Celebrate Turning 70 with Lee

Dear precious woman,

When our children are young, we teach them: NEVER ask a woman her age. I’m sure it makes no sense to the young mind who counts age as a victory; feeling smug to be older than her sisters, brothers and friends.

So what’s the big deal with age? I really don’t have an answer, and yet there seems to be a predictable cycle of: 1. telling  2.hiding (minimizing or fibbing) and 3. telling again—and usually followed by applause.  An interesting full circle, but hey, youth is worshiped in many, many circles, so it is an understandable American oddity.

Lee, who just turned 70 is not only at the point of ‘telling’ again, she threw herself a party. As you read her words, you’ll probably notice the wealth in her life—wealth, measured on many levels.

Lee tells us: “I was an elementary principal who was recognized as a National Distinguished Principal in 2008. Currently I am the Program Director for the Arizona Educational Foundation and adjunct faculty at Columbia University. In my free time, I’m involved in various roles at St. John’s Episcopal Church, work in my garden, attend cultural events, read and paint, spend time with friends; and I work to bring purpose to my life. “

Here are her answers to the four questions:

What have you learned so far?
“Resilience. The human mind, body and spirit are resilient. We can recover, spring back into shape or reshape when adversity drops in to visit itself upon our lives. Suddenly finding myself divorced after a 30-year marriage I have built a life I never even dreamed of and I am now strangely grateful that I was left in the rubble of a broken relationship.

“I had to build a new foundation based only on Lee, so for the first time in my life I was not working to please others. I have continued to be surprised and grateful that the core of my being has proven resilient; able to withstand adversity, sadness, grief, guilt, failure and setbacks. That same resilience has made me so happy to be 70 and confident that I still have more to live, give, love, overcome, understand, know, appreciate and be. Nothing is etched in stone.â€

What will you do to mark your 70th birthday?
“Love. In the end it is all about love. Love yourself. Let others love you and love them right back. I am throwing myself a Saturday afternoon cocktail party for 33 wonderful friends and dear family.

“The group includes my sister who is now also a friend after a lifetime of semi-estrangement; 4 sisters of the heart who have supported me in terrible times and celebrated with me in the best of times; a couple of daughters of the heart who amaze me with their strength of character; my co-conspirator church ladies who enrich my life; my former office ladies who laughed and cried with me in my days as a principal; old and new friends who bring out the best in me; relatives with whom I feel powerful threads of connection; a lovely man, an unexpected gift of life, who can make me laugh until I cry and who seems to like me just the way I am.

“There will be other people there, too, but I could not email them an invitation because they are nowhere and everywhere. They loved me, too: My parents Peggy and Arvi, Aiti, Uncle Hal, Aunt Martha, Dee, John Boy. I loved them right back and still do.â€

What are your dreams for the future?
“Live. Live a long life every day. So much of my life in the past has been programmed so I did not need to really consider the future as something to dream about other than what I would like to next achieve, accomplish or buy. These were concrete things to list, put in a scrapbook, save money for, take a picture of, write on a calendar or tell a story about.

“Now I dream that my future is more about deepening my understanding of myself, learning to just embrace life; not working to control it, but flow with it. I dream about making the inside of my life as beautiful as it looks on the outside. This will not be easy, but I think it will bring me true joy now and will prepare me for what I worry about.â€

What do you worry about?
“Isolation. I watched my mother Peggy’s life shrink down to a very small universe as her eyesight diminished, her hands became gnarled and weak, and her mobility became compromised. In spite of all of these physical limitations, she continued until the last hours of her life to reach out to others and stay vital. We became very close in the final days of her life, and it occurred to me then that I will not have me should I become so frail; that scared me badly. I was a very good daughter who looked out for her mother in all ways. Who would do that for me?

“I have since come to realize that very little would have been different for Peggy had I not been around. She would have been fine because of what she carried inside her: grace. She enriched people’s lives right up to the end and, as a result, was never isolated. When I grow up, I want to be Peggy.â€


Lee is not old, yet we get the sense that her age makes it possible to sustain deep friendships—thus the term “old friends.†Here old translates to resilient relationships; the kind of friends who are able to share many stories of the joy of victory over past disappointments. Her party guests may not even know each other because they come from the diversity of her many lives within this one life she is living.

She echoes the Beatles’ song, “All You Need is Love†while reflecting on what really matters after the chaff falls away, leaving only the precious. After all is said and done, the worst days turned out to be the blessing she didn’t expect, and like a lovely green plant, new branches keep her filled with expectation and hope for tomorrow.

Trust overpowers her fear of isolation. Wisdom tells her that she’ll be cared for now and always. How lovely. We applaud you for sharing your 70th with us, Lee!
May the love you hold for yourself and others build your confidence,


P.S. If you missed reading about other women turning a new decade, here are six other amazing women!
10-Bailey: “I used to play on an all boys soccer team and I was the only girl. I had to play a little more physical than how I play on the girls’ team now but I’m really glad I did it. I think it made me a better player.â€
20-Kat: “I am trying to do things that make me happy and I’m trying to stay off of Netflix. No good story started out with, ‘This one time, I was watching Netflix and….’â€

30-Niamh: “I’m scared and excited to find out what this next decade has in store for me, but I’m strapped in and ready to take the next ride.†https://whalenvoices.com/2016/07/15/celebrate-turning-30-with-niamh/
40-Tinisha: “My greatest successes are those that I did not think that I could achieve. There is something extra rewarding in turning your ‘I cant’s’ into ‘I cans.’â€

50-Dawn: “Life is about celebrating the little things, special moments, important people, and making memories.†https://whalenvoices.com/2016/07/29/celebrate-turning-50-with-dawn/)

60-Linda “Taking a holistic approach to life has made this transition into a new decade much easier. It has been a time of reflection. It has been a journey of self-actualization.†https://whalenvoices.com/2016/08/04/celebrate-turning-60-with-linda/)

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