Baby Boomer Woman: Linda Thomas

by Anne Holmes on March 23, 2010

NABBW member, Linda Thomas shares her life’s journey with us confirming once again that life is what happens when we make plans. What an inspirational journey! Join in with Linda as she gives us a peak into her life now, and also the past. She does so with sweet and cherished memories and blessedly good humor. Baby Boomers will no doubt see  a bit of their own self within.

  • Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

All I ever wanted was to live a quiet, secure life in a little white house with a picket fence and a rose garden, but my husband Dave—a free spirit who seldom limits himself to coloring within other people’s lines—and our adventuresome God had other plans. It’s a long story.…

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

Dave and I married 42 years ago and we have two dear children. Matt is a university professor and Karen is a middle school teacher and a pastor’s wife. Matt and his wife have given us three adorable granddaughters, and Karen and her husband have given us three delightful grandsons. When people ask if I have grandchildren, I tell them, “My son has three daughters and my daughter has three sons.”

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

When I think back to the decade between 1955 and 1965, I think of cat-eye glasses, white lipstick, and white buck shoes. I think of learning to dance the bop, and I remember that transistor radios opened up a whole new world for us—we could dance behind our portable classroom in fifth grade. I think of experimenting with makeup and wearing layers and layers of nylon tulle net petticoats. I think of hairspray, and ratting my hair, and learning to shave my legs—I didn’t know I had to put shaving cream on my legs and I ended up with red raw strips up and down my calves, exactly the width of a razor-blade, and afterward, I looked awful at the beach in my pedal pushers! I remember friends, several of whom are still friends all these years later. I think of hula hoops, pop beads, friendship rings, and I think of songs that made me swoon. I remember my first bra and my first nylons. And I remember my first kiss.

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

As one of the first to be born in what we call the baby boomer era, I expected that I’d live in that little white house with a picket fence and a rose garden and live a life like June Cleaver—I didn’t expect I’d have a life outside of the home. For the first 25 years of my marriage, I made numerous deliberate choices to put my children, husband, and home at the center of my life. However, during those years, I also enjoyed many experiences outside my home, in both paid and volunteer positions, that resulted in a very rich life (though not necessarily monetarily-speaking).

  • What inspires you?

My inspirations come from my relationship with God and with my husband, kids, grandkids, and extended family. I also find inspiration from people who have overcome tragedies and now lead vibrant lives and encourage other people in similar circumstances.

  • What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

When my children were still living at home, sometimes I wished I had time to pursue my personal interests, but I often told myself that after they grew up, I would have plenty of time to enjoy any number of interests, and that has proven true. I would not change a thing about dedicating myself to my children while they were growing up, and indeed, I now have the time and freedom to pursue numerous passions. I just wish I didn’t need to sleep at night—I wish I could spend that time doing other things that are more fun!

  • Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I love to write (and have several projects in various stages of readiness; my memoir, Grandma’s Letters from Africa, is now in print), I enjoy paper arts and mixed media projects, I love to read good books, I like taking photos and tweaking them with Photoshop Elements. I am an incurable collector of, and user of, quotations and fonts. I collect seashells, art supplies, rocks, pressed flowers and leaves, and illustrations from antique books. I thoroughly enjoy baking and cooking with my granddaughter Emma. We call ourselves The Leftie Confectioners because we’re both left-handed and we have come up with some delicious taste-treats: scones, truffles, cupcakes, muffins, and cakes.

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

I have watched the movie Out of Africa so many times that I’ve lost count. It’s based on Karen Blixen’s book of the same name (written under her pen name Isak Dinesen), and on several others. Dave and I had an eight-year assignment to Kenya and some of those years we lived in the area where Karen lived on her coffee farm from 1914 – 1931. It is a lovely region. Karen’s various writings, and the movie, capture the beauty of Africa and its wildlife, but especially the African people. I’m not sure if the average movie-viewer would pick up on the spirit and soul of the African people, but I did, and that, to me, was the best part of the movie. I admire Karen’s way with words, so much so that I re-read them often. For example, she wrote, “A giraffe is so much a lady that one refrains from thinking of her legs, but remembers her as floating over the plains in long garbs, draperies of morning mist and mirage.” That quote is from another book I treasure, Longing for Darkness: Kamante’s Tales from Out of Africa, collected by Peter Beard. Kamante was Karen’s beloved cook, though he helped her with much more than cooking. Kamante’s Tales is, in many ways, Karen’s Out of Africa through Kamante’s eyes.

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

I call myself The Wayfaring Wordsmith because I have traveled a great deal—even though I prefer the life of a homebody. I’ve traveled to every state in the U.S. except Hawaii, and most of Canada (Quebec and every province west of there). I have lived on three continents, spent time in 26 foreign countries, and touched down briefly in eight more. The funny thing is, I don’t like to travel, especially not alone—and yet five times I traveled all by myself between Africa and North America (with a change of planes and airports in Europe) and, really, it was no big deal.

  • Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate.

I have cut back on foods that cause cholesterol problems. For example, I add flax seeds to my morning oatmeal, I’ve almost exclusively switched from eating ice cream to sherbet, and limit myself to desserts only on Sundays.

  • What do you stress about?

Flying alone to a destination and having to drive a rental car in an unfamiliar city! I also could tell you a nightmare of a story about flying into Frankfurt with my husband and having to figure out how to transport suitcases, boxes, and a duffle bag from the airport to the train station, how to read all the signs and schedules in the German language, and find the right train to a small town northwest of there so we could arrive at a conference on time….

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

The past couple of years I’ve found it discouraging to look into the mirror or to see snapshots of myself. I see an old woman. But, I’m trying to get over it. I tell myself that I should appreciate what I look like now because in the not-too-distant future, I’ll look even worse—and then will wish I could again look like what I look like today. It’s not just my face. It’s my neck, too. I am investing in some neck scarves—they seem to be the hot new fashion item this year. (Or maybe they’ve been in fashion for a few years—I am slow to pick up on such things.) I have decided I won’t color my graying hair. I am a penny-pincher, and with the economy the way it is, I figure that a few years from now, I could really need the money I might have spent on hair color. And, I won’t go into detail about what has happened to my derriere after spending the last three or four years, ten hours a day or more, sitting in front of the computer writing Grandma’s Letters from Africa. I’m reminded of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s question, “So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?” Until somebody does, I have decided that the best I can do is always to be clean, smell good, and smile a whole lot.

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

I’m learning how to participate in today’s new technologies, like Facebook and blogging. You can check out my blog at

Also, learning how to market my book is like stepping into a foreign culture. It takes courage, flexibility, and effort, but I’m figuring it out.

  • Do you plan to retire?

I’ve been employed often, but much of my work in recent years has been volunteering or freelancing, so it’s not like I have something to retire from. For the past few years, I’ve been writing full time and teaching memoir classes, both of which I hope to continue for a long time.

  • Are you doing anything to GO Green?

I prefer to use paper grocery bags and/or use my own shopping bags—if only I could remember to bring them into the store with me! I avoid using plastic bags in produce sections of grocery stores unless I absolutely have to. We installed water-saving faucets, and we NEVER buy bottled water! We have a water filter on our kitchen faucet and a Brita water pitcher. We avoid taking unnecessary trips in the car, and my husband walks to and from the university where he teaches. I’m into re-using/re-purposing things. For example, when my husband’s undershorts wear out, usually the elastic waistband is still good. I use those waistbands to hold plastic garbage bags securely around the rim of the wastebasket under our kitchen sink.

  • Do you engage in any faith based practices?

I grew up in the church—I can still remember my nursery classroom! We’ve always been active in church wherever we’ve lived, and I’ve worked in numerous ministries. For example, in the mid-1980s I got Young Life started in our part of Washington State for our area’s teenagers. I was a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship International for five years. My husband and I worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators in South America for three years and in Africa for eight. I thoroughly enjoy women’s Bible studies, especially Beth Moore Bible studies.

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

I dream of the day when I will give myself permission to run my fingers through my hair and say to myself, “That’s good enough.” I dream of the day when I will be brave enough to wear wild clothes, outlandish jewelry, and brightly colored reading glasses—if they make me happy—rather than those that are dignified and matronly.

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

For the past few years, I’ve taught memoir classes based on Deuteronomy 4:9 which I’ve paraphrased, “Always remember what you’ve seen God do for you, and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren!” First, the writer benefits from writing such stories: When we realize that God is always with us and that He participates in our everyday lives—sometimes in quiet ways, other times in dramatic ways—we become more settled and secure in our relationship with Him; we relax in His love. If we remember God’s faithfulness when we had hard times in the past, we are encouraged not to give up in current scary times. Second, the readers of our stories benefit, specifically our children, grandchildren, and, we hope, our great-grandchildren. When they see the ways God has provided for us, protected us, loved us, helped us through difficulties, and changed us from the inside out, they will be encouraged to put their faith in Him, too, for the situations that arise in their lives. I envision that many generations—children not even born yet—will be blessed by those who write their stories.

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

Breathless Tales

I would rather
clutch my invitation

and wait my turn
in party clothes
prim, proper
safe and clean
But a pulsing hand
keeps driving me
over peaks
and spidered brambles
So I’ll pant
up to the pearled knocker
and full of tales

Janet Chester Bly from Managing Your Restless Search, copyright©1981,1992

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