Category Archives: Students

Newly Old

Welcome back , Dana Rodney, today’s guest blogger on the topic of aging.

Dana says, You gotta read my BLOG called ” Insider’s Trip to Publishing.”  I am currently on the long and winding road of trying to get a novel traditionally published, and I am sharing insider’s tips of what I’m learning along the way. Check out my Instagram and Facebook links  for photos of my fine art calligraphy and posts about my ongoing writing journey. And I would be tickled pink if you would subscribe to my monthly reader’s list called “Turning Into a Pumpkin” —tragic-comic observations on growing old. Join me at https://danarodney.com/

Newly Old

 

Getting old is like something that creeps up on you then jumps out from behind the couch and scares the hell out of you. It’s like this: You’re going along minding your young business; you’re twenty, you’re thirty, you’re forty, forty-five… you feel invincible. All your life you’ve been “young”; you look pretty damn good, your butt still looks fabulous in your skinny jeans. Your future seems like a realm of infinite possibility. Men your own age are attracted to you. People refer to you as “young lady” or “miss.”

Then suddenly, that creeping thing makes its move. You hit forty-nine, fifty, fifty-five, and in the span of five or ten years you are now officially “old.” AARP makes its move. All your life you’ve been young, but now, for the remainder of your life you will be old. There’s no turning back, you cannot file an appeal. Wow, that happened quickly! Your future is no longer infinite; your remaining years can now be tallied up quite accurately, according to the Social Security Administration. Now, the men who are attracted to you are twenty years older than you. People refer to you as “ma’am,” or even worse, the dreaded “old lady.”

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As a newly old person I’ve learned there that there are tiers of oldness. When I was young, if I perceived someone as old, they were just old. Old was old. Now, I realize that sixty-old is way different than eighty-old.

 

You see, no matter how old you get, it is vitally important to remember that you are still young compared to people who are even older than you.

Another thing I’ve learned is that being old lasts a really long time. You’re young for thirty, thirty-five years, but then you’re old for fifty, sixty.

Might as well settle in and get used to it.

***

Keep up with what Dana is doing:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danarodneyrealty

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dana_rodney/

Website: https://danarodney.com/

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Autobiographical Writing, Students

Unraveling

Fran Braga Meininger writes personal narrative about the years beyond youth, a time in a women’s life that can be vibrant, fulfilling and wonderful despite, or perhaps, because of all that comes with age. She lives in northern California where she hikes, bikes and lives life in big bites. Today she’s offering us some nostalgia over sweaters past, sweaters loved and some inspiration for our own “unraveling.”

 

Unraveling

I’m that old sweater. You know the one. We all have it, in the bottom of the bottom drawer or the very back of your closet. It’s been there forever. You’ve had it forever.. It was your favorite. You wore it with panache and loved how it hugged your beautiful, young, voluptuous and shapely breasts, back then, before they did what they’ve done now. But it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t look like it did and neither do you. You are fond of it for what it represents. It is a memento of who you were once and how you looked in it.

But now it’s unraveling at the cuffs and the collar. The seams are splitting and the shoulders are misshapen. It’s really done. It has lost what it once had and needs to go.

I’m like that too. I’ve lost what I once had. I don’t look the same. Things aren’t as perky, as tight and firm. I’m not as bright or witty. I think differently, my perspective and my opinions have shifted. My emotions still run deep but they are now tempered with a dose of patience. The candlelight doesn’t dance in my eyes as it once did. But I still have a flame.

I am unraveling in places. I’m starting to shed what I once wore so proudly. I’m taking off what I’ve outgrown and doesn’t fit any longer. I’m allowing what is underneath to show through. One strand at a time, slowly I’m unraveling.

I’m being freed from the shrunken and twisted seams that pull too tightly around my arms. They are tearing away and giving me room. I can finally breathe, stretch, allow my chest to rise with a full breath and exhale. I’m not tied up in knots anymore. The threads have loosened in all the right places and I am tugging at the ends, watching as slowly they come away and reveal below a whole other me.

 

I’m unraveling into something else, someone else. A new sweater that suits me, fits my curves as they are now, adorns this beautiful and womanly figure that I live within. I stand straight and strong. I know who I am now. I know what matters the most and where I want to end up. I may not be done unraveling yet, but I’m on my way, I just need to keep pulling the loose threads.

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https://www.theyearsbeyondyouth.com/

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Filed under Aging, Essay, Students

How to be Old

Guest blogger, Dina Corcoran is back with her advice on old age for our series on aging.

Dina is a writer of poems, essays, and memoir.  She won the Jessamyn West award for her humorous description of the English teachers she’s encountered along the way. Her poignant story, “Adiós, Francisco,” won another.

The Napa Valley Writer’s Anthology includes a description of her hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

At eighty-two Dina now sees life through the lens of the stroke she experienced a year ago.  Please welcome Dina Corcoran with

HOW TO BE OLD

No one tells you how to be old.  There are no manuals.  But I learn from the old women who are in my life.

Old age has taken most of Dora’s eyesight and given her a walker.   To get around town, she takes the shuttle-bus, which is often behind schedule, and today causes her to be late to our Hat Chat Luncheon

At ninety-five she doesn’t waste time being cranky at the bus.   Dora waits for us to identify ourselves, one at a time, so she knows where we are sitting, and then launches into an animated discussion of the latest political news—both local and national.

She arrives armed with a lighted magnifying glass to read the menu, and gets a little help from those on either side of her.  Before she leaves, this sweet lady has something nice to say to each of us.  She is pleased to be here.

Virginia is another Hat Chat member. She has been enjoying life for 100 years.  But lately her teeth have been troubling her, so we help her select something from the menu that is soft and not tomatoey, because she and tomatoes don’t get along.  She used to be a schoolteacher and has a lively interest in everything and everybody.  Although her hearing is compromised, before lunch is over, she has asked each of us something about our lives.  Sometimes she has to get out of her chair, shuffle close to us, and lean down so she can hear the answers to her queries.

Then there is my old classmate, Noel, who has Macular Degeneration and who was burned out of her home in Paradise.  She has made a new life for herself in Grass Valley.  On the phone she talks incessantly about her houseplants and knick-knacks she’s installed in her new home. The beauty of their arrangement delights her.  All of life delights her.  Her last Email to me concerning the power outages was titled, “Ahh, Life!”

Melinda who lives down on the Big Sur Coast handles country living with aplomb.  We’ve known each other since the third grade and have mutual admiration for each other.   Her house is in the wilds, surrounded by steep mountains covered with redwood trees— which often threaten to burn.  It is worth it to her, because it overlooks the turbulent ocean.  It takes a strong woman to live there.

Her latest housekeeping adventure involved sweeping out the garage and finding a rattlesnake coiled at her feet.  She grabbed the shovel, and taking a deep breath, cut off its head—all in a day’s work.

These women teach me that even with the hardships of old age we can take delight in each other and the world, revel in beauty, and be brave.

 

 

Don’t waste time

being angry at a late bus,

Have something nice to say.

Arrive armed

with a magnifying glass;

keep a lively interest

in everything and everybody.

 

Notice the beauty

of your knick-knacks,

water your houseplants,

Delight in life.

When necessary,

cut off the serpents head;

Be brave, be alive.

 

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Filed under Aging, Essay, Students

Young Again

 

 

Please welcome talented artist and writer

Elizabeth Stokkebye

 

YOUNG AGAIN

Young again

with a past

that

 was my future

I daydream

and I do

as I please

I flirt

and I dance

and have sex

I dress

in layers

and in colors

I write

with seams

and stratum

I look back

by looking

forward

Time

Is

timeless

Elizabeth Stokkebye is a writer and a painter of Scandinavian descent. She lives north of San Francisco. She holds a BA from the University of California at Berkeley in Scandinavian Studies and an MA from the University of Washington in Scandinavian Languages and Literature.

Elizabeth likes to tell stories, whether in words or with paint. She draws from fairytales and literature when writing and painting her figures. Her family, ancestry, and history are the foundation from which Elizabeth’s creativity and imagination spring. She combines her love for art and words on her website.

www.elizabethstokkebye.blog

 

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Filed under Aging, Inspiration, Poetry, Students

Reunions and Other Insults

Aging is top of mind for a huge segment of the population. Did you know there are an estimated 74.1 million Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), or 22.9% of the U.S. population wondering how we got so old so fast?

There are some great things and some not so great things about aging. In this series, several guest bloggers will share their thoughts and stories about getting older. Today, Donald Turner  shares his experience of attending a class Reunion.

Alumni Home Coming

April 20, 2019

 

With heads of white, greyed, dyed, thinned or absent hair topping a body, often more attracted to gravity—we, the PUC alumni of the 60’s, were hoping to recognize youth grown old—youth behind the wrinkles and sags.

Some of us were unrecognized until revealed by our name tags.  Once named, I saw some resemblance to the younger face in the old year book.

I felt a tinge of sadness, realizing the majority of our allotted years were used up.  Hoping for more years to come, I was grateful we alumni had survived years greater than three score and ten.

Goodbye to those who have passed.  Best wishes to us who have yet to pass.

Let us write our memoirs while we can.

 

The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalms 90:10 (KJV)

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Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, and Boeing at Huntington Beach.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science in Fletcher, North Carolina from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds an  M.A. degree in Physics from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis.

In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting to profit from the stock market, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

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One Year Later

One year ago today, writer Dana Rodney lost her American Dream in the Tubbs Fire. This is her story.

 A Middle-Income First-time Homebuyer’s Suburban  California American Dream

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Dana Rodney’s home in Coffey Park, Santa Rosa 10/8/2017      Photo Dana Rodney

I used to live in a sprawling suburban subdivision called Coffey Park in Santa Rosa, California, named after its original owner, Henry Coffey.  Its streets were dubbed the likes of:  Mocha Place and Espresso Court.  It was a lower-to-middle income, first-time homebuyer’s, suburban, California American Dream.  But in the course of a few hours the night of October 8, 2017, over fifteen hundred homes in Coffey Park burned to the ground as a result of a monstrous wind-driven wildfire.

UnknownI wasn’t living in the house the night it burned down, and I seem to lose many people’s compassion when I say that.  I lived in it for 6 years, then rented it out to a single mother who was newly divorced.  I identified with her, since I had been a single mom, which was one of the reasons I had been so proud to buy the house on my own.

With my own daughter gone, I had moved to a smaller, less expensive place, as a money-saving plan.  Still, that house represented my life’s savings from a business I started 20 years earlier on a wing and a prayer in the Great Napa Valley—the famed wine-producing, exclusive, tourist-attracting, high-income land of the beautiful people who could afford it.  Ironically, even though I had a successful business in the Napa Valley, I couldn’t afford to buy there. My house was in the next county over. Still, that house was my pride and joy. It was my retirement plan.

But I wasn’t living there the night the house burned down.

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abcnews.go.com

 

I texted my tenant as I followed the news that night.  “It’s time to get out,” I told her.  “I have already left,” she replied.

I went to visit the site a week or so after the fire with my insurance adjuster, an obese, nicotine-drenched fellow they shipped in from Texas, who showed me my insurance summary in progress on a laptop from the tailgate of his truck.  My life savings was in the hands of a bloated, over-worked man in a pick-up truck. We had to drive through a line of National Guard soldiers who handed us face masks and shovels and leather gloves before allowing us to proceed to the property.

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Pressdemocrat.com

It was a pile of ash.  Where was the refrigerator?…let alone the second floor…the foundation… the chimney? It was just a flattened  pile of ash. Unrecognizable. Texas Guy said, “I have seen all I need to see.”  We drove away.

A few weeks later I went back on my own.  The National Guard was gone; it was old news.  I walked around the lot, just taking it in. One of the only things that survived was a cement statue of Quan Yin I had placed in a corner of the garden. The Goddess of Compassion. How fitting—or not. I decided it was the one thing I would take with me from the burned lot.

As I struggled to lift it into my car, a man parked a car nearby and began walking toward me.  “Are you one of my neighbors?” I asked, guessing.

“No,” he said. “I am from an organization in the Bay Area that wants to help fire victims. Was this your home?” He asked. “Could you use some financial assistance?”

“Sure,” I said, honestly. I was expecting to sign some forms or be asked further questions. Instead, he pulled out a wallet and started peeling off twenty dollar bills and handing them to me. It was shocking.  He didn’t know me.

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dreamstime.com

For the first time since the fire happened, I cried.

Dana Rodney started writing seriously after retiring from being a small business owner in St. Helena, CA in 2016. She is currently working on an historical novel titled “The Butterfly Wing” about a female Chinese immigrant to San Francisco in the 1850s, as well as a collection of humorous pieces about growing older as a single woman, titled “Turning into a Pumpkin: The Menopause Monologues.” Dana lives with her dog Jasper in St. Helena, CA.

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Filed under Fire Season, Memoir, Students

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT

Memoirist Lynne Hakes joins us today with her story of turning away from her family culture of prejudice and elitism. This is a story for today, as our world becomes more and more divided. When did you realize hate isn’t the answer?

   abagond.com

I grew up in a family of bigots. I was led to believe we WASPS were superior to other races, other beliefs, other anything. No one needed to act out to prove it because it was just true. The grown-ups sometimes used derogatory terms for the “others,” but not in public and not in anger. It was like saying,   “Of course white bread is the best.” We were taught to be kind to everyone, and rudeness was never tolerated.

My dad didn’t talk about race or social classes. He grew up on a small farm in Illinois where everyone was the same. His father, grandfather and other ancestors were Masons who, historically, had no use for Catholics or Blacks, but as a teenager he left the farm to escape asthma and moved to Southern California. There he blended in with the local culture.

Mother grew up in New Mexico and Southern California where there were Latinos but few Blacks. Her parents were nice people who treated everyone well, and I never heard any talk of other races in their home. But there was Aunt Inez, Grandad’s sister, who was an elitist and lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills. As little girls, Mother and her sister spent a lot of time with their aunt and learned bigotry first-hand.


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Aunt Inez grew up modestly in Kansas. But when her husband struck oil in Oklahoma in the 1920s and became a millionaire, they joined the “upper crust” in Southern California. Aunt Inez took on airs and lived up to the Hollywood stereotype of “rich people.” A self-absorbed woman with no children, she was close to my mother, her niece.

Superiority was one of Aunt Inez’s less endearing qualities. One should be kind to everyone, but one should know her superior place in the world. Mother and her sister were groomed to be bigots.

A critical review of the novel The Help

When I was a teenager, a black woman named Annie cleaned house for us. She was treated well in our home, but of course we knew she was “different.” I went to a small high school, where there were a few Latinos, but no blacks. We were a small, close-knit class in our sheltered little community. Racial bias never came up.

Until I was a freshman in college, the cleaning lady was the only black person I knew. There were a few on campus, but I didn’t have any contact with them until my philosophy teacher, Miss Rose, decided to give us alphabetically assigned seats in the large classroom. I was an “H” and right next to me was another “H” and she was black. We introduced ourselves and shared a common fear of taking a hard class like philosophy.

As the teacher took her place in front and we settled down, an imaginary bolt of lightning struck.

Next to me, chatting with me was a black girl. And it didn’t feel any different from being next to the white girl sitting on the other side. What was the big deal? We were two frightened freshmen, wondering how we would get through this class. How could I be better than she? I was puzzled. I admit to having some biases, but the one against race left me that day. It didn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense. Do any prejudices make sense? My life is richer for having friends and acquaintances of other races and cultures.

Thank you, my black classmate, wherever you are. I’m glad you were an “H.” And thank you, Miss Rose for giving us assigned seats and forcing me to face up to my training in bigotry.

         Global Educator Institute

Sorry, Mother, it didn’t work. I adjusted my attitude. No, I guess “H” adjusted it for me.

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Just a Little Sky

Poet Donald Turner Joins us today with a little sky ditty.

 

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Ana Manwaring 7/2012

Drifting sky of white on blue

Painted sky in Autumn hue

Sculpted sky in shades of gray

Twinkling sky at end of day

 

photo credits: giphy.com, freepik and David K. Prothero

 

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Firestorm

We’ve seen her brilliant and horrifying photo, now here is Cathy’s experience of the terror of the October fires. Please welcome guest blogger, Cathy Carsell.

Cathy Carsell writes from the heart, taking inspiration from natural beauty and emotional essence. A songwriter, poet and editor, she graduated from San Francisco State, becoming an audio engineer in the burgeoning music industry of the Bay Area. An avid sports fan, Cathy breathes and thrives in the captivating community of the Napa Valley.

fire CAthy

Photo by Cathy Carsell

Firestorm

Mid October night
Especially long hot summer
Red flag warning, trees falling
Alarm bells ring in my head

Wild wind whipping
Power lines snap
sparking dried tinder
from years of drought
Look out, look out there
ridge of flames rises
as we stand on my deck

Alarm bells ring in your head
Alarm bells ring in your head
Send up a prayer for the dead
You know you’re going to find some dead

 

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Fire don’t discriminate
You’re in it’s way you’re done
Faster than a man can run
Run everybody run

Grab your kids and grab your dog
No time to hesitate
No warning it’s too late
Like a tsunami wave
Only your life to save

Alarm bells ring in your head
Alarm bells ring in your head
Send up a prayer for the dead
You know you’re going to find some dead

Five fires in one night
How we going to fight this fight
Wind whips a firestorm
Racing over miles and miles
Taking homes, taking lives

 

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cnn.com

Check on Grandma
Roll her down
Load the horses, get the sheep
Pray for all our souls to keep
Through hot blazing nights

Alarm bells ring in our heads
Alarm bells ring in our heads
Sending up prayers for the dead
Know we’re going to find some dead

Check with friends and family
tell them I’m OK
I know I’ll never be the same
after these October days

Alarm bells ring in my head
Alarm bells ring in my head
Sending up a prayer for the dead
Glad I’m not among the dead

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Filed under Fire Season, Poetry, Students

Forgiveness

normancousins1

Please welcome guest blogger, Dina Corcoran, whose poem, Forgiveness, offers a surprising glance into the subject. Dina is a memoirist, poet and survivor of the 2017 Tubbs Fire. She has won awards two years running in the Jessamyn West Literary contest.

Forgiveness

 

In friends I like a cheerful nature
And honesty enriches the deal.

 

I’d sooner sit with realness
Than suffer the pretentious.

 

Wanda, with her southern accent and fake genteel manner,
 Asks “Why is it you don’t like me?”

 

Gently I caress her hand.
It’s not her nature to understand.

Unknown

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