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November 2016

Katrina's Hope

So proud of our daughter-in-law.     Below are Katrina’s post-election thoughts.

“How are we going to put hate back in the bottle?” I asked my mother-in-law a few weeks ago.  The presidential campaign had been unprecedented in terms of the nasty, personal attacks, not only on those in the political arena but also war heroes, immigrants, journalists, women, and the list goes on and on.  Those of us who are still drying our tears from the outcome know there will be a lot of serious work to do in the coming years.  But there is one thing we can all do right now.  

Be kind.  

The other day I was in the Costco parking lot, often a scene of raised voices and honking over limited spaces.  But on this day, I witnessed grace.  An older white woman was pushing an overloaded cart, unaware that a large package of toilet paper had fallen off as she struggled toward her car.  Two young women in head scarves called after her and they all laughed as they balanced the large package and helped her on her way. 

When my younger son broke his arm, his big brother (who is more likely to tackle his sibling than hug him) cleaned his room, made his bed, and carefully picked and laid out an outfit for him to wear the next day.  In college, I was on one side of a protest of a very divisive, emotional issue.  There were signs, yelling and high tension on this hot summer day, each group camped out on opposite sides of a road.  The other side started pouring cups of lemonade and passing them out to their supporters.  Then one of them came over and started sharing the drinks with us.  The animosity melted away.  We remained diametrically opposed to each other’s positions, but not to each other.  Kind words and thanks were exchanged.  Then we went back to our sides and picked up our signs.  

We need to love and respect each other even if we don’t love and respect each other’s positions.  Think of the political issue you care the most about and why you feel that way.  It is likely that it comes down to protecting those whom we love.  Although it is difficult to see, chances are those on the opposing side of your position are also motivated by a desire to protect the ones they love.  Disagreeing with one another in a respectful way is okay, in fact, it’s critical that we stand up for what we believe in, protect those who are being bullied, and call out those who sow hate.  But we must act with kindness and respect.  

It’s okay to start small.  So today, let the person in the grocery store with one item go ahead in line.  Stop your car for the mother with her stroller waiting to cross the street.  Kneel down to the level of a child and really listen to what they are saying.  

When my friend Ellen was visiting recently, I was telling her about the neighbor that wasn’t friendly, that supported causes I found abhorrent.  The next day we encountered her in her yard and Ellen gave her a friendly “hello!” and a wave.  I whispered “But that’s the woman!”.  “I know,” she said.  She was just being kind and it disarmed the woman, who smiled and waved back.  Let us all be like Ellen today and in all the days to come.  Be strong, stand up for what you believe in, don’t give up, but be kind.  It’s catching.  

And it’s what our country desperately needs right now.


Grateful Enough?

This is a happy, hectic time in my house. Everyone comes “home” for Thanksgiving. We all eat like crazy and, more important, laugh like crazy.

This November, however, I am having trouble writing notes to put into our family’s Thanksgiving grateful jar. Sure, our life is good and we have much to be thankful for. But this year’s election has torn our country apart more seriously than any I remember. It seems that although we used to feel sad if our candidate didn’t win, we’d pick ourselves up and move on, knowing that our country was still on a firm foundation and that our checks and balances would keep us on a reasonable track. This time, I’m not so sure.

People on both sides sound angry and vindictive, and some of us are frightened. We need to get past this, and it’s not going to be easy. My hope is that, a year from now, I won’t have trouble writing for our grateful jar.

Happy Thanksgiving.

How Did I Do It?

Here comes Thanksgiving and, as always, I can’t wait. I put my first dessert in the freezer a couple of weeks ago. But my still-to-do list is daunting.

On Thursday, I began the day by making my favorite pumpkin bread. It took longer than I remember and produced more bowls, dishes and paraphernalia to wash than ever.

After that, Peter and I drove to our favorite farm store to get the very best vegetables and fruits. After all, Thanksgiving is the harvest holiday. Our next stop was Costco where we loaded the car with huge bags of every imaginable snack for our non-stop-eating grandsons, knowing full well that we will have to buy more during their visit.

I won’t go into how long it took to put everything away.

So here’s my question. How did I do all this when I had a full-time job and two children to take care of? Our Thanksgiving menu hasn’t changed.

I have.

How Cold I Am!

It’s November. That’s bad enough. The hated-by-me early darkness is only slightly offset by the brighter early mornings. But unless I decide to spend November to March in the southern hemisphere, I’m stuck with short days.

That’s not new. What’s new is that I am always cold. When I am out on a November day, I notice that young people are wearing light jackets when I have already liberated my down coat from its summer hide-away. I’ll often grab a fleece from the closet when the sun isn’t warming our house.

In the 1973 oil crisis, we lowered our thermostat to a daytime high of 64 degrees, and kept it there even on the coldest days. Little by little, we’ve inched it up to 70 degrees and now even that doesn’t feel warm enough.

We feel colder as we age because we lose the protective fat layer under our skin. We are plagued with thin-skin.

Perhaps in more ways than one.

Celebrating Aunt Ruth

My mother grew up in Buffalo, New York and her five brothers and sisters never left. So I have visited my family there countless times. When I was a child, my mother and I often spent summers in my Aunt Ruth’s house in Buffalo with my three male cousins and my beloved Uncle Milton.

But Friday’s visit was different because it was the day of Aunt Ruth’s memorial service, and it marked the end of an era.

She had been a much-loved member of the Buffalo community. When she turned 100, the non-profit boards she served on refused to accept her resignation. She passed a driver’s “re-test” with flying colors in her late nineties which allowed her to keep driving her younger friends who were “too old to drive” everywhere. At age 104, you don’t have many peers, but she had so many younger friends that she never lacked visitors or calls as she grew frail.

In his memorial speech, her eldest son, Ken, told of the time she called the summer camp director after she heard that he had announced over the loud speaker that her son needed to move to the “overweight” table, humiliating him in public. The camp director never did that again. “Woe to the person who brought ketchup or mustard to the table in a bottle,” reported Ken because everything had to be just so in her house. He admitted that that person had usually been him.

At 104, she was tired and ready to “go” and decided to refuse food and water. But soon, Ken said, she “got hungry”.

Aunt Ruth was one of a kind—beautiful, gracious, and generous. Now she is gone. I will never stop missing her.

The End of an Endless Campaign

Our endless presidential campaign is over, and even the president-elect was surprised at the outcome. But by 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, I couldn’t listen to another pundit, another prediction, another “too close to call”. So I went to bed.

And on Wednesday morning, everything had changed.

Whatever the outcome was to be, this campaign showed us how clueless those of us on the coasts are about what’s been happening to the people in the heartland. Clueless about the non-college educated workers and farmers and how they have been suffering. Now their voices have been heard.

We are fortunate to live in a democracy and the people have voted. Whether we are pleased with the outcome or not, we accept it because that’s what we do.

A Rose by Any Other Name...

I’ve been thinking about euphemisms. We don’t cut jobs, we downsize. We don’t die, we “buy the farm”. Words matter.

That’s why I am impressed with the names of two new online businesses offering to help us with the end-of-life (another euphemism).

According to The New York Times, there are 2.6 million Americans dying every year. With more of us looking to the Internet for everything, online dying services were bound to happen. So we have “Willing,” a startup company that provides you with wills, healthcare directives and other estate planning documents more quickly and at lower cost than a law firm. A name like “Willing” seems to make it easier to face planning for the day when you will be “pushing up daisies”.

And then there’s the aptly-named “Parting,” an online directory of funeral homes by zipcode, that compares prices and services for the day when Grandma “bites the dust”.

It shouldn’t be long before you can Google “The Last Supper” and be sent to the website of a new end-of-life startup probably to be called...

“Just Desserts”.

Where Are the Diamonds of Yesteryear?

In 1982, I lost the diamond from my engagement ring. We were on our way to Toronto with the kids to begin a train trip across Canada, and probably the diamond fell out during a restroom stop. I was devastated.

After our trip, I had the diamond replaced and the setting changed to hold the diamond more firmly. I went to a traditional jewelry store because I couldn’t find the ring’s original designer.

On Saturday, I was in that store for the first time since 1982. Surprisingly, it had the same owner. His is a fine jewelry store, the kind you don’t see in these days of on-line shopping, so I asked him how things were going. He had a lot to say.

He told me that women don’t wear pins anymore. In fact, people don’t dress up like they used to so there isn’t as much demand for fine jewelry. He said that at the national jewelry buyers’ convention, he is one of the few people not wearing jeans. The fine jewelry business is tough so he and his wife will be working every day between now and Christmas. Because their store is not in a mall, customers have to go out of their way to shop there. It isn’t easy.

On the way home, I thought about our conversation. I thought about all the other things that are different than in 1982. Year by year, things change gradually, but in retrospect, they have changed a lot.

So have we.