Book Review: Older and Bolder

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REVIEW by Lorna Ebringer

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“Old age is not for the faint hearted” a friend told me. She should know. At 93, distressed by both her appearance and not wanting anyone to see her having to use a walking frame, she now refuses to leave her apartment.But perhaps old age is what you make of it. Renata Singer interviewed 28 women aged between 85 and 100 living in Australia and New York and their stories plus research into the way people choose to live in the last three decades of their lives is the subject matter of her new book.

As a baby boomer and therefore heading for 70 I am well and truly in the zone and thinking about all the issues related to growing old.  When is a good time to retire? How much money do we need to live comfortably possibly for many years? How do we remain well? Where are we to live, should we stay in our home or downsize or move into purpose built accommodation for the elderly? How will we cope with the loss of our loved ones? Sibylesque Terrify Kids All these issues are covered in Renata’s book, informed by research and enlivened by the experiences of the wonderful women that contributed to the project, containing “hot tips” covering each matter, it is a must read for those of us who are thinking about how it will be for us and how we are best to cope. Above all it is an optimistic book, those women who have come before us show us that it is possible to live well and joyfully for all of our lives.

 We, THE SIBYLS, declare Renata Singer an Honorary Sibyl for her dogged research, penetrating insight and spirited presentation of older women today. We also commend her for her efforts in establishing Fitted for Work to help unemployed women get back into the workforce.

Publisher’s link here.

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LORNA EBRINGER

LORNA EBRINGER

Lorna Ebringer’s passions include trekking  in remote areas of Georgia, China and Japan, opera appreciation and rock ‘n roll dancing. Her previous posts were Notable Women: Christine de Pizan and When god had a wife.

Photo Source: Publisher’s Website,pinterest…………….

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If you learn how to die, you’ll learn how to live

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BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande 

Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2014.

Review by Kerry Cue

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

The reason this book is so meaningful, so compelling and why it ranks as a rare must-read is because, in telling the story of how to die a good death, it slowly addresses an equally important question namely ‘how  are we to live a good and meaningful life?’

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Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, dreams of new ways of caring for the frail and old. He questions the bureaucratic nature of aged care institutions where the elderly are kept ‘safe’, but hardly ‘alive’. And he rails against the invasive, painful and ultimately futile medical procedures inflicted on the dying. Yet this book is no dry academic tome. Gawande tells the storxy of dying and death of his father, also a surgeon, from first discovering the tumor in the spinal column, through the family’s struggling with medical options – operate? His father might become a quadriplegic. Don’t operate, he may become a quadriplegic! – to his father’s final days.

There is one strong and clear message from this thoughtful exploration of the end stage. Patients could have good days even when dying. But to achieve this goal they must be asked, or think about, at least, ‘what are your greatest fears?’ and ‘what are your current goals?’ Simple questions but from the answers patients discover how they are to live in their final days and, eventually, die.

Gawande has managed to take the fear away from our modern, Western view of dying, which, in many aspects involves, an impersonal, sterile, ICU bed intubated with a tube down the throat and a total loss of control. Dying need not be like this. Gawande shows how the human spirit can flourish and life can be fully lived to the very end.

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Photo source: Unsourced book review blog, Tapestry held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Madness: A Memoir

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REVIEW by Annette Lowe

Madness a memoir

Madness: a memoir

Kate Richards

Penguin, 2013

In ‘Madness: a memoir’ ( Penguin, 2013) by Melbourne author Kate Richards relates her  experience of psychosis, psychotic depression with the piercing vividness of a natural poet. Kate’s imagery and spare narrative brings the terror and chaos of psychosis into the comfortable sanity of our world. Murderously cruel inner voices drive Kate towards self –harm. Whisky is her painkiller. Small events and shreds of daily reality reveal Kate’s gentle humour – she is a chocaholic.

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She passes through psychiatric hospital, ECT, stopping her medication, relapsing. She begins to work with a therapist, and despite resistances and relapses, the psychologist gradually brings her to accept and manage her illness. The sense of profound relief that comes to Kate is not expressed, but conveyed through their small dialogues, all of them turning points in Kate’s inner life. Kate’s memoir is a landmark in our understanding of mental illness, and flags the arrival of a gifted writer in Australian literature. A novel is Kate’s next project, to be published next year. It too will be extraordinary.

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Annette-3Annette is a Jungian analyst who has been in private practice in St Kilda for twenty years. She trained at the Zurich Institute.  Annette is a past-President of the Jung Society in Melbourne and last April was made a Life Member of the Society.

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Photo source: 10 Best Blog

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Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in search of a fulfilled life

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REVIEW by Helen Elliot

Travels with EpicurusTravels With Epicurus

Daniel Klein

Text Publishing, 2013

Daniel Klein’s dentist told him that his teeth needed seeing to. A year of visits; some seeing to. Not to speak of the money involved. Klein, an American, a professional philosopher, academic and writer started ruminating (on his teeth).

He was seventy-three, his life was sweet , or sweet enough as it was. Going for the expensive teeth meant that other things in his life wouldn’t happen and at his age time was not infinite. So what if the alternative teeth, a mouth full of moveable clackers, gave him the slightly goofy smile of an old man. He was an old man. And why was he being made to feel there was something wrong with that? Why is old age seen as a condition and not accepted as a “stage of life”?

StairsKlein’s decision not to have his teeth done was one of a series of deliberate moves as he tried to free himself from the striving of the Forever Young. Who isn’t aware of it in their own lives? Klein defines that terror we have of just letting go and being who we might be at a certain stage in life. Life might be about the journey but sometimes there is arrival and that, too, can be savoured. Klein writes of the joy of play, of rolling around the floor with his dog, of playing patiently with grandchildren, of the pleasure of having friends because you like them just for who they are, not what they might do for you. He also suggests that it is possible to put aside the need to make a permanent mark on the world. He writes about the pleasures of reflection on a well- lived life in a laidback fashion despite drawing on the complex ideas of Sartre and Kant as well as his favourite Greek philosophers. Epicurus who talked about “a life well-lived.” Is his favourite.

DanielKlein-credit-BillHughes_regularKlein wrote this book when he returned to the Greek Island he lived-on for a year when he was young. He took a swag of useful books but he also observed and talked with the people on the island, noting how their simple lives reflected acceptance of every stage of life. His view of the Greek life is romanticized and there is a paradox that a man who advocates not striving finds it necessary to write another book but this book is easily the best book I have read about taking life as it comes, about the value of friendship and of allowing yourself to be who you are at this time in a well-lived life.

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Helen Elliot 2Helen Elliott is a thoughtful and analytical reader, informed and soulful writer and unyielding literary critic for many Australian newspapers. She is also a dedicated gardener.

Photo Source: Stairs marksinthemargin blog.

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Last Child in the Woods

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REVIEW by Kerry Cue

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Last Child in the Woods:

Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv

Atlantic Books, 2005

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We are the generations, who roamed free. We rode our bikes unsupervised. Explored the neighbourhood. Played in the street. We poked around creeks, ditches, anthills and gum tree forests. We built tree houses and forts. Or, if we were city dwellers, we played on building sites, on vacant blocks and in playgrounds fitted with cold-steel swings and maypoles that could crack a head or take out a tooth.

Our grandchildren live indoors.

children_nature_3    yesilist websiteIn Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv meticulously records the relocation of children out of nature and into lounge rooms where they are exposed to the ‘one-way experience of television and other electronic media’.

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‘For some young people nature is so abstract – the ozone layer, a faraway rainforest- that it exists beyond the senses.’

‘Neither children nor wild life have been of much concern to urban planners in recent decades … public spaces have become increasingly domesticated, flat, lawyered, and boring’. In Pennsylvania three brothers, aged eight, ten and twelve, were forced to tear down their tree house in the backyard because they didn’t have a building permit!

According to Louv, it is not just the loss of interaction with nature that is of concern, but also the total loss of sensory experiences. At a time when child obesity, ADHD and other disorders are rife, we deprive children of the ‘physical exercise and emotional stretching that children enjoy in unorganized play’.

KidsNature_1  playlsi web‘The young don’t demand dramatic adventures or vacations in Africa. They need only a taste, a sight, a sound, a touch … to reconnect that receding world of the senses’.

Parents are often too busy to even think about nature. But we know what it is like to explore the neighbourhood. We can take our grandchildren into natural environments to pick up a rock, a stick or, simply, dig for earthworms in the garden. How Lilly Pilly Jam can save your life shows one way of involving grandchildren in both gardening and community activities.

There are many ways we can take them outdoors and show them the amazing reality beyond their digital screens.

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PHOTO SOURCE: yesilist and playlsi websites

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Some Grandmas really are Wild Things!

by Honey Clarke

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You can retire from a job, but don’t ever retire from making extremely meaningful contributions in life.purple quote 2

…………………………………………………………..Stephen Covey, Author

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Illustration by Honey Clarke from her book 'My grandma is a Wild Thing'.

Illustration by Honey Clarke from her book ‘My grandma is a Wild Thing’

Australia has been perpetuating ridiculous stereotypes ever since Chips Rafferty came to the screen. His nasal drawl and odd sayings use to make our skin crawl. “We’re nothing like that!” we’d scream. Yet in any movie about Australia, he’d ride on in. Despite what we know to be true, Australians still willingly go with the stereotypes offered. Don’t think so? Just watch how quickly you can become invisible in the workplace, now you’re a woman of “a certain age”.

Grandma Swims by HOney Clarke

Grandma Swims by HOney Clarke

Lately Politicians are hinting that an ageing population is “becoming a significant issue” like Lyssavirus or finding you’d grown a third eye. The Bureau of Statistics gives projections of data pregnant with doom. What none acknowledge is the contribution the ageing give to our country.

 This theme has been a thread in my own work. My friend Marn breaks all the stereotypes and helped inspire my book “My Grandma is a Wild Thing” because she played drums, rode a motorbike and swung from a jungle gym to pose for my drawings. What’s more Marn speaks “Kid” in all its forms – eloquently and with love. She’s a dynamic part of work and family. Yet stereotypes of aging persist.

The Chooks  by Honey Clarke

The Chooks
by Honey Clarke

I hatched “The Chook* Book of Wisdom” when a farmer friend was about to go home and dispose of his chooks. The problem? They’d stopped laying. Was he crazy? They were just menopausal – they had heaps of good years. He thought it a hoot. The chooks were saved. Let’s hope we are too.

Australia has to get over the idea that passive earners don’t contribute. Let’s show our currency. Dare to be different. Grasp every opportunity to contribute to the quality of our own lives and in so doing, contribute to the quality of others too.

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Honey Clarke

Honey Clarke

Honey Clarke lives on the side of a mountain in an extinct crater lake with her partner, the Rock Doctor. She’s an artist, writer and teacher who encapsulates the essence of life in the quick strokes of paint or pen. Honey has two grown up kids and seven grandchildren. She is part-owner in a bamboo farm. She would like to say her hobbies are kite-surfing and abseiling but that would be a lie. Instead she reads, swims, travels, paints and blogs as much as possible. Honey’s blog is Honeyclarkeart. To inquire about Honey Clarke’s art, books or illustraoins contact her at: honeyclarkeartATgmail.com

Gemma Sisia has a big dream to fight poverty through education.

Gemma Sisia has a big dream to fight poverty through education.

 

The charity that she and the Rock Doctor champion is St Judes in Tanzania, a brilliant school educating kids out of poverty.

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Photo Source: Honey Clarke’s Blog and St Jude’s Website.

*Chook is an Aussie colloquialism for a chicken.

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The Twelfth Raven: A memoir of stroke, love and recovery

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maroon quote-1All sorrows can be borne if you put them into stories.

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……………………………Isak Dinesen, Author, Out of Africa quoted in The Twelfth Raven

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REVIEW by Kerry Cue

 

thetwelfthravenThe Twelfth Raven:

A memoir of stroke, love and recovery

Doris Brett

UWA Publishing (2014)

The Twelfth Raven, according to an old English rhyme, brings joy for tomorrow. Sometimes, I wish poets wrote news headlines then, instead of the ‘Syrian Bloodbath’ headline, you might read something like ‘Trickster God’s Toy with Us Again’. The Trickster God’s certainly overthrew all that defines normality in Doris Brett’s life. Firstly, Brett’s husband Martin suffered, at 59, a stroke followed by a superbug, heart valve failure and open-heart surgery. Then Brett needed a radical mastectomy.

Doris_Brett_2014_smallRead this book if you want to learn how to defend yourself against the Healthcare system. But Brett is a poet. The language is lyrical. Dreams untangle knots in reality to reveal some profound truths. Read this book, if you want to gain some insight into the inner journey of an insightful writer in a family crisis. Brett is ruthlessly honest and very generous in this regard.

A recommended read.

We, THE SIBYLS, declare Doris Brett an Honorary Sibyl for her ruthless honesty, her unflinching endurance and her ability to provide insights into life’s hardships by weaving her brand of lyrical magic.

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Welcome

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We cannot let others define aging for us.

….We must, as we have done before,

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…………….redefine this stage for ourselves.

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What the media doesn’t tell you!

Frankly, my dear, they’re over you!

the-tibertine-sibylIf you have found little of interest in the lifestyle pages across all media platforms, there is a reason. After 54-years of age we are of no interest to Marketing. Apparently, we are ‘too set in our ways’. So, apart from some tragic and cheap ads spruiking pre-paid funerals and incontinence pads, we do not attract the advertising dollar. Therefore editors of magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs aimed at women couldn’t care less about our issues.

There are lots of ads for dubious anti-aging and slimming products, much like the 1950s ads (below) but with their own Facebook Page. But the anti-wrinkle creams and slimming products do not target us. They are aimed at 40, 30 and even 20 year olds. They have more to fear from aging and being overweight than us.50s chin strap We’ve already had to face certain realities. Besides, we’ve been applying goops for 40+ years and we must have tried scores of diets with little success!!! We’ll look at the real science ( and not the ‘radiessence’ or ‘luminosity’) of face creams and rubbish diets later.

But there are many issues such as health, sex and self-perception that change after 54 years of age and that we want to discuss. If you are looking at retirement and your daughter wants the BIG wedding, do you have to pay for it? What if you are divorced? What if it’s her 2nd wedding?

How do you deal with a neurotic daughter-in-law? Or a control-freak son-in-law? Or vice-versa?

Cole Swimsuit Ad 1953 And we wanted those curves!

Cole Swimsuit Ad 1953
And we wanted those curves!

Are you prepared to look after grandchildren one day a week? Two days? How would you react if your daughter handed you a spread sheet scheduling every minute of that one day?

If you didn’t have children, are you now being swamped by the 2nd wave of child-centric conversations as your friends become grandparents?

Moreover, how did any of us even produce children with the hilariously vague ‘sex education‘ we received in the 60s or 70s?

We, The Sibyls, are smart, vibrant and interesting women. It is the intention of this blog to reinvent aging. We’re doing this for ourselves. Welcome.

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