A lovely Northern Californian beach

Albuquerqe Heroes

Tracey Good News

In all of the recent Mega MIllions frenzy, five Albuquerqe, NM firefighters get this week’s “Good News” nod. In a last minute decision, these men went in on tickets together and ended up winning $10,000. Apparently, it was also a pretty quick decision to donate part of their winnings to their fellow fireman, Vince Cordova, who is battling a life-threatening tumor. (The 24 year old has had three surgeries and has a long recovery ahead of him.)  Sounds like Station Eight is home to some truly great guys! ( To contribute to Mr. Cordoba’s recovery, go to:  www.firefightercordova.blogspot.com/

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The Great American Road Trip

Tracey Columns

I’ve long been in favor of the development of alternative energy sources. Anything  that can improve the environment, decrease our oil dependency,  and promote fiscal savings makes great sense to me. But I have another reason for fuel efficiency – preserving the Great American Road Trip!

Once again, my husband and I took to the back roads of this great country of ours. Cruising along in our car struck an all too familiar chord. There’s a certain freedom that comes with road trips – it’s a casual, relaxed way to explore, and the rewards are endless.

This time around, our adventure took us to the dry and sunny southwest. The vistas and surrounding scenery could not be more different from the lush  Pacific Northwest; the flora and fauna, or lack thereof, could not be more intriguing. So often throughout these last couple of weeks,  I was reminded of just how much fun it can be to load up the car and take off to parts unknown.

Many of us have childhood memories of road trips, though as kids we might not always have found them so enchanting. Howls from the back seat could be heard as siblings staked out their half of the seat. Endless miles rolled by, when it seemed as though dad would never stop the car. Pulling over for one more scenic view was painful. There were moments of sheer torture. Just what were our parents thinking, anyhow?

I know exactly what we were thinking during our child rearing years – a  road trip was a vacation we could enjoy and  afford. Granted, some of that time in the car was certainly less than relaxing – just how long can a five year old kick the back of your seat? But in the end, priceless memories were made.

However, I have come to realize that a road trip without the “monkeys” in the back seat is a very different kind of experience. At practically every place we stopped, I could see road trips were alive and well for many  of us in the second half. Some traveled in behemoths the size of a small train, while others had their tiny, economical cars packed to the gills with everything from kayaks to bicycles. There were picnic lunches spread out on old, weathered tables or day packs full of goodies ready for the best spot on the trail.

For me, that’s the fun of a road trip, there’s no one way to do it. It’s all up to the individual and his/her idea of fun. For us, this was a jeans and tee shirts, day hike kind of adventure. And while we had a rough idea of where we wanted to go – neither of us had ever seen Hoover Dam – the rest was up for grabs and grab we did.

After one wonderful day of exploring, we rolled into in Shoshone, California, just outside of Death Valley. I felt like we had dropped back into the 1940’s. The motel was plain and simple but here’s the interesting part. At the only diner in town, of the ten customers having dinner, we were the only two who spoke English as our first language. It was fascinating, and somehow reassuring, to find so many international travelers discovering the natural wonders of the country. Somehow, I feared they might never make it beyond Disneyland and Las Vegas. And my most favorite foreign travelers? The young British honeymooners at the Grand Canyon!

So here we are, some 2,600 hundred miles later, home again. As for what we spent on gas? I haven’t had the nerve to add it up. I can tell you that the highest we paid was $5.44 per gallon, where else but in Death Valley, while the lowest was $3.70 somewhere in Nevada. These are absolutely outlandish prices, but for those of us over fifty, it’s hard not to long for the $.25 per gallon prices of our youth!

I only hope that future generations are able to enjoy what all of us have probably taken for granted – the  joy and freedom of the open road. Let’s hope alternative energy sources continue to become the new normal.

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)

Books+Caring People

Tracey Good News

Here’s a company I just love, BetterWorldBooks. Two college graduates combined their creativity, social consciousness, and bold attitudes to create a business based on the wonderful world of books. Even better, BetterWorldBooks cares deeply about people, the environment, and yes, financial sustainability. They have raised over $11,777,873.00 for libraries and literacy but that’s not all. Buy a book from them and they donate a book through one of their many nonprofit partners. Amazing! How many donated books so far? 6,177,788. Now, this is what I call good news!

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Tracey, equipped with backpack, in the middle of one of life's ongoing adventures.

Back from vacation

Tracey Tracey's Blog

I realize some people might not call a 2,600 mile roadtrip a vacation but for me, it was heaven on wheels.Granted, there were only two of us in the car and neither of us ever screamed “are we there yet?.”  I’m the first to admit, this makes a huge difference in the level of enjoyment.

Our goal this time around? Sunshine, remember, it is still very wet here in the Pacific Northwest; scouting possible boating opportunities for a late summer/early fall trip, like Lake Powell; day hikes and picnics; and staying off of  the Interstate whenever possible!

What fun it was to meander along with nothing better to do than stop and explore. I can do exactly the same type of trip cruising along in our boat. It’s the simplicity that truly satisfies me.

I know there are those of you who wonder what to do with yourselves in these later years. Well, I say, go for it, whatever IT is!  Really, if not now, when?

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The satisfaction of mentoring

Tracey Who's doing what?

I am a retired business executive. For the last six months, I have been mentoring a couple of  young, energetic entrepreneurs. They have great ideas, plenty of energy, and an impressive work ethic.  I have experience that seems to help guide them towards solid business decisions. I’m confident their business will make it, even in this economy! I think all three of us are benefitting from this arrangement. Please, consider sharing your skills with others.

(Want to know who else has been doing some good?  Click here!)



Recipe for disaster

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

My husband and I have a “situation.”  His 80 year old mother lives in an assisted living facility. She’s fairly independent – her health is good, she  walks everywhere and reads everything in sight. But she’s miserable. (It seems like her own doing. She won’t do any of the activities they have.   People used to invite her to join them playing cards or quilting, things she used to love, but they stopped asking because she always said no.) Now she wants to come live with us.

We have a three bedroom house and two teenage sons; the boys would have to double-up. We’d have them do if we thought having her here would work. But, honestly, she’s very critical of “today’s kids” and is always telling them so. She thinks our house is messy and has told me so forever. She doesn’t like the way we cook, as she says, “too much brown rice and vegetables.” The list goes on and on.

My husband doesn’t think it’s a good idea either. We feel guilty but I don’t think any one of the five of us would be happy. What can we tell her?




Dear Reader

I understand why sharing your home with your mother-in-law would be a terrible idea. Even under the best of circumstances, bringing a parent into a home, especially one with children, can be a dicey proposition. Adding someone who clearly doesn’t agree with your lifestyle and can’t keep her negative opinions to herself, is a real recipe for disaster.

As for what you can tell her, how about the truth? I’m not suggesting you blast her out of the water with a laundry list of criticisms. But it would be worthwhile to identify the many pressure points the five of you would encounter if you were all under the same roof.

I strongly encourage your husband to take the lead by letting his mother know that you two  have given this careful consideration. Then, talk to her about all of your “differences,” from house keeping to diet. Be gentle but direct. This is not a “right or wrong” discussion. You are merely pointing out what makes her comfortable compared to what makes your family comfortable. Acknowledge that there  are too many significant differences to be able to make it a livable situation for any of you.

Don’t be surprised if she hurls negatives back at you. (Sadly, it sounds as though that’s how she’s learned to defend herself.) Stand firm and don’t take this “bait.” Reassure her that you love her. Stress that you want her to be comfortable but ask her to seriously consider just how content she would truly be living in a house that is so different from what she likes.

I’m concerned about what is actually going on in her life, the underlying issues that have prompted your mother-in-law to approach you about living together. After she has had time to recover a bit from not getting her way, have a real heart-to-heart talk about her current situation. Try to understand why she has withdrawn from the other residents and all of the activities.  Is there something else at play here – a bossy staff, a critical clique of residents?  Is this facility too large for her? Does she feel lost in the shuffle? Or, could your mother-in-law be suffering from depression? (Her withdrawal from activities she normally enjoyed might be a symptom. Depression among the elderly is not uncommon.)

It’s time for a frank discussion with the staff of the facility and perhaps an evaluation for depression from her physician. If you can resolve these other issues, it may make all of you feel better. With this information in hand, you may or may not need to  consider a different living situation.

But be aware. Some people need to play out their negativity simply for the attention it generates. If this is your mother-in-law’s  way in the world, do your very best to ignore the barbs. And, when guilt hits, remind yourselves that you have made the best decision for all five of members of your family.

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)

Doesn’t like admitting her age

Tracey Ask Tracey

I am 58. I really don’t like it when a cashier or sales clerk asks me  if I qualify for the senior discount. What should I say?  Signed, Monica L.

Dear Reader: Since there isn’t an agreed upon age for senior discounts, the resulting lack of consistency puts sales people, cashiers, and servers at a real disadvantage. Please remember that they are doing their jobs. It might be a little easier if you beat them to the punch by volunteering  “I don’t get any discounts yet!” Hopefully, that will spare your feelings a bit. (Of course, your day is coming. Take the time now to get used to this thing called aging. Trust me. It’s easier if you work with it instead of against it.)

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Happy Geezer Runs with the Bulls!

Tracey Bucket List

I was happy to check  this one off of my Bucket List. Last summer, I traveled  to Pamploma, Spain  for the Festival of San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls. I know some people don’t approve  of this tradition, a crowd of people barely keeping one step ahead of a herd of bulls. Sorry if I offend but it’s something I have wanted to do for forty years. It was an unbelievable international celebration and being in the thick of it made me one happy geezer!

(Click here to see what others have checked off their ‘bucket lists’)