As young as you feel (Not as old as you look)

The signs of getting old are pretty hard to ignore.  Or so it seems to be.  And they extend far beyond graying hair and wrinkled faces, a slower shuffle across the floor and constantly having to choose between “Huh?” once more time or smiling politely having absolutely no idea what was being said or what I might have agreed to.

There are some signs of aging I just didn’t expect.  I rub against something and suddenly there is a cut that is bleeding—adding a whole new meaning to “thin skinned.”  My lab reports show I need a little more Vitamins D and B12 and I assume it is because I am not eating right or not getting enough sun. Except when I look it up on the internet both deficiencies are common in “the aging population.”  Forgetfulness is almost a cliché  and I can’t quite convince myself that it is because I have an overcrowded brain rather than because my aged synapses aren’t synapsing like they once did.

Sadly enough I am not the only one who notices that the years are catching up to me.  I talked on the phone to a college friend who works for a major, national recruiting firm for educational and non- profit organizations. We were talking about what we were doing and when we would stop doing what we were doing.  I had a sudden inspiration and asked her Wouldn’t it be fun, once we retire, to start a whole new career?  I figured, after all, she would have the pulse on some great possibilities.  But there was a moment of silence, then what sounded like a snort, and then the kind of uncontrollable giggling I hadn’t heard out of her since we were, well, in college. ‘”Beth,” she said.  “I tell search committees all the time that age doesn’t matter.  But they just look at me like I have lost my mind. Guess what. Age matters.” 

I am sure there is some wisdom in that, the assumption being that once we reach our “golden years” (Who decided they were ‘golden?’) we had pretty much spent ourselves.  Even reminding the committees that both presidential candidates were eligible for Medicare didn’t help, she explained.

But the worst, I think, is when people are impressed with  what we can still manage, as old as we appear to be. I had just finished an 8 mile hike which ended at the parking lot for the Claremont Wilderness Trail.  I was feeling pretty darned good, until, that is, a nice woman stopped to talk to me.  I would guess she was in her early 40s.  She was about to do the 5 mile loop, or so she told her friend.  But she looked at me with such kind eyes and such a sweet voice (the kind reserved for toddlers and great grandmothers) and asked me encouragingly,  “Did you go all the way to the top??” I just nodded.  Anything I might have said would have been inappropriate for my age and/or my profession.

So when I turned on "Jeopardy" the other night and saw the categories I was heartened.  “Perks of Aging” was one of them.  I thought about what might be included—Medicare, AARP, senior citizen discounts at the theater, senior centers where there are hot meals and cool people to meet.  

Apparently my definition of aging is strikingly different than the producers of "Jeopardy" think.  All of the answers (which require the right question) were things like:  not having to take the LSAT, SAT or this test whose initials are GRE, or not having to go to the kind of events that happen in places like Coachella.. and on it went.  Obviously for them getting old starts happening as one screeches towards 30 instead of 60 or 70.

So I hadn’t been feeling quite so good about my age, even though I haven't slowed down and I have even found new things to do. I can lift  my paddleboard on the top of  my car and go to the lake and not fall off my paddle board.  I can hike for 8 miles and love the silence and solitude.  I don't worry so much about what other people think as long as I keep thinking about other people.  

But the signs of aging had been pretty hard to ignore.   

Until that day at Cedar Lake camp when I was walking with my fourth grade friend Madyson.   I teach the 2-6th graders for an hour each day and on this day we were following the life of Jesus.  We had begun in the meeting room remembering the story of Jesus' birth.  We had stopped at the lake to imagine John the Baptist baptizing Jesus (I know Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan but the camp is Cedar Lake not Cedar River.  You have to be flexible to teach...)   We walked towards the boats where we were going to find some disciples. As we walked I asked the kids what Jesus would need to do to make sure everybody heard the message he was bringing about God and the kingdom of God and the love of God.

They giggled and more than one said ‘Twitter.”  We all laughed.  I then started to tell Mady that I was so old that I remembered telephones that stayed in once place and had a dial.  I got out the words, “I am so old,” when she stopped me.  Literally stopped me.  

“You aren’t old,” she said.  “You’re Beth.” 

Those words have changed me.  Those words have warmed me and empowered me and comforted me and compelled me to keep being…Beth. Those words have invited me to discover who Beth is today and who Beth will be in the days to come.  Those words echo the words of the one we were following that day, the One we must follow every day.  

For it was Jesus himself who said:  ”You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

And guess what—our lights aren’t out yet. 


Thanks be to God (and to Madyson!)


Amazing Day



It started out as a very good day:  Thursday, day off.  Plumber coming to fix the tub so I could take hot baths again.  Up early enough to have a decent hike through Johnson pasture and see the sun rise through pink streaked skies.  Home in time to have a banana with my dog snuggled beside me,  my cup of coffee steaming in my hand.  Ready to read my  newspapers.     And that is when a very good day took a turn.  For the worse.

I read something that hit me where it hurt.  And it wasn’t anything about health care or taxes or immigration or even Russia.  It wasn’t that my Angels still had some questions about the opening day lineup.  There wasn’t a rehash of the losses my Badgers and Bruins had in the NCAA tournament.   And I was even okay not knowing the answer to the Jeopardy clue that the NY Times publishes every day.

Nope.  It was , of all places, in the NY Times style section.  Now I always read that with some trepidation.    After all,  most of what I see is too expensive or too young --but a girl can dream.  Today was no different.  The “double duty attire” was too revealing and too gold.    I  chuckled at featured item:  Satchels that could be attached to the front of a bicycle with a price tag of merely $2050.  Those were just amusing.  It was when I turned to page D7 that my heart nearly stopped.

You see, I have just gotten new glasses, the first in about three years.  I was partly motivated by the world looking fuzzier and my eyes getter tireder…but more honestly it was that the glasses I have been wearing don’t look like the glasses everyone else has been wearing.

I had the exam and started looking for frames.  And it didn’t take long to find a pair I liked, really liked.  In fact I liked them so much I didn’t care whether anyone else liked them or not.  I liked them so much that I decided to get a similar pair of prescription sunglasses.  After all, if I wanted to be cool and my new glasses were cool it was time to stop embarrassing my son by wearing cheap sunglasses over my real glasses. 

The glasses fit big on my face.  They are tortoiseshell acetate.  They bear a designer name.  

But that headline.  In the newspaper this morning:

Aviators Return:  An Old-School Frame is New Again

It only got worse as I began reading:

Good riddance to geek chic.

Yes, we could be witnessing the demise of hipster eyewear.  You know the kind.  They’re black, brown or sometimes tortoise shell.  They’re chunky, oversize and made of acetate.  They’re part of an L train look that in the last five years has been worn by everyone from Hollywood’s A-list to the local CVS pharmacist.

But now, you need to move on….  (New York Times, March 30, 2017 p.D7)

OMG!!!!  Here I am, once again, just a few years behind.  Here I am, as always, just a few years behind.   I shouldn’t be surprised.  It was only when it was named the Oxford new word of the year that I heard  “selfie” and had to Google it to find out what it meant.  I still don’t know how to pronounce quinoa and only recently tried kale. 

But nothing can be done about it now.  And the amazing thing is, despite it all, I still like my new glasses.  I like that I can see.  I like them dark against my face.  I like that they hide the eyebrows I don’t have and the blemishes I do have. 

Is there a lesson in all of this?  Perhaps…From the book of Proverbs:  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.  From the Gospel of Matthew:. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, or about what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?

Or maybe the lesson is that that one article about one thing can’t spoil a beautiful sunrise, a helpful and friendly plumber,a dog who snuggles and coffee that steams.

In the words of e.e. cummings :  ‘Thank you Lord for this most amazing day…”





For the Fourth 

I love the fourth of July.  I love the stars and the stripes and the fireworks.  I love singing “America the Beautiful.”  I love the images of the Statue of Liberty and the  words of Emma Lazarus that she speaks

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door

I love the fourth of July and I have since I was a little kid.  Back then we had sparklers we would flail around and snakes that would burn in funny black coils.  And there were fireworks, always fireworks, whether we were in tiny Eagle River where Grandpa and Grandma lived where the display seemed barely to reach the sky, or at home on the highest hill where we could watch the sky burst into color from the east side and the west side and all around the town.

There were parades too, and we would crepe paper our bikes in red white and blue and clothespin baseball cards to the spokes to make as much noise as a small two wheeler could.   Hot dogs and hamburgers and sno cones and ice cream…..the Fourth of July was a great day and it always ended with a sense of joy that we lived in a country as wonderful as this one.

As I grew older my appreciation deepened.  The holiday became more than fireworks and fun-filled festivals.  The more I learned about the world the more amazing the story of our own country became.    Visiting the east coast I found the bridge in Concord where the shot heard round the world was fired and it is still one of my favorite places anywhere.  I have walked the freedom trail numerous times and every time I am awed by what men and women sacrificed to insure that our rights were preserved and that we would be a government by the people and for the people.  And even though I can’t stand the Red Sox I love all of the history that Boston cradles.

From the protests of the 60’s to the patriotism after 9/ll we are united in our conviction that freedom and democracy are to be always cherished and celebrated.  So I always look forward to the 4th of July.  In recent years that has meant wandering around Memorial Park in Claremont.  I visit booths of every political and social perspective.  I buy snacks supporting young people and old people and organizations determined to make a difference.  I listen to speakers who make me clap and make me groan and remind me that without such divergent perspectives our country would never deepen or grow or be able to face the future and all its uncertainties.

But this year a little shadow has fallen upon my excitement.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it bothers me a lot.

I saw it on television.  Usually I mute the commercials but for some reason I didn’t mute this one.  I should have.  Really.  This one was  for Carl’s Jr.’s.  The ad begins with the question…”what can be more American than a cheeseburger?" And for a hopeful moment I imagined that they were going to take their commercial time to honor our nation.


Instead the ad answers the question “what can be more American than a cheeseburger?”  And we see a woman barely clad in a star striped bikini as we are told “This cheeseburger loaded with a hot dog and potato chips, in the hands of all American model Samantha Hoots “ in a hot tub, in a pick up truck driven by an American bull rider, on an aircraft carrier, under the gaze of Lady Liberty as she admires the most American thick burger with a split hot dog and kettle cooked potato chips on a fresh baked bun.”

And as I look at the ad I see her—not the all American model, but rather the model for all Americans, our lady of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty.     There she is, her torch held high welcoming so many souls into our country.  There she is, and I also realize that my beloved “America the Beautiful” is playing in the background.

Trust me, even Carl’s Jr. cannot tarnish our Lady of the Harbor.  Even Carl’s Jr. cannot mute the meaning of “American the Beautiful.”

But shame on them for trying.

My only prayer is that The Lady of Liberty’s  torch will forever light the words of the hymn:

“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.  And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

And I think that this year, in my picnic at the park,  I’ll go with a chicken burger. 

I’m just saying…..





A letter I am about to send seems to be a pretty darn good witness as  to why sometimes being with people, face to face matters a lot and makes a difference.  It feels pretty good when you can see someone smile, or hear them sing, or feel their hand grab yours when there is a tear running down your cheek.  And if you don’t know where you can find a place where you can be with people face to face who will be glad to see you whenever you come---try a church.  Try our church.  Try Pilgrim Church! 

(And if you are changed—like my onlinedating.CON tried to change me-- you can be darned sure it will be for the better.  In fact, it might well be forever.)


Here’s my letter:


Dear Onlinedating.CON,


I am sorry I have to write to you to say goodbye.  I wish I could say it was good while it lasted but wasn’t really so good.  Hilarious? Yes.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Humbling?  Totally.

So before I go any further maybe you could pass on some words to some of your friends.  I never got to really meet them, but for a while it sure seemed like they wanted to meet me!  It was amazing that those fellows who winked first were all natives to part of the British empire even though they now live (or so they say—wink) in Southern California.

Please tell the New Zealand Dave guy whose profile picture was of him playing with a dolphin in Orlando that it probably wasn’t Disneyworld he was visiting but Sea World.  Funny how people get those two places mixed up.  And maybe it wasn’t so believable for him to say that he was going to make himself an “American” dinner with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Lots of work and lots of food for one guy.   I should have wondered when I tried to call him back on the number he used to call me and his personal extension had 14 numbers.  I have to say that his work as a mining engineer going to Turkey to mine blue garnets was pretty enticing.  And the attention he gave me woke me up.  Maybe that’s why I almost bought him the new computer he needed and why I almost sent it to Turkey and was willing to wait until he got it for him to send me the $2500 it would cost.   He was disappointed when I told him my son who is on my accounts wouldn’t let me do it—in fact I suspect he could hear my  son yelling all the way from Brentwood to ….Turkey. (The guy must really like Thanksgiving!)  I need you to pass on the information because he never called me again after I said “No.”  I guess he doesn’t like me any more.

Then the Irish guy in San Diego probably needs some friendly advice.  When you are courting, via email, a woman who is your “butterfly,” a woman who can’t wait to hold….better not to tell her that if there is a disagreement you try really hard to solve the problem without using physical abuse.  And no, if I am in a happy relationship I don’t need to keep it private.  Perhaps those two things don’t fit so well together if you are trying to find the love of your life.  And also…just let him know that I didn’t get the picture of the rose—must have been some other butterfly.  I got the picture of the Chihuahua wearing a coat and shoes.   For the record—I don’t do Chihuahuas and especially Chihuahuas wearing shoes.   And what a coincidence that he was heading to London and was going to bring back some gems.  Does he know New Zealand Dave?

Because I have had a few meetings with some good and gentle souls I would consider continuing our relationship, onlinedating.CON. 

But it seems you don’t like me the way I am.  Because at 1:58 a.m. on June 27, 2015, you changed me.  Instead of being a widow woman from Claremont, California interested in finding a man within 50 miles of home  I  became a widower from Chicago looking for a woman within 125 miles from home.  Go figure.

I like who I am and where I live and my mom always told me to be careful of people who try to change you too much.  So…

It has been hilarious. And frustrating.  And humbling.  Thanks for the laughs.


Beth (I can’t believe I am actually telling you my real name.  My last gesture of trust)





We weep


When I was in fourth grade my best friend Tudy and I had an idea.  We were bored.  It had been a long summer.  Madison, Wisconsin is a cool town but by August we had pretty much done everything that there was to do. So we decided that we would have a “speech supper” and invite our parents.  We would cook the food and then each of us would give a speech to our parents.  We would have it in the basement where we could set up chairs for our audience.

 We carefully planned a menu and were somewhat disappointed when our moms volunteered to prepare a lot of the meal, though I am sure they did a better job than we might have.  After all, we had speeches to write.

 Being a 5th grader, and having an older brother, Tudy could see what lay ahead.  So in preparation for adolescence her speech was about parents being too strict and making too many rules.  The applause was strong, though you could see some nervous looks on the faces of our parents who did, after all, have a lot of rules.

 I got up and opened my speech with a question.  ‘Do you think segregation is right?   I paused an then exclaimed, ‘Well it isn’t!”

 Now I was no specially gifted or saintly child.  I didn’t come up with that on my own.

 I learned from my family.  I learned from my church.  I learned from my community.  I learned that segregation and racism were wrong.  Just plain wrong. 

 I remember that now and hold on tightly in the wake of the horror in Charleston.  I remember that in 4th grade I had already learned from my family and from my church and from my community that segregation and racism and hatred were wrong.  Just plain wrong.

 So as I think about Dylann Roof I cringe and weep.  I will never know what psychic fog led him to decide that killing 9 people was necessary.  I suspect that there will be lots of speculation about his mental state and his mental illness. 

 But somewhere he learned who should be the target of his attack.  Somewhere he learned that being an African American was unacceptable.  Somewhere he learned that he had the right to take lives simply because of the color of their skin.  And to make his murderous ravaging evil more dramatic, he chose a church where the people were studying the word of God.

Clearly all of us have a job to do.  It may be the most important job before us.  Somehow we have to speak and live in a way that tolerates no such hatred.  No such racism.  We have to remember that all life matters and in this time and this place…#BLACKLIVESMATTER.

So I pause in prayer to honor and remember and weep for those who were killed:  Rev. Clementa Pinckney.  Rev. Sharonda Singleton.  Myra Thompson.  Tywanza Sanders.  Ethel Lee Lance.  Cynthia Hurd.  Rev. Daniel L. SimmonS, Sr.,  Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor.  Susie Jackson. 

May they rest in peace.  And may the rest of us not rest until there is peace.

 For we are the ones who know the truth of the words from my friend Louis who himself has been the object and target of racism…..