SENIORS WHO SPELL

Audrey Fischer Partington

Audrey Fischer Partington

They came from all over the county to participate in a Senior Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Friends of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Library.

But this was not a competition for high school seniors. Competitors were seniors citizens. You know, the generation born before spell check. The folks who learned to read phonetically, and who memorized rules like “i before e, except after c, or when sounding like ay as in neighbor or sleigh.”

Yes, those seniors.

Some came in wheelchairs from a nearby assisted living facility. What they lacked in physical ability they made up for in mental agility. A few were retired English teachers. But what they had in common was the love of words and libraries.

“Public libraries are one of the best things about America,” said a competitor whose first language was not English.

Senior Spelling Bee

Senior Spelling Bee

The joy of browsing the library shelves may be lost on younger generations for whom “googling” too often replaces a visit to the library.

Another lost art is etymology (word origins). Contestants not only asked for words to be repeated, defined or use in a sentence, but their place of origin, which can provide clues to their correct spelling.

Phonics and etymology have been replaced with … “magic spelling.” My daughter was introduced to this approach when she started first grade in 1992.  In a desire to get young children comfortable with writing, teachers told them not to worry about spelling correctly.

Okay. That made some sense, but why not at least correct the misspelled words for the child’s edification? Unfortunately, the writing and spelling methodologies of the day childwithtrophycoincided with the self-esteem movement. You know, “No Child Left Without a Trophy.”

And also lost to posterity is cursive writing. How are future historians going to decipher primary source documents written in cursive?

Oh, of course, they’ll be an app for that!

 

 

Audrey:  I’m a writer-editor with nearly 35 years spent working in the federal government. When I think I began working for the government at the tail end of the Carter administration, it really does seem like a lifetime ago. In a way, it was a lifetime ago. I’ve since married and raised a wonderful daughter with my husband, with whom I now share our empty nest. Our baby bird flew across the pond to live with her British husband. So, to keep up with her life, I got on Facebook, where I have since reconnected with many old friends from my childhood in Brooklyn, New York, as well as from my other walks of life. Most recently, I had the joy of reconnecting with Annice, who launched this blog. It should feel like a lifetime ago since we met in our twenties, but happily, it’s like time never passed. That’s one of the secrets of getting older—the face and body may change, but at heart you may remain very much the same.

 

 

Saturday Mornings

Oops50 has a new guest writer:  Noriko Bell!  I hope everyone will welcome her warmly!  Jane

nori detail studio

Noriko is a 57-year old living in Washington, DC with her partner, Dan, and two cats, Louie and Lulu. A creative product development manager for art museum retail, she enjoys dabbling in writing, gardening, cooking, violin, piano. To quote Noriko, she has “many inspirations and ambitions, but not much follow through!”  I would disagree, since she followed through on sending us her first post for the blog!! Here’s her post: 

I used to spend Saturday mornings running errands, doing chores. Then I realized that most stores are crowded with long lines on Saturdays, traffic is miserable, and why am I doing all this anyway?

I decided to switch gears and use Sunday for my errands. Saturday morning is a cherished time, recovering from the work week, having an extra cup of coffee and reading the paper from cover to cover, while my cats lounge about, happy to have a human at home. nori detail

Most of the time, I snuggle back in bed with coffee, laptop, phone and thoroughly enjoy catching up in a leisurely way. Our cats, Lulu and Louie gravitate to the bedroom on those mornings. Both sleep away the morning and I relish the calm coziness.  This time of year, the upstairs bedroom is the warmest room in the house, with sunlight pouring in through the south facing windows.

Louie Fat Cat

Louie Fat Cat

This is my refuge. I once made it into a self sufficient space with a small fridge, microwave, when I was a full time caregiver at home, and it was essential that I could maintain some separation and me time.

Sometimes I wonder if I have become a complete slack, my leisure time at home built around the command station of the bed. But then, I “think” like a cat, and with a big stretch, ease into a little nap.

Lulu Fat Cat

Lulu Fat Cat

 

A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy

Jane in Africa 2012

This morning, while dealing with a crazy, incessantly barking dog,  I listened to “On Being” with Krista Tippett.  Her guest was an “environmental philosopher,” Joanna Macy.  I was only half listening at first, since I had never even heard of this woman before, but the interview ended up blowing me away.  Macy is an 85-year-old woman who sounds like a twenty-year-old in her wonderful, enlightened thinking.  Here’s a quick bio of Macy from Wikipedia:

Joanna Rogers Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1950 and received her Ph.D in Religious Studies in 1978 from Syracuse University.  She is an international spokesperson for anti-nuclear causes, peace, justice, and environmentalism, most renowned for her book Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World….She has created a theoretical framework for personal and social change, and a workshop methodology for its application. Her work addresses psychological and spiritual issues, Buddhist thought, and contemporary science.

And here is her picture:

Joanna Macy

Joanna Macy

But I wasn’t blown away by this woman because of her impressive resume or her open appearance.  I was blown away by the things she said.  First, she talked about how Buddhists don’t put much stock in trying to have hope, since it takes too much effort.  The important thing is just to be as aware as we can of what is going on around you.  She said that our earth is “not a supply house and a sewer” for humans, and that we have to stop treating it as if it is.

Here’s another great picture of her:

joanna macy laughing

All I can give you is a quick intro to Macy, but I urge our readers to check her out.  Here are two more quotes that I wrote down from when she was talking about her work in  translating Rainer Marie Rilke’s Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God:  “There is a song that wants to be sung through us, but we need to be present to it in order to sing it,” and “This moment you are alive, so you can just dial up the magic of that any time.” Continue reading

VOTE

Annice

Annice

I remember the first time I voted. The year was 1972, and thanks to The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 18 year olds were granted the right to vote (July 1, 1971), and it was the quickest amendment ever to be ratified.  I remember the national debates over lowering the voting age because it focused on all our friends being drafted to fight in Vietnam when they had absolutely no say about the war, who was sending them, and why.  draftHaving participated in the anti-war movement with hundreds of thousands of other young students across the country, I’d like to think our protests made a difference and forced the government to lower the voting age.  So, when the time came in 1972 to vote in the presidential election, I cast my ballot for George McGovern.

George McGovern

George McGovern

 

Shortly before the election, McGovern came to the University of Cincinnati where I was studying.   After his campaign speech, he thanked all the volunteers back stage, and I was thrilled to shake the hand of the next President of the United States of America. I just knew he would win.  And, trust me, to this day, I still can’t believe that Nixon won (by a landslide) despite the fact that 52% of 18-24 year-olds showed up at the polls, the highest ever voter turnout of young adults including the 2008 Obama-McCain election.

votepinSo, I write this post the day before the elections as a reminder that anything can happen, and every vote matters.  Here in North Carolina, we have a very important Senate race.  I know who I’ll be voting for?  You?

My Aunt Mamie and the Power of “Flopping”

Jane

Jane

My aunt loved to “flop” in the afternoon.  After eating lunch and taking care of one or two things she needed to do, Mamie would always retire to her bedroom and lie down on her bed for about an hour. First, she would read her daily devotion from a little book she kept by her bed called God Calling. Then, she would write down in her journal her daily record of everything she and her husband, my uncle Jack, had done the day before.  And then, she would either take a little nap or lie there in bed, reading. I guess you could say she knew about the value of meditation long before it became popular with the rest of us!

When things got stressful in her life, she would “flop” more often, maybe once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  Her “flopping” time seemed to work almost like a recharging station.  If she felt herself getting stressed or exhausted, she would always take the time to relax, unwind, and breathe.  Nothing could stop her.  She would just announce to all around her:  “I need to go flop!”

Mamie with Lizzie, our first baby

When I was about ten years old and spent time with her one summer for a few months, I at first hated her flopping time because it meant she wasn’t available to do something with me, like going grocery shopping or going to the library or just laughing together about something.   But, as the days went by, I came to love that time of day.  Mamie would flop on her twin bed, and I would flop on Jack’s, andwe would both read or sleep until Mamie was ready to get up.  I suspect I was one of the reasons she needed to flop that summer, but she never made me feel like I was a burden.  We just flopped together.  It was during those afternoons in Mamie’s room that I read all about the history of the FBI and several biographies of famous people.  Sometimes Mamie told me stories about her childhood or I wrote postcards to my family and friends or worked a puzzle book.  All of those memories are pleasant and relaxing and calming to me, even now.

Mamie had a pretty hard life in some ways, but she learned how to deal with her problems in a real practical way.  I’ve never known anyone better at taking care of herself.  She never allowed herself to get too stressed or worried or busy or anything.  She just “flopped” when she needed to, the rest of the world be damned!

I have decided that I need to learn from Mamie.  I think I need to worry less and recharge my engines whenever possible. I need to learn how to “flop.”