Happy Mother’s Day 2014, Mom

My mom and me in late 1952.

My mom and me in late 1952.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I know you are a bit frustrated by a few health issues right now, but I hope you know how much we all admire and love you.

In all these years, as far as I can tell, you’ve never encountered a subject that you don’t want to learn more about. Sometimes when I think about you, I just lean back and marvel at your drive and intellectual capacity. Every time we talk, you tell me about what you’ve learned by working on your computer, sharing at the book club, attending a peace and justice meeting, listening to music at the Bach Festival, or working hard in a committee you serve on at one organization or another. Or maybe I arrive and more plants are in the garden, so I know that you’ve been working out there.

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

Mom, Her Mom, and Me – 1973

Of course these days you tire more easily, but you are learning to pace yourself so you can do the the things you like to do.

Do you have any idea, over the years, just how many people you have registered to vote, all told? Hundreds, I bet. Of course, we all treasure the picture of you and President Obama (well he wasn’t quite the president at that point). But then you were one of the super-volunteers in the Shenandoah Valley, so active in politics and always willing to take on extra jobs. Then last year you were active in the governor’s election, and one day there you were pictured with former President Bill Clinton when he came to campaign for the candidate. Continue reading

Second Wind: A New Book and Tour by Dr. Bill Thomas

second-wind-coverLeave it to Dr. Bill Thomas to write a new book, in this case Second Wind, and then use the book tour, not just to publicize its release by joining radio personalities and attending book signings, but instead to educate in a big way. Dr. Bill, some of his Eden Alternative and Green House Project colleagues, and other friends have undertaken a nationwide educational SecondWind Tour — with stops in 25 cities between the beginning of March and the end of May 2014. He’s using the book and the tour to promote his philosophy — and his beliefs — about aging.

Dr. Thomas’s philosophy is powerful, which is good because he is proclaiming and evangelizing to a large and very powerful demographic — the boomers — a generation that is beginning to age in earnest. A goodly number of us don’t quite know what to think about aging or how to get on with it. Of course we know we are going to age but are definitely uncertain about next steps. Participants at one of Dr. Thomas’s SecondWind Tour events — my husband and I attended the Washington, DC festivities — see and hear quite a bit about aging, gaining some insight, ideas, and tools that stimulate even more thinking. Did I mention that Dr. Bill is a great storyteller?

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Aging With Commitment and Good-Bye Pete Seeger

When we look around at elders, it’s interesting (and a bit awesome) to observe many engaged and committed people leading rich lives for as long as they live — and often despite fairly daunting physical difficulties. I usually think of my parents who use their energy to help others and solve problems in the world, despite sometimes frustrating aging concerns and occasional physical roadblocks. Participating in these activities energizes them. My mother describes it as, “living the Sermon on the Mount.”

Pete Seeger ballads

One of my favorite folk song books.

I’ve been thinking about Pete Seeger, the activist folksinger who died at age 94 about a month ago. An amazing and prolific musician — I’ve sung his songs since I was a baby — he taught us a lot about music and singing and, more importantly, how to sing along with others. Seeger also combined his music with a strong social conscience, using the songs to demonstrate the importance of helping others and improving the world, and he did these things it right up to the end of his life.

Pete — just about everyone I talk with thinks of him as Pete, whether they’ve ever met him or not — also demonstrated how well a determined and engaged person can overcome daunting problems and continue to live a successful life right through the late elderhood years.

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Nelson Mandela: Courage and Leadership in His Elder Years

Photo Credit: p_c_w via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: p_c_w via Compfight cc

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Nelson Mandela over the past several days. Since he died last Friday (December 6, 2013), I’ve considered especially the moral courage he demonstrated during his 95 years as well as his ability to work with and lead others even as he aged into his elder (and elder, elder) years — times when most people think about quitting work.

Two interesting quotes from Bill Keller’s extensive New York Times Nelson Mandela obituary remind me that just like any other elder, he took steps to ensure his stamina and condition, attending to physical challenges of aging — while at the exact time he assumed extraordinary leadership responsibilities.                               Continue reading

Check Out Quartet — The Perfect Movie — for Valentine’s Day

Quartet is the perfect movie to see on Valentine’s Day. When I visit my parents this weekend, I will suggest that we all go and watch, and I can’t wait to see it for a second time.

The movie is about aging musicians, and the main characters are played by highly regarded and accomplished actors in their senior years. The story, about long retired musicians, is wonderfully touching, addressing in an artistic way all sorts of chronic problems and aging issues, including losing the ability to perform to the level they were used to as professional musicians. All of the extras are retired musicians — one man in his nineties — all of whom still love and enjoy their art. Dustin Hoffman, the director is 75. The credits recognize the more prominently featured elder musicians, explaining where and what they did professionally.

I cannot say enough about how good this movie is to watch, and the way it celebrates the elder years. It tackles the frustrating problems of ageism head on. Read this Quartet review in the Boston Globe.

Uncle Sherman on Memorial Day 2012

My Uncle, Sherman Massey – from My Mother’s Collection

It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2012, when we remember men and women who fought and gave their lives, largely to maintain democracy and religious freedom. Each year, I think about my Uncle Sherman, although I think about him lots of other times too, because while he did not die fighting, he made an ultimate sacrifice — losing any quality of life after extreme shell shock suffered in World War II.

These days, as various groups tell people what to believe, how they should worship, who they should and shouldn’t love, and even for whom they should cast a vote, I remember Uncle Sherman, precisely because he went to fight Hitler’s evil world view and the Holocaust. He did this after learning about freedom of religion and persecution of the Jews — in Shelburne Sunday school in Terre Haute, Indiana. He went to war to fight hate.

Sherman had never met anyone of the Jewish faith, but he knew they had a right to live their lives, and were he alive today he would be very puzzled about the many people making hateful comments about Muslims. My uncle was a member of “the greatest generation,” today’s elder-elders who put themselves in grave danger and saw countless friends and family members die in at least one war.               Continue reading