SingleWorkingWomensWeek – July 31 to August 6, 2016

Yes, it’s that time again. The official holiday week to celebrate the energy and passion and dedication of all single working women. The single working women who earn and bring home the bacon and then cook it, serve it and clean up afterwards. The single working women who come home from work and do all the housework and laundry, care for the pets, and still make time to visit with friends and loved ones.

So this July 31 to August 6, take a single working woman to lunch or dinner. Or take out her garbage. Or run an errand for her. Or ask her just how you can help. She’ll appreciate you thinking of her. Tell her it’s her official week and, if she can manage it, she should take some time off and relax. Everybody else has holidays, right? This week, every year, single women do, too.

Happy Single Working Women’s Week to you and you and you!

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Weighing the balance – busyness vs. reflection

Great place to sit and read in Chicago – Brauer Cafe in Lincoln Park

This is a little rant about growing older.

You retire. You’re okay as far as money goes – between Social Security and whatever savings or retirement plans you have. Now you face the big challenge – how to allocate your most precious possession: your time. As a single person – whether divorced, always single or widowed – you have sole control of that treasured resource.

Did you ever wish you could just sit and read for hours every day? All my life that was a frequent dream of mine. Did you imagine how great it would be to stop having to earn a living? I’m guessing most of us did at some point…even those who loved their careers surely got tired at times. Did you dream of traveling? If you did and you’ve got the money, this must be heaven for you.

But reading all the time – much as I love doing it – sometimes feels like an escape. From what, though? Working on my cookbook/memoir, for one thing. Seems every time I turn my mind to it, determined to get moving forward, I run smack into another obstacle. The most recent was the Adobe software program I bought specifically to help me sort through the hundreds of photos I need to go through to choose the right ones for the book.

One day, finally, I went to open the program and got – “Please provide us with a serial number and blah, blah, blah.” Of course, it’s been a couple of months since I bought the thing and I have no idea where the serial number is or how to go about doing blah, blah, blah. So then I put on the calendar, “phone Adobe support for help” and have to keep moving it and moving it because other things come up that take priority. So, once again, no progress.

Reading fun mysteries and crime novels certainly occupies the mind. And I feel virtuous that often I stand on the matt in front of the kitchen counter and work towards my “250 steps every hour” goal while I read. So, really, I’m not wasting the time. Ever try that – 250 steps every hour? Seems like you can never focus on anything long enough because you have to keep getting up.

But I remember often saying to my former husband – who seemed never, even for one minute, to stop reading: books, magazines, newspapers, legal journals, instruction manuals for cameras and other electronic gadgets, and ad infinitum – “When do you have time to process all the stuff you read?” But oh, well, we never know how another person’s mind works.

How do you allocate your time? Got guilt about reading or doing other “just entertainment” activities? Wonder if by the time you get in your 70s, you just realize it’s almost all over and who’s going to care what you do anyway? Maybe the trick is to just trust and respect your own feelings. That’s what counts. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, follow your heart.

 

 

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Journaling your thanks

Grateful for gorgeous sunrises (capture by OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA)

Supposed to write this morning in my journal about things I’m grateful for (started this post a year ago!). Got that idea after reading that in a big study of nuns conducted somewhere some years ago, researchers instructed the nuns to write in journals everyday. Then they followed the nuns for several years to record the state of their health during all that time. Turned out, as I recall, the nuns who thought, and therefore wrote, a lot about being grateful had significantly better overall health than those who thought and wrote neutrally or negatively.

So then later I read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Greater Creativity, in which author Julia Cameron insists that if you want to nourish your creative self, you must write every day at least three handwritten pages in your journal. So there I had my formula: write every day for 3 pages and make a lot of it about my gratitude for the good in my life.

And what about today’s kids who are not being taught cursive handwriting? Handwriting triggers entirely different brain areas than keyboarding and printing.

I keep a journal, some months on, some years off. Would like to say I was religious about this self-imposed obligation, but the fact is, life interferes at times and sometimes I’m just not in the mood. But when I do, it really makes a difference in how I feel. Centering. Calming.

That’s what I need. Going in for never-been-done-before surgery on my neck next week. Calm. Centered. Keeping it together.

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Book review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Just finished reading My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem at 70-something. A beautiful testament to her life – from her difficult childhood with a loving but somewhat looney, itinerant father and her lost-soul mother, to her many, many years traveling around the world writing for major outlets and organizing people in pursuit of women’s equality and reproductive freedom.

Beautiful stories of people she met, some of whom she developed very close relationships with, from the amazing Native woman who brought self-reliance and independence back to so many Native tribes that had lost their way, to the cab drivers and poor people and famous people and powerful people – including the then-pope – whose lives intersected with hers in some way, she gives the facts and reflects on their meanings in simple, fluid prose.

Another woman who fights for women's equality

Another woman who fights for women’s equality

My favorite parts are the ones where she speaks gently of her longing for a home when she was little and speaks tenderly about so many of the people she’s met and/or worked with. She has a clear eye and an open heart, and her book lets you know her in a way you never could from reading many of the often-harsh news stories about her battle for feminism and her long struggles to help make Ms. Magazine a force for good.

The book is a reflection on how a single courageous soul can create profound change by listening to people.

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Single Working Women’s Day is also National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Just found out. Not only is Single Working Women’s Week going on right now, but Single Working Women’s Day, August 4, is also National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. What a lucky coincidence that a favorite dessert fits right into the holiday week!

For those who love chocolate chip cookies – and/or the raw dough – what a great way to celebrate with your single women friends. Buy or bake and bring some when you go out or stay in to congratulate each other on your many contributions to the world. And kudos to AMNY for celebrating SWWW!

Meanwhile, DoubleTree Hilton Hotel on the Mag Mile has its own iconic chocolate chip cookie recipe and yesterday on August 4 they were handing cookies out with abandon at Union Station in downtown Chicago. Feathery light, break-apart, feels-fiber-rich cookie. I intended to eat a third. I ate the whole thing. Beware: 310 calories per.

Good chance you’ll get some when you stay at the DoubleTree Hilton next time.

DoubleTree Hilton Hotel hands out cookies at Union Station

DoubleTree Hilton Hotel hands out cookies at Union Station

Copy of Doubletree choc chip2

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Raw power in the wind

Originally written last fall…

Up early this morning. One of the blessings of being single is that you’re able to get up or sleep or not sleep and read whenever you like without bothering someone else.

Read the weather report–gotta know how to dress–and saw winds of 32 to 37 mph. And the prediction for gusts is 50 to 60. Wow. Looked out the window and, sure enough the trees are, as my dad used to say, “blowin’ like a maniac out there.”

Dimly recall a quote about an evil wind… Look it up. It’s from Shakespeare, from Henry IV, in the part where the hero Falstaff inquires: “What wind blew you hither, Pistol?” and Pistol replies, “Not the ill wind which blows no man to good.

So, let’s see. This is not an evil wind. It’s just a damned powerful one. When I go out today, I’ll certainly form a memory or two of things I see–tree branches falling/fallen, coats and hats and scarves frantically grasping human forms, leaves and papers and signs and empty garbage cans whipping about, little kids scudding along sidewalks faster than they can walk–all at the wind’s bidding. Reminds me of a story, an Aesop’s fable, that impressed me mightily when I was a kid.

The story begins with the Sun and the Wind boasting to each other about their power. (Remember it now?)

The Wind boasts that it is more powerful than the Sun. The Sun, says, no, I am the more powerful. So they make a bet. The Wind points to a man walking down the street below wearing a winter coat. They agree their challenge will be to get the coat off the man.

I, says the Wind, will blow it right off of him. And so he puffs himself up in a rage and begins to blow and to howl. His breath sweeps down and around and blusters something fierce against the man, pushing him and practically knocking him down with his power. But the man shakes and shivers and clutches his coat ever closer.

Finally, the Wind tires of blowing so hard and quits. The Sun smiles. “Now, watch me,” she says to her blustery brother.

The Sun begins to smile. Her golden rays descend and shine on the man in the coat. The sidewalk heats up with the intensity of the Sun’s smile. The street and the trees–and the man–grow warmer and warmer. The Sun keeps smiling quietly. Finally, the man stops, slips out of his coat and hangs it neatly over his arm. He looks around, smiles up into the sky, and continues walking.

Gentle strength wins out over harshness, says Aesop. And thank you to our veterans (Veterans Day was yesterday), without whom we might not have the option of using gentle strength.

Don’t let the Wind get you today. Be your own Sun.

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Travels through life on foot

Last June my son-in-law moved up to the fancy new iWatch and no longer needed his FitBit fitness tracker. I was thrilled when he handed it down to me and have been wearing it faithfully since then. I love that it tracks my steps, my calories, my expenditure of calories, my sleep habits and efficiency rating, and my steps and activities (like weight training, biking, etc.)

I got an email today saying I’d just been awarded the Serengeti badge. Huh? Yes, they came up with the idea of awarding badges and icons and so on (like every other app and online program these days). The Serengeti badge is “awarded” to those who’ve reached a lifetime tracked goal of 500 miles.

Five hundred miles seems paltry when you consider my advanced age – surely my lifetime would be in the multi-millions by now. But since the fitness band’s only been tracking since June, I guess it’s not too bad as a milestone. And remember, a “step” doesn’t have to be outside on the concrete pavement or sweating in a gym to count. Even just in your own living room, stepping side to side and waving your arms around a little bit, can raise your count.

Is that “cheating”? Who cares? We didn’t make every move forward in our lives by ploughing straight ahead at full speed. Stop/start, think about it/consult others, decide/change your mind, do better for a while/relapse. That’s how life goes for most of us.

So how many miles have you come in your life? How have things been changing as you’ve grown older? This time of the year is the perfect time to ponder where we are, where we’ve been, and where we hope to go.

I wish you satisfaction with your past, gratitude for gifts received, joy in this moment, and happy wonder about what’s to come.

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Reflections on the weather

Last night I attended a unique reception on a cool rooftop venue in the trendy West Loop area. I had invited a friend, then another different friend, than another, one after another, but each had some reason she couldn’t make it. But I knew it would be a lovely event, so I went by myself.

The street was dark when I cabbed it over there from my daughter’s home in West Town. Dark and full of silent hulks–warehouse vehicles of all sizes parked this way and that, resting quietly in their places for the night. But up on the rooftop, lights twinkled, creative dishes by chefs from Japonais were served in trendy small-bite sizes, cocktail magic was being spun in every corner of the venue, and the lights of Chicago cheered the sky.

Plus, the weather was perfect. It was sheer pleasure to sip a cocktail, gaze at the lights, and bask in the just cool-enough night air. How often do we get perfect weather in Chicago? And this morning I heard on the radio that this coming week will be the most perfect weather-week of the entire year of 2015. Hmm. Think I’ll have to plan to eat out on a few patios or rooftops this week. Just too good to miss out on.

Thank Heaven for perfect weather. And Chicago. And groovy events. And cocktails. And perfect weather.

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Book review – Silent Symphonies

Many women have suffered much because of centuries-old societal brainwashing into a culture of male dominance and female submission. If, like me, you’re an American

Women's empowerment from a multicultural viewpoint

Women’s empowerment from a multicultural viewpoint

baby boomer female, you’ve very likely lived through some of that yourself, even if you didn’t recognize it at the time. Countless books have been written about the topic over the generations—not least of which are the brilliant novels of Jane Austen, who coolly chronicles the controlling rules, crushingly limited expectations and cruel ironies of being female in such a world.

Recently received a review copy of another, though far less nuanced, voice adding to the ongoing exposé. Nigerian-born, UK-based writer Sally Chiwuzie has created a novel in her unique voice that addresses the subjugation and eventual empowerment of a woman who starts in an abusive marriage and ends as a single mother. The subtext is that multicultural couples often face even more of the domestic violence and unrealistic expectations that are present in so many relationships.

Chiwuzie, trained in the law, writes from the heart; though fiction, the story is based on many of her own and her friends’ experiences. The way the characters think and act reveals them as multicultural—they don’t sound or behave quite like Americans or Brits, so if you should pick it up, be prepared for what felt like some surprises in the language and the thought processes. Chiwuzie has also started an online campaign, Together We Are Unshakable,” with the goal of helping women become empowered. Can’t say I found the story overly compelling, but her goal is certainly admirable. Check out the website for your own insights.

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Women-in-history tidbits

From the National Women’s History Museum come these women-in-history tidbits on a little card headed, “Did you know that…”

…in the early 20th century, Madam C.J. Walker became the first American self-made female millionaire after creating a line of hair care products for African American women in her kitchen while trying to make ends meet as a single mother?

…17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, the second woman to play in the major leagues, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game in 1931, but her contract was voided the next day because the baseball commissioner deemed the sport “too strenuous” for women?

…in 1777 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles on horseback through the night (twice the distance of Paul Revere’s more famous ride) to successfully warn Revolutionary Army troops of an impending British attack?

…Underground Railroad operative Harriet Tubman planned and led a complex and stunningly successful raid on the Confederacy with 300 Union troops in 1863?

Cool stuff. Hopefully we’ve got more women writing history these days and we’ll start to see more credit given to women where it’s due.

 

 

 

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