How much progress have American women made in the way we see ourselves in the past 90 years?

“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

In the wake of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Friday, there have been many wonderful articles written to commemorate her heroic life and legacy. She was a small woman who understood the gigantic progress we as a people needed to make to create an American culture that respected women as equal citizens of the United States of America.

Interestingly, Ms. Ginsburg was born the same year as my own mother, 1933, and to me my mother’s life represents the progress we have made since these two American women were born. I fear the young women of our country today have no idea what America looked and felt like for women born in the first half of the 1900s.

My Mom and me in 2005

I would like to introduce you to my mother, Martha Ann Carter. Born around Kansas City after her mother had had trouble conceiving, my Mom ended up being the eldest of four children. She had her rebellious moments in high school and then met my Dad on a blind date in 1950. He was soon sent to Virginia by the army, but they corresponded for a short period and then they married in 1951. She was only 19 when she got on a train to join him.

She lived in a time when being your husband’s best help mate was what women did. She had kids while also helping her husband advance his career. It was such a struggle in their early lives together. Mom worked to support the family, and had three kids by 1955, while my father finished his PhD in botany at University of Iowa.

College teachers didn’t make much money back then, and they had to move every few years if they weren’t on tenure-track, so we moved around a lot in my early years, but my Mom always kept it together, even when my Dad decided he wanted to go to India for a summer when we kids were quite small. She was supportive of Dad no matter what! That is how she saw herself.

This is the way things were for most women back then. My Mom was just lucky that she had a husband who supported her education and career as a teacher. The first thing my Mom said after my Dad died this past March: “I have lost my leader.”

My views on women’s rights:

Being born in 1955 and raised by a college professor and teacher, my choices were clear to me. I wouldn’t be going to college for my “Mrs.” degree. I also rebelled greatly against the stereotypes of the 1970s where women often married during or right after college. Yes, even back then is was common for women to either get pregnant early or simply follow their man instead of creating their own career for themselves. And the men were quite traditional too!

It took me until age 49 to change enough and then find a life companion who saw me as his equal in every way…

“If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg

My point here is that the life of women born in 1933 and those born today are a WORLD APART! We no longer expect the men to be the “boss” or leader of the family. They no longer dominate us, but they did only one or two generations ago.

I would just like the new generation of women to appreciate all the challenges we have faced, and the amazing progress we have created in the past one hundred years. If the early death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg leads to us moving backwards in terms of women’s rights, shame on our country!

“Feminism [is the] notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by manmade barriers.” – RBG

Today I’m Going To Love My Life!

I’ve been overwhelmed lately with the idiocy we call American politics. We all go somewhere different to get our “news” and then we spout whatever misinformation we hear wherever. It sounds to me like we have too much free time and too many sources of information and misinformation, and the Internet is responsible for most of this. On top of that we have the worst wildfires in American history and hurricanes coming on shore like never before.

What I hate to see is all of the hatefulness that Trump has succeeded in spreading throughout our country, one that in fact we all love and want to be better. Most of us just want a better country with less death and destruction. Can we all agree on that at least?

To combat this anxiety and hatefulness I am pulling way back from watching the news. In addition, I have been trying a new affirmation out. Every morning when I wake up the first thing I see is my little sign across the room that says:

Today I’m going to love my life!

I find that when I focus this way, I truly have so many reasons to love my life. Politics do not need to consume us. Consider the fact that you are alive in a wonderful country at a glorious time in history. One of my favorite quotes from the 17th century was that “life was nasty, short and brutal.”

Today many Americans have the opportunity to live long, happy and healthy lives. Sure some of us cannot breathe without the assistance of supplementary O2 (like me!) but at least we can access those resources. We have the benefits of science helping us to improve our lives and the lives of others. LUCKY US!

I don’t know about you, but when I look around me, I find so many reasons to love my life. I feel so much gratitude for it all! I feel I have had the proper circumstances to get a good education and then make the kind of choices that have made my life great. Self-improvement has been so important to me, as well as learning that blaming and shaming others for my own faults is toxic. Self -responsibility has been key for me to create the kind of life I can love.

To tell the truth, I never would have imaged that I would end up here in this safe and beautiful (but smoky today!) place with a life I can love.

I can only wish you all the same success.

Just so there’s no global warming…

On Monday the 7th we broke a record with a high of 92 degrees here in southern Colorado…

On Tuesday we had a high of 35 with a record low for September and rain turning to sleet and then snow this afternoon. The forecast? Snow all night into tomorrow afternoon.

By Wednesday morning we had received six inches of snow on September 8th-9th! Amazing!

Thursday morning, September 10th, snow has returned to the Spanish Peaks!

HAPPY 15th ANNIVERSARY TO MIKE AND I!

This catmint flower is my definition of resilience!

Alternatives to becoming a prisoner of media-created stress & anxiety…

It struck me the other day, as I was enjoying 20/20 vision for the first time in my entire life (get some cataract surgery!), and feeling particularly relaxed and happy, that most of us don’t realize that we do make perhaps unconscious choices everyday. Do you choose to feel constantly worked up about Covid-19, that crazy guy at the top, upcoming elections, etc.? Would you like to seek more positive distractions?

Think about it this way, most of us have it better than just about everyone else in the world today, AND better than most in human history! I thought, “Do we need to constantly find more to worry about? We’ll all be dead soon, so lighten up!

That same day I received a review copy of a book I can highly recommend to those of you who would like suggestions on how to turn your attention to spiritual things that create space for you to pause and reflect, nourish your mind, and make useful tools to assist you in your personal development journey. The Mind Remedy: Discover and Use Simple Objects to Nourish Your Soul by UK psychologist Ruth Williams allows us to explore our thoughts, ideas, emotions, and memories through objects that are touching, thought-provoking and soul-stretching. From dream catchers to worry beads, this beautifully crafted book shares the origins, meaning and practice of creating 20 different enlightenment tools to increase feelings of well-being. These tools are divided into different headings like “Finding Connection”, “Inner Peace”, “Self-Discovery” and “Finding Your Roots.”

For example, here is a sample of the page on creating your own worry beads. Sometimes we need something tactile to sooth us…

“Simple things really can nourish the mind. When we anchor the unseen processes of the mind to something that we can hold in our hands, then the intangible becomes real. Healing feels within reach because we can touch the object that will carry us there…”

Check out this simple, beautiful book if you are looking for alternatives to worry, stress & anxiety.

Busy wildlife in my Colorado wildflower garden

Who knew how active and entertaining a wildflower garden could be? All day long we observe all sorts of critters & creatures interacting out there. From gigantic hummingbird moths, to so many bees, beetles, little lizards all over the place and one very long snake at one time!

There are three birds in this photo! Can you find them?

The early morning is dominated by the birds as they wake up and come get some seed and water. Watch out for those dive-bombing hummingbirds!

Then the Cottontail rabbits come out of their safe, cool hiding place under the concrete step right outside my door.

Here come the chipmunks, scurrying around the Blue Mist Spirea to pick up the newly fallen seeds. I better get out there and collect some seeds before they eat them all! Mike has also seen a badger out there once, and a mountain lion attack a deer when he was out on a hike!

But the highlight of our animal observations this summer has been seeing TWO sets of Rocky Mountain Blue Bird chicks fledge from our unique little Blue bird house…

Baby Rocky Mountain Blue Birds in our bird house in June

And of course our friendly Road Runner (Beep, beep!) who seems to be sticking around to have a family right near here!

How I miss getting together with others to grieve the death of my father, much like Covid deaths

From time immemorial, we humans have been joining together to mourn or memorialize our dead. This is a tradition we seem to need, to get together and recognize the death of a loved one. In the past this would be called a funeral. Today it can be any kind of ceremony to gather together and grieve the passing of someone special to us.

My father died on March 10th of this year, right before “the virus” began to run and ruin our lives. We had hoped to have a special ceremony for Dad at the Denver Botanic Gardens, a place where he often lectured and was well known as one of our state’s foremost botanists. That could not happen. And now, six months later, we still wish we could do something to get together and commemorate his life and his passing. Then I realized, hundreds of thousands of Americans are feeling the exact same way. Because of this horrible pandemic, so many of us cannot even grieve in the usual ways. At least my Dad did not have to die alone, but we were then left with no way to get together and mourn him. I’m so glad we did at least have a fantastic 90th birthday party for him. That was a wonderful coming together of those who loved my father and knew his was a life worth celebrating!

I am struck again by how fundamentally social we are as a species. From New Orleans jazz funerals to Tibetan sky burials, we always find our own ways to deal with love and loss. We need that time to fully embrace our return to the earth from which we came. What could be more natural than dying, and yet it always seems so sudden and unexpected…

One of my favorite aspects of moving here has been that I finally feel good about my future after death. I now know I wish to have my ashes spread over this peaceful and quiet place, the land below our home here in rural southern Colorado. Perhaps my Dad would like that too, since we live in one of his favorite ecosystems, the Pinon-Juniper woodland.

“Yes, it’s beautiful to exhale after you inhale. At the right time, when the chest is full, breathe out and let go.” – Norman Fischer, “Suffering Opens the Real Path”

Celebrating 100 Years of Voting American Women!

To celebrate this anniversary, I’m re-posting my piece from last year!

‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity…’ and so is anger!

 / LAURA LEE CARTER / EDIT

As a government information librarian, I never forgot an old record I found from an American “insane asylum” from the 1800s. In there it mentioned that one woman was placed in the asylum for “refusing to obey her husband.” This parallels the apparently not unusual behavior of President Woodrow Wilson and his cronies back in 1917, when they tried to persuade a psychiatrist to declare the suffragette Alice Paul insane so they could institutionalize her permanently. The doctor refused saying Alice Paul was strong and brave, but that did not make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men:

‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

But when we stop and consider the centuries of historical and genetic evidence, we see that males of our species increased their chance of survival with shows of aggression, while the females survived best my passive, receptive behavior. Females needed male protection to survive, especially after babies arrived. Aggressive females probably did not survive or have the chance to procreate like the more passive ones.

Jumping from historical records to personal experience, I was taught from a very early age not to express my anger. My father was the holder of the anger in my family. The rest of us were afraid of his rage. This fear in myself was so ingrained and unconscious that it took years of counseling for me to finally uncover this new source of power within myself. The first time I tried to get in touch with my anger and express it in some useful way, I instead found myself breathless and confused.

Did I have the courage or the right to express so much pent up rage from decades of standing by while others, usually men, raged on?

Granted, we boomers have lived in a time of transition from traditional female definitions of success to modern independence. Traditionally marriage was a time to celebrate female success. This meant that the woman could now fulfill the proper role of mother and helpmate to her husband. He was the head of the family. and she was the helper who worked to promote her husband’s success.

But since I had no desire to marry at an early age and fulfill this traditional role, where did I fit in? I spent a lifetime figuring this out for myself. In the meantime, I slowly learned through excellent counseling to appreciate and express my full range of emotions, including my anger. But I find most women of my age still fear expressing any emotion close to anger.

When we feel anger, it comes from a place deep inside of us whose purpose is to protect us from outside aggression or danger. It tells us when our bodies and minds are threatened and then tells us to react to protect ourselves. Historically women had no way to protect themselves from male aggression or anger, but today we do. I can highly recommend using it.

I LOVE this response to this post! Read the whole comment below:

“The day we stop needing the approval of those around us is the day we take our power back and are free to express the full range of emotions we have. Thanks for this post – it’s very supportive.”    – Gilly 

Stevie helps me see the world with new eyes!

I’ve been taking some time off from this blog and many of my usual activities since my cataract surgery on August 4th. The other eye comes soon! Dealing with new eyes, anemia, an apparent allergy to taking iron and other allergies has me distracted. When it rains it pours!

But stepping back for a while is important for all of us. That’s why I enjoyed the fact that a few of you found your way to my August 2016 piece about allowing your mind to lie fallow. To quote that piece:

“Spacing out” is the best way I can think of to describe those times when my mind is simply exhausted and cannot focus on one more thing.

Allowing your mind to lie fallow brings up all sorts of useful and interesting thoughts! Yesterday, I found myself indulging in a long and lively listening session to some of my favorite Stevie Wonder songs. There are a few from his “Inner Visions” album that take me immediately and directly back to my freshman year in college at Colorado College. What an exciting time that was for me, discovering new things everyday about myself and the world around me! A different set of his songs take me back to that summer in 2004 when I started my own dating service. I had such a fun time hanging out with others who, like me, were searching for love in midlife.

With the choice of Kamala Harris (YES!) & our national focus on racism recently, the question suddenly appeared in my mind:

What would our country be like today if we had never experienced any African influence from the beginning? How do you spell boring? You must admit our country is wonderfully diverse, and that’s a good thing! Such an exciting mix of colors and very different cultures. That’s what I love about it!

Stevie’s Inner Visions Album

Go listen to a few of my favorite songs and then try to disagree….

Visions

Don’t you worry ’bout a thing

Golden Lady

As

And one of my personal favorites, especially after leaving city life behind:

Living just enough for the city

Is it time for you to check out cataract surgery?

A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye, and they become more of a problem as we age. By age 75 approximately 70 percent of people have cataracts. Because our population is aging, more than 30.1 million Americans are projected to have cataracts this year. In other cases, cataracts may be related to eye trauma, long-term diabetes, corticosteroid medications or radiation treatments.

At first, you may not notice that you have a cataract. In many cases cataracts start clouding your vision in your 40s or 50s, but do not become a major problem until after age 60. Mine didn’t get really bad until the past year or so at age 65, and corticosteroids (Symbicort) did play a part in their worsening so quickly. The last time I had a vision test I could barely see the big E at the top of the chart!

I had my first eye done yesterday, and it was a breeze. I felt no pain and just saw weird colorful blobs in my eye while my surgeon was working on it. He simply removed my old lens in pieces and then slipped in a new one… No pain at all! In fact, on the way home I said to Mike, “If only all of my medical problems could be solved so quick and easily!”

Today my vision is so much better with no glasses and little discomfort. I feel like I can see EVERYTHING NOW! So I highly recommend getting this taken care of sooner rather then later. Don’t let the idea of it scare you.

Do you know enough about anemia?

Have you ever noticed how we don’t care about a problem until it happens to us? Anemia is my new, out-of-the-blue problem, so I thought I might teach the rest of you a little bit about it.

According to the World Health Organization, anemia or iron deficiency is by far the most common and widespread nutritional disorder worldwide, with an estimated one billion people affected. Yep, it’s a public health condition of epidemic proportions. Who knew? And it is most commonly a problem in those over sixty.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. I found out about my anemia through a standard blood test where I learned my bone marrow was not creating enough normal red blood cells, the size of them was small and therefore, the hemoglobin in my blood was not able to provide me with enough oxygen.

How do you feel when you are living with an iron deficiency? According to the Mayo Clinic, iron deficiency anemia symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Brittle nails & hair loss
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my recent strong desire to chew ice constantly was an symptom of a major problem! Still no desire to eat dirt, but this might go a long way towards explaining my daily struggles to breathe!

So now I’m busy figuring out what foods have lots of iron, foods like beef and pork, shellfish, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, leafy greens and, my favorite, dark chocolate!

In my case I also began taking a 65 mg iron supplement. Thought I might warn the rest of you boomers, because I was pretty surprised. Now I wonder how I got through my whole life without knowing one thing about this… OH, is that what those Geritol commercials from the 1950s were all about?

WARNING: Be certain to see your doctor for a diagnosis rather than taking iron supplements on your own. Overloading the body with iron can be dangerous because excess iron accumulation can damage your liver and cause other complications.