Category Archives: Books

Getting Back to Simpler Times

SADHVI
SADHVI

Getting older is turning out to be more interesting than I thought it would be.  I’m even calling myself an old crone sometimes, just for fun, so I can start to realize that I’m not the young Sadhvi that I tend to think I still am!  It also makes me feel wise.

If I am going to be alive this long, I will have more things that I’ve seen than someone who is 20.  Simple math, I know.  And that also means that some things that are around don’t really ring my bell, so to say.

I’m all right if you want to pay lots of money for those things.  But if you talk about how much you love your new iPhone, for instance, and that love rant goes on for more than a minute or so, I will probably have to say something like how weird is it to LOVE your new gadget!

Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy

We’ve been watching the Tintin cartoon series lately to wind down at the end of our day.  The animation is really neat, and they are always exciting to watch.

Tintin is a super hero who goes to different places all over the world to rid the planet of bad people.

And he does it without a computer, a smart phone, texting, having a GPS or being hooked up to social media – my type of hero!

While going through a stack of magazine, I came across an old Vanity Fair magazine from August 2011.  While flipping through the pages, a black and white photo of Joseph Heller sitting in his NYC office with his feet on his desk struck me as something that looked funny, like something was out of place.

Then I realized there is no computer, smart phone, iPad, or laptop anywhere around in that photo, just a typewriter with a piece of paper in it, a rotary dial phone, and some pens and pencils in a round holder.  Joseph Heller wrote the novel Catch-22 back in 1961, which according to many is one of the greatest anti-war books ever written.  Maybe you remember it?

Joseph Heller

While I was only a small child in 1961, I do remember the movie, mostly because it came out in 1970!  I’ve also used a typewriter like the one in the photo a lot, and had a rotary dial phone in the house that I grew up in (where the cord can reach across the room with the phone base not moving an inch!).

I even own one today and it’s in my office 🙂

Looking at that photo made me see how far the whole industry has come.  And how expensive these new technologial “wonders” cost to buy, and how the companies who make them have suceeded through colors and marketing that we can’t live without them.

But I’ve started to notice people of all ages say that they are just not into all of it any more.  Maybe the pendulum is moving back to simpler times?

I’ve heard young people say that they are going back to a flip-phone, because the smartphones feel too crazy on their heads.

Or that they hate FaceBook, and don’t ever use it.

Or take the woman the chestnut stand the other day — after we chatted briefly, she laughed and said how nice it was to connect, and not with FB.  I asked her if she was addicted to FB and she said she used to be, but not anymore; she doesn’t want to “like” of “share” what is going on with her life.  She wants to just live it.

You might wonder why I post for this blog, since it is sharing.  Good question:  the only reason is that I send this out to friends and family, and it’s my way of staying in touch with them.

The idea that Oprah or HuffPost would contact us to be the voices of our generation have long dropped away.  We, including me, just like to write!

 

rotary dial phone sweetie2sweetie etsy

 

 

From Lynn: “Winter’s Bone”, being 50+, and Finding My Original Nature Again

Lynn
Lynn

Recently I read a book called Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Then I did something highly unusual for me: I picked up the book and re-read it the next day. Within a few weeks, I had repeated this for a third time.

Winter’s Bone is a beautifully written and riveting novel of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. You may have seen the movie—it was an Indie nominated for an Academy Award in 2011. It tells the story of Ree Dolly, a 16 year-old girl, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who has prematurely become responsible for her two younger brothers and mentally ill mother in the remote rural area of the Ozark Mountains where they live. Her father, a meth “chef,” is in and out the family’s life. When Ree’s Dad is arrested, he puts the family home and land up as collateral for his bail and then disappears. If Ree cannot find him, she and her family will lose their ancestral home and land to the bail bondsman and will be virtually turned out to the bitter bone-cold winter. The novel follows Ree as she desperately scours the hollers for her Dad, putting her life in danger both from the harshness of the elements and the vitriol of her extended family, who perceive her as butting into a business where she does not belong.

Completing my third reading, I found myself becoming genuinely perplexed as to why I was so entranced with this book. I don’t generally like violent or dark novels. After Sadhvi invited me to write this review, I told her that I would do so, but that I did not think it had anything to do with the content of this site. As I started putting my thoughts on paper, however, I realized it has everything to do with my being 50 plus.

Winter’s Bone ignited a dark and primal part of myself that I don’t often experience anymore at this point in my life. It evokes a place that is not civilized, not polite, not people pleasing, not law abiding. Although it can be viewed as a hard-core story about the dark side of the human spirit, it is also about nature; her purity, her harshness, her ferocity, and her dispassion. Reading this book transported me 50 plus years back to when I spent most of my life outside. This was a time when I was often alone and didn’t have much on my mind—just the sights, smells, sounds, and feeling of my surroundings. It was a sensory time, a time to know myself and my environment.

The Book: Winter’s Bone

 

Ree’s perceptions of snow clouds gathering over the mountains, of the different ways a snowfall can be experienced, of the way ice looks and feels on the ground—these are all things I too knew. When danger arises, it is immediately followed by fear and instinctual action. Life for Ree is not a state of constant anxiety or a series of perseverations over things that cannot be controlled. It is moment to moment experience. When her best friend comes to stay with her, she is filled with joy, pure and simple. No planning of how to spend the day or what to do—just unadulterated happiness at the presence of a loved one. When she is badly injured, she surrenders to the pain, accepting it as it is and then allowing healing to occur. Sadly, these are things that feel lost to me as my busy and overly conditioned mind gets in the way—always wanting to analyze, plan, control, or worry about my life.

Anyway, at age 58, I realize how much I miss my original nature. As a child, the rules of society could be suspended and I was able to be free and at ease out in nature. But now this state seems more and more distant as I end this decade; almost unattainable. I think this is part of why I often experience depression and anxiety. I am missing something intrinsic to my spirit, sustenance to my life I cannot find. An antidote to death, which will be coming sooner or later. So now I realize why I wanted to keep reading Winter’s Bone. It is a great reminder that somewhere in my consciousness, the freedom of my childhood still exists and can perhaps even be found once again.

A Retiring Mind

Amoke Kubat

I first met Amoke Awele Kubat at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference in Asheville several years ago where she lead a heartfelt and authentic storytelling workshop for women.  I’ve been asking her for years to write something for Oops50.com, and now that she has retired, we are happy to have her blog with us.

Amoke is also a published author of Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing , a deeply personal and universal story of mother loss.  She feels that internalized grief, due to loss and trauma, has become as intrinsic as any other internalized oppression.  

Annice

Missing Mamma

 

When I turned 60, I told my daughter that I was having a mid-life crisis.  She said that was good.  I was going to live to be 120.  I replied that I was done.  I was done being a teacher, a parent, friend, and associate to a whole lot of emotional entanglements.  I no longer wanted to wake up exhausted, give up 15 hours of my day, then come home foraging for energy by over-eating.  I started to ponder the possibility of retiring – early.

I started asking women who were retired what life was like after working? Their responses differed. One told me she didn’t like it.  Her husband was dead and she was estranged from her adult children.  She didn’t have access to her grandchildren.  The people at Bingo were her family.  Another woman told me that she had “deep cleaned” her house, read one book a week and now was enjoying her first grandchild.

Then I was alarmed by my best friend’s response.  She felt guilty.  We met when I was 14, almost 50 years ago.  She was struggling with being retired.  She felt like she was mooching off the government.  I hardly contained my tongue. “You are not a slave!”  I yelled. “Why do you feel this way?” I asked.

She felt this way because she had not waited until she was 70 to quit working!  We both had started working in our early teens.

I asked Spirit to send me a sign.  If statistics were true, I had 12.2 more good years.  If I was on my dirty dozen years left journey, I needed to get busy.  I began to write my “Bucket List”.  

This list changes frequently.

The sign came.  As I checked in for my eye surgery to remove cataracts, the receptionist reviewed my intake information.  She noticed my age.  She was bubbly.  “I’m 62 too,” she said.  She also told me that she was retiring in 4 months.  I asked what lead her to this decision.  She said, “Most of my friends that retired at 66 and older and were dead in 1-2 years.  Not me.  I want to enjoy my life!”  I retired in February 1, 2013.

A “Retiring Mind ” is a danger to itself and others.  On the first day I retired, I woke up and shot out of bed as was my normal morning routine.  I raced through the house to look outside.  I live in Minnesota.  Last year this time, it was in the high 70’s.  This year we had ice, snow, and single digit wind chills.  Then I looked at my Bose.  I had a startling revelation.  I was not giving “stink eye” to the clock!  Time was no longer my adversary!  I went skipping through the house.  I sat in my rocker naked!  I grinned until my face hurt!  I began to sing and made up my new life theme songs.  “I don’t have to do that”.  “I have all the time in the world”.  “For the rest of my life”.  “I feel like a newly freed slave.”  I was giddy with excitement.  My mind raced with possibilities.

I have no map for this road trip called retirement.  The IRS defines retirement as “willful termination of employment with no intent to seek a new job after age 55”.  (Hell yeah!!)  I have had to wrestle down the “I gotta do demons”.   I have had to harshly counsel myself when my “internal overseer” wants me to “occupy” and “account for” every minute of my time.

I have seen more TV and DVD’s than ever.  I am reading until 3 and 4 a.m.  I am writing, writing, writing.  I am slowly de-cluttering my house of work related stuff.  I am telling well-meaning people that I don’t want any more jobs.  I don’t want to join them in their projects.  I have learned to say no.

I am reacquainting myself with me and the things I love, like music.  I played an old favorite, “It’s Raining Men” loudly, repeatedly while singing and dancing with abandon!  I am calling one friend a week and having deeper more meaningful conversations.

I have made tender discoveries.  Finding a frosted crystal necklace in an old velvet box, I realized I had been saving it to wear on a special occasion.  I realized I had never worn it.  It shook me to acknowledge that in 25 years, I had not had a special occasion or special day?  I wore it all that day.

What I love most about being retired is – simply, being.

BIO:  

Amoke Awele Kubat(M.Ed) is a north side Minneapolis resident who has been involved in empowering families since 1987.  She is a teacher, artist and writer who partners with community artists, activists and organizations to bridge African/American culture and cultural legacies for healing and building sustainable families and communities.  Amoke uses art making, storytelling and education to women, as mothers and first teachers of their children for mapping memory to generational trauma (personal and systemic) and facilitating healing through individualized action steps for recovery.  She has used her skills to work with international youth 12- 25 who participated in The Children of War.  She has worked with bi-racial adoptees, Native American, Korean, and African American, to reconnect them to their mother culture and assist them on their journeys to a holistic self- identity and actualization.

 

Folklore: A Literary Influence

Annice and Elsie

To all our reader fans I’d like to say I finished Elsie Augustave’s novel, The Roving Tree, and feel you should all go out and buy it. But, hey, don’t listen to me, see what Essence Magazine told their readers last month.  So, while I decided not to write a review, I decided to ask the author (who was at our favorite Asheville bookstore, Malaprop’s) about the use of Folklore in literature.  And, being the writer that she is, Elsie wrote a piece for our blog readers entitled, Folklore: A Literary Influence.  I’m happy to present this article to you as a supplement to her novel and all other novels that use folklore as a literary influence.   

Elsie at Malaprop’s

My first literary experience as a young child in Haiti was my exposure to folktales that people told in the evenings when I spent summer vacations in rural Haiti. I would often daydream about the adventures of Bouki and Malice and other characters from the Haitian folktale repertoire, as I waited for people to engage again in the art of story-telling.

What most people perceive as supernatural and magical represent a Haitian perception of life, while it explains a correlation between a collective system of beliefs and cultural attitudes.  As I began to spend time among Africans, it became clear to me that folklore also plays a major role in understanding moral values and also reflects their perception of life, spirituality, and mysticism. 

Amidst these ethnographic explorations of Haitian identity and folk life, globalization and modernization, I seized the opportunity, within the pages of The Roving Tree, to bring a humane expression of Haitian, American, and African lives.

 

Elsie Augustave, author of The Roving Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* All photos and content are copyrighted material of Oops50

 

Question of the Week: Who Were Some of Your Favorite Childhood Book Characters?

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I loved the responses we got on the last ‘question of the week’, so here I go again.  This time, I’d like to know who some of your favorite childhood book characters were.

I’d have to start out with Mister Dog, the dog who lived by himself in a little crooked house and cooked up bones for himself in a pot and slept in pajamas.  That was one of my favorite Golden Books–and I’ve never gotten over the wonder of those illustrations.  I think they were by Garth Williams, the same incredible person who illustrated Charlotte’s Web and the Big and Tall book–I think that’s the name of it.

I would move on from there to Anne of Green Gables.  I read all the Anne books, and I understand why people still make pilgrimages to Prince Edward Island.  Anne had so much spunk, and she could never make herself do things according to how society wanted her to behave if she didn’t really believe in those things.  It didn’t matter that she had no real parents; she could handle anything that came her way.  And she got so much pleasure out of life!

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My mother read a book called Miss Minerva and William Green Hill out loud to us–and she got all the accents right.  (It was based in Tennessee and written in dialogue.)  And I loved William.  He could not stop himself from getting into mischief, and he had a wonderful sense of humor. When I just looked for this book on Amazon, I was happy to see that the little red version, which is the one Mama read, has been reissued and is still available.

I guess my favorite character in my teenage years was Elizabeth Bennett, since she was so strong and intelligent, and even though he fell for Mr. Darcy eventually, she first had to know that he was smart enough for her and could meet her on equal footing.

In high school, my favorite was Holden Caulfield.  Maybe because I spent so much time in a German school, where everything was regimented, and you had to snap to attention around your teachers, and it was hard to know what you really thought or felt about anything, I was thrilled to discover Holden and his unconstrained mind and his absolute contempt for “phonies.”  He gave me a model for someone speaking the truth, even if he was supposed to be a little off his rocker.

Then, in college, my favorite character of all time was Joe Gargery in Great Expectations.  What a sweet and loving soul he is.  I could read the Joe speeches over and over, especially when he comes to visit Pip in London and is shunned by the young fool.

I would love to hear from our readers on this question, since we all grew up around the same time!  Please respond to the blog itself, instead of on Facebook!!!

Thanks.

Jane