The paperback edition of my 2018 novel, And the Dance Goes On, is available now through Amazon.
Novel summary: Anyone who has attended church for long begins to perceive some of the hidden rules and old traditions that govern the church. In this poignant and hilarious novel, a new pastor and his wife, two runaways, and a recluse survey the rules and government of Mount Sinai country church in Old Appleton through the light of their personal experiences. When change begins to happen-watch out! Even the Red Hat ladies get involved.
I woke up this morning, which is a blessed feat in itself at seventy, and made a fresh discovery. Staying “WOKE” is keeping me awake. I also made a second discovery. I am grateful to the WOKE movement for the return of my sarcasm. See, we Allwoods have a reputation to uphold. We have, in the past, prided ourselves on sarcasm. Not hurtful sarcasm, although one may take that remark at face value. But rather, we see paradoxes and twists in most situations, statements, and bald-faced lies. And we tend to run with the ball, whether then or later. Even at funerals, and always at weddings. Sarcasm in our family is best implemented on those wonderfully naïve members whose virtue and good will are far superior to ours. However, I digress.
This morning, as my usual routine, I flipped through that wonder of wonders, the all-knowledgeable, discerning, well-rounded news of today only to be confronted once again with Little House on the Prairie,To Kill a Mockingbird, and Mr. Potato Head. I’m quite certain the Holy Bible was in the mix earlier; somehow God gave me the grace to miss that portion.
See, being “woke” now, I learned Mr. Potato Head has (well, had) a gender, by golly! I suppose I was aware of that fact, but I lacked the sensibility to be offended. Maybe it is because I’m so “Going Gray” that my first potato head didn’t come with a potato. Just the plastic pieces. Mom provided the potato and maybe the gender depended on size and shape-or maybe we had common sense enough to just not think it was a big deal.
Then I learn Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie has become offensive. The audacity of Wilder to be born in a generation without “Woke” people. It was a fav of mine because it had a strong female character. Never mind that she was saved by an African American doctor and that Pa and the Native Americans learned to live peaceable together. Certainly, both cultures were new to her and all the others on the prairie. The interesting aspect of the book at the time I read it (evidentially the “wrong” time) was learning how to live with fellow human beings. But now that some are “woke,” I’m staying awake fearful that censoring the book might just lessen our learning curve. What if I first met an Native American who was as unkind as a white person? (I’m also staying awake trying to figure out why I am white which seems a bit sub-culture today) What would tell me that once upon a time “privileged” whites were cruel to the Native Americans who scalped my ancestor. But I awoke this morning living in a “Woke” culture, and I’m tryin to discern the ground rules, although they seem to be as shifting as the California quakes. (Forgive me if that is an insensitive remark. Feel free to delete my blog.)
As for censoring To Kill a Mockingbird, I presume I was totally asleep when I read of the appalling white male jury who convicted an obviously innocent man of rape simply because he was black. That novel led me to look up the story of the real Scottsboro Boys (without Internet access I might add) and literally grieve over the inhumanity of people. And to think I taught that book for over 30 years, visited the hometown of Harper Lee and followed what little was known about her life. Now I must stay awake wondering if my teaching students that respect for all humanity can create a peaceful and thriving society was completely amiss. (Now I might also lose sleep wondering if many “WOKE people will change their child’s name; there are, after all many Harper Lees’ out there.)
I apologize to you, my reader. I WOKE this morning feeling upliftingly sarcastic in a witty, droll way. But sarcasm, as we all know, must be handled like a precious pearl (no offense to the oyster) or it can turn bitter. I’m afraid I am tottering on just such an attitude, and I don’t want to lead my readers down the same path.
It must be from lack of sleep. Now I must go and find some sensitivity training on the Internet. Or perhaps I should just take a nap.
This morning while taking a shower, I removed a couple of taped markers from my breast marking the scars where I had surgery two years ago. Yesterday, I got the good news-cancer free for two years. As I pulled away the tape, I thought of how intrusive it first felt to my body when it was marked with temporary tattoos, seeking to find what could destroy my body. This morning, I had already forgotten that I had the tape on me. It was then I recognized I have entered a new stage of letting go for me. Letting go of my body-the final stage of life. It is not frightening, but it is fearsome. It is fearsome because my body is the final piece that keeps me tied to the earth. Yet, it is freeing to begin to become as I was in the beginning, all spirit.
I, like most “going gray” people, have already let go of so much. I have downsized, and downsized again. I don’t need as many clothes because I don’t go to work everyday. I don’t need the latest kitchen conveniences because coffee and a breakfast bar does for the morning; lunch is usually out with a friend; and dinner is maybe some fruit. If I’m feeling particularly celebratory, maybe I’ll partake in a glass of wine.
Next, I began to let go of houses and all the entrapment within them. By then, they weren’t homes, but plaster and boards. Home is now wherever family and friends are.
I did not realize until this morning, however, I have begun to let go of things relating to my body because, let’s face it, it’s futile work. I can exercise to keep muscle tone to keep me walking, but I can’t change the sagging skin with any amount of miracle cream out there. I can eat healthy most of the time, but I still need an afternoon nap some days.
It was when I removed the tape that marked the spot where the cancer had been removed, however, I realized just how much I have let go of my physical self. I hadn’t worried about the result. If more cancer had shown up, I would have walked that path. I would have made decisions as what to do with my body. I have been through sickness before, and I will face it again. My body may survive; it may not. Suddenly, I realize, I have downsized on this earth to the point I am in the process of releasing my body.
I’m thankful for the opportunity of aging because the process allows us to let go slowly. Some have life yanked out of them before they are ready. That’s the cruelty we observe in young deaths. And yet, when I come to the realization that the body is the last physical hold on earth, I begin to see why we often feel so tied down to “things.” We are not born into weightiness, yet throughout our life, “things” accumulate like heavy, overripe fruit on a tree, bending the limbs down to earth, not up to heaven.
As we go gray, the weightiness begins to lift, leaving us lighter, less concerned about houses, cars, money, successes or failures, and, eventually, Botox and tummy tucks. It is then we begin to feel our weightlessness. It is like spending our days swimming in salt water more than trudging uphill. It is then we come nearer to loosening our hold on life and reach toward eternity.
Going gray releases us from all that encumbers others; we float easier; we rise to greater and wiser heights; and we becomes more spirit than body. In other words, in “going gray,” we grow nearer to God.
Texting Wars is available to pre-order on your Kindle now. It will be released August 31.
If we are among the group “Going Gray,” we know where we rank with Covid 19. And, if we are reading this, we can smile at the term “new normal.” Our lives have always included a new normal.
We were born with the hydrogen bomb in 1950s, which for some odd reason, produced the baby boom. Maybe our parents were fooled into believing the world was so bad it couldn’t last nine months, so everybody decided to take a chance and light up a cigarette afterward. Remember, birth control pills were just having a trial run in in 1954.
The Sixties unveiled before us on live TV. We saw men in the Vietnam War mutilated and one of our most beloved Presidents fall right before our eyes. We also saw, right before our eyes , a man land on the moon. The sixties were nothing if not ‘un-normal.’
In the Seventies, we had “love ins,” with new “cigarettes;” the first, believe it or not, digital calculator; the first video game, Pong; and we anticipated the headlines: Nixon resigns.
In the Eighties, we had to figure out big hair, punk rock and MTV. We saw the Challenger and the Berlin Wall go down while Mount Helen went up and Pac-Man ate dots.
The Nineties found us watching the sky for the Hubble Space Telescope. We also watched our computers as the web was first launched, and then, believe it or not, the first text message was sent (lol! omg!) We saw our kids go from Punk to Grunge, and everyone’s feet were in Doc Martens.
At last came the turn of the century. We thought all computers would stop and chaos would abound. Y2K turned out to be LOL itself. And we figured out the iPhone, Facebook, YouTube.
2010s’ decade gave us the Swine Flu pandemic and WikiLeaks. Donald Trump became the first person to be elected President of the US who was not a general or political office holder. And, of course, 9-11.
In 2020, a novel virus makes us “Going Grayers” have a ‘new normal.’ Child, every decade has had a new normal. We dare not laugh in the face of a plague, but the term “new normal” does make us old “Going Gray” want to use an emoji. Pick one. ROFL!
Over the past few weeks, you have looked tired. I suppose we all are. We shouldn’t be because we have had the gift of time to rest. But we don’t know what to do with that gift. Relaxation is not in our vocabulary. Maybe learning how to rest is one of many lessons we can learn now.
I suspect you, like me and millions of Americans who grew up in the Fifties, were spoon-fed the importance of work. Work. Work. As for me, much of my value comes from work. I work when I am sick regardless of who I infect. I work when I am well regardless of the child that might need me at home. I work for my employer, my family, my church, my community. Never did I consider rest as valuable; I considered it as a ball-and-chain necessity in order to give me more time to produce work.
We are not used to not working, Mr. President. Our excessive work ethic is totally entwined with our self-esteem. And why shouldn’t it be? We are a nation of workaholics. Perhaps it is time to consider rest as critical to the health of the nation as work.
Work is a great American ethic. I wish there were more of it today. But now, when it has become necessary to refrain from work, we, frankly, suck at it. We are used to going to work with viruses that could infect the immune compromised or the elderly because “it’s just a cold” or “just the flu.” We can’t afford to lose pay; we don’t want to give up our sick days; our employers will think we are weak; our personal code tells us we are weak. And so we go, not learning the value of rest. Not knowing how to relax when we are granted the time. Not thinking of the weaker ones around us. Often, we build our self-esteem on work alone. At least we did, until the day the nation had to stop.
I wonder if other nations have had such a difficult time adjusting to isolation? France and Finland both get 25 days of paid leave plus 11 holidays. The EU gets a total of 20 days. In many countries, it is considered logical to close businesses for a couple of hours each day for rest. Most Americans take fewer than 10 days. Most employers frown on “calling in sick.” Most workers are penalized for more than their designated work days no matter the reason. And sometimes we, ourselves, work because we want more, not because we need more.
Yes, America wants to get back to work now. That’s good. It’s us. However, could death ratios be lower among the elderly and immune suppressant if we would learn a simple lesson. If you’re sick, stay home. Could our family lives improve if we take a little more time at home? Could we create more if we rested more?
I am the “chief of sinners” who needs to take my own advice. I proudly push myself to go, go, go even when I have already crashed. Now, however, I’m in the age group most vulnerable. So many who are not have given up so much in order to protect me. I am grateful for that. Thank you that you have taken time to rest.
Certainly this is a pandemic of cataclysmic portion, not a common cold. But could we learn a simple lesson here? Give us your tired….and let them rest. More paid vacation days, more employers who encourage sick people to stay home, more time to learn how to deal with time itself may be some of the most valuable aspects of this quarantine.
Thank you, Mr. President, for all you are doing. Thank you, America, for caring enough to protect the most vulnerable. May we all learn a small but critical lesson from this pandemic. We are crucial to so many. Let us learn to rest in order to work.
No, this is not Big Foot, just my Wheaten terrier exemplifying my point today.
I know I haven’t written “Going Gray” for awhile, and I blame the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I think we have all read it. If you give a mouse a cookie, he will want milk, then a napkin, then a nap, then a quilt, then….
See pic above. Tucker, my Wheaten has been whining at night to get out of his kennel. When I’m at the lake studio, I have started obliging. He just picks his spot in the floor, and the night passes peaceful. Until I woke up to Bigfoot taking up three-quarters of my bed this morning. If you give a mouse a cookie….
I have already said that phrase multiple times this morning. I turned down three substitute jobs to have a day off being lazy. Doing nothing. Until I saw the shoe closet…which led to sweeping the closet…which led to sweeping the studio…which led to mopping the studio….
Next, I decided I’d better at least take my meds today…which led to walking into the bathroom…which led to thinking I might have to pee…which led to looking in the mirror, and it was all over. If you give a mouse a cookie….
I think Going Gray means having a lot of “If you give a mouse a cookie” days. But who cares? Let’s see…I think I’ll make some tea…oh my word, this refrigerator…!
“Going gray” people will never forget the day…or the day after.
Although our memories may fail at times, we “going gray” people will never forget 9/11. We all can recount where we were. We can also agree that we will never forget the days after.
In my case I was teaching in a public school. The science teacher and I both had our planning period that morning. She had her TV on and called me over to see a rerun of the first plane hit one of the towers. We groaned over the “accident” until we saw, in live time, a second plane hit the second tower. It was then, watching from that TV screen, the world started to evolve in slow motion. Two accidents? No. People aboard those planes? Yes. Attack? Yes. Nuclear weapons? Who knew? More attacks? Yes, a hijacked plane was still in the air. Soon, very soon, an announcement came over the loud speaker. Prayer. Public school? Yes. Who cared. Plenty of people weren’t going home tonight to be with their loved ones. We didn’t know if we would. No one knew what would unfold.
It was a horrific day. Hardly a life, unless you lived off the grid in the hills, was not affected. But the second day. And the third. And the fourth. They were uncommon days. Our patriotism rose to fiery levels. We, the huddled masses, stood up. We united. We dare not say “democrat” or “republican.” We were the United States of America. We dare not criticize Hollywood for patriotic shows anymore than we would criticize churches of any denomination doing what they could do in this tragedy. We dare not say “black” or “white;” we were citizens. There were no “they” and “we.” We rose together in a unity that America had not seen since World War II.
9/11 was a terrible day. 9/12 and the days after, however showed how deeply we loved our country. It’s not that we had forgotten that fact; it’s simply that we had taken it for granted. No longer. At least for a time.
Sadly, today, we have to search hard for unity amid political and race and creed divisions. We would like to think that, beneath it all, we realize we are still the United States of America. But are we? Will we be again?
Those who are eternal optimists believe we can come together… someway, somehow. May no catastrophic event happen to prove us right. Right now, we are bickering. We are angry. We are divided. But underneath, we all desire for the United States of America to be connected, to mesh. Our desire, at least the vast majority of Americans, is to integrate, to connect.
We are not naive enough to believe this unity can happen overnight, as in 9/11. We pray we don’t have a cataclysmic event to do so. Perhaps, together, remembering 9/11, we can baby step our way back to 9/12.
None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiam.
–Henry David Thoreau
By Patricia Allwood Hindman
What’s it like “going gray?” Aging? Today is a pain day for me. Physical pain. My feet are flaming; my muscles are cramping; and my bones ache. Don’t feel sorry for me. Tomorrow I will be better, and today I have the gift of the present. I still have a purpose in life. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.
I am a believer in a hereafter. An amazing hereafter. So why do we “gray” people who begin to wither and believe so staunchly in a great hereafter not just chuck it? Why do we sometimes press harder? After all, we are not ever going to get younger here on earth, and pain, both physical and emotional, will most likely increase. So what keeps us going?
When we “going gray” woke this morning, we were breathing. We got out of bed. We were given, perhaps, one more day. So there are things we can do. There are even things we sense that we are supposed to do.
We can love. I have a 13-year-old grandchild. Remember when you were 13? Life was often cruel; love was often conditional. I can love her unconditionally.
We can create. I’m creating right now in writing this. Hopefully, I’m encouraging some of you to rise above the pain and look for the gain. “Going gray” gives us more time for silence and reflection and more time for acting on our intention.
We can do some things we love. I can still take a walk. It might be painful today, but if I put one foot in front of the other, I can do it. I can write. I can read “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” to a four-year-old. I can smile at people. I can feed a puppy and encourage a friend.
Most of all, we “going gray” people go on because we have been given the great gift of life here in this amazing world. Not everyone has been given the gift of days, weeks, months and years. Since we are still breathing, there is a burning desire to make the most of time. It intensifies each day we live.
Life is a gift. Every day we get to unwrap a new beginning. What unfolds each day is breathtaking nature. Together, we are able, despite our adversities, to speak life and warmth and wisdom into this astonishing world. It’s a matter of getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a matter of walking in gratitude for what we have been given. Today.