Patterns and Milestone Experiences That Transform

Experiences TransformOne of the joys of getting older – let’s say 50 and beyond – is that we can look back and see patterns and milestones in our lives. Seeing the patterns can be instructive and helpful in many ways. In early mid-life, most of us experience the intensity of jobs/careers, community involvement, family relationships to nurture and support – and more. As we move into a different phase of life, we can take time to do this.  Experiences transform, and reflecting on them can be part of transforming your life after 50.

I will share some of my experience with this kind of reflection.

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to be one of several presenters who shared personal stories with a group from my church. It was a wonderful opportunity to look back and identify some patterns in my life. One of them was “expanding horizons” and I also identified milestone experiences that had shifted my life in new directions. Each of us can likely identify ways in which our horizons expanded and how that impacted us.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. captured the essence of that by saying, “”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

I found it quite enjoyable to look at that pattern as if I were floating high above, getting the view from the drone, if you will. In my case, I saw an image of concentric circles and that pattern of expanding horizons. I could recognize experiences that launched me from one circle into another, and later into another as the years passed. The changes were more than geographic and included mental, spiritual, emotional and psychological expansions.

The geographic concentric circles started from growing up in a small town in Minnesota, to college in two other midwestern towns, to a summer in core city Chicago, Illinois to much of my adult life in inner city Minneapolis, Minnesota to a couple of years in suburban Orange County, California to the past eight years in Nashville, Tennessee. I can see concentric circles of relationship with a wider diversity of people and of awareness of regional and cultural differences.

In addition to these overlaid concentric circles, I can identify milestone experiences that changed the direction of my life in different ways. The first dramatic milestone was the summer spent in Chicago when I was 19 years old. It was a city immersion program sponsored by the American Lutheran Church in several cities around the country, with our team of six people coming from a small college in Decorah, Iowa. Prior to this, I had lived in homogeneous small towns, both growing up and in my prior two years of college.

Then here we were, working full time jobs and doing neighborhood work in the rest of our time out of a city church located just on the edge of the demarcation line between a white community and a black community. Oh – did I mention: it was the summer of 1966!! Tensions were high in cities across the country as the civil rights movement was in its peak years. During that summer, Aug. 5, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Chicago for an open housing march through an all-white neighborhood and he was hit in the head with a brick or a rock. This was the mood of the time.

The experiences of that summer turned my attention to being involved with the social issues of the day, and gave me clarity that I wanted to be involved in things that made a difference. As a result, I left college and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I would spend my years from 20 to 60 living and working in the inner city.

I encourage you to reflect on the patterns and milestones in YOUR life. It will be life-affirming and may open up some possibilities for you to explore as you are transforming your life after 50.

I encourage you to get a nice journal that you really want to write in.  I love the “Tree of Life” motif, and these are refillable, which is a plus.  Check out this version using my affiliate link: Tree of Life Writing Journal

Photography Transforms, II

Photography TransformsAs I mentioned  in Photography Transforms, the photos taken of various aspects of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s transformed the attitudes of people across the country.  Seeing images of the violence upon protesters and marchers awakened millions to realities that were outside their experiences and awareness. And more than increasing awareness, the photos motivated people from around the country to get involved in efforts to change these inequalities and violence.

A very specific example of this is included in a video about the 1963 Children’s Campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.  A multi-page spread of photographs by Charles Moore that was published in Life Magazine in mid-1963 is credited with exposing millions to what was happening in Birmingham. They stimulated marches across the country in support of the children of Birmingham and other activism toward change. Photography transforms indeed.

There is power in photography.  How have you been impacted by photos you have seen, or photos you have taken?  How could you use your photographic eye and talent to transform how you see things, and how others see things?

To explore more of this example of how photography transforms, check out a couple of resources using these links (my affiliate links):

Powerful Days: Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore

The Story of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in Photographs

Three Gifts of Being Over 50

3 GiftsHave you seen more about the challenges of being over age 50 than you care to see? Have you heard so much about midlife crises that you figure you must have one, or if you didn’t that there is something wrong with you? I surely feel that way sometimes. That is one reason why this post about the three gifts of being over 50 by Donna Kastner is so refreshing and encouraging. Donna is the founder of Retirepreneur, a digital community for people who want to transition from full time employment to a part time business.

Three Gifts

Donna identifies three gifts that are setting the stage for our next adventures. They are “Remarkable Gift #1: The Happiness Surge”, “Remarkable Gift #1: More Moxie”, and “Remarkable Gift #3: A Deeper Sense of Purpose (Your Unique Why).

The Happiness Surge is verified by multiple studies:

Studies shows that our sense of wellbeing and contentedness tends to run highest in young adulthood – in our 20s and 30s – and later, as we move into our 60s. Researchers have also found this happiness curve rings true across different nations and cultures. While there are exceptions, it’s gratifying to finally have evidence that blows away the myth about aging triggering a downward spiral. We now know the exact opposite is the case for most, as our 60s become our most blissful stage yet.

This is great news, and an important counter-balance to the “all down hill from here” attitude that is promoted in society, beginning with the “over the hill” birthday cards for 50 year olds. Do they offend you as they do me?

More Moxie is described by Donna as “a rich word that depicts an uptick in energy, courage and emotional strength” now that we are over 50. Oh, yes! That’s what we have as a result of all of our life experiences. Sometimes it takes us a little time and space to recognize these attributes in ourselves.  Look for them in yourself and in your peers.  You can celebrate and find ways to use them together.

Deeper Sense of Purpose is, according to Donna, “particularly special (since) we’ve been honing it throughout our lives. Yet in our 60s we’re now blessed with more time and opportunity to activate this super power and start with the ‘why’.”

You may be saying that all sounds great, but I don’t see where that takes me. What’s the point? Donna has a challenge for us that can apply to any of us who are over 50, whereever we live and what our background and experiences are:

There’s much work to be done in this complicated world we live in, and I can’t think of a better group to tackle this assignment than the 60-something crowd. Armed with these three gifts – and others – we’re now poised to help make amazing things happen.

This is my hope and desire also: that we who have (in general) better health and a longer life expectancy than generations before us will use these three gifts and all we have learned and become to make a positive difference in the world in our years over 50! Are you up for it?

Photography Transforms

Photography TransformsExperiences of all kinds can transform us in different ways.  Photography is one of the most profound. One of my favorite photo sharing sites,, displays this quote each time a user signs on:

Photography helps people to see.  — Berenice Abbott

Yes, photography has that potential, that power. Photos that focus us on a single flower, or leaf, or tree, can transform how we see life, creation, and beauty.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. — Buddha

Photos of landscapes we may never see in person can broaden our views in profound ways. If I have never seen mountains or the ocean, photos of them – if I really look at them and imagine being there – can broaden my perspective and give me new desires and goals for travel.

Photos of people have their own transformative power. Close-ups provide views we can’t experience any other way. Diversity of people across the world reveal both our shared and divergent characteristics and experience. History is illuminated in the faces and bodies of human beings. Photos taken by others can make us aware of realities that we didn’t know about, or bring to life something we had heard or read.  A powerful example of this is the impact that the images transmitted across the country and the world of some of the violent episodes during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.  The dogs attacking children. Crosses burning in front of homes.  A 6-year old African-American girl walking to a previously all-white school with white adults screaming at her, and national guard soldiers with guns guarding her. The bloated, beaten body of Emmett Till in his casket after being murdered in Mississippi. And many more.

Those photos awakened millions of people to realities they had only read about.  They transformed how people saw their country.  It activated enough people to act over time that changes occurred. This happened with other historical events as well, such as the Vietnam War.

Photography we view can transform in these ways and more.  The person taking the photos experiences another level of transformation. As a compulsive photographer, I find myself seeing things I want to capture in a photo all of the time.  This includes while I am driving on the freeway at 70 miles per hour! I dream of having a camera mounted on the top of my car with the ability to turn it in the direction I want and zoom in through controls on my steering wheel like I control my hands free phone.

But even if I can’t stop, I have noticed. The photographer’s eye for images counteracts the auto-pilot that so easily consumes us in our busy lives.  We see things that others may just drive by. Looking at our own photos  helps us see and reflect on our lives, our experiences and what we may want in our future.  A photo may be worth a thousand words, or a changed mind, or a dream and focus for the future. Photography has the power to transform.

Here is an example of how photography can illuminate history and broaden our perspectives.  Through the African American Lens: Double Exposure   is the first in a series, and available at through my affiliate link.





Transforming Your Life With New Experiences

One of the greatest gifts of our years over 50 can be having the time and flexibility to do things that we weren’t able to do when we were younger and in the thick of career building and child rearing. It may allow more travel for leisure and excitement, or learning a new skill and practicing it, or volunteering regularly to give back and help others. All of these and other activities enrich us and can be factors in transforming your life by opening up possibilities and igniting passions of which we were not aware.

I recently participated in a project that I never would have imagined I would be interested in just 10 years ago. For the 5th time, I participated in a prison ministry in another state. This is the 2nd time the trip has been for an entire week. It was a week of travel in vans from Tennessee to Ohio and back, daily travel to different correctional institutions from the hotel and back – a total of 1600 miles. At every one of the seven stops, our team of sixteen had to go through security and have all of the multiple cases and containers of sound equipment and instruments meticulously examined. Then there was the set-up in a wide variety of types of rooms and soundcheck to assure the best projection possible in that room.

Through personal handshakes and greetings, hugs, fun music, an appearance by Santa, inspirational music, humor, words from a pastor, and communion, we communicated and embodied the message, “You are loved, you have worth, God is with you.” In and through that, both those visiting and those being visited were touched, changed and even transformed.

You may be asking, how have these experiences transformed my life, and why did I even consider getting into this? During my life, I had experiences that left me with no real desire to go into prisons. I appreciated those who did prison ministries of various kinds, but it wasn’t something that appealed to me. Some of those experiences were living for 40 years in the inner city where crime rates were high, being a victim of several crimes during those years, having friends victimized, and then working for nearly 20 years in the crime prevention unit of the police department.

When I moved from Minneapolis, MN to Nashville, TN, I got involved in a progressive church which had an affiliated non-profit ministry to prisons. Gradually the stories of the impact of these visits and the urging of the director pushed into my heart, and I agreed to go on one of the “friends” tours that brought about 40 members of the church along on 3 days of a 7-day tour. After that, I wanted to participate every time possible because I saw the world and people differently. I wanted to be a part of bringing light into dark places like prisons in ways that were life affirming and inspiring, not shaming and fear-based. The letters that come back from the inmates who have experienced these programs are filled with new hope and gratitude. Many reflect an impact that lasts, not just a one-day reprieve from their situation. Amazing!

I encourage you to look at places in your life where you have drawn lines and seen other people as totally other, totally different than the people with whom you ordinarily surround yourselves with. Step out, try new experiences, see what happens in your life. Transforming your years after 50 can start with taking that kind of step beyond what you already know.

If you would like to learn more about this outreach ministry, go to