Okay. Here goes. Last week my odometer moved from 59 to 60.

Gone are the days when I pronounced my 7- ¾-year status to anyone who would listen: when I divided the year into quarters in anticipation of the next milestone. Why the change?

It would seem I’ve moved from “deep in the action” to “yesterday’s news.” It’s hard to resist the message that aging is shameful. It must be or we’d feel no need for anti-aging creams, face lifts, or sitcoms stereotyping older people as addle-headed. Hilarious.

Thing is, I’m not yesterday’s news. So I will move deep into life with 6-nity: a dignity that accepts myself and my years. How? By

  1. Staying Thirsty: with so many books to read, concerts to attend, lectures to hear, and people of differing perceptions to know, I’d best get busy. I’ll stay thirsty, my friend.
  2. Contributing: My worry on my 60th birthday—Would the people I serve think I’m no longer up for the task? Instead, they celebrated my birthday with full and eager hearts. With so much need in the world and with so much to give, I’ll roll up my sleeves.
  3. Staying Fit: I spend more time these days caring for my body, but that attention allows me to do the things I really care about. I’ll exercise, eat prudently, get adequate rest, and take those pesky calcium pills.
  4. Keeping It Real: Aging isn’t for sissies. I wept all over my first pair of bifocals. Ditto with the trifocals. I can’t deny my need for serious visual aids. I’ll seek to see as clearly other truths about myself and my age. Delusions can make me blind in other, more destructive ways; I’ll keep a sharp eye.
  5. Laughing: It’s a balancing act—maintaining humor enough to avoid what Berk Breathed termed “offensensitivity” and maintaining enough self-respect to avoid casting myself as a buffoon. I’ll not take myself too seriously, but I’ll take myself seriously enough.
  6. Building Soul Muscle: My body has term limits, but my soul’s in it for eternity.I’ll maintain spiritual practices that muscle my soul for adventures to come.
  7. Loving: God, others, creation, self. In loving, I create a powerful good that far outdistances my physical life. Those capable of loving are deep in the action. I’ll keep on loving.

I will die. But right now I am alive & I will live 6-nity with humor, love, and dignity. I hope the same for you, whatever your age.



Front Brakes Shakedown

Small Justices

Our regular mechanic said my front brakes were down to 30%.

“How long can I drive on them?”

“Depends on how many miles. Most people can go a month, maybe more.”

“Take it to one of those places that specialize in brakes,” said my husband. “It’ll be less expensive.

Or so you’d think.

I pulled into the parking area early one morning and spied an eager male face through the glass door.

“I need my front brakes replaced.”

“Yes, ma’am. We’ll give you a diagnostic inspection. You can wait right there while we do it.”


Twenty minutes later, my cars hung in midair, hood up, stripped of all its tires. It looked so pitiful. I felt as if it were saying, “How could you subject me to such indignity? What did I ever do to you?” The eager man pointed out all that ailed my poor car. Interesting, since two weeks prior our mechanic reported the car to be in good health, except for the front brakes.

“I just want the front brakes replaced.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll just get you an estimate.”

More waiting.

The eager man summons me to a computer screen boasting a staggering array of jargon. “You’ll get A done and then Q and then we’ll M and finish up with Z.” He pointed to a number on the far side of $700—$763, if my memory serves.

I stared at the total, which far exceeded the amount we’d spent on the back brakes. “I’ll need to make a phone call.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I stepped outside and phoned my husband. “What!?!” was his response to the estimate. “No. Tell them to put it back together. We’ll go somewhere else.”
Back inside. “Just put the car back together. We’ll take it elsewhere.”

Raised eyebrows. A mouth opens and closes. Finally, “Now we can just do those pads, if you like.”

Ah. Now.

“No, thank you. I’m more comfortable taking it elsewhere.”

“Okay, ma’am.”

He exits to the garage. Tells the Faginesk character who’d earlier claimed my key: “Just put it back together. She don’t want it done.”

I imagined heads shaking sagely, maybe an eye roll or two. More waiting. Very uncomfortable waiting. At last Fagin presents me with my key and, smiling, tells me he tried to put my seat back where I’d had it (We do what we can for you diminutive females, his tone implied. I’m 5’7”.)

“Thank you,” I manage. As I head out the door, the eager man shouts, “You have a nice day now, ma’am.”

Later my husband says, predictably and accurately, “It’s because you’re a woman.”

I’d entered the brakes shop sporting two breasts (of average size and discretely covered) and was seen as a cash cow to be milked. I hate the injustice of it, of knowing that had my husband entered, tall of stature and deep of voice, he’d have received the service he requested. I hate being dependent his testosterone to maintain a safely drivable vehicle. I hate being eyed either appreciatively or speculatively. I hate feeling inadequate, foolish, and less than. I hate it because it’s unjust. Because mechanics should do their job for each client, not look for ways to fleece ones they perceive to be the hapless lambs of the flock.

So—four stars to our usual mechanic and four rotten tomatoes to Eager and Fagin. In the future do your job. Listen to your clients. Treat each person as you’d like to be treated by a professional in another field. If you arrive at the hospital needing an appendectomy, would you like the medical staff to sell you on a tummy tuck, upper and lower GI series, and a colon irrigation as well?

Didn’t think so.


In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same. ~Albert Einstein

Tanks & Convertibles

Small Justices

A close friend recently received one of THOSE evaluations. You know the kind: the sort that makes you want to spit nails, then nosedive into a deep hole and pull in the dirt over you. It put me to thinking once again about evaluations: about how we need them and how I generally hate them. I’ve gotten the awful kind: “I cannot muster significant passion for your work to represent it to publishers” (ouch!) And “this is perfect, don’t dare change a thing” (gag).

We’ve all gotten evaluated: by a teacher, by a boss, by those we served. And how often did those evaluations empower and encourage us? Not often enough. So let’s consider what ails most forms of evaluation, and then envision healthier possibilities.

Imagine one of those faux tanks with darkened windows motoring down the roadway, muscling your smaller vehicle aside. You yield—who wouldn’t with potential destruction filling the rearview mirror? As you shift lanes and restart your heart you wonder, Who’s behind the wheel of that monster?

Now imagine on the same stretch of road a convertible, top down, cruising, the driver hailing you. S/he gives a thumbs-up for your excellent lane change and, when needed, hollers, “You’re straddling my lane: over to the left, please.” Which vehicle and driver has the best potential for producing long-term positive effects on your driving?

The faux tank serves as a metaphor for our current evaluation modes and the convertible for our hoped-for evaluation vehicle. So just what ails that tank?

  • Misuse of Power: I am in a position of power over you; I can do to you as I wish. In tank-styled evaluation the evaluator dares the recipient to disagree. Want to keep your job? Get a referral? Pass my class? I have determined what is wrong with you. Accept it. Move aside.
  • Misuse of Anonymity: Driving around in a giant, insulated tin car encourages arrogant (size does matter) and aggressive (take that!) behavior. Aggressive impulses inherent in our human condition take the wheel behind those tinted windows. In the same way, anonymous evaluations that exclude the give and take of egalitarian relationships bring out the harpy in evaluators. “Had it been me, I would have known to do X, but he did Y and made a mess of it.” The evaluated is denied the opportunity to express his/her truth or even to request clarification.
  • Misuse of Guidelines: Those white lines on the highway serve a purpose, but they also limit direction. That’s needed when we’re driving, but black and white thinking undermines out-of-the-box thought and action. Evaluation forms laid out in yes/no, either/or, poor/fair/good, effective/ineffective formats inhibit an evaluator’s experience of the evaluated. Postmodernists have shown us the limitations of black and white thinking, but our evaluation methodology has yet to catch up. Let’s make room for the creative ATVs to maneuver.
  • Misuse of Perspective: We now add a commanding and impatient passenger to our faux tank: “Get me there now.” The faux tank driver barrels down the highway, assessing your vehicle as s/he blows by. How can you get a thoughtful or thorough evaluation? In the same way, evaluators are handed forms at the end of a seminar, the close of a class, or when the webinar wraps. There’s good reason for the practice—few participants respond to evaluations provided later. But urging folks to evaluate when their minds are already heading toward the parking lot replaces accuracy with expediency. Recall a teacher or a boss who impacted your life for good. How long did it take to appreciate that person’s work?

More vehicular thoughts next time! What are your thoughts so far?

Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in circumstances confronting him. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

Gotta Love Pirates!

Rock Star Pirate (negative)

Who doesn’t love pirates? Well, anyone whose ship they’ve boarded, I suppose, but most of us get to admire them from some distance, delighting in their splashy (pun intended) wardrobes, their “take-charge” attitudes, and their unique approach to the English language.

In my book, Pirate = Powerful Attitude, and we can all use a bit of that. So I’m creating Skull & Crossbones for various vocations. That way, everyone can haul on some Pirate-tude for “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” on Sept. 19. Thus far I have Arrrtist, Farrrmer, Surrrgeon, Rock Starrrr (pictured), Marrriachi, Bakerrrr, & Barrrber.

So shiver me timbers, how I’d love to include your vocation, whether it contains any rrrrs or not! Send along your ideas, me Hearties, and I’ll put me noggin & pen to work. Savvy?

Click here to view the other Skull & Crossbones.