Monday, September 28, 2009 Launches Blog Action Day 2009; this year it's climate change

Receding Glaciers

I am not sure how climate change fits into my blog about women and retirement, but I am going to try to make a connection on Blog Action Day 2009. Other bloggers out there might also want to participate:

From Launches Blog Action Day 2009; Expanding Team of Bloggers
Hey Changemakers, I am not sure how

We have two exciting announcements to make this week. First, has been asked to take the reins of Blog Action Day, the annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day.

A few weeks ago we asked bloggers everywhere to suggest topics for this year's event, and the overwhelming response was in support of focusing on the gravest threat to world today: climate change.

Blog Action Day itself is on October 15th, and we launched the new site this week at to start accepting sign-ups. We've already received a flood of interest from bloggers around the world, with more than 1,800 blogs with seven million readers across 98 countries registered.

If you have a blog - either personal or professional - click here to find out more information and register your blog now to be part of the largest social change event on the web.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What happens when some good friends are retired and others are not?

Elizabeth Cuorato
What happens when some good friends are retired and others are not? Some are working because they love what they do and can’t think of anything else they would rather do; others would like to slow down, do something else, but are chained to their jobs for economic reasons. My sister sent me a post which made me think about how I talk about my retirement around friends who are still in the work force. Food for thought here:

From Elizabeth:

My dearest friend of over 40 years recently turned 60. We celebrated by spending the day in New York City and seeing the musical West Side Story.

I am fortunate to have two best friends from college, with whom I celebrate birthdays, holidays, and the ups and downs of our lives for over 40 years. They are “family”--a wonderful example of the friendships between women that sustain and enhance us.

We have navigated the developmental stages of life: the narcissism of the twenties, the responsibilities of the 30’s and 40’s, the challenges of the 50’s and now the decade of the 60’s. I now know that we will experience this decade differently. There is a chasm between those of us who are retired and those of us who are not.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am so happy for my dearest of friends. Barb is only two weeks into retirement. I see the bounce in her step, the burdens falling from her shoulders, the endless responsibilities of teaching in the Philadelphia school system a thing of the past.
She is relatively young, as is her husband who also retired from teaching. The world is their oyster. During our tip to NYC for Barb’s birthday celebration, our conversation was often punctuated with words of glee from Barb and Kristi as they described their leisurely days and travel plans . Barb plans to go to Jordan, Israel and Egypt. Kristi has plans set for another trip to Vietnam. Unlike me, they both have been avid, adventuresome travelers. Now it can be done at their leisure, anytime of year.

My retirement envy isn’t so much about the travel but the change in their daily lives. They were eagerly discussing plans for the Bruce Springsteen concert next week, scanning the cultural horizon for plays, movies, and concerts. It all seemed so freeing. It reminded me of my years as a child when the day was meant just for my friends and me. We would go out in the morning in the summer and play all day. Playing all day, what a wonderful concept that seems to describe retirement for my friends.

I am genuinely happy for Barb and Kristi and feel a vicarious thrill from their new lives. But there is another reality when I am with those friends who cannot retire. Sometimes we lament our fate and feel a new separateness from our retired sisters. In the end, we all made our choices early on. I love my career as a therapist in private practice and have the wisdom of a 62 year old woman to know it’s self-defeating to compare ourselves to others. We are all on our own journeys. My hope is to continue to find joy in my work and truly appreciate my health and each moment of my life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Regular folks are talking more about racism and sharing their stories

As a retired person I have a lot of time to read the news, and although I welcomed Jimmy Carter’s forthright statements about race, it’s clear many did not. I’m stunned by some of the responses such as these reported by Politico:

Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, who has represented a conservative, heavily white Texas district for 18 years, said he didn’t believe there was any evidence to support Carter’s assertion that racial factors had motivated Wilson.
“I just don’t want a divisive dialogue on race to become a battering ram of division for our country,” he said.
Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis agreed. “It’s not a productive or healthy conversation,” he said.

Read more: here

No evidence?? Not a healthy conversation?? Sure I am worried that focus on the racism of right wing extremists might fuel opposition to Obama, but enabling those who are in denial is what’s really unhealthy.

I do think a lot of regular folks are talking more and sharing feelings and stories on a personal level.

I'd like to share the story I received from my friend and NOW sister, Jocelyn Morris about her experiences:

My Story:

I have worked as a civilian for 23 years for the U.S. Army. My current
position is a combat Developer in the Maneuver Support Battle Lab doing
limited and other types of experiments on new equipment and concepts
before material solutions are developed. We have 23 employees in our
department. There are only 2 Black Females and no other minorities.

Yesterday, is typical in that most meetings I attend I am the only Black
and only Woman in the meeting. Yesterday was a little different because
there were 2 other women in attendance. However, I was the only Black
and no other minorities were in attendance.

We were doing an update on our programs to the Commanding General and
other schools and directorate leadership. During the briefing, a lower
ranking Soldier comes into the meeting with a mug of something to drink
to give the General. When I told my husband about it he said maybe he
is the General's driver and assistant. My comment was it was a
continuation of the Slave Plantation mentality to have a Black Man
(Soldier) serving/waiting on a White Man (General). Don't they see or
get it at all? I can't remember a time when I have seen this
relationship any different. Racism at its finest!

Is it because I am Black, that automatically when I enter a room, I
notice whether I am the only minority there? Do Whites notice the lack
of minorities in the setting they are in (Work, social, sports, etc.)?
The "Old Boys Network (White and male) is slowly being infiltrated by
women (One at a time mostly), because organizations like NOW are out
there fighting a daily battle for Equality for Women and other
Minorities. We should not let these incidences of racism go

My husband said I should contact our new Black General (One star pinned
on 1 Sep 09) and see if he has a White Driver/Assistant). I might just
do that (Smiles)!!!

Yours in Global Sisterhood,

Jocelyn P. Morris

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thank you Jimmy Carter!

Thank you Jimmy Carter! Finally one of our political leaders has spoken out against the racism underlying right-wing extremists’ opposition to health care reform.

I believe that a relatively small number of people are responsible, but their influence is magnified by media coverage of their attacks on President Obama. The extremists gain legitimacy when leaders of our society appear reluctant to condemn implicit and at times frighteningly explicit racism.

Although journalists (e.g. Maureen Dowd, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Joan Walsh) have begun to speak out forcefully, for the most part our elected officials have been silent.

Let’s hope Jimmy Carter's example encourages other leaders to speak out.

One of the advantages of being retired is that I have a lot more time to write letters to the editor and to elected officials urging them to speak out. My NOW sisters in Southeastern PA joined with me to write a letter to local newspapers posted at

It’s time for fair-minded citizens to make their voices heard.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

By a bizarre coincidence the night before Sept. 11 2001, my husband and I were talking about what safe, secure lives we led compared to our parents who experienced the depression, World War II and the horror of the holocaust.

The very next day that sense of security was shattered. As we drove home soon after the attack (the College where we both taught was immediately closed), my husband said, “The worst thing about this is what our government is going to do in response.” Minutes after the attack he was already focused on the erosion of civil liberties he saw coming in the aftermath.

I was focused on my fears of further attacks. It took me a while to get over that sense of foreboding that another attack was in the works.

But my husband was focused on the real problem. It turned out to be just as bad as he predicted—the war in Iraq, Guantanamo, torture etc. etc.

The tragic loss of life on 9/11 became justification for a far greater loss of life in Iraq.

With the Obama administration, we are slowly (much too slowly) beginning to undo the damage we inflicted on ourselves in response to September 11.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

There are a lot of seniors out there who support health care reform!

The Raging Grannies call for a health care plan for the nation that would expand Medicare to all.

I’ve been reading about all these seniors opposed to heath care reform but it sure doesn't comport with my experience. All the seniors I know are supporters of universal health care with a robust public option. Many would rather have single payer, but see that as a battle for another day. They are disgusted with the Republicans’ cynical ploys and scare tactics aimed at seniors.

The seniors I know are concerned about our children’s and grand-children’s access to health care, not just our own. Most of us are far more worried about a painful prolongation of our lives, about becoming a burden to our families than we are about someone pulling the plug.

At a local town hall meeting and at arecent Health Care for All demonstration I attended, seniors were well represented among the supporters of reform. I live in Philadephia, one of the bluest patches of what is now considered the reliably blue state of Pennsylvania. My Mt. Airy neighborhood is deepest indigo blue, and granted this kind of skews my perspective.

So I acknowledge the Philly bias, but still question whether the majority of my age cohort is really as selfish as the press would have us believe. In all these accounts of frightened seniors, there is a theme which tends to recur. There are seniors standing up to the Republican disinformation machine. From a recent NPR report:

At high noon on one of the hottest days of the summer, a small group of senior citizens sweated it out in front of state GOP headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., asking the Republican Party to stop using what they called "scare tactics" to turn senior citizens against overhauling the health care system. It could be the start of a silver backlash against what some say is a misinformation campaign about health care reform.

My hope lies with one of the seniors quoted in report:

Senior citizen Betty Zimmerman says she's trying to fight back. She spends a lot of time talking — to friends, neighbors, anyone who'll listen to her — about what is and is not in the health care proposals.
"You know the word goes from one to another," she says. "As senior citizens, those of us that are active just need to tell the people what's going on."

Read the full NPR report

This may very well be happening. Embedded in the reports of anxious seniors, I’ve been finding exchanges like the following:

Those Medicare cuts bothered some seniors at the Greenspring Retirement Community, where Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly recently held his town hall meeting.
"They're going to take it away from Medicare," Florence Arden, 86, said after the lively but civil meeting.
She said Medicare is at risk because officials want to "cut down on all the programs ... and spread it around."
"No, it isn't,"disagreed her friend and ballroom dancing companion Yvonne Fisher, 85.
"Yes, it is," Arden said.
"I think a lot of lousy myths are going around," Fisher said.

Read the full account

Thanks, Yvonne Fisher and Betty Zimmerman, for the work you’re doing. We seniors who support universal health care need to make our voices heard.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm inspired to do some real traveling again!

Reading my friend Barbara’s account of her recent trip to South Africa has inspired me to think about doing some real traveling again.

From my friend Barbara Roth, a dedicated, award winning teacher, who has just retired from an exhausting job in the Philadelphia public school system:

On my first trip abroad 35+ years ago, the contents of my backpack weighed only 15 pounds and I didn’t even pack an aspirin tablet. Now, newly retired and on a recent trip to South Africa, I took 2 suitcases half of which were filled with precautionary pharmaceuticals and enough fiber to float the Titanic. How times have changed!

I too have shared Karen’s feelings about long distance travel - the plane hassles only continue to get more random and crazier (like landing in Dakar at 2 am & having to sit in your seat with all your overhead baggage on your lap while “they” conduct a USA required search of overhead bins & seats). This all gets harder to deal with as we age along with the jet lag which now requires “daze” to recover from.

However, I’ve always thought the pluses of travel outweigh the inevitable trials. Travel makes me feel energized which is even more important in “the next stage”. Prior to a trip, I have something to look forward to and plan for and afterwards new memories for my old age.

When I went to Europe in ’71, it was with a copy of Frommers’ “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” and a splurge was a gelato. So, another benefit for older travel is being able to sit down in a real restaurant with actual tablecloths and good wine and not have to worry that I can’t afford to get home.

Travel also broadens my world. During apartheid in South Africa, I was simply living my life, only marginally aware of Mandela and boycotts. I had read “Kaffir Boy”, seen “Master Harold and the Boys” and watched the nightly news but it was not until I was there that I had a better sense of how devastating and all pervasive the policy was.

It was also amazing to observe on a tourist level a country trying to heal itself and the incongruity of my TV images of Soweto then and how it is today. In Capetown we had a ‘coloured’ or mixed race cabdriver relating horrid stories of the day to day reality of apartheid. The only problem was that he kept taking both hands off the steering wheel to emphasize his points! Travel places a human face on my world.

One of the best things travel does for me is that it puts me in the now in ‘yogaspeak’. When I’m away, I don’t make lists, think about the weeds growing or worry about the future and things I can’t control. I also realize that the best part of my trip is coming home and appreciating all the little pieces of my everyday life even the weeds.

My recent journey was also different from my first foreign adventure on another level. On my initial trip, I went with a girlfriend from college and on this, I traveled with my 30 year old daughter who shares my passion for travel, an experience I wouldn’t trade for my youth!