Dalene is one of the founding members of the Women’s Walking Group. We stopped by her beautiful condo to learn more about what it has meant to her, and to find out about the surprising new chapter of life that opened up to her when she moved to Portland 13 years ago.
"At age 60 several unhappy events took place in my life and I felt the Universe was telling me to leave California and begin a new single life in Portland where my son, daughter-in-law and baby granddaughter lived. I had lived in the suburbs of the Bay Area my whole life and had always wanted an urban lifestyle. The Pearl District seemed like a perfect choice! A loft lifestyle was just what I needed to begin my next chapter!
When I moved into my loft I did not know one soul! Having no friends was an entirely new experience for me. Luckily one of my neighbors in the building was starting a walking group. I became one of the three founding members in 2004. The walking group was a big success and it's grown by leaps and bounds. Apparently I was not the only woman who loved the outdoors and the “chick chat” that happened as we explored the neighborhoods and trails of Portland.
I think I speak for all of the women in the group when I say that belonging to WWW brings health benefits as well as camaraderie and friendship. We walk every Wednesday (rain or shine-we live in Oregon after all!), and we often get together socially at other times.
There is also a philanthropic component to the WWW. Every holiday season we choose a cause and gather donations and money to help others in need.
We usually cover between 5 and 8 miles every week. Our routes vary according to the season; sidewalks and lots of stairs in the rainy weather; Forest and Washington Parks as often as we can. We like hills and stairs! Well, 'like' might be overstating, but our hearts, thighs and booties benefit from them.
Given the years we've been walking, the group pretty much runs itself. Responsibility for the weekly walks has been spread among the members. Getting all the members to assist in the planning has given us more variety, as members come up with new and original routes to try.
Originally, moving to Portland was an escape. Little did I know that it would provide me with the most meaningful role of my life-that of Mimi to my two wonderful granddaughters, Isabella and Lola. Being a grandma was never important to me until I actually became one! I think this surprises many of us.
These girls have filled my life with so much love, companionship and fun. Being single has its lonely moments, but I never feel a lack of love in my life. Being a mom to my son Jason was rewarding, but I was always so busy! Now I have time to sit and play with the girls, talk and really listen to them. What a gift that I am so close to them! They keep me young with all of their knowledge of the new things in the world - pop music and technology, for instance.
I have played a part in giving them a lust for travel. In the past few years we have taken family trips to France and England. They loved it! That gave me the idea to offer them a trip of their choice with just me when they turn 12. Isabella, who is now turning 14, chose the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Lola, who just turned 12, chose Italy and we are going in June. We always have such a great time that I can’t imagine there won’t be many more of these trips in our future.
My son and daughter-in-law are wonderful parents and have raised the girls with values of compassion, inclusiveness, fairness, acceptance and giving.
I’ve been a part of that too and we marched together as a family on January 21 in the Women’s March. Jill, my daughter-in-law, is a strong, caring, entrepreneurial woman and a wonderful role model for her daughters. They call her a “She EO." Marching for what we believe in in the rain and cold for hours as a family was pretty powerful!
One of the things that I thought I would have to leave behind in CA 13 years ago was my role as a fitness professional. I had a successful exercise company which employed a few instructors and kept me very busy teaching step, aerobics, and body sculpting classes in the evenings. However, as life often does, it gave me an opportunity in Portland to use this experience in a new way: teaching Silver and Fit and Silver Sneakers exercise classes at a gym in downtown Portland.
I have now been with this group of about 50 people for all these years and we are like a family. As a group they are inspiring and teach me something every time we are together. Many of them are older than I, and they inspire me in so many ways. They are always sending me the latest research to share with others about not only the physical benefits of exercise but the mental ones.
My entrepreneurial daughter-in-law Jill jumped on the bandwagon the minute Oregon legalized marijuana and started an edibles company. Not only that, she opened a licensed cannabis kitchen and rents space to vendors who make and sell marijuana products. The kitchen pays for itself and Jill can bake her goodies to sell.
They are in over 60 dispensaries at this point. Jason, my son, is in the business now too and I am very proud of them. They are risk takers and very hard workers. Now I work one day a week in the Happy Kitchen. I must say I never thought I would have a certificate that says 'Marijuana Worker'- especially at age 73!
D. Larson, ed.