Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Thank you to all those who have served in the US Military, and to their loved ones. The spouses and their children, the parents, the brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and friends and to all those who have contributed to the well-being of those who dedicate their lives to protect and defend ours. They also serve and stand ready to sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice is death but there are many other sacrifices. Those who must suffer debilitating losses due to injuries sustained in battle. Or those who must suffer the loss of marriages and children due to the stresses of deployment. Or the myriad of stresses of those spouses trying to communicate with a loved one so their long absence is not so disruptive to their lives.

The service person joins the military. So do all of those who love the person. They form a mostly invisible group--not seen too often, nor heard from very often. It is to all these people that I wish to express my thanks. Thank you for your courage and devotion to duty.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Never Too Old!

I have always loved dancing and wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. However it was not destined to be because of health issues. I grew up instead to be a balletomane and an ardent lover of all kinds of dancing.

This morning, the New York Times announced a new blog called "LENS," a visual blog of photographs, videos, and slide shows. Being an amateur photographer, I was delighted. Amateur originally meant "one who loves" and I love to take pictures! The blog for May 17, 2009 was "From the Archive: Steppping Out, Gingerly." It was about a dance troupe called "Steppers" who perform ballet, modern dance, tap and African dance for anyone who are willing to pay for their transportation! They are 20 women, age 59 to 87, who nearly all have a handicap but try to help other people feel good. They were founded by Lois and Frank Smith at the Citizens Care Senior Center in Harlem in 1990.

Bravo! I so admire your attitude and spirit. You know how to grow old with grace and charm making the most of what you have. Bravo!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Star Wars

Luke 3:1-14. Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
"Easter is incarnational. We are to be the life of Christ risen today. Star Wars creator George Lucas spoke at the 2005 Star Wars convention in Indianapolis. On a whim, I went on a wintry weekday expecting to get right in. The line of excited fans stretched six blocks. One couple had driven all night from New York. Many were in full costume. They were caught up in a different, compelling world. Not content merely to see a movie, they wanted to make that vision come alive.

We are like that. God's Easter vision of our world and us risen as a new creation is something we are to live. Incarnating Easter into our daily lives, we are invited to create not an imaginary, parallel universe, but a very real, God-filled world.

If we were as excited about our salvation as fans are about Star Wars, what a force we would be: repudiating violence with peacemaking, vanquishing retribution through reconciliation, conquering hatred with love.

God's salvific, new world is here. We are to live it and make it our own-even as Christ has made us his own. Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Incarnate Easter today. "

From Forward Movement Day by Day

Of course, if you added up the numbers of Christians in the world, Star Wars fans would fade into insignificance. There are more Christians than any other religious group. That isn’t the problem. But the author’s point is well taken. If we could only engender the enthusiasm that some groups show, a sense of immediacy, a sense of urgency, a feeling that what we do makes a difference. In our own lives but to the world as well. We fail to realize that our actions have an impact on the world and that what we do, or don’t do, makes an impact.

Nearly all the major religions have some version of "the golden rule." Do unto others what you would have them do unto to you. A "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" was signed by 143 leaders from different faith traditions at the Parliament of the World's Religions held in 1993. From the Baha'i Faith "Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not" to Confucius "Never impose on others what you would not chhose for yourself" to Muhammad "That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind" to Judaism "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow (The Sage Hillel) to the most recent scientific research that "the Golden Rule may be stated and rooted in terms of neuroscientific and neuroethical principle." (Above can be found on Wikipedia under the Ethic of Reciprocity.)

We often feel insignificant. And as groups of people we feel insignificant. But as some people have come to realize we are all connected and what we do or don't do makes a difference. What we do collectively makes an enormous impact on our environment. So let us make a concerted effort to be conscious and live our lives accordingly.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to be a Good Wife

An excerpt from a 1950's High School Home Economics textbook:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal--on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair, and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day might need a lift too.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and face. If they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him, greet him with a mile and be glad to see him.

Some don'ts. Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he's late for dinner. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day. Make him comfortable. Have him sit back in a comfortable chair or suggest he like down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressures, his need to be home and relax.

THE GOAL: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
I was a senior in high school in 1951. I may have read the above text. If I had I would have thought it was very good. As I read it now, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry! It seems incredible that we believed such drivel. And allowed it to be taught in our schools. Now, almost 60 years later, I cannot imagine that I could ever be so naive!

I was married in 1954, dropping out of my senior year in college because my husband was a lieutenant in the Army and was moving to Ft. Lewis, Washington. I was in my senior year at Oklahoma University and I wanted to be with him. It seemed reasonable and even my parents, who very much wanted their only child to have an education, agreed. We went to Ft. Lewis and I tried to be a good wife--a good Army wife.

I tried. I really tried. I tried to meet all the unreasonable expectations. But, after four children, the vacuum cleaner seemed to be left in the middle of the dining room or wherever I was interrupted. The washer, dryer, and dishwasher (when we could afford to buy them) seemed to run at all times. I don't think I ever suggested that he lie down or arranged his pillow or offered to take his shoes off. I was usually somewhat frazzled by the time he arrived. I was not good at some things but very good at others. I was a very good cook and a very gracious hostess and, I hope, a good Mother. I just never seemed to conquer the clutter!

I could write a treatise in response to this textbook but not on this blog! Suffice it to say that Betty Friedan's book "The Feminine Mystique" was published and slowly things began to change. I became a feminist and went back to school, earning my degree and a Master's degree twenty years later. I marched in the demonstration in Washington, D.C. for passage of the Equal Right's Amendment.

I have come a long way. A very long way. I am amazed at how much has changed. The many opportunities that women have today.

"The battle for women's rights has been largely won." Margaret Thatcher

Thursday, March 12, 2009

As I Grow Old

As I grow old I want to have a face etched with the experiences of my youth, my young adult years, my middle age and the lines of aging. I want my face to reflect all the places I’ve been, all the things I’ve done, all the people I’ve known, all the smiles and tears of a lifetime.

I don’t want to plump my face with botox and erase all the evidence of living. As if I’ve lived in an eternal state of youth, not having known the joys and sorrows of adulthood and the wisdom of age.

I want my hands to reflect the diapers I’ve changed and the cookies I’ve baked and the laundry I’ve done. The hands I’ve held in love and the hands that have reached out to others.

Age is not the end of life, it is the fulfillment of life. And all the signs of aging, some of which are not pleasant, are there to remind me of the life I’ve lived, the people I’ve loved.

I want people to know that I’m 75. I don’t want them to exclaim, “How young you look!” I want them to notice the lines and express that I’m still living my life to the fullest. And I want my history reflected in my face.

Grow old with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in his hand
Who sayeth "a whole I plant,
Youth shows but half;
Trust God; see all nor be afraid."

Robert Browning

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reality TV

“I don’t know how many of you watch the ‘reality’ TV shows,” the priest began her sermon yesterday. The theme of the sermon was “God loves you too much to leave you alone,” based on the scriptures for the second Sunday in Lent.

She envisioned Sarah and Abraham, from the first reading, as contestants on a reality show. At 100 (Abraham) and 90 (Sarah) years of age, God promises them the birth of a child and tells them that their offspring will be as numerous as the stars. Sarah laughs at the very
thought of enjoying pleasure with Abraham again. God tells them to name the child Isaac. He makes a covenant with them, promising that they will be the grandparents of Kings and multitudes.

This is the passage, one of my personal favorites, which led me to use the name of “Sarah” for this blog. It is about a very old woman who gives birth at a very advanced age. “God loves us too much to leave us alone.” There are many ways of “giving birth.” Nearly all endeavors lead to something new coming forth and being “born.”

The sermon went on to other “contestants” and the phrase, repeated several times, that God loves us too much to leave us alone, evoked many thoughts. The first being laughter and that I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted God to get involved! I just want to be left alone to do my thing, which nowadays includes too much TV time and napping. The last time I felt called by God to do something, led to a great disappointment and being told that I was “too old.” I haven’t yet resolved completely my profound sense of loss. Then a year and a half ago I had a small stroke, reminding me that I was not in control.

I may not ever be called to do anything memorable. Perhaps God is calling me to be the best I can be and to do the best I can do in however many years I have remaining. Perhaps God will continue to nudge me and perhaps I will continue to respond, “Who do you think you’re nudging?” But I suspect that Reverend Karen Ann Campbell is right. God loves me too much to leave me alone.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16,
Psalm 22:22-30,
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Falling away is the expression that Diana Athill, author of "Somewhere Towards The End", uses to describe her experience of growing old. She writes "There is not much on record about falling away. Being well advanced in that process...I say to myself, 'Why not have a go at it?' "

I finished reading the book. I cannot hope to emulate it, her experience is hers and mine is mine, her life history and mine are miles apart, her talent for writing far exceeds mine, but perhaps there is some value in sharing what I discover. So my blog will be my attempt at having "a go at it."

Yesterday I was walking through the aisles of my local grocery store. I was dressed very casually thinking I could get away with it since I was wearing a down coat. However it was warm in the store and I had unzipped it. The sweatshirt I was wearing was partially visible. I stopped to open the freezer door when a man diverted my attention by asking me what my sweatshirt said. I was startled but he was quite old and I had seen him earlier, a couple of aisles over, walking slowly with his wife. My sweatshirt announced the latest ad for the Army. He asked me who had served and I told him "my husband, my son and several grandchildren." He beamed and announced that he had "been in the big one." And I replied, "World War II." I told him that my father had fought in Italy until wounded. He then launched into his war story and I listened until his wife had finished her shopping and wanted to be escorted to the next aisle. He was so anxious to recount his experience and have an opportunity to talk to someone who was familiar with his jargon.

I knew why. My experience of spending fifty years on "active duty" as a dependent is still very much with me. I am still the mother of a son and grandmother to a granddaughter and two grandsons and two grandsons-in-law who are serving or have served. Now, I am separated from the life I once knew and I miss it. I miss it and am drawn to it--even by a sweatshirt.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Growing Older By Design

Dr. Maya Angelou, former Poet Laureate of the United States, pens a poem honoring the 50th Anniversary of AARP

When you see me
Sitting quietly like a sack
Left on a shelf
Don't think I need
Your chattering
I'm listening to myself.

At first the seasons arrive
Slowly dragging themselves
Over our wishes for a hasty departure
Ebbing slowly, staying, hovering
Above our lives
Like heavy clouds
Each threatening to remain
Past its appointed time
Giving way, grudgingly
To another year
Which promises to be even
Slower, more tedious

"Wait two months
Until summer"
Two whole months?
Then summer
Will never come
"Wait two months
Until Christmas"
Two whole months?
Then Christmas
Will never come
Childhood lasts a lifetime
Hear it dragging its drum
Across the floor
Then there is a subtle increase

In the march

We welcome the acceleration
We snap our fingersAnd match the tempo,
We are in joint,
This is our time,
Our muscles and bones
Our eyes and skin
Are at last one with
The space we are living in

The heart's steady hum
Quickly changes again
The tempo speeds ahead
Our efforts are vain
To slow down the train
Of life's racing ways
Taking our youth
And shortening our days

They remember our bright plumage
Now thinning and grey
Youth wags its heads
Sadly saying
We have had our day

When you see me walking slowly
And my feet won't find the stair
I will only ask one favor
Don't bring me a rocking chair

The pace has heightened again
And the blood slowsIn our veins
Slackened by age
We may stumble
And fumble and fall
We exchanged our place with time
For it races like light
Down a darkened hall

Please stop
Do not pity me
Please hold your sympathy
Understanding if you've got it
Otherwise I will do without it

When you see me moving slower
Don't study and get it wrong
Tired does not mean lazy
And each good bye is not gone

I am the same person
I was back then
A little less hair
A little less chin
Some less lung
And much less wind
I count myself lucky
I can still breathe in.
Hold, stop.
Don't pity me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

May She Rest in Peace.

A close friend of mine died yesterday evening. She had undergone chemotherapy with good grace and I knew that Jeannie had come home from the hospital to die in the bed she had shared with her husband. Surrounded by their three daughters, she died at peace and with a smile. I suspect that the smile was for Bob who had succumbed to a heart attack 13 years ago. She looked forward to being buried above him at Arlington Cemetery.

She is the first of my close women friends to die. Several male acquaintances have died but Jeannie reminds me that time is of the essence.

I have so many wonderful memories of Jeannie and the times when we were together. I met her in Germany where she was teaching American children who were dependents of American military personnel. She was dating Bob, a Lieutenant who had recently graduated from West Point, a classmate of my husband's. They were married soon after and Chuck and I decorated a caisson (a horse drawn vehicle, usually two wheeled, once used to carry ammunition) for them to ride on to the Officer's Club for the reception. It was replete with wedding flowers and a bottle of champagne on ice! They loved it.

We were stationed together several times, especially in Washington, D.C. Chris and Jim, another classmate of 1954 were there also, and in addition to many memorable parties, we decided to celebrate Mother's Day picnics with our children, which we did for three years. Jeannie and Bob had three girls, Chris and Jim had three sons and two daughters and Chuck and I had two sons and two daughters. Those were happy days.

So many memories flood my mind. Bob, dressed up as a woman at Pam's costume party...being one of Bob's favorite redheads!...Jeannie was always cheerful and had a positive outlook on life. She was a serious thinker. And concerned about issues and causes. Bob adored her. When Chuck died Jeannie and Bob were there. A year later when Bob died I was there. And so were Chris and Jim. After the funeral we went to their beach house and spent a few days while Jeannie cried.

I did not have the opportunity to be near her and see her often but we called each other and talked. It is hard to explain but, when we were together or talked to each other, it was as if we had never been apart.
We were still friends. Always.

May she rest in peace.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"There is not much on record about falling away."

The above quote is from the book "Somewhere Towards the End" that I am currently reading. It is a memoir by Diana Athill including her experience of growing old. She was born in 1917, worked for the BBC during the Second World War, and after that, helped Andre Deutsch establish his publishing house and worked as an editor. She has written four volumes of memoirs and a novel.

She describes one stage of her life: "Of course you have lost youth, you have moved on and stopped wanting what youth wants." I beg to differ! In my experience, our mirrors tell us that we are no longer young but somewhere deep in our conciousness there is a longing for youth and we never stop "wanting what youth wants." It is just that our bodies age and can no longer meet the demands that youth makes!