On Turning Fifty-One By Glenis Redmond

What a treat for oops50 to have Glenis Redmond (poet – teaching artist – imagination activist) write a post for us.  We’ve  been secretly waiting for Glenis to turn 50, and before we knew it, she turned 51.

Glenis Redmond

Glenis Redmond

Who’s counting? Obviously the world is and everyday it speaks with many mouths and many television and internet eyes that reflect the many ways that I will never measure up.

When I am out of sync with myself and not aligned to my own stars, I take this projection personally.  I listen to the critique and the opinions of the vapid.  I down the chatter like greasy fast food. The poison enters my bloodstream and spreads so I don’t know where I begin and the toxicity ends.

This is when I fall prey to counting the ways that I don’t measure up: the number of crow’s feet around my eyes, the pounds on the scale, the dollars I have or do not have in the bank and my lovers or lack thereof.

I know better than to succumb to this useless counting of what is wrong, but I always adopt a myopic vision that is destructive to my spiritual and creative being.  When I am in my holistic mindset I only count what’s right.  So here is my list of what I know to be true on turning fifty-one.

  1. Drinking tea makes me a better woman. The power is in the sipping of: Egyptian Mint, Ginger or Green Tea.  The healing is in the slowing down to savor the moment.  When I take time to drink a cup of tea at home or in my hotel room before I start my day of work. This mark indicates that I am on my mark. This ritual fills my gauge to full.
  2. Fortunately and unfortunately I am not always on my mark. I don’t always stop to drink tea. I rush and get ahead of myself, because I am both a Dreamer & a Doer
  3. The doer sometimes dominates the dreamer-poet.
  4. The pros? I get things done.
  5. Check the map and my odometer that teeters close to 350,000-miles.
  6. I have performed and facilitated poetry workshops in every state except Alaska, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Idaho.
  7. Travel does not always allow for my roots to sink deep.
  8. I yearn for deepness:
  9. South Carolina, my birthplace
  10. I am from South Carolina, but not totally of South Carolina.
  11. My family’s military trek made sure of that.
  12. This makes me a seeker. I cross over man-made boundaries on the regular. Traveling is part of my vibration.  I am served and fed well by crossing regional and cultural boundaries.
  13. Collecting both rocks and stories ground me.
  14. I always come back to my roots: South Carolina
  15. The cons of my traveling? My mind races too. I rarely slow down.
  16. My body is having its say by forcing me to slow down.
  17. I have Adrenal Fatigue bordering on Adrenal Failure.
  18. I do not sleep. I do not rest.
  19. I often feel like a stranger.
  20. I’m Bi-Carolinian.
  21. North Carolina is where I gained my poetic wings.
  22. There’s no Tiger or Tarheel in me. Ironically, orange and Carolina blue are my two favorite colors.
  23. I wish I cared who was in the playoffs. I just don’t.
  24. I was a cheerleader in high school and I did not care then about the sport on the field or court, I just loved being with the crowd: dancing and cutting flips feeling the high vibrations of people’s spirits.
  25. I’m still a cheerleader. I’m an imagination activist. I help people to unlock their imaginations.  We talk of what matters.  Then, I tell them to write.
  26. I found that when I was twelve what mattered to me:
  27. I find solace and comradeship in good books – stories of overcoming. People who have traveled to their inner space and written about it: Zora Neal Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Wangari Maathai and many more — generally stories of women. I study on how they have traveled this rugged terrain.
  28. There’s struggle to being a woman.
  29. I overcome those obstacles daily. What woman doesn’t?
  30. I was born a feminist – womanist, yet I’m a lover of men unapologetically. I do not see the two as mutually exclusive. I love being a woman.
  31. My mom is my best friend. Politically and religiously we are of two different ilks, but we have similar cores: Love!  She is my touchstone.
  32. My mama bought me an orange bike with turquoise rims for my 51st She gets me if not left of centered views. She says, “ride Glenis.”
  33. The color orange in all its incarnations gives me life.
  34. I’m a pacifist at all cost, yet I do not suffer fools lightly. I get this from my dad: Johnny C. Redmond
  35. I am a weeper, but a warrior.
  36. I was born into poverty.
  37. I stand for the underdog. I was the underdog.
  38. I still sometimes have an impoverished mindset.
  39. Therefore, but by the grace of God go I.
  40. I am not defined by my challenges.
  41. My spirit radiates all colors.
  42. I’m spirit-rich.
  43. I’m a traveler
  44. Places I want to travel: Cameroon, Nigeria, Bahia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English countryside.
  45. I’m Afro-Carolinian. I love to dance: tribal, interpretative and funk.
  46. It is my prayer – the way I talk with God.
  47. I love to walk. I work out my worries with each step.
  48. I don’t consider myself old, just an old soul.
  49. YOLO rolls off the tongue (You Only Live Once) not mine, because I have been here before many times. I recognize lands and people from other eras.
  50. I was an old soul when I was born, therefore turning fifty-one does not faze me. Yes, getting older has its challenges, but also being a person diagnosed with fibromyalgia at twenty-nine years does, too. Everyday I get out of bed is a challenge, yet it is also a victory.
  51. My daughters, Amber and Celeste, are the most precious metal of my inner circle. They make the bright ring in my life glow with pride and joy. Now my grandson has joined this golden lineage. Oh yeah, I write poems. Here is my latest poem for my grandson.  Julian teaches me everyday how to meditate on goodness and not on the standards by which the world measures me and finds me lacking.  He has been here before and he is wise.  I listen. Like tea, love makes me a better woman.  Here is the poem I wrote for my grandson.

 

Glenis and twin daughters Amber & Celeste

Glenis and twin daughters Amber & Celeste

 

Grandma Waterfall for Julian Josiah Priester      

My status has been upgraded
from mom to grandma–
who knew the heart morphed
into more?
I should have known the moment,
when my heart shape shifted,
when I gave birth to twins
two decades and five years ago:
from stream into raging river,
from the weakest trickle into a force of nature.glenisGrandmawaterfall

There’s no parent handbook
that foretold of the more I would become.
I looked into my inner pond
and I could see I had become more alive with giving.
I wanted to stay on earth
with the territory of my heart expanded –
pushing west with poetry and purpose:
the frontier of becoming mama
packing lunches and endless carpools
to school and soccer,
tucking babies into bed
and growing girls into beautiful women –
artists people with pen and brush
ready to right the world.

Now, to you the first son of our family
you have made me grand
the only royalty I will ever know:
a grand waterfall unable to contain what I hold.

A treasure : Julian Josiah
10 fingers: starlit
10 two toes: eager squiggles
cheeks: squishy pockets

earned you the nickname: The chipmunk gnome.
Your eyes: lit with the deepest shine, déjà vu remembrance.
Your birth weight: 9 lbs. 3 oz.
You’ll carry what’s been passed on: the walk of the ancestors.
This legacy also a burden,
but your legs will be sturdy
and worthy of the task
like Yusef Komunyakaa writes:
You were born
to wear out at least
one hundred angels.
Like Maya Angelou penned
You come as one but stand as ten thousand.
You will carry this load with wisdom
and an undeterred stride.

Julian, all is possible with you.
Unflinchingly I will sing
of the more I want to give you
what John Lennon dreamed
imagine there’s not countries
it is not hard to do
nothing to kill or die for…
Imagine all the people living life as one.

Julian I am a dreamer
it is all that have: the gift of my imagination.
Pour into these waters little boy
brother, son and grandson of the Universe
flow into this world
with dreams better
than the one I/WE are
handing to you.

I am here as Grandma Waterfall
also an eagle watching over you
with the lesson of water ever ready
gently guiding you to find your own flow
from black boy to black man
like Langston Hughes wrote,
I hope you’ll dream a world
where love will bless the earth,
because you are part of that blessing
lighting the world with the brilliance
of what you came to do.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing Glenis in person, catch her at TEDxGreenville or visit her blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Becoming a Grandmother

lizzie and baby

Lizzie and Aven in the hospital 

Jane

Jane

A week ago, on December 9th, my world changed.  My own first baby, Lizzie, now 27 years old, delivered her first baby into the world, and I became a grandmother, just like that. I guess it’s not really fair to describe it that way. After all, Lizzie had to go through nearly 27 hours of increasing misery to get to that point!  But in retrospect, the change certainly feels that sudden and that startling.  Aven Marie Bowman, weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce, was born at 10:02 p.m. last Tuesday, and nothing has been the same since.

I’m learning that it’s really true that when you are a grandmother, you don’t have to take on all the day-to-day worry about that baby the way you do when you become a parent.  You get to hold a baby and love the baby and even change a diaper when you feel like it, but, to quote an old joke, then you can “give the baby back” is true!  It’s harder than you think to make your mind relax into that truth.  I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have  to figure out what that baby is wearing each day, how many times she’s eating, if she’s having as many wet diapers as she should, or if her umbilical cord is falling off correctly. Old habits die hard!   But Lizzie is happy as a clam to do those jobs,  so I can relax. All I have to do is hold Aven when Lizzie hands her off to me and rub her little soft head and kiss her little neck and breath in her incredible milky smell and make little silly clucking noises.  It’s sort of like having the best baby doll I could ever imagine, one that not only opens its eyes but also sneezes and yawns in the cutest way anyone could ever imagine.

I”m also learning that I don’t need any other entertainment when Aven is around. Our daughter and her husband, Janson, are temporarily living with us while they look for their next residence, so we get to see this little creature every day and watch her changes, such as her going from being mostly a sleeping/nursing wonder to someone starting to open her eyes more and look around at the world.  And I’m grateful and privileged to be able to witness our daughter becoming a new mother.  I am awed at how patient and calm she is.  I was never that patient with my first newborn.  I was scared to death, and my anxiety came out in frustration and tears and all kinds of great behaviors. Sure, Lizzie has an advantage over most new mothers from her years of experience and knowledge gained  working in child care,  but there is something else, something bigger, going on here.  Lizzie has taken on the mantle of motherhood as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  When she has to make a decision about something to do with the baby, she just naturally chooses what’s right for the baby, instead of what might seem better for anyone else, including herself.  And she’s putting up with the discomfort (a nice word for it) and fatigue involved in learning to breastfeed without any serious complaints.  She’s getting very little sleep because she’s waking with the baby at night, but she doesn’t whine (as her mama did).  She’s just moving along, taking care of that baby, walking the walk.

She is my hero.

And it’s also great to see Janson becoming a father.  He was great in the delivery room, exhibiting all the right support and compassion and protectiveness to his wife, just as any mother-in-law could hope.  And he’s been working right along Lizzie since then. He has a very natural-looking football hold for Aven!

I don’t mean that I’m surprised by any of this.  I just feel honored to be able to see it up close and personal!

I hope I can make just as smooth a transition into grandmotherhood! One hard part is turning off my advice-giver!  It’s hard not to feel like I have a duty to step in and guide my daughter and son-in-law  each step of the way.  It’s hard to stop being a mother and become a grandmother.  Grandfather Tom, who is by nature extremely protective of newborns, is also having difficulty with that one!  We both want to give Lizzie and Janson several “helpful” hints on an hourly basis!  It’s good to remind ourselves that Aven is not our baby.  She’s our grandbaby!  Hallelujah! We can relax!

And here’s the other, unexpected hard part about becoming a grandmother:  now I have another generation to worry about getting grown safely, without bad things happening to them.  Aven has made it even more painful to think about things like global warming or the  terrorism or wars or plagues.  And when the global stuff is not in my head, I’m obsessing about things like her breathing or her future happiness or, worst of all, how old I will be when Aven is 20, 30, etc.  It’s that etcetera part that does me in.  It’s weird:  in some ways, the thought of my own, inevitable death has become a lot easier to bear with Aven in the world, but in other ways, it is now ten times harder.

Enough gloom and down!  Right now I’m celebrating Aven and her wonderful little head and precious feet and long, beautiful fingers and lovely eyelashes.  And she has already taught me something:  boy, am I ready to make the shift from mother into grandmother! I’m so glad someone else is having to nurse that baby, change that diaper, put that car seat in the car for the millionth time.  There’s a reason people have babies when they’re young.  I’m glad to pass the torch.  And, at least in this first iteration, some things have already made this life-changing transition seem natural and easy: 1) It’s clear that  Lizzie and Janson will be–are!–great parents and  2)  I already love Aven.  In fact, I fell madly in love with her at first sight, the moment she came into the world.  So now, Tom and I need to sit back, be incredibly thankful and grateful,  and enjoy the ride.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is another picture of the world’s cutest baby, this one napping with her over-the-moon grandmama!  Merry, merry Christmas to all of you!!!

grandma and baby

Remains To Be Seen

Adrienne Crowther

Adrienne Crowther

Let’s face it – no one likes to talk about death. Whether it’s our own, our parents, a spouse, or a friend, it hasn’t been a conversation topic of choice…..until now. Not surprisingly, we baby boomers are re-inventing our end of life practices and attitudes around death.

Here are the facts:

  • Cremation rates have soared to more than 40% of all deaths (close to 90% in some states)
  • Burial costs have reached high, sometimes unaffordable levels
  • Families are transient, and family members no longer live in close proximity to each other, nor to a family burial site
  • Religious tenets are more flexible regarding cremation as an option for disposition

Many recent articles, books, and other media point toward the growing number of cremations, both in the US and worldwide. Baby boomers especially, are breaking tradition in their spiritual beliefs, environmental convictions, and affinity toward individuality in all aspects of life. The funeral industry concedes to this rapid conversion to cremation, yet products for containment of cremation remains are limited, and are often mass-produced and outsourced.

Shine on Brightly

Shine on Brightly

Shine On Brightly is an online company that was launched in 2008 – the result of a lifelong passion for art, love for people and their stories, and lots of research on the changing trends around life and death rituals (especially among baby boomers). Fifteen months later, Founder and Owner, Adrienne Crowther lost her husband of 30 years. Nine months after that, his sister, who had been one of her dearest childhood friends, also died.  Adrienne’s work and business is truly unique and I thought it appropriate to address this subject for our oops50.blog.

Annice and dad

Annice and dad

What are your plans? When my own father died in 2011, I was grateful that he had taken care of all his burial plans.  Everything carefully outlined and paid for- in advance.  What a gift that was to all of us.  And what an alternative Adrienne has to offer to both the living  who want to plan their end of life rituals, or for those who will be making arrangement for their  loved ones.

Mindfulness

Nancy

I’m looking out at horses standing in the pasture.  No, they are not at the farm in Rocky Mount.  They are at my farm in Hillsborough.  I am going through a divorce, and they are the first group that has come to live with me.  Life is pretty crappy and hard right now, not just mentally but especially physically, but as I stand here, I am in awe of the beauty of it all.   The pasture slopes downhill and is surrounded by woods through which I can see more of my hay fields.  Despite the trials of daily life, I feel happy, blessed.

The next day, I catch the end of a Diane Rehm show about mindfulness and the power of thought.  The day after that I listen to the show in its entirety: an interview with Ellen Langer, a Harvard professor who writes about mindfulness in a new book.   She did a study years ago where she took a group of old men and isolated them for five days and turned back time.  They only watched movies from a certain era and basically lived as they had in the past.  When they emerged from the study, they were reinvigorated and stronger, with eyesight and hearing improved, and they looked younger.  It was the power of their minds that gave them that strength.  (I was also delighted to hear her describe this group as such old men that she actually wondered if they would make it through the five days, and here was the kicker: she said they were not like now, when 60 is the new 40.  Does that make me 45?)

horses in field

She also talked about how anger and despair can be so physically debilitating and how most of the things we struggle against aren’t true tragedies but merely inconveniences.  If we can bring ourselves to a neutral place, we will feel so much better and be able to see more clearly ways to handle our demons.   I have always been one to be thankful for dodging those bullets I didn’t even realize were there.   Maybe I dodged a bullet by leaving my husband.  No, make that a full speeding train, but that conversation is for another time.

I encourage everyone to hear Ellen Langer tell it herself.  Here is the link:

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-12-01/ellen_langer_mindfulness_and_the_power_of_thought

 

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.