Sunday, November 29, 2015

My turn to post the Best of the Boomers

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is a compilation of the blogs of five Boomers. Our goal in gathering our blogs together in one place is to introduce all our followers to our fellow bloggers.

Meryl Baer 
of Six Decades and Counting is dedicated to never shopping on Black Friday, and usually avoids large stores and shopping centers throughout the year. But a few days before this year’s national event she and her hub ventured inside a Costco store.

Tom Sightings of Sightings Over 60 chose this week to reprise a Thanksgiving piece from four years ago. You might agree that not much seems to have changed, if you go over the fields and through the woods to Thanks for ... Actually More Than We Think. Then if you want to make the comparison to today yourself, read his current post How Safe Are We? Do you see any differences?

Laura Lee Carter of Adventures of the New (and Improved) Old Farts says, "Well, I guess they weren't kidding about this El Nino year, at least not in southern Colorado! We are as snowed in as I've ever been! It snowed so much I almost lost my snow gauge in it!" You can read about her experience about "living in a snow globe"

Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide writes about what to do with holiday plants. Christmas cactuses and poinsettias are plants that are easy to flower again. Jerusalem cherries and Christmas peppers are annuals, so they should be discarded after blooming. The Christmas begonia is almost impossible to grow in the home and also should be discarded when it’s done blooming. Read about it here.

We Boomers all thank you for reading!

What the Bag Lady learned this week

I'm a lifelong learner, I tell myself. Usually when I say that I'm thinking about local classes or workshops, or online courses. You know, the kind I choose and plan for. What I think looks interesting or what I think I need.

Most of this week's learnings came from elsewhere.
  • On Sunday nights I go to a 12-step program and I heard something completely new that cracked me up and made me think.  "Figuring It Out is not one of the Steps." Those of you in 12-step programs will probably laugh, and the rest of you will have no idea what I'm talking about. That's okay! I have remembered that quote several times this week, and it is completely true.
  • On Monday, at my water aerobics class, I confirmed that my shoulder strain, which prevented me from working with weights, has been resolved after three months of weekly massage. I am learning, over and over, that I don't heal as quickly as I used to, and that something that doesn't hurt is a good thing!
  • I had a light dinner with Emma, the clinic administrator of our business. I met her in Tucson and arranged a summer meeting between her and my business partner, who hired her.  Emma is bright, articulate, and perceptive. I am continually impressed with the energy of today's younger workers. It seems like just yesterday that I was raising my kids, and now they're part of this impressive workforce. I'm learning to appreciate generations other than my own.
  • I do fine on my own as lead mediator at small claims court in my county. I was trained and coached over a period of several months to take on the leadership position when I'm in town. On Tuesday it was my responsibility. Before this week I'd been working from a script written by someone else for the introductory remarks in the courtroom and the mediation room. I was able to adapt it to my own style and it worked just fine. I have learned to do this!
  • I've made a new friend named Gail. I've been in a church group with her for over a year, but we connected at a workshop called Hope Alive in an activity where we were facing each other and both of us had tears running down our faces. Gail and I have met for coffee several times since then. I am so grateful for special people who appear in my life. I've learned to look for those appearances.
  • I met with my business partner Lillian on Tuesday afternoon. She and I have different strengths and it has taken us a while to learn how to collaborate so we use and appreciate them all. We acknowledged that to each other this week. She said, "You aren't as critical as you used to be." I said, "And you aren't as defensive." Maybe that's so, or maybe we've just gotten wiser. 
  • My husband Art had a phone appointment with a doctor on Thursday. I've never met this doctor because she's at the VA downtown and Art wants to go there alone. I was surprised that he put the call on speaker so I could participate! The three of us worked out an eating and exercise plan for our time in Tucson to lower his cholesterol and both of our body mass indexes. I've learned to stay out of Art's medical business and now he is letting me in to some of it. That's a good thing.
  • On Thanksgiving, all six of us hung out from 2:30 until the football game ended in the evening. Just relaxing. Humor and excellent food and the art of not interrogating grown offspring James and Peter about their lives made our day special. No scenes, no arguments. Part of the reason was that the elderly "scenemakers" are no longer with us, and part was that the rest of us have learned to control ourselves most of the time. We had an agreement that we would not talk about politics, and I noticed that cellphones had been set aside. Nice, huh?
  • Five of my sister's six chickens have begun laying eggs, and I've had fresh eggs three times this week for breakfast. The shells are harder, the eggs' consistency is different, and the taste is fabulous. Who knew that eggs straight from the hen would be so different than the ones in the grocery store box?
Lifelong learner. Lucky me!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 and 1969: Tales of Two Boys

I returned home this week from a six-day trip to Santa Cruz, California. My Canadian friend Judy and her husband Ken are staying with their grandson Kaz while his father and stepmother and their two children attend a family wedding in the Philippines. Judy and I always have a good time together, so I accepted her invitation to visit with pleasure and anticipation.

We did have our usual fun, laughing and shopping (Judy is a wonderful shopper, and I am always grateful for her help). But one of my lingering memories is around the stories of two boys.

Kaz is nine years old, with the dark hair and eyes of his Japanese mother and the mischievious smile of his father (Judy's son Kent) and grandfather. Nine-year-old boys are a special treat; they're curious, open to meeting new people, and very willing to share their interests. Right now Kaz is into Minecraft, an online game, and Legos, and working on mastery of a boogie board at the beach. He can sometimes beat his grandfather at chess. He's not a picky eater but he definitely has his gustatory preferences.

On Saturday we all went to Capitola Beach. Kaz spent over an hour working on his boogie board skills.

Saturday night we all watched two movies; Kaz and I shared the loveseat, his feet sometimes on my lap. Sunday we played Mexican Train. All in all,  having Kaz around on my visit with Judy was a very special treat. On Tuesday morning, as I stirred in bed before packing to leave for home, I heard Kaz from downstairs. On his way out the door to school, he called out, "Bye, Linda."

On Friday night and the following Monday evening, I had dinner with Aaron. I met Aaron in 1969, when he was nine years old. I was nanny for him and his sisters Nicole and Rebecca for two years. I was a junior and senior at UC Santa Barbara, earning money for a theatre trip to England, and the kids' parents, Marilyn and Joe, were working and going to school. They knew their children needed consistency, and that was my job. I was around for after school and evening. I was the one who fed them dinner, listened to Aaron's jokes and other nine-year-old conversation, hung out while they played games or watched TV, and supervised homework. We went to parks and parades and other outings, sometimes with my boyfriend John, whom I later married. Aaron was a bright, curious kid with a wide streak of gullibility. Two years after I graduated the family moved from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz.

Aaron and his sisters' mom Marilyn died last January. In her last days, Aaron emailed me to tell me. He said, "You were like a second mother to me, so I thought you should know." Aaron was particularly close to his mother, and as I sat at the table across from him last Monday I could see the pain in his eyes. Aaron is 56 now, and a lawyer, and still bright and curious. It was easy for us to talk as adults. I'm ten years older than Aaron, but the ten years between 56 and 66 are much less than the ten between 9 and 19. Still, we were both aware of our very old connection.

It's easy for me to remember what a nine-year-old boy is like. First there was Aaron, all those years ago. Then there were my two boys, Russell and James, and my two stepsons, Peter and Greg, all now in their thirties. And now there is Kaz.

Nine comes easy for me. I'm lucky that way.

Friday, November 13, 2015

My veteran speaks to the D.A.R.

On Tuesday this week, I could have been the lead mediator at small claims court. Or I could have gone to a marketing gathering for our business. Instead, I went to the monthly meeting of the Rainier Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R) in Seattle. My husband Art had been invited to be the luncheon speaker, and I went along as his support as I usually do when he speaks.

Our friend Teresa asked Art to be the luncheon speaker  months ago. She knew he was a Vietnam veteran, and served in the Marine Corps, and Tuesday was the 240th anniversary of the creation of the Marine Corps. She also knew that Art and I had written a book about our 2005 visit to Vietnam.  

D.A.R membership requires documented proof that a woman is descended from a man or woman involved in the Revolutionary War. I have such proof myself, but I have no interest in becoming a member. I'm not much of a joiner and my interests are not in patriotism or politics. The Tuesday luncheon was the first D.A.R event I have ever attended.

That day I recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time in at least five years. I led the group in reciting the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States (there was a card to read it from, but I memorized it in high school and still remember). We then went through a pleasant pasta-and-salad buffet.

The 25 women were about our age. They looked like the kind of women my mother would have liked - well dressed and attractive. I'm more casual about my own appearance - much to my mother's distress, even when she was elderly and I was a grandmother myself. But the few women I talked to before the lunch were friendly.

The last time Art talked about his Vietnam story, he was speaking to a group of veterans. His presentation was intense and tough - perfect for his audience. This time he was talking to women. I had suggested he speak to them as if they were his sisters. He did. He began with, "How many of you have friends or family members who are Vietnam vets?" Most of the women raised their hands. "And how many of them have talked to you about their experience?" Only one hand went up, and the rest of the women shook their heads.

Then Art talked about his experience. He was a radio repairman at Da Nang during the Tet Offensive in 1968, and one day he and a few other non-combat specialists created an undermanned platoon to guard a gate, and they ran into a battalion of North Vietnamese.  That one day affected Art for the rest of his life. In talking to the women, Art went right back to 1968 in his head, and he took the entire audience with him. Not a sound from the women for the 20 minutes he spoke. Just shock and sympathy. When he completed his talk, a few women came up to him, and one approached me to thank me for taking good care of him! I knew Art's adrenaline level was very high and that he would be exhausted within a couple of hours.

We had traveled to Vietnam in 2005 - me for the first time, and Art for the first time since 1968. We were part of a group led by a psychotherapist who specializes in veterans with PTSD. After our return we wrote a book about our experiences: Return to Viet Nam: One Veteran's Journey of Healing. We had brought along a few copies to sell. I made a note to myself to download the app that will allow us to take credit cards.

On the way home I asked Art if he'd just as soon not do these speaking engagements, since it was emotionally difficult. He said, "No. It's important that people know." In our book, he says, "If just one vet, in hearing my story, can get rid of his nightmares, it will be worth it."

Thank you for your service, Art.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A matter of synchronicity

Every once in a while I look at the values I've defined for myself and my life in retirement to see how I'm doing. I list my values in this order: spirituality, health, community, curiosity and purpose. The list morphed in content and sequence at first, but hasn't changed in a couple of years. Before I retired I had no such list, but I've learned that if I'm aligning my life this way, I'm pretty content most of the time.

I looked again recently and discovered I'd been slacking on health, number two on my list. When I wondered why much of my clothing is about seven pounds too small, I realized I'd gotten into the daily habit of (1) one or two mochas; (2) a bowl of tortilla chips from the very large bag on the kitchen counter purchased by a male in the household; AND (3) a bowl of ice cream. Since that very day of realization, I only allow myself one of the above. I'm downsizing gradually!

Otherwise, I'm on track. And I find, somewhat to my surprise (though it shouldn't have been), that the result has been synchronity. Seemingly random things and events come together.

Here are a couple of examples: 

1. I've been processing a personal loss for several months and was finding it hard to move beyond it. I had a conversation over a month ago with a friend about the issue. I saw the same friend last week when we took a walk in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, about 80 miles south of where I live. The loss came up again in conversation. My friend said, "You're still stuck in this loss. It might be a kid issue." You know, one of those very old tapes playing that feels like it's happening right now. Turns out my "kid" was Ten, and she couldn't let go of the loss because she wanted to fix the problem that caused it - which she couldn't.  I get it now, thanks to my friend and my Ten, and the loss has eased.  

The day after my Nisqually walk with my friend, I met another friend for lunch in Seattle. This friend lives in Hawaii and I only see her about once a year. Her father died this year, and though she was present at his passing via Skype, she wished she could have been there, in Chicago, in person. She said she would have liked to climb into his bed and curl up next to him. I asked her how old the kid was in her who wanted that. She said Six! Then she said, "I hadn't thought much about it until earlier this week when I went for a walk with a friend at Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve and the subject came up."

Neither of us had ever been to Nisqually until last week. 

2. I was moved by our September experience with refugees in the Salzberg train station. I thought I might want to get involved with the immigration issue in Tucson, where we live in the winter. Then my church here at home decided to set up a homeless car camp and I will be coordinating the volunteers by email from Tucson. And there's an organization in Tucson, the Kino Border Initiative,  that provides services to Mexican immigrants traveling to be with families in the States. I now see a connection between refugees and the homeless and I think my mediation and communication skills will be a way I can help. 

When I'm open to possibilities, and conversation, and I'm willing, the most amazing things happen. 

When I honor spirituality, health, community, curiosity and purpose, synchronicity shows up.