By Ann Rodgers
Dear Village friends:
I wanted to make sure you knew that this is possible on the Green Lake walk. I have been feeding the red-winged blackbirds for about three years now. It is a delightful feeling when one lands on your hand!
By Abby Ellin
March 20, 2015—The New York Times
As a girl growing up in Jamaica, Queens, Lucille Gang Shulklapper dreamed of being a writer and “having a househusband like Edna St. Vincent Millay.”
Life didn’t unfold quite that way. Instead of having a literary career, she married, took a teaching job and raised three children. She wrote off and on, mostly for herself. But when she retired in her late 50s, “words came tumbling out of closets and drawers, leaking from rusty faucets and reappearing as character actors,” said Ms. Shulklapper, now 80. She began sending out poems and short stories, and published her first book of poetry in 1996, when she was 60.
Since then, she has published four chapbooks, which are typically small editions of 40 pages or so, and a fifth is in progress. And in January, Guardian Angel Publishing released Ms. Shulklapper’s first children’s book, “Stuck in Bed Fred.”
“We absolutely have to revamp this idea of a linear pattern of accomplishment that ends when you’re 50 or 60”
“I am living beyond my dreams,” said Ms. Shulklapper, a widowed grandmother of six who lives in Boca Raton, Fla. “I feel as though it’s my baby. A long pregnancy and now its delivery, all 10 toes and fingers.”
Conventional wisdom holds that if you do not write your “Farewell to Arms,” paint your “Starry Night,” start the next Twitter or climb Mount Everest by young adulthood, or at least middle age, then chances are you will never do it.
But that idea is becoming increasingly outdated as people are not only having successes later in life, but blooming in areas they never expected. Maybe they are not making millions, or wielding a brush like Rembrandt. Still, many people are discovering that the latter part of their lives can be just as (or even more) rewarding creatively, emotionally and spiritually.
Read the rest of this article here.
What if We Composted Our Bodies Instead of Burying or Cremating Them? The Revolutionary Idea Behind the Urban Death Project
By Brendan Kiley
The Stranger—March 3, 2015
“We can’t heal our relationship with the world until we heal our relationship with death. And Katrina’s project, done well, could help with that.”
If you happen to die in North America, this is probably what will happen next: Someone will pause for a moment in front of your corpse and then make a phone call. They’ll call either a funeral home or a local government agency, depending on how much money you have. Some minutes later—I’ve never timed the interval, but in my experience it’s always at the crossroads of too soon and eternity—two people will show up in suits to take your body away. They will briskly shake hands with the living and say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” in a tone that indicates they’d like to be sorry for your loss, but this is what they do for work. To preserve a semblance of dignity, they might invite the living to step out of the room while they begin the awkward business of wrangling your body onto a board, strapping it down, and getting you out of there as quickly as possible.
After that, unless you’ve planned ahead for something exotic—donating your body to a university, burial at sea—you’re headed in one of two directions: a casket or a furnace.
Read the full article in The Stranger here.
By Marilyn Zuckerman
“…the painters care that the wall is smooth…the carpenter cares that the corners are mitered properly.” (From Steven Kurtz’s New York Times article, “Thanks For Ripping Up our Home”, about the combined effort of workers building a Chelsea loft and a fulsome thanks from the loft’s owners.)
Seeing beauty everywhere—
the deep glow of cherry wood cabinets
bookcases and ruddy floorboards
perfectly laid, arrow straight
and walls where the paint flowed flawlessly
light green and eggshell white
—the gorgeous tiled shower
fit for the Taj Mahal.
Like a visitor to the museum
I’m gazing at the art
examining the details
—a geologist at the Grand Canyon.
I think of the effort it takes
to make a house—
I think of barn raising—
everyone sweating toward one goal
—a house with walls
and a roof, sweeping windows
a basement and a fireplace.
This same effort once made the Pyramids
a cathedral or a prairie home.
But here’s the miracle—
everything has come together
as we planned—
See the workspace before the window
bookcases around it
for papers and poems in progress
no longer lying precariously as they once did
on the top of the dining room table.
Now the new refrigerator
sings, hums and makes
· · ·
This poem is intended as homage to the crew of Upright Construction, some of whom I met once or not at all while others I learned to know quite well. Everyone on the team did more than pull his/her weight and left individual fingerprints on the job—my deep thanks for being so aware of my needs and leaving behind a work of beauty for my pleasure!
By Dick Gillett
Would you like to know what a group of seniors in the Phinney Ridge area might be reading these days? Books on aging, right?
Well, sure—books like Embracing Life, by David Goff, or The Healthy Aging Brain, by Louis Cozolino, a book that looks into the neuroscience of the brain (said to be readable for non-scientists), or Dancing Fish and Ammonites, by Penelope Lively.
On the second Wednesday of each month, the Phinney Village book group meets at 11am at Couth Buzzard Books (8310 Greenwood Avenue). Surrounded by cozy bookshelves and sipping coffee, the group meets for a little over an hour and instead of selecting a book to read together over a period of time, we go around the table and report on what we’re reading or what we’ve recently read. With 10 or 12 of us generally present, there’s enough time for a brief report from each person and questions or comments. In March, this group will celebrate its first anniversary! As one who came aboard last April, I find myself astonished at the range and depth of books we are collectively reading.
This month, for example, Roger reported on a World War II historical novel, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. This tale centers on a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide during the war years. Next, Don (a confessed “map nut”) reported on the book, Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities. One of the book’s global maps portrays countries’ sizes in proportion to the number of languages spoken there. Which place do you think would be the largest?* (You can likely guess the size of the U.S. ) In the brief discussion of this book, Terry asked a great question of the group: What will happen to our young people who navigate only by GPS?
Do you want serious history? In previous months, Marian reported on Indian Summer: The End of the British Empire by Alex Kunzelman and Terry reported on a book on Afghanistan under British rule. This month Tom reported on The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura J. Snyder. This book relates the story of four young students in the 19th century at England’s Cambridge University. Inspired by the philosopher Francis Bacon, they sought to promote the use of science for the public good and ended up designing the first mechanical computer.
We’ve also heard about books about books—and they’re more interesting than you might think. Marguerite reported on a book about the history of libraries, The Library at Night, leading to comments about Andrew Carnegie’s passion for building libraries, including a number of them here in Seattle. Don shared Bound in Venice, by Alessandro Marzo Magno, about the first book printed—only five centuries ago in Venice.
But lest the hour get too weighty intellectually, Marguerite offered Dial C for Chihuahua, a hilarious mystery by Waverly Curtis in which a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua detective shines a light on human foibles!
To learn more, you can email our convener, Nancy Spangler: email@example.com.
* New Guinea
Find these books!
By Liz Bjorkman
Among the many vetted vendors on a list maintained by the PNA Village Business Referral Committee, there is one that you might not think about on a routine basis. However, if you have a cat, you should know about a fellow named Zack. Zack has been called the “Cat Whisperer” due to his special affinity for cats and because he just seems to speak their language. This gifted man can help you carry out your veterinarian’s instructions to give your cat a pill or even give your cat a subcutaneous injection. He can take your furry creature to a vet appointment and back if you cannot. He can also take care of your cat when you travel.
If you’d like to know more about Zack’s services—or any of the vetted vendors on the Preferred Vendor list—please call the PNA Village Office (206.789.1217).
By Alyssa McFarland
Some days (or months, or years) you just can’t summon the energy to actually read a book, and it makes you melancholy, because reading is something you really enjoy. Maybe it’s just a temporary condition for you – you’re ill or just had surgery, perhaps – and you know your love for reading will return eventually. Or maybe this weariness for reading has been going on for a long time. If you’re like me, you occasionally go through phases where reading seems to take too much brain power. But still…books call to you, like needy kittens and puppies, begging for your attention.
So what can you do? Here are a few suggestions:
Taking a vacation from your usual reading habits might be just what the doctor ordered!
By Jane E. Brody
The New York Times Well Blog—February 9, 2015
Virgie Divinigracia had the kind of death last month that most Americans say they want: at home, relieved of physical and mental pain, surrounded by those she loved, “a beautiful death” as those present described it. Alas, this is true for too few Americans. Most still die in costly medical facilities tethered to machines, often unable to communicate, in a futile attempt to prolong their lives.
Dr. Angelo E. Volandes, the author of an enlightening new book, “The Conversation,” said that although Americans received some of the best health care money could buy, “they also experience some of the worst deaths in the developed world,” mainly because people failed to articulate what they wished for at the end of life, and doctors failed “to recognize that fixing specific problems may not fix the whole patient.”
Mrs. Divinigracia’s experience is illustrative. At 88 and in need of full-time care after 10 years with Alzheimer’s disease, she developed acute kidney failure. Her doctor suggested dialysis.
But after a clearheaded review of her prospects, her devoted husband and primary caregiver, Paul, and their son and daughter acknowledged that, had she been able to say so, she would not have chosen aggressive medical treatment that would only further diminish the quality of her remaining days.
And so she lived to have an 89th birthday celebration with her family before deteriorating health prompted a call to hospice for help.
Read the full post here.
By Anthony B. Robinson
Crosscut.com — February 3, 2015
In the era of school shootings and terrorism it is understandable that safety has become a priority. But has it also become an obsession?
Are we so focused on “safety” that we overlook the downsides, or at least the other side, of this priority? In her provocative book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit notes, “A recent article about the return of wildlife to suburbia described the snow-covered yards in which the footprints of animals are abundant and those of children entirely absent.
But it is not only the young that lose out when safety becomes an unquestioned norm. It is also the old.
“As far as the animals are concerned,” Solnit continues, “the suburbs are an abandoned landscape, and so they roam with confidence. Children seldom roam, even in the safest places. Because of their parents’ fear of the monstrous things that might happen (and do happen, but rarely), the wonderful things that happen as a matter of course are stripped away from them . . . I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest.”
Others have also commented on the constrictions of so-called helicopter parenting and the over-scheduled child. A concern for safety is at least part of what has eroded the opportunities for children to roam the neighborhood and have the unstructured time to do so.
But it is not only the young that lose out when safety becomes an unquestioned norm. It is also the old.
In the new book of physician-author Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, Gawande describes what has happened as safety becomes the be-all and end-all as people age and encounter the trials of sickness and mortality. Safety, concludes Gawande, is not the same thing as meaning.
Continue reading here.
By Judy Pigott
Reblogged from Personal Safety Nets (January 2015, Issue 76)
Most of us might define “unconditional love” as loving another with no conditions or circumstances – regardless of how that person treats you or us, or what they do to or for us – we think the mandate is to love them no matter what. When you find someone who loves you for “who you are,” it’s an amazing experience, and similarly, it’s rewarding to love someone else just “as they are.” But what does this mean?
Dr. Jeremy Nicholson, doctor of social and personality psychology, believes that such bonds are priceless and should be nurtured with great affection. But he stresses that “relationships” are an entirely different thing. “Relationships are working partnerships. They involve thoughts, reasons, and decisions. They require two (or more) individuals in communication, commitment and cooperative exchange.” Relationships have boundaries!
Therefore, love (feelings) and relationships (decisions) can have separate rules and expectations. Nicholson believes, “Love, because it is a feeling, can be unconditional. Sometimes, no matter what a partner does, feelings towards them do not change. Relationships, however, are working partnerships, and as such, they require conditions, boundaries, limits, and directions to run smoothly.” In other words: while you may continue to love a partner “no matter what,” you may not choose to be in a relationship with them under all or any conditions. (“I love you, but find your behaviors/actions to be hurtful or wrong or unappreciated”).
According to Nicholson, “Some individuals may say, “love is enough” – deciding as long as they have love, nothing else matters, and as a result, their relationships become “unconditional” as well. But for most, there is a need to maintain a distinction between love and relationship. While these people love their partners unconditionally, they set rules that maintain a relationship that ensures a balanced, equitable exchange in their romantic partnership.” Therefore, “It is possible to continue to “feel” love unconditionally, while choosing to end unhealthy partnerships/relationships when the conditions are no longer feasible.”
How does this relate to loving our children? Here there have been conflicting opinions over the decades. More than 50 years ago the psychologist Carl Rogers postulated that simply loving our children wasn’t enough – that we have to love them unconditionally – for who they are not for what they do. But does this match today’s idea that we should turn up the affection when children are good, and withhold affection when they are not? Today’s pop-psychological book-writers such as Dr. Phil and Jo Frost (the Supernanny) push us towards “conditional parenting” – the idea of rewarding good behavior, and withholding love and attention (often through “time-outs” that exceed safe or reasonable limits) for bad behavior (sometimes called “love withdrawal).
Alfie Kohn, author of 11 books on human behavior and education, including Unconditional Parenting and Punished by Rewards follows international research and data that tells us “love withdrawal isn’t particularly effective at getting compliance, much less at promoting moral development.” He states, “The primary message of all types of conditional parenting is that children must earn a parent’s love, and a steady diet of that (as Rodgers warned) will see children turning to alternative resources (therapists, lovers) to provide the unconditional acceptance they did not receive from their parents.” When a time out looks like a withdrawal of love, then it’s too much. Love for the child is secure, all behavior isn’t acceptable. Ideally, parents can convey this balance.
A 2014 study by America’s leading expert on the psychology of motivation, Dr. Edward L Deci, at the University of Rochester, working with teenagers, found that both positive
and negative conditional parenting were harmful – in slightly different ways. The positive kind may get children to work harder (say at academic tasks) but at a cost of unhealthy feelings of “internal compulsion.” Negative “conditional parenting” didn’t even work in the short run; it just increased the teenagers’ negative feelings about their parents. (editor’s note: luckily, this is usually short-lived and disappears long before the child has children of their own).
So what about the use of parental love as a tool with children? According to Deci and others, unconditional love by parents (as well as unconditional acceptance by teachers) should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraged without manipulation, and actively imaging how things look fro the child’s point of view. All age-appropriate, of course. “We must start to look at our love for our children from the perspective of the child – whether they feel just as loved when they mess up or fall short.”
Thinking about unconditional love for a partner and/or a child, brings us to one greater point: giving and experiencing unconditional love for ourselves! Some of us may never have received or felt such love (even from a parent) and that may be creating a large block in our ability to provide that love to others – beginning with ourselves. But the good news is that the ability to experience unconditional love starts with giving that love to ourselves – and that starts with accepting ourselves – imperfections and all!
Some psychologists, including Dr. Laura Markham, and author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, believe that learning unconditional love starts with a first step: “a commitment to radical self-compassion.” This means “parenting yourself in a loving way through all the trials and tribulations of life” – first by accepting that humans are never perfect, and each of us has flaws an makes mistakes. Markham says, “Radical self-compassion – whether it comes from inside or outside -gradually moves humans from a state of being “self-centered” to a state of being “centered in self.” Researchers say this deep self-love is the opposite of selfishness. We become so secure in our ok-ness that we’re more emotionally generous.”
Dr. Leon Seltzer, clinical psychologist and author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy, tells us, more than anything else, undertaking such deeply personal work (learning to unconditionally love ourselves) involves developing greater self-compassion. “You need to recognize that given your defenses, blind spots, insecurities, and the harmful things you may have been exposed to, you really are doing the best you can – and have been – all along. Additionally, you need to stop evaluating yourself according to standards that don’t really fit who you are, or what you can realistically expect of yourself.”
Dr. Seltzer agrees: “As you succeed in accepting yourself more – in simply coming to appreciate who you are, and are not – the self-judgmental barriers that have prevented you from loving yourself other than conditionally begin gradually to fall away.” Just as with another person, it is likely that there are some behaviors of our own that cross lines of acceptability: things done for which guilt is appropriate. This is a time for self-compassion. The action was regrettable and may need repair, but the love of basic self is broader. “It’s precisely in this much more kindhearted and understanding self-recognition that lies the path not just to unconditional self-acceptance but also to unconditional self-love.”
A second step is to make repair and connection a way of life. It’s been said that we need seven positive interactions to every negative interaction to keep a relationship in good shape. Whether this exact number is true or not, think of balancing your self-speak negatives with more positive connections – it will help you keep the relationship with your self in the best of shape. Don’t let others tell your story for you. You are the determinator of your life and what you choose to tell and receive. Life does not have to continue the way it has been in the past. When you change your thoughts, your feelings become more forgiving and more loving. It’s like setting up your own positive mantra.
A third step is to realize that unconditional self love can be learned by cultivating a more benevolent attitude toward yourself.
Dr. Seltzer says this is an attitude that is “one that’s more benign and forgiving, but also more charitable, considerate, and sympathetic – comprising the essential ingredients of self-love. And with this profound attitudinal shift, such love of self can eventually be “set in stone”-virtually automatic.” It can then extend to love of and compassion for others, while setting boundaries for behavior & safety. Give the benefit of the doubt, but stay safe.
Harold Becker, author of Internal Power: Seven Doorways to Self Discovery, and founder of The Love Foundation writes, “The most courageous act we can ever undertake is to love ourselves and life unconditionally. . .doing so ensures that the energy of life flows through us uninhibited and free of judgement and misqualification.” He also reminds us that, “loving ourselves is a continuous process not a goal.”
How about taking your first step today!