Today is the day. Ninety years ago today my mother, Iris Virginia Muir Chambers (as the D.A.R. addresses her mail) was born in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Soon she and her family moved to Washington DC where Mom grew up. The streets around the Capitol and the Mall were her playground and she and her two sisters, brother and parents made a great life there.
The world was a different place then, as we can all imagine, but it is amazing to note just how different. This was the world before the Great Depression and Washington DC was a prosperous and exciting place to be. For fun, people bought sheet music and gathered around the piano to make their own sound track. Soon radios became the standard in every living room and Mom eagerly awaited her favorite shows-Inner Sanctum and The Shadow. Baseball games began to be broadcast by Arch MacDonald and Babe Ruth dominated the game.
This was the decade when Charles Lindbergh made his solo flight across the Atlantic. He had to take a boat home as fighting the jet stream for a west to east flight was too taxing for airplanes of the day. Commercial flights were far in the future.
Mom was born before prohibition made the liquor flow freely in the speakeasies and back rooms all over the nation. Before refrigerators were a common household appliance and even before most families had indoor plumbing-which, I am assured, mom's home did have.
King Tut's tomb was discovered and became a sensation in 1922, the year before mom was born. The Hollywood (land) sign went up in LA. Talkies were the sensation in movies, replacing the silent films. Rudolph Valentino was out and Clark Gable was in.
Mom's future boss-J Edgar Hoover was busy founding the FBI where Mom would become part of the first team of women fingerprint experts during wartime.
And for you kids out there-think of this-no TV, no computers, no Internet, no cell phones. We had a big black phone with a dial, tethered to the wall and shared with a neighbor on a party line. If you had to make a call, it was carefully timed with the egg timer so the long distance charges did not break the budget. And-naturally, no texting and no Facebook.
The world is a different place today, but one thing is certain-it is a far better place for having our Mom-Iris Virginia Muir Chambers in it. (Without her I would not be here, so really important to me) We love you Mom! We love you for all the love and care, the cookies and concern, the happy childhood memories and the hours and hours of your time you have spent working to make all our lives richer, happier, and more full of love. Happy Birthday Mom!
Friends, I have created an adventure - a cross country drive to see some parts of our country I have not seen before. First heading south for a little visit with my family in Virginia, eventually winding up in Portland Oregon for a little grammy time with my West coast boys.
Each evening, the TV news tells me about the horrors that await me out there on the road. Hail-the size of soccer balls, forest fires, landslides, tornadoes, and now even the roads I drive might pitch me to my death by dropping into a sinkhole. Don’t even get me started on the one in nine bridges that are in serious danger of collapse. I like a little excitement, makes for a better story, but actual fatal incidents? Not really, no thanks, I’ll pass on that.
Staying home has it’s challenges too, watching the grass grow in the rain, day after day, anticipating the moment when the sun returns and I get to mow a four inch swath at a time through tall weeds. The boredom alone might do me in so I’ll take my chances, brave the rising gas prices, pack up the dog and drive off into the sunrise on a new adventure.
Along the way I’ll be visiting all the independent bookstores I can, tour some of the 6,500 wineries now established across the country and explore the burgeoning hand crafted, fair trade and organic chocolate making scene. I’ll need some coffee to fuel this adventure, so I will also be stopping at independent coffee shops. Contrary to popular belief, the success of Starbucks has sparked a gaggle of small roasters and I aim to check them out wherever I go.
Check out my route and follow my progress as I drive, taste, learn and savor-all the while working on the edit of my next book-”Radical Indulgence, The Health Benefits of Coffee, Chocolate and Wine”. I’ll be taking names and numbers for the index and in the end there will be a clever interactive map to share so all my readers can plan their own tasting travel adventures.
There should be time to muse and dream along the way and I expect a steady stream of connections, concepts, images, visions and dreams to emerge as I go.
Wish me luck-I’m hitting the road!
Yours, Mary Boone Wellington
Tracey and I have been out there in bookstores and businesses, meeting with people concerned about loved ones and hoping to get clues on how to manage their own future. I have been impressed with the degree of diligence this community brings to the issues that face us all and delighted by the new ideas bubbling up. Ideas like cooperatives of elderly folks pooling resources for services that make their lives easier and extend the good years in their own homes.
One woman introduced us to the three categories of aging-the Go Go Years, The Slow Go Years and the No Go Years. She noted that making good preparations for these stages is essential to a serene and joyful life. While many of us still believe that it will be “Go Go” till we drop off the perch, it seems wise to plan ahead.
I have been surprised by the age range of the women -(for it is mostly women who attend our talks.) Women in their eighties-and looking great might I add, who are living engaged and vibrant lives and Gen-Xers already caring for their parents-all come looking to join in a conversation about the future of old age.
In a world where 14% of the population will be elderly in 2014, it is more than time to re-vision this later stage of life or there will soon be a rather large bunch of grumpy old folks cluttering up the planet, querulously demanding all the services they need. The cruise ship style retirement community with wine bars, pool rooms and hot and cold running attendants might be fine for some, but many will be able to afford only a rowboat. The current vision for “housing” the elderly, however posh, can be isolating, as many such facilities are literally behind high walls, cut off from the community, as though old age were contagious.
Couldn’t young families use a helping hand, just like our seniors? With resources like meal preparation, transportation and skill sharing, (such as knitting and carpentry)-why wouldn’t it be a good idea to join forces? I like the idea of combining all ages-as Tracey points out, a two year old walks at the same pace as a ninety year old! Best friends in the making, I’d say.
Entrepreneurs, take note-there is a market out there for new ways to serve the community, both the aging one and the emerging one. It’s time to rethink old age and invent a new wave of possibilities.
One of the most popular holidays at my Mom’s elderly residence is Easter, where the families of all the employees and residents come on over to share a meal and a photo with the easter bunny. Kids of all ages, dressed in their best, play games, hunt eggs and share a meal with the elderly residents. Everyone enjoys the mix of ages as wisdom meets energy. What if the vacant apartments in the building were made available to families who needed a great place to live. Think of the fun! Some lucky two year old might just get that walk with a ninety year old new best friend.
Just as the weather has turned blindingly beautiful and I am eager to run all over the mountain roads of the North Country-in this brief season after the frost is out of the ground and the mud has receded and before the arrival of the black flies, I carelessly dropped a sofabed on my foot.
It was, as all sofabeds tend to be, heavy, and I dropped it from a good height, so it had time to get a good velocity going before it landed smack on top of my rather delicate little foot. Luckily the Arnica was within arms reach and as I pulled off my sock with one hand, I grabbed the tube in the other. I would love to do an experiment to find out if this is really effective or just a comforting belief in the herbal ways, but cannot resist doing what I can to stave off damage.
My day on the porch with my foot propped up and iced was not so bad, I found. Warm sun, cool breeze and the tea kettle just a few hops away in the kitchen, my computer on my lap (sorry cats, you had to settle for the guest chair), I got a surprising amount of work done.
This morning, the foot looks pretty good-nothing appeared to be broken though it was a very nice color of violet blue. I look forward with relief to the being up and about again, if not ready to run a 5K, at least managing a putter in the garden and to get the laundry put away.
I thought then of my Mom, who at age 89 has peripheral neuropathy which weakens her legs and makes it increasingly hard to get around. I wondered if Arnica would help and realized it is a very different thing to be down for a day or two from facing ever decreasing mobility.
The neuropathy, in which the messages to and from the brain are distorted by irregularities in the myelin sheath around the nerves, is genetic, caused by a glitch in a gene. It might well be something I face in the long distant future, should I be lucky enough to get old. I have the hope that some scientist is working on a gene upgrade, so I will be OK, but that is by no means a sure thing. I am optimistic though and for now, so is Mom. She does her exercises and walks as much as she can to keep fit and take advantage of the strengths she still has.
So I push the envelope and go the extra mile (literally) while I can and am grateful for every step, and for the strong will, courage and determination I also inherited from my mom. Thanks Mom for a genetic and spiritual legacy that is proving to be a pretty good deal, Happy Mother’s Day!Read More
Mom lives 584 miles away from me and while she is settled nicely in her elder community, active and busy, I still worry about her from afar. The road from New Hampshire to Virginia is challenged by weather and traffic and I do not get to visit as much as I would like. I know I am not alone in my long distance care adventure as many of my friends have begun this dance with parents, cousins and distant aunts.
Lately, Mom and I have discovered a few new ways to stay close while the miles keep us apart. As a beginner Mac user, mom was daunted by all the possibilities. She got her first little laptop a few years ago and has made friends with it. I swapped it out for a newer model recently and though there was a learning curve-Mom is back!
I have explained many times that no one knows how to do it all on the computer, (with the possible exception of my Grandson Jack-4 years old now, who mastered all devices that came near his fat little fists seemingly from the moment he was born.) As both of us were born before computer was more than science fiction, Mom and I have found that the challenge bonds us in our battle to master the latest and greatest gadget.
I wonder why more older folks do not embrace the computer for communication. Skype makes it possible to visit with great grandchildren for a spell without having to roll out the sofa bed and stow the fragile tea set and it is perfect for a daily look around mom’s place for the long distance relative who cares.
When I offered to get the Skype app on Mom’s new tablet, she said, no-wait till I can get back to Facebook-one thing at a time. Good idea, I respect her dance with technology and now I’m happy to report that Mom is calling me up wanting to know when my daughter and son cut their hair, having seen the current pics on Facebook. Thumbs up on both “new “ styles by the way–Mom is back on Facebook and as curious as ever about what she sees there.
Netflix is a source of great fun for Mom, who has access through her complicated array of TV remotes-I could not begin to sort out her thousands of channels and options, but she is master of all she surveys from her recliner chair in the living room corner. She still enjoys the quaint practice of mailing the DVD’s back and forth. Mom could write reviews, for she is a keen observer and I think she has seen almost every movie ever made.
Reading is a great pleasure for Mom and now she gets her books on her Kindle, where the type can be resized for her reading pleasure. It is also lighter than the big print books which can sometimes be of a daunting dimension and weight.
A nephew and granddaughter who live near her are charmed by Mom’s mission to master her little machines and swoop in to help frequently–an added bonus for all as she draws in assistance and visits when needed.
While nothing can take the place of a real time, in person visit, these interim measures plus a daily phone call fill in nicely. It is fun to be there and fine to leave as I never really feel too far away. As mom tackles Skype I am sorting out the intricacies of the video blog–watch for that here soon! I am imagining a Mom YouTube channel-you never know. All in all, I think technology has served mom and me very well. I promise to post a little clip of the two of us later this month!