and telling her funny and loving stories--before she released into the great beyond. 

Looking very Brady:  Mom, sister Ann, me, sister Crystal, early 1970s.  (Mom made all these clothes.)

I'm grateful for the communal rituals that celebrate love and human connection: from Mom's Celebration of Life, to live concerts and birthday parties, to weddings. I was the bride at one wedding this year, and the officiant at another.

Dave with women of the wedding, an impromptu bachelor party (albeit a few hours late).

I'm grateful I married Dave, a true partner in life. I'm grateful for all of our incredible adventures with family and friends throughout California, Mexico, and Hawaii. (A shout-out to my sisters: you're the best!)
Atop the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico, with Paul.

It was one year ago this month that we moved to Santa Cruz. Living in this jewel of a place has added extra sparkle to our lives.

With friends a few blocks from our house.

I'm grateful for my colleagues and my students, from whom I learn so much. I'm grateful for art, literature, and writing. This year I joined a fantastic writing group that's supporting my efforts at my next book, and I started my "Ask Dr. Kate" column.
Skiing last week with good friends Matt, Stacey and twins Cole & Wyatt.  (Stacey and I have been buds for 20 years.)

My New Year's Resolution last year was to do something new every day. As of today I have fulfilled that resolution. In fact, it's become so second nature to say YES that most days I do a bunch of new things. 

Zip-lining on my 50th birthday extravaganza.

I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of embracing life. Here's to relishing the moment and being excited for the future. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fountain of Youth

Dear Dr. Kate,
I would like to know where you found the fountain of youth!  Also:  Are you a vegetarian and do you stick to a specific diet?
Hi Donna,
What a timely question since I just turned 50.  I feel younger and more vibrant now than I did ten years ago.  In my humble opinion, this is because I’m happier
That said, I don’t look younger.  Well, maybe my body does, but my face doesn’t. I’m okay, though, with having a “complicated” face.  It’s a map of my life.  I’m not someone to fiddle with my face, but I’m not for or against face-fiddling.  I’m not into judging what others choose to do.  And I think this is part of my fountain of youth:  keeping out of others people’s business.  I don’t have any interest in convincing people of things, of pushing against stuff.  I’d rather go with my flow.  I’d rather be happy.  And happiness is the best face-lift. 
Just as there is no formula for happiness, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all fountain of youth.  There are as many fountains as there are people to skinny dip. 
Since you asked, here is my recipe for capturing the energy, joy, and creativity associated with youthfulness:

1.  Be your own soul mate.  I don’t look to anyone else’s behavior or thoughts to make me happy.  Not even (or perhaps, especially) my spouse!  As Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”  This frees me up to love (or ignore!) people as they are.  This frees me up to allow, rather than try to control others’ thoughts and actions.  This frees me up to love the freedom that is the birth right of us all.

2.  Try new stuff.  For a long time, I was stuck in my ways—convinced that I didn’t like X, Y & Z and had no interest in trying them.  It’s okay to have preferences—but my disposition went way beyond predilections.  I was spending precious living energy justifying my ways. It’s funny how we feel we must explain to our friends, our family, and strangers (and to ourselves) why we make the choices we do.   Once I stopped arguing for my limitations, I found myself less judgmental of myself and others.  And I began to open about trying new things.  Also, I suddenly had more energy because instead of using my power to justify, I was using it to live!  (I’ve also written about this here and here and here.)

3.  Move for fun.  Exercise as punishment isn’t my thing.  I like to move in a variety of fun ways rather than try to stick to some rigorous workout schedule that I’ll eventually come to resent.  Resentment is bad for any relationship!  I do like to run, but when I set out, I don’t force it.  I don’t say, “I must run X miles.”  Instead, I smell the salt air, watch the trees and people and pelicans go by, and use movement as a way to appreciate my body, my breath, and my world.  Some of the other ways I like to move include beach Frisbee, strolling to my favorite cafe, dancing in clubs and in my living room, yoga, random moments of stretching, skiing, hiking, snow-shoeing, swimming, sex, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.  But if you like the elevator, take it and enjoy the ride, rather than thinking the whole time you “should” be on the stairs.  Being in the groove of whatever I’m doing rather than thinking I “should” be doing something else is the key the pleasurable movement.  The grass is greener where you stand.  Or hop, stretch or boogie.

4.  Eat what you love, with appreciation.  No, I’m not a vegetarian.  I used to be one.  In fact, I was a vegetarian for about twenty years.  I was the shittiest vegetarian because I filled up on huge portions of breads and pastas and beer and pie while secretly craving chicken and bacon and hamburgers.  I wasn’t eating what I really wanted, and so I compensated in unhealthy ways.  My energy was low.  I often felt lethargic.  Now I eat whatever I want.  How do I know what I reallywant?  I check in with myself (my clear, quiet, wise self—aka, my Inner Being) and say, “What sounds good?”  Almost always my wise IB wants something healthy and in medium portions.
Whenever I’m craving something, I also check in with my Inner Being.  I say, “Hey, IB, how ya feeling about those nachos?”  And I kid you not, when I pause and ask, sometimes the desire for those nachos just disappears.  Other times, my IB gives the nachos the thumbs-up.  And then I look closely at the melting cheese (so pretty how it glistens!) and olives (thank you olive tree, and the person who picked them!)—in other words, I appreciate whatever is in front of me.  Then, with thoughtful awareness, I eat, savoring every bite.  When I eat in that mode, I always eat less than if I dive in without centering myself first.  Sometimes even one bite of a dessert is all I “need.” And while I’m no Skinny Minnie, my body is happy.  There’s nothing like eating informed by my body’s wisdom.

5.  Focus on solutions not problems.  The problem, the complaint, is usually very clear.  Why linger there?  Why not turn toward all the possibility the problem has created?  Why not face the sun?  In this way we serve ourselves—and the world—better.  What does this have to do with your question?  I think anger, fear, worry, resentment, and pushing against the world make us old.  So what makes us young?   Living your purpose with joy, creativity, appreciation, and a rich connection to your true self and others.