The Next Chapter

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #104: Next Chapter

The focus this week is: next chapter. The implications may be personal, or strike a broader chord.

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book chapter

It is not often that I read a book and stop, grab a pencil (usually a pencil because writing in permanent ink feels just plain wrong) and underline…or trace a vertical line on either side of a Paragraph That Resonates. Resonate was a favorite writing group word when we’d politely critique fellow writers’ first drafts.

Does this resonate with you, the reader? If it does, why? 

One such book on my shelf – which made the cut when we downsized to a condo – had to do with chapters. In fact I bought it the year before we moved, but didn’t read it until 2017 – a few months after settling into our Next Chapter. It definitely resonated.

I rarely buy books anymore. No room. In fact this one is a hardcover…a rarity as well.

The book?

The Third Chapter – Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years after 50, by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. A Professor of Education at Harvard University, Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot is also a sociologist and the author of 11 books.* She was in her 60s when she wrote The Third Chapter, which was published in 2009.

What a title! Who writes about older people and aging with such genuine interest and positivity? I mean…”passion, risk and adventure” don’t generally get mentioned in the same sentence with the over 50 crowd.

She writes with eloquence and detail in an immensely readable account of her 2 years of interviews with 40 American women and men who fit in this age group (50-75). People who changed their lives on purpose and with purpose. She tells the stories of how they got to where they are now – at a stage of life previously ignored or minimized for its potential and significance in our culture.

She had me at Introduction: Facing the Mirror where she begins discussing the process she went through in formulating the idea for this book…wanting to focus on…

…moments when we manage to resist the signs of burnout, make peace with the old/new mirror image, and refuse to be preoccupied with our chronic laments about aging or our sadness about our vanishing youth….

Ah yes. THAT mirror.

And then..

Many of the men and women I interviewed spoke passionately and longingly about how the Third Chapter is a time when they have finally been able to face the deep injuries of their childhoods — assaults that they have ignored, repressed, or fled from for most of their lives….

The stories she shares weave life experiences with an academic slant that I appreciate. She admits her subjects were actually able to embark on these new adventures because they were financially secure and had the means to make the choices they made. But this does not minimize the significance of their achievements.

What it did for me was bring into focus the alternate possibilities that might be out there – far different than what my mother’s generation saw for themselves. At least as far as I knew…from observing my own mother’s experience and struggling world view during her “third chapter.”

Even though I realize I wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of the more adventurous subjects interviewed (this blog has been my biggest adventure so far), it was inspiring nonetheless. There is also validation in seeing how someone steps outside the box of what aging has always looked like.

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This attempt at a book review is mostly meant to whet your appetite for this remarkable book. My “next chapter” continues to be a work in progress – especially these days. However…passion, risk and adventure?…still intriguing goals.

*Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is an author, educator, researcher, and public intellectual.  She has pioneered an innovative social science method called “portraiture,” written eleven books, serves on numerous professional and scholarly boards and committees, and has received 30 honorary degrees.  A MacArthur Prize-winning sociologist, she is the first African-American woman in Harvard University’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor.

The pull of the story

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #66: Savour

This week, let’s consider what we savour.

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A good story. A good book. I’ve always savored those moments – from the days of a flashlight under the covers late at night…to now…when my eyes close despite the glow of the bedside lamp.

Page corners folded. Neon post-it flags stuck in places to return to. Aha! sentences marked in pencil.

My favorites? The ones with characters who mirror my hopes…fears…life challenges. Or my possibilities…the “what ifs”…

From an early age, I looked forward to stories. An alternate universe of adventure I could only dream about as a young girl. It was unheard of to strive for independence as a boy would…well, except for Nancy Drew. She had remarkable success. It was exhilarating.

Years later, my chosen books lengthened. The topics expanded.

Elizabeth Berg emerged as one of my favorite authors. I met her at several book signings when she lived in the northeast. Her stories are treasures to savor, but one in particular –  The Pull of the Moon – struck a chord like no other. It is one of the few books I have read multiple times. The main character – Nan – writes letters to her husband while she’s on a solo road trip…as she explores what it means to age. Looking forward and looking back. As she turns 50. The book is a journal of sorts.

A powerful story.

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Candid

Inspired by Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge: Candid (human or animal)

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When you’re a six year old big sister, it’s fun to read to your 1 year old little brother. Complete with distinctive voices for all the book’s characters, animals included.

This reading thing is a big deal, especially at six.

And it’s one activity an active little brother will sit still for.

1988

 

And when your little brother is 2 years old, both of you can hide under the dining room table…for a perfect cozy story time.

1990

 

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Books & Paper

Inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Books and Paper

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Bookshelf
Bookshelf of Book Survivors – Front Rows

 

Books have been an indispensable part of my life – and my life story – since the days of Dick and Jane. The classic first grade learn-how-to-read “Primer” of the 1950s.

After I learned to read, there was no stopping me. A flashlight under the covers at night until I finished a chapter…or two.

Books and stories were often my escape hatch from real life. The Scholastic Book Club in grammar school supplied countless thin paperback story books that multiplied on my shelves at home. Hardcover Nancy Drew mysteries soon followed.

I was fascinated by the biographies of “famous people” at the school library. Of course I believed they were all true depictions of historically significant Americans. However, thinking back, I realize that women and non-white “famous people” were drastically underrepresented.  Hopefully that is changing.

As I went through high school, I discovered paperback novels. The thicker the better. In college, I was a member of the Doubleday Book Club for several years – a mail order monthly deal. Later…the actual Book of the Month Club. Vacations always included long stops browsing at local bookstores.

A few books from my childhood survived the drastic downsizing-of-hundreds-of-books that took place 3 years ago when we sold our home. Letting go of books was probably the most difficult “letting go” I ever did.

Despite the massive book purging, I still needed to buy a bookshelf for condo life. There were just too many books I had to keep! They are shelved two deep. In no particular order. After taking the photo for this challenge, I realized I should organize them by subject or author or something. They represent my life stages…all jumbled together.

Scaling down the sheer volume when we moved forced some tough decisions. It is interesting to notice which ones made the cut. They used to be spread out all over the house in different places. Now all in one room…crammed together as if competing for an important spot.

I have read most of them, but there are many I look forward to starting. The anticipation is still exciting.

The only book I have bought since we moved here was Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Otherwise I visit the local library.

 

age 14 book
On vacation – age 14

 

 

 

Stories to be told

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

Muriel Rukeyser

 

 

reading on porch
Reading on the porch
age ~ 10

 

 

Stories.

Beginning with…
Mother Goose Rhymes, Grandma Moses’ poems, Little Golden Books, Nancy Drew’s many adventures, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Pippi Longstocking….

All stories I craved as a child. Gobbling them up one after the other.
Why?
Curiosity. Escape. Imagination.
Or maybe because I loved to read.
Storybooks drew me in as nothing else could.

old books

My public elementary school was part of the Scholastic Books program. Students could order paperback books for 25¢ or 35¢ each. Sized just right for a 10 year old with titles such as Encyclopedia BrownDanny Dunn and the Homework MachineJust Plain Maggie. To name just a few. Piled high on tables in the gym on delivery day.  I couldn’t wait.

The school library drew me to its stories as well. Shelves of biographies…”Childhoods of Famous Americans”…were a magnet. Hardcover books mostly about boys (Nathan Hale & Abe Lincoln come to mind), but I did find some about girls. Clara Barton. Helen Keller. Dolly Madison. I didn’t discriminate at the age of 10 or 11 or 12. I read them all. Fascinated by their life stories.

Only famous people had their stories told…at least that’s what I may have assumed. But perhaps it sparked my own urge for story telling. At least in the privacy of my diaries. And letters. Later, the journals kept in college and beyond. Recording my story such as it was. Often painful. And hard to believe. Even upon reading years later.  The telling…written for my eyes only…crucial. Therapeutic. I see that now. Important…even though I certainly wasn’t famous.

Years later I filled notebooks with anecdotes, observations…and stories yet again. But this time about my own children. And our family, as it grew and changed…and then grew and changed some more. A natural continuation of my childhood storytelling. About what happened.

This time, though, joyful. Still striving to capture the essence in a quick pair of sentences…or a paragraph. One page. Maybe two. The setting. The conversation. The humor. The love. The challenges. The delight.

Catching the stories on the page before one day wove into the next. Leaving me breathless to get it on paper. Their imaginations. Their curiosity. And uniqueness.  From foot stomping “do by self” episodes to impromptu conversations about “where do babies come from?” To shopping for clothes. Playing with imaginary basketball teams in the driveway. Getting ready for school. Accidentally shaving off half an eyebrow. Navigating the minefield that is adolescence. How a seven year old plans the future. In her own imaginative way.

Endless stories every day. I wrote when I could. So glad I did.

We are, after all, our stories.

 

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #37: Story

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Blue and Yellow

Cee’s Challenge topic this week is Blue and Yellow

 

bookstore
I am happy to report…at least in the town I live in, there is a living, breathing…book store!

Alive and well for decades. Selling books, magazines, greeting cards, note cards and all sorts of fun reading paraphernalia. For adults and children alike. Browsers welcome. Book signings. Book Groups.

Surviving as an actual independent book store in this digital and Amazon age is admirable. And a testament to Shop Local.