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Browsing Category "Personal Reflections"
16 Aug
2018

Seeing Clearly

Cataracts, Seeing Clearly

“I would say they are ready. I am going to refer you to the best in town. He will exam your eyes and decide.”

My optometrist, who has carefully provided eye exams each year, had warned me a few years ago that I had cataracts growing slowly, not yet ready for surgery to remove them. Now he was telling me that he thought it was time to consider cataract surgery.

Another sign of the years slipping by when I try not to notice. I talked to friends and did a little research to learn more.

What are Cataracts?

In a healthy eye, the lens is transparent and focuses the light on the retina. Over time, the lens becomes more opaque or cloudy as the lens loses its ability to let light in. Cataract surgery entails removing the cloudy lens that has grown in the eye and replace it with an artificial lens. I learn it is very common for aging eyes and reputed to be one of the easiest surgeries to have. Sources on the internet proclaim that 98% of the surgeries are completed without complications. Many I spoke with raved about the positive outcomes of resolving their vision problems and reducing their dependence on glasses.

Seeing Clearly, CataractsThat is encouraging.

I make my appointment with the recommended surgeon who is both friendly and thorough. With healthy eyes, I have several options including: simple cataract removal and continue wearing my glasses; have my astigmatism addressed; change my vision to either near-or far-sighted; or mono-vision where one lens is for distance and the other is for close work such as reading.

Making a Decision

I take time to think about my options. When I was younger, wearing contact lenses not only gave me better vision but it also supported my vanity.  When I needed to give up my contact lenses and wear glasses, they concealed some of the signs of aging on my face. Do I really care now? Am I still vain?

When I wore contact lenses I had mono-vision lenses for a period of time. It is appealing to consider not needing glasses. I am warned that there is no guarantee that I won’t need glasses either for reading small print in low light or driving at night on unfamiliar dark roads. I remember that carrying multiple pairs of glasses for different vision needs, was annoying and provided one of the advantages to one pair of glasses with progressive lenses.

The doctor also advises me that some people have trouble adjusting to their eyes seeing differently, but since my brain adjusted to mono-vision contact lenses he believes I will adjust again. I decide on mono-vision and schedule my surgeries a month apart. I am hoping I won’t have to be bothered with glasses.

The Unfortunate 2%

Just before the date for my left eye, I talk with a colleague who just had his own cataract surgery. He exclaimed, “I am part of the 2% that have complications!” His simple cataract removal resulted in cloudy vision and he was very disappointed. His story increased my anxiety but I determined to proceed.

My early morning surgery was easy with no complications and twenty-four hours later when I removed the eye patch I could read with my left eye without glasses! How exciting! And the world was clear and bright when I closed my right eye.

However, seeing in general during the ensuing month was challenging. I could read with my new left eye, but with my right eye still compromised and with glasses created for my old vision seeing distance was difficult. I muddled through seeing the world through the yellow wash of the cataract, avoiding driving and asking others to explain what was blurry at a distance. I was even more hopeful for vision without glasses.

I talked with another friend who had cataract surgery shortly after my first eye. I learn that he, too, was part of the 2 % and could only see blurry images. I was grateful for the clear result in my left eye and held hope for a similar result in the right.

Seeing Clearly, Cataract

No Complications

A month later the second surgery was also easy and without complications. When I removed the eye patch my vision was clear and bright. I could see long distance and I could read. I cheered!  But there was a reservation. I discovered intermediate distance was blurry. Seeing items on my computer screen or reading the sub-titles on television was a definite problem. The doctor had not raised that issue. I was disappointed.

I need glasses after all. It was confirmed at my final eye appointment.

But as disappointed as I am, I remember the complications experienced by my friends. I am grateful for my clear sight and improved vision. I will need glasses for computer work and watching television but I have improved my vision. And my appearance with or without glasses no longer matters. I am happy.

 

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27 Jul
2018

“What About Your Mother’s Family?”

Sod house Bev Scott Author

My grandparents and their sod house in Nebraska (Solomon Butcher photo)

“What about your mother’s family?”

“…Oliver was a man who knew his own mind.  He had two daughters (one was my mother) who were never allowed to attend school. Oliver was sure that they would learn too many things at school that weren’t included in the curriculum. Mrs. Moody was a former school teacher, so Mr. Moody bought the books that were necessary and the girls studied at home. The law stepped in and tried to force the issue. But Oliver was adamant:  he’d go to jail first! So, they let him have his way, and those girls had the highest grades in the county when it came time for eighth grade commencement in Broken Bow. Their father allowed them to go to high school and college thereafter.” (from Clear Creek Echoes)

Custer County, Nebraska

Recently I decided to take up where I had left off several years ago, with learning about my maternal lineage. In 2001 I went to Custer County, Nebraska where my maternal great grandfather, William H. Moody, homesteaded in 1885, to explore the Custer County Museum. I found newspaper articles, quotes from my grandfather and obituaries. I discovered the story quoted above about my grandfather, Oliver H. Moody, shared in the book Clear Creek Echoes which recorded memories of the area between 1878 and 1978. It gave me insight into the man I knew only when I was a child.

My grandmother, Grace, was a school teacher until she was married in 1902. The state of Nebraska frowned on married women teaching school so she left the classroom when she became Mrs. Moody. My grandfather served as the school superintendent until he had to take over the family farm. Among the files I inherited from my mother are teaching certificates from the 1890’s demonstrating Grace’s competence to teach first and second grade and teacher’s contracts dating from 1896 to 1900, some of which are signed by Oliver Moody.

While I was in Custer County, I took a nostalgic drive out to view the land where my great grandfather homesteaded outside Broken Bow, Nebraska and met the current farmers. The one hundred and sixty acres of the homestead seemed like a lot of land to farm with a horse and plow! I researched the deeds for this land at the county courthouse. The “patten” by William H. Moody was filed in November,1885 under President Cleveland. Since my grandfather was the only boy in the family, the land was passed to him. I was very sad when I discovered that my grandparents lost their farm in the Depression after they had mortgaged it and couldn’t meet the payments.

farm, homestead, Bev Scott Author

Farm homesteaded by great-grandfather, viewed from location where farm house once stood.

Solomon Butcher, Prairie Photographer

I discovered at the Custer County Museum that the photo I have of my great-grandparents and their children in front of their sod house, is a Solomon Butcher photo. As a young man, Butcher decided he wasn’t up to the rigors of homesteading. Instead, he began to chronicle the photographic history of pioneer life. He gave one photo to the family and kept one himself. Between 1886 and 1912 he took more than 3000 photos many of them in Custer County. Many of those photos which adorned the walls of homesteading families in Custer County, were donated to the Custer County Museum.  Today the Museum has as one of its missions the preservation of his photos.

Back on the Genealogy Trail

Families are often filled with stories and rumors which may or may not be true. My mother’s family story was that we were descendants of William Brewster of Mayflower fame. But, did it have any basis? With my renewed focus on my maternal ancestry, I not only reviewed my notes from the 2001 trip to Nebraska, but I also rummaged through files that my mother had left me. I discovered a one-page document describing her mother as a descendant of William Brewster! However, there was no documentation. The piece of paper was just as good as the family story.

Many people have heard or read the story of my journey to find information about my mysterious paternal grandfather who was born in 1840. I combed cemeteries, libraries, county courthouses, historical museums and the US Census.  I searched online, on genealogy sites and requested documents from government agencies.  My quest ultimately took me to seven states in the Midwest.

Bev Scott, Author, Nebraska school

My grandmother Grace was a teacher in a school on the Great Plains in Nebraska.

I learned a lot about my paternal grandfather, John Howard Scott, aka Harvey Depew Scott. I discovered the family rumor about him was true.  However, there were twelve to fourteen years when he disappeared from the records. I was dedicated to the pursuit, convinced I would uncover where he was during those years. With the curiosity and passion for that search, I neglected the exploration I had begun of my mother’s family.

Now, refocused on my mother’s side of the family, I was curious to find the records of my maternal ancestry. I turned to Ancestry.com to see if I could use the names and relationships on the page from my mother’s files to find documentation. I was amazed at how easy it was to find marriage, census, death and historical records which documented the relationships for thirteen generations from William Brewster to me. Although the whole family tree is not yet complete, I am thrilled that I had the luck to easily find the information to establish this branch of my maternal ancestry.

It is such a contrast to the long journey and search for small clues about my paternal grandfather. I had begun that search in the paper files over twenty years ago at the National Archives. Since my grandfather fought in the Civil War I used the only information I had about him, his enlistment information given to me by my aunt. Those paper files gave me many clues, confirmed the family secret and launched me on the journey I described above.   It is now much easier to search for records online. I recently checked online again to see if I missed something in that journey. There is still no information about my grandfather during the times he disappeared.

The Records Reflect Stability and Disruption

What does the difference I describe between my two sets of ancestors suggest? My conclusion is that a stable family life, permanent residence and several generations of the pursuit of learning and education on the maternal side makes it easier to find records and documents. In contrast, losing a father at an early age, moving constantly and the lack of education characterizes my paternal grandfather’s story and leaves fewer records to pursue.

I am excited to be back involved with the genealogy of my mother’s family heritage. Although it is not mysterious, perhaps it will stimulate me to write some of the stories that I have uncovered and find quite fascinating.

Have you traced your family heritage?  What have you learned?

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24 Jan
2018

Am I an Elder?

Halong Bay, Bev Scott Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I can say from my own experience that at a certain point people will begin to treat you as an elder and look for benefits that you may be able to give them.

That is your cue to make a shift. You are no longer part of the crowd. Now you have to step up and assume a new place in your community. For you, it is yet another rite of passage, an ascension of state and transformation of you and your life to a level where you can enjoy new pleasures and feel new obligations…

That act requires character and the ability to know yourself without falling into either too high an opinion of yourself or false humility. Normally you develop this capacity for honest leadership over many years. The apprenticeship for the elder begins very young and continues over a lifetime.”

Thomas Moore, in a Nov./Dec. 2017 article in Spirituality and Health Magazine adapted from his Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy 

As I prepared for my first trip to Asia, I had the feeling that I was transitioning to a new segment of my life.

I traveled last month with my daughter and grandsons to a new part of the world for me. It was a special joy to be with them and I loved learning about the people and cultures that we visited. In addition, travel often provides opportunities to learn about ourselves and this trip was no exception.

Bev Scott and Family, Rickshaws, in Asia 2017 Happy Birthday, Bev Scott, 2017, in Asia

I was treated as an elder, as Moore suggests, by many we met and by my daughter and grandsons. In addition, traveling with much younger and stronger companions forced me to face the realities of an aging body. I no longer have the energy, stamina, quick recovery or balance that I have counted on most of my life. I have learned that I need to rest more, calibrate my planned itinerary and keep a watchful eye on the path for those items that might trip me. I need to more carefully monitor my food and water intake.

Yet, in contrast to my younger self who often pushed herself too hard and ended up sick in bed, I maintained my health and energy after long flights, days spent walking and exploring the sites, museums and markets and eating different and unusual food.

Transition Time

I came home ready to explore this feeling that I am at another transition time in my life.

Bev Scott at Word Project Press event, Oct. 2017When I turned 70, I realized that I needed to let go of my consulting and coaching work if I wanted to write the book about my grandparents. I wrote about this decision in an article included in the book, 70 Things to Do When You Turn 70. Now, after Sarah’s Secret has been out for a year and I have worked on promoting it by selecting those activities that served my interests and skills, I find I am casting about for what is next. I don’t plan to stop the work of book promotion, reading, or writing reviews and my blog. But, I am not strongly motivated to write another book, although all the experts recommend that is the way to proceed. There are many other activities that reward and challenge me, light up my spirit and warm my heart.

Who I Am as an Elder?

Yes, I am exploring what I want to do, but I am also reflecting on who I am as an elder at this point in my life.

I have thought of myself as twenty or thirty years younger until I look in the mirror. The image that looks back tells me that I am no longer in the same body. The hair is graying, the face has wrinkles and my body sags in places. But that appearance is no longer so important. I realize that the qualities of my character matter more to me now. I feel more confident and self-aware. I appreciate the lessons learned over my life-time from experience, the insight and, yes, the wisdom. I hope I am neither too arrogant nor falsely humble about my accomplishments. I am grateful for the abundance the Universe has shared with me and I continue to make a contribution back to the world using my skills, energy and resources. I value my spiritual practice, my exercise routine, my health and the special relationships I have with my partner, my daughter and grandsons and my friends.

I am, as Moore suggests, stepping away from the crowd and transitioning to a new stage in my life. I don’t know how much time I have left. But I find that I am thinking more about the finite amount of time life gives us. Whatever that time is for me, I want to spend it with those I love, continue to do the best I can with whatever I commit to do and find opportunities for learning both about myself and about subjects that interest me.

What are your thoughts about this transition to elderhood and your aging process?

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12 Dec
2017

Being Grateful Makes Me Happy

 

“Every day, think as you wake up, ‘I am fortunate to be alive.  I have a precious human life.  I am not going to waste it.’”  The Dalai Lama

baby and father, hands, bev scott author, being grateful makes me happy

being grateful makes me happy, blog, bev scott author

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the season of gratitude. I express my gratitude for friends and family around the Thanksgiving table. I am grateful for the news and greetings I receive from those who live far away. I enjoy the exchange of gifts and goodies, the fragrance of the beautiful decorated trees and cookies baking in the oven at this holiday time.

Like many of my neighbors, I am concerned about the poverty and homelessness around me. I see strangers huddled in doorways, panhandling on the street, pushing shopping carts of belongings. I whisper a prayer “for the grace of God there go I.” Gratitude allows me to recognize how fortunate I am, to appreciate my life and all that I experience. It gives me an opportunity to shift my perspective toward all the abundance I have in my life instead of feeling sorry for what I lack or the problems I have.

Gratefulness Makes Us Happy

The renowned neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks, wrote shortly before he died,

…my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being a thinking animal on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”[i]

Despite his diagnosis of metastasized cancer Dr. Sacks was grateful for his life and he was happy. Brother Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk and scholar is quoted in The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, saying, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful.  It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”

The Benefits

Indeed, research endorses that perspective and suggests there are many benefits that might motivate us to be grateful more often, even every day. At least forty research studies identify over thirty ways in which gratitude can benefit our lives. Amit Amin categorizes them into Emotional, Health, Social, Personality and Career benefits, all of which contribute to happiness.

Different benefits are probably more appealing to different age cohorts. For me personally, I like the health benefits of improved sleep, living longer, increased energy and feeling good. Since I am retired the benefits for my career are less motivating, but if you are still in the midst of yours the career benefits of gratitude include being a better manager, achieving your goals and being more productive. If you are a young person and concerned if you are well liked in your social circles, consider that being grateful open doors to relationships, deepens friendships, increases your self-esteem, and develops your personality in life changing ways.

orange tabby cat, in lap, bev scott author, being grateful makes me happy

outstretched arms, sunset, bev scott author, blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can all appreciate the emotional benefits of gratitude: being more resilient and bouncing back from stress, reducing aggression and being less likely to retaliate, feeling good, less envious, more relaxed and enjoy happier memories. Many of us also, will like the benefit of improved relationship with partners and spouses. Amazing how many benefits gratitude can bring to our lives! Are you convinced yet?

When and How

Maybe you are wondering how to go about it or how to remember to be grateful as you lead your busy stressful life. Gratitude doesn’t require us to be religious, to have any particular skill nor have a gratitude gene. Feeling grateful can happen in the unexpected moment of seeing a beautiful sunset or getting a hand-written note of thanks from a friend. We might experience gratitude when the health scare turns out to be benign. We can experience gratitude in prayer or meditation. Brother Steindl-Rast leads us through “A Grateful Day,” reminding all of us that this is not just another day in our lives.  “It is the one day that is given to you…today.”

Take five minutes daily to express your gratitude for the day that is given to you, for the abundance in your life, and for the experiences that inspire you by writing in a gratitude journal. Will the demonstrated results of daily gratitude described above motivate us to take that 5 minutes? Maybe it is easier to just to use the first few waking minutes of your day to reflect on what brings you gratitude. Or when you see a beautiful sight, taste a delicious bite of food or hear an inspiring piece of music to pause and express your gratitude.

Another approach is to sign up for a daily gratitude message from Deborah Purdue which comes in on your email to remind you each day. Sign up for these beautiful messages with gorgeous color illustrations at www.graceofgratitude.com.  Being grateful doesn’t cost anything, takes very little time, gives you many benefits and makes you happy.

calendula, single flower, bev scott authororanges, bev scott author, blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful to you who read my blog and support my work as a writer. Thank you.

[i] Oliver Sacks, “My Own Life” in “Gratitude”, Alfred Knopf, 2015.  Also published in New York Times, Feb. 19, 2015.

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17 Oct
2017

Learning More About My White Privilege

Eyes and Perception of the Word

I have opposed discrimination and racism beginning when I was in high school at the time of the lunch counter boycotts in the South. I wanted to ask retail and service establishments if they would serve “Negroes” in our very white town in Montana with only three known African American families. I was conducting this survey because I was afraid it might create problems for those families.

Later in my thirties, living in Detroit, I was confronted daily by the impact of racism on the population in this majority black city. I volunteered with an organization that provided anti-racism education workshops to churches, community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses. Through interactive workshops, deep discussions and sometimes painful feedback from black colleagues, I learned about my white privilege, how much prejudice and racism I carried and the many ways our culture has institutionalized racism. I also learned how much I didn’t know about the African American experience in the United States.

I now live in California and find myself learning more and again. Not only is there so much I don’t know about the black experience, I am pretty ignorant about the experience of being brown (Mexican, Hispanic and Latino/a). Although I did have one personal experience…as a high school student when I was asked to leave a restaurant because the staff thought I was Mexican. (I tanned easily and my hair wasn’t gray as it is now.)

I was reminded of that humiliating experience recently when I attended a one-woman show, performed by Irma Herrera, “Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name.”  She taught the audience the correct pronunciation as “Ear-ma.”  Proud of her Mexican and American heritage, Irma recounted experiences from her life requesting nuns, professors and strangers to accept the Spanish pronunciation of her name. Through poignant stories and humor, she told us how pronouncing her own name had often resulted in insults, pain and the denial of her identity. She recounts experiences of rejection and humiliation which brought back the memory of my lone experience of rejection based on an assumption and stereotype. I remember being so embarrassed and mortified in front of my friends. However, I refused to leave and my friends stood up for me. That experience so many years ago certainly increased my sensitivity to discrimination based on color and stereotypes.

I left Irma Herrera’s show with my own emotional tenderness. But most important, I had a clearer understanding of the historical context of the discrimination and racism experienced when growing up brown in this country. With the mirror she offered, I was forced to re-evaluate my thoughts, actions and biases once again.

Latino woman with catrina

Last weekend, I saw the film “Dolores,” a provocative documentary about the civil rights icon and labor leader, Dolores Huerta. The film provides a personal story of Dolores Huerta’s involvement in the founding of the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez in the context of the economic, social and physical violence experienced by the farm workers in California.

From these two recent experiences, I recognize again how my white privilege contributes to my ignorance of what it is like to be brown or black in the United States (or Native American or Asian American). I am grateful to have financial security, respect and a supportive community. I don’t have to worry about the police response to me because of my color. I grew up with a good education. I have been able to purchase homes without redlining. I have not experienced discrimination based on color in my career.

I continue to learn that my life privileges have protected me from the institutionalization of our country’s racial biases. My experience of gender bias, however, is more direct and personal. But that is a different blog.

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23 Aug
2017

“Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” – Live in San Francisco

A live performance of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the NPR’s News Quiz Show in San Francisco?Wait Wait Don't Tell Me logo

Rush for Tickets

My friends and I rushed, along with hundreds of others, to get tickets to one of our favorite NPR programs as soon as it was announced. Davies Symphony Hall was sold out for two nights. We roared with laughter as Peter Sagal and his side kick Bill Kurtis entertained us joking about items in the news. They were glad to be here, even though it brought them “two thousand miles closer to North Korea.” We applauded their support of the progressive attitudes in the Bay Area. Peter was glad to be able to come to the Bay Area before he “would need a passport” to get here.

We got tickets for the Friday night performance but we missed seeing Jerry Rice, one of the Forty-Niner’s greats, who appeared the night before in the program as the “Not My Job Guest.” Instead we saw Lars Ulrich, the lead drummer for the heavy metal band Metallica. Not being a heavy metal fan, I would have preferred seeing Jerry Rice.

“Each week on the radio you can test your knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what’s real news and what’s made up.” The jokes are always a reflection of the current news and Friday was no exception. We have been hearing about the complete solar eclipse on August 21st which will be the last one in our life time. Or as Peter Sagal remarked, “if we all live until the 21st.” He reported that 92% of the counties in the path of the eclipse voted for Trump. He quipped, “That was the last thing they wanted, to make America dark again!”

Laughing It Off

Many of us have lamented the depressing state of our current political news which leaves us dismayed, disappointed and fearful. Given such disheartening responses, I think it is particularly important to find humor and laughter to lighten our hearts and our days. Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me offers all of us an hour with a little respite and some laughter despite the seriousness of the news.

Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis

photo: Tony Nagelmann

Local news was also a target of the program. Sagal mentioned the Google engineer who wrote a memo explaining why there are so few women in tech. After he was fired, perhaps he went to work for Uber. Sagal reported that Uber also wanted to improve the male-female ratio and were searching for a female CEO. They had narrowed the candidates down to three…three men, “one has tried knitting and one listened once,” according to Sagal.

Sagal mentioned the news story on the $90,000 purchase of the exclusive street in San Francisco by a couple who don’t even live in the City. The private street which includes parking spaces and the sidewalk was sold at an auction for unpaid taxes. The couple seems unsure what they will do with this now controversial property. Peter suggested they consider making it into a trailer park.

Many of us are now terrified of the consequences of Trump’s threat of “fire and fury” raining over North Korea. Despite his reassurance, Guam is now in the cross-hairs between North Korea and Trump. Peter Sagal offered a lighter view by suggesting that Guam would experience an increase in tourism because people would go to Guam “to get a healthy glow.”

Try It, You’ll Like It

If you haven’t listened to and laughed with Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, find it on the schedule of your local NPR station or listen to the podcast.

I want to laugh some more.  Do you have any good jokes about our news???

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21 Jun
2017

Is the U.S. Facing the Same Risks as Ancient Greece?

 

The Ancient World of Greece

I recently returned from a fascinating and educational trip in Greece. We traveled to Athens and four of the islands in The Cyclades–Mykonos, Delos, Paros and Santorini– plus Crete. We also traveled through time back 4000 years as we visited antiquities and ancient excavations of the Bronze Age.

Blue Mediterranean Sea as viewed from Santorini, Greece

Another view of Santorini, coastal hillside dwellings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I am not a historian, I will not go into detail about these ancient civilizations. However, as we visited the ancient sites of the Minoan civilization (2000-1450 BCE), I was impressed by their architecture and expressive culture and the art which decorated their palaces. In these sites on Santorini and Crete we saw “well-appointed, monumental structures with large courts, colonnades, staircases, religious crypts, light-wells, drainage systems, extensive storage magazines and even ‘theatre’ areas for public spectacles.” Amazing architecture created 4000 years ago!

What Can We Learn for Today?

Sign pointing to site of Akrotiri in Greece, destroyed by eruption of volcano Thera in ancient times.

Unfortunately, these magnificent cities were either destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Thera which destroyed Akrotiri on Santorini between 1650-1550 BCE or by the more aggressive and militaristic Mycenaean culture. And, according to our guide, Minoan culture was more creative and expressive, perhaps even advanced. I found myself asking, as we in the U.S.  struggle with our definitions of “greatness” and the role of our leadership in the world, what can we learn from these cultures that have risen and fallen in the past?

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, have eliminated flourishing civilizations and advanced cultures for millennia around the world. Aggression and militaristic invasions by stronger cultures have undermined societies providing cultural, social or economic leadership, and set back cultural advancement for centuries. During the period we refer to as the “Dark Ages,” European cultures retreated and lost the benefit of many Roman innovations for centuries.

Will We Wither and Fail?

Ancient Greek artifacts, remnants of furniture

Do we face these risks in the U.S now? We are divided about our definitions of “greatness” as well as what our leadership role means. Global warming threatens our planet. Yet, if we don’t take action or don’t take action fast enough, “natural” disasters are likely to weaken and destroy cities and towns in our own country, or bring out international aggressive pursuit of water rights where drought threatens. Or, the mixed signals of the US role in international agreements, diplomacy and world leadership, might result in the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East or the Korean Peninsula. Many other issues can also be listed. Will the U.S. also wither and fail to maintain our democratic, technological and political leadership in the world?

What is your definition of “greatness” for the U.S.? Will we go the way of other failed or weakened civilizations? Or, will we be able to salvage our leadership and establish a better and more progressive role in the future?

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3 Feb
2017

One Week Later

I am in shock. My head is spinning. I am sick. I am terrified! As a life-long member of the “glass-half-full” club, I keep looking for an optimistic approach to all of the damage to our democracy. There must be a small streak of light behind these enormous dark clouds.

It has been a week!! The man, who shall not be named, along with his Cabinet nominees and the Republican Congressional leadership have taken collective unprecedented action. He and they have frozen, denounced, gagged, lied, censored, defunded, threatened, arrested, discriminated against and destroyed people and programs which serve the vulnerable, defend civil rights, protect our environment, safeguard our Constitutional freedoms, conduct investigative journalism and cooperate with long-time US allies.Dear Mr. President, a Week Later Jan 2017

Then I remember last Saturday. I felt a sense of unity, respect, courtesy, camaraderie, diversity, dedication, enthusiasm. The experience was uplifting and heartwarming…a bright light shining through the clouds. The numbers of cities and towns around the country and even around the world. The latest numbers are between 3.5 and 4.5 million marchers in the U.S. alone. It was a Women’s March. But it wasn’t just women. There were a high percentage of men, and children too,…people of all ages. It wasn’t just white. There were many hues of black, brown and tan. This march suggested, organized and led by women is an expanding streak of light in those dark clouds.

The energy we felt, that we needed to lift our spirits, to focus our resistance and to encourage our actions, is beginning to move us forward. The Women’s March on Washington is encouraging ten actions for the first 100 Days, beginning with sending postcards to our senators. In an effort to mobilize and change the majority in the House, Swing Left is asking us to get involved and organize in swing districts. Senator Warren and Congressman Cummings  of Maryland led an effort to get an audit of T’s finances by requesting emails be sent to the General Accounting Office. The GAO has reportedly responded stating they have accepted the request and will “conduct the work in the same non-partisan, fact-based approach we take with all Congressional requests.” I am sure there are many other efforts underway propelled by the energy that poured into the streets across the country.Women's March Jan 2017 NYC

That streak of light I was looking for is much bigger than I hoped. It is not just in reaction to “him” but he has been the spark that lit the fire that has brought us together in ways we haven’t seen in decades. Winston Churchill said that, “The United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lit under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.” The fire has been lit.  We must continue to add fuel to the flames. Let’s use the power of that fire to transform on our country to a more participatory, egalitarian democracy that provides opportunity, education, health care, choice, freedom, protects our environment and respects all of us regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.

That vision may be a long way in the future, but it is the future I hope for my grandsons and their children. I am going to follow Robert Muller’s advice when he said, “Use every letter you write; every conversation you have; every meeting you attend, to express your fundamental beliefs and dreams. Affirm to others the vision of the world you want.”

I am going to take action, speak out, write, march, stay informed and continue to look for the expanding light to drive the dark clouds away and move toward my vision. What will you do?

(Originally written the week of January 23, 2017, after the Women’s March)

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17 Nov
2016

Hope is Like a Country Road

 

“She Made Him Vote for Hillary!”

The weekend before the election, my friend Barbara and I joined the other 1500 Californians in Reno, Nevada to canvass for Hillary for President and for Catherine Cortez Masto for Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate. Early voting had already captured many votes.  But we were charged with reminding those who hadn’t voted to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote Democratic. Canvassing is discouraging work because many people are not home or won’t answer their doorbells.

Walking on a country road

But we had some good conversations and one of the most memorable was a young man who drove up in his pick-up after I had left some literature at his door. He recognized us as canvassers, asked us to wait a moment while he rummaged in his truck. He emerged with his “I voted” sticker and proceeded to tell us his story. He was a registered Republican but he declared that Trump was too crazy to be our President, so he voted for Hillary. After we thanked him for voting, we encouraged him to tell his friends and family. He laughed and said, “My brother wasn’t going to vote, but my mom told him he had to vote she and made him vote for Hillary.” We shared a common belief in that light-hearted moment before we walked on to the next house.

We Believed His Language But We Did Not Take Him Seriously

I returned from Reno feeling cautiously optimistic. Even as I watched the returns Tuesday evening as the states in the eastern time zones were called for Trump, I continued to be hopeful. But as we all learned by Wednesday morning, my hope and optimism were totally wrong. As former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown mentioned in his column last Sunday, people who voted for Trump did not believe his incendiary language but they took him seriously. The rest of us who voted for Hillary believed his incendiary language but we did not take him seriously.

We now have to take him seriously. He will be the next President of the United States. Many like me are still in shock and disbelief with shattered hopes of seeing Madam President in the White House. I am fearful that the advances we have made for marriage equality will be lost, that the racism, misogyny and xenophobia which Trump gave permission to express will become commonplace, that divisiveness, hostility and attacks on those who are vulnerable and different will be accepted. In fact, I fear that anyone who doesn’t meet or support the standard of the traditional powerful white male will be under siege.

Wondering Where Hope Lies

quote Lin YutangFriends and family in other countries encouraged my spouse and I to consider leaving the US and move to Ireland or Canada. In addition, there are many calls to action from causes and individuals in my email and on social media. I personally am not ready to take action yet. I am still in the process of figuring it out, trying to understand those who believe so differently than I do, wondering where hope lies.

Although I don’t know yet what I will do, I am sure I need to stay here in this country. I will need to gather with other like-minded souls, to speak out, to take action, to take a stand.

I will eventually find hope.  This quote by Lin Yutang touched me. “Hope is like a road in the country:  there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”

I am beginning to walk the road. Will you join me?

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30 Aug
2016

Choosing to Leave a Legacy

Legacy

(Copyright free photo from Stocksnap.io)

Do you wish you knew more about your grandparents or the generations before them? What do you know about the history of your ancestors? What is their legacy for you?

I have felt regret and wished I had asked more questions, solicited more stories and learned more about the lives of my parents, grandparents and the ancestors before them. That wish has led me to search for the story behind my mysterious grandfather, uncover the rumored family secrets and capture the story of my paternal grandparents’ lives in fictionalized form.

The story title “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness” is a legacy I want to leave for my daughter, grandsons and extended family. In addition, time with my grandsons, sharing family stories and taking them on adventures is a legacy, too. I hope they remember time spent with Grandma for future guidance and reminiscing.

I learned a few years ago legacy is not necessarily limited to the personal memories others have of us when we die but that we can leave an intentional legacy designed before the end of our lives to support future generations. I updated, as a second edition, a professional book which was a concrete and practical way of providing guidance to future young professionals. It also provided me a way of reflecting on my own years of experience as a consultant, capturing my learning from both the successes and failures and offering some insight and perhaps wisdom based on that experience. That book has served as a professional legacy for my years as an organization and leadership consultant.

collage, Bev Scott Author

(Consulting on the Inside, photo copyright Amazon.com, http://amzn.to/2fBgkGN, used with permission; 3rd Act Logo copyright http://The3rdact.com, used with permission; Sarah’s Secret book cover copyright Beverly Scott, used with permission, http://bevscott.com)

Another intentional professional legacy I am leaving is “The 3rd Act” program I co-created and turned over to my business partner in 2014. As the bulging demographic of baby boomers now reaching 60 continues, they will be responding to the question that poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In researching the work on positive aging for The 3rd Act, we found that investing ourselves in activities or causes outside ourselves, is one of the more significant contributions to healthy aging. Thus I hope The 3rd Act, as one of my legacies, supports the quest of coming mature generations for their intentional legacies.

And finally, there is a will, the document that many of us think of when we hear the term “legacy.” Somehow for me, this is the least significant component of my legacy. My material and financial resources bear little connection to the person I am, to the story inspired by the lives of my grandparents, the contribution I have made to learning, making the world a better place or raising a daughter and influencing her children. For now, I hope my novel, my professional books and articles, The 3rd Act and personal time spent with family and community organizations are all memorable legacies. And there may be more to come.

What is your legacy? Have you given thought to intentional creating your professional or personal legacy? What will you leave for your family and the generations that follow? What is your intentional legacy?

(An earlier version of this blog was posted in February 2014, and a longer version was published in “Seasonings: A Journal of Senior OD Practitioners,” Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2010.)

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