Think “reproductive freedom” and what comes to mind?  Birth control?  Abortion-on-demand?  The freedom, in short, not to reproduce while indulging in the activity specifically designed for reproduction?

What I’m thankful for is the inverse.

My generation grew up in the days of Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and fears that the world would outgrow its food supply by the mid-1980s.  It was seriously suggested that giving aid to distressed peoples was morally wrong, on the grounds that helping them now would only enable them to reproduce and then more people would starve to death later. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 6:22 am | Edit
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Overall, society has become much ruder, cruder, and lewder than it was 50, or even 25, years ago.  But sexual harassment, if hardly a thing of the past, is at least—like smoking—generally disapproved of, and the woman on the receiving end of a “friendly” pat on the rear from her boss or suggestive remarks from her co-workers now has legal recourse.  In the past, enduring such treatment was often considered as much a part of the job as making coffee.  (On a personal note, I worked with great people and did not have this kind of problem myself.  I didn’t make the coffee, either.)

Maybe we’ve gone too far in enforcing the new rules—suspending a kindergartener for kissing a classmate comes to mind—but for the most part they are in place because they are necessary.  I’m thankful for this civility.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 6:25 am | Edit
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It’s okay—it’s good—to be thankful for small things, too.  It may not be an earthshaking improvement, but I’m thankful for digital cameras.  One key to taking good photographs is taking lots of photographs, and in times past only the professional could afford to do so.  Now anyone can.

Digital cameras are also great for children.  Instant feedback is so much more satisfying than waiting to finish the roll of film so it could be developed—and not wanting to waste any pictures because film + developing = a lot of money.  Now there are cameras that let the youngest learn to take good photographs.

What’s more, good cameras—even video cameras—are small enough to carry in a purse.  A small purse!  Our first video camera was a huge monster that took full-sized VHS tapes.

Organizing photos into albums has never been easier, and there are so many more wonderful things you can do to present them.  On the other hand, having so many more pictures and options makes more work, even if the work is easier.

But that’s a minor quibble.  I love my tiny, handy, good-quality digital camera!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 6:27 am | Edit
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There’s no doubt the sociological upheavals caused by the so-called Women’s Liberation Movement have done much harm, but one great thing to come out of that time is a greater closeness between fathers and their children. 

My father was always actively involved with his children—unusually so for that generation, I believe—even before my mother’s early death forced him to take on double parenting duty.  And yet in his journals of our early years he always refers to the times my mother was not at home as times when he was “babysitting the children.”  No one I know with young children in this century would even think such a thought, much less express it.  How can one “babysit” one’s own child? (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 6:18 am | Edit
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It’s quite possible that the environment we live in is in worse shape now than 50 years ago, especially in places like China and Africa.  But here, now, it looks, tastes, and smells a lot better.  And not just because fewer people are smoking.

I remember when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire, and when it was said you could develop film in the Genesee downstream from the Kodak factory.  My father worked for General Electric in Schenectady, and used to say that they returned the water to the Mohawk cleaner than it was when they took it out, which was no doubt true but should not be taken as an endorsement of the effluent. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 12, 2010 at 6:02 am | Edit
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What would today be without being thankful for our veterans, and all who work and sacrifice to protect the rest of us?

In the spirit of the Good New Days, I’m also thankful for our all-volunteer military.  The military draft cast a long, difficult, and painful shadow on life in the 1960s and 70s.  In that respect it is much better to be young today.  A career in the armed services can be a very good choice—but it should be just that, a choice.  It’s better for families, for society, and for the military as well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6:24 am | Edit
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A couple of generations ago, overseas travel for pleasure was only for the rich.  Even business travel was uncommon, unless one was a missionary or in the military.  Today we visit our family in Switzerland more frequently, with less effort, and possibly even with less relative expense than my family travelled from New York to Florida to visit my grandparents when I was young.

Telephone service was once so expensive that long distance calls (remember long distance?) had to be kept brief—as in just a few minutes.  Overseas calls were out of the question most of the time.  Today our grandchildren have long conversations with us on the phone, and we can call Switzerland at six cents a minute.  Skype costs even less (less as in free); the quality may not be as good as I'd like, but it allows us to see each other.  The long-dreamed-of video phone is here! (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 6:37 am | Edit
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Nobody likes to be sick, and especially nobody likes children to be sick.  But if you are a child, today is a much better time than 50 years ago to face a mild illness.  I don’t mean because of all the new vaccines—I actually look back with some fondness on the days of chicken pox, measles, and German measles.  (I missed out on that other great disease of early childhood, mumps, despite repeated visits to my friend when she was afflicted.)  Nor do I mean the obvious improvements in the treatment of many diseases, and in emergency medicine, not that I’m not grateful for them.

What I’m thankful for is that we have outgrown the sick-children-must-stay-in-bed philosophy.  Bed is fine when you’re too miserable to do anything else, but in the 50’s and 60’s bed rest was still considered an important part of the cure, and often imposed long after the child would have been much better off up and about. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 7:36 am | Edit
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The older I get, the easier it is to give in to the habit of grumbling.  It's not easy to watch the world go to hell in a handbasket without complaint, and it’s part of the necessary wisdom of the elders to make the younger generations aware of what they are in danger of losing.  But too much of that attitude is unhealthy.  It’s bad for society and worse for the individual.  What, then, could be a better choice for my November New Year’s resolution than to cultivate a habit of thanksgiving?

Some of my favorite Bible verses are related to an attitude of thanksgiving.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  (Philippians 4:6)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.   (1 Timothy 4:4)

The Bible also warns against grumbling, it being one of Israel’s troublesome sins.

Do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.  (1 Corinthians 10:10)

Most of my resolutions have come to me well in advance of my 8th of the month deadline, but this one, despite the clarity of the choice once it was made, did not.  It was especially interesting, therefore, to see how quickly after I made the decision I started seeing confirmation everywhere.  Not that I should have been surprised—‘tis the season of Thanksgiving! (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:47 am | Edit
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Among all the changes in the lives of females over the last 50 years, I rate the improvement in clothing options as one of the best.  It may be my autism spectrum tendencies coming out, but to me the comfort factor in what I wear is of utmost importance.

Until my senior year in high school, girls were required to wear dresses or skirts to school.  Even after the hard-won change, jeans were still out of the question.  Because I have loathed wearing dresses since my earliest memories, this did nothing to make my school years more enjoyable, even though my mother, God bless her, did her best to make my dresses from comfortable material.

By the time our girls were of school age, the situation had improved dramatically.  Pants, and even shorts, were acceptible school attire—so much more practical, especially for active elementary school students living in Florida.

I do know families who insist, even today, that their girls wear dresses.  I would never do that to my children, but I'll admit that if such dresses as they generally wear had been an option in my day, perhaps I wouldn’t have minded so much.  In addition to accepting pants appropriate apparel for women, we seem to have become much more tolerant of a wide variety of dress styles and lengths.  When I was very young, dresses for little girls were stiff, scratchy and frilly—a nightmare for a touch-sensitive girl—and by my teen years skirts were uncomfortably short and getting shorter.  Practical dresses of a decent length and comfortable material might have won me over, but they were nowhere to be seen.

Even so, pants are the very best for climbing trees, and I never wanted to wear clothing that tied me to the ground.

I’m very thankful that today’s girls—and women—have more choices.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 8, 2010 at 5:28 am | Edit
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Taking a slight diversion from my Good New Days series, today I am thankful for cooler weather.  Fall has been terribly late in coming this year.  In our early years in Florida we sometimes turned the furnace on at the end of September—those  were the days when Climate Change meant the series of unusually cold winters that destroyed the citrus industry in Central Florida—but this year we needed the air conditioning right through the end of October.

But for the last few days I have been able to enjoy wearing jeans again.  I have put a blanket on the bed and dug out my winter pajamas.  Lows in the mid-40’s and highs in the mid-60’s, with bright sunshine and a pleasant reduction in the humidity:  that’s my kind of weather.  It makes me feel alive, and happy for no particular reason at all.

This morning when I woke up, the inside temperature was 60 degrees.  Normally that's cause to turn on the furnace, but by Wednesday we’re supposed to be back up into the 80’s.  So for now I’m thankful for the joy of wrapping cold fingers around a hot cup of tea.  I may even break out the oatmeal for breakfast, and enjoy a steaming hot cup of cocoa!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 6:11 am | Edit
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When I was a child restaurant meals were very rare, the stuff of vacation travel and anniversary dinners.  My father carried a homemade lunch to work, just as we children carried ours to school.  When we did eat out, the food was rather ordinary—though I'll admit I thought a Howard Johnsons hot dog followed by their special peppermint stick ice cream was the highlight of many a vacation.

I wouldn't trade our homemade meals and family dinners for any five-star restaurant, but what I love about eating in the 21st century is the great variety of food now available from cultures and traditions all over the world.  From Indian to Korean, Ethiopian to Moroccan, Thai to Lebanese—this is a great time to be eating!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 6:38 am | Edit
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I’m thankful for the progress we have made in welcoming people with handicaps into the mainstream of society.

If you’re a baby as yet unborn this is not a good time to be handicapped, as you have a good chance of not surviving till birth.  But if you get that far, it’s better to be here and now than in an earlier time.  Here are just a few of the improvements I’ve witnessed:

  • Major advances in neonatal medicine
  • Amazing prosthetics
  • Braille signs in elevators and other public places
  • Acceptance and promotion of American Sign Language for the Deaf
  • Wheelchair cuts in curbs—which are also a great help with bicycles and strollers
  • Ramp access to buildings
  • Handicapped parking spaces
  • Specially equipped restrooms
  • Integration of handicapped students in regular school classrooms
  • Special Olympics and similar events that encourage sports participation for the handicapped
  • Greater understanding of and openness about mental illness
  • Computers, with their ability to open the world to people with many different forms of disability
  • Laws against unfair discrimination

If progress remains to be made, and it does, it's good to remember how far we've come, and to be aware that gains achieved can subsequently be lost.  I've seen hints of a disturbing backlash against handicapped children, on the grounds that "they should never have been born."

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 5, 2010 at 8:40 am | Edit
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I am thankful for the baby formula that is available today.

I know.  Me, the Notorious Despiser of Artificial Baby Feeding, thankful for infant formula.  But it’s true. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 6:43 am | Edit
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On the day after Election Day* I felt some commentary to be necessary, so I struggled to find something about our political system that is better now than in the past.

I considered the 19th Amendment:  that’s a significant improvement.  But I’m not so old that I was ever disenfranchised because of my sex, so it doesn’t really count.

The 26th Amendment did make a difference in my life, but I have mixed feelings about that one, seeing as extending the voting age downward corresponded with an upward movement of the age of responsible maturity.

Much about our political system has taken a turn for the worse during my lifetime.  (I’m not saying it was always better—we’re not longer literally tar-and-feathering our opponents.)  But one positive change I am thankful for on this third day of November is openness(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 9:42 am | Edit
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