Sep 132010

Welcome to this edition of the EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival. EtsyBloggers participating in September 10th’s Blog Carnival were invited to select one of the topics below, and to write a post about it:

Topic 1: Are you in the first quarter of your life (up to age 25), second quarter of your life (up to age 50), or 3rd quarter (beyond age 50)? Describe your goals and dreams for your current “quarter.” How have they changed over time?

Topic 2: Describe someone who influenced the person you are today, or who motivated you to do something. Explain how this is so. Is this a positive or negative?

Below is a roundup of links for EtsyBloggers who participated in this Blog Carnival. Please feel free to visit each blog and leave a comment. You will also wish to check out the wonderful products in each blogger’s Etsy shop.

Thank you for visiting this edition of the EtsyBloggers Blog Carnival. Submit your blog article to the next edition of EtsyBloggers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

© 2010 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 102010

According to Richard N. Bolles, author of the What Color Is Your Parachute? series, the traditional view is that life falls into three boxes that we might think of as the world of education, the world of work, and the world of retirement, with people spending most of their time working, and less time being educated and retired. The problem with these boxes, of course, is that they make us feel as if we are boxed in, that we can’t behave during one part of our life the way that people expect us to behave during another part of our life. Thankfully, this traditional view of life has been changing over time.

People over the age of 50 frequently return to school, sometimes formally, sometimes not. At the Senior College of Des Moines, for example, test-paper-and-grade-free courses for students age 50 and up are taught by college-level professors. One of the classes taught at Senior College led to the development of the Final Act Ensemble, a senior group that performs classic and original radio plays, including commercials, at the Des Moines Playhouse, the Iowa State Fair, and other venues around the state of Iowa.

On a more global level, adults of any age can pursue life-long learning through TED, a small non-profit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading,” bringing together the worlds of technology, entertainment and design by inviting speakers from around the world to present their ideas at twice-annual conferences. These speaker events, dubbed TedTalks, are available online as podcasts and videos. In the video below, for example, which is distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 license, Sir Ted Robinson asks his audience to consider whether schools kill creativity.

Pope John Paul II eliminated one of the traditional “three boxes of life” by never entering retirement. When he was still a parish priest and auxiliary bishop of Kraków, when he might have been expected to spend his time working, not pursuing leisurely interests, he wrote poems under the pseudonym of Andrzej Jawien. The economy, of course, contributes to delayed entrance into the work force, often prolonging formal education for students who cannot find employment. The same economic conditions encourage shorter careers through involuntary retirement, but there are also those who choose early retirement in order to pursue creative efforts and/or philanthropic causes.

The factor that seems to play the biggest role in determining how much control anybody has over any role he or she desires, however, is not age, but health. In Aging in the Lord, the late Sister Mary Hester Valentine, S.S.N.D., writes, “All of us know people younger than we who are much frailer, and an equal number of older people who seem endowed with limitless energy that we no longer have.” Health issues notwithstanding, it seems that there are not really three boxes of life, but perhaps four, which historian Peter Laslett describes as the Four Ages of Life:

  • First Age, characterized by dependence, immaturity and socialization
  • Second Age, characterized by independence, maturity and responsibility
  • Third Age, characterized by flexibility, freedom and fulfillment
  • Fourth Age, characterized by dependence, decrepitude and death

As I ponder these discussions that attempt to frame who we are at various stages of our life, it seems to me that many of us go back and forth between stages. A 20-something adult who finishes college and finds work often relocates to an apartment, but then returns home to live with parents if the job is lost. A parent may work full-time  in the traditional workforce (i.e., work for an employer) for a while, and then pull back to stay home, either to parent children, or to pursue alternatives.

In my own case, I feel as if I am dwelling in a No Man’s Land between Laslett’s Second and Third Ages. We recently shed some responsibilities (Second Age) when our only son and child got married (see slide show HERE), but at the same time we are still seated deeply in the Second Age through our involvement with my elderly father’s care.  But . . . both my husband and I also dwell in the Third Age of our lives, chronologically and in spirit.

During the first quarter of my life I did as most of my peers did: secured an education, formed friendships that came and went, and gradually cut the apron strings that bound me to my parents. The second quarter of my life was spent with my husband far away from our parents and most of our relatives as we learned how to survive on our own, started a family, and pursued careers—my husband as an employee, and myself as both a traditional employee and a business owner.

But now, in the third quarter of our lives, we have a certain degree of freedom that we did not have even a couple of years ago. We both feel strongly about giving back to society, so we volunteer as state Board members of Students for a Creative Iowa, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote creativity, teamwork, and problem solving abilities in Iowa students. To achieve that end, this organization has selected and administrates the Destination ImagiNation program. We are also involved in Iowa’s National History Day program as volunteer judges.

On a personal level, however, John and I agree about the importance of identifying one’s interests and talents, and combining them in a productive way. For me that means writing and beginning to publish my work in different venues; I published my first poem at age 45, developed and taught an after-school enrichment program for gifted students for about five years, and am now blogging regularly. For most of my life, I have enjoyed producing a wide variety of handmade items, which I began entering in Iowa State Fair competitions some years ago and finally began selling in the handmade goods marketplace called Etsy, beginning in January of 2008. Finally—and for me this is perhaps most important—I have vowed to be open to change and new learning always. Those of you who have followed me from my first Blogger efforts to this Web site, for example, have seen me grow in my Web publishing skills.

I imagine that John E. Nelson and Richard N. Bolles, who wrote What Color Is Your Parachute? for Retirement, would identify my core values as self-direction, achievement, and benevolence, but I would call it developing my talents, applying my creativity and volunteering. In the end, I cannot agree more with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, who writes in The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 about the joy of experiencing what she calls confessional moments. “These are moments when our faces light up,” she says, “when there is a palpable surge of energy and we begin to reveal stories about learning something new.” When you learn something new, when you can create something new, when you can share with others your passion, it’s a good day.

© 2010 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 252009
My first Simplicity half-apron and gray kettle cloth jumper are decades behind me, but I still recall many of the items on Miss Banovich’s 7th grade sewing supplies list: seam ripper, seam gauge, measuring tape, pins, fabric scissors, sewing machine needles, thread, and a couple of clear plastic bobbins. Interestingly, it was my father—not my mother—who helped me collect these items. In fact, I still have my first sewing basket, a rather humble-looking box in gold-flecked white vinyl that dates back to the 1970s.

My mother, whose brief foray into sewing included a set of unevenly cut yellow curtains that she hoped no one would remember, did not enjoy sewing. She was horrified, in fact, when she returned to Germany to visit her mother, and those curtains were hung in a window in her honor. With relief, she passed on to me the darning egg in her sewing basket to mend my father’s socks, along with a stack of trousers that needed to be shortened for the summer. She was my sewing cheerleader, but it was my father with whom I held discussions about how to thread our Sears Kenmore sewing machine.  These days my father wishes he knew what happened to that old Kenmore, but I think it’s likely my mother gave it away when I went to college and bought my own Brother machine. She is no longer with us, so I guess that will remain her little secret.

The garments I sewed and the events of those early years are connected like buttons sewn on a sweater. My boyfriend (who became my husband) was a midshipman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so every winter and spring during college, I sewed a floor-length gown for the Navy R.O.T.C. balls we attended together. Likewise, I made some of the dresses I wore as a sales clerk while working at Gimbels Department Store during college. And when John and I married, I made my own bridal gown and veil.

 In the early years of our marriage, we lived in southern California, where John was stationed as a Naval Weapons Officer. When we moved to the West coast, the sewing machine and cabinet—and all of my fabrics and notions—occupied a significant portion of the space in the U-Haul we rented, along with my numerous books. Eight years later, when our son was born, a Pfaff sewing machine had replaced the Brother, and I sewed many of David’s play clothes.

Today my sewing machine no longer occupies a corner of a bedroom or living room, but sits in its own dedicated space: a sewing room. Of course, that’s not the only place in our home where I create—John says that wherever you find horizontal surfaces is where you’ll find my work—but it is nice to have a home base, of sorts! My sewing room is where my Pfaff Creative 7530 sewing machine resides, inside a solid oak Parsons cabinet.

This is also where I write. I love my Mission-style writing desk.

The closet holds quilting rulers and templates, specialty sewing tools, interfacing and stabilizers, and boxes of sewing supplies.Fabric is another story . . . no space in this room!

Along one wall is Dolly (my dress form), who wears a half-finished apron. I like to “dial her down” so that I can imagine what I might look like if I lost some weight!

In a corner of the room stands a chest of drawers for needlework supplies. Next to it is a small couch where I like to do hand sewing, or browse through how-to publications.


Projects are always spilling out of my sewing room into other rooms because my working space is no bigger than a child’s small nursery. Still, this is where many of my Etsy products are created. In short, it’s a cozy place to ponder, poke at fabrics, and produce!

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.