Best Relationship Advice EVER: Take a Walk. Anywhere.

Parents of adolescents and teens know this better than anyone: the best place for a neutral, non-threatening heart-to-heart is…the car. Think about it: enclosed space but no eye contact, no discomfort with long pauses, plenty of scenery to look at while processing responses. And it works even better when it’s dark.

But what if the person you’d like to connect with doesn’t naturally spend car time with you? Another relative, perhaps, or a friend, or a co-worker. I would like to propose an excellent substitute to the car for close, productive conversation: the walk. 

Ready? Let’s walk & talk.

***benefit: EXERCISE!***

I recently rediscovered this on the walking tour I organized for the Mate and me with my 80-something parents (plus another Senior friend) in Ireland. The #2 purpose of the trip: seeing Ireland. The #1 purpose: talking. And I was not disappointed.

IRELAND! Just what you imagined.

Think about it. As in the car, while walking, your eyes are generally forward. No intense eye contact as when sitting at a dining table. No awkwardness with long pauses (especially going uphill when you need your breath!). Plenty of scenery and time to process responses. And even better (unlike in a car), plenty of shared joy in that scenery, which serves as a magic carpet to whisk you over any emotional toughness in the conversation.

Spread out as necessary…then come back to talk when you’re ready.

Most of our conversation, over the course of six days and sixty miles of hill-walking (around the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in Southwest Ireland, in case you’re curious), was light. But as it happened, I did have some deeper, more difficult relationship issues to discuss with my dad. And the rhythm of our steps, the green hills, the shared forward movement–all contributed to the depth of that conversation, removing the difficulty.

And when you need to rest, rest. Whole new possibilities of conversation arise then. (Necessary pun: Ireland, I like your stile.)

But why go to Ireland? Why go anywhere further than around the block, through the park, over to your favorite cafe…on foot? Invite someone. Go somewhere that takes an hour or so. Let your feet and the scenery carry you past the difficulty and into the depth. 

And enjoy whatever local scenery you have: sheep, alley cats, sparrows…all part of the harmonious background of communication.

Repeat as necessary. I intend to.

Grandparenting Practice: Bring it On!

The Mate and I are not grandparents–unless you count our grandsnake (although Son One gave him to a school a couple of years ago). Or the grandgarden Son Two planted at our place this summer. Maybe I should just say, we don’t have any grandkids…yet, anyway. (No pressure, guys. Really. No, REALLY.)

But this is all the more reason why I’m looking forward to joining my Mate down in the Bay Area this weekend. Yesterday he flew down there to see his nephew through hip replacement surgery. I’m joining him this weekend. Oh, the nephew’s not that tough a patient. It’s just that he’s the dad of two year-old twins.

Two year-old. Twins.

Said nephew’s wife keeps telling us how happy she is that we’re coming. And I actually believe her. Did I mention she has two year-old twins?

Lucky for us, they are SUPER CUTE. Oh, I know they’ll probably be pretty shy at first. We might just end up doing errands and cooking for the time that we’re there, or taking care of Dad while Mom takes care of kiddos. We are thrilled to be able to finally participate in something we’ve always watched from afar: being there to help our adult “kids” take care of their kids. A.k.a., grandparenting.


Except for one grandma, my family was always strictly nuclear, no extended family around. I always felt a little envy when I heard my friends say, “Oh, we’re just leaving ’em at grandma’s for the weekend,” or, “Oh, my folks’ll stop by to help.”

Now we get to be the “folks.” And I can’t wait!

How many of you have played the grandparent role for your family members, or had them do it for you? Would love to hear.


Celebrating 60 Years of Marriage: You Go, Mom and Dad

What do sixty years mean?
Threescore. Memories of 1955.  A whole bunch of tree rings.
And in the case of my parents, a milestone on a long and winding road of marriage.

As my sisters and our spouses (or, as The Mate calls them, “spice”) and children gathered last week in San Antonio to celebrate our parents’ 60th anniversary, I mostly relaxed and gave myself over to family re-connection, food, and trying to stay cool. (Did I mention we were in San Antonio? In June? I used to be a Southerner, but after 25 years I’ve lost what little heat tolerance I ever had. Went for a run and thought I might die.)
But now that I’m home (aaaahhhh, nice dry 60s air!) I find myself reflecting on the significance of a 60-year marriage.
My own Mate and I have been hitched for 28, and that seems pretty impressive to us. More than twice that? That seems…at this point, frankly, unfathomable.

I hope we get to fathom it. I hope we get to be grandparents together, if our children so choose. I hope we get to sit around sharing memories of a wedding day so far back the mental pictures themselves have turned sepia.

"Photo by Satsuki "Sunshine" Scoville"

“Photo by Satsuki “Sunshine” Scoville”

I’m not worried about the hard work of marriage. After 28 years, who wouldn’t know about that? But 32 more…that’s a long time for two people to stay healthy.
So I’ll leave my reflections with a prayer of sorts from the second verse one of my songs, “Rocks of Ages.” Mom & Dad, this is dedicated to you…and to me and my Mate…and to any of you out there hoping to celebrate the same anniversary someday:

Albums in piles, stretching for miles,
Children and homes and careers.
Stacking our cares and blessings in layers,
Years upon years upon years.
Yeah, life’s mighty stratified, but I’m nothing but satisfied;
Let’s go ahead and grow old.
Call us sedimentary, we must’ve been meant to be
‘Cause the age that we’re heading for is looking like gold.

Rocks of ages, counting the stages
We entered into with these golden bands.
After all of our changes, the only thing strange is
How the earth still moves when you take my hand.

Wow, you guys. Thanks for the example.

Wow, you guys. Thanks for the example.

Got a partnership of your own to celebrate? Please do!

Till Mileage Do Us Part: Hunting Down, I Mean Keeping Up With, Former Neighbors

Road Trip IV, Days 10-13, LA to Scottsdale, AZ

Warning to all my current neighbors: don’t move away from the Wings. Or if you do, make sure you have a big fight with us first. Otherwise we’re more than likely to come stay with you on one of our road trips…and in the process, become closer friends than we ever were when we lived, well, closer.

Right now we’re inflicting ourselves staying with our former neighbors from Tacoma. Looking for a sunnier climate (than Tacoma? Come on!), they moved to the Phoenix area, 1,500 miles away. Not far enough. During our first year of retirement/graduation (The Mate is retired, but I am NOT!), on Road Trip I, we stopped and spent the night with them.

Not long enough, they said. Next time, stay two nights! We’ll go hiking.

Suckers! Oh, okay, we said innocently.

Did I mention that these folks had only lived in Tacoma for a couple of years, and during that whole time we had only had dinner with them twice? But they are super-nice and super-hospitable. And so we did stay two nights again the next year. And the year after. By now, on our fourth visit, we’ve shared all those life stories. Since our hosts grew up in Czechoslovakia and Ecuador, respectively, their stories are more exotic than ours, but then there are all those commonalities: how we met our spouse. Becoming parents. Worst Jobs Ever. I have a feeling we’ll be moving into Most Embarrassing Moments on one of these trips.

They’ve visited us back on Lopez, even though we keep threatening to steal kidnap adopt their ADORABLE daughter. So they must like us OK. But with our road trip habit, they are MILES ahead in hospitality points.

Our favorite thing to do with our friends is hike in the desert, where I have become dangerously addicted to taking photos of cactus. To wit:






OK, OK, I’ll stop.

Our next trip leg takes us to Dallas, where we’ll be staying with…you guessed it. Current neighbors, you have been warned. There is one bright spot, however: I always make our hosts a pie.

What about y’all? Do you have any ongoing former-neighbor friendship stories to tell? Or are you hiding from those former neighbors in a witness protection program?