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THE NEW YEAR STARTS NOW

THE NEW YEAR STARTS NOW….

Labor Day has always felt like New Year’s Day to me. It’s the school calendar that continues to promise new possibilities. This year they include a new project, some especially interesting trips, and wonderful news from several of my writer friends.

I am going to Billings, Montana to give the keynote at the first Annual Exceptional Women Luncheon on September 17. I am especially delighted to be there because, in addition to the opportunity to celebrate terrific women, the event will be co-sponsored by the brand new Billings chapter of The Transition Network, an organization I have admired and supported since its earliest days.

I’ll be in Los Angeles on October 22 for an Encore.org Board meeting. Those gatherings are always stimulating, inspiring, and informative – smart people trying to make change by empowering people over fifty to solve societal problems. (I will also be able to see my son, Josh, for dinner – a real bonus.) Encore’s annual conference (February 9-11, 2016, in San Francisco) will celebrate the tenth anniversary of The Purpose Prize, which honors folk who have done work in their Encore years that contributes to the greater good. I wouldn’t miss it.

On November 20, I will be speaking to the Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP) at The New School in New York, about “How Ms. magazine Changed the World – and My Life.” I always love the feedback from early and life-long readers of the magazine.

Throughout the next 18 months, I will be traveling around the country learning about the experiences of women with disabilities within the medical system. I will be gathering their stories for an exciting project of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (yourcpf.org) called “Transforming Healthcare for Women With Disabilities;” it is designed to identify and help doctors correct the unnecessary obstacles those women face. For example, because “holding still” for a mammogram or “relaxing” for a pelvic exam is not possible for many of them, they don’t go back after a bad experience. As a result, the incidence of breast cancer and cervical cancer is higher than the national average among this group.

In recent months, I have been reading and praising new books by friends. Here are some of those published – or to be published – in 2015; there are plenty more in the works:

I Never Signed Up For This…Finding Power in Life’s Broken Pieces by Darryle Pollack. “This is everything a satisfying memoir should be,” I wrote. “It tells a very personal but universal story. The experiences are shared with honesty and insight. The prose is girl-friend casual and evocative at the same time. And, perhaps, best of all, it is very funny.”

Tradeoffs by Jane Adams. We know the three women in this smart and compassionate book; we are them. Set in the decade when balancing work and family (also known as “having it all”) was the torment and triumph of women starting out on a new life trajectory, the novel brings it all back and gives us a chance to visit with and appreciate our younger selves.

Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue compiled by Amy Ferris. “It takes great courage to get up in the morning when depression has closed in,” I wrote. “It also takes courage to tell the truth about what it feels like to have lost hope. These brave essayists describe the darkness and share their efforts, not always successful, to stare it down. By sharing their stories, they are making it a little easier for others to get up in the morning.”

The Commons by Susan Dworkin. It is the year 2165. Climate change has impoverished the world. One giant corporation governs North America. When a fierce wheat plague threatens everyone with starvation, an alliance of plant scientists, robot spies, and fed-up farmers organize to fight it. And at their center is a young pop singer named Lizzie who becomes the voice of the revolution. Truly gripping.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, put it perfectly: “My Life on the Road is beautifully told stories of the people [Steinem] has spoken with and listened to since childhood, been changed by, helped organize, got radicalized by, could get lost in, could get found in. It is soul material, human and political, often funny, always wise and touching. I found it deeply spiritual, and began it again the day after I finished.” Yes!

Unspinning the Spin: The Women’s Media Center Guide to Fair and Accurate Language by Rosalie Maggio, preface by Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem. This book is fun! Ok, it is also good for you, but in the best possible way. My favorite entry is for “manhole cover” because we once ran a slightly arch article in an early issue of Ms. entitled “The Great Personhole Cover Debate” about efforts to find non-sexist terms. Here the suggested alternatives are “sewer cover” “sewer-hole cover” or just plain “cover.” The entry then goes on to observe, “’Jokes’ about personhole covers have been circulating since at least 1978. It’s not going to get you a laugh anymore.” Point taken.

Not exactly a book, but just as well-written, informative, funny and energizing as a good read, is Robin Morgan’s weekly radio show “Women’s Media Center LIVE with Robin Morgan” [WMC LIVE] It’s been called “talk radio with a brain,” and features witty, hard hitting, and well-researched features by Robin and equally mind-opening interviews she conducts with women around the world. Saturday mornings at 11:00 a.m. (EST) or any time on iTunes.

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