by Anne Holmes on February 8, 2010

I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of getting to know our featured baby boomer woman guest in the community at  One such member is Ann Osterhus. It’s such a pleasure to share her interview with you. I happen to know her adopted grandchild, virtually, and also her two virtual daughters. I’ve enjoyed watching her journey through the past several years. Though I’ve never met Dennis, I feel as though I know his gentle soul too. Keep up with Ann and Dennis at their blog as they find their way through Dennis’ latest diagnosis of MSA/SDS.

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a 57 year old woman, living in a long-term committed relationship. I was a late blooming boomer, and while I dabbled in education after high school, I only received my teaching degree after the age of 35. I have worked in various educational settings for the past 20 years. I live in Minneapolis, and love the feeling of an urban setting, yet still maintaining a relatively small town feeling. I believe in happiness, first and foremost. I believe that in every minute of life, you are able to find something to celebrate, if you choose to try.

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

I am childless, by choice. I feel lucky to have been born in an era where I could decide to live in an “abnormal” fashion; childless and unmarried. My partner and I have been together for 10 loving years. While I have been in committed relationships before, I never experienced such love until I met Dennis. Three years after we met, he was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy, a disease which causes all of his autonomic (automated) systems (swallowing, toileting, moving…) to shut down. I am his primary care-giver, but we hire personal care attendants to be with him while I work.

Last spring my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, and my mother, who has Alzhiemer’s Disease, needed to move into an assisted living home near me. As a family, we had discussed, over the years, the possibilities for my parents, should they need more care. Both of my parents were determined they would never live with any of their children, wanting to maintain independence for as long as possible. I am grateful for this, making the decision to move mother 100 miles from her home town into a new apartment. A few months after she moved to be near me, my mother also passed away, suddenly. I am happy that both of my parents died quickly and easily, but I miss them so much.

I also “adopted” a grandson two years ago. Two virtual girlfriends of mine had a son with no grandmother. I offered, and was granted my wish, and I became a grandmother. What I hadn’t expected, but loved, was that I also adopted two daughters at the same time. Two years ago, I met one of my adopted daughters, and last summer, Dennis and I met the other daughter and our grandson. It was a slice of heaven, it truly was.

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

As a child, I loved riding my bike. It felt like true freedom. All summer, my best friend and I would pack a picnic, and take off for the day. We didn’t wear knee pads, or helmets, and even do dare devil tricks, and we lived through it with only a few bumps and scrapes. Of course, there were fewer cars on the road when I was a kid.

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

I am fiercely independent. I believe many of us boomer women have paved the way for future generations to aspire younger women’s independence. I continue to work at educating myself, not only through traditional ways, but in non-traditional ways, too. I am open-minded and accept differences in other’s beliefs.

What inspires you?

A belief that life is wonderful and full of joy.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I enjoy traveling, painting, writing and reading.

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

The book I will never forget is Sophie’s Choice. It was the first book I remember reading where I was moved by the author’s use of the English language. That book ruined me; I forever will seek the author that moves me with writing skills as much as the ability to write a good story.

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

By the time I was 35, I had been to all of the United States, except Alaska and Hawaii. My parents took the three kids on an extended vacation every other year. As a family we covered all of the states from South Dakota, across to Washington DC and up to Maine. After high school, I headed west and then south. I traveled alone, and would pick up waitressing or bartending jobs when I needed work. Then when I hit the age of 40, I was finally making enough money so I could travel out of the country. I picked up my passport and went wild.

My first European trip was to London, by myself, I might add. I thought my first foreign country should be an English speaking country. I was amazed, when I checked into my hotel that no one spoke a word of English.

Now Dennis is my travel partner. We have been to China, Spain, Paris, London, Ireland, Vienna, Ecuador, most of Mexico, and I finally made it to Alaska and Hawaii with Dennis. He is the perfect travel companion – he loves to explore, meet new people and try new food, just like me.

What do you stress about?

I do worry about money and the ability to retire in a fashion I have become used to over the years. But I still believe in live for today, because it’s what we have at the moment.

I also stress about my partner. His disease is incurable, and he will only continue to decline. I try to take good care of him and watch out for him.

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

I try to look good, but wouldn’t go under the knife. It’s just not that important to me.

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

Several times, actually. I am in my 4th career, and am hoping to find time to build my life coaching practice. I am in the very beginning stages of writing my first book and I am looking at hiring a mentor to help me with my painting.

Do you plan to retire?

I look forward to the day that I can leave education. I love my job, but it is a young person’s job. I will stay until I no longer feel effective. I don’t know if the word “retire” is applicable to anyone, anymore. I will move in a different direction, and maybe not need to work for money, but I don’t intend to slow down until my body says it is absolutely necessary.

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

My father was the first guy in the Midwest with a solar panel for hot water. As a family, we were green long before it became the “In” thing.

Do you engage in any faith based practices?

Not really. I believe we give energy to the universe. Energy can be positive or negative or somewhere in between. I believe what you put out in energy is healing or harmful to yourself and others. I believe in goodness, love and kindness. Sounds a bit corny and new age, doesn’t it. But it works for me, and I feel blessed by the universe.

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

I left a relationship in my mid thirties that was hurtful and harmful. This decision gave me the freedom to live my life more fully. It was the best decision that I have ever made in my life.

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

Yes! I have many places to visit and explore. I have always wanted to be satisfied with my art work. I have dreamed of writing a book since I was a child. Tomorrow, I may come up with another dream. Yes, I do work at making dreams come true, but I would also be happy if some of my dreams remained unfulfilled. After all, they are dreams.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

At the moment, I am concentrating on my partner. I give him as much of myself as I am able, without compromising my own life.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

Any and all of my girlfriends, virtual and in person, add so much to my life. I love being surrounded by women. We all have so much wisdom, we are all so special. I have learned from each woman I have been in contact with – and I have incorporated these lessons into my own life.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

Live fully, laugh heartily, love generously.

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