Happy birthday to me ♫


Today, September 17, I received birthday emails from my dentist, my eye doctor, my everyday doctor, and my bank. In the past, I have sneered at these types of marketing ploys and have inwardly labeled them as ungenuine and self-serving.

On this day, though, and in part because these emails were the only birthday wishes I had so far received (with the exception of a text from my daughter), I noticed the sneer was nearly gone. I attribute this softening in part to my age (which is older than it used to be) and to my slowly growing acceptance, it seems, that the world—including its marketing arm—is what it is.

While showering, I also noticed I was thinking about the word “grit.” It is one that is bandied about these days in education circles, and it has to do with a recognition that students not only need academic skills to succeed but also need “noncognitive competencies” to have a successful launch. Those who possess grit, then, have developed the inner resources that enable them to persevere even in the face of significant suffering. One of the many reasons I prefer working with community college students to working with students at four-year institutions is that so many of them have had to overcome great hardship to get to college, and they show their “grit” in all that they say and do.

I can relate well to the many struggles of the students I have known. When I look back on my years, I see that I, too, had learned to rely on my inner strength and on my sense of purpose when it seemed there was no one else to support and help me.

From childhood, mine has not been an easy life: Broken home. Broken marriages. Broken heart. But, I have more than survived the many difficulties, and I am still here, on September 17, to wish myself a happy birthday and to be grateful I have been given the possibility of one more year.


Former President Carter ill with advanced cancer

Jimmy Carter

A number of years ago, I was in the women’s department of Macy’s in downtown Washington, DC, searching for a winter coat. I looked up from the rack where I was browsing and first saw a flank of dark-suited men forming something of a semicircle around a distinguished-looking, elderly gentleman who was sitting quietly on a chair near the dressing room. He seemed very familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him. I then looked in another direction, saw an elegant woman winding her way through the clothes racks, and thought she was familiar as well. It suddenly became very quiet, and I had the sense that I was the only other person in the store—though I don’t think that was actually true. Then, it slowly came to me that I was just feet away from former President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and a Secret Service detail. Something took me over and gave me courage and wings as I watched myself nearly fly to him and blurt out, “President Carter, you are my hero.” Until that moment, I hadn’t known I felt that way, but I surely did. And, I do still.