I am an Xer as defined by being born between 1965 – 1979, though some demographers argue the range to be 1961 – 1981 because, when asked, those born after1960 typically self identify as Generation X. If I were making the rules, I’d say 1960 – 1979, and, really, that fits nicely in with one of the aspects of being an Xer–not conforming to convention.
Sandwiched between two larger demographic groups–Baby Boomers and Millenials–we don’t seem to get as much attention these days, and that tends to suit us as we like to “just quietly do our thing.”
I found it interesting to do the research for this post. At times I read about my generation and nodded my head in recognition with such descriptions as private, self-reliant, and unimpressed by authority. I hasten to add that the latter doesn’t mean a lack of respect, but rather a lack of hero worship. Mike (Hubs) and I had a major discussion about what mentorship meant, with my intense dislike of the term, whereas he didn’t necessarily view it negatively.
Some points that didn’t fit me personally: edgy, skeptical (at one time I was, but a relationship with our Lord and Savior can work wonders in that respect), latchkey kid (my mother didn’t work outside the home), child of divorce (my parents were married for 54 years when my dad passed away), bleak, cynical, disaffected. Culturally, I don’t identify with MTV–we didn’t have cable tv growing up–or Friends. In fact, I found the cast of that tv show irritating. They certainly didn’t speak for me, nor did I hang out with people like them.
I liked (and still like) Seinfeld, though, and some grunge tunes found their way into my favorites when I was in my twenties. Some of the movies from my younger days bring back fond memories–Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to mind. Bueller, Bueller. . .
Although once considered aimless and unfocused, our generation is responsible for an entrepreneurial spirit, creating many start ups and small businesses. Also dubbed Generation 1099, more Xers found themselves filing form 1099 rather than a W-2 when paying taxes, a fact I totally identify with as being self-employed most of my working years. I love being my own boss, not having anyone trying to micro-manage me or direct my life.
Oddly, when reviewing the different generations, I also discovered aspects of the Silent Generation that formed the person I am today. Growing up in rural America, on a farm with parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles of that generation, some of those good qualities were bound to rub off. Hard work, reverence, loyalty, responsibility, caring for your neighbor.
So what does that make me, a Silent Xer?
I found this in my files from roughly thirteen years ago when folks routinely forwarded little snippets of interest from around the Internet. I have no idea where it originated, but what follows here is the message exactly as I received it.
When we build our new home with designated laundry room, this will be framed and hanging over my washer.
Image courtesy of olddesignshop.com.
Years ago a Kentucky grandmother gave the new bride the following recipe
for washing clothes. It appears below just as it was written, and despite the spelling, has a bit of philosophy. This is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook (with spelling errors and all).
1. Bilt fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water.
2. Set tubs so smoke wont blow in eyes if wind is pert.
3. Shave one hole cake of lie soap in bilin water.
4. Sort things, make 3 piles. 1 pile white, 1 pile colored, 1 pile work
britches and rags.
5. To make starch, stir flour in cool water to smooth, then thin down
with bilin water.
6. Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, and then
bile. Rub colored don’t bile, just rinch and starch.
7. Take things out of kettle with broomstick handle, then rinch, and
8. Hang old rags on fence.
9. Spread tea towels on grass.
10. Pore rinch water in flower bed.
11. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
12. Turn tubs upside down.
13. Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs. Brew cup of tea,
sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.
* * * Paste this over your washer and dryer and next time when you think
things are bleak, read it again and give thanks for your blessings!
Cheery sight these are to see
though not planted by me.
Popping heads through soil
not by my toil.
Reaching for sun
the volunteers come.
Taking up space
in the wrong place.
But I haven’t the heart
to tear them apart.
Yank from their warm bed
despite what gardeners have said.
So they stubbornly stay
to grow another day.
Wouldn’t have it any other way.
My brother snapped this picture, probably a decade ago by now, from my cousin’s farm, which is adjacent to our property. (Part of the original farm our grandfather owned.) My cousin, who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation, was so embarrassed of these two unlikely friends who spent so much time together.
This picture reveals why they became friends. My guess is after her own calf was separated from her, somehow she adopted the pig to nurse off her and be her new baby. So the cow got her mothering needs met and the pig enjoyed fine dining.
I have kept the pics all these long years because, upon seeing them, they still make me smile.
Confession time: I’ve never been great at keeping a journal. Just not my thing, even though I am a writer. But for more than a year and a half I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal.
I started out doing something called the examen which had its roots in The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius. The gist of it is that at the end of the day, you write down the moment you are most grateful for as well as the moment you are least grateful for. The former cultivates gratitude, the latter awareness of possible patterns in life and areas that might need to be addressed.
After six months of doing the examen, I decided to change the way I spent those few moments in reflection. I simply wrote down what I was grateful for that day. Not that I ignored the bad or pretended it didn’t exist, just that I chose to focus on the positive.
What I have noticed from this little daily exercise is that slowly but surely, it is shaping my perspective. I am more optimistic. I am more content. I complain less. I am more in tune with the hundreds of blessings all around me in my day-to-day existence. I am more careful to choose my words because I truly believe they direct the course of my life.
Keeping a gratitude journal need not be difficult. First, choose a journal that you like. (Mine is pictured above with my favorite coffee mug.) My friend Patty bought me this beautiful leather-bound journal with a tree embossed on the cover and a bead and leather strap to secure it. I love the way it looks. It’s so me.
Next, decide how you will go about keeping your gratitude journal. Maybe you like the idea of the examen or simply jotting down something you are thankful for every day, as I do. Or maybe the thought of doing this daily feels like one more thing on your to-do list. Setting aside some time once a week might work better for you, then. Whatever you decide, I would suggest that you don’t beat yourself up over any missed days. It’s not about leaving a perfect record for every day or choosing a specific number of items you will list. The point of this practice is to change your attitude. Perfection has nothing to do with it.
Finally, choose a time of day that best works for you. Typically I will review the previous day the following morning, though not always. If something that morning occurs to me, I write it down. I have no set amount of items to list. Often I do about three, but I have listed anywhere from one to half a dozen. There are no rules, unless you make them.
Try it for yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised by your changed outlook!
I lost a good friend to cancer last week—Andrea Heiberg. Having no sisters of my own, I called her my Danish sister. We met about ten years ago when she found my editing website. She’d been looking for an American editor to help her realize her dream of writing in English—her second language. While the initial book we worked on together was never published, a collection of her short stories was—Next Stop: Sejer Island. It’s a great book, by the way.
Our friendship grew from our working relationship, and we often shared pictures and stories from our lives. We discovered that we’d both been raised on a farm and had a similar appreciation for the little things in life. And while I’ve worked with other foreign writers, there was this connection between us that’s hard to explain. Language was rarely a barrier. We just seemed to get each other.
Andrea was an amazing poet, and it’s sad for me to think no one will ever see most of hers. I’d like to share two of them today because she wrote one of them for me, and the other she entered in a contest I held years ago on my editing website.
This first poem, which won my contest, she wrote as a tribute to American service men on Veteran’s Day.
The Grass is Green
and whatever sky,
I tell you
I saw it
with my own eyes
I met my roadside
I heard no birds
She wrote this poem from one farm girl to another.
The Stable Minute
The dim light,
the sound of 68 cows,
the smell so clinical clean,
the sound of the machine
animals lined up chewing
and Dad working hard to keep us all alive
saying good morning
in her cow language
and me saying the same
teaching her to speak properly.
Andrea, I will miss your friendship, your wonderful sense of humor, and your amazing words. See you later, my dear sister!
Every kid of that generation
Little red wagon
Made of sturdy metal
great for hauling:
You don’t see those
flyers much anymore.
Today’s wagons are plastic,
soft edges, soothing colors.
They don’t make kids or wagons
the way they used to.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges
So I like having simple meals. Easy and ready to go. This is a Friday night staple in our house. It’s low carb—but it doesn’t have to be if that’s not your thing. It starts with a tortilla or flatbread, marinara or spaghetti sauce from a jar, shredded cheese, and those sliced pepperonis in the lunchmeat section of the store. Beyond that, toppings are cook’s choice.
–1 low carb tortilla or flatbread (I use Aldi’s store brand Fit and Active original flatbread)
–2 – 3 tablespoons of marinara or spaghetti sauce
–12 slices of pepperoni
–1/3 cup of pizza cheese (I use this wonderful cheese originating in St. Louis called “provel.” Amazing stuff!)
–a little olive oil for the flatbread
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Apply a thin coating of oil to both sides of the flatbread, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes until slightly brown and a little crispy. Spread marinara on flatbread to the edges and layer pepperoni slices on top. Sprinkle cheese over that and slip back into the oven for 8 – 10 minutes until the cheese starts to brown. Enjoy!
Notes: You can use regular flatbread or tortilla for a base. For a softer crust, skip baking the flatbread alone and go right to putting on the toppings and baking the pizza. I sometimes put mushrooms and onions on the pizza. If sliced thin, they’ll cook or you can briefly microwave them to soften before layering on the pizza. Pre-cooked sausage is also good on these.
When I was a kid, I heard a lot about old-timers. The old-timers say never plant garden before May 15. The old-timers say lard makes the best pie crust. The old-timers say a bargain isn’t a bargain unless you need it. . . .
I’d see them everywhere, these old-timers. Farm supply stores. The old mercantile with the floors that creaked. County fairs and festivals. A bench in the shade on Main Street. They were our sages. Weathered. Seasoned. These men and women connected us to wisdom from another day. Sound, practical, downright stubborn advice in the face of everything modern.
I remember being in awe of these folks, particularly when they took a moment to notice me. Sometimes a pat on the head. Other times a simple “You must be Gary and Ann’s girl.”
Old-timer sightings are rare these days. Like passenger pigeon rare. Why is that? Underappreciated? Micro-managed from well-meaning family members or the “it’s for your own good” crowd? Less welcome in the market place?
What does that say to our children and grandchildren? I realize kids are busy these days, with schedules rivaling a CEO, but it seems to me we’re losing something valuable. Old skills, practical solutions. Tried and true remedies. Connection to those who have gone before us.
I propose we do something different. Try talking to the voices of experience. Ask a simple question. Start with relatives and neighbors. Folks from church. Plenty of gold to be mined there.
God willing, we’ll be old-timers someday.