Covid-19, our modern plague, is tragic; but there is an upside for many of us.

Because I have some financial security from social security income, I ‘m able to step back and see over 30 benefits from the pandemic.  I hope this list helps you feel more positive.

Our Collective Experience

  • Globally we are all in this together.  There’s shared humanity
  • World-wide there’s a greater appreciation for front-line workers, teachers, healthcare providers
  • We have global cooperation to find a vaccine
  • More volunteerism
  • Younger people are feeling inspired to create change
  • Underlying inequities in our society have been exposed – in finances, education and healthcare 
  • We had time to watch and reflect on George Floyd’s death – and react
  • There’s increased focus on how to solve the inequities

Impact on Nature

  • By staying at home, we have created less air pollution.  The earth will have a 7% decrease in carbon dioxide this year
  • Nature has begun to heal
  • Plants are healthier 
  • Animals are more abundant
  • The birds are happy

Our Culture

  • As a society, slowing down has made us kinder
  • We’ve had a chance to refocus on what really matters
  • We learned that when working from home many of us are more productive
  • Zoom works well for meetings and gatherings of all kinds and for small group learning
  • We’ve seen an upsurge in new music.  There’s the Rolling Stones’ “Living in a Ghost Town,” plus 5000 songs on the Spotify virus playlist
  • We have greater appreciation for “normal,” such as haircuts, eating out, travel

The Personal Impact

  • Feeling humility in the face of fragility
  • Becoming more patient.  With the uncertainty, I’m learning to take things day by day
  • Feeling more relaxed.  Reduced traffic makes driving less stressful 
  • There’s less pressure – no longer over-scheduling every day
  • Appreciating the quiet and listening to the birds
  • Time to be one on one with friends via zoom, phone calls or walks
  • Getting to better know my neighbors and their children
  • Time to paint, practice the guitar, bicycle, hike, clean the house, cook, garden, and read
  • Finding new TV shows
  • Watching “Conversations with Authors” from Book Passage
  • Thanks to Zoom, taking online classes – yoga, Pilates, sketching, guitar, and gardening
  • Finding new local hikes and bike rides.  Exploring local neighborhoods
  • Making new hiking and biking friends
  • Saving money – no gym dues and reduced restaurant expenses

A Huge Change, But Not All Bad

It’s true our world will never be the same.  So, when you feel discouraged, please refer to this list.  I hope it helps. 

Note: I’m eager to hear your thoughts. What would you add to the list?

Quotes for our Times

  • We wear masks as racism is unmasked.
  • There are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.

In light of George Floyd’s death, let’s focus on the hope that with global attention now on racism and racial injustice, perhaps, this time, citizens and governments will enact policies to address the underlying issues. 

Economic Inequality

A key underlying issue is the economic inequality between blacks and whites in America.  The data is vividly presented in the June 4, 2020 Washington Post article, “The black-white economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968.”

For example:

·       You would have to combine the net worth of 11.5 black household to get the net worth of a typical white U.S. household.

·       The economic disadvantage is as bad or worse than it was before Civil Rights, 70 years ago, according to an economist at Federal Financial Analytics.

·       Many white parents pass on wealth giving their children economic advantages.  Most black families have no accumulated wealth to pass on.

·       Even less educated Americans have a leg up.  A white household headed by someone with a high school diploma has almost 10 times the wealth of a black family with the same education. 

·       Since the pandemic is hitting low-income workers hardest, it is increasing inequality.  The first victims of the Corona Virus were in the service industries that employ a disproportionate number of black and brown workers.  This spring, after the “lockdown, fewer than half of black adults had a job.  Black workers are least likely to hold jobs that they can do from home.

·       More than twice as many black businesses as white businesses were forced to close during the pandemic.

·       More than 1 in 5 black families report they often or sometimes do not have enough food.  That’s more than three times the rate for white families. 

·       Healthwise, black Americans have suffered higher hospitalization and death rates from the Corona Virus than whites.  Paying hospital bills adds to the precarious financial position of these Americans.

·       African American college students have struggled to graduate because financial burdens often force them to drop out. 

·       Then there are the inequalities in the job market.  Black men make 75% of what white men earn, according to the Labor Department.

·       Black workers are less likely to be called in for an interview if a hiring manager can tell from a resume that the applicant is black. 

·       Studies have shown that black loan applications are less often approved.  Black home ownership is 44% compared to 74% for whites.

Next Steps

There are signs of hope, especially among some younger people who say they are willing to make sacrifices in order to have greater justice and equality.  

There’s a great deal to learn about the problem.  My book club is now reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo.  Getting educated is a good place to start. 

Then, let’s enact legislation to provide all Americans education, housing, healthcare and other essentials needed for a multi-racial democracy with equality and justice for all. 

Personal, National and Global Values

Since reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s May 1 online New Yorker Magazine article “The Corona Virus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations,” I’ve been thinking about how the virus is impacting personal, national and global values. 

Climate Change and the Virus

It’s abundantly clear that Climate Change has dramatically changed our lives.  We’ve known since the 1960s that the planet was in trouble.  Now we see the results of humans polluting the air and the oceans, melting the permafrost, and encroaching on animals’ habitats, making the animals sick … and now the animals are making us sick.  (One theory is that a sick bat in Africa bit a pangolin – it’s like an aardvark – and the sick pangolin was sent to a wet market in China, where it was eaten.)  Now everyone on the planet is impacted. 

We Need to Stick Together

This time, we truly are all in this together.  In the past, it was a matter of crisis by region.  In California, where I live, we’ve lost lives to fires, earthquakes, and power outages.  Other parts of the country and the world have faced droughts, floods, hurricanes and worse.  Today we’re seeing how everyone in the world is interconnected: all facing the same crisis. We used to talk about saving future generations; now we know it’s our generation that needs saving.

The Economy versus Saving Lives

We have big questions to consider: What are the rights of the individual versus the needs of society; the needs of a region versus the globe?  Do we protect “the economy” versus protecting our health and human lives?  Do we want to continue with the old “normal” or are we willing to change to save the planet? 

How our Values have Changed

My friends and I discuss how our values have changed.  We used to enjoy eating out, going shopping, and traveling.  Now we value time with friends and family more than ever.  We have a higher regard for the people who work in healthcare, grow our food, educate our children, and provide shelter and clothing. 

Can You and I Save the Planet?

Personally, I’m focused on saving our planet.  How? I can reduce my carbon footprint by driving and flying less.  I hope to convince others to do the same.   I’ve always tried to be mindful of how much I consume, how much water I use, and how I handle my trash, but I hope to do better.

Will you join me?  What will you do to help our planet?

Optimists Live Longer

Why You Should Look on the Bright Side

Even in times like these, remember to look at the bright side of life.  Research at Harvard’s School of Public Health shows that optimists’ odds of living to 85 or longer are more than 50 percent greater than pessimists.  Optimists tend to bounce back from difficulties more readily.   Perhaps it’s because optimistic people are better able to regulate their emotions.  And they have healthier habits – they are more likely to exercise, eat well, and less likely to smoke. 

Live Longer with Healthy Habits

In my county, Marin County, California, living to 85 is the norm, and all of us want a future where we live to that age or longer.  I’m pleased that my neighbors are applying healthy habits and helping to “flatten the curve” during the Covid-19 pandemic by sheltering in place and practicing social distancing.  One way I know my county is doing a good job is by looking at published GPS tracking data. Other than going to the grocery story, my neighbors are staying home, and thus, less likely to contract the virus or spread it. 

Keep Your Spirits High

To stay healthy and optimistic, we’ve found ways to keep our spirits high.  We connect every evening at 8 PM for The Howl.  Up and down the hills, from all directions, I hear my neighbors making coyote-like howls, which keep us connected in dark times. 

Stay Connected

Connection is what it’s all about now.  We meet online for Zoom chats; we send each other photos and our latest drawings; we call friends we haven’t spoken with in years; and we exchange jokes and cartoons on Facebook and Instagram.  Have you seen this one?

My Self-Isolation Quarantine Diary

  • Day 1 – I Can Do This!! Got enough food and wine to last a month!
  • Day 2 – Opening my 8th bottle of Wine. I fear wine supplies might not last!
  • Day 3 – Strawberries: Some have 210 seeds, some have 235 seeds. Who Knew??
  • Day 4 – 8:00pm. Removed my Day Pajamas and put on my Night Pajamas.
  • Day 5 – Today, I tried to make Hand Sanitizer. It came out as Jello Shots!!
  • Day 6 – I get to take the Garbage out. I’m So excited, I can’t decide what to wear.
  • Day 7 – Laughing way too much at my own jokes!!
  • Day 8 – Went to a new restaurant called “The Kitchen”. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have No clue how this place is still in business.
  • Day 9 – I put liquor bottles in every room. Tonight, I’m getting all dressed up and going Bar hopping.
  • Day 10 – Struck up a conversation with a Spider today. Seems nice. He’s a Web Designer.
  • Day 11 – Isolation is hard. I swear my fridge just said, “What the hell do you want now?”
  • Day 12 – I realized why dogs get so excited about something moving outside, going for walks or car rides. I think I just barked at a squirrel.
  • Day 13 – If you keep a glass of wine in each hand, you can’t accidentally touch your face.
  • Day 14 – Watched the birds fight over a worm. The Cardinals lead the Blue Jays 3–1.
  • Day 15 – Anybody else feel like they’ve cooked dinner about 395 times this month?  IS THIS YOU, yet?

Artificial Intelligence May Save Us

On a more serious – but still optimistic – note, some of us are attending online conferences where we discuss the future.  Attending Stanford University’s April 1st conference on Artificial Intelligence gave me some hope. 

  • Some politicians see progress being made on global health security coordination and tracking
  • We’re learning how changes in public policy and greater transparency could help us better respond to future biological threats and diseases
  • Using AI we’re making better predictions and can better track how the virus spreads
  • Biomedical informatics is making it easier to use existing data, including GPS cell phone data, for surveillance
  • Medical doctors are sharing global best practices
  • Researchers are discovering ways to treat patients at home using cameras and smart sensors
  • AI is being used to identify vaccine candidates
  • Finally, we’re waking up to the need for a healthy planet, because if we continue with climate change and deforestation, animals will continue to get sick, and they will make us sick again 

Let’s be optimistic about the future.  Stay well and safe. 

Douglas Iris seen on my hike this week

If you are practicing social distancing, life needn’t be boring.  Scottie Andrew at CNN has lots of ideas….and I’m adding a few of my own.  By now you’ve heard the basics of the new normal:

  • Avoid going to places where 25 or more people may gather
  • Go places where you can maintain at least six feet of distance from other people
  • Keep in mind your personal risk: If you’re 60 years old and up or have a compromised immune system, you should stay home as much as possible

So, what can you do?  Try this:

Make art. This is one of my favorite activities.  I like to put on music and pull out watercolors or pastels.  Or, perhaps, you prefer pottery. 

Read a lot.  Even though some libraries are closed, download e-books and audiobooks.  Discuss the books via webinar or Skype with your friends or your book club.  My book club is using Zoom. 

Listen to music.  Make music.  Go on-line or pull out those old CDs and records.

Take a virtual museum tour. Use your smartphone for an online tour of the  Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum or visit  Google Arts & Culture for a virtual walk-throughs for dozens of international museums.

Be in nature. Hike. Get out of the house and keep 6 feet of distance from other people.

Start birdwatching or identifying plants.  Find out what birds and plants reside near you.  Download bird and plant maps and identification cards.  I just spotted the Douglas Iris you see above.

Do yoga at home.  Keep your immune system strong.

Make that recipe. This is a great time to make chicken stock or your favorite soup. 

Find new recipes. Read your cookbooks or look up all those recipes you’ve downloaded on your computer and never prepared.

Video chat. Why not use Facetime or Skype?

Meditate. I like Headspace.com.  There are lots of wonderful meditation apps.  And, in times like this, meditation is helpful.

Bring out the board games and huge puzzles.  Get competitive or treat yourself to quiet time with a challenging puzzle.

Get handy. If something needs fixing around the house, get to work.

And watch my free upcoming webinar.  On April 15, I’ll be discussing how to reinvent yourself after 50 at an online event hosted by FairyGodBoss.com. To register for this free event, click here:https://fairygodboss.com/events/HyOVnubVL/how-to-reinvent-yourself-after/?utm_source=partner&utm_medium=multiple&utm_campaign=lynnryder

Which Ones? I need your help.

When it comes to social media, I’m a neophyte…and so are many of my friends.  I’ve put my toe in the water by building a website and writing a monthly blog. (The blog is two years old this month.) 

Yes, I do have three Facebook sites – one is personal and two are for my workshops.  I used Twitter until I was hacked and found myself with a million followers who didn’t speak English.  I haven’t tried Instagram or Pinterest yet.  Should I?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Which social media services do you use? 

A Favorable Website Connection

Thanks to my website, I’ve made an exciting connection with the County of Arlington, Virginia.  This county, which has four Park and Rec centers for people over 55, brings in a speaker annually for all members.  This year I’m honored to present the Reinvent Yourself after Fifty workshop to this audience.  I’ll be providing a workbook and follow-up materials in addition to giving a 3-hour interactive presentation. 

I Can Bring “Reinvent Yourself after Fifty” to You

I’m delighted to be returning to the D.C. area.  Travel is a passion of mine, and I’d love to visit you – wherever you are. Please let me know if you and your friends would like a presentation for your group. 

Connecting from Home

On the other hand, I’m also happy to present the program from inside my home….and in April I’ll do just that.  www.FairyGodBoss.com has invited me to speak on a live webinar on April 15 at 10 AM Pacific Time.  To register go to: https://fairygodboss.com/ (You will need to sign-up with Fairy God Boss to attend. It’s free.) Even though my primary audience is over 50, FairyGodBoss informed me that men and women of all ages are making career transitions and will benefit from learning how to reinvent themselves.

Help with Life Transitions at All Ages

I’m aware that most of the reinvention steps are applicable to many life transitions – changing careers, getting married, becoming a parent, reentering the workforce, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of good health, retiring from a career etc.  We start by assessing our current situation, revisiting our values, getting clues to our passions by looking at people we admire, remembering the times we were happiest in each decade of our lives, learning how to get unstuck, creating a vision and plan for the future, adjusting our attitude, and living a healthy life.  Sounds simple, but there are layers and layers to sort through.  It’s well worth the effort since the result is a balanced and fulfilling future. And that’s what I wish for you.

If you’re lonely, write your memoir.

Writing about yourself in a journal or in a memoir writing class will soften feelings of isolation by putting the focus on you, according to AARP Magazine. 

Befriending yourself and appreciating your feelings and accomplishments is an affirmation of your life.  That’s important.  Once we see how much we matter, we see the rest of life more clearly.  We start to pay attention to the sensory details around us – color, touch, taste, smell, sounds – which results in a joyful feeling. 

When I’m most in touch with the good in me, I feel happy looking at the sky, plants and trees, and the rest of nature.  This joy opens me up to appreciating others. 

Plus, if you share your writing with family, friends and others, they will benefit from the lessons you’ve learned and the tales you tell.  I’m grateful that my father wrote a memoir before he died.  There are wonderful family stories that he never told me…or that I had forgotten.

This winter I’m offering two opportunities to write about yourself.  The first is a new 6-week memoir writing workshop at Sausalito Books by the Bay in Sausalito, CA.  The second is Reinvent Yourself After 50 at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA

“Writing your Story: A Memoir Class”  – 6 Tuesdays from 9 – 10:30 beginning January 28, $180.  To register call  (415) 887-9967 or visit this website for more information:

https://www.sausalitobooksbythebay.com/2020-events 

You’ll have a chance to do some journal writing in “Reinvent Yourself After 50”, Sunday Feb. 2, 1-5 pm at Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA.  $110.  Call 415-927-0960 or sign up:

https://www.bookpassage.com/event/class-lynn-ryder-reinvent-yourself-after-50-0

I hope to see you in one of these classes.  If you live outside of Northern California, we can arrange to come to your town.  Email: lynn.ryder@gmail.com

Have a happy, healthy, loving, abundant New Year!

I’m reading memoirs this holiday.  Starting with one by my father. 

I read it years ago, but it means so much more as I age.  As I prepare for my “Writing your Story” class in January at Sausalito Books by the Bay, I’m also gobbling up memoirs by famous authors. And, to my surprise, I have several friends who have written compelling memoirs…I’m honored that they let me read them.

When I enthuse about my upcoming class, people ask me to share the top tips I’d give memoir writers.  I usually offer some tried and true techniques that I’ve learned from these authors: Natalie Goldberg, Anne LaMott, Mary Karr, and Vivian Gornick.  And I share what I’ve learned from writing my own book, “Road to Fulfillment.”

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Write about what gives you a sense of wonder or about what you dread: it’s more interesting.  This could be hiking (e.g., Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”), spiritual fulfillment (Anne LaMott’s books), making peace with your body (Demi Moore’s “Inside Out”), facing cancer (Natalie Golderg’s “Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home”), overcoming the tyranny of family (Tara Westover’s “Educated”), or the joy of family (Michele Obama’s “Becoming”).
  2. Revise/Revise/Revise – but do this after you get your first thoughts on paper, not while you’re writing your first draft
  3. Turn your past into an experience for the reader.  Bring it to life with sensual details – smell, taste, touch, vision and sound.
  4. Don’t label people.  Show what happened.  What was said?  How was it said?
  5. Start with anecdotes.  They lead to the big story.
  6. You can start at the end, to show what’s at stake.
  7. Ask: What would I write if I wasn’t afraid.  Then write it.
  8. If possible, show your manuscript to people you’re writing about.  Your memory is subjective.  Include what others have to say about the past.  Tell the reader where your memory is fuzzy or where others see it differently.
  9. Be brutally honest if you want the reader to resonate with your story.  Remember, bad things happen to good people, or there’s no story.  Show the good and the difficult stuff.
  10. Have a movement toward wisdom.  This is a key ingredient of all successful memoirs.

I hope you’ll join me January 28 for Writing your Story: A Memoir Class.  To enroll, call: 415-887-9967 or stop by 100 Bay Street, Sausalito, CA.

Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday and a happy, healthy New Year.

To register call  (415) 887-9967

After returning a week ago from the visiting the visual splendor of Japan in the Fall, I’m now immersing myself in autobiographies and books about memoir in preparation for presenting a new class called Write your Story: A Memoir Class. 

Thinking about memory while sharing stories with long-time friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, I remembered Mary Karr’s observation in her book “The Art of Memory”:

Many a loved one has engaged in hyperbole or stretched the bounds of evidence or dug in her heels to prove a point that’s wrong.

Memory is Highly Subjective

It’s interesting that siblings and friends have such different memories of long-ago events.  I often think my sister and I grew up in different families with very different parents.  It makes me realize how subjective we are when thinking about the past.  In my sister’s memory, our parents were very sweet and well meaning, but they unfairly gave a lot to me (the sister) and my brother and so little to her.  In my world, our parents were preoccupied with their work and overly generous to my brother and less so to the daughters.

My sister and I each have our stories to tell.  Her tale is of being “left out” by my parents, which made her feel needy and underappreciated, while my tale is of being “left out” by my siblings, which made me highly independent. If fully expanded, both stories could be compelling reading since I have no doubt that others would see themselves in our memoirs.

A Good Memoir

Speaking of independence, I just finished Demi Moore’s book, “Inside Out: A Memoir.”  Here she is one of the top-earning actresses of our time, but her story had me in tears.  Her themes are about becoming independent to escape her reckless alcoholic mother; how her self-reliance impacted her marriages: and what it took to overcome eating and other addictions to finally make peace with her body.  She speaks with brutal honesty that connects her to the reader.  Instead of feeling like a voyeur into her star-studded lush life, I felt I could identify with her.  That’s a good memoir.

A New Memoir Class

Finally, I invite you and your friends to my memoir class at Sausalito Books by the Bay.  We’ll meet on Tuesdays from 9 – 10:30 beginning January 28.  To register call  (415) 887-9967 or sign up at https://www.sausalitobooksbythebay.com/2020-events  The cost is $180.  You can give this class as a gift to a friend or loved one.

Here in Marin County I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of the changing foliage and waterways.  But, it’s also a confusing time.  Suddenly there’s so much to do – Fleet Week, the Symphony, bonfires at the beach, classes to teach – and, yet, as the days grow colder and shorter, I want to quietly hibernate and create something new.

Time to Reflect and Read

This feels like a perfect season to reflect on the past months and the past years.  I’ve been inspired by some of the fabulous memoirs of recent months.  “Educated” by Tara Westover is a must read, even if you feel she’s exaggerated aspects of her life.  Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” is also uplifting and insightful.  If you like audio books, I recommend Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories form a South African.”  You’ll love hearing him speak African languages and dialects.  This is the story of his journey from apartheid South Africa to hosting “The Daily Show.”   For a fun read, don’t miss  “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” by Balli Kaur Jaswal.

Now What?

So, what’s next?  I plan to teach a memoir class at a local bookstore.  It’s called, “Writing your Story.”  I know everyone has a story to tell, and I can’t wait to hear the stories.  In the class, we’ll discuss our favorite memoirs and apply the authors’ best practices to our own writing.  Writing our stories will help us understand ourselves better and, hopefully, enlighten others.