What a difference a year can make.

How many times have I said that in the last 365 days?

Tonight, New Year’s Eve 2017, I’m in Tempe, Arizona. It’s a warm night and I’ve just come in from an evening out.

I’m at my brother’s condo; my niece and her boyfriend are off in Flagstaff snowboarding.  They took their pooch, Bella, so it’s just me in the empty space, which is nice.

It’s just after midnight in the Mountain Time Zone, and fireworks are exploding all around; in fact, it sounds as though there is a big show somewhere nearby (I can hear the geese in the nearby lake freaking out).  I’ve cracked the mini bottle of Moet to which I treated myself (I only had a couple of sips of warm champagne at the symphony, so I’m ready to toast 2018).  But I really need to finish writing before I polish off the bottle, for sure.

 

champ loop

Drinking and driving laws are pretty strict here in Arizona—as they should be, so I’ve had a dry New Year’s Eve day and night up till now, save for the one small sip hours ago.

And while it’s been dry, it’s been anything but dull.

I started the day out by having brunch in Scottsdale with an old (as in time passing, not age) neighbor from home—Christine lived across the street from us and her dad was the police chief.  Over an absolutely decadent and delicious breakfast at a place called Snooze (I had banana pancakes, with layers of texture and flavor and bananas every way you could think of them and Christine’s husband Stephen had pancakes fixed up a la blueberry streusel–looked crazy good, and he said they were; Chrissie had Eggs Benedict), we caught up and I was reminded of how important (and fun) it is connect; I really recommend it.   So great to see her and to meet Stephen and to look forward to another visit another time.

This evening, I drove into downtown Phoenix and tucked the rental into a parkade, grabbed a ticket to watch the Phoenix Symphony perform their traditional New Year’s Eve concert and then headed across the street to a place called Hanny’s for a bite to eat before the program—huge portions of salad and wood-fired pizza (and Key Lime pie for dessert–because why not? No diet is starting tomorrow, at least not here).

NYE dinner
This was just the (Italian) salad…really excellent.

After the concert, which was a mixture of classical, current, and show tunes across the decades,   →NYE 1

I headed north to the 5th Annual Flannel New Year’s Ball (which it turns out is a hipster party where the dress is—you guessed it–plaid shirts.  I was definitely overdressed, but no one cared, including me.).  I stayed for about an hour and a half—looked at the art, saw a couple of bands, and dove into some serious people watching.  Would definitely do all three evening activities again—good way to spend a night out and still have time to get home before the clock strikes midnight. ↓

 

 

flannel coillage
Scenes from the 5th Annual Phoenix Flannel New Year’s Ball. You should go.

Fun night. And here I am.

It’s exactly one year to the day that I sat down on a cold and snowy Saturday night in western Canada, with a glass of cabernet in my hand and a cat on my lap, and started to write.

Remember those little diaries you had when you were younger?  The one the size of a small notebook, covered in what looked like leather with a tiny gold filigree design along the spine and down the front and the smallest lock that probably didn’t work but kept your snoopy brother or sister or nosy mother out of it (or so you thought?).

diary

I never had one of those.

I didn’t think I was capable or jotting down thoughts day after day after day, about which boy I liked, or what happened in school, or some trouble I had gotten myself into. I suppose my mother didn’t think it necessary, which might explain why I never had one, and is also probably where my disinterest came from.  I really didn’t think I would ever find a place where I was comfortable jotting down my deepest, darkest (or sunniest) thoughts, of creating an actual record of my life.

But there I was, last New Year’s Eve, alone, pouring my heart on my computer almost as fast as I was draining that bottle of wine.

My 90 year old mother in the hospital, very, very ill; two professors where I worked, dead within a month of each other—one 61, the other 56 (in the “zone” as I like to call it); an astounding presidential election that had me questioning everything I knew….

…and the end my marriage…a marriage that lasted (sort of) 29 years seven months and 22 days, just a few short weeks before. Not that I was counting…ok, I was.

By the time I had stopped writing a daily entry, it was March 31 and I’d written 115 pages, single spaced.

The psychologists and counselors will tell you it’s good therapy to write down your thoughts when going through such a difficult time, but I’m not sure what I put down was what they had in mind.

It was raw, angry, sad, scary, funny….above all, it was real.

I poured it all out—my upbringing, my loves and heartbreaks, my successes and challenges, my ups and downs; my quirky memories about times gone by and events as they happened, and thoughts on the day as they came to me.  Sometimes I couldn’t wait to get home to write and other times I struggled.

But I wrote very day, and on a fairly regular basis, I read the entry from the day before aloud most nights to my best friend Judith as she drove home from her job on the west coast and I sat down to record my musings of the day.

It became a small ritual, and I suppose it was therapy in itself.

She heard things I’d never told her, about me and my life, and she shared with me parts of hers I didn’t know.  Perhaps when you’ve had a best friend for more than 50 years, and you spend a good chunk of that time apart as adults, there are bound to be some missing pieces.

Judith was so encouraging as the days and weeks passed; we talked almost nightly and she was my lifeline to a return to normalcy in the wake of the most tumultuous months of my entire adult life.  She said I should keep writing and that I should publish a book.  I have no idea if she was just being nice, or if it was interesting to her because she knew–knew many of the people and most of the places I wrote about, knew what I was feeling.

But it also may have been that Judith actually did know.

I was writing about things people of a certain broad age know, but maybe don’t think about: the loss of a spouse or partner through death or divorce, the serious illness of a parent or child, the death of friends and one’s own mortality, the loneliness of being lonely, and the absolute pleasure in being alone…and also the loss or gain of facial hair and panty liners and gross grown-up tests (this year’s special: the return of the colonoscopy) and travel and food and a conversation with a murderer.

I told you it wasn’t all morose. Sometimes it was funny, and other times just plain weird. But that’s me.

Bottom line is that, in that diary from last year, there is too much personal stuff that would hurt other people I care about and so, for now, that story will not be told.  But I’m more than happy to share bits and pieces of it on this blog, along with other things I that I think connect us.

 

So…it’s called North of 50.  Why?

Two reasons: (Actually, make that three; Candice, a friend from home pointed out a third)

First, I am currently living in Canada—have been for a bazillion years, but I am American, originally from New York (I’m also Canadian now too—hooray for that!).  Therefore, writing mostly from that side of the border, I am standing on the “other side” of the 49th parallel….so, therefore also north of the 50th as well.

Then the new thought from Candace is the suggestions that I live in Canada and that the 50 might refer to the 50 states.  I hadn’t thought of that, although that could be correct also…save for the fact that Alaska is still north of me here….but I think it still works (thanks, Candice!)

Finally, I am proud to admit that I am a woman of a certain demographic, and that is a woman over the age of 50.

And you might be too. Maybe not the first or second possibilities (North of 50 in the double geographic sense of the phrase), but you never know….more likely the third.  Or not.  It doesn’t really matter.

I think that what I will be writing–and what others–you–will contribute–will resonate most often with women—married, never married, widowed, divorced, gay, straight–both or neither,  American, Canadian and everywhere in between, any race, any religion (or none at all). But I hope the blog will also be enjoyable to others (that’d pretty much be men in general and anyone under the age of 40) too. At least I hope so.

For the most part, I’ll be writing about things that, a lot of the time, only a person in our demographic will understand.  You’ll see.

I’ll be writing once a week, on Sundays I think, so you’ll have time to ponder this space as you would the New York Times Magazine.  Or People, or Hello!, or a comic book.  Or a real book. Or a walk or a workout (ummmm, no, on the workout part). Or the finer points of brunch or a long bath.

I’ll be asking you about those things, and I’ll ask you to share your thoughts.  I’ll use some bits and pieces of that first quarter journal from 2017 as ideas to launch off, and I’ll include some pieces some may have seen before in a previous blog (which I’ll hype another time—tonight is about North of 50).

But I want you to be part of this conversation too, so I’ll be asking questions, asking you to weigh in (ah….weight, now there’s a topic).  I truly think by sharing our experiences and saying out loud what’s been going on in our lives and our thoughts, we can all learn from each other.

Look at #MeToo.  Who knew?

How did we not know?

Because we didn’t talk about it, didn’t realize we had a common, shared experience (obviously very different for every single one of us, but an understanding, and a real revelation, nonetheless).

Someday, North of 50 might get there, but there’s a long way to go. For now, I want to start just a little more simply than that. And honestly?  I have no idea where it is going, what it will look like as it develops, how it will shift and become what it will become, or even how long it will last.

For now, here’s what you can do:

  • Subscribe to the blog;
  • Tell everyone you know to subscribe to the blog;
  • Get ready to be part of the dialogue;
  • Forgive me when I flip between Canadian and American spellings (I do that a lot);
  • Forgive me if you don’t think this is what a blog should be (I don’t read alot of others, so I’m pretty much making this up as I go). I’ve also never used WordPress before, so I’m really on a steep learning curve with this as well;
  • Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: all the accounts are tagged North_of_50  (note that’s an underscore);
  • Forgive the ads which will probably appear shortly—I’ll explain my plans for the blog over the next weeks and months as it becomes clearer in my own head; my hope is that you pioneer readers/contributors will eventually be spared the ads. I’ll more than likely ask for your opinions and advice as I go.
  • Never hesitate to speak up—about the topic at hand or the blog itself—ways it might be improved, things you might like to see; note there is a contact button at the top of the page (and if I can remember the password I’ll check it from time to time); you can also reach me here.

Thanks again for stopping in.  This is a much longer post that I will typically present, but I hope you’ll find, as we go along, yourself and your own voice in some of what I have to say.

Here’s to 2018!

What a difference a year makes.

Note: The tag line?  I’ll explain that next week.

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