Saturday, October 1, 2016

Saying Good Bye to the Sixties

Life in the Sixties

As a baby boomer, I became a young adult in the 60’s, completing high school and college and starting to work in my career as that decade ended. I experienced significant change in society during this time as I saw the people of my generation speaking up about intolerable conditions in American society involving illegal wars, the denial of civil rights to those groups that had been disenfranchised from the start of our so called “experiment in freedom and self government,” i.e., women, African Americans, Native Americans and even Mother Earth and its other living creatures. Through these efforts, we ended a war, ended the draft, finally brought the right to vote and other civil rights to African Americans still in bondage one hundred years after the Civil War, and raised awareness about the environment, women’s rights and Native American rights to live in sovereign nations according to their cultural standards that had been destroyed by Manifest Destiny.

The sixties gave way to the seventies, eighties, nineties and the start of a new Century, during which time I became a teacher, married homemaker, parent, foster parent, divorced, single mom, business entrepreneur with a second husband, and widowed teacher. The beginning of the 21st Century brought forced retirement and economic loss due to losing my career after becoming a whistle blower. That economic loss also resulted in physical, emotional and spiritual bankruptcy. All of this happened during my own twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. By the time I approached my sixties, I had regained my health and spiritual connection and faced my sixtieth birthday with the freedom of a caterpillar just emerging from her cocoon ready to experience the freedom of flight and soar into the life that was to be mine in “retirement.” Now approaching the end of my own sixties, I am taking these last few days to enjoy a Sentimental Journey through my sixties and share this decade with you through the medium of expression that I do best – the written word.  

I celebrated my sixtieth birthday on November 8, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. My older daughter gave me a trip to Vegas to see the Cirque de Soleil Love Show which was a breathtaking performance of circus acts set to the music of the Beatles. What a great way to start! My sixtieth birthday also brought me the gift of some retirement benefits attached to my two marriages.

My own retirement had been severely affected by the whistle blowing experience. The law suit that had resulted from the whistle blowing had been settled just before my 60th birthday, and although the settlement was far from being enough to make me whole, it did help finance the purchase of the tools I needed to venture into my second career, that of an author and playwright and to publish my first novel “The Peacemaker.”  The capital allowed me to learn and take advantage of the internet that supports individuals who desire to publish and market their own works. I developed my own platform for the marketing of my book and set up two websites for all the endeavors to follow; publishing and recording three songs left to me after the death of my brother, writing a musical that I adapted from a short story called “A Squeaky Wheel Gets Oiled – The Musical,” and a collection of four stories entitled “Celebrations from New Pangaea.” As I approach a new decade of life I look forward to publishing the completed manuscript of a sequel to “The Peacemaker” entitled “New Pangaea – An Evolution into the Fifth World.”

I completed “The Peacemaker” in 2009 and set off on my first cross-country book tour, driving from the West Coast to the East Coast and stopping in major areas that were settings in my book or places where I had connections to help me set up presentations in libraries, independent book stores, restaurants and Quaker meeting houses. I traveled through Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast, Georgia, the eastern seaboard through Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Syracuse, New York (the home of The Peacemaker), Marietta, Ohio (the first settlement in the Old Northwest Territory and a crossing point for the Underground Railroad). I ended my tour in Louisville, Kentucky, my home town, for a Thanksgiving reunion before returning to Oregon.  I reminded myself that Colonel Sanders had done the same thing with his fried chicken recipe when he was sixty-five and created a not too shabby retirement for himself.  

As a result of my amazing physical condition due to a new lifestyle fomented by a health challenge, I had also obtained a part-time job as a fitness instructor for a women’s gym in Florence, Oregon where I lived at the time. The housing bubble of the early twentieth Century had resulted in a real estate boom in Oregon causing my home to quadruple in value by the time I was 60 in 2006. Refinancing my home provided me with capital to finish the repairs needed to an aging septic system, cut back tress and foliage to meet the urban forest requirements to prevent wildfires,  address the damage done to siding from invasive growth and finish the remodeling projects that had been set aside due to the loss of my job which included the creation of a dance studio on a separate structure that had been built onto the half-acre, wooded paradise that was my home. After the studio was completed, I opened Nightlife Dance Studio and taught social dancing to members of the community for 10 years. In addition, I did my own dancing at jazz festivals throughout the Northwest and Southern California. I played tennis with a group of retired enthusiasts twice a week, unless traveling and enjoyed quiet kayaking and hiking trips along Oregon’s beautiful lakes and wooded areas.

I have always loved to travel and in 2008 I had the opportunity to take a cruise through the Eastern Mediterranean along the Balkan Coast, an area I missed on my first trip to Europe in 1968.  I visited Naples and Sicily. I combed the bazaars of Turkey and danced with two young business owners for a you tube video they did, climbed the steppes of the beautiful Greek village of San Torino, shopped the Grecian stores for great bargains, rode in a local taxi (what an experience) to the Olympian fields and raced with my companions there. I biked through Greek cities and sat in the restaurants on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean in Dubrovnik. I walked through peaceful streets filled with monuments to peace and free of evidence of violence or crime. The attention focused on the Middle East and terrorist activities in other areas of Europe has diminished the remembrance of the time of war and suffering that existed in this part of the world in the nineties. Visiting that area with that knowledge of that earlier time filled me with hope that perhaps peace might be possible in other “hopeless” parts of the world.

In 2012 I attended two major book festivals, one in Cleveland, Ohio and the other in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time, I added trips through South Dakota to visit Wounded Knee at Pine Ridge, South Dakota and the Crazy Horse Monument being carved into the  Black Hills just northwest of Mount Rushmore. I also visited that site along the way. I drove through the open range of Montana and camped at Yellowstone National Park – seeing wildlife (especially the buffalo) in its natural habitat as well as Old Faithful. I was sad to see so much scorched earth resulting from wildfire destruction brought about by drought and climate change. My trip through south central Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee that year renewed the call of Kentucky and home.

The housing market collapse of 2008 had resulted in my being upside down in my mortgage on my lovely home. In addition, the owner of the gym where I worked was caught in the collapse and had to close her operation in 2009. Although I had been fortunate enough to begin my career as an author, the income could not keep up with the mortgage payments resulting in a short sale on my home in 2013. At that time I began making preparations to move back to the Southeast. The process took two years and along the way, I lost my best friend and companion of the ten years that began with my whistle blowing in 2003 – my cat Babs. Initially, my plans were to find a home along the Appalachian Trail and settle in a cabin similar to my beach cottage in Oregon where I could hike, kayak, travel and write in semi-seclusion and peace. A friend of mine once said, “Life happens while you are busy making plans.” Instead of a quiet life of retirement in the woods of the Southeast, I have ended up in my old neighborhood in Louisville, an historic community on the falls of the Ohio River called Portland.

I am living in a charming studio apartment in the heart of Old Louisville – another revitalized district of Louisville that has the largest number of restored Victorian style homes in the country.  The first summer after my move in 2014, I jumped full on into projects designed to revitalize my old neighborhood. I became President and Treasurer of the Friends of the Portland Library, directed a summer writing program there, became a member of the Neighborhood Association and worked on two subcommittees, Picking up Portland and the Revitalization Committee. I started writing articles for the Portland Anchor – the oldest neighborhood newspaper in the area.

That fall I joined the mentoring program at Shawnee High School – my alma mater. In the spring of 2015, I took a road trip to Arizona with a friend and visited the Hopi Indian Reservation to do research for “New Pangaea.” That winter I taught an eight week remedial reading and writing program sponsored by the Neighborhood House on Saturdays. The program was called the Saturday Academy and was designed to help build reading, writing and math skills for the students in the Portland area. Post tests given at the end of the period showed an increase in every area tested. In November of 2015, I joined the staff of a newly opened, unique restaurant called The Table and have worked steadily as a volunteer since then. I continued the work on my manuscript with the intention to complete by the spring of 2015 when I could qualify once again to purchase a house. I had my intentions set on a vacant, brick home across the street from my old elementary school.

The summer of 2016 was taken with weekly tennis, my volunteer work, work on my manuscript, work with the youth group at Unity of Louisville and the search for funding for the project of restoring my 19th Century shotgun house to its former glory. The summer ended with a great road trip to visit my daughter Gina in San Diego accompanied by my niece Amy who is just a few weeks younger than Gina.

In a few weeks, I will celebrate my 70th birthday and I don’t intend on slowing down. I will begin the new decade with the publishing of my second novel and the exciting project of working with the Plato Academy to finally start the restoration work on my Portland home. I am grateful that I have my health, a strong faith, well-established loving children and other extended family as well as my new family in Portland. I look forward to more dancing, tennis, kayaking, biking and traveling. My first trip will be to add the three remaining states I have not visited to the “been there” list. These include Alaska, Minnesota and North Dakota. I envision even more international travel and will be renewing my passport at the end of this year in anticipation of that. My second husband had a hat that he wore that said, “life is a journey, not a guided tour.” I never did like guided tours; I have always enjoyed the adventure of setting out on my own and creating my own adventures. I am excited about the next decade and the adventures that await me. And so, with some trepidation and joyful tears I say good bye to the sixties and hello to another decade.