It’s such a blessing that in the natural order of things the longest, darkest days of winter are tempered in timing with holidays that bring us beautiful night lights. There’s something peaceful and warming about the way night itself seems to frame sparkling lights to add a friendly sense of cheer.

When I was just out of college I took a job in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide while I looked for a job related to my schooling. I was assigned as a “floater” in a skilled nursing unit.

I quickly learned how ignorant I was about so many daily care needs.  My appreciation for the work of personal care aides and other support staff went sky high and I found most of the people who lived there charming.

A family member lived with and cared for her mother the last couple years of her mother’s life. It was time she’ll never regret giving even though it was also emotionally and physically draining. 

A neighbor coped with the death of her only remaining siblings the same year as her husband’s health seemed to spiral downward. While caring for her husband she tries to minimize her own health concerns which daily remind her that they really cannot be ignored. She worries.

“The care of human life and happiness… is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” THOMAS JEFFERSON
“Every day, for example, politicians…swear eternal devotion to the ends of peace and security….And every day statesmen, of which there are few, must struggle with limited means to achieve these unlimited ends….”ADLAI STEVENSON

Jefferson sets the goal. Stevenson’s words, while at the time referencing purposes in foreign policy, reflects so many challenges we have today. Where to place our limited means for the most impact – a daunting challenge faced by the Super Committee in Congress. I can’t imagine. Even without the extraneous baggage of partisan politics, the scope of what must be considered staggers the mind.

A few years back my banker called me with a question. She and her sisters and mother were all getting together for a weekend and they wondered if I knew someone who could meet with them to talk about planning for her mother’s future. They were all professionals and wanted to plan ahead. Smart move --- they didn’t know where to turn.

We had the fortune of having some family and grandkids visit recently and got talking about the age range of parents. Our son and his wife had what some folks call a surprise; a baby born when their older children were at or approaching young adulthood. In fact they had two more babies a year or so apart - the two wonderful young adults who just visited.

Looking through the stories of some of the people recently “spotlighted” by the Herald Palladium for their community contributions, it was gratifying to see some mention partnership or influence by the Area Agency on Aging [AAA] in relation to their work. Influencing and/or inspiring local business endeavors is a large part of what the AAA is all about.

It’s a treat having my mother live close to me. At 91 she doesn’t travel much anymore. A happy result for my husband and me is having my sister and brothers make regular trips across the state or down from Holland to visit her. Extended family as well - nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and the younger end of mother’s siblings have all made the trip and gotten to know beautiful southwest Michigan - though for some the trip is getting difficult as the family continues to age. 

My husband and I have visited many churches in our travels - sometimes for a service, sometimes just for a moment of quiet reflection. There’s something about a church without a service that’s very peaceful. You feel like there’s a silent story there that links you not only to faith, but also to the community that fostered it. Someone built that church – magnificent or simple, and a lot of thought went into it. It’s a place for people to gather and find spiritual peace, strength, and commonality to each other.  If it’s your own church it’s comfortable and familiar; a safe place for your own personal commune with God.


We got into a silly discussion the other night about birthday parties and toys. The occasion was a gathering to celebrate my mother’s upcoming 91st birthday as I’d be out of town on the actual day --- which  should be today – July 3rd – Happy Birthday Mother!

Referencing happiness research, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says that a year after someone wins the lottery and a year after someone becomes paraplegic and loses function of his or her legs, their happiness quota is the same. We strive for happiness; our intellect kicks in. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”.  Disability does not necessarily mean unhappy or unhealthy. 

When I was a child Easter Sunday was a time for church, spring coats, hats, white gloves, a family dinner in the dining room, a jelly bean hunt, Easter baskets and hard boiled eggs. It was a quiet day home with my parents and siblings and if we were lucky, a visit from my grandparents.

My mother is one of my role models. Changes with age have given her substantial challenges with hearing and memory. It’s not uncommon to hear her declare, “Oh – this memory of mine!” when she realizes she’s forgotten some history or a name or event. It’s a decided change from the vibrant organizer who people turned to develop a speaking series for her church or run the blood mobile for the city of Detroit. Nevertheless, folks often comment to me, “Your mother always has a smile on her face”. She’s peaceful and pleasant to be around. She is content.

“With your talents and industry, with science, and that stedfast [sic] honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of the consequences, you may promise yourself everything – but health, without which there is no happiness.” THOMAS JEFFERSON

Year after year, decade after decade, through both Republican and Democratic Presidential and Congressional efforts, we’ve tried to address our floundering health care system. Every year there are more uninsured. The cost of their unfunded emergency room and hospital care shifts onto premiums the insured pay. Insurance costs go up. Employers drop or curtail coverage due to higher costs and even more people are uninsured or severely underinsured. The spiral continues unchecked.

An odd thing happened last month. My husband and I got a long letter from our daughter-in-law. The novelty was startling. Not an update on Facebook, or a tweet, or a note on a card, or even an email. It was a five page handwritten letter full of news of the family. She always did write a good letter. I sat on the couch and leisurely read about one family member after another – and realized how long it had been since I’d gotten a letter. Perhaps this would be the last.

An the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you ef you don’t watch out! So said James Whitcomb Riley in his poem about Little Orphant Annie. 
One of my favorites from childhood, he advised minding your manners and taking care of people -- or else you’d better beware of what comes in the night when the wind goes woo-oo. Just eerie enough to be creepy and fun enough not to be too scary. My mother would read assorted poems out loud and set the mood for many an event.

Every time I go to buy face cream there is another new product designed to restore moisture to my skin, ease or slowly erase wrinkles and take away my age spots. Amazing. Why does anyone have wrinkles if you can just choose not to have them by buying a little pot of special cream?

My mother’s parents had a summer home on the north end of Lake St. Clair near the town of Anchorville north of Detroit. The full front of the house was an enclosed knotty pine porch that looked down over a short lawn, a shuffleboard court that traced the water’s edge, and the lake. A seawall stretched the length of the property with lake access provided by a long wooden dock, ever adorned with a tall flagpole at the end. Originally one of nine siblings, as the family grew into young adulthood in the 1930s and 40s, the lake, dock and various motorboats became the summer mecca for many a good time. 

Excitement mounts whenever I enter one of our national parks. The parks are American gems that preserve national history or natural wonders. I don’t think my husband and I have ever been disappointed by a visit to one of them. Last summer we were able to revisit Montana’s Glacier National Park where I’d worked during college.

In 1976, my final project to complete an undergraduate degree in social work at Western Michigan University was helping to establish an office of information and support for students with disabilities. The primary paper for my second major in environmental studies focused on recreational planning for people with disabilities. While searching for a job I served as volunteer staff for a state event associated with a White House Conference on issues surrounding disabilities.