Featured Stories

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90: Back to School

Back to School Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. ~Betty Friedan As I squirmed in my seat, the professor introduced herself and then looked around the room. “Before we go any further, I’d like to give each of you the chance to introduce yourself. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, including what program you are in, what you’ve been doing, and why you are pursuing a graduate education.” It had been twenty years since I had last been in a graduate-level course. As I looked around the jam-packed classroom, I realized that most of my classmates would have been mere toddlers back then. Eyeing them, I debated what to say. Honestly, I couldn’t help wondering what they were thinking about the student who was twice their age. When it was my turn, I over-explained: “My name is Kathleen Plucker, and I’ve been working as a reading tutor at an elementary school in Glastonbury for the past two years. Before that, I was a kindergarten para-professional there. But I got my M.Ed. in the mid-’90s. At the time, my parents were very opposed to my teaching, so I did not pursue certification then because I felt compelled to respect their wishes. I’ve since changed my mind about that, but that’s... (more)
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91: The First Female

The First Female If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman. ~Margaret Thatcher Recently, I was awarded the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award by my high school. This honor gave me the opportunity to speak to the students of Niles West High School. I told my student audience that a big difference between us now is perspective. They were in their seats just beginning their choices. I was standing on stage already knowing where many of my choices had taken me. I was the founding general manager of WYCC-TV Channel 20, an educational public television station in Chicago. If anyone had told me when I was graduating from Niles West that I would be responsible for putting a television station on the air in Chicago twenty years later, I would have laughed. And, more importantly, I would not have believed it was possible for me to do it. Time and perspective have given me a belief in myself, my abilities, my capacity to learn as I work, my appropriate use of my determination and energy, and my awareness that being afraid to fail won’t kill me. On a cold November day, the Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago asked for a meeting with me. As I sat across from him, I concentrated on the once-in-a-lifetime request he was making. He told me that... (more)
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92: Don’t Hammer Afraid

Don’t Hammer Afraid Coming out of your comfort zone is tough in the beginning, chaotic in the middle, and awesome in the end… because in the end, it shows you a whole new world. ~Manoj Arora I stood in the garage holding a nail in my left hand and a hammer in my right. If I was going to be an independent woman, hanging a dog leash was as good a place to start as any. I didn’t want to smash my thumb, so I pecked timidly at the nail until it sank a quarter of an inch into the rough-hewn paneling. But with the next tap, the nail went flying across the garage. “Rats!” I muttered as I searched for it. Second attempt, same result. Ditto for the third. Was this how my “new” life was going to be? I’d recently filed for divorce from my husband of thirty-five years and had moved to a small house in a quiet neighborhood. Though I’d always considered myself a fairly competent person, I quickly discovered how many things I didn’t know. Hammering a nail was only one of them. I sighed and draped the dog leash over the doorknob. My friends Steve and Lucy stopped by that afternoon to see how I was getting along. “Okay, I guess…” I told them. “Do you need help with something?” Steve asked. I told him... (more)
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93: Maximillion

Maximillion Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. ~Bernice Johnson Reagon Volvos are known for being safe cars, so that’s what I looked for when I was buying a used car. What they forgot to tell me was that finding parts or mechanics for them isn’t always easy. When my twenty-five-year-old Volvo started to cut out when I was driving, even without knowing anything about the car, I knew it was a pretty big problem. But it started up again right away, so I ignored it. In hindsight, I might not have made the best choice. And then one day, it just wouldn’t start. I had it towed to a garage that specializes in Volvos, and they got it up and running — for a week or so. Still paying off the first bill, I thought I’d ask a neighbour who fixes cars out of his garage to give it a try. He’s a Chevy guy, but a car’s a car, right? I soon found out that, in fact, Volvos are Volvos and Chevys are Chevys — and never the twain shall meet! Given that we lived on an island, I was completely stranded at home with two little kids. I didn’t have money to take taxis everywhere, and I certainly didn’t have the money to buy another car. So I finally did what any other... (more)