Archive for the ‘Baby Boomers’ Category
Ore Docks Two Harbors MN, June 2016
For a dozen years now, my husband and I have talked about where we’re going to live upon retirement. Duluth has figured prominently in the discussion. We went as far as buying a five-acre parcel of land in Two Harbors, 22 miles up the Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth. It was a decision based on keeping our options open. That land is ours, and we can build on it if we choose. If we don’t choose to do that, we can hang onto it or sell it.
Over the last year or two, I’ve become quite vocal about not wanting to live in Two Harbors. It’s a town of about 3,700 people. There are some shops and a few restaurants, a grocery store, a hardware store of the “general store” variety. There is a very small hospital. It’s within a half-hour’s drive of Duluth, which was my firm requirement when considering a healthcare emergency involving two people of retirement age. Two major medical centers are in downtown Duluth. However, I can see the writing on the wall that I would be spending a fair amount of time in Duluth: shopping, participating in activities with the Unitarian Universalist congregation, volunteering with wildlife rescue and humane societies, taking advantage of the many festivals and other entertainment opportunities. I don’t want to spend my time driving back and forth from Two Harbors to Duluth. I want to be there.
We’ve begun to explore that option now. I’ve found an area of Duluth that I really like, the Woodland neighborhood, which is near to the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the College of Saint Scholastica. If one gets out on the edge of that neighborhood, he’s in a less developed, rural-like setting but still only a few miles from the hub of the activity. It’s got a good feel to it, combining the natural setting I love, the peace and quiet, and the close association with wildlife while still being very convenient to all the small city amenities. (Duluth is a city of 86,000. That’s the same as the population of the largest Twin Cities’ suburb of Bloomington where the Mall of America is located. The total population of the Twin Cities metro area is approaching four million people.)
Change is hard for me, though. Moving in particular is very hard. We don’t do it very often! We spent sixteen-and-a-half years in our home in South Minneapolis. We now have been in our current first-ring suburban home for twenty-one years. The move from South Minneapolis to Maplewood was very difficult on me emotionally and I struggled with depression. I’m not looking forward to going through that again.
My husband recently turned the reins of this proposed move over to me with my emotional well-being in mind. He said, “You’re driving this decision. I want you to be happy.” I’m grateful for this. Truth of the matter is that there is part of me that doesn’t want to leave the metro area. This has been my home for 40 years now, and a fine home it’s been.
We ARE moving from this home only six miles from downtown St. Paul, even though my husband said that staying here is certainly an option on the table. I’m good with the option of moving. We’re going to let some other family live in this bedroom community of people who work for 3M, Ecolab, the State of Minnesota, Wells Fargo, and other corporations nearby. We’d also like to build a home, our dream home. It would be a single-level home built with ADA-assessible doorways and bathrooms so that we can stay there as long as possible into our geriatric years. If we stayed in the Twin Cities area, though, where do we go from here?
Several of my biggest losses if we moved are my healthcare team (my primary care doc and
Downtown St. Paul MN on the Mississippi River
my behavioral health provider), my cat-specialty veterinary clinic with vets and staff I really like, and my professional cat sitter who is top notch. We’ve got a couple of close friends here that I’d hate to move away from. With those factors in mind, I’ve been exploring the east side of the Mississippi River around Cottage Grove, Newport, Saint Paul Park, Afton, outlying areas of Woodbury. Of course, if we get too far out to avoid being in the middle of a current or proposed surburban development, then we’re talking driving a half-hour to get anywhere! We’ve lost the convenience of having things close by and easily assessible.
This past week, I’ve been back to liking the sound of Duluth. It’s a calmer, quieter environment. The suburbs aren’t encroaching on the available land at the edges of the city. If we buy a secluded property, it’s going to stay a secluded location. Everything we need is there on a smaller scale, and the reality is, who needs a hundred choices when five is more than adequate? It keeps life simple. Simple is good. It’s sounding better all the time. As much as I hate to leave Dr. Stiffman’s care, I could find an adequate primary care physician in Duluth. I could even keep my behavioral health team here in the Twin Cities because I’m low maintenance most of the time and could schedule some trips here periodically to check in. I would need to replace my vet clinic and my cat sitter, but there has got to be some suitable options there, although no one can really replace Parkview Cat Clinic, the notorious “Dr. Grant” Gugisberg, and “Auntie Lisa,” the cat nanny. Replacing friends? No, that can’t be done, but we can visit. Our one close friend in particular was born and raised in northern Minnesota (as my husband was), lived in Duluth years ago, and loves it there. There would be some driving back and forth, but we could all manage it.
This decision is nudging towards the forefront now, no longer something that may occur five or ten years from now. My husband retired after thirty years of service with his company. He’s enjoyed the retired life for four months now. I’m still working for the State of Minnesota but not for much longer. He seemed to be enjoying retirement so much that upon his encouragement, I told my supervisor two months ago that my last day would be October 4. Three months from now I’ll join the ranks of the retired folk. Next month, around the time of my 61st birthday, I’ll collect all my documents and get my application for retirement benefits turned in to Human Resources. After forty years in the workforce, that phase of my life is coming to an end. It feel strange. (I’ll get used to it!)
I’m restless and impatient right now. I’d like to know where I’m ultimately going to land with this decision. It’s going to need to simmer for now, though. Rushing it is not a good plan.
First world decisions. So many people don’t have these choices. How fortunate I am!
I would like to wish a long-ago friend of mine a happy 60th birthday today, even though she will never see this. She and I became friends in 7th grade when she became a student at St. Mary Grade School, a school that taught grades 1-8. At that time, public schools ended their elementary edcation at grade 6, and students went to “junior high” for grades 7 through 9. Typical of that era in the 1960s, students went to the public schools in their district. There was no crossing of district lines then as there is now. Depending on the socioeconomic status of the district, some schools were safer and better than others. St. Mary Grade School acquired a number of new students at the beginning of 7th grade, all of them female and all of them African-American. Their parents didn’t want them attending the public junior highs in their neighborhoods.
Kim and I became very good friends, and as the friendship blossomed, we wanted to do things that were typical of young teenagers. We wanted to hang out at each other’s houses, have an occasional sleep-over, that kind of innocent stuff. I thought nothing of bringing up the suggestion to my mom for her okay, not even entertaining the thought that she would deny the request.
She said no. I was shocked. I didn’t understand what the problem was. Kim was a quiet girl and got very good grades in school. She wasn’t a troublemaker. There was nothing about her not to like! I wanted an explanation. The explanation I received was that she was “colored.” It wasn’t appropriate to have close relationship with “colored people.” I could be friends with her, but it was not right that she spend time in our home, have meals with us, spend the night.
I was incredulous. I had no idea how a situation like this could possibly exist! I was living in a home with two bigots, and I was angry about it.
I thought it might resolve with some time and patience, but it didn’t. Kim said to me one day that her grandparents felt we were getting too close and needed to back off from our friendship. (She and her mother, a divorced woman for many years, lived with her mother’s parents.) They felt that she was becoming too “white.” I was as dismayed and shocked with their attitude as I was with that of my own parents.
Kim and I remained friends for several more years, but the friendship never really grew much after the initial obstacles. I could never forget the hurt and disillusionment of finding out how harsh and unfair the world could be to two teens who went into a friendship colorblind to what lay ahead.
I try to understand what my parents and her grandparents were feeling. Desegregation of the public schools had only occurred in 1954, the year before Kim and I were born. The incident of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a white person after the white section was filled occurred in December 1955. Even though the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, granting African American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” was ratified on February 3, 1870, blacks were still excluded from voting. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote. 1965, people! I was ten-years-old before our government said loudly and clearly enough that that shit has got to stop! Racial tensions and civil rights demonstrations were frequent in the 1960s, and the March on Washington in 1963 was huge, involving 250,000 people.
My parents were born in 1916 and 1919. Kim’s grandparents were born earlier in the century. Black people and white people did not mingle socially. It was the way it was. In the 1960s when Kim and I met, the concept of close relationships between the races was still very foreign and unsettling to many. We were caught in those turbulent times.
I know where Kim lives and where she has her pediatric practice. I’ve sent holiday cards. We exchanged a couple of brief sentences on Classmates.com some years back. I came away from those encounters feeling that she was too busy to pick up a relationship from decades ago. The time had passed, at least for her, to follow that path. I felt sorrow over that. I think we would have had a lot to learn from each other, a lot to share.
Happy birthday, KIm, and many, many more!
Forty-one years ago, Dale and I were married at the Douglas County courthouse in Superior, Wisconsin. Interesting story, this. Neither one of us were from Wisconsin. We were both living in Akron, Ohio at the time, my hometown, and he was from Hibbing, Minnesota. How did we end up on the first day of summer in a Superior, Wisconsin courtroom, getting married in 1973?
We were of the “hippie generation,” rather anti-establishment and questioning the need for a lot of rules and regulations in our lives. We were living together without the benefit of the license, but had every intention of making it legal when the time was right. For me, the time was right when I could get married without parental consent. I was young — five years younger than my fiance. We got engaged two months before my 17th birthday. I was engaged my entire senior year of high school. The legal age to get married in Ohio without parental consent was 21. However, it was possible to cross state lines and get married in a neighboring state where the age to get married without consent was lower. Maryland was such a state, and our plan was to take a couple of close friends with us to act as our witnesses sometime after my 18th birthday, date to be determined. We both agreed that Mike Willett and Margaret Myers (now also married for 40 years!) filled that bill very well. Those were the plans, such as they were.
Dale’s mom heard of these plans in the spring before his college graduation and my high school graduation. She had a meltdown. They were planning to come to Akron, Ohio for their son’s college graduation from the University of Akron in June. Finances were tight. She felt that they couldn’t make a second trip anytime soon, and by golly, her son wasn’t getting married without her being there. Our plans began to change.
Dale and I were going to return to Minnesota after his college graduation so that he could spend a couple of weeks at home before he started his first post-college engineering job at General Tire & Rubber in Akron on July 1. Dale’s mom suggested that we get married in Hibbing during those weeks that we were there in June. Okay, fine. Only problem was that Dale’s mother discovered that Minnesota wouldn’t marry us because I was an out-of-state minor. Even with parental consent, Minnesota wouldn’t marry us. On to the next idea….
Wisconsin, however, has been known to do things that Minnesota won’t do. Wisconsin would marry us, and it’s only an hour’s drive to Wisconsin from Hibbing. All I needed was the parental consent. I didn’t want to get married with parental consent — it was a pride thing for me — but I agreed that we’d get married in Wisconsin in June. Dale’s parents picked up the consent form in Superior on their way to Ohio for Dale’s graduation, and then we spent a frantic evening trying to get the damn thing notarized. My dad had a very limited window of availability to sign this form in front of a notary. He was a long-distance trucker and had to get on the road. From the time that Dale’s parents arrived with the form from Wisconsin, we had a few hours to accomplish this, and it was already late into the afternoon “supper hour.” It was a hassle. I found myself wishing I had stuck to my guns and said “no parental consent, Maryland in the fall.” But we got ‘er done.
Once in Minnesota a couple of days after Dale’s graduation, we made the drive to Superior, Wisconsin and applied for our marriage license. When the white-haired lady at the application desk rolled the form into the typewriter and asked Dale was his occupation was, he replied, “Engineer.” She wanted to know what railroad he worked for! We still laugh at that. We got tested for syphilis and told to come back after the five-day waiting period. We made an appointment at the courthouse for a judge to do the deed on the afternoon of Thursday, June 21.
On that day, Dale’s parents, his sister and brother-in-law, Sharon and Roy (our witnesses) and his younger sister, Joan, all took off for the Twin Ports. We had lunch at an interesting place called Somebody’s House, a restaurant in Duluth that served about 50 kinds of hamburgers. We then crossed the border over into Superior (the other half of the “Twin Ports”) and congregated at the courthouse. In ten minutes, it was done. Dale’s mother didn’t even have time to drag her tissues out of her purse and have a good cry. It was a cool rainy afternoon as we left the courthouse and climbed into our 1966 VW Beetle. We headed north towards Canada for a wedding night away from Hibbing, spending the night in Thunder Bay, Ontario at The Fort Motel, which we found was right on the railroad tracks. I was watching a train go by at 3:00 that morning. The VW Beetle broke down on the way back to Hibbing. Broken throttle cable which Dale “fixed” using wire from a hardware store.
Here we are, 41 years later, a happily married couple from some very humble beginnings.
St. Vincent was one of the largest Catholic high schools in Akron, Ohio during my childhood. Their theme was Irish. Their colors were green and white. Their sports teams were called The Fighting Irish. (They obviously were a Notre Dame wannabe sort of school.) Their alma mater was sung to the tune of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and it went like this:
Atop a hill in Akron
proudly wave the green and white.
St. V’s banner shouts her glory,
you can see it from a height.
Ideals of highest meddle,
spirit grand and sound and true,
as we praise our Alma Mater,
sure she’s finest of all schools.
The Archdiocese of Cleveland fell upon hard financial times in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and in order to keep Catholic high school education alive in the environment of inner city Akron, a merger was proposed and implemented between two of the inner city Catholic high schools: St. Vincent and St. Mary. This merger officially took place at the start of the 1972 school year when I was a senior. In May of 1973, the newly merged St. Vincent-St. Mary High School graduated its first class of approximately 220 students. About 25 of these were from the former St. Mary High School, an all-girl high school at the time who was closely affiliated with Archbishop Hoban High, the all-male high school who opened its doors in Akron in 1953.
Catholic families sent their teenaged girls to St. Mary’s and their boys to Hoban. St. Mary’s girls were Hoban’s sports teams’ cheerleaders. St. Mary’s girls dated Hoban boys. There was a fairly strong loyalty there. The St. Mary’s girls felt anger and betrayal that they were made to support the St. Vincent sports teams after the merger, a school that had been a former heavy rival in the athletic arena. In fact, the former St. Mary’s cheerleaders were told at the start of our senior year that they could no longer cheer for Hoban, although I believe that this created so much turmoil that the administration finally dropped the issue and let the existing St. Mary’s cheerleaders support their Hoban teams. After all, the controversy was going to go by the wayside after those former St. Mary’s students graduated and moved on.
A close friend of mine went on to the merged St. Vincent-St. Mary High School with me in 1972 and demonstrated her distate for the merger situation by penning the following parody of St. Vincent’s alma mater:
Atop a hill in Akron,
there’s a sight no one should see.
It’s a mental institution and they
call the dump St. V.
Incompetence and boredom,
football jocks and Norman, too,
make St. V a house of bedlam
and a glorified downtown zoo.
I had to search and search to find the original words to the St. Vincent alma mater (found them in a scrapbook in the closet that dates back to those days) but I immediately memorized the parody and have never forgotten it. Thank you, Mary Ann Herkimer, our 1973 class validictorian, for the satire, dry humor, and companionship through that challenging time!
“I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL! MY GENERATION GREW UP RECITING THIS EVERY MORNING IN SCHOOL WITH MY HAND ON MY HEART. THEY NO LONGER DO THAT FOR FEAR OF OFFENDING SOMEONE! LET’S SEE HOW MANY AMERICANS WILL RE-POST THIS AND NOT CARE ABOUT OFFENDING SOMEONE.”
I’ve been seeing this go around on Facebook, as it does from time to time. As a Baby Boomer child, I stood in a classroom every morning, placed my hand over my heart, and recited these words to the U.S. flag in the corner of the classroom. We all did it. To not do it would have caused disciplinary action, I’m sure, if any of us had been gutsy enough to refuse to do it.
But what if a person doesn’t go along with some part of this creed, whether it be the part about God (some of us don’t believe in monotheism), or the parts about this country offering liberty and justice for all, which some folks know it doesn’t? If a student were to say, “I’m not going to recite that,” and opt out of participation, there would be ridicule and bullying by other classmates and life would be hell for that student. That certainly makes a hypocrisy out of the words “liberty…for all,” doesn’t it?
The solution was to stop pressuring students to do this. It seems like the only sensible option when “liberty for all” is at stake, when it comes to upholding what those words really mean. To do anything else suggests that a student is accepted only when he or she conforms to the ideals set force by the majority, and that is the antithesis of “liberty and justice for all.”
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It is my birthday today. Somehow, I’ve arrived at the “double nickel”. Age 55. I spend way too much time thinking about how many years have gone by and what do I have to show for them, etc. I spend a lot of time thinking about what the aging years will have in store and who will sit me out in that snowbank during temperatures of 25-below if I develop Alzheimer’s Disease and become a burden to myself, my loved ones, and society. I need to quit thinking about the numbers and take the days as they come. However, this philosophy, should I have any future success in adhering to it, will NOT prevent me from taking advantage of those Senior Citizen discounts that begin at some establishments at age 55. I’m all for that!
In my last post, I said that avoidance of deep water which is over my head is my major brush with a phobia. The topic came about because recently I have taken up motorcycle riding, something I’ve never done before. My husband owned a Honda motorcycle when he was 16 and loved it. Now, at the age of 60, he bought a 300 cc Sym Citycom scooter and has started to ride again. He wanted me to join him.
One evening, a couple of weeks after he bought the scooter in April (his 60th birthday present from me), we went out to a school parking lot so that I could take my maiden ride on the scooter. He rode the scooter there and I followed in the car. We positioned the scooter in the parking lot, and he showed me where all the controls were. There is no clutch on this kind of scooter. There are two hand brakes, one on each handlebar, and a throttle on the right grip. The engine is fuel-injected.
The scooter was tall for me. I couldn’t touch the ground without leaning the scooter to the side. I could not sit on the seat, nice and balanced, with my feet nearly flat on the ground on either side, like I should have been able to if the scooter fit me properly. Did this deter us? Stupidly, no. I thought that I could kind of hop up on the seat, give it some gas, and get my balance once the machine started to move. I tried it. Guess what happened? The scooter took off like a bat out of hell with me on it. I don’t know how fast I was going. It seemed VERY fast. I thought I was squeezing hard on the brakes at that point, but the scooter was not slowing down and I was aimed directly at the curb at the end of the parking lot. The scooter jumped the curb. I went flying off the scooter and the scooter went in the opposite direction, crashing onto its side. Luckily, I and the scooter parted ways before I reached Valley Creek Road down the embankment, and what I landed on was grass and not pavement. Nonetheless, that is the hardest I’ve ever fallen in my life. It was like being thrown off a galloping horse. I landed on my side, taking the brunt of the fall on my ribcage close to the sternum, just under my left breast. With the pain and muscle spasms I continued to have over the course of the next several weeks, I feel reasonably sure that I cracked a rib. It’s three months later as of the writing of this, and I’m still a bit tender in that spot just to the left of my sternum.
There was a large part of me that wanted to say, “The hell with it. I’m never doing this again!” I went to bed that night, shaken and bruised and really hurting a lot. As I was settling down for the night with a handful of Advil and the heating pad, I realized that I never did have to do that particular thing again. I could make some better choices. I could ride something that fit me. I could learn how to do it. I could become a competent rider if I wanted to without necessarily ever injuring myself again. I decided that I wasn’t going to get phobic about the damn machine. I was going to take that motorcycle training course that Dale and I were signed up for in mid-May and see how it went.
The class in mid-May was grueling, and my ribs still hurt. It was two full days of training, from 8:00 am until after 5:00 pm both Saturday and Sunday. It was hot, well up into the 80s, and the instructor pushed us hard. We went from 8:00 until 2:00 before breaking for lunch. I was exhausted and sunburned by the end of the first day and had had some trouble getting the hang of the shifting pattern on the motorcycle. However, I studied the pattern that evening and went back for Day 2.
Day 2 was hard. We were into some sharp cornering and U-turns that day. My energy was flagging. During a practice session just prior to beginning the testing that would lead to my motorcycle endorsement if I passed it, I went into the U-turn box to practice that maneuver that I would need to perform as part of the test. I didn’t have enough momentum. I was too hesitant. The inevitable happened under those circumstances. I tipped the bike. I bruised my shin and burned the calf of my leg against the exhaust pipe. Good thing I was wearing denim jeans or it would have been a lot worse. I sat out the testing, but I did hang out with the instructor while the rest of the students, including my husband, took their tests. I then finished up the classroom part of the course and scored 100% on the written exam.
I left feeling exhausted and demoralized, although Dale reinforced how much I had learned during the two days, starting out as a beginner, and my classmates thought that I just rocked by getting up and finishing the course, even though I didn’t take the skills test. I was still close to saying, “To hell with it” at that point and hanging up my helmet.
I knew I had two choices at that juncture: either hang it up or buy a cycle and start practicing and building my confidence that I could do this thing. By the end of the following week, I was the proud owner of Yamaha V Star 250. (Her name is Starr and she’s a beauty!)
The story doesn’t end there, though. Dale had his first brush with a nearly serious accident just a couple of weeks after the motorcycle course. The evening before, he and our housemate had gotten into a conflict. There was a lot of negative emotion involved. Dale went upstairs to bed, but then I spent two hours in the TV room with my friend while she vented to me about the conflict with my husband. When I went upstairs to bed, he woke up. I said to him, “We need to talk. Not now. I’m not up to it, but tomorrow before we start our day.” He spent the rest of the night awake.
At daybreak, looking haggard with red-rimmed eyes, he told me that he needed to get out of the house for awhile and he took his scooter out. I received a phone call a few hours later that he needed to be “rescued.” The scooter had stalled and he wore down the battery trying to get it started again. I found him just outside of Prescott, Wisconsin and we jumped the battery. I then followed him home in the pouring rain.
I think it was that night with a little privacy in the TV room after our housemates had gone to bed that he told me the entire story. He had been navigating a series of “S” turns. Due to fatigue and distraction, he lost his concentration and the control of the scooter. He ended up in the oncoming lane of traffic on that curve (luckily, no one hit him) and dumped the scooter on the opposite side of the road. The scooter doesn’t like being in that position and stalled out, of course. That was the rest of the story!
I could have freaked, but I didn’t. We talked it through. What he should have done (perhaps not hopped on his scooter when he was so fatigued and stressed) and what he could have done from a riding standpoint. We both learned from the experience, and I encouraged him to tell me whenever an incident like this happens so we can analyze it and work through it, both learning from it. (I hope it never happens again, but chances are, it will to some degree.)
I had to apologize to Starr just a week after Dale’s incident for losing my balance when stopping at a stop sign and tipping over. I whacked my damn shin again. Same one as I smacked in the motorcycle class. Dang, that hurt! That was two months ago, and it’s still sore! Anyhow, I had to get up, patch up my wounded pride, and practice, practice, practice. I will not let fear take me down. Not at this stage of the game! If I’m going to go down, I”m going to go wearing my boots!
I have an appointment after work tomorrow to see my hairstylist but Thursday after work should be a good time for a ride. It’s time that Starr came out of the garage for a little exercise!