Family Reunion, Summer of 2016

I am entering the dining room at June’s invitation, along with my four sisters and brother, expecting to have lunch as part of the family reunion.

“We’ll seat all of the siblings first,”, she says, and we follow along, like we always did, after all, she is the eldest sister. What I don’t notice at first, but what dawns on me moments later, is that there are only seven plates set out, at an event that should host 22.

“This is just for us, the others are eating on the patio.” she tells us, ladling out the borscht, a soup our mother served us in our farm kitchen, some 55 years ago.

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Happenings in Paradise – Power of the Pen

happenings-with-title-boldIn Paris, the rest of the village was living their regular lives, waking up this Saturday morning to the sound of birds in the backyard, dogs barking at each other across the gravelled streets. The men who owned businesses would usually be the only ones moving about, some of them jumping into their cars and pickups to prepare their stores for the public, some of them, like Mr. Jason, who owned the dry goods store, would be heading off to Joe’s to meet up with the six or seven guys for an early morning coffee.

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The Happiest People on the Planet

happiestIt appears that we older people are the happiest generation in history. Study after study says that we are. Our aging faces may not reflect this, but it’s true—we older people are considerably happier than younger people and certainly happier than people who are middle-aged. It seems that when it comes to the feel good chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins, we are practically junkies.

This is well documented.  Meg Selig, in a report for Psychology Today (2015) writes,

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Happenings in Paradise – The Talent Show

happenings-with-title-boldSo this was what it’s like to be a reporter, Norma thought, as she sat in the middle of the Paris Theater, with her notepad on her lap, and her stack of pens beside her on her seat, ready to assess the local talent. She had arrived early, in order to get a good seat, and the room was finally filling up, so she wasn’t “sticking out like a sore thumb”, as her mother would say.

She had a big job to do tonight. Mr. McCaskill had gone to a conference in Edmonton, and it would be up to Norma to “put the paper to bed,” to take the brown envelope containing the display ads, the classifieds, and the articles to the bus, so that in the morning it would go on to Peace River to be printed. McCaskill had given her so many instructions, her head was spinning. Make sure you number the ads, he said, and check my articles for spelling. And be on time at the depot. They won’t hold the bus for you.

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After the Boom – Children by Choice Not Circumstance

Mom Putting Baby In Pram

The baby boom still resonates in our society. So much has been said and written about the boomers, with constant speculation about what they will do next. With so much attention centered on them, and especially on their numbers, no one gives much thought to the women who were responsible for them—their mothers.

These were the women who grew up during the depression of the 1930s, coming of age just as WWII was ending—women who would be in their seventies or eighties now. They were in their twenties and early thirties when soldiers came home from the war, yearning for stability, ready to marry and settle down. These young women were unknowing recipients of new and constricting expectations, some imposed by a society tired of self-denial and war, and some imposed by corporations capitalizing on a nation’s desire for the safety and comfort of family.

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Happenings in Paradise—The Paris Bulletin

happenings-with-title-boldOn Friday, Norma arrived at school late, after a frustrating morning at the Jason’s, where she stayed as a boarder, doing various chores to earn her keep. Everything seemed to go wrong. Mrs. Jason was still in bed when she woke up, and the girls were playing grown-up in the kitchen, pouring cereal into bowls and spilling milk, the baby wet and cranky in his crib. Mr. Jason had long gone. An easy-going man, he often helped Norma with the children on those mornings when his wife stayed in bed, postponing her responsibilities until the very last moment.

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Are Millennials Questioning The Wisdom of Older People?

wisdom“In youth we learn, in age we understand”.

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach wrote these words when she was seventy-five years old. It’s my favourite explanation of wisdom. I’ve gone so far as to print it out on a little card and mount it above my desk, just as a reminder that wisdom, as a by-product of age, has value.

I need to be reminded about that these days, when attitudes about us, the older generation, is eroding, and our place in the world is being questioned.

In the past, when I’ve been frustrated or overwhelmed, it helped to read the quote, and have my spirits buoyed by the idea that, now that I’m older, I have the advantage of being wiser, too.

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Happenings in Paradise – A Journalist is Born

happenings-with-title-boldRain pelted down on the people of Paris as they entered the community hall to officially name their town. Water from the spring run-off flowed in rivulets across the street, producing a mixture of gravel and gumbo that stuck to their boots, adding a layer of mud to every step.  Norma grumbled as she struggled toward the yard light and into the hall. Her plastic rain cap flew off in the wind, and now her bangs were plastered to her forehead—she knew she looked a mess.

A quick glance around the hall assured her that no one that mattered was there, only a bunch of middle-aged business men and their wives. No one from school, thank God! Tonight she was just a high-school kid sitting at the back of the room, head lowered over a note-book. But by Friday! Different story. They’ll all know her, after reading the Paris Post. A ripple of excitement clamped her stomach, easing into the region of her bladder, and making her want to pee again. But no way was she going to get up and walk in front of everyone to the toilet, situated incomprehensibly behind the speaker.

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Happenings in Paradise-The Letter

happenings-with-title-boldNorma and Doreen moved languorously through those first days of summer. Trying to get the worst out of the way, they rushed to finish their daily chores, spurred by an urgency to spend their extra hours together. In Norma’s family, ‘helping out’ was a well established tradition: Norma and her brother James were given chores from the time they were five or six, expected to do little jobs like wiping dishes or loading the firebox without being reminded. Now that they were older, they were supposed to dedicate a few hours every day to the endless work on the farm—there was always so much to do. This summer, James worked at a neighbor’s farm in addition to his own chores, tilling fields and clearing weeds whenever they needed a hand. This was a matter of great pride to James, and a source of great irritation to Norma.

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Happenings in Paradise-Summer Begins

happenings-with-title-boldIt was June, and the sun hovered on the horizon until close to midnight, rising three hours later, but it never got dark. Between sunset and sunrise, there was a smokey dusk, and if people couldn’t sleep, they lit a lamp so they could putter around or read. The constant light threw everyone out of kilter. Farmers, tired from a day of discing slept restlessly for a few hours, waking to worry about what was left undone because of the heat. Their wives struggled heavy-lidded through their day, sleep-walking through the most necessary of chores. Only small children, their energy depleted from their extended day of play, slept well.

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Retirement – The Other Side of the Story

retirementLast week I wrote about retirement. It was an upbeat article, with a few remarks about my experience as a long time retiree, and some links to other blogs and articles. It was well received, with many readers offering their positive experiences. But a couple of readers took me in a different direction—to a less comfortable place, which I’ve always known about, but didn’t really want to acknowledge.

What was pointed out to me was the other side of retirement. While I was writing about the people who were having a happy and successful retirement, I was ignoring the thousands who were not enjoying it at all.

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Retirement – The Best Is Yet To Come!

RetirementIt seems that there is a rush on retirement these days. I guess that makes sense—the baby boomers are getting older, and many of them are turning 65, some even 70, if they were born in 1946.

When I retired there was little fanfare about it, we decided to retire, we went to the banquet, we got our watch (in my case, an engraved tray) we went home and figured out what to do from there. Nobody speculated about our numbers or least of all, our well being.

We were part of a generation that enjoyed the last of the benefits of a long term secure job, and the last of the pensions that were awarded devoted servants of the system. We owned our own homes, we saved for a rainy day, we went along with the corporate decisions whether we agreed with them or not, and we didn’t complain (that’s why we were called the ‘The Silent Generation’).We worked as long as we felt we were productive, and when the age of 65 approached, we took the hint and moved on.

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