The approach of Mother’s Day is a bittersweet time for many boomers like myself who don’t have our mothers around anymore.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, but I never realized how much my mother influenced me until she was no longer here. I’ll stop myself and laugh when I find her voice reverberating in my head to “just put a little lipstick on, you’ll look so much better,” or when I see .04 seconds left on the microwave and open the door to take out the food — a signature move that drives my husband crazy, but seems to have been inherited by my sister and me.
My mom, Ellie, was the mother of three children, ages 11, 15 and 18, when she and my father separated. We moved shortly afterward to The Northfield Garden Apartments in our town of West Orange, N. J., where there seemed to be a disproportionate number of single moms raising families. Most of them were divorced and some were widowed, but there was a definite sense of camaraderie among us.
Those moms worked really hard. As an adult, I have a deeper appreciation for all the sacrifices they made in order to keep their families intact, sometimes having to take on the role of mother and father. For many of them, including my mother, there was a lot of pressure to make ends meet. Their time was spent selflessly working to make their kids’ lives better, with little concern for themselves. For my own mother, dating was not even on the radar, though she was an attractive woman in her mid-forties when my parents separated.
‘What You See Is What You Get’My mother taught us the value of hard work and independence. She worked two jobs as long as I can remember— mostly clerical during the week and sales on the weekend. Whatever she did, she did with zest. Although I’m sure she was tired, and albeit cranky at times, she powered through and never lost her sense of humor. I couldn’t wait to get my working papers when I was 14 so I could get an after-school job, assert my own independence and help buy my clothes.
Ellie was the epitome of a “what you see is what you get” person. She wasn’t educated past high school, but she had street smarts beyond many Harvard graduates. She imparted lessons large and small on my siblings and me, and values that have given us the wherewithal to be productive and happy adults.
Most importantly, we were taught to have gratitude for what we had. Ellie always appreciated the “little things,” and I remember her once going on and on about a new switchplate she bought that “changed the whole look” of our tiny kitchen. She had the ability to truly make the best of any situation. Oddly enough, I never felt envious of any of my wealthier friends who lived in nice homes with two parents.
Fortunately, life got easier as time went by, and Ellie eventually remarried. But she never lost her sense of gratitude and her values never changed. When Ellie passed away at 89, we celebrated her life as she requested, in a party fashion, with champagne and her favorite food.
Words of WisdomOn that day, we also displayed her Top Ten words of wisdom all around the house. Ellie’s sayings are simple but wise — here are a few examples:
1. If you’re feeling sick, take a shower and get dressed. You’ll feel much better.
2. Don’t make it a big deal. Just do it.
3. Animal prints never go out of style.
4. Something high-priced and low-cut always works.
5. Don’t waste time!
With regard to the last one, in her later years, Ellie would sleep in her gym clothes so she could get up and go right out walking when she woke up. Talk about not wasting time! Ellie never slowed down until she had to, and that is just what I plan to do, too. I may even adopt the gym clothes idea …
Of all the important life lessons Ellie taught me, I am truly convinced the biggest gift you can give your children is a sense of gratitude. To all those moms out there, in heaven and on earth, who sacrificed so much for us and taught us so well, thank you.
By Wendy Sue Knecht
Why You Should Develop Your Wanderlust
Hikers greet a herd of cows while trekking across the Karwendel mountain range in the Austrian Alps.
Wendy Sue Knecht This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.
Published: Mar 21, 2018 9:31 a.m. ET
Reap the benefits of health, happiness and gratitude on your next journey.
Some people are just lucky — they’re born with it. I’m not talking about good looks or money. I’m talking about wanderlust …. that something inside of you that just makes you want to go places, explore and of course, wander.
My own wanderlust was cultivated at a young age. Although my family never took anything but road trips growing up, my father used to regale me with bedtime stories of Gee Gee Go-Go, a fictional character who traveled all over the world on his tricycle. It’s no surprise I became a Pan Am flight attendant!
What research says travel can do for youI know, there are many reasons why the word “travel” doesn’t have the allure it once had: security, restrictions, frenzied airports and packed airplanes, to name a few. I also long for those glamorous days of travel. But although the journey may not always be as exciting as the destination these days, I still think that traveling — whether to places near or far — should be on the top of your list.
Tourists view ice buildings on display at the International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province in north China.Why? Because research shows that travelers are healthier in mind, body and spirit. These seven compelling reasons to travel might be enough to send you packing:
1. You’ll be healthier. The research is clear that travel makes us healthier, especially as we age. The Framingham Heart Study found that women who vacationed at least twice a year are healthier and much less prone to suffering a coronary event than those who vacation less frequently. A study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that men with high risk for coronary heart disease who took frequent annual vacations were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause and 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
A Global Coalition on Aging study also credits travel with helping to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s, especially with retired people. This all makes sense when you think about how stimulating the act of traveling is for your brain. Travel requires you to make new decisions, learn new routes, read maps and adapt to new situations. New adventure means negotiating new paths.
The $80 billion fitness industry sees huge growth in this demographic
2. You’ll be happier According to a Cornell University study, people can even experience a direct increase in happiness just from the act of planning a trip. I’ve seen this in action with my husband, who loves researching travel options and will spend hours on the computer, enjoying every minute of it.
For most of us, having a change of scenery to look forward to, something that takes us away from the everyday routine and stresses of life and lightens the heart, boosts the spirit. Buying “experiences” brings more satisfaction than buying “things,” according to the Cornell study.
3. You’ll relieve stress. Traveling takes you away to another world far from your normal surroundings and alleviates stress by transforming your focus.
Tourists walk through the famous Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan.A study from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who vacation at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who vacation less than once every two years. The study also found that married women who vacation are more likely to be satisfied with their marriage.
Other studies conclude that the stress reduction factor of traveling is a major contributor to longevity with men who are at high risk for coronary artery disease.
4. You’ll gain a sense of gratitude.It has been said, “It’s great to leave, and it’s great to come home.” One of the best effects of travel is the resulting increased gratitude and appreciation for what we generally take for granted. Whether you are vacationing on the French Riviera, touring rural India, visiting a national park or stopping by a town just a few hours away, these are experiences that enrich your view of the world around you. Being exposed to new surroundings and the diversity and beauty of our world leads to a greater sense of appreciation for life, and can be spiritually enlightening and gratifying.
5. You’ll make important memories. They say, “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I think that’s true. Experiences made through traveling help create deep connections with others. Whether you travel alone, with a group or with family or friends, you will cherish these memories for a lifetime.
6. You’ll be more interesting. Immersing yourself in new places and cultures opens up your world to firsthand knowledge, more than you can learn from reading alone. The enriching experience of “being there” broadens your scope of understanding and makes you more interesting all around. You’ll never run out of cocktail party conversation!
A vendor sell peanuts in Sri Lanka.
7. You’ll be more compassionate. Travel helps you make sense of the world around you. How can you effectively understand others if you haven’t seen how they live? As Mark Twain wrote in 1869 in his book, “The Innocents Abroad:”
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Almost 150 years later, these words ring true now more than ever.
The facts should be convincing; travel is good for us. Time to get packing!
Travel expert Wendy Knecht is a former flight attendant, a designer of travel bags and author of Life, Love, and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir. She blogs at WendySueKnecht.com/blog.
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2018 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
A Wonderful Day at CreativeLive in San Francisco with Joyce Maynard
It was a treat to spend the day in San Francisco with the beloved author Joyce Maynard.
I was so honored to be the luncheon speaker for the wonderful fundraising organization, Town and Gown. I spoke at their beautiful building at USC, and I could not have had a warmer reception. We had a great time, lots of laughs, and I loved talking about "the way we were," but also why we still have to keep traveling.
Traveling is the best route to self-fulfulliment and understanding... and most of all discovery! Lucky to have sister Kathy, and my dear friends and former Pan Am cohorts, Elle Feldman and the talented Philip Keene (of Major Crimes fame) in attendance. Thank you, ladies, for a truly memorable day!
Spending Time With Mom: Memories for a Lifetime
So proud to have this article about my beautiful mom, Ellie, in Next Avenue..... I am forever grateful to have had such a wonderful role model.
Wendy Knecht and her mother Ellie at her mom’s 70th surprise party at the Hollywood Park Race Track
Boomers share many common issues. If we are lucky enough to reach our 50s, 60s and beyond with one or both parents alive, caring for aging parents is likely to become one of those issues.
Aging parents can be both a blessing and a heartbreak; as the children of them, we sometimes feel as if we are waiting for the other shoe to drop, even when our parents are healthy. And when the tables turn and you are the one taking care of your mom or dad, it can be a profoundly sad experience knowing that your parent is simply not going to get better. It is the rare instance that a broken hip or cancer doesn’t signal the beginning of a downward spiral.
The Sadness of DeclineIn my case, it was a terribly difficult time when my mother got older. It was demoralizing to see her, a once vibrant woman who loved life, succumb to illness and confined to a wheelchair. She was truly a remarkable woman and loved life so much that she refused to take anything but the red-eye across country — up until the age of 87! She just didn’t want to “waste the day” traveling.
Even with the sadness, I have to say it was truly an honor to be able to be there for my mother, and I consider it a blessing that we had time to say goodbye. I didn’t have the good fortune to have that experience with my dad, who died suddenly of a heart attack on my 17th birthday.
Thinking back to this period of my mother’s decline, I realize it was the most stressful time of my life; the sleepless nights, the anxiety and jumping up when the phone rang.
Recalling a Wonderful LifeBut one thing stands out as a time of joy and gratitude for both of us in those last few months: Tthe time we shared going through my many photo albums, both the physical ones and the ones on my laptop.
I would bring them over to her nursing home, put on her favorite Frank Sinatra music in the background and watch her eyes light up as the music played and her sheer delight as we would go through the pages. We were able to relive the highlights of our lives together; it was a very special time.
Having been a Pan Am flight attendant and single until my late 40s, I was lucky to have had some great travel time with my mother. We took full advantage of my travel benefits, which took us to many places around the world — Europe, Asia and South America among them. We reveled in reminiscing about these special times while looking at the travel photos.
There were also pictures of family holidays, visits with her well-loved grandson and events and places that touched her life. Looking at all of these led to lively conversation and took us far from the nursing home walls.
Even with the bit of dementia she had developed, the pictures and music brought us both to a level of happiness and a place of gratitude.
We said a lot of “I love you so much” and “Didn’t we have fun?” To hear her say “I’ve had a wonderful life” was everything to me.
Bringing out all those good memories was truly a celebration of her life.
Grateful for Beautiful MemoriesIn sadness, there can be great beauty. I miss my mother like crazy, and I believe I always will. But I am forever grateful for these beautiful memories.
When it comes right down to it, all we have is memories. You don’t have to travel or go far away to make memories. It doesn’t have to be a cruise or an exotic locale; it can be as simple as a Saturday matinee or a Sunday brunch. But make those memories, and take the time to reflect, laugh and document them. You’ll be so glad you did.
By Wendy Sue Knecht
Travel expert Wendy Knecht is a former flight attendant, a designer of travel bags and author of Life, Love, and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir. She blogs at WendySueKnecht.com/blog.
September 5th marks the 30th anniversary of the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan. Twenty people lost their lives that day when four armed terrorists from the Abu Nidal Organization stormed the plane and held passengers hostage for 17 hours, before letting off all of their ammunition in a hail of bullets and hand grenades.
I disembarked from Flight 72 in Bombay, India, in the early morning hours of September 5th. As I exited the jetway I greeted the Indian crew, who were waiting eagerly to board Flight 73, on their way back to Karachi, and then scheduled on to Frankfurt.
As a Pan Am flight attendant working on Special Assignment, I had been sent to Bombay in February of 1986 to train our new Indian foreign national flight attendants, a bright and beautiful group of individuals. Little did I ever anticipate they would be in harm's way a mere six months later, and would be responsible for the safety and security of 379 passengers during this incredibly frightening event.
On this day, I was on my way back to India for a personal visit, and was so proud to see these wonderful new flight attendants brilliantly groomed and happy, and I gave them each a heartfelt hug before they boarded Flight 73.
The hijacking ensued after the plane landed in Karachi, as it sat on the ground waiting to make final preparations to take off. The boarding door was still open, when terrorists, dressed as security guards, stormed the plane. After being tipped off by the Purser, Neerja Bhanot, the pilots fled the cockpit, in a sanctioned security move to effectively ground the aircraft. Though this action probably saved many lives, it left the newbie flight attendants, who had just completed their six months of probationary service, to defend the passenger’s safety. Their heroic acts saved many lives.
Neerja Bhanot, chief Purser on Flight 73, lost her life that day, as she sheltered unaccompanied minors from harm. Neerja became a national hero, immortalized by her valiant deeds, and a Bollywood movie called "Neerja" released earlier this year. The movie reenacted the events that occurred on that day, and Neerja's heroism. She and her crew saved many passenger's lives by hiding American passports. When the shooting started and the hijacking came to a bloody end, the whole crew bravely protected the lives of others before their own, though Neerja sacrificed her own life in the process.
I wrote a book called Life, Love, and a Hijacking: My Pan Am Memoir, which details my involvement with the events that day and what ensued in the aftermath of Flight 73 while I was in India.
Although it was a sad day when Pan Am filed for bankruptcy on January 9, 1991, Pan Am still exists in the zeitgeist today more than ever. It is relevant as an iconic symbol of what travel was at its apex of glamor, and as the unofficial flag carrier of its day. Pan Am was truly a special airline, and its former employees around the world still very much consider one another “family.”
Today, people reminisce with awe about Pan Am, the carrier that literally launched international flights and was the trailblazer of the jet age. Those too young to have flown on Pan Am are intrigued by the prospect of what air travel on Pan Am used to be. Pan Am wearables, bags, flight trinkets and souvenirs are cherished, and are sought after items for young and old alike.
Here in Los Angeles, we will commemorate the 30th anniversary of Pan Am Flight 73 with a private Indian dinner attended by ex- Pan Amers, friends, and family. We will be honored to have a passenger from the flight in attendance with her family. A fifteen-year-old unaccompanied minor at the time, she will give a presentation on her experiences and insights on that fateful day.
We will honor Neerja Bhanot, the entire crew of Pan Am Flight 73, the passengers who lost their lives and those who forever have the terror of this event emblazoned on their heart. Terrorism may still exist today, but the heros of these monumental events of our nation’s history shall never be forgotten, and neither will Pan Am.
I Prefer to Move Forward, Not Retire....8 Ways to Get More Out of the Second Half of Life
July 27, 2016
Credit: Getty Images
There are many advantages to being an older worker or an older business owner. You’re smarter (“been there done that”) and can problem-solve a lot more quickly than your younger, more inexperienced self. So if your work gives you purpose and enjoyment, why “retire?”
And if you’re less than pleased with your current work, being older might give you the perfect out to leave and become involved with something that might be your genuine passion.
Personally, instead of the word “retire,” I prefer the phrase “moving forward.”
The Joys of Moving Forward
Moving forward, I think, is a better description of the opportunity we have as older adults to capitalize on our experience, to contribute to the world and to live a vital life — hopefully a long and healthy one.
You don't have to “retire” in the literal sense. As C. S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
You don’t have to “retire” in the literal sense. You can reframe, re-energize and reboot! Remember, as C. S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
In fact, starting something new may just keep you young.
One of the great assets of getting older and launching a new venture is that your life doesn’t depend on it. Although the experience can be stressful, you know you’ll be OK, no matter what happens.
The most important thing, which becomes increasingly apparent as we age, is to make the best use of your time.
As someone who always has had a lot going on, with simultaneous family, career and volunteer endeavors, I’ve learned to make the most of every minute. Having the perspective of years has given me a good handle on keeping my priorities straight and making the most of my time.
8 Ways to Move Forward
Whether you’re considering pursuing a new business or hobby or just don’t want to retire, here are eight ways to move forward with ease and passion:
1. Do things that excite you. Somehow you always make time for them. And they’ll give you energy. You’ll always get more out of life and work when you’re energized.
2. Set new goals. This will keep you invigorated. Sometimes the most challenging goal ultimately becomes the most exciting one.
Have you ever gone out for a hike or a workout and felt you were so tired you didn’t think you could make it? But once you did it, even if you had to push yourself, you found you had much more energy than when you started? And you were so happy that you pushed yourself.
Enjoy the journey — and the satisfaction that comes with reaching a new goal.
3. Don’t set limitations for your life or your business. There’s no reason to succumb to some preconceived notion or someone telling you it’s time to slow down. Ignore any judgmental remarks or the idea that you have to “settle.”
Personally, I abhor being around people with this type of mindset. Setting limitations is just that… limiting.
Whenever anyone tries to tell me why I shouldn’t do something, my favorite response is: “That’s your limitation.” I learned that great retort from Diana Nyad, who, on her fifth attempt and at age 64, swam 110 miles from Cuba to the shores of Miami.
4. Let go of what (and who) is dragging you down. I am talking about so-called friendships with people who interfere with your moving forward. If you have any of these, it’s time to gently remove the emotionally draining relationships from your life. By doing so, you’ll create space for more important and rewarding relationships.
5. Just say “no.” One advantage of having lived a bit: knowing what you want and what you don’t. Saying “no” is a confidence builder and can be very liberating.
6. Exercise regularly. Getting your blood flowing will make you more creative and imaginative, aside from the obvious health benefits. And health truly is wealth; any other advice is moot if you don’t have it.
7. Travel frequently. Visiting new places gives you an appreciation for life and broadens your worldview (literally and figuratively), even if you’re only traveling to a nearby city. Traveling also opens up your imagination. The insights you gain will seep into all aspects of your life. One thing is for sure: you will be a more interesting person.
8. Take time to be alone. By taking one-on-one time for yourself, you’ll be able to filter out distractions and be more productive. Meditation is an excellent way to achieve this, but an hour walking alone can produce the same results. Taking time to “center” will help make sense of the chatter around you, allowing you to grab the greatest benefits out of life.
Here’s hoping you keep moving forward.
Keys to Maintaining a Healthy MarriageBy Wendy Knecht
"How can I miss you if you don’t ever leave?” I am not sure what country western song these lyrics came from, but the ring of truth is universal. Let’s face it. A little bit of absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder, or at least one would hope that is the case.
As an international flight attendant, my life was all about coming and going — sometimes for a week or ten days at a time. It was hard to find that special someone, and I always thought it was my crazy lifestyle. But after meeting my husband at the innocent age of 45, I realize now that all of that coming and going, which was second nature to me, is also what is helping to keep our now 11-year marriage alive and exciting.
At the beginning of our marriage, before I hung up my wings, I was on a leave of absence from the airlines, but working a lot at QVC, in Philadelphia, hawking my designs and other company’s products as well. Meanwhile, my new husband was back in Los Angeles, going into his office daily, doing his doctor stuff, as he always did. Whenever I would ask him on the phone “What are you doing?” his snarky response was always, “Waiting for you to come home.” Yes, this did invoke guilt, even if he meant it jokingly. I knew he wasn’t exactly pining away for me, but I knew he wasn’t putting out much energy to make plans with his friends, as I would have been doing had I been the one at home.
Any absence seems like too much when a relationship is new, and the reunion is always full of sparks. When I went back to flying for a while before I quit, the away time seemed to be too much to bear for both of us. One of the reasons I quit is that I would just rather have been doing my traveling when I chose to, and I had too many other entrepreneurial interests that I wanted to spend my time on.
After I quit flying, we had tons of together time, which was fabulous. As time went by, as in any relationship, the newness and excitement wore away a bit, which is completely normal. So much can be said for just feeling comfortable and secure. It’s a wonderful feeling of knowing that your significant other is always there for you, and the comfort level makes you feel pretty smug. For me, it also made me a little nervous…
As much as I loved (and still love) spending time with my husband, I did realize that too much togetherness may not be the best thing for our marriage. For me, my many years of singledom had blessed me with many friends from many walks of life. My husband had friends too, lots of them. But men seem to be a little different, and it seems that unless a man is a real “guy’s guy,” they just don’t seem to put the energy out to cultivate friendships and get together like women do. I realized that it would be important for him to have significant friendships, and I encouraged him to develop these friendships. I used to laugh when someone would invite him to a baseball or hockey game, and he would call me to see ask permission. So sweet, but seriously? “Go and enjoy, of course, you don’t have to ask,” I always replied.
Finally, he’s seen the light, too. He has his hiking group on Saturday mornings, his poker group every other Tuesday, and loves his fishing and skiing expeditions out of town with the boys. I totally enjoy having my girl’s weekends away, traveling for business, or just taking a few days off and going to New York, alone. It’s good for our marriage and serves to make us both more interesting to each other. And when you go away, they really do miss you.
Yes, we take plenty of long weekends and incredible vacations together. But cultivating separate interests and having our time apart is what keeps our relationship fresh and exciting. Personally, I love the yin and the yang of having time apart coupled with intense time together. The time apart keeps the spark and mystery alive in our marriage, and a little longing adds a lot of appreciation.
A mixture of what's old and what's new in the world of Pan Am, airline travel, general adventure and of course, Life and Love...