Tag Archive | gerontology

Running down a dream

The first semester of running down a dream is over – last test was Sunday (online classes; go figure), and now it’s back to the house-remodeling/Christmas-present-wrapping/getting-back-in-shape twist.


You may have noticed I’ve been blog-slacking for the last week. The final semester end-run was all encompassing, and yesterday I was drained. But last night we saw “The Descendants.” (Hurry, don’t wait, to see it!) George Clooney is amazing, and the whole Hawaii vibe is relaxing, despite the heavy subject matter.

Can’t recommend it highly enough.

And today I got back on the Wii Fit Plus program, which tells me my balance has taken a hit over this semester – doesn’t take long at this age to lose ground. I’ve Wii-weighed most every day and steadily worked out, but not to my normal levels.

Time to get back in the saddle.

If I’ve learned anything in the gerontology classes, it’s that we’ve got to look our for ourselves and take care of our bodies and minds. I’ve resumed the NYT crossword puzzles, too.

Life resumes. More later. Walls to be painted upstairs.

Mele Kalikimaka.

Learning to fly

In political terms which I try to avoid here since political discussions take up so much of my life – and tend to be hotter-than-hot potatoes – some might call me a flip-flopper. But to use a Bushism (those ridiculous gaffes are in danger of becoming almost endearing in these ugly political times), I’d rather think of myself as a “decider.”

Because, as my man Tom Petty says on the classic “Hard Promises”  (and which, amazingly, sadly, is not on YouTube!*), “you can still change your mind,” no matter the stakes, right? Only stuck people never waiver. If we continue to grow, we’re always learning to fly. 

And my wings have taken me from working on a gerontology degree to the pursuit of an MSW. That’s master’s in Social Work. Gerontology is housed in the Social Work department, so it’s not that radical a move, and I’m very, very pleased and excited about adding another year to my coursework.

Seriously. Even with the hard promises of hard work. 

But rather than write today about all my reasons for changing, especially since projects, papers and finals are breathing down my neck (so that’s dramatic personification. My undergrad degree is in English and I’ll always be a writer. Can’t help myself.), I thought I’d just let one section of my SW application essays speak for me today.

Describe the factors that have led you to choose social work as your profession.

In some ways, I’ve been practicing an untrained version of social work much of my life. From at least adolescence, I’ve tried to operate from a center of compassion and have been accused many times of caring too much. In high school I consciously reached out to the “misfits” and lower socioeconomic status students and did my best to operate from compassion in the tough early days of school desegregation. I’ve always championed for causes and advocated for change – I’ve also been accused of never being satisfied, but sometimes the status quo is unacceptable.

Social work in many ways feels like a natural extension of my high school teaching career. As a newspaper staff adviser and girls soccer coach, I had a closer bond with those students than regular classroom teachers, and many of them came to me for counseling and advice. Even my Journalism One and Creative Writing students – as well as my English students back in the 1980s when I was a very young woman – confided in me or consulted with me in times of trouble. Good teachers have much in common with social workers; we are mandated reporters, and we take education classes that cover Erikson, Freud, Maslow and Piaget at great length. Many of our in-service workshops are on working with the poor or on person in environment theories. I always proudly taught in and sent my children to public schools, which are true bastions of diversity.

Even as a newspaper health and fitness columnist, I often had people write, e-mail, or call for advice. Though I always told them I was not a professional, of course I did what I could to help, whether it involved researching the answer, referring them to someone else, or just listening and helping in whatever way I could.

What makes me know without a doubt that this is the right decision is that within two chapters of my Diversity and Oppression textbook,  a feeling of “coming home” washed over me.  Teaching and writing were my first two callings. Social work is my third – and it’s calling loud and clear.


So there you have it. Call me a bleeding-heart idealist. I’ve been called that before – and a whole lot worse.

Bring it on.

*Here’s a random dude doing a cover of one of my favorite TP songs, in case you can’t hear it in your head as I can.

Your mother should know

Today was my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. She was born Oct 21, 1921, right here in Selah, Washington, where we had her party at my sister-in-law’s house.

John and Kitty are thrilled to celebrate their mom's 90th birthday.

Kitty and Norm recently moved from Yakima back to tiny Selah, where she and my hubby, John, grew up.

Doris, who’s always been tiny, has gotten slower, smaller and unsteadier over the years, but she still drives to the beauty salon and to run her errands. She still plays bridge with her friends of many years, loves to watch sports on television and has recently started working crossword puzzles again.

John, his mother, Doris, and Aunt Irene

We should all hope to age as well. Her baby sister, Irene, who’s a sprightly 83, drove herself over the Cascade Mountains from Seattle for the party and to spend some time with her sister and her in-laws. Irene still plays tennis and went to Costa Rica this year.  She’s a wonder to behold.

The Haworth genes are sturdy. These ladies were part of my inspiration to study gerontology. What makes some people so hearty and some not so lucky? That’s a question for the ages, but it seems genetics play a huge part.

Doris and her baby sister, Irene, circa 1928

But so does heart. Doris has a big one, as do Irene and as Kitty, my sister-in-law, and John, my sweet husband.

Doris was a beauty of a young mom with baby Kitty.

So what if I’m ever so behind in schoolwork for the moment. Sometimes life gets in the way. And aren’t we lucky when it does?

Ain’t wasting time no more

So, this is what 12 hours in grad school (for a master’s in gerontology) looks like. That’s just the textbooks – also included is massive reading of articles and chapters from other books, as well as some full-length (and cool) feature films that deal with aging issues. And massive writing of papers, and quizzes and tests.

First semester books

Hope 12 hours doesn’t fall into the “what was I thinking” category. I know I want the degree, and my dreams have started talking to me again, so I’m sure I’m on the right track.

Can’t be as tough as finishing the last two years of my bachelor’s degree (English major, psych minor, massive reading) with two toddlers, right? And this time it’s (lots ’o) cash on the barrelhead, instead of student loans to cover tuition and daycare. So there’s that.

And I’m determined not to let it eat my life. High on the priorities list will remain grandchildren, exercise, other family and friends (two- and four-legged), blogging, and, I hope, at least some of my volunteering. (The West Memphis 3 are free, but the fight isn’t over.) Low on the priorities list will have to be reading for pleasure, housework (hooray!), sleep and most other activities.

I’ll make lists but remain flexible. Or ignore them after making them. Must stay calm. Procrastination runs deep in my veins, so that’ll be a battle too, but, again, must remain calm.

To remind me to do that, a new tattoo, done masterfully by Brandon Johnston at 7th Street Tattoos

Jansport bookbag in “Bleeding Heart” print

It says “shanti” in Sanskrit, which translates to “peace.” (And, no, it doesn’t really say “soy sauce” or any other epic fail; my Nepalese friend Bimal Poudel proofed it for me.) It’s turquoisey-blue for the fifth chakra, which is the center of communication and creativity in thought, speaking and writing. In balance, it’s great. Out of balance, you’re screwed.

The intention is to have something to focus on if I’m feeling stressed or blocked.

And it looks really cool, too.

On the plus side, as well, I got an iPad for notetaking and the cutest Jansport book bag. John likes to tell people that now I have the complete Mac set: an iMac (but it’s old), a 15-inch Macbook Pro, a 32GB iPod Touch, a Verizon iPhone 4 and now a 32GB wifi iPad.

But he just got his first Mac, a 13-inch Macbook Pro, and he uses the iMac all the time, so he’s a convert himself, finally. (We were a mixed marriage for years.) He’s also super-supportive and a grad student too – he gets to go for free since he turned 60 and is taking two Conflict Mediation weekend seminar classes to work on the certificate to go with his law degree.

So Lolly and Pop go back to school. And we won’t be wasting any time. 

And to end on a happy note, here’s Jason Baldwin walking in Memphis!