Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Can Do It

I’ve been thinking about my strange life.  I wrote a blog last summer reflecting on all the “famous” and “notable” people I’ve met throughout my life.  I was sitting next to the guy that inspired that blog by saying he’d met Ronald Reagan.  You can read about all these people here.

Yesterday in class our professor mentioned The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.  It was interesting to watch the clueless look come across most of the faces of my class mates.  Made me realize how old I am.  He mentioned it because one of the women in the class is looking at gender bias in higher education.  I had just talked with her about it during the “mixer” exercise that started the class.  I mentioned how I thought it was so odd that when we as a cohort had our chance to elect class leaders there was not one female name nominated with enough support to be on the first ballot.

Interestingly, two men are now arranging lunches for us and in charge of communication.  Even if you are gender biased, stereotypically, this would be a better job for a female.  But you put LEADER in the word and poof – men are nominated.  When they announced who the leader was of my half of the cohort I had to quickly run to Facebook to see who he was.  He hadn’t stood out to me in anyway.  He’s a nice guy and did good with getting us pizzas last month.  This month, it was delegated to a woman and so it will be next month.  Interesting… Oh well, as long as I get lunch, I really don’t care.  But I sure did notice that these educated individuals still thought a man was better to be a leader.

Then there was this interesting comment by another of the younger ones in the class.  We were discussing inclusive language and the use of the generic “he.”  She said, “If I am not insecure about my femininity, can I use the “he?”  The professor correctly said, NO, you can’t.  This professor was a female, and I wish she had gone further with her answer. But she was relatively young too. She should have told our young sister that she has no idea how important those changes are to some of us. I wanted to tell her that inclusive language is huge.  And we still have so far to go.  Women's rights are a luxury in most of the world.

I sat next to Betty Friedan one time.  We actually had a conversation.  We were both delegates to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995.  She probably did get to see the president up close and personal.  I didn’t.  Nevertheless, there we were in a work session to discuss quality of life and end-of-life decisions.  She was well known.  I wasn’t.  However, I guess I looked like I’d make a good recorder.  I was the young one in the room that time.  It was Ms. Friedan herself who said, I think Joyce should be our recorder.  She patted me on the leg and smiled. 

This time her cause wasn’t women’s rights but the right to die.  No she was not in favor of assisted suicide.  In fact, she was quite the opposite.  She remembered the holocaust.  She was Jewish.  She feared all our talk of dying with dignity might be pseudonyms for let’s kill off the old folk.  As a group, we careful crafted language to be the official recommendations and guides for the future of aging services. 

As I looked at my cohort mates, particularly the female ones, I thought we really need to remember who Betty Friedan was and we aren’t done with the cause.  I am facing both of the causes that Ms. Friedan had in her life.  I am facing sexism and now ageism.  I’m extremely well qualified to do a lot of things.  I’m bright.  I’m articulate.  I have vast experience.  I am creative.  I am energetic.  I am visionary.  No I’m not on an ego trip.  It is the truth.  I have so much to offer and yet I can’t get an interview.  No one has a place for me. 
It might be easy to blame it on the bad economy.  I am sure that is a factor.  But let me ask you, where do you see older people working?  They’re greeting you at Wal-Mart and serving you burgers at McD’s.  I’m immersed in a doctoral program right now and my biggest fear is that when I am done, I’ll be wearing a Wal-Mart or McD’s uniform to support myself in my old age.  However, as I think about that and as I think of Betty Friedan who at 74 was still fighting, I think it’s time to start raising a fight of my own. 

Yesterday I was in Big Lots.  The line was long and there were only one person checking.  A woman came behind me and said, is this the line?  I said yes.  In a very loud voice she said “YOU NEED TO OPEN SOME MORE REGISTERS.”  Guess what?  They did.  Within one minute, three lines were open.  We all were thankful to that woman’s big mouth.  I think it is time for Joyce to find her big mouth again.  I’m not done.  I have too much to offer to leave this world an old woman.  

I guess this isn’t the most devotional thought for a Sunday morning but it is inspiring to me.  I’m not done with my contribution.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Silver or Gold

If you were ever in Girl Scouts or a similar type of group, you may know this song.

Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold

I wasn’t in Girl Scouts but I learned this song in Sunbeams at my local Salvation Army Corp.  I thought it was a cute song.  I wondered which one was silver and which one was gold.  It seemed the new friend was silver and the old gold but I’d still wonder about it.  I was sort of a weird kid like that.

I’ve been thinking about friends a lot lately.  People talk about Facebook friends and how many people have.  They say these folks aren’t really friends.  I’ve gotten so caught up in this discussion I’m working on a dissertation on Facebook, community and Christian development.  I do think about this stuff a lot.

Last week in preparation for a two day journey south, I thought about who I should visit with in Columbia Missouri.  Columbia Missouri is home.  It’s not home in the same way that Brooklyn is home.  I spent my childhood in Brooklyn but so much else of my life is grounded in the capital of Boone County.  My parents are buried here.  I’ve told my husband that when I die, he should take me home to Columbia. 

There are lots of phases to my life in Columbia.  There is the Hickman phase, short and not memorable.  There is the First Assembly phase – relatively short and VERY memorable.  I made some friendships there that are golden and who have been renewed in recent years because of Facebook and email.  There was the marriage phase to my first husband, the years of abuse and living on welfare.  There was the MU phase when I was a college student with three children.  There was the divorce and then wonderful new love.  There was the Christian Chapel phase and the Christian Fellowship phase.  I’m a walking encyclopedia of the first days of those two churches.  When I finally write the book of my life, it will be filled with Columbia Missouri phases.

I was turned down by a couple of friends.  Decided not to ask a couple more because I get my feelings hurt easily.  One of the friends that turned me down is a very dear friend who I feel like I’ve known all my life.  Miraculously through all our moves and trials we always stayed in touch.  That really hurt my feelings when she turned me down.  The other one was busy.

A wonderful new/old friend has come back in my life.  It seems she always has time for me.  After years and years of not knowing anything about each other, our bond of friendship re-cemented again.  I love long chats with her whether on Skype, email and best of all in person.  I love being able to see the expression on her face.  She has patience with me when I jabber on and on like we did last night over pasta.

Today I’m finding another old friend.  The turn-downs of others pushed me to think harder.  I just can’t see driving all this distance and not connecting.  Today I’m having lunch in St. Louis with someone who I knew in the Christian Chapel phase.  I am sure it has been over 30 years.  She not only remembered me but she wanted to see me.  That’s awesome!

I’m also thinking today of some of my very newest friends.  Yes, I have finally made some attachments in South Dakota.  I think of the wonderful friend I have non-coffee chats with in Brookings.  I think of the wonderful women of Grandview Covenant.  I love them so much and their warm welcome has taken much of the chill off of South Dakota. 

And then there are my very oldest friends.  Recently a childhood friend has become my brother.  He's encouraged me and supported me.  I feel so blessed he's in my life.  Who knew when he teased me as a child that one day like a brother, he'd step back into my life.  When my mother died, my biological brothers left me and severed all familial ties.  I make up my extended family now with a few in-laws and pseudo siblings.  A cousin who I hardly knew as a child is now my other dear brother.  My step siblings round out the family tree.

My oldest BFF told me from her house in Georgia that she was sending prayers for me as I traveled.  I could mention so many people...I'm now afraid the one I didn't will get their feelings hurt.  I love my friends so much and appreciate them.

I’m thinking friends are precious.  I’m thinking that whether they are new or old, silver or gold, they are one of the greatest gifts in my life.  I’m planning on lots of connecting in TN as well.  I am so excited because one of my cohort mates at school actually asked me to spend time with her.  Much of the time at school I feel rather lonely, so that was great!  Mixed with old friends who want to see me and new friends I probably will be out for lunch every day… I just wish that I could also sit down with the dearest of friend(s) I have in Connecticut and New England as well.  But that day will come.  Until then, I think of them daily and miss them.

Do you have precious friends?  Treat them right and if they call you and ask you to go to lunch or supper or breakfast – SAY YES.  Especially if it is me J