Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

‘Glidepath’: a bridge between work and retirement

Catherine Spaeth lives in an 1894-era house with a wraparound front porch, carved oak banisters, an abundance of natural light and a high-ceilinged kitchen that suits her latest adventure — a pastry and baking certificate from Saint Paul College that she hopes to parlay into a part-time job or a small catering business.

In addition to the chance to perfect her baking skills, she likes the certificate’s emphasis on classes like “Food Safety and Sanitation” and “Culinary Nutrition Theory.” Her recently resurrected blog, The Butter Chronicles, features posts about how food choices affect our brains, the rise in U.S. sugar consumption and why professional cooks never wipe their hands on their aprons.

At 63, Spaeth (below) has run study abroad programs in private higher ed, taught American history and literature, and co-owned a company that designed college cultural immersion programs. She speaks English, French and Italian and holds advanced degrees in American studies. She and her husband, an athletic outdoorsman, took a six-month pilgrimage walk through Europe in 2022.

With a life that expansive, why go back to community college now, cramming to relearn algebra for the admissions exam only to sweat alongside students young enough to be her kids? The why is simple: Because she can. “It’s been really fun,” says Spaeth, over hot tea and homemade scones.

“Going back to school is an incredible luxury,” she acknowledges, though Spaeth balks at the assumption that she “doesn’t have to work.”

“What that conjures up for women is way different than what it conjures up for men,” she explains. “It’s saying, ‘You don’t have to do anything.’ You can stay at home and everything you do at home is not work” — a stereotype and societal perception that drove me, 40 years ago, to pursue a paid career.

Both Spaeth and her husband, a retired lawyer, plan to forego drawing Social Security until they’re 70. “We’re not big spenders,” she notes, “and our mortgage is paid off.” So, her goal in returning to college is less to earn money than to find purpose after decades of full-time work. “I don’t want a life with no commitments,” Spaeth says.

What happens after 60?

Like many professionals in their 60s, including me, Spaeth is on a glidepath toward retirement. Not ready to quit work entirely but situated financially to have options, we have left full-time careers for a variety of reasons:

  • We earned and saved enough over the course of our working lives that we could afford this choice.
  • Medicare gives us reasonably priced healthcare coverage at age 65 without having to rely on employer-provided benefits.
  • We watched as our peers, deemed irrelevant or overpriced, were laid off or restructured out (yes, it happens to people over age 60, despite the legal risks).
  • We opted to do something different — volunteer, travel more widely, pursue a passion — when the careers became less relevant to us.
  • We have spouses who may be older or are retired themselves.

Glidepath is a financial planning term that references the portfolio rebalancing typically recommended as people get closer to retirement. But it applies to the path that Spaeth and I are pursuing, too: more schooling, in her case; two part-time jobs, in mine.

As a self-described workaholic, I found myself ready to slow down at 65 but not to step away from work entirely. My career has meant too much to me — in identity and intellectual stimulation, in the pride and purpose of supporting a family — to simply flip a switch and say: “I’m done.” Plus, I also want to delay drawing Social Security.

“I love the term glidepath,” says Spaeth, whose study-abroad business ground to a halt once COVID struck. “It was a rough year and a half trying to stay afloat with no revenue coming in.” She calls the pastry and baking certificate her “next project,” one that allows her to look ahead rather than wallowing in the business loss.

That sense of optimism is particularly important as women age. “Part of wanting commitment and engagement is related to an identity,” Spaeth says. “As older women, we’re already invisible in lots of ways, and I don’t want to be out of the world, out of the working world — where, for better or worse, you get your respect or recognition.”

Endings and beginnings

Six months into my own glidepath a term I prefer to “semi-retirement” — I am learning firsthand about the challenges and benefits of leaving full-time work. The upside of two part-time jobs is apparent in the schedule I have crafted: more volunteering for Planned Parenthood, where I had to operate under the radar while employed by a Catholic university; more opportunities to cook and have people over; more reading and yoga; more coffee and meal dates with my friends and sons.

Still, the expanses of time that I expected to emerge have not materialized. “Busier than I’d like to be” is my standard response when people ask how my new life is going. That’s due in part to my tendency to overbook my calendar.

‘Retired’ is an old word, for men who are leaving manual labor.

Kathy Kelso, St. Paul-based advocate on healthful aging

But it’s also because professional occupations, which my two roles are — managing editor of a Twin Cities–based community blog and executive director of a small, environmentally focused nonprofit — do not lend themselves to hourly contract work.

  • Do you charge only for the time you’re at the computer or in meetings? Or is it legitimate to bill for travel time or for processing and “think time,” as another nonprofit executive director encouraged me to do?
  • Who pays for networking and professional development, for the outreach that yields relationships more than direct, measurable impact on a given project?
  • Most challenging, how do you right-size your ego — your past practice of operating as a doer and decision-maker — so it fits into the box that contract work constructs? When the board differs with your recommendations or does not consult you on a key decision, do you fight it, or recognize that you are not in charge?

The financial definition of glidepath fails to address that emotional turbulence. I am traveling toward a different future, but I lug along my baggage from the past — the habits and ways of working, the belief that my career defined me. I rarely called in sick. I was always pushing for new solutions. I reveled in the résumé-building accomplishments that my career allowed.

None of that matters anymore, because the glidepath leads downhill, to a door labeled “retirement,” which traditionally has meant: That’s it! You’re finished.

Retirement: define your terms

Jim McCartney, 69, a former business reporter and colleague of mine at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is wary about the term glidepath, given its implication that his career is slowing to a stop. “I’m not necessarily wanting to land,” he says, “if landing means I have to stop writing.”

After leaving journalism for a lucrative career in public relations, McCartney faced a layoff three years ago, at the start of the pandemic. He was 66 and immediately began promoting himself as a writer for hire, even though his wife brings in a full-time income.

“I love writing,” he says. “It’s kind of my identity. I can’t imagine ever stopping writing.”

Unlike me — working at two jobs I enjoy but for significantly less than my full-time compensation, once you factor in benefits — McCartney takes pride in having earned more as a freelancer during the first year after he was laid off. “I don’t necessarily place my self-worth on what I can make, but it’s nice to know that someone is willing to pay well for my services,” he explains. “As long as I like the work, it’s a validation that you’re worth X amount per hour.”

McCartney is now doing business under the moniker JSM Communications LLC, specializing in science, medical and healthcare writing. He will wait until he turns 70 to draw Social Security, subscribing to the common wisdom that “unless you’re really sick and don’t think you’re going to live very long,” it makes sense to maximize the monthly payout from the government.

Two of his close friends from the Pioneer Press are retired and involved in volunteer work at nonprofits, their reporting days behind them. But McCartney, who began his career as a city reporter at the New Ulm Journal (above), likes the word retired even less than he likes glidepath.

“I don’t want someone to think, ‘Oh, I wish Jim were still writing, but he’s retired.’ I don’t want people to think I’m out of the game,” he says, “because I’m not out of the game. I’m still writing, but I’m doing it on my own terms.”

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Faces of the Resistance

On the bleakest day for American women in my lifetime, the texts and the tears started flying back and forth within seconds of the New York Times news flash on my iPhone.

“It happened,” I texted a friend who is a leader in the abortion rights movement in Minnesota.

A rally at Planned Parenthood in May 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court decision leaked

Her one-word answer described the swamp I stayed stuck in all day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide on January 22, 1973. I was 15 and a half years old. I am 65 now. That means I had the safety and protection of legal abortion throughout my reproductive years, a right that my two grown sons will not inherit.

“Shit,” my friend responded, placing a period after the single word in her text, as though to emphasize the finality, the inevitability. Then she helped organize a massive vigil in downtown Minneapolis at 5:30 that afternoon, Friday, June 24, 2022.

“Join us in grief, rage, and in loving community,” her email invitation said. Contrary to stereotypes about the godless nature of pro-choice activists, my friend is a minister.

A counter-protestor outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul on Black Friday

Amid the dozens of articles, headlines and notes from radio broadcasts or podcasts that I have saved since June 24 — “Roe Ruling, Remapping Turned Tide,” about the DFL sweep of the Minnesota statehouse; “Democrats Flip Script in Abortion Rights Debate,” from the New York Times; “Covert Network Provides Pills for Thousands of Abortion in U.S. Post Roe,” in the Washington Post; “Court at Odds with Public,” two days after a decision that has stripped a generation of their rights — one quote stands alone.

“Women didn’t talk about it much, they didn’t do a bunch of marches and protests, they didn’t post on social media, they probably didn’t even tell their husbands,” GOP strategist and former Senate majority leader Amy Koch told the Star Tribune after her party’s defeat in the midterms. “But they were ticked off and they went out to vote.”

A day after Roe v. Wade fell, I tabled for Planned Parenthood at the Pride festival in Minneapolis.

She got the last part right. But Koch’s assumption that women were disengaged from the debate — that any woman who cares about the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is, by definition, heterosexual and married — and that many people, of all genders, have not been out marching, protesting, phone banking and strategizing on social media is, to my experience, just plain wrong.

It also helps explain why Republicans fell short in this year’s midterm elections in Minnesota (“State GOP Surveys Wreckage” was the headline for this piece). “Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world,” anthropologist Margaret Mead once said. Especially if those people have lost their rights.

I know a 32-year-old man who got a vasectomy within weeks of the Dobbs decision, not wanting to put a female partner through an unwanted pregnancy and certain that he never wanted kids himself. I have a good friend, a lesbian, who came to the United States from Europe as a child; she and her wife are contemplating moving back to her liberal homeland, where she doesn’t have to fear that their legal marriage could be undone.

“What happens to all the babies born into unsafe conditions?” asked a report on National Public Radio the Monday morning after the Dobbs decision was announced. States with the strictest abortion laws also tend to have the fewest social services, the program host pointed out.

My neighbor, like me, is more than a decade past her reproductive years. We feel this decision deeply, especially as mothers — her to three daughters, me to two sons — but we wouldn’t primarily feel its effects. White, middle-class, still supported by the safety net with which I was raised, I could afford to cross state lines for a safe and legal abortion, if I were of childbearing age and wasn’t lucky enough to live in Minnesota, an oasis of sanity and compassion in the Upper Midwest.

A pregnant woman displays her baby bump at an abortion rights rally in July.

Thirteen states have enacted laws banning abortion with limited exceptions since the Dobbs decision. I am hosting a fundraiser for 30 people this coming Saturday for Our Justice, an organization that raises money to house women seeking abortion care in our state. This is what we’ve come to: individual solutions in individual states, as though women’s autonomy were not a national value (which, of course, it’s not).

I saw a woman last summer at the dog park with a T-shirt that read: Pro-Cat, Pro-Feminist, Pro-Choice. “I agree with all but one of those,” I told her, and then I paused before dropping the punchline: “I’m allergic to cats.” The woman told me she’s a teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools and can’t wear political T-shirts or buttons to her job. So she wears a pro-choice T-shirt when she’s out running errands on weekends and notes whether anyone responds.

A handmaid, by definition, is a “subservient partner or element.”

The first time I saw a Handmaid’s Tale outfit at a pro-choice rally was at the Minnesota State Capitol in spring 2019. “Since you creeps won’t get out of our bedrooms, we’re coming for your House,” the woman’s sign read. I didn’t know then that the costume would become contentious, that women of color whose earlier family members had no choices, who had no agency over their bodies, would see it as another symbol of white, clueless privilege. Still, at that time and place, it was powerful for me.

Nearly three years later, in May 2022, the same outfit had a more chilling effect at a Planned Parenthood rally after the Supreme Court’s draft document leaked, once the reality of Roe’s demise felt closer, more real. This Handmaid paused after consenting to have her photo taken, striking the pose of submission that personifies the point novelist Margaret Atwood was trying to make when her book — now better known as a TV series on Hulu —was published in 1985.

A reproductive rights rally at the State Capitol this past July brought out thousands of people who looked more angry than afraid. I shouted out information about the event till I was hoarse on June 25, the day after the Supreme Court decision was announced. I was tabling for Planned Parenthood at the Pride festival in Minneapolis alongside another Boomer woman who had shared her abortion story at a rally the previous day. She left our shift early, emotionally drained and physically spent.

By contrast, I found the energy and support at the Pride festival to be inspiring, a spirited day of action that helped me feel less frightened and alone.

Thousands of people gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol on July 17, 2022.

“I don’t see the point of going to a rally,” my husband said before I convinced him to join me at Planned Parenthood’s Twin Cities headquarters back in May. Similarly, a letter writer told the Star Tribune right after the Dobbs decision: “I guess the rallies are supposed to send a message to [elected officials], but I believe personal messages have more impact.”

It’s the energy, the camaraderie, the crazy and creative signs, the righteous outrage, the relief of being among like-minded people in a society that has turned right so hard and fast it leaves me bruised: Those are the reasons to attend a rally.

The National Day of Action in Minneapolis in October 2021

At the National Day of Action, dubbed the Women’s March, in Minneapolis on October 2, 2021, I volunteered to get people on the mailing list for UnRestrict Minnesota, a coalition of groups focused on reproductive rights, racial equity and gender equality. Then I started taking photos of T-shirts and signs. Some were provocative (“If my uterus could fire bullets, you wouldn’t regulate it”), others straightforward (“Patriarchy hurts everyone” and “Racist people suck”).

But one spoke volumes by speaking the simple truth. It quoted Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her Senate confirmation hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, perhaps the last time a prospective jurist was honest about their views on Roe v. Wade, which declared abortion to be constitutionally protected.

Data show that women of color will be more greatly affected by the revocation of Roe.

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity,” the sign said, quoting Ginsburg flawlessly. “It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

Donald Trump may never set foot in the White House again. But he will leave behind a legacy of a six-judge conservative majority on a nine-person court that will undo the social progress of my youth. Our downfall as liberals and progressives, in the 2016 presidential election and beyond, was that we failed to see it coming. Instead, we bickered among ourselves, refused to coalesce around a candidate and hated on Mitch McConnell rather than emulating his focus.

Being right doesn’t matter once your rights are gone.