Tag Archives: babyboomers

Survivor Guilt #1

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Surviving sexual assault brings with it another load for survivors to carry: guilt. People demand to know: “Why didn’t Dr. Ford  come forward right away? Why can she remember some details and not the others.”
I can’t answer for anyone else but me.
I can tell you this: you never forget the fear.
I was 22 and I can still feel my revulsion as his stubby fingers came at me. I was lucky. I was not raped–I was barely touched, but I get a sick feeling to this day when I think about it.

I was teaching at Meany Junior High in Seattle. Someone had been sending me notes for weeks, each getting more suggestive. I ignored them, thinking if I did that it would all go away. The last note demanded that I meet the sender at a coffee shop. I didn’t go, of course. But what if I had? (Interesting, I remember the notes, but I don’t remember if I threw them away. Did I tear them up?)

The next morning before school, my classroom door was flung open so hard that it sounded like a gun shot when it hit the wall. I looked up. This man I considered my mentor came rushing towards my desk, shouting. He grabbed me, still shouting. He accused me of leading him on. Then he tried to kiss me. I struggled to avoid his lips. Luckily I was hardly touched. The bell rang and a student came into the room. Talk about being saved by the bell.

I was not raped physically but I knew if the situation had been different, I might have been. But had I inadvertently been leading him on? Maybe it was my fault.
I didn’t tell anyone for 25 years. It was the Anita Hill hearings that induced me to tell my husband and parents. My mother had said, “Oh, I don’t think that’s true. Why wouldn’t she have said something over all these years.”
I said so quietly that they didn’t hear the first time, “It happened to me and I never said anything.”
I remember some of that morning fifty years ago, but details have faded. Like I said, I remember the fear. I don’t think I had bruises on my arms, but I can’t remember. I wanted to forget it had happened. So I buried it deep.

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Nostalgia Notes

 

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I got nostalgic yesterday for all the previous yesterdays when I could sleep through the night without worrying about was happening on the East Coast. I got nostalgic for the days when I didn’t need to know the names of people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. I got nostalgic for the days when I believed our government was led by men and women with integrity and knowledge of national and international affairs. I wanted to go back to the days when I thought no President would tell a lie.

Then I got just plain nostalgic for that age of innocence when I was growing up. It turned into a Remember When morning and thinking of things in the past.

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Let’s start with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread. Really, they were so delicious and went down so smoothly with a glass of milk. And we thought we were eating something healthy: the peanut butter was protein and the jelly was fruit. I just realized something weird — no one had a peanut allergy back then.

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Sadly, another thing that is probably in my past is prime rib. It used to be my favorite — my mother made a big one every Sunday night and we fought over the crispy fat. Now when I look at this photo, I feel a bit nauseous. Darn! And it tasted so good.

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Embroidery is a craft of the past. Probably a hundred years ago, my grandmother embroidered these napkins made out of flour sacking. My grandparents were immigrants who had nothing when they came to the United States in 1900. But my grandmother had skill and perseverance so she made things beautiful. I’ll never throw them away.

She is still my inspiration. She was the most amazing baker the world has ever seen. She never measured — well, she did use a half of an egg shell occasionally. This photo really captures her spirit.

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Spring is such a hopeful season filled with abundant energy. Winter fights with Spring, creating mischievous weather that has us layering on and off. The other day, as I put my jacket back on after just removing it five minutes before, I heard the distant drone of a propeller in the sky. When I looked up at the single engine plane, it took me back to my childhood days in Seattle. More feelings of nostalgia.

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Then there is the nostalgia for what you once could have worn, but no longer can. Like this gorgeous shoe — boot. I’m drooling as I look at it but I know there’d be no reason for me to even try it on. Too high of a heel for me and it would look ridiculous at the bottom of my babyboomer legs.

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Above is this tee shirt, which is more appropriate for me at my age. I remember getting a plaque with Getting Old is not for Sissies for my mom and dad on their 50th anniversary. Oh, we kids thought it was so funny…and we thought it would never happen to us.

Guess who isn’t laughing now.

 

 

 

Turning Seventy is Sublime

 

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I am in the middle of writing an essay about how wonderful it is to be 70. I started it in January, but got caught up in other things and in writing a memoir piece. So now I’m almost half way to being 71. With luck and time, I will finish the essay before that birthday.

Meanwhile, I’m going to share some thoughts. On my 70th, I was determined to not look or feel my age. It was a lot of work! Now I’m purposefully slowing down—as a matter of fact, I took myself out of the race. I’m not so touchy about people holding a door open for me or asking to help me with my grocery bags. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be the responsible one. I don’t have to try proving that I’m as strong and capable as I once was. I can surrender to the aging. I can admit that I get tired. I can admit that I can’t lift my suitcase. I can admit that a swimsuit is not my best look, but I’ll wear one anyway.

One of the great benefits of aging is that I like being who I am. I say to myself when I’m doing something, “You know, that’s who you are. You’ve always been that way.” And I feel good rather than thinking I should change to conform to somebody else’s ideas. It’s true, for instance, that I rather write than play golf.

 

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I still think of myself as young. For instance, if I’m on a bus or train, I’ll stand up to give my seat to an older person. Only… what’s happening is that sometimes there is no older person. The first time this occurred was last summer when I went to DC to look after my grandson who was interning there. To begin with, that was a joke. Garrett, in reality, looked after me. He set me up with a Metro pass and with Uber. He made sure I was fine when he went to work. He’d call to check on me. He made the dinner reservations and showed me where the washer/dryer was in the building. The day we took the Metro to Capitol Hill, he made sure I got on the train without any trouble. I was standing next to him when a man asked me if I’d like his seat. I smiled and looked around for an older person to take advantage of his offer. Then I realized I was the oldest by at least twenty years. That was a “Yikes” moment!

I’m not denying that aging comes with a lot of loss. We have lost so many dear friends and family to cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Or they are suffering with the effects of their disease. There is a sadness now that really has no time to go away. Then there is the loss of taut skin, height and strong muscles, eyesight and hearing—but let’s not go there right now.

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I want to age gracefully, but I want to have fun too. Cindy Joseph’s make up tips for older woman have been widely distributed on Facebook. Here’s some of her advice around the eyes: “Women older than 50 tend to lose definition in their eyebrows. Just go with that. Don’t recreate the brows you had in your 20s.”

Really? I liked my eyebrows in my twenties, and if I don’t use eyebrow pencil now, I have no definition at all. I also tint whatever eyebrow hairs I have left. True, I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m drawing them on and entirely missing the eyebrow line. That is not attractive. But I figured out the solution to that: getting a stronger magnifying mirror for now and a trusted helper in my nineties.

Joseph also says: “Do not wear any eye shadow at all. …A little bit of mascara is OK.” Sorry, Cindy, but I plan to be wearing eye shadow in my coffin when I’m a 110. I love eye shadow. I’ve loved it since I was 13 and my mother wouldn’t let me wear it. So I’m not giving it up now or ever. I had a friend who got false eyelashes when she was 84. She loved them and they were cute on her! So there!

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest

When does an obsession start? Who really knows, but you may wake up one day and find yourself in the middle of one. It starts slowly, maybe even with a reasonable idea, but then it overtakes you. It happened to me this autumn—I became obsessed with seeing the glory of leaves changing color. This is a story that is enhanced by pictures, some of those enhanced as well, as you will see.

It started in mid-September when we were in Seattle visiting our daughter and grandkids. I took the three-year-old for a walk and we collected leaves that had already fallen.

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Later, when our grandson was playing in the band during their high school football game, I scouted for changing leaves.

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But it was too early for Seattle, which would be glorious by October.

I told myself that it was fine—I was just warming up my skills because we were to leave ten days later for a trip that would begin in Quebec. We’d board a cruise ship in Montreal, traveling on the “Fall Medley Cruise” up the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Seaboard. “Mother Nature’s Paintbrush,” the cruise line’s brochure said. “Imagine a land so transformed by color that even the commonplace becomes extraordinary. A walk through the woods is like stepping into an autumnal kaleidoscope.”

Maybe it was this description, which started me on being a crazy person. I fell for the hype, hook, line and sinker. I expected to draw my curtains in the morning and be presented with the kaleidoscope described. Not to be. Quebec was a jewel: charming and unique. But the trees were green.

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On the train to Montreal, I was encouraged when I saw patches of changing leaves along the tracks. But it turned out that was an anomaly.

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It was chilly and crisp, but the leaves were proudly green.

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I was still hopeful. With the cold temperatures, the leaves had to turn soon, I thought. And we were going way north to Nova Scotia, so that would certainly do the trick, right? Wrong.

IMG_6653Above is what we saw. Below is what we could have seen.

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It was when we were in Maine that I became aware I was obsessed. We’d had a tour guide take us to Kennebunkport from Portland, Maine so we could visit friends and eat at the Clam Shack, which has the best fried clams anywhere in the world. On the way back, I saw some trees along the highway that were crimson. “Stop the car,” I yelled. As I stood on the side of the highway, I saw my traveling companions shooting me questioning looks. The question: Has she gone nuts?

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It wasn’t as if I hadn’t had this happen to me before. I remember being in Boston one year at Halloween. “All a yuz shouda been herah last week,” I was told.

On our return to the West Coast, we stayed a couple days in Seattle. “Finally, “I said to my husband, “we’ll see some autumn color.”A day earlier, maybe. But a storm had blown in and blew the leaves off most of the trees. I know because I took a walk with my camera to find them. An hour later, I returned, with little to show for my effort.

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Finally home, my neighbor made me feel a lot better about all the greenery we’d seen. “One year when we were back there, the leaves were so technicolor, you needed sunglasses,” he said. I’m sure he’s still wondering why I doubled over in laughter.

I did a little research on Fall Foliage, which, BTW, has become big business for the Northeast. Cruise ships disgorge hundreds of Medicare Tourists daily during this period—we were as numerous and pesky as fleas on a barn dog. I had evidence that I wasn’t alone in my quest for florescent foliage. You can even download an APP that will keep you updated as to when the leaves are reaching their peak.

But why is this so unpredictable? New England Fall Foilage Central says “the unpredictable factors that influence the rate at which leaves change colors are rain, the amount of sugar in the leaves, the number of daylight hours and temperatures….The three-day weekend around the Columbus Day holiday is often associated with peak foliage in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, but there are no guarantees.”

Really? Thanks for the heads up!

And by the way, the photo below was taken on October 15!Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 1.30.49 PM

Getting Old is a Lot of Fun

I was in my exercise class this morning when the instructor, a wonderful woman who just turned 56, said, “Yes, we’re doing this shoulder strengthener so we won’t look old!”

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She said it as if being old was a disease we could fight against getting, as if being old was something to be ashamed of.

That stopped me for a moment. I looked around the room. Out of twenty women, I was by far the oldest. (I remember when I used to be the youngest a half a century ago, but it doesn’t seem that long.) Maybe two other women were in their sixties, but most were in their twenties, thirties or forties. Everyone looked young, svelte and strong. (They also had thick, beautiful hair, darn them.) After 3 months of consistently attending the class, I have regained much of the strength I’d lost due to inactivity after surgery and my back injury. I wasn’t having trouble keeping up with the bevy of beauties, but suddenly I felt less than capable. After doing some sit ups, I felt a stabbing pain in my back where my disc bulges between the L4 and L5.

One of my new year resolutions was to be happy with myself at my age. I have been working on that along with the barre class, yoga and Pilates. I think they go hand-in-hand. Being 69 doesn’t mean I can’t stand up straight, which is what I think the instructor actually meant this morning. I take the classes not to look better, which was my motivation when I was younger. Now, I take them so I can feel good. I’ve also been reading John Sarno’s “The Divided Mind” which details how so much of our pain starts in our unconscious emotions and burrows into our muscles. So I don’t think it was a coincidence that my back hurt so much after the “aging is a scourge” reference.

When I went to the surgeon with my knee problem last March, he showed me the results of the MRI. “Torn meniscus,” he said. Then he looked at me. “I mean, what can you expect at your age. That’s what happens when you’re 68. All of you babyboomers just want to keeping going no matter what.”

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At the time, I laughed to myself, thinking of the arrogance of youth. But I realize a year later, that his diagnosis of aging parts has affected me ever since. It’s been in my head whispering that I should be careful, that I am deteriorating, that I’m almost ready for the junk heap. And I started feeling and being weaker. My knee hurt, my back hurt, my neck hurt. “I can’t do this,” became almost a mantra. “I’m old. What do I expect?”

Well, I guess I expect a lot. Because I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m not going to be skate boarding anytime soon, but I’m going to be active. I’m going to do what I want to do—because that’s one of the best benefits of being my age. I don’t have to do anything to prove myself anymore. Getting old is a lot of fun. I know who I am and what I want. Even if my path is blocked by rocks, I’m still going to travel it.

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So there!

 

Another Sadness Report

There is just too much sadness in this world.

Globally, I can’t believe what is happening. The song refrain “In My Own Lifetime” keeps going through my head. In my own lifetime, I never thought I would see such destruction and such heartless acts of savagery. Beheadings? I never thought I would see such prejudice and hatred.(the beating and intimidation of Jews walking to synagogue in Europe). I naively thought that we had progressed as human beings, but I see that I was wrong.

On a personal basis, I am losing too many friends. I just received this email:

I have felt sad this weekend about the loss of our very special friend, Diane.

It made me think about the people who lived in the house with Diane and our happy times at UW, living and laughing together, studying together, creating and performing homecoming skits together, attending parties together, and generally being carefree with great adventures awaiting in our futures. Also about the amazing contributions to our families and communities that we all have made over the last 40 plus years. It is my understanding that Diane also was a dynamic leader in her Chicago community and has many devoted friends and family members, as do all of you.

So I just wanted to send a big hug to each of you in memory of Diane. Continue reading

A Brave New World

I think when I was born there had been a lot of things invented fifty years before and they worked pretty much the same by the time I came around. That probably doesn’t make much sense, but it was a thought that I regurgitated instantly from my head. Here’s where it came from in a convoluted way.

I just saw an ad for a Blue Tooth gadget. (What’s really scary is that I really just saw it—maybe five minutes ago—and have no idea what it was for and where I was on the Web to see it. Ah, this getting older is just sublime.) What struck me was how commonplace the ad was—that we naturally expect that a device only developed at the end of the 20th century would be able to provide us with such service. It made me realize I treat the electronics in my life as if they are a television or a toaster oven. As if they are an appliance to make my life more comfortable—and an appliance that has been tested over time to perform with safety and efficiency. I don’t think that’s the case.

Look at the new iPhone. My husband has always been a gadget guy—we had the first Betamax in the neighborhood—so he bought the new phone. I’m not sure it was ready for purchase. There are kinks that need to be worked out, and what’s with the new plug size? Now we have to buy new charger units and can’t do a cross over. Does Apple thinks I’m a slave to their newest whim? Enough already!

What was wrong with this cable connector?

I really didn’t like the new phone until this past Friday. I was taking a walk in Rancho Mirage, talking to my daughter in Seattle.

“Do you want to Facetime?” she asked.

“How can we do that? I’m taking a walk.”

“We both have the iPhone 5 so we can Facetime from anywhere,” she explained.

Within minutes, I was walking and watching my ten-month-old granddaughter sorting Tupperware in her mother’s kitchen. Even my daughter was blown away.

“Okay, now we’re talking Technology,” she said.

“It’s finally Dick Tracy come to life,” I agreed.

I don’t even pretend to understand the technology that made this miracle happen. I don’t want to know it. I trust that the Apple engineers know what they’re doing—hopefully. And I trust that the product was market ready. Or do I? Remember when microwaves were introduced into our kitchens? I had mine installed up high so we wouldn’t get microwave poisoned. I still think about it sometimes, even though microwaves have been standard for years. And I do wonder about the radiation coming from our phones. I don’t like seeing my kids and grandkids carrying their phones in their pockets.

Wow. Re-reading that, I sound like someone who should be sitting in a rocking chair with an afghan over my knees. Truth be told, I guess I AM a little cautious about these new fangled contraptions….

 

 

 

Age is Just A Number

Getting older. It’s not something baby boomers do gracefully. We, after all, were the generation who wouldn’t trust anyone over 30—let alone 60. As we come up to that magical Medicare age, it’s not only been a shock to many people’s system, but I have seen an attitude of fear—fear that’s it’s all over and that Death, with a CAPITAL D, is lurking on their doorstep.

Last year on his birthday, my husband seriously said that if he’d known he was going to live this long, he’d have taken better care of himself. He had no idea he was quoting Mickey Mantle—in his family, all the men die of heart attacks in their fifties so he figured he would too. But because of modern medicine and living close to Eisenhower Hospital’s ER, he had his heart attack and survived. So he could live to be a hundred.

The Birthday Boy.

A lot of people are doing that—living to a hundred and living quite nicely. I am playing Words With Friends with Marvin who turned 100 last May. Being a former English teacher and a writer, I am good at this game. Marvin is not only a worthy opponent, he’s giving me a run for my money. And he writes me witty messages, too.

Words With Friends game.

His wife, Rose, will be 100 soon. I’m not saying that they don’t have health issues—they do. But they also have all their marbles and still know how to play. Here they are with their daughter, Barbara.

 

My friend Earl’s dad just turned 99. He pays his own bills and balances his checkbook. When asked what the secret was to his longevity, he said, “It’s all about family. And if need anything, I call my wonderful son.” He paused, “And then there are my nine different doctors and about 6000 pills.”

He obviously has a great sense of humor and a great sense of center, as well. I think that’s a clue to living long. My dad was that way too. I remember once admonishing him about eating pastrami when he was 91. He looked up at me from his sandwich and asked, “What, if I eat this, I won’t live to an old age?”

 

A colleague and I taught a memoir writing class to a group of assisted living folks in Seattle last winter. We had no idea who would take the class, but the youngest to show up was 94. You would never have guessed their ages—they looked to be in their eighties, but most were 96 to 98—and excellent writers, too. Getting to share their memories was like history coming to life, and we didn’t need to do much editing.

David’s birth date is February 7, 1916. Does he look 96?

I have a lot of friends bumping up to the end of the sixties and hitting the big 70. They are in a panic. Many feel that a respirator and walker can’t be far off in their future. Their five-year plan is to cross their fingers and hope they’re still alive. Not good. Studies have shown that you are as old as you think you are. If you think that 80 is old—then that’s when you’ll get old. I’m thinking middle 90’s, myself. As I told my kids, count me in when it’s 2050.