September 2021 – LATE BLOOMERS

September 7th is Grandma Moses Day. Reading about her life was a positive story reminder to me that it’s never too late to pursue dreams and goals, never too late to learn, and never too late to create a life you love.

Grandma Moses life is such an inspirational one. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, born on September 7th, 1860, didn’t begin painting in earnest until in her seventies. She grew up one of ten children on a big farm, married Thomas Moses at seventeen, and ran a farm with him while raising their five children. When arthritis made embroidery more difficult in her sixties, she began dabbling with paint, mixing leftover house paints to create pictures on old farm board. In her late seventies, when her husband died, she began to paint more, selling some of her primitive folk art paintings, like the one depicted here, in a local drug store. An art collector, Louis Caldor, saw a group of her paintings and bought them, and the next year put them in a New York art exhibit. The public loved Grandma’s simple colorful paintings of rural countryside scenes and farm life, and she soon grew a wide following. From her seventies to her nineties Anna Mary created more than 1,500 paintings and her work was exhibited through the U.S. and abroad. She won many prestigious art awards, was memorialized in books, magazines, and movies. One book about her life you might enjoy is her own autobiography called Grandma Moses: My Life’s History.

So often we think we need to have the right connections, the right training, or a lot of money, to try anything new … but Grandma Moses shows we can often simply begin where we are. If we would. As she wrote: “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

Another “Late Bloomer” grandma story I love is of Grandma Gatewood, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail at sixty-seven, the first woman to hike the entire AT, with no special equipment and a drawstring sack carrying her simple trail needs. It was 1955 and the Appalachian Trail was rougher and less developed then than it is today and few had hiked its length. Emma Gatewood had known a rough life before this date, raising eleven children, enduring an abusive marriage and harsh poverty. When she set out that spring of 1955, she told her children she was “going on a walk,” never offering them any particulars. You can read her remarkable story of that “walk” and her many hikes after in Ben Montgomery’s book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Her story shows again what is possible, no matter your age.

It isn’t only grandmas who bloom late. Many men, or grandpas, also pursue new ventures late in their lives, move into new careers, discover new inventions, create new businesses. Some notable examples of late men bloomers are Mark Twain, Morgan Freeman, Colonel Sanders, Albert Einstein, Ray Kroc, and James Michener to name only a few.

I love Harlan David Sanders story. As a young man he did a little of everything—farmer, pilot, salesman. He loved to cook, too, and at mid life opened a restaurant, which failed, leaving him bankrupt. But he didn’t give up his dream or his belief in a fabulous chicken recipe he’d discovered. At 65 years old he used his first Social Security check of $105.00 to begin again and to found the Kentucky Friend Chicken Company, becoming a multimillionaire before he died. He once wrote: “Every failure can be the stepping stone to something better” and he proved that belief to be true.

Albert Einstein is another man who bloomed into greatness in latter life. He was born in Germany in 1879 and considered slow in development and learning as a boy. A late bloomer, he taught himself calculus and geometry and loved physics. He failed the entrance exam for the Federal Polytechnic Institute the first time but tried again and passed later. Einstein struggled in his early adult years, taking menial jobs to get by, and in the scientific field later, people had trouble understanding the importance of his work. He wrote: ‘The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time… but as a child I developed slowly and began to wonder about this.” Einstein’s wonderings, study, and work led to his discovery of the mathematically complex Theory of Relativity in his mid life. His name became synonymous with brilliance and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921 for his services to Theoretical Physics.

I think both these men’s stories show that people don’t always understand the dreams or talents of others. None of these people had an “easy” life either. A common misconception is that talents, production, and intellectual development peak in young adulthood and decline with age, but this has been disproved time and again by research and by countless individuals who didn’t find their deepest talents and abilities until later in life or who didn’t get the time or life breaks to pursue them earlier in their lives.

For many of us at mid life, or later, there might be many reasons that cause us to push forward to doggedly pursue an old dream despite life’s setbacks or to totally change course to begin pursuing an entirely new dream. Reasons which might lie behind mid life change include:

(1) Termination from a job. Statistics show that businesses are less loyal today than in the past and that 56% of employees are “let go” for various reasons at late midlife so companies can avoid paying retirement benefits and the higher salaries a long-time employee nets.

(2) Demands of life. The busyness and responsibilities of life often keep individuals from reaching for their higher goals and dreams until their latter years.

(3) Unhappy work situations. Discontent and changes in employment situations often push individuals to reevaluate their lives and seek change.

(4) Work retirement. After retirement individuals gain a long “second adulthood” of useful years, freeing them to pursue new dreams, works, and goals.

In all instances, change is hard and never easy. It’s risky. Change forces people to leave “the comfort zone” of their present life and its familiarity. It demands overcoming fears and self-doubts. It requires self analysis and the courage to change in all the ways needed to pursue something “new” and different. Change demands discipline, hard work, and persistence. It also pushes against the innate nature of people to remain comfortably or uncomfortably as they are. Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion reminds us that: “a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” People are governed to a great extent by this law, and it takes a “push” or a “force” from within or without to propel most people into a new path. However, on the positive, Newton’s Law also states that: “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” So once factors from within, or without, push a person to change – and they get past that first stage of fear, anxiety, and resistance—a move in a new direction may prove very positive and productive indeed.

I hope you can see more now that Late Bloomers are individuals with the zeal and courage to bloom a little later than at the expected time in life … and often in a way no one would have ever expected. Late Bloomers may achieve recognition and success or they may simply find joy in discovering new, rewarding, and useful works and interests. Can you bloom late? Yes! People are living longer and stronger today, and a “wide open” new life period exists for people at mid life who want or need to change direction and for those beyond sixty-five to pursue new interests, new careers, and new pursuits. Be assured, you CAN BLOOM beautifully and bloom well even in midlife or late life. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “over the hill” and that it’s “too late to pursue new dreams.” Success and joy in work can happen at any time and at any age … and there are more late bloomers out there than you may think. …I’m one of those Late Bloomers myself and blooming more joyfully every day.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


August 17th is “National Thrift Store Day” … so I decided to write my August blog post about thrift shopping. Because we all know people who love to go to Garage Sales or Thrift Stores to find bargains, we tend to think of “thrift shopping” as a norm in our world. However, “repeat sales stores” and “garage sales” are actually a relatively new phenomenon in our world and not everyone loves bargain hunting. A recent research firm found that only about 16-18% of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year, and yet resale is a multi-billion dollar industry today—not even considering garage and charity sales. The demographics of thrift store shoppers have changed over time, as well, with a decreasing “stigma” about thrifting. In fact, lower-income shoppers no longer represent the major face of thrift shopping any more, with middle and high-income shoppers now equally drawn to thrift and bargain hunting.

Looking back at the history of garage sales and thrift stores is interesting. Most sources suggest the first garage sales branched out of “rommage” or discount ship cargo sales in Europe in the 1800s, with charity sales later emerging in the churches. Churches and women’s groups later held many early bazaars and rummage sales in Europe and in the U.S. but actual thrift stores didn’t really evolve much until the 1900s. The first thrift stores had their origin through Christian organizations like the Salvation Army, but it wasn’t until the mid to late 1900s that thrift stores and garage sales began to gradually pop up around the U.S. Growing up in South Knoxville, Tennessee, I don’t remember seeing or hearing much about either in the 1960s or 1970s, but by the 1980s both thrift stores, charity sales, and neighborhood garage sales began to become more common.

The “why” is probably because more and more mass-produced disposable goods evolved—and people had more consumer goods to “cast off” or resell. Previously, people bought less household items and clothing goods and passed them down within the family, among neighbors or friends, or donated them to charities. In addition, early resale stores were not attractive or appealing to the general public. Today many thrift stores are cleaner, neater, and more appealing to shop in, often arranged to emulate department stores in design.

I began “thrift shopping” in my early-married years in the 1970s when setting up house in our first home and when our children were babies. My parents started “thrift shopping” in the same time period—helping to look for items for their grandchildren and discovering the bargains on clothes, home goods and home furnishings they could find. Mother delighted in finding fabric and notions for sewing and dad tools for his shop. Our family never embraced the “stigma” that enjoying someone else’s cast off home items or wearing someone else’s cast off clothes diminished our worth in any way. To us shopping at “thrift stores” or “garage sales” was simply “smart shopping” and fun. Knowing good clothing and household brands and names, we knew what to look for and what to avoid. For me thrift shopping in those early married years, when our children were small, enabled me to stay home with my children through most of their preschool years. One thing that is a “given” about small children is that they always “grow fast,” outgrowing clothes and shoes faster than they can wear them out. This meant that the garage sales and thrift stores were full of quality, little used children’s clothing, shoes, baby needs, strollers, car seats, toys, books and other items at a quarter or less of the price of those same items in the store. Saving on these items left more income for fun outings, vacations, pool memberships, and summer camps.

As young marrieds, furnishing a new home, we found many choice items for our house at the garage sales and thrift stores. It didn’t take us long to discover either that we could also find quality clothing items for ourselves—some with the sales tags still hanging on them or barely worn—and often with brand names not readily affordable for us otherwise. I also found wonderful art supplies, puzzles, and family games at garage sales and thrift stores, plus books from 25 cents to a dollar each.

Even now thrift store shopping is still an adventure and a pleasure to us, even with the children grown and gone. When we have time J.L. and I love to take a day to “hit the shops” in our area. We usually shop with a “needs list” now to avoid bringing home items we really don’t need, and we go from store to store, Goodwill to Karm, etc, looking for those items on our list.

If we don’t find what we need, we usually head to some favorite retail stores another day—but even there, we hit the sales racks first. Two new welcome arrivals to the “thrift store” world are the “used book stores,” a joy to a book lover like me and used furniture stores. Additionally, holiday stores have sprung up in our area—for back-to-school clothes and needs for kids and for holidays like Halloween or Christmas. We had fun exploring an area Christmas thrift store this last year and finding several items we really loved.

I’ve never felt “my worth” is expressed in “how much I spent for something,” “where I bought it,” or in “what trendy brand it represented.” Some items, I’ve learned, are best bought “new”—but in general, thousand of dollars can be saved yearly by wisely bargain shopping. Also, it is J.L.’s and my belief that any money we have or any financial blessings we enjoy are God’s first and not ours. So if we save, there is more to give as God directs—and when we save, we are prudently saving and wisely spending the resources God has given us. J.L. and I always pray, too, before shopping for anything, and we have found that God often leads us to exactly what we need at a bargain value and price from either an excellent used car, to a winter coat, to a great pair of hiking boots.

If you have never explored your area’s garage sales, charity sales, or thrift stores, I encourage you to give a day to checking them out. It’s fun simply to look—and you might come home with a few great bargains you’ll love.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act