April 10, 2022

Born Lucky

Wow!  You guys must think that I’ve fallen asleep at my keyboard!  Truth be told, blogging has taken a back seat to a couple of more pressing matters over the past few weeks.  We are up to our ears in planning for our son and future daughter-in-law’s summer wedding.  They’re sweet to include us, and we’re having tons of fun.  I know that 40+ years is a long time to think back to our own wedding but, try as I might, I honestly don’t remember there being . . . So.  Many.  Details.  On top of the wedding, factor in the pending sale of a rental property and the paperwork and ongoing communications that accompany it, and Alan and I have our hands full at the moment.  Nonetheless, blogging is never far from my thoughts, and I plan to begin the recap of our West Coast National Parks trip very soon.    

What follows here today is simply a personal reflection.  I’m not ignoring the devastation in the Ukraine and the many other extraordinary difficulties that society faces today.  My list of nightly prayers is lengthy, and our lives have not been without medical crises or loss.  Please, take this for what it is – a bit of circumspection and a look-back at what has transpired in my teeny tiny corner of the world.

Yesterday, I was perusing a list of writing prompts, and I came across the question, “Do you believe in luck?”  My short answer was a resounding, “Yes!”  That being said, I also believe that luck and hard work often turn out to be the best partners on the road to success.  That writing prompt brought to mind an incident that occurred last week when I ran into a small issue in our town and couldn’t think of anyone to contact for help.  I texted our friend Rick, because, well, Rick knows everybody. Sure enough, only a few minutes passed before he came back with a name and an email address for me.  When I made some reference to not being surprised that he’d be able to point me in the right direction, Rick explained he had the information because he happened to be working on a committee with that particular person.  He concluded the text with, “It’s your lucky day.”  I immediately responded with, “As Ryan would say, ‘I was born lucky.’”

Ryan and his Princess, Anya

Later, that morning, when I shared the gist of that conversation with Alan, he said, “You know, he really was.”  It took me a minute to connect the dots.  When our son, Ryan, was born, he was two weeks overdue and my obstetrician decided to induce labor.  (We’ve come to the conclusion that Ryan was a homebody even before he was born.)  The very moment that our completely healthy baby boy arrived in this world, my doc said, “Oh, my God.  I’m glad that’s over!”  Yes, I still remember her exact words.  Although I had an easy pregnancy, I had developed an uncommon and potentially disastrous condition that usually goes undetected - as it did in this case, through no fault of the doctor.  Ryan was lucky to have survived his own birth.

Luck has followed that kid around to this day.  I can’t tell you how many times he came across something mechanical (think log splitter, snow blower, etc.) that he picked up on the cheap because it wasn’t working right.  After a little time spent on YouTube and a small expenditure for parts, Ryan’s repairs usually result in exceptional returns on his investments.  While it’s true that he’s willing to learn the repair process and put in enough time to get it done, that still doesn’t account for the fact that he often seems to be in the right place at the right time to pick up these deals in the first place.  It happens so often that Alan and I now laugh whenever Ryan tells us about his latest acquisition.  He was born lucky.

Ryan with another one of his great deals

Friends of ours adopted two children internationally, and shared heartbreaking stories of what occurred in the orphanage from which they had adopted their kids.  Those stories (I didn’t sleep well for two nights) combined with our experience with Ryan’s birth, led Alan and I down the path of adoption when we wanted to add a second child to our family.  We secured an adoption agency with programs in Eastern Europe and excitedly began our adoption journey.  Our first program of choice was Georgia (the country, not the state) but, almost immediately after our agency officially opened our file, Georgia closed to international adoptions.  We waited (and waited and waited) but, eventually, we knew that opportunity was lost.  Meanwhile, our agency was just beginning a program in Romania.  Since all of our paperwork was already completed, our caseworker assured us that we would be one of the first families entering the new program.  It wasn’t long before we heard from the director of the adoption agency.  As the staff from our agency worked to get the program up and running, Romanian officials were already reneging on items they had previously agreed to under the terms of their contract.  The director couldn’t bear to put any of her agency’s families at risk, and she closed the program.  Have you heard the saying, “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all?”  Yup, we figured that was us but, as they also say, “Third time’s a charm.”  The third time was a charm for us, and we brought our darling daughter, Kyra, home from Russia just in time to celebrate her first birthday with her forever family.

Our kids celebrate "Brother & Sister Day" every year on the anniversary of Kyra's adoption.

Shortly after we returned home from our single trip to adopt Kyra in a Russian court, Russia began requiring prospective adoptive parents to make two trips to Russia to complete the adoption.  Thirteen years after we brought Kyra home, Russian law banned U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children at all.  Our little girl grew up in an extended network of family and friends who welcomed her enthusiastically and without reservation. Gifted with an innate athletic ability inherited from one or both of her biological parents, Kyra thrived on individual and team sports and outdoor adventures.  She still does.  It’s a far cry from spending time outdoors at the orphanage with no playground or even any toys in sight.  Born lucky – or not?  Really, in the end, we all were.

Kyra can usually be found on the road to adventure.

During the course of my reflection on our family’s luck, my thoughts (inevitably) turned toward travel.  What if, when Alan and I met, one of us didn’t like or want to travel?  Would we even have fallen in love?  What if we both liked to travel, but one of us preferred to travel within the United States and the other preferred to travel internationally?  What would have happened?  Where would we be today?  Living in the Swiss Alps?  Although I’m laughing as I write this, the truth is that we were extremely fortunate that our travel dreams and plans dovetailed the way they did.  And still do.

Cruising through Alaska (and life!) together

As I’m thinking back on our travels of the past 40 years, I can’t come up with a vacation that we couldn’t agree on.  We might have compromised on the order or the timing of specific trips, but Alan’s easygoing nature has always made travel planning a piece of cake.  I can’t think of any expedition that we didn’t both enjoy either.   To be able to happily travel so many miles on life’s highway together for more than 40 years is truly a blessing.  I think we were born lucky.

Playing in Nature's sandbox at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Considering how many miles we have traveled over the years, both in the air and on the road, we have rarely run into any significant trouble.  Sure, trouble came calling, but it was never devastating.  Weather-wise, we’ve dealt with severe thunderstorms in Florida, a distant tornado in the mid-Atlantic, and a wildfire in Montana.  But we’ve never been in imminent danger.  Oh, wait.  There was that mad dash to the concrete bath house in Lake Bemidji State Park, Minnesota, in the middle of the night due to a severe storm headed our way.  (We survived, but I'll bet you already figured that out.)  There was a trip to the first aid station for Ryan at Dollywood, an eight hour stint in a Philadelphia emergency room for Kyra and her stitches, one day lost at Arches National Park due to a migraine and a minor medical emergency somewhere in California.  No debilitating injuries, though, and no auto accidents.  The only fatality occurred when Kyra dropped her iPhone in a parking lot near Bakersfield, California.  None of us realized it, and Alan subsequently ran it over with the truck or trailer.  Or both.  Considering the fact that we’ve logged over 65,000 miles with the travel trailers alone over the past 16 years, I’m thinking our track record is pretty good.  (Fingers crossed here that I’m not jinxing our future travels.)

Evening on the Ohio Turnpike

Alan and Ryan changed a flat tire on our travel trailer one hot summer day in the middle of Nowhere, Colorado, but Coach-Net had a spare waiting for us at a garage in Durango when we passed through two days later.  The only major mechanical issues we’ve ever experienced occurred during our 2017 West Coast National Parks trip – two major problems in one trip.  Ryan missed that excursion due to work commitments.  Apparently, having only three quarters of our family’s luck on board wasn’t enough to protect us from the mayhem that ensued but, fortunately, the only injuries sustained were to our wallets.  Despite the two major setbacks, that West Coast National Parks trip was a phenomenal cross-country expedition of nearly six weeks.  Born lucky, indeed.

The staff at Jerry's Truck & Trailer Repair is great.  Don't ask me how I know.

During our two previous cross-country trips with the kids, we had the opportunity to retrace our steps through the National Parks Alan and I visited on our honeymoon, and explore a number of new-to-all-of-us Parks including The Mighty Five in Utah.  Our ability to travel has provided countless opportunities to introduce our kids to America – its magnificent public lands, the people who inhabit this diverse nation, the foods and traditions particular to each region, and the places forever associated with significant moments in history.  The experiences we’ve shared have enriched our lives, created memories that warm our hearts and resulted in the creation of family stories that, hopefully, will be passed down from generation to generation.  Born lucky?  Damn straight.

Sharing life (and lunch!) in the Madison Campground, Yellowstone National Park

Join the National Park Service (NPS) in celebrating National Park Week 2022 from April 16th to April 24th!  Many of our National Parks will be hosting special programs, events and digital experiences over the course of the nine days.  Entrance fees will be waived on Saturday, April 16th, to encourage everyone to visit – and celebrate – our National Parks.  Hop on over to the NPS website (link HERE) to check out the special themes for each day of National Park Week, find in-person or virtual events and share your experiences on social media.


  1. Well, unlike me, you have managed to step up with an insightful post, even with copious distractions. I'll get it together at some point, I guess. Meanwhile, I loved the grammar "Nazi" piece whose link you sent. The author and I could be clones. Sandy, after 45 years of waterboarding, now speaks fluent grammar. Our daughter, Mindy, has yet to commit patricide, although I'm sure she has thought about it. My insistence on grammar accuracy persists to this day, as I often toss a correction midsentence in some soliloquy of hers when the volume and speed of her words spoken exceed her grammar processing capacity. Since this often breaks her chain of thought, she reminds me that my obsession with, for example, the oft-butchered subjunctive mood may not bode well for me, as she will be the one picking my nursing home. Nevertheless, she has reached the point wherein the grammar atrocities of her associates--even the physicians among whom she works--grates on her nerves. I'm calling that success, even though my sunset years may be spent in a hut in Bora Bora.

    1. Mike, those of us who are mere grammar mortals live in fear (and awe) of your grammatical powers. I actually changed up one of my sentences because I have a difficult time with a particular rule of grammar, and I was afraid you would call me on it if I got it wrong. (No, I'm not telling you which rule or you will be scanning every future post with gleeful anticipation of my fall from grace.) I don't think you have to worry about that hut in Bora Bora. Mindy is going to choose your nursing home based on which one publishes the most poorly edited newsletter for its residents.

  2. Mary, I think your attitude of always looking for the positive and expressing gratitude is even more important than your luck. And...how lucky you are to have such a loving and fun-loving family!! Enjoy those wedding festivities! (I think you know this, but I share your life philosophy of looking for the good in life and counting my blessings. :-))

    1. Aw, thanks so much for your kind words, Laurel! I give my Mom credit for passing along her positive and optimistic outlook on life, and I hope I've passed the same along to our kids. As you well know, looking for the good - and being grateful for it - brings a sense of contentment to our lives. A fun-loving family, for sure. Kyra just told a colleague a couple of days ago that our family motto is, "If we didn't love you, we wouldn't tease you". I didn't realize we had an official motto, but there you have it!

  3. Yes, Mary, your "luck" is much more about your attitude, grace, resilience and gratitude than anything else. Another person could have told many of these stories as being examples of the worst luck ever, yet yours are stories of the best. Well done, as always! Peg

    1. Thank you, my friend! I will point out that I could (and do) say the same things about you. As someone who knew my Mom well, I trust that you understand completely why I revered her positive attitude and have always done my best to follow in her footsteps.

  4. Mary,
    because they have parents who are blessed a sense of adventure and a love of all things family, I'd say your children are the lucky ones...it's like winning the Lotto with a lifetime payout. Your children are beautiful and your future DIL is stunningly so. Thanks for sharing your pictures and Kyra's story; it's truly inspirational. I know wedding planning can tie you in knots, but enjoy it--it's a special time. Joe

    1. Joe, your thoughtful comments warmed my heart - thank you! Despite a five year age difference, our kids are very close. Kyra (a licensed barber) has been Ryan's official barber for years, and Ryan always comes to her rescue when something happens at home and Alan and I are on the road. Ryan is definitely an introvert, and Kyra is one of the few people with whom he actually carries on conversations. Our future daughter-in-law is a real sweetheart; in fact, we've always called her our bonus kid. We are most definitely blessed!


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