20 April 2018

Aging in Place: Living in My Own Home as I Grow Older

Focus talk given on 19th April 2018 on the topic of "Aging in Place: The Village Movement"
      —Carol Goldman

Carol has been a member of TOP/WE for 40 years. She has served on the board several times. She has often led the planning process for creating upcoming series. She has given several focus talks. She has authored a chapter in the book "Sacred Dimensions of Women's Experience". She is an exhibiting artist; she has created and presented stories of women in the scriptures; she is well known as a mental health advocate.


     I want to share thoughts about where I want to live as I age. I welcome the inspiration of Atul Gawande’s 2014 book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York, Penguin Books, 2014). Atul is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He regrets that older individuals often do not get information that would enable them (and their families) to make appropriate decisions about their medical treatment and locations where they might live. Atul writes that he was grateful that “how [his grandfather] wanted to live was his choice. … For most of human history … elders were cared for in multigenerational systems, often with three generations living under one roof. … [The] elderly were not left to cope with the infirmities of age on their own” (pp.16-17). Now “choices for the elderly have proliferated” (p. 21).
     I am seventy-eight years old. I own and live in a duplex townhouse condominium in Watertown, MA. The condo complex has twelve units grouped together. I pay a condo fee every month. The condo association arranges for landscaping, shoveling, and other management details. My neighbors and I look out for each other’s condo when we take trips.
     I have gone through a decision-making process. From my current perspective, I am clear that if I am physically and emotionally able, I want to continue living in my condominium as long as I can.
     Several factors determine my decision. Whatever one’s decision, there are tasks and arrangements that may need to be carried out now. I often feel overwhelmed as I outline these steps. As I reviewed what I had written for today, I wondered if I could and would carry out the tasks needed to help me achieve my short and long-term goals.
     I hope that each person will go through their own decision-making process.
     I have been married to my current husband, eighty years old, for forty-five years. We have lived in the condo for forty years. We brought up our children in the condo. The children moved out in various stages before they attended college.
     My husband has developed many physical issues. He recently underwent three hospitalizations for different reasons and stayed for twenty-eight days in-patient at a treatment center in Brighton, MA for rehabilitation of a dislocated shoulder.
     My attempts to carry on conversations with my husband about where we might live as we age have met with brief responses. My husband thinks that he will die soon at home or in a hospital and does not need to go through an extended decision-making process. I estimate living for fifteen more years. He stresses his concern that running the condo without him would be a strain on me. He wishes I would consider a continuum of care option starting with independent living (that would have assisted living and nursing care facilities on the same campus). That option does not appeal to me; I am competent to live at home alone and arrange for help and companionship as I need it. I want to have as much independence as possible and make informed decisions about my own life.
     I am currently competent to live at home alone.
     To enter the condo from the street entrance, you go up three steps from the ground. Inside the condo has three levels. The ground level has a half bathroom, a kitchen, and a combined living/dining room area. There is a small outside back porch with a big shared back yard. The full bathroom, linen closet, master bedroom, and two small rooms are on the top level; you go up a large flight of twisting stairs to get there. In the basement are the washer/dryer, file cabinets, book shelves, a storage pantry, closets, and two desks with large personal computers; you go down a steep stairway to get to the basement.
     When I had both hips replaced starting in 2010 (four years apart), it was a struggle to get up the stairs to the bedroom. I stayed in a rehabilitation facility until I could climb the stairs. I have several accommodations in place like grab bars in the shower, bars on the raised toilet seat, and banisters on the stairs. If I were older and living alone, I might rearrange the house for more compactness.
     We decided not to do work inside of the house. Last year we had all the windows in the home replaced for safety and efficiency measures. I might have other work done on the house if it would be useful to me.
     Over the years, my husband and I have accumulated a lot of “stuff”. After a lecture in a WomenExplore Series dealing with the importance of confronting one’s stuff, I found a center that focuses on the skills useful for dealing with hoarding. Since 2012, I have attended various classes and groups on de-cluttering. I hired a woman who specializes in downsizing to come to my home and help me with this challenge. Working together, we have made progress in sorting and discarding items. Organizing my stuff is a priority. I want there to be room for providers, service people, companions, family, and friends to visit my home. Now I meet most people outside my home. I do not want to be isolated as I age. I want to ensure that my home meets safety codes. I want my condo to be accessible to me as I become more restricted physically.
     The accessibility of my home is a factor in its suitability for me as I age.
     My fifty-year old son, a lawyer, lives in San Francisco, CA; he travels extensively. My forty-nine-year old married daughter lives in Boulder, CO with her two children, ages seven and ten. Both of my children lead very busy lives. I wish to stay in my home in Watertown.
     Every few months, I meet with my younger brother, who lives nearby, and have informed him of my wishes. He has agreed to help me manage my over-all living arrangements if something happens to my husband and if I request help. My cousin has agreed to be a back up to my brother. My brother and cousin have both agreed to be my health care proxy and durable power of attorney if needed.
     We regularly visit my husband’s family who live in the Nahant, MA area. I attend occasional functions hosted by my own family who live in the Newton-Brookline area. I feel that running my home as I age will be my job with help as needed. My local families will undertake minimal hands-on tasks and social visits.
     Availability and interest of my family is a factor in my choice.
     Financially, because of a trust, social security benefits, and long-term financial investments made with my financial planner in conjunction with my husband, I have the money to pay for several choices which could be very expensive.
     I am financially secure in exploring options.
     I have a very active life in my current location. Although I do not drive, I utilize the local taxi services. I go as a helper when I travel with my husband, who qualifies for the MBTA Ride.
     I utilize several medical and mental-health professionals in this area. When they retire or leave, they refer me to excellent replacements within their departments. I am happy with my extensive body-work practitioners nearby: my personal trainer at my athletic club, my physical therapist, my chiropractor, my massage healer. I appreciate the familiarity and consistency I have with my providers.
     I have made several friends in the Boston area with whom I maintain active relationships.
     I like having my Watertown condo as my “home” base. I enjoy traveling and attending retreats. I will continue to travel as much as I can.
     Location and transportation options are important to me.
     I have belonged to several communities for over forty years: My husband and I participate in a Reform Jewish congregation in Belmont, MA. We attend services, classes, and special events. I belong to a separate more participatory Jewish Renewal congregation in Waltham, MA which I attend on my own.
     At WomenExplore, I have created rituals, delivered written and oral presentations, served on the board, led lecture-planning and Advisory Committee sessions. I currently answer any telephone enquiries.
     I regularly attend my Wellesley College Class of 1962 and my Newton High School Class of 1958 reunions.
     Local community is important to me.
     I thank the WomenExplore Advisory Committee for including the topic: “Aging in Place” as part of our “Exploring…” Series. I have resisted thinking about my living arrangements as I grow older. This topic has helped me clarify my priorities. However, I am reassured that there are several programs and resources available to me on this upcoming journey.

08 April 2018

Demographers Define the Differences Between Generations

Focus talk given on 29th March 2018 on the topic of "The Millennials: New Approaches to Old Problems"
—Barbara Villandry

     You know I’m interested in how demographers and advertising researchers like to define generations of Americans.  Each of these generations is different from their parents, but also similar.  “Cohort” is the term social scientists prefer to “generations” to indicate “people within a delineated population who experience the same significant events within a given time period.  Sociologist Karl Mannheim emphasized that the rapidity of social change in youth was crucial to the formation of generations, and that not every generation would come to see itself as distinct.  In periods of rapid social change, a generation would be much more likely to develop a cohesive character.  But this isn’t an exact science.  There are as many differences in attitudes, values, behaviors and lifestyles within a generation as there are between generations.
     I remember my grandmother telling me that during the depression, she had to visit her banker to beg for one more month to get current on the mortgage of the family home.  She never got over that experience.  The family owned a jewelry store, so you can imagine how difficult a luxury business was to keep afloat during the Depression, but they managed to do it, and they were able to keep the family homestead. 
     But coming of age during the Great Depression didn’t impact my mom and my aunt the same way.  My Aunt Eleanor became thrifty beyond reason.  In 1940 at the age of 19, she went to Manhattan to try to break into the entertainment business as a dancer and a singer. She learned to make a dime stretch a long way.  After five years in Manhattan, she joined my mom working for my grandfather in the jewelry store.  When my grandparents died, my mom and her sister inherited the store, and kept it going for a few years, but they had very different philosophies about how to run the business.  My aunt didn’t want to buy new merchandise, and my mom said customers wouldn’t keep coming in without new stock.  They sold the store.  My aunt retired in her 50’s, and mom went to work for another local jewelry store. In her retirement, my aunt developed a real interest in investing in the stock market, and mom became the ultimate American consumer.
     Both mom and my aunt were part of what Tom Brokow coined as “The Greatest Generation.”  This includes people born between 1901 and 1925.  They survived the Great Depression and lived through WW II.  They were the first generation to have telephones, and a radio in the home, and were said to have a strong sense of right and wrong.
     Folks born between the mid 1920’s and the mid-1940s are called the “Silent Generation;“ they focused on their careers rather than on activism, and this cohort was encouraged to conform to social norms.  As young adults during the McCarthy Era, many members of the Silent Generation felt it was dangerous to speak out.  Elwood Carlson, a professor of Sociology at Florida State labeled them “The Lucky Few” because even though they were born during the depression and WW II, they moved into adulthood during the relatively prosperous 1950’s and early 1960’s.  This generation had higher employment rates than the generations before and after them.
       I missed being a Baby Boomer by three months, but I’m this close to being one.  Generally, Baby Boomers are born between 1946 and 1964.  This generation was the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to the time they arrived on the scene.  They were among the first to grow up expecting the world to improve with time.  This cohort gets its name because of the phenomenal increase in births during this period:  76 million.
     In the U.S., this generation can be segmented into two broadly defined cohorts:  The Leading-Edge Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1955, who came of age during the Vietnam War, and the other half of the generation born between 1956 and 1964 called Late Boomers or Trailing-Edge Boomers.
     Boomers grew up at a time of dramatic change.  In school, we were taught to “duck and cover,” as the response to air raid sirens that could predict a nuclear attack.  Some of our neighbors were building fallout shelters and stocking them with dehydrated food and bottled water.  President Kennedy led us through the Cuban Missile crisis, NASA put a man on the moon, a wall divided Germany into Communist-controlled East Germany and independent West Germany.  Young men could be drafted and sent to Vietnam, and the number of male students on campus seeking educational deferments was high.  So were the numbers of men crossing the border to Canada to avoid the draft.  Students were protesting the Vietnam War.  Flower power became a term.  Folks were living together in communes.  Some were touting free love, others open marriages.  Haight-Ashbury became the center for the counter culture.  The women’s movement was marked by women burning their bras and demanding to be heard.  Desegregation was a movement.  Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up with television and rock and roll. Have I left anything out?   President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.
     The first Baby Boomer cohort are strongly Democratic, the second half strongly Republican.  The later Baby Boomers came of age during Watergate and Nixon’s resignation.  They remember the oil embargo and lines at the gas station, raging inflation, economic recession, lower employment, the Iran hostage crisis, Ronald Reagan and the AIDS crisis.  Their key characteristics are that they are less optimistic, they distrust government, and they are generally cynical.
     Generation Xers were born between the early to mid-1960s and the early 1980s.  Society was again changing, and these children were called the “latchkey generation,” because they had reduced adult supervision as children compared to the previous generations, a result of increasing divorce rates and increased maternal participation in the workforce prior to the availability of good childcare options outside of the home.  As adolescents and young adults, they were dubbed the “MTV Generation.”  In the 1990s, they were sometimes characterized as slackers, cynical and disaffected.  Some of the cultural influences on Gen X youth were the musical genres of grunge and hip-hop music, and indie films.  In midlife, research describes them as active, happy, and achieving a work-life balance.  This cohort has been credited with entrepreneurial tendencies. 
     The declining birth rate of this generation is attributed to the introduction of the birth control pill in the early 1960s.  Increased immigration partially offset these declining birth rates and contributed to making Generation X an ethically and culturally diverse demographic cohort.
     Politically, in the U.S. the Gen X childhood coincided with a time when government funding tended to be diverted away from programs for children.  One in five American children grew up in poverty during this period.  Gen Xers came of age or were children during the crack epidemic, which disproportionately impacted urban areas and the African American community. 
     The emergence of AIDS coincided with Gen X’s adolescence.  Some sex education programs in schools were adopted to address the AIDS epidemic, which taught Gen X students that sex could kill them.  Gen Xers were the first children to have access to computers in their homes and schools.
     Strauss & Howe wrote of Generation X: “They are already the greatest entrepreneurial generation in U.S. history; their high-tech savvy and marketplace resilience have helped America prosper in the era of globalization.”
     Finally, the millennials, born in the early 1980s, through the mid-1990s.  This generation is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.  It was the generation negatively impacted by the Great Recession.  This is the generation that was born into the age of terrorism. 
     The experts differ in how they describe the Millennials.  Strauss and Howe ascribe seven basic traits to them:  special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured, and achieving.  Psychologist Jean Twenge wrote a book calling them “Generation Me.”  She says they are confident and tolerant, be they also believe they are entitled and are narcissistic. 
     American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis has called millennials the “Boomerang Generation” or the “Peter Pan Generation” because they tend to delay some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them.  They also tend to live with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.  This could be attributable to the high cost of housing and higher education, and the relative affluence of their parents. Data from a 2014 study of U.S. millennials revealed over 56% consider themselves as part of the working class, with only approximately 35% considering themselves as part of the middle class.  This class identity for people who believe themselves to be in the middle class is the lowest polling of any generation.
     Research by the Urban Institute conducted in 2014 projected that if current trends continue, millennials will have a lower marriage rate compared to previous generations, predicting that by age 40, 3.7% of millennial women will remain single, approximately twice the share of their single Gen X counterparts.  The data showed similar trends for males.
     According to a cross-generational study comparing millennials to Generation X conducted at the Wharton School of Business, more than half of Millennial undergraduates surveyed do not plan to have children.  The researchers compared surveys of the Wharton graduating classes of 1992 and 2012.  In 1992, 78% of women planned to eventually have children dropping to 42% in 2012.  The results were similar for male students. 
     Another large study of millennials found that they are frequently in touch with their parents an average of 1.5 times a day.  They use technology at a higher rate than other generations.  This group is referred to as “digital natives.”  They have home computers, tablets and smartphones.  They watch tv on their mobile devices. 
     Millennials use social networking sites such as Facebook to create a different sense of belonging, making acquaintances, and to remain connected with friends. 
     Millennials are on a track to be the most formally educated generation.  In 2008, 39.6% of millennials between the ages of 18-24 were enrolled in college, which was an American record.  Along with being educated, millennials tend to be upbeat.  About 9 out of 10 millennials feel as though they have enough money or that they will reach their long-term financial goals, even during the tough economic times, and they are more optimistic about the future of the U.S. 
     Additionally, millennials are more open to change than older generations.  According to the Pew Research Center 2008 study, millennials are the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals and are also more supportive of progressive domestic social agenda than older generation.  Finally, millennials are less overtly religious than the older generations.  About one in four millennials are unaffiliated with any religion, a considerably higher ratio than that of older generations when they were the ages of millennials. 

01 February 2018

Visit to Fuller Craft Museum Exhibit "Threads of Resistance"


Today, Thursday 1st February 2018, seventeen people associated with WomenExplore met up at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton to view the Threads of Resistance traveling fiber art show, especially to see the rug hooked by our beloved longtime member, Emmy Robertson. Imagine our dismay when we discovered that the rug in question had been removed from display the day before to protect it from a water leak. After a little cajoling the museum staff graciously brought it out from a back room and placed it on a table so that we could see it!

The bulk of the show was beautiful quilts with pointed messages. I also saw a felted wall hanging and there was a corridor displaying a large variety "pussy hats" beside a discussion of the controversy raised by that term. A number of quilts deemed not suitable for children were sequestered behind a black curtain. The quilts came from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand.

Another special exhibit entitled Gender Bend featured the work of male fiber artists and women woodworkers. A number of the displays in this exhibit based on word play particularly appealed to me, including the Boxed Homonyms (Murder, Stamp, Rock), Lip Service and Bitter and Twisted. I also saw some of the exhibit on mental health. A display of a selection of works from Fuller's permanent collection included an incredible glass vase/teardrop created in a demonstration by Lino Tagliapietro, one of Venice's finest glassblowers and then donated to the museum fortuitously just as the museum was moving its emphasis to contemporary work.

The museum itself is housed in a beautifully designed building based on a rectangle of corridors with a number of galleries, a picnic room and a great hall opening outwards. Windows opening onto the inner courtyard or looking out over the adjacent pond or natural surroundings flood the building with light.

30 October 2017

Wisdom from the Earth: Deepening Connection with the Web of Life


Focus Talk by Chris Farrow-Noble

October 19, 2017
Lighting the candle,
May the sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being,
May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty
all the days of your life.
-Apache blessing


I’ve always felt closely connected to the Earth and Nature. My parents sometimes said, in a half-joking, half-serious way, that Nature was their religion. In my younger years, my natural highs were in the middle of nature – camping on the deep pine needles beneath the pines; hearing the sound of my skis on the dry snow and seeing the bluest sky between dark greens; or walking a shoreline, hearing the slip and slide of the water over rocks and sand, feeling content and peaceful. I chose to spend my precious free time in nature…hiking and camping in New Zealand, Switzerland, New England. In 2000 I had the life-changing experience of five weeks in East Africa among the elephants, leopards, wildebeests, rhinos, hippos, snakes, and 200 types of birds.

In more recent decades, my connection has been less intense. Now, living in the city, among buildings, streets, and primarily human-made structures, I’ve felt more separate from nature. I haven’t hiked, camped, or skied in years. I long to walk on an open beach, but instead, my steps take me around beautiful urban blocks with lovely trees. In the demanding pace of today’s life, I can sometimes go for days without registering nature around me.

And now, with the crisis front and center and all around us about the dangers that our natural world is facing, I am brought, face to face, with the absolute need to pay close attention to Nature. I’m aware of melting glaciers and widespread people and animals dealing with winds, water, hurricanes, and temperature. I am more aware of the impact of human beings on our tender, fragile yet resilient planet.

In fact, at this moment, each of the four primary elements is speaking to us on a global scale: Air and Wind ravaged recently in the form of Hurricane Edna, Jose, Maria and Orphelia in Ireland and Scotland. Wildfires continue in Northern California, the Northwest, and Portugal. Water is presenting itself in many forms – floods from Hurricane Harvey and Edna, tsunamis, low reservoirs. Earth is moving significantly in earthquakes and mudslides.

Yet since 1999 I have had a relationship with the labyrinth, and this companion has brought me opportunities to experience the web of life around me. These ancient designs have offered me chances to co-exist and create with the four elements. As an example, on my field-mown labyrinth in Maine that Chris and I created in 2005 for our wedding, I honored the four directions with the four elements, as represented in some Native American cultures. In the East, I honored Air and Spirit by placing a double drum for walkers to beat with a wooden stick. In the South, I honored Fire and placed a cairn of stones to represent Creativity, inviting people to add their stones. In the West, I honored Water and placed a blue bowl of fresh water for the Unknown, inviting walkers to cool themselves and the path with its moisture. In the North, I honored the Earth and placed a sitting Buddha on an oak stump with a mat for kneeling. Upon reaching each of these directions, I often paused, contemplated the element and its effect on me, asked for guidance or direction, and then walked on, slowly. I walked often from 2005 to 2014.

Then, in January 2014, I committed myself to walk a labyrinth every day and to record my experiences in order to explore this as a spiritual practice. I had never done anything every day for a year; I didn’t grow up with a religious practice of praying, meditating or even attending church regularly.

My joyful news today is that I have just published my journal of this year! (Hold it up.) Little did I know that one of the most profound results of this experiment would involve my relationship with Nature and the people in my life. I hadn’t felt an ongoing connection to nature for years. Yet through 2014, I felt a familiar intimate pull to Nature…to be more closely aware of all that was happening around me…and inside me…and in relationship to the people of my life. Let me share a few incidents from my book:

Page 95: “June 12. A low-flying Northern Tarrier Hawk was hunting close to the tips of the field grasses, dipping down with a slanting dive to hunt for small birds or mammals. He or she spanned the distance from MacArthur’s driveway to the far edge near the road. Now another large bird, perhaps the juvenile Eagle, flew and settled on a high branch of the highest evergreen at the small cluster of trees or copse at the corner. It wasn’t there long before it dropped down behind the tree. Perhaps it too caught sight of some meal. “
Page 102: “June 26. Oh, look! A turtle in our driveway! Turtle came to the labyrinth walk. Turtle with its earth wisdom and ancient presence. My neighbor says it is probably a snapping turtle, black shell, no color, probably a female laying eggs in the sandy driveway. The turtle moved slowly toward the trees. When I went back outside, she was nowhere to be seen. Imagine! Our first big turtle came to our walk.
And a profound learning experience from Nature, my teacher, from October 21st (page 156)
“Today is the day that Jake died. Today is the day I found Sparrow on the deck by the hot tub. I placed it on a large boulder down by Parker Stream. This is the third time that I’ve found a dead bird on the day that someone important in my life has died:
• May 19, 2002: I found the nest of dead birds and empty eggs in Lake Arrowhead on this day when Bette Noble died.
• October 23, 2002: I found a dead bird under the bush near the Bird of Paradise in front of Mom and Dad’s house on this day when Dad died.
• Today, October 21: I found a dead sparrow on the back deck on this day when Jake died.”
I rediscovered that my connection to Nature was always present, even when I only saw ordinary insects and plants. Increasingly I felt these small beings acknowledged my presence:

(Page 107): “July 4: One of those brilliant neon turquoise insects was on the side of the blue water bowl in the West. I moved it slightly to help it get out, and it fell back in. I got it out again, and it hopped immediately onto my hand. Then it flew to my shoulder and then to my back. I wasn’t certain where it was, but I kept walking to the Center. It was on me the whole way to the Center because when I arrived there, it dropped off onto the rocks. I like to imagine that it chose to walk the labyrinth with me. “

I recall this moment vividly. I am grateful that I had slowed down enough to register it as I experienced it. I can’t know with any certainty the existence of its awareness of me, but I can share what happened.
While walking the outdoor labyrinths in various seasons, I personally felt the impact of water, wind, cold, warmth, humidity, rain, ice, snow and the changing of the seasons. I felt the resemblance to walking the highlands of Scotland in April; I could see the devastation of the microburst on my mini-ecological sphere of the labyrinth. I could feel the relief of the snow-laden branches as I shook the extra weight of snow off. I smiled at the resistance of ice on the bottom of the bricks when I tried to move them before they had thawed. I deeply missed the connection between the soles of my feet and the earth when I had to stay inside and walk a finger labyrinth. Metaphors abound.
As I wrote my daily journal entries, I sometimes added a simple Thank you. Not to any particular deity or person or god, just a simple expression of thanks for something from that day. Some examples are “Thank you for the soft light so I could walk the labyrinth after dark; “Thank you, dear old Norway maple, for being there when I’m not, and when I am!” (page 112) “Thank you for this time of walking prayer.” (page 63)

I have also sensed a deeper connection to the intricate layers of life and death, present, past and future, through my nighttime dreams. I have kept dream journals since 1985 and am always stunned when I experience people who have died as well as those who are still living. My mother, Eleanor Dietrich Farrow, died on March 19, 2016; I have dreamed several times of her since then, as well as my dad, and other relatives who have died. Dreams can be critical connecting thread between this life and beyond. Here are two family dreams: The first is a dream on August 22, 2016, exactly 40 years to the day after my younger brother Don died. It’s titled “Don.”
Dream Journal, red flag)“I am bringing some tray or food to give to people under a tree in the city. I put it down on the ground and, suddenly, the person who was there stands up, straight and tall. It is Don! He says, “I was expecting a representation from you.” He is right beside me, fully seen – his face, his body. I am so aware that I haven’t seen him this fully or completely in my dreams. “

The second is a joyful one of my mother from July 15th of this year, entitled “Mom and her Suitcase.” (Dream Journal, yellow flag)

I am near Mom when she flops into a large roomy fabric suitcase and says, “I love this suitcase!”  I don’t really see her face.”


So, in my youth I chose to be in nature for recreation, inspiration, and beauty. During my full-time teaching, being single, and co-parenting time, I spent far less time in nature. In the last 15 years, I have found connection again through the labyrinth pathways and precious time with my loving new husband, Chris. Throughout my life, I have always treasured connection and sustained links with family and friends in my daytime life and nighttime dreams.
Yet now, I have a desire to connect at a deeper level with the compelling call of nature. We are in a crisis. I want to offer my gifts of writing, singing, and photography. I liken my voice to a stone thrown into still water with expanding ripples emanating from that stone. I want to be such a stone, as well as part of the rippling actions. I want to help inform others of the potentially catastrophic changes in our natural world. We are interdependent and influenced by each other’s actions and lack of actions. I want to be a positive force within a community of people who are taking steps forward together.

Nature, like nightmares, is calling to us, screaming at us to pay attention and take action. I want to “add my voice into the fight,” as Phil Ochs wrote so profoundly in 1966 in his song, When I’m Gone.
I’ll close with two verses from this song. Please join me.
All my days won’t be dances of delight when I’m gone
And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I’m gone
Can’t add my name into the fight when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here.

There’s no place in this world where I’ll belong when I’m gone
And I won’t know the right from the wrong when I’m gone
And you won’t find me singing on this song when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here.”
By Phil Ochs
© 1966 Barricade Music Inc
Rise Up Singing, page 229.

Thank you for being here today.
Chris Farrow-Noble, October 19, 2017



Link to the worldwide labyrinth locator is:  https://labyrinthlocator.com


30 March 2017

WomenExplore Lecture and Discussion Forum reflects on significance of media

The following is a reposting of Johnathan Kindall's review of a day at WomenExplore's lectures on 16th March 2017.  It was published on 21st March 2017 in the Daily Free Press, the independent student newspaper at Boston University.

PHOTO BY JOHNATHAN KINDALL/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Stephanie Leydon speaks Thursday afternoon at the Democracy Center
about how media acts as an informer and manipulator in today’s society. 

March 21, 2017  by Johnathan D. Kindall

WGBH television and radio reporter Stephanie Leydon met with a group of Boston residents and students at the Democracy Center in Cambridge Thursday afternoon to discuss power, problems and importance of modern media and communication.
WomenExplore, a longstanding lecture and discussion forum, hosted the talk. The self-characterized charity with an educational focus was officially founded as the Theological Opportunities Program at Harvard Divinity School in 1973, but the origins of the group stretch as far back as the 19th century.
Every spring and fall, WomenExplore holds a 10-week lecture series. A different guest speaker is brought in every week, and the listeners discuss a topic for nearly two hours. The theme for the Spring 2017 sessions is “From Monologue to Dialogue: Building Community.”
Lindsa Vallee, of Brookline, has attended WomenExplore meetings for more than a decade. Vallee, who moderated Leydon’s lecture and discussion, said she finds every meeting uniquely stimulating.
The topics, speakers and discussion keep my brain alive,” Vallee said. “They keep me thinking and aware of new issues.”
Each guest lecture is preceded by a “focus talk,” a short presentation from a member of WomenExplore that opens up the floor and prepares the minds of the group for the topic at hand.
Barbara Villandry, from Nashua, New Hampshire, provided the focus for Leydon’s lecture.
Villandry reflected on the days of Walter Cronkite and Edward Murrow, and reminded many of the attendees about a time where it seemed as if the news could be wholly trusted.
She voiced her concerns with the current state of the media, going as far as to draw comparisons between now and the times of Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch hunt.
The pendulum swings both ways,” Villandry said before giving the floor to Leydon. “And I hope that we will soon be back to a place where truth reigns supreme.”
The event then transitioned into Leydon’s lecture, which was centered around her recent attention to partisan divisions and the media following the 2016 presidential election. The title was “The Media: Informer or Manipulator? The Public: Discerning or Naïve?”
In the months since the election it’s been my professional obsession,” Leydon said to the audience. “I can’t get enough of the divide story.”
Leydon’s feature on WGBH, “Greater Bostonians,” often focuses on individuals and their personal stories. The show’s mission is to highlight those passionate about social change.
People let me into their homes and there’s a human connection,” Leydon said.
However, that connection isn’t always easy to make, she said.
We’ve moved beyond identity politics, to politics being our identity,” Leydon said.
She continued to explain how, when she is working on segments for “Greater Bostonians,” many of those walls thrown up in defense of political identity start crumbling.
She drew on these grounded, everyday stories in her lecture.
One such story was that of a New Hampshire couple named Ben and Laura. The two, who had never been particularly active politically, were faithful Trump supporters in the election.
Leydon talked and checked in with the couple at multiple points throughout the election process, and her coverage of real, hardworking and honest Trump supporters resonated with a lot of her Boston listeners, some of whom had never met an ardent Trump fan in person.
Leydon said she wishes the mainstream media would have paid more attention to smaller stories like this during and after the election. She characterizes stories like Ben and Laura’s as a “window to our collective identity.”
She also said she believes that such a focus would begin to bridge the gap between the two sides of the political spectrum. She emphasized the importance of a media-literate public that can recognize blatantly false news and has the skills necessary to seek out truth.
The basis for media literacy is critical thinking, she said, but specific and catered media literacy classes in schools could be a vital step in the process.
I don’t know how we have a discerning public without a media literate public,” Leydon said.
Vallee agreed with the necessity of starting a dialogue, which is exactly what WomenExplore is attempting to do with their lectures and discussions.
The election results tell us that there hasn’t been enough dialogue in our country,” Vallee said.
Vallee said she believes that anything that opens up a discussion can create a more united country.
Leydon does not plan to stop telling the stories of real, everyday people on either side of the political divide anytime soon, commenting that even the discussion following her lecture gave her ideas for new stories.
I’m a journalist,” Leydon said. “When I go out, I have a microphone and a camera. Sometimes I remember to bring a pen and paper. But most of all, I have my ears to listen.”


03 November 2016

Where's the Hope?: Innovation in Education


Focus talk given on 6th October 2016
—Jan Rosenberg

My journey as a teacher began in 1978, when I was a reading tutor in a public school in Hartford, Ct. All of my students came from one of the poorest housing projects in an economically challenged city. Two years later I moved to Maynard MA. From then until my retirement in 2009, I worked in the field of special education within public middle and high schools in high socio-economic status communities. Since retirement I have been a long-term substitute teacher, and an ESL tutor in Lowell. I also taught two summer sessions of the reading program at the Boston Arts Academy, remediating reading skills with rising tenth and eleventh graders.

At the outset I would like to state my core beliefs. First, robust public education, while a challenging project, is essential to democracy. Strong teachers’ unions support, rather than harm, quality education. Teaching again has to be made viable as a profession and as an entrée into the middle class. Finally, I believe that the underlying inequities of our society have to be addressed. Generally speaking, poor students have less opportunity for a high quality education that those living in high SES communities. It has been over fifty years since the War on Poverty and Civil Rights Movement, and yet, according to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, “school segregation has become even worse in recent decades. A report by the US Government Accountability Office earlier this year found that the percentage of public schools with high concentrations of poor and black and Hispanic students has nearly doubled since 2000.”

In my view the two most significant and large-scale drivers of change in education over the last two decades have been the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and the voucher/charter school/corporate reform movements. NCLB demanded greater accountability via yearly tests of student achievement in the areas of reading and math as determined by each state. If the required improvements were not made each year, schools, were punished with decreased funding, and ultimately, by state takeover. Because absolute, not relative improvement was sought, schools were labeled as failing even if improvements in performance had been made. Having had students enter high school with minimal reading, writing, or math skills, I can say that I strongly believe in accountability around student learning. However, as a full participant during those years, my observation was that the testing regime contributed to increased anxiety for both teachers and students, impacted negatively the amount of time devoted to learning, and increased “teaching to the test”. On the other hand, I observed a principal-led initiative around writing responses to open-ended questions that was easily actionable, and which made a significant difference both in school culture and in the student performance of that school on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), which is a yearly assessment given to a random group of students that predated NCLB. By 2015 so much criticism of No Child Left Behind had accumulated from across the political spectrum, that Congress took away the national features and replaced it with the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in December 2015. ESSA limits the role of the federal government, but continues to require annual testing between third and eighth grades.

The second driver of change has been the voucher/charter school/corporate reform movement. While its history is very long and complex, it has roots both as a parent-led movement to increase options and successful educational experiences for their children, and as a libertarian free-market economy belief in a profit-based education system in which resources are controlled by private entities rather than locally-based and publicly elected school boards. Therein lies the problem! This cause has been taken up by the Koch Brothers and their related network as well as other billionaires, like the Walton family. Public schools and teachers are to them, examples of how regulation does not work. While we have many excellent charter schools in Massachusetts, we also have Question #2 on our November ballots. If approved, this would lift the cap on charter schools, and divert, over time, greater amounts of money from the public schools, as well as removing local decision- making from the school districts with regard to any new charters.  So, what else is wrong with this picture? More charters essentially leave the problem of inequity in access to quality education untouched. Charter schools can choose their students in a way that leaves out the neediest. In addition, national experience with charter schools indicate that without greater oversight and transparency, charters are vulnerable to corruption and fraud. Finally, the effectiveness of charters has not been demonstrated in a consistent manner.

So what has happened to educators as a result of these two large drivers of change? Working conditions have deteriorated, and it has become more difficult to not only recruit, but to hold on to excellent teacher candidates who might have entered the field. Schools and teachers have been told to do more with less AND score higher on tests. Teachers have been demonized; there has been a very active campaign to eliminate tenure and procedural safeguards for teachers in conflict with their administrators. In fact, there has been an active campaign to deprofessionalize teaching, placing inadequately trained people into classrooms. Emphasis has shifted from qualitative to quantitative evaluation systems, with punitive rather than collaborative consequences, akin to the punitive responses to insufficient growth on NCLB scores. Inadequate resources for the support of students with learning needs and mental health issues continue to be the norm rather than the exception. At the same time teachers have been confronted by increasingly complex students with learning needs, mental health issues, and language challenges in their classrooms. Corporate reformers are also pushing online monitoring of student performance and universal data collection, as well as personalized teaching via digital device – another way to eliminate teachers!

So where’s the hope in education? I see hope in a number of corners. As a special educator, I see hope in the growing research base on addressing dyslexia, specifically when and how. There is no need, if we choose to make resources available, for students to suffer through k-12 without knowing how to read. Similarly, I see growing improvements and sophistication in how to work with students on the autism spectrum, including how to transition such students to the worlds of work and higher education. I also see great hope in the Massachusetts initiative to create trauma-sensitive schools, which has the potential to impact a large number of students. Yet another source of hope for education includes such programs as CARE for teachers, or Cultivating Awareness and Resilience for Educators. It is a unique program “designed to help teachers reduce stress and enliven their teaching by promoting awareness, presence, compassion, reflection, and inspiration- the inner resources they need to help students flourish socially, emotionally, and academically”. Hope also lies in the many teacher-led initiatives to improve the quality of curriculum, pedagogy, and delivery of services, about which one rarely hears.

Ultimately, hope lies in an informed citizenry, committed teachers who are respected and well-paid, and in the students themselves, who are very much worth fighting for.

                                     

09 June 2016

SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY showing

—A message from Lindsa

The Watertown library is hosting a showing of the film SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY, by Mary Dore and Nancy Kennedy.  The date is June 22, a Wednesday evening, with screening and discussion.  The tag line for the film is: “a dive into 2nd wave feminism”.

 http://www.watertownlib.org/shes-beautiful-when-shes-angry-film-showing-discussion