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Get a grip on yourself! (10/16/2011)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Being one among the sisterhood of older Baby Boomer gals, many of us retired (and tired,) it blows my mind to note all of the new-fangled, time-saving gadgets and gismos, (some known as house husbands,) as well as unimaginable marvels of communication, conceived during our lifetimes.

Not all of us Boomer wives were Harley mamas, college dropouts, Beatniks, Woodstock revelers, or bohemian types who idolized writers and poets of New York City’s Greenwich Village, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. That could have been me, but I tried to keep my wits about me. For thirty-seven years, it was my fate to be a bookkeeper, because Pat and his brother Denny needed one for their new construction business, and I was home then anyway, with three little ones, doing daycare.

Brought up to “make do,” I wasn’t easily adaptable to change, intimidated by overwhelming operating manuals. When it came to my hand- written ledgers, I was on the defensive. They always came out right (eventually,) after long, tedious hours, bending to row upon row of figures, and unnerved by the tinny clank of the rinky-dink adding machine.

Our office supply guy Harry, from Winona Typewriter, along with his cheerful, make-my-day conversation, dropped off these button-pushing, blinking, flashing, beeping endowments of invention, snubbing “old school” bookkeepers. With the intrusion of a brand new computer, already programmed in my absence, strategically placed next to my desk, I lost it! “I don’t know how to use that thing! I’m too old to conform to all this progress!” Pat finally calmed me down by explaining that he just wanted us to get acquainted with a computer for when we might wish to spend less time in the office.

Suspiciously, a Microsoft Word program happened to be installed already. It became too tempting to ignore, and soon I was entering my poems and articles, writing letters, and playing draw poker on the thing.

One morning, a pleasant, soft-spoken fella, who turned out to be almost unbelievably patient, was waiting for me at my electrically-charged office. I reluctantly learned the Quick Books business program, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment. With the computer, there was no more backbreaking bending over office work. I’m forever grateful, Chip Montgomery!

I’ve always been a neat nick. In my fussbudget days, which consumed way too much of my precious time, I tortured my aching back into conniption fits and contortions. “Doesn’t anyone else ever bend over and pick anything up?” I couldn’t live with clutter in my space! Since the first brides uttered “I do” at the marriage altar, woman’s fate seems to be bending their bodies and backs to the unending tasks at hand.

So often, now, physically challenged with a debilitating disease, I wish that I had all the time and energy back that I squandered on trivial busywork and nitpicking. I should have mellowed out more often, and joined in some invigorating child’s play. For years, I’ve suffered from a chronic, unfixable, whiner’s backache, when I, basically, do anything that requires movement of any body part except my brain, which is conveniently on “automatic pilot.”

When I discovered the gripper stick, no owner’s manual or assembly required, I thought it was the most ingenious invention since Jell-O, Velcro and even my efficient calculator! It was to be my back-saver all around the house and camper! That was until my obsession took over.

Where I once used my gripper stick to pick up twigs and stones before Pat mowed the lawn, I find my creaky bones bending to natural treasures that captivate and enthrall me! In order to behold and scrutinize Mother Earth, to feel the throb of her heart, to smell her essence, and to note each unique particle with astonishment, gently gather a mesmerizing collection from the master’s bounty and sink your fingers into breathing dirt. My miniature “forest floors” are balm to my soul. The weakened back forgets its pain in this fantasy.

Every day is abundant with possibility. Seek out the treasures. Pain and misery aren’t worth precious time wasted.

Janet Burns is a lifelong resident of Lewiston. She can be reached at




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