When people become residents at Jewish Senior Life, they bring with them stories from the previous chapters of their lives and begin to write a new one with us. They are a source of inspiration – not just for their fascinating, full lives but also for the way they continue to live with purpose and to grow.
I know from my own experience that it’s never too late to add a new chapter in the book of your own life. As someone who has transformed myself through the years, I laugh at the many photos of me at different stages…
As a child, sprawling on the floor of my West Bloomfield bedroom using crayons and drawing on manilla paper or simply and lazily filling in the pages of coloring books. I daydreamed about my life and visualized myself as a teacher of young children. From age 11 through high school, I spent a great deal of time babysitting for cousins and neighbors. So when it came time to make decisions in college, I selected education and theatre classes focusing on an early childhood degree from Eastern Michigan University. I continued working my way through school putting in time as camp counselor for the JCC Safari Junior program.
After graduating, I accepted a position as Director of a preschool in Southfield for several years until my own children arrived. During that time, I felt the urge to be creative and began a business that continues to exist to this day. Remember when hand-painted clothing was a new thing? The Jodash Company (Jo-, not to be confused with Jordash) sold clothes at boutiques in six states, with accounting by and moral support from Jay Kalisky.
Ten years later, I went back to school at what was then the Center for Creative Studies, where classes in painting and design inspired me to delve deeply into watercolor and acrylics. I found buyers for my art and then employed agents to sell my work across the country. Donating artwork to local nonprofits for their fundraising pleased me more than anything. While my children grew, I volunteered in Birmingham Schools, continued to dabble in the arts scene, opened a Southfield gallery with other artists, planned art openings, dressed to suit my moods and, on a whim, dyed my hair red.
In 2000, I considered myself brave when I divorced my husband and jumped into the workforce, accepting a new position as Assistant Director for the American Technion Society. Over the course of eight years working to further the mission of Technion, a high-tech Israeli University, I was mentored by the best fundraisers in the business, traveled to Israel several times and learned a tremendous amount about both cutting-edge research and what motivates people to support good work.
That chapter came to an abrupt end for ten Technion directors around the country, laid off as collateral damage of the Madoff Scandal. Devastated but undeterred, I became Director of Planned Gifts for the American Cancer Society. I spent eight years (no seven-year itch here) traveling around Michigan meeting with Estate Planning Advisors to understand their clients’ values and goals, raising millions for cancer research.
I worked hard and I loved it. During this time, I became Bubjo, a grandma twice over. Life was full and interesting and fun, and I was hopeful for the future. I met my darling husband, a cancer survivor, on match.com. And then I lost my beloved father in 2016. It seemed that life was opening for me in new directions and, through my losses, I gained so much.
In October 2018, I was offered a role that felt like the culmination of my professional and community experiences – Executive Director of Development for Jewish Senior Life. Back in the bosom of the Jewish community, my silver hair and I fit right in. I studied and discovered important issues on aging and ageism, contributing columns to the JN. Inspired by interviews I had with residents, their families, volunteers and community leaders, I started a weekly newsletter for JSL that serves as a soapbox to share my thoughts and highlight the terrific people I work with.
As I continue to learn about aging – and to age – I find that it can be graceful and meaningful. Older adults have opened themselves to me about their lives, their hopes, and dreams and I am always struck by the power of these moments. So I encourage our community to find older adults’ interests ... interesting. Charged with leading Eight Over Eighty, the agency’s largest fundraiser, among other grant writing and agency leadership, life is different than I imagined it would be. I continue to look for the helpers and the good and, although we are all struggling with the pandemic and climate change worldwide, I seek out daily moments of gratitude for those around me who make a difference for the people they love.
For every chapter of my life – and any small way I show up in a chapter of someone else’s – I am grateful for the experiences that have brought me to the present. I love hearing from people who have learned about Jewish Senior Life through my writing and from families that have benefited from our services. A proud senior myself, I consider my own accomplishments chopped liver compared to the growth and achievements of my (now four) grandchildren.
May the milestones that we achieve continue to help us grow courageously and in good health.