Wishing and Hoping

We know better. Outdoor party plans don’t guarantee sunshine and soft breezes. We can hope for the best, but best be prepared for rain and thunder. We can wish that just this one time, the weather gods will spin the right number so our guests can enjoy walking and talking in the gardens.

Feels like wishing and hoping might be what’s left as what regular people can do about more and more truly large decisions or actions that impact their lives. With masks and vaccinations, many hope to escape sneaky Covid variations.  Powerful men chose to scrape other people from the face of the earth although everyone hoped the threat was just that. Partisan hatred locks decision making amidst the people we elected hoping they might work together. They tie up the executive branch where folks are wishing things would start improving. Then what was once the most solemn of our nation’s institutions spits out a hateful decision on all those who hoped the laws of the land would be upheld or wished for a miracle from the stacked bench.

Sure seems like miracles have followed the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus to fantasy land. Appeals for contributions to protect the environment, protect freedom of speech, protect women’s health, or many other threatened values mostly keep people employed in the gigantic rat race called the great democratic experiment with no guarantee of positive results. 

So many groups stand outside, disenchanted and disenfranchised, hoping for a sunny day in Washington, D.C. when the politicians and policy makers might come out of their buildings, shake off whatever protects them from the stuff normal folks deal with and breathe in some real air. 

I’m wishing they would come live with regular people for a couple of months, sit in a public school classroom for a full day, plan two weeks of meals before grocery shopping on a budget, deal with the endless impersonal bureaucracy everywhere from making a doctor appointment to asking about a bill. That’s just a start. And hope they could walk city streets safely among those tired of disappointment in government and feel the strength and anger of their action. 

Not hoping for daily sunshine and soft breezes or wishing for more than our fair share. Just reminding those who govern that it is at the will of the people who expect some respect for what we hold as truth. 

When it Comes to Your Age, Do You Share?

I’m a few months shy of 65, and yes, I find that nearly impossible to believe—and sometimes difficult to share.

Divulging one’s age is definitely a personal decision. I respect that, and so do most women I know.

My friend Maery, who coincidentally turns 65 today, not only willingly shares her age, she dares people to make a joke or a derogatory comment. 

Others I know are more sensitive about sharing. One reason is because they fear age-related discrimination. That’s the situation of another friend who, unlike me, spent most of her 30s and 40s as a stay-at-home mom focused on her family.

Now, eager to complete her PhD and advance in her career, she recently declined being nominated for the Minnesota 50 Over 50, an AARP Minnesota awards program that honors Minnesotans over the age of 50 who are doing amazing things in one of five categories: arts, business, community, nonprofit and disruptor.

Two other women I know declined to be nominated as well because they, too, didn’t want to call attention their age. One felt doing so would diminish her accomplishments, another thought doing so might jeopardize her job hunt.

The male colleague who asked them if he could nominate them described the experience as awkward and uncomfortable. He went on to say that he would never feel uncomfortable asking a man about his age. And he doubts a man would ever decline being nominated because of his age.  

What do you think? Do you own your age or are you sensitive about revealing it? If so, why? Do you see a difference between how men and women view age and their willingness to talk about it? What can we, individually or as a society, do to help ourselves and others openly claim—and share—our age? 

Share your thoughts. 

In Any Way You Can

“The war. What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people…Our parents are happy to wake up in the morning in bomb shelters—but alive. Our loved ones don’t know if we will be together again. The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence….Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks, on TV. Support us, in any way you can. Any – but not silence. And then peace will come.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Grammy Awards Speech

A hand in its winter glove. Shoes and ankles poking from the earth. Blocks of a modern city reduced to rubble. Couples saying good-bye. Mothers, eyes devoid of emotion, carrying babies and leading tiny children wearing bright snowsuits across miles of empty streets. Old women crying.

Baby Boomers grew up reading about WW II and the Korean conflict because fathers, uncles, or grandfathers would not talk about what their experience. Pictures from the concentration camps and what we were taught was so vivid, I thought Anne Frank was a contemporary. Evening news in the 1960s and 1970s carried pictures of body bags, scorched lands, a young girl running naked through chemical-filled air in Vietnam. While the first wave of Boomer males received draft numbers and one-way tickets to Vietnam, many of their generation took to the streets to demand no more war.

But men in power can’t seem to walk away from using weapons and terror to grab a piece of land, access to a bit more wealth, deny the right to life for people from different nationalities or faith. Their march of destruction and the death of innocent fellow humans screams evil. For the Greatest Generation and the Boomers, today’s television triggers memories of skeletal survivors walking Europe’s burned fields, of staggering death tolls on Pacific islands, a mushroom cloud over Japan, young vets missing limbs. I had not heard the language of genocide until watching interviews with Russian citizens who spoke about the need to wipe Ukraine and its people off the earth. I cannot forget it.

As regular people, we are played by the intellectual powers of all sides. Russia probably claims success for each person frightened by images from their brutality in Ukraine.  Our government probably balances the need to keep Ukraine’s misery in citizens’ minds while controlling fear. No matter who manipulates the message, the Ukrainians own it in their daily fight for freedom. 

Somewhere on a Beach

February 2021 brought the 5th coldest ever 10-day period of weather to the Twin Cities going back to 1873.

Our frigid Minnesota temps were being blasted on the radio.

“Let’s leave for a month next year,” I suggested to Jody.

She was working remotely. What would be the difference if she was managing projects from a home office in Florida? 75+ degrees. Sunshine. Heat. Warmth.

What surprised me is how much I’m enjoying all of it. My heart beats faster. I don’t want to be inside.

The Atlantic Ocean is a 1 ½ mile walk from our AirBnB.

I’m driven to be immersed in the sunshine, heat, and warmth.

Sitting sedentary on the beach listening and watching the fits and starts of the waves, takes all thoughts from my head. Nothing else exists for that moment as the waves rush in.

I stay another moment, and another, and another.

I don’t want to miss a thing.

Five Things I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

The isolation brought on by the pandemic has taken its toll on many of us, me included. As a result, rather than seeing the glass half full as I once did, I became a list maker of tiny gripes: endless emails, bad drivers, unreturned phone calls and year-late healthcare bills topped my list.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long to realize that focusing on the negative wasn’t helpful. So I recruited a “bliss buddy” with whom I began sharing what I was grateful for: the beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers and the compassion of friends made the list often.

So did my sister Karen who, for the past 152 days, has sent me a text each morning to remind me that I am both loved and lovable. Her kind words have become the background music of my days, often uplifting my spirits before I even realize they need it.

Here are four other things I am especially grateful for this Thanksgiving:

  • My aunt Caroline. In February 2020, I wrote my first Word Sisters blog post. It was about my aunt and uncle, both in their 90s. He had recently been hospitalized, she had recently suffered a stroke. While he has since died, she continues to thrive, despite having lost the ability to speak clearly or use the right side of her body. The last of my mother’s siblings, she’s an amazing role model whose light continues to shine bright and who shows me that I can age with gusto despite the challenges I may face.
  • My health and healthcare providers. I’ve taken my physical and mental health for granted my entire life. Then, one day in August 2020, despite routinely walking 10,000 steps a day, I could barely get myself around the block. After an MRI, I was told I needed to have my hip replaced. I opted for physical therapy instead and am now able to walk to my heart’s content once again. I also opted to see a mental health therapist. Her support keeps me grounded in the here and now yet gives me hope that I can—and will—change.
  • My book group. I’ve been a member of my book group going on three decades. During that time, one member was murdered by her husband, another died of cancer. Most of us have lost our parents, all of us are coming to terms with our own aging. Getting together every other month means meaningful conversations with women I trust who know both my good and bad qualities and who offer their unconditional love and support.
  • The ability to say no. I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life, afraid of disappointing others. That sometimes meant staying on committees that drained me, meeting friends for cocktails when I didn’t want to be drinking and driving across town in rush-hour traffic when I wanted to be curled up on the couch. The pandemic lessened the things I was invited to do and made it easier to say no to things that weren’t in line with my priorities.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? Please share.