It has been a while since our readers have heard anything from us! Sorry! We hope to do better in 2016. First -time grandmotherhood for Jane and a job change for Annice made things a little crazy!I But, here we go again! Welcome back to Oops50, which should really be called Oops60 at this point, but we are fond of the original name! Here’s Jane’s first post for the new year. And, please, send us your posts!
I talked to my mother the other day. The only reason that is worth mentioning is that my mother is dead. Here is how it happened. I was driving by myself on a fairly long road trip—the perfect circumstance for me to think too much about things that are worrying me—and I realized that I was feeling overwhelmingly sad. I just had one of those awful, down-to-your-toes sadnesses, and the first thought that came in my head was “I wish I could talk to Mama right now.” That thought made me even sadder because one thing I miss more than anything since her death is the ability to pick up the phone and talk to her about things—bad and good—that happen in my life. But then, I had this thought: ‘why not just talk to her now?’ And then I entered this very strange place where I imagined myself dialing her number (since most of my conversations with her happened over our land line and not by cell phone!), and then I had a conversation with her.
First, I apologized for not calling in so long, and then I launched right in to telling her about everything that was on my mind. And, the next thing you know, I was crying—just like the old days. I talked and talked and cried and cried, about every last little thing that was bothering me, and as I talked and cried, I felt the muscles around my heart start to loosen up, and I could feel myself start to breathe a little easier, and I realized how much tension and worry I had been holding in. And then—and this is the really remarkable thing about it—I felt that tremendous sense of release and relief that I used to feel when Mama would say something as basic as “I hate for you to be feeling this way, darling” or, her standard, “Get some rest, and I know you will feel better.” It was as if Mama, from across the miles and years and clouds or whatever is between us had said, “Everything is going to be all right,” and, wonder of wonders, I believed her. And, for the rest of the day—and even now, a few days later, I’m still feeling the effect.
I have to say: I’m glad I was on a road trip when this happened and not driving down a street of my town. No one could see me or overhear me, so they couldn’t accuse me of losing my mind and hanging out with ghosts. But I had this urge to share this experience on the blog because I highly recommend it to those of you have a mother who has moved on to her reward: give her a call sometime!
Oops50 is happy to welcome a new contributor, Donna Molofsky. Donna lives near Winston-Salem, NC with her husband Barry and dog Sally. She is a former minister in the United Methodist church, but her life has taken many twists and turns since then. One of her latest gigs was caring for her elderly mother who had dementia. Welcome, Donna, and thank you for this review of Wild!
Life makes you want to scream sometimes.
For therapy, is it better to scream or take a long hike? Reese Witherspoon does both in the movie Wild, which is in theaters now.
She plays the role of Cheryl Strayed, a woman hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in an effort to exorcise some demons that are holding her back in life. I immediately identified with this woman although our journeys are completely different.
For one thing, Cheryl is a woman in her twenties, and I am a few decades older. She deals with the tragedies in her life by doing drugs, sleeping with strange men, and ruining her marriage – things I probably would not do. But it is the nature of her life tragedies that makes this woman and her story so easy to understand.
After growing up with an abusive father, Cheryl faces her mother’s death from cancer when her mother is only in her forties. Laura Dern plays the strong but fragile mom beautifully. Cheryl needed her mother more than ever, but suffered from crippling grief. I have been working through some serious losses over the course of the last two or three years. My mother died after a long struggle with dementia. Six months later a close cousin committed suicide. Most recently, I lost a job that I cared about. After these difficult times, I have had such a range of emotions – from sadness to disbelief to anger.
Witherspoon plays this role with such honesty. At the start of her journey, she has no idea what she is doing. Later, she exudes loneliness and suffocating fatigue. Her burden is symbolized by the heaviness of her pack. Some kind souls help lighten her load. Some look and walk away. All the while, she has to balance self-reliance with trust and asking for help when she does not want to .
As a viewer, I was so anxious for this character. I so wanted her to make it, to reach her goal! But I was worried that she might be killed on the trail, assaulted, or bitten by a snake. By the end of the movie, I was drained.
Witherspoon and Dern are both nominated for Academy Awards for this film. I hope other women will get to experience this movie and scream at some of their own demons.
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!!!
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:
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:
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 A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy→
My fifties started with a bang. I jumped out of a plane, following behind the person I was interviewing for a book. As soon as I was clear of the plane I felt myself relax and one clear thought came to me, “You’ve done it now, you might as well relax.” If I was going to hit the ground, I might as well enjoy this last minute.
I landed successfully and stood up with another clear thought: Stop doing anything that isn’t working. There was a long list. My entire way of thinking up to that point was to try and make sure everyone else liked me, no matter what the consequences.
By the time I turned fifty, I was more of a chameleon than a human being and I had no idea what I liked to do.
As a writer, I was all over the map. Fortunately, it turned out I had some talent that over time became stronger. But as soon as I was headed down one path, someone would point out how I could be getting ahead faster if only I changed direction. Doubt would set in, and I’d let go of the plan that I had and set out again. Frustration and resentment built as I blamed others for why I wasn’t getting ahead in my life.
However, just a few months after that skydiving trip I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given one year to live. One month later, an unrelated cancer was found that took a good part of the skin on the lower part of my face. Suddenly, all of the outward need to please others fell away and I was able to give myself permission to say what I was really thinking, and stick with it.
The cancer didn’t spread any further, something the doctors only have ideas about but were never able to explain. No matter, the entire episode, which included having to learn how to walk again, transformed my way of thinking and then my life.
I started out in life being told that I was part of American royalty. I am the great-great-great-great-niece of Thomas Jefferson, named for his sister, Martha Randolph Carr and with that came a certain responsibility.
I interpreted that as a responsibility to look a certain way but had no idea what would be the most acceptable or virtuous front. Over the years it became whoever I admired or at least saw as successful and I’d change to match their vision of me, as I saw it. I wasn’t running my own race as much as playing a part in a lot of other people’s lives whether they even knew it or not.
Getting a second chance at being alive changed that and as usual, it’s reflected in my writing. I finally started writing a thriller series, The Wallis Jones Series that focuses on a woman a lot like myself who’s doing a pretty good job of building a life until she finds out that she’s part of a legacy she can’t just leave behind.
In The Keeper, the second in the series, Wallis finds out just how deep those family ties go and realizes running away won’t work anymore. There are a lot of people who have an idea of the right thing to do but Wallis has to find out for herself her own definitions. It’s going to take faith in herself and those around her like her husband, Norman and her tween son, Ned to find peace again in the middle of a dangerous situation.
The legacy of finding out that our roots are legendary is not to try and appear as if everything is alright. It turns out that my fifties gave me the gift of learning how to live up to the past by creating my own future, even if it doesn’t look a thing like anyone expected, including me.