#WhyIMarch

A week ago Saturday, I participated in the Women’s March L.A. with two dear friends  from college (one my former roommate) and another long-time local friend. A protest march with 750,000 other people is probably the last thing I’d ever see myself doing. So why did I march?

First, let me establish a few basic things about myself:

  • I have voted in every presidential election since I turned 18 (and for both Democratic and Republican candidates)
  • I don’t hate men (in fact, I’ve been happily married to one for almost 28 years and proudly parented one for almost 24)
  • I am a woman of faith (Christian)
  • I acknowledge and honor the President, and pray for him every day
  • I come from a military family (my son is active duty and my husband and father both retired)
  • I am not completely aligned with either major U.S. political party (I wish there were more moderates in government today)
  • I love my country deeply and I’m proud to be an American
  • Up until Saturday, I have never participated in a march, rally or protest of any kind

So, why did I march? For me, it came from a deeply spiritual place.

A book that has profoundly influenced me is “Faith and Feminism” by Helen LaKelly Hunt. See Alive and Well Women: Our First Grant! Hunt points out that early feminists were women whose faith propelled them to action in areas of human rights, such as the abolitionist movement. The second wave U.S. feminist movement became secularized in the 60s. Elsewhere in the world, however, feminism and faith continue to be more closely aligned.

Through the lives of some early faith-based feminists, Hunt illustrates the “journey to wholeness” which she proposes as a structure for both personal evolution as well as for bridging the religious-secular split in modern feminism as a whole. The five stages of the journey to wholeness are (1) pain, (2) shadow , (3) voice, (4) action, and (5) communion.

My official Women's March button

My official Women’s March button

My journey to the Women’s March started with a growing recognition of pain. I have challenged myself, particularly over the past 10-15 years, to cultivate relationships with a wide spectrum of people representing other religions, ethnicities, gender and sexual orientation. Through these relationships, I have become acutely aware that I largely won the birth lottery.  I was born into a white, Protestant, Republican, middle-class, educated family in the United States of America, and for most of my life I have been blissfully oblivious of this great privilege. Other than some bias I encountered in my professional life as a woman, I have not faced the severe discrimination, mistreatment or hardship, even hatred (some of it on a daily basis) that my diverse circle has forced me to recognize.

During the course of the most recent presidential election and transition, my pain only increased as I witnessed the escalating racist, misogynist, homophobic rhetoric, and saw the effect on people I’ve grown to cherish as friends.   I increasingly sensed this intense pain pushing me toward a doorway to action, demanding a deeper meaning and purpose to my life.   I thought and prayed daily about what Jesus would do, and discerned a growing conviction to use my voice to speak my truth. I wrote about this in Speak Up!.   Finding my voice means finding the courage to tell my story in an authentic way. It’s somewhat frightening writing this post, even having cordial conversations with close friends and family who do not share many of my political views. I worry about damaging or losing those relationships by speaking my mind. I’m learning to see these as opportunities to practice speaking my truth with love, and with respect for other viewpoints.

I have now come to the stage of action. Helen Hunt writes that once we have found our true voice, it’s time then to act and to bring our values into the world in a concrete form. For me, the Women’s March was the first step (no pun intended) in that process. I understand that big shifts are underway in our country as we move from more liberal philosophies and policies to more conservative. I have concerns, but I am not deeply disturbed. This, after all, is what democracy is all about. I pray that these macro shifts bring the intended economic benefits to our country. However, I do feel deep concern that, in the midst of these shifts, there may be severe displacement and hardship on the poor and powerless and our planet. Perhaps we are moving toward a country where the government no longer provides the same level of safety net, in which case I feel called as a Christian to step into the breach. Part of my responsibility as a Christian is to help care for, and defend, the “poor'” which includes a broad range of disadvantaged groups. My biggest fear, however, is that the treatment of certain classes will be worse than neglect; rather, that government-sanctioned or government-led persecution may result. I worry about the erosion of what I believe to be deeply valued democratic principles. My fear of this has only escalated in the week since the inauguration.

And so I marched. It was a day I’ll never forget – a glorious, crisp sunny day in Los Angeles, a brilliant miracle in the midst of several cold, gray days of heavy rain. My college friends came from out of town to join me and another close friend, and we met my niece and grandniece downtown. We wore Wonder Woman accessories. The mood was upbeat and positive, the signs hilarious, heartrending and clever, and a pervasive optimistic hopefulness settled on the huge crowd (and in which I never felt the slightest bit unsafe).

Wonder Women Marchers, along with our 750,000 new friends

Me and my sister Wonder Women Marchers, along with our 750,000 new friends

I didn’t agree with everyone and everything at the March. But my participation represented a show of support for those whose voices may not be heard and who may be in danger. It represented a celebration of my constitutional right to free speech and assembly. It represented expression of a deeply felt conviction that my faith compelled me to show up and speak up. It represented my steely resolve, along with my close-knit group of females beside me, that we will not cede ground that we and other women before us have fought so hard to achieve. I am sad, but not deterred, that some considered the march disrespectful, un-American, unpatriotic, or sacrilegious. For me, it was exactly the opposite. And by the grace of God, look out world, I’m only getting started!

 

 

Remembering John

2016 was a brutal year. And in its final days, it stole the life of one of my dearest friends. John’s death was tragic, sudden, and wholly unexpected.

I first met John almost 29 years ago, in April of 1988, probably on the first day of my new job at Mercer. He was the kind of person you would notice right away. Three things always stood out: (1) his looks (young, tall, handsome, and always impeccably dressed) (2) his laugh (raucous and infectious), and (3) that mouth (loud and profane).

About a year into the job, when I tried to play match-maker between a single young woman, who worked as my paralegal, and John (who, as previously noted, was drop-dead gorgeous), she politely informed me that John was gay. The fact that I was so astonished shows how naïve I was at the time, and how much I had yet to learn. I had yet to experience the John Canova Tutorial on Life & Style.

I worked closely with the group that John was part of, and as time went by and the number in the group diminished, I found myself working more and more with John. I began to see that, under that brash, flamboyant, irreverent exterior, was one of the most genuine persons I’ve ever known. John gradually crept into and occupied a place in my heart as I slowly and unexpectedly found a generous, caring and loyal friend. In our large, competitive work environment, there were always competing agendas and shifting alliances, and I was forced to always watch my back.  John was one of the few (maybe the only) colleague who I never doubted had mine.

John and I at my retirement celebration in August 2013

John and I at my retirement celebration in August 2013

I encountered a very rough patch the first year back on the job after giving birth to my son. I was tired, distracted, and trying to find my work-life equilibrium. John was a teammate of mine on two of my largest clients, and he went out of his way to help me, in a variety of ways – whether cutting me slack on deadlines, pitching in where I needed assistance, or even sticking up for me when others in the office complained about my new part-time schedule. When one of my colleagues repeatedly grumbled that I “wasn’t pulling my load,” I heard (after the fact) that John paid a special visit and flatly told that person to “f*@k off.” I was mortified and delighted.

And we had such fun together on business trips! Once we went to a 403(b) conference in Denver. We flew in late at night, took a cab for what seemed like miles (at one point, John asked the driver, “Are we in Wyoming?”) and arrived quite late at our hotel. We met for dinner, and since we were both starving, ordered the huge rib-eye steak special. The next day, we were so dehydrated from the altitude and protein that we could barely stay awake, much less concentrate on the complex details of the tax code being taught. We laughed for years about the time we “ate a side of beef, a mile high, at a 403(b) conference.”

Another time, we flew to Nashville to do a compliance review on a 401(k) plan. We ate chicken-fried foodstuff at the Cracker Barrel (the first and only time I’ve been) and laughed at the Big-Hair ladies, we walked around the Opryland Hotel, and then got horribly lost on the way to our hotel in rural Tennessee. We found ourselves on back country roads, and John remarked that he was expecting men in white robes with burning crosses to appear from behind the trees. Which launched us into hysterics for no good reason. We stopped at a 7-Eleven to ask directions and John re-enacted his conversation with the “snaggle-tooth meth addict” clerk for me. Oh, he was so inappropriate, and all I could do was laugh!

Then there was the time that John and I were on our way to a meeting at Cal State University headquarters in Long Beach and we missed our turnoff and kept going right over a very long bridge. Even though we were late for our client meeting, we laughed uncontrollably all the way over the bridge and back.

Many days, in the office, at around 4:00, a bunch of us would gather in my office, to laugh and gossip, and basically blow off steam from our stressful day. When John was there, he and I would invariably start down some path of discussion (again, usually something wholly inappropriate) that would result in side-splitting fits of laughter, with tears streaming down both of our faces. There are only a handful of people in my lifetime that have consistently made me laugh that hard, and John was the best.

Apart from all the fun, there was a serious, sensitive side to John that I grew to admire. We talked about almost everything in our lives with each other and I valued his opinion because I knew he was always honest in his feedback. Likewise, he trusted me with his struggles, and we discussed everything from his challenges as a gay man to his heartbreak over his mother’s decline due to Alzheimer’s disease. My long friendship with John opened my eyes and informed me, and gave me new perspectives on numerous issues, and for that I am indebted to him.

Christmas cookies with John and Andy 2015

Christmas cookies with John and Andy 2015

After 25 years on the job (all of them with John) I took early retirement from Mercer in 2013. I wondered if my work friendships would survive the transition to retirement. I found several lasted a few months, but only a very few endured as lasting friendships. John’s friendship was probably the strongest. He continued to call me regularly (his favorite pet name for me was “Treasure,” along with “Bettina” and “Lamb”), and we enjoyed seeing each other for lunch and museum dates.   Once, when my son came home from college and needed a new suit, John met us at the Macy’s in Sherman Oaks and we shopped for a sharp-looking suit. Every Christmas, we made holiday cookies together at my house. And on December 17, 2016, my husband and I had dinner with John and Andy (John’s partner) to celebrate the holiday season. When we hugged and said good night, and he called me Treasure, I had no idea that would be our last time.

For me, a bright light has gone out, forever. Someone who has been in my corner, in my heart, for almost half my life, has left.  There will never ever be another John, and I will always cherish the memories of a sweet and beautiful friend.

Post-Retirement Work: Finding the Right Balance

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged (other than once about the election when I couldn’t help myself). The past few months have been extremely busy and, in hindsight, another period of adjustment. I haven’t felt much like writing, so I decided to simply take a break and not force myself.

After we returned from a busy summer of traveling, I went back to work (sort of) in October. I realized that we don’t have the money or inclination to travel constantly, and, when we’re home for long stretches, I often get bored. Last spring, I devoted substantial time to the non-profit organization that I co-founded, Alive and Well Women, helping to get our business infrastructure up and running. I appreciated being back in a work environment, using my skills, and even collecting a modest paycheck.

Besides an education in the non-profit world, my stint at Alive and Well Women was a good learning experience in other ways, as I discovered:

  1. The limits of how much and when I want to work (about 10-15 hours a week, and only in the afternoons so I can exercise in the morning); and
  2. My ideal arrangement is one where I can easily take off to travel and not be responsible for things while I’m gone (I don’t mind the occasional email or question, but I spent far too much time in my former career thinking about work and checking my old BlackBerry while on vacation); and
  3. If I provide services of more than a few hours a week to an organization, I want to be compensated fairly.

In other words, I want to be mindful about how I spend my time in retirement. I don’t NEED to work, so any part-time employment should be rewarding and enjoyable and not detract from the activities that I love. I certainly don’t want to find myself back on the proverbial work treadmill.

So, also last spring, I began discussions with a friend from church about potentially doing contract work for the organization she runs. Her company provides accounting and human resource support for non-profit organizations, and my background seemed like a good fit. After a couple of conversations, her proposal was ideal – I will simply let her know when I am home and available for work, and, if they have projects for me, I will be paid on an hourly basis. We agreed on compensation that was fair (more than Alive and Well Women could afford but less than I made pre-retirement – which is the price I pay for flexibility).  When I told her my first availability wouldn’t be until October, she didn’t bat an eye!

Fast forward to October, when I showed up for my first day of work. I was fighting an internal battle, part of me excited, part of me worried I might hate working again. Part of me wanted to be as accommodating as possible (since that’s how I was conditioned as a consultant for 25 years) and part of me wanted to set very strict boundaries so as not to disrupt my lifestyle. In the end, I decided to strike a balance. I emphatically announced on my very first day that I preferred working afternoons only, and that, for this initial trial period, I was available through the week before Thanksgiving, and then not again until after the holidays (i.e., January), and that I would not be accessible in the interim. I confess I held my breath for a moment, since being so unbendable in a professional setting is totally foreign to me. To my relief, without skipping a beat, they graciously agreed to my conditions.  In return, I made myself available every afternoon as needed, giving work projects priority over personal matters.workplace-clipart

For this first foray, I decided to set firm limits for several reasons. First, to give myself (and the organization) an easy out at the end of the initial period if it wasn’t working for either of us. Second, I wanted to clearly set expectations that I would not assume on-going responsibility for projects when I’m gone (see #2 in list above). The last thing I want is a full-time job in any shape or form, and I really need to turn off the switch and do other things in between work periods.

Given my unusual situation and extensive list of demands, I was curious how this grand experiment would work out. I was given two projects, one internal and one for a client. I was able to do much of the work from home, but I was project manager for the internal assignment, which required two or three in-person team meetings a week at the office (about a 15-minute drive from home).   This proved to be a nice balance, as my time in the office gave me the opportunity to get to know the staff and enjoy some office camaraderie, while working at home afforded me both flexibility and distraction-free efficiency.focusgroup20

All in all, from my standpoint, this first round was a big success. I learned a lot from work that was challenging and gratifying. Observing the strong, assertive, yet compassionate, leadership style of my friend has been an unexpected treat. The team is very competent, incredibly nice and motivated, and the clients being supported are non-profits and faith-based organizations doing great work in the world. And, of course, the extra money in my bank account has been icing on the cake.

When I left the office on the Friday before Thanksgiving, having handed off my projects before I left, my friend (and new boss) expressed enthusiastic satisfaction with the work I completed and optimism that we could continue to find opportunities to work together. In the two weeks since, they have respected my boundary and nobody has dared contact me (even though it was a running joke in the office that they had my cellphone and weren’t afraid to use it).

Now, the downside of working is that it leaves less time and energy for other things, such as lunch dates with my husband or friends, trip planning, blogging, or doing nothing. I suspect that it will be important, in the future, to schedule non-travel/non-work blocks to give myself down time at home.

I’ve learned that retirement, like the rest of life, is a journey of self-discovery. I am continually striving for the right balance of work and rest, service and enjoyment. I am grateful for partners along the way, from my Alive and Well Women co-founder, who has been ever patient and flexible and supportive as I navigate my way through an uncharted sea of ever-changing priorities, to my friend (and new employer) who has been so accommodating and encouraging.  Most of all, I’m learning, no matter how old I am, to never stop growing!

Election Blues

This week, as I’ve processed the outcome of our Presidential election, I keep returning to my lifetime go-to Bible verse:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” Philippians 4:6-7

th-1I am sad. I am disappointed. I am angry.  And I think I will continue to be for awhile. After I’ve allowed myself space to grieve, I’m going to think hard about positive things I can do. In the meantime, I find things to be thankful for:

God is in charge and has a plan. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I know a gracious and merciful God is in charge. I believe there is a greater plan. With that assurance, I can choose not to be anxious and afraid.

The election is over.   During the campaign, although I had a strong opinion about who I believed the better candidate was, I increasingly chose to keep my thoughts to myself. I found social media to be a toxic environment, and even personal conversations could become confrontational, even threatening. The most disturbing aspect of this election, for me, was the rupture of relationships. I read with horror vicious personal attacks launched on social media based solely on differing political views. The tone of discourse was upsetting. It seemed difficult, if not impossible, for people to “agree to disagree” on the candidates. This election depressed and exhausted me, stressed me out, and I’m relieved that it is finally over.

The candidates’ closing speeches.  I am grateful for the conciliatory tone Trump struck in his victory speech, and I hope that his supporters follow his lead. I listened to Hillary’s concession speech, and I was astounded at her grace, strength and composure in the face of such crushing disappointment. Her charge to young women to carry on the fight was an inspirational model of determination and fortitude. I believe that, even though she fell short in her bid to become the first female President of the United States, Hillary Clinton’s legacy will include the significant advancement of women in this country.

A peaceful transition. The election has been likened to a “movement” or a “revolt.” Whether or not I agree with the direction, the electorate spoke through an orderly balloting process, and I am thankful that we live in a country where such extreme directional changes can occur without bloodshed. I am also thankful that the portion of the electorate that feels deep concerns about the outcome has the constitutional right to peaceful protest. I was almost more anxious about the immediate aftermath of the election than the election itself. It is also remarkable that we have a nation where bitter political rivals Trump and Obama have already met to discuss the transition of power amicably. My prayer is that our democratic process continues to be a beacon to the rest of the world.

Group therapy. I believe this election presents an opportunity for healing in our country.  Like a dysfunctional family, I’ve been reflecting on how poorly we’ve treated one another, how misunderstood we all seem to feel.  I pray that all sides can learn to listen to the concerns of the other, to find common ground and not turn every issue into a zero sum game. My personal challenge is to better listen to and understand those I don’t agree with. In today’s sermon, our pastor preached on Luke 21:13, which is an admonition for Christians to, in the midst of suffering and persecution, look at these circumstances as “an opportunity to testify.”  In other words, to tell my personal story, not a point-by-point argument for my opinions and beliefs. Likewise, I should be curious and open to hear others’ stories, particularly those with whom I have the most differences.  It is at that level of personal dialogue that bridges can be rebuilt.

Marijuana is now legal in California. Last but not least, though I’m not a pot-smoker, the next four years could just make me one.  (Just kidding.)

Road Trip 2016: Our Canadian Waiters

An unexpectedly entertaining part of our travel experience has been the waiters we’ve met along the way. Now, this is a group for whom I already have a soft spot in my heart, since I put myself through college and law school by waiting tables. I still believe I learned most of my critical life skills working in restaurants. I acquired multi-tasking, teamwork, and process management skills, while learning to read and interact with people, plus some basic crisis management and finance. There was the time I worked the early evening shift (by myself) when the entire cast of “Oklahoma!” from the Community Theatre next door arrived for dinner.   Then there was the time the Bloody Mary slipped off my tray and onto the beautiful white jacket of my elderly female customer. You just don’t learn how to handle this stuff in business school.

I find that waiters and waitresses typically have a good side story. They are often waiting tables while pursuing some other career or their education. They usually have interesting hobbies and diversions, and are generally engaging personalities. A waiter is like a good tale waiting to unfold.

The Canadian waitpersons we met on our recent road trip were a particularly interesting bunch. Whether they were a microcosm of Canadians in general or we hit the jackpot I don’t know, but we thoroughly enjoyed our interactions with each of them.

First was Kyle at the Grant Hall Dining Room, in a lovely restored hotel in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. We met him earlier in the day on the way to the elevator, when we asked him where the World’s Largest Moose statue (I happened to read about in my guide book) was located in town. He gave us a lively and detailed run-down on the location and history of the Moose, Moose Jaw and the historic hotel. Later, as he waited on us in the restaurant, we learned that his day job was as a Personal Life Coach. He was also contemplating a move to British Columbia so he could better pursue his semi-professional love of outdoor sports such as rock climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding and kayaking. His enthusiasm for life was contagious.

In Calgary, we stopped at the Galaxie Diner, a hole-in-the-wall place noted for having the best breakfast in town. Our waitress was Brie (“like the cheese”), an energetic young woman with spikey purple and black hair. As she calmly and methodically waited on the packed diner single-handedly, she engaged us in a running conversation, in clipped question and answer format. We looked forward to hearing the next installment each time she appeared at our table. We learned that she also freelances as a photojournalist, blogger and event planner. She recently passed sommelier exams, not because she wants to be one, but because she enjoys learning about wine and someone told her women are under-represented in the field (“that bothered me”).

That night, also in Calgary, we dined at Vero Bistro Moderne, which I noticed was rated the #1 restaurant in Calgary by Trip Advisor. We called ahead to be sure we could get in and were told to come “right now.” The place was packed, but Michael (who was also our waiter) greeted us warmly and seated us quickly. Michael, we soon learned, was also co-owner with his wife Jenny, the chef.  That night, for whatever reason (mistaken identity perhaps?) we were treated like VIPs. Michael spent a shocking amount of time at our table telling us how the restaurant came about, how he and Jenny close the restaurant for 3-4 weeks each fall and travel to Italy to sample food, while singing the praises of his wife’s cooking skills (she can pick out tastes and smells of individual ingredients from complex flavor combinations) and sharing some of the specialties of the restaurant. He even brought us food and drink samples and Jenny came out from the kitchen to greet us. When he came to our table to say good-bye, we thanked him for his gracious hospitality, and he told us how much he enjoyed talking to Americans.

Our chateaubriand dinner for two at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, expertly served by Savin

Our chateaubriand dinner for two at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, expertly served by Savin

Finally, we spent three nights in the Lake Louise/Banff area. Savin was our waiter at the Post Hotel restaurant, and we called him our Renaissance Man. Besides us, he had a wedding party and a table with three food critics, and he never missed a beat. He was pure sunshine and optimism, with a sparkling personality, and he managed to attentively and expertly wait on us all while carrying on a lively conversation over the course of the evening. We learned that there was nothing Savin couldn’t do. Among other things, he is an expert camper, skier, and hunter, fly fisherman, musician, cook, and food and wine connoisseur.

The next night, we dined at the Fairmont in Lake Louise, and met Adam. He was an excellent waiter, a bit more reserved, and his back-story came out a little slower. But by the end of dinner, we learned that he was a trained astro-physicist and engineer working in the oil and gas industry, and, at age 32, decided to leave that field.  He is currently “taking a break” and will next be transitioning to a new career in sales in the alternative energy industry. He came from a family of engineers, medical doctors and scientists. Holy cow!

Our breakfast waiter each morning at the Post was a burly young man named Darcy, who formerly played on the Canadian national soccer team. He was all sass and swagger, and we enjoyed trading jokes and barbs and anecdotes with him. The day we left, he told us he would miss us, even more than “that table” (he said, pointing at the people next to us).

We’re going to miss Darcy, too, and all the other delightful Canadian waitpersons we met.  They’re a good crew, eh?

Island Living, Canadian Style

Per typical for us, planning for our latest road trip began with a couple of destinations in mind, then grew organically as we thought of more things to do and then strung it all together. When all was said and done, we were gone 50 days, traveled over 8,500 miles, visited 14 states and 4 provinces (Canada).

The primary impetus for the trip was to visit our friends Sted and Robin, who invited us to spend a couple of weeks with them on their island on Georgian Bay, in Ontario, Canada. Yes, they have their own island and compound where they’ve spent every summer for the past thirty years.

Sted and Robin also have a home in Annapolis, MD, which they generously opened to us while our son attended the Naval Academy, and which basically became our second home for four years. Sted and my husband rowed crew together as midshipmen at the Academy, but we became close friends with them during our son’s stint in Annapolis.

During the many hours we spent with Sted, he spoke tenderly about Georgian Bay. His grandparents and parents owned lake cottages there, and he recalled how summers in Canada were his fondest memories from childhood. Many friends and relatives from Cincinnati, OH (his hometown) also summered there. Shortly after turning 40, he talked Robin into buying their own place on Georgian Bay, and they have spent every summer there since. Their four kids and 7 grandchildren grew up going to the island. It was always clear to me that Georgian Bay is key to Sted’s heart, and only by visiting would we truly know him.

Our ride is here!

Our ride is here!

With that in mind, and dearly missing Sted and Robin since our son graduated, we accepted their invitation to visit the island this summer (not an easy proposition since we live in Southern California).   In late July we left home for our trek across country on the Lincoln Highway (see my previous post The Lincoln Highway for that part of the trip). On August 11, we pulled into the marina at Pointe au Baril, ONT, parked our car, and waited for Sted and Robin to pick us up. Ten minutes later, they appeared in their 20-ft motor boat, loaded our suitcases and took us to the island.

The island

The island

After hearing so many of Sted’s island stories, I had a mental picture of the place, but didn’t know exactly what to expect. I had imagined a bay, with the various cottages in a rather straight line along the water. Instead, we discovered a vast body of water (Lake Huron) with inlets and islands dotting the bay, requiring navigation through a maze of twists and turns. Their island compound was about what I expected, but more comfortable, although not at all ostentatious. There was a dock for the boats, then a short walk up to the main cabin (where we stayed). They have two small guest houses (for their two daughters with kids) and their own small cottage on the opposite side.

The view from the main cottage

The view from the main cottage

We spent 12 blissful days on the bay, and got a real taste for island living. Every morning, my husband would go down and take a dip off the dock (it was a little too chilly for me, but I never tired of telling him to go jump in the lake). We woke at our leisure, made our own breakfast and lunch, and then had dinner together. There was no TV, and unless we had something planned, we spent our days reading, writing, talking, or napping. One day, we took Sted’s large boat out to Western Island harbor, jumped in the water, and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs onboard for lunch. Another morning, my husband joined Sted’s mens’ kayaking group for a morning paddle. As I waited on the dock to take pictures, I was astonished to see an armada of old guys in kayaks sweep around the bend. Later in the week, I reprised most of kayak route with my husband and Sted. The up-close views of the landscape and wildlife were breathtaking from the quiet of a kayak.

Another beauty of life on the bay is that, as an alternative to the solitude of the island, one can enjoy an active social life. During our time with Robin and Sted, we accompanied them to two cocktail parties, one dinner and a morning Bible study on other islands. We simply dressed up (a little), got in the boat, and motored over to the other island, where we were typically met at the dock by our hosts, who greeted us and helped tie up our boat. On our last Friday evening, Robin and Sted hosted a dinner party, and we spent a fair amount of time helping them prepare. We learned that menus are often driven more by what ingredients are available in the cottage, or at the small store at the marina. The only alternative is to take the boat to the marina, pick up the car and drive 45 minutes to the grocery store in the nearest town.

As comfortable as our island stay was, we were appreciative of the hardiness and resourcefulness of the Bay community.   Each island must be largely self-sufficient. They each have their own septic and power systems, and many don’t have electricity. Any large equipment for repairs or building must be brought in by barge. To go anywhere off the island requires a boat trip – day or night, good or bad weather – and most residents, from older kids to adults, are skilled in boating. Robin talked of her first few summers on the island, unfamiliar with water life, when she was basically left to fend for herself (when Sted had to return to work for several weeks) with four small kids and a boat. She learned ingenuity, but she also learned the mutual dependence of the community. We witnessed firsthand how the residents support each other, be it borrowing items, coordinating rides, or sharing information. On the morning that the guys went kayaking, Robin volunteered to make the coffee for their post-kayaking breakfast at a cottage with no electricity. We woke up early to start two large percolators, filled several large carafes with coffee, and waited with them on the dock for the hostess to pick them up in her boat.

Sunset on the bay

Sunset on the bay

Our time on Georgian Bay was a gift on so many levels. It was beautiful and relaxing. It was a joy to spend time with Sted and Robin. It was fun to meet their friends and enjoy a taste of the Bay social life. Most of all, it was a profoundly special experience to be invited into, and enjoy, the cherished place of a dear friend’s heart.

The Lincoln Highway

For our latest Road Trip Adventure, we drove most of the old Lincoln Highway. This should be particularly impressive given that, prior to this trip, I’d never even heard of the Lincoln Highway.

We needed to get from Southern California to Ontario, Canada (where we were traveling to visit friends). When I was in the preliminary phases of planning our route, we happened to see a segment on TV about the old Lincoln Highway, which tracked generally with the route I was considering. We ordered some guide books, and the Lincoln Highway road trip was on!

The general direction of the Lincoln Highway

The general direction of the Lincoln Highway

As we soon learned, the Lincoln Highway was one of the first U.S. transcontinental highways for automobiles, conceived in 1912 by auto executives and enthusiasts (who decided that naming it after the martyred president would increase its chances of success), dedicated in 1913, and ran coast to coast from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. Over the years, the roads were improved and numerous realignments were made. Gradually, it was replaced by the numbered highway system, and today Interstate 80 serves as the primary highway from New York to San Francisco.

As with Route 66, it takes some detective work to identify and follow the original Lincoln Highway route. Using guidebooks, I planned the general course, with hotel and lunch stops and a few interesting attractions (like museums and parks) along the way. My husband is the chief navigator, so he usually takes my itinerary, researches the precise route and then downloads the route onto our Garmin GPS.

One of the problems with this trip is that neither one of us did as much advance work as usual. My husband bought three Lincoln Highway guidebooks, which I put aside until I had time for trip planning. I later picked up two of them (apparently misplacing and forgetting the third, which had most of the turn-by-turn directions) and knocked out the itinerary (including our return trip) in three marathon sessions. My main concern was to give my husband ample time to work on his prep work, but he ultimately opted to do the navigation on the road as we went.

We left home on a Thursday and drove two days to Ely, NV where we picked up the Lincoln Highway (we had previously driven Highway 50 west from Ely, which was essentially the Lincoln Highway route). We drove east eight days on the Lincoln Highway, to Valparaiso, Indiana, never staying more than one night at each stop, and averaging about 200-250 miles per day.   Initially, my husband navigated along the numbered highways (50, 40 and 30) that roughly correspond to the original Lincoln Highway, but he became more purist once he actually began reading the guidebooks and discovered old brick, gravel and dirt stretches off the paved highway. The more stickler he became, the longer our drives as we looped and turned on the old highway segments. Near the end of our Lincoln Highway adventure, we stopped at the National Lincoln Highway headquarters in Franklin Grove, IL. There we signed the official log, and saw the turn-by-turn book I left at home AND the interactive map on the Lincoln Highway Association website, both of which would’ve been extremely helpful had we used them.

As a result of our sub-par preparation, my poor husband was pulling 12-17 hour days, between the driving and the navigational research each night. He claimed to be enjoying himself, but the bags under his eyes grew dark and his patience grew thin. To keep himself awake driving, he listened to 60s music at 100 decibels, requiring ear plugs for me. Once, I excitedly, but unwisely, exclaimed, “This is it!” regarding a particular historic stretch of Lincoln Highway. Between the music and the Garmin and his hearing loss, my husband heard, “This isn’t it!” and missed a turn. Which was, of course, my fault.

The Lincoln Highway in Iowa is well marked with these signs

The Lincoln Highway in Iowa is well marked with these signs

In spite of it all, we amazingly enjoyed our grueling Lincoln Highway journey, although it felt more like an accomplishment than a vacation. It took us through parts of the country we otherwise might never have seen. We happened upon a wonderful restored steam train station and museum, and ate in a cellblock at a restaurant (former jail) in Ely, NV. We visited the Mormon Tabernacle and Temple Square in Salt Lake City, the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie, WY, (and learned all about the real Butch Cassidy), the Archway in Kearney, NE, and the fabulous Durham Museum (former Union train station) in Omaha, NE. We detoured slightly to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, IA (after all, when would we ever be near West Branch, IA again?). We saw miles and miles of corn and soybeans. We found stretches of original brick road from the 1920s. We drove on “seedling” miles, original mile-long stretches that the proponents of the Lincoln Highway paved to convince the public to invest funds to pave more road. We visited museums and learned more interesting U.S. westward expansion history.

At Valparaiso, IN, we diverted from Lincoln Highway and cut up through Michigan. Now that we’ve tasted the Lincoln Highway experience, and have the tools to do a better job planning (and know, among other things, to do shorter legs) we look forward to finishing the Indiana to New York segment someday and earning our Lincoln Highway certificate. Yes, you too can order and receive a certificate from the National Lincoln Highway Association if swear that you actually finished the whole thing!