The World Turns with Possibility -by Judy Oakleaf

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I use to watch the soap opera “As the World Turns” with my mother.  It was a fairly innocent vice and one we laughed about but couldn’t resist.  We knew the story lines were overly dramatic, often fantastical, a bit “spicy”, a bit silly, and pure entertainment.  After all, how could any real human being survive the endless challenges the characters faced on a daily basis?   Even as I reached adulthood and my very busy life kept me from afternoon television viewing, my mother would fill me in on “our story” aka As the World Turns, whenever we spoke.  It was a fun connection for us and we would end our chats in the comforting awareness that the main characters certainly had more trials and tribulations than we did.   

The real world for me revolved around my family and my teaching career.  I was blessed to spend my days doing what I loved.  Every day, I encountered children who inspired and challenged me.  Some days were more challenging than others, but I knew I was in the midst of greatness.  These children who graced my life were frequently wise beyond their years.  They celebrated life, bore sadness, neglect, and loss upon their small shoulders, and still they welcomed each day with smiles and hope.  The sincere and profound conversations we shared filled me with optimism.  Several of those “kids” are approaching their forties and are the embodiment of the greatness I was witness to when they were in grade school.  They are professionals, skilled service providers, parents, and responsible citizens.  They are the doctors I go to for my aching knees, the lawyers I call on to help me write my will, the skilled plumbers who come to my rescue when my water heater breaks, and the list goes on. 

During these times of political, racial, and economic divisions, I often stop to remind myself of the tenacity of children.  Some days, I wish my mother were still living so I could ask her if we somehow got sucked into As the World Turns.  The daily news feels more like a soap opera than real life.  Mixed in with all of the absolute absurdity surrounding us are genuine global concerns and the personal tragedies of our fellow human beings.  And yet… once again, it is the young people marching for their lives that inspire and fill me with hope.  For me, children are the constant.  They shine a light on our strengths and our failures.  They rise up and challenge us to do better.  They hold us accountable and make us proud.  It is the young who have drawn the line and said “Never Again”.  It is the young who have challenged us to keep them safe.  They have taken up the gauntlet and called us all to action and children across the country have answered the call.  They are the heroes of this current drama and will be the leaders of tomorrow.  Because of them, I am filled with that same sense of energy and purpose I felt as a young woman.  Tomorrow looks brighter and the possibility of the world continuing to turn is always a good thing.  Just ask any soap opera fan.

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Judy is a native Coloradoan.  After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work she spent several years working with social services.  In 1986, she returned for her Master’s degree in Education.  The next 26 years were devoted to teaching and raising a family.  She currently supervises student teachers for Colorado State University.  She loves volunteering at Homeless Gear, long walks, camping, and books, books, and more books.

Patterns and Paths! -by Norma Glad

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My writing group recently chose limitations as our current topic. We are all seniors and have had and are living with firsthand knowledge of some of the limitations our senior years have brought to us. My first thoughts went to my lowered level of hearing. In the past 15-20 years I have put a lot of energy and commitment into doing the best I can with my hearing variability. 

Wearing a hearing aid in each ear became a necessity for me. Acceptance that I couldn't hear everything was important to me. I soon realized that not accepting the truth could in itself become a heavy limitation. The truth that I had to face: "I am not able to hear everything that is said to me or around me."

Some examples of what I do and have done about some of the changes and limitations resulting from my hearing condition:

I sometimes choose to leave out of my schedule events, presentations or meetings in which I'm interested. I know in advance that those will be extra hard for me because of background noise or other conditions which make hearing more difficult for me. Some voices are easier to hear than others. Some rooms, auditoriums, restaurants or other public places present extra difficulties to my ears. 

I once visited a number of restaurants to find the ones with the best hearing conditions.  It turned out that the most expensive ones would be on my list.

I often ask a friend who had attended the same event as I to tell me what she remembered of the words or ideas, so I could fill in some of the ideas or words which passed me by.

At other times I turn to an alternate sense, such as vision, which helps me lip read. A major irony of my life:  My undergraduate studies prepared me to be a speech and hearing therapist.  My work in the Cleveland Public Schools included teaching lip reading.  Never did it occur to me that I myself would someday need to use that skill.

Another use of vision which has enhanced my hearing is observing how people express themselves: body language, bodily tensions, facial expressions. I consider this to be part of the subtle kinesthetic and bodily senses which we might not always be aware of.

I belong to several interesting educational groups which are important to me, even though I miss a lot of what is being said.  I have asked myself, "Why do I keep coming back here, when I can't hear everything?" My own answer:  I like the people in these groups; I like being a part of it. I've been in each of these groups for a long time, so I feel close to many people in the groups. We share similar aims, thoughts and experiences.  This is all of value to me.

Sometimes when I can't hear something I want to hear I feel really dumb.  Part of this could be envy that they can hear it and I can't. Another recurring thought: “I’m not like I used to be!" Here we are again in limitations of the senior years. I try hard to grab any and all words and phrases which I can hear, and to do what's best for me, as I am now.

In 2015 what seemed best for me was to undergo major surgery in order to have a cochlear implant in my left ear. The cochlea from my left inner ear wasn't working well, so it was removed, replaced by an amazing internal magnet and external hearing aid which have greatly improved my hearing. I wear a more old-fashioned one on my right ear.  Both need to be removed at night, and attention paid to the batteries. They're certainly worth the extra attention they require.

The implant is a great example of how contemporary technology has aided my search for better hearing.  With the implant came a microphone and a small remote packet which together direct and enhance incoming conversations so they go directly to my left ear which has the implant.

Another example of technology benefitting me is my CapTel telephone.  Because I don’t hear everything on other phones, CapTel puts a 6x12 screen on the desk part of the phone.  All incoming speech is transcribed into words which are printed on the screen so that in addition to my partial hearing of what was said, I can read it.

Caution number one: The conversation on the screen comes in more slowly than most people talk.  Consequently, I ask callers to please talk more slowly and/or wait a short time until the captions catch up with what is being said. I often thank them for helping me hear more completely.  

Caution number two: There are many occasions when the intended words and the printed ones differ greatly. Example: On the first day I received the CapTel phone, a friend called me to tell me about her orange geranium.  What came through was orange uranium!  Stranger ones also appear which are even more humorous. While hearing limitations can be quite serious and heart-rending, I don't mind having some extra humor in my life.

 

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Norma Glad is a member of Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins. She is a certified yoga instructor and leads chair yoga classes at the Fort Collins Senior Center and at her residence. 

Staying Young While Growing Older -by Jane Everham

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I have a confession to make. At the age of 16, my two best friends and I made a pact – when we turned 65, no matter where we were, we would come together and . . . commit suicide.After all, we reasoned, life would be over if we indeed did reach that ancient age of 65. At sixteen, we were fully into

drama, writing morose (and bad) poetry, nurturing dark thoughts, and conjuring such nonsense as a “suicide pact.”

Well, age 65 passed a few years ago, and I am happy to report not only are we still here (we called off the pact), but we are active, engaged, and leading vibrant lives. We’ve slowed down some by retiring but are now almost as busy in the world of volunteering.

Twice in the last month I have thanked two friends for revealing that they were 75 while not looking nor acting a day over 60. I was inspired by them. I am active and busy and loving life, but my joints ache some, my short-term memory takes unannounced vacations (without me), and I do worry that “old” will arrive soon. Knowing that folks older than I are still going strong is a relief. In fact, I just had lunch with a 93-year-old spitfire. She admits she didn’t take care of her body as she should have, and declining physicality is a hinderance now, but her mind is fully intact, still brewing with thoughts; she keeps me on my toes by challenging my thinking with probing questions and encouraging my many endeavors.

I’ve always heard that old age is not for sissies, but the last of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers are really pushing the bar up and away when old age arrives. I used to joke that I would live to be 104, whether I wanted to or not. The fantasy of relaxing in a rocker on my front porch watching life go by had some appeal in middle age. Not any more. Life is too precious— so many interesting people to know, books to read, podcasts to hear. There are opportunities to serve, to give back for all the blessings I have received. Life is fragile, and no one knows when the end will come. My life has not been perfect, and I would redo some things if I could, but overall, I have no regrets. I will take what I am given but would really like to “die alive,” giving at least a small kick “for more” regardless of my age.

 
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Jane  grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the 50's and 60's. She moved to Colorado to attend Denver University. . After earning an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology at UNC, she worked for 34 years in the public schools in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Fort Collins. After retirement in 2011, she has spent her time volunteering with the Larimer League of Women Voters, Foothills Unitarian Church, and progressive politics. She loves to have lunch with friends, reads voraciously, and travels.