Happy 50th!

One-half century ago today, a young expatriate couple living in Europe, welcomed the first of two daughters into the world.

As they navigated first-time parenthood in a foreign country, were they aware of their voices?  Voices of never-ending love and support?  Voices of positive role-modeling?  Were they aware of their guiding voices?  Their words set the foundation for a value system; all integral components of what I now recognize as my voice journey.

My parents continued using their voices to set strong examples for my sister and me:  their commitment as Sunday school teachers… my mother’s creativity and energy as co-leader for Girl Scout Troop 637… my parents’ friendship and support to a young Air Force pilot who flew one of the last American military transport flights out of Vietnam… my parents teaching us to be kind to everyone in thought, word and deed… my mother standing strong with her teacher colleagues as they struck during tense contract negotiations… my parents teaching us to take responsibility for mistakes, learn from them and then move forward.

Even today, their voices remain strong as parents, grandparents, and active members of their community and church.  I am grateful for all my parents have done to guide and support me as my voice has taken shape over the years.

Today, that first daughter turns 50!  (Isn’t this something that just happens to other people?!!)

So now, how to celebrate?  For months, it was all about the “big party.”  And then something changed.  I started giving voice to the things I believe in.  I lobbied against Pence in DC, I marched in Madison, I got political on Facebook and Twitter, I door-knocked for candidates, I called and wrote elected officials – I got out of my comfort zone.

I began listening more intently to the voices of others.  Dasha Kelly’s powerful spoken word, advocating for change and social justice.  A new friend Barbara, who celebrated her 80th birthday with gifts to Planned Parenthood – a cause to which she’s been giving voice since the early Sixties.  And the amazing voices from Michele Woodward’s virtual birthday party, during which women shared their wisdom for turning 50.

As I thought about how I might celebrate sans the big party, I recalled my father taking me to see Mary Poppins the night my sister was born, and how Mrs. Banks’ effusive rendition of “Sister Suffragettes” planted a seed in the mind of an almost four year-old girl.  From that seed grew a passionate voice for women and equality.  And so today, on my 50th birthday, I stand strong with Planned Parenthood.

Yet the question remains: how to celebrate?  My birthday wish is that you’ll join me in celebrating the voices who are working to keep all people safe, healthy and strong with a gift to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, whether it’s $5 or $50.  Barbara has raised over $2,000 during her birthday celebration – what might our voices do together?

Here’s to celebrating a half-century, and the power of our collective voices!

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64 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. faye wetzel
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 07:19:19

    Happy Happy Birthday, Linda. I didn’t know any of those things about your parents! Amazing — thanks for sharing, and it DOES explain so many things about the wonderful woman you are. AND, the wonderful and allowing way you are nurturing Helen.

    Finding our voice is so important. Sharing our voice is critical.

    However, I find that in my 60s, the “filter” is gone! YIKES…can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

    XO

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    • Linda R Neff
      Aug 27, 2011 @ 07:30:45

      Thank you Faye! You’ve helped me find mine along the way. Thank you for always being so supportive. Can’t wait to hear your voice in September my dear, wise friend!

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  2. Chuck Hardinger
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 07:35:24

    Such nice thoughts here… Good Luck!

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  3. Jill Sanderson Lundberg
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 08:40:24

    Happy, Happy Birthday. What an inspired to way to share your day. Looking forward to reading more.

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  4. Jo Gorissen
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 08:45:27

    Beautiful Linda, Happy Birthday!! You have only just begun. It is a pleasure to hear your voice via this blog, fb, or any other means. Applause!

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  5. Elaine
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:00:56

    What a great blog and an awesome way to celebrate your birthday. Inspiring!

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  6. Judy Milanovits
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:16:05

    You are inspiring. Thank you for giving your friends a gift on your birthday.

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  7. Helen
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:24:46

    Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really like, it turned out well. I can tell you’ve put a lot of work into it;) Luv u!!

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  8. Christine
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:43:57

    Happiest of Birthday wishes to you!!! What an awesome and inspiring woman and friend you are!!! And what an incredible gift you give to us and the rest of those touched by you!! XXOO Christine

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  9. Amanda Harrington
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 10:55:14

    you were born in Europe? did time as a girl scout? so many stories to look forward to reading here, Linda, thanks for doing this! with much love ❤

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  10. Gary Hollander
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 11:04:50

    Blog is great and the connection to PPW contribution is splendidly easy. I am delighted with your voice, but more delighted still that you are.

    Glad you were born!

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    • Linda R Neff
      Aug 27, 2011 @ 21:23:55

      I feel so fortunate that you were one of the first people I met upon moving to Milwaukee. Being able to work with you on the Wisconsin AIDS Fund helped me better understand the importance of giving back. Thank you Gary!

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  11. Amber Johnson
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 13:11:52

    Way to go, Linda! This is incredible and inspirational. Three cheers for you on this exciting day! And remember, I meant to say “70”, not “50”… I promise!

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  12. Julie Haller
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 13:57:09

    LInda….beautiful and brings a smile to my face. I do wish we could get together…soon. Julie

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    • Linda R Neff
      Aug 27, 2011 @ 21:28:55

      We are finally settled in our Chicago pied-a-terre not far from where all of the gal pals lived – talk about full circle!! Can’t wait to catch-up back in the city!

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  13. Kay
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 14:18:02

    Happy Day, Linda! Leave it to you to come up with a creative, meaningful way to mark your fifty years of progress! I’m so happy to know you and your wonderful family. I look forward to reading more as time goes on.
    Again, the happiest of birthdays!
    xx
    Kay

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  14. Gay
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 14:19:12

    Happy Birthday, my dear Sister-Cousin! How is it possible, though, that you’ve turned 50???*
    Great blog! Carry on!
    XOXOX, Gay Lee
    *I found 50 to be a BLAST! So will you, I bet.

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  15. Lisa Remby
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 15:30:13

    I share my favorite Shakespearean quote with you: “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” It so eloquently reinforces the idea of embracing your age, your voice, and your beauty both inside and out. Happy Birthday!

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  16. Jeanne
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 17:05:37

    This is really cool, Linda!! I am past the five-oh mark and it’s all good! Donations to Planned Parenthood are ideal as a celebration. Let’s also get a group from Madison together and take you to a nice lunch. You are a VISIONARY and you have changed PPW to the core. Love you a lot! Jeanne

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  17. Carolyn Curran
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 19:06:46

    Dear Linda Bird–
    What a great way to celebrate being 50! We all need to pursue our voices, and what a touching tribute to your parents honoring their many acts of generosity and bravery. You’re a terrific, spirited human and I hope to be as mature as you about turning 50. However, I might take a page from Lisbeth Salander from the Steig Larsson novels and get out a taser. Clearly, you’re an adult now and I’m still 12. Glad to give to PP….love them!!!! Love, Carolyn

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    • Linda R Neff
      Aug 27, 2011 @ 21:39:05

      Carolyn, you are the best! Maybe we can do taser tag at your party instead of laser tag…!!! (Couldn’t put down the Larsson series – talk about one strong woman!) Looking forward to celebrating with you at the end of the year!

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  18. Toni Mark
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 19:50:10

    I LOVE IT!! What an outstanding tribute to your parents and to parenthood, planned or not. A wonderful way to give back! Congratulations on arriving to the party (the party of 50 year olds), albeit a little late – but with great style! I cannot wait to celebrate our long and strong friendship on our upcoming trip! Love love love love love times 10! Toni

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  19. MaryKay Riordan
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 21:31:44

    Love this. Drive safely! Yes, dinner soon:)

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  20. Mary Paull
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 22:45:37

    You are amazing – what a GREAT way (and amazing tribute of love to your parents) to celebrate this special birthday. Welcome to the 50s Linda – hope you rock around the clock!

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  21. Valerie Morris
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 07:38:24

    Linda Lou-Hou this is outstanding! Even though you are the whippersnapper of the group your wisdom and grace inspires me. Can’t wait to see you and the gals, love you guys.

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  22. Bill R
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 09:47:07

    Happy Birthday Linda. What a great idea to share your voice. How inspiring.

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  23. Alyssa Dilts
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 10:23:04

    Linda, this is amazing and thank you so much for sharing with me, I feel very honored. 🙂 Hope you had the happiest of birthdays (sorry we couldn’t get a signal to talk the day of!)
    With so much love and admiration,
    Alyssa

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  24. Julie Fagin
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 10:25:25

    Spectacular and thank you for your voice. Have a most wonderful 50th year and look forward to hearing your pearls. Hope to see you soon.

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  25. Patti Brose
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 12:26:07

    A beautiful voice, a beautiful mind. I look forward to celebrating your birthday with you! Happy Birthday again! Love, Patti

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  26. Pat Kandziora
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 15:03:12

    How Awsome, Linda…..Happy 50th Birthday! Speaking from experience, I can tell you that turning “50” was truly the beginning of many new endeavors & successes for me. Your parents and family can be so very proud of YOUR VOICE and the woman leader you have become. May you enjoy continued success and happiness in all that you do for the next 50 years!
    Warmest Congratulations.

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    • Linda R Neff
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 21:04:36

      You were one of the very first people I met when moving to Milwaukee. Thank you for your leadership and helping me along the way. Most importantly thank you for your focus on women and finance – you are an important leader in our community. Hope to be able to rock 50 and beyond as brilliantly as you do!

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  27. Timothy Christian
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 01:05:52

    Linda, due to recent austerity measures, we’ve had to cut your 50th birthday back to 40. Sorry. You’ll have to relive the past decade concurrently with the next one. But look on the bright side. You should be caught up to your actual age by 60.

    Before you get back to work, a few words in keeping with my all-time favorite act of subversion (in Italiano, si prega di)…

    Vox canora! Vox humana! Vox magna! Ipisissima voce!
    The melody! The humanity! The strength! The very voice itself!

    Lady, your voice lights up my day every time I hear it. I am so proud to call you my friend. I am so very impressed with what you’ve given your voice to. And frankly, happy to discover that an indomitable woman-warrior can carry herself with unsurpassed poise, style, and grace. After all, the handbooks say you’re supposed to sport breastplates, a golden lariat, and fly an invisible jet.

    Happy 50th Birthday, Linda!!!

    PS. Note to the number 51: Be afraid.

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    • Linda R Neff
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 20:59:59

      As always, my friend, you make me laugh out loud and fill my heart with joy! Love the Italiano – that’s brilliant – it’s now written in my notebook so I can refer to it often – thank you for sharing that wonderful voice wisdom.

      You have been key in supporting me as I begin to give voice to the social justices and injustices of our world. You enlighten and inspire Tim and make sure that we’re all having a great time along the way!

      I am thinking though, that a trip on the invisible jet might be a wee bit of fun!

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  28. Jim E
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 11:17:12

    Linda,
    So it’s passed bye now, but here for another 363 days or so.
    Thanks for sending your page along.You know java c++?
    Happy birthday you dear young Lady!
    So glad you’re involved with all the socially conscious endeavors.
    I know this world is a better place thanks to you.
    Didn’t get to reply until my library visit today,will chat later.
    Love,OOO’s + XXX’s
    Your cousin, Jimmy

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    • Linda R Neff
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 20:52:34

      Wish I could say I knew java c++ – just fumbling along in this blogging endeavor and talking to great people along the way who are experts in all of this!

      We are fortunate to have come from socially conscious stock who exposed us to lots of different points-of-view along the way.

      So good to hear your voice here Jimmy!

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  29. Tamika
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 22:46:58

    Linda, welcome to the blogosphere. And yours is certainly a welcome and needed voice. What a great tribute to your parents. I am honored to count you as friend, and inspiration. Happy, Fabulous 50th!

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  30. Natalie
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 13:51:45

    A little late, but as heart felt- Happy Birthday Linda! Thanks for sharing and inspiring some of us to do more. I hope when I find my voice it has something as meaningful to say.

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  31. Amy
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 19:53:13

    As the younger sister, surprisingly I am way behind in all this social media stuff — but by your encouragement, I went back to figure out what this blog thing was. I think it is great that you take a firm stand on issues that are so important. The majority of folks tend to leave that up to others who only have the nerve to stand up for what they believe is worth giving a voice to. Thanks for being one that is not afraid to say what you believe — and thank you for not feeling embarassed or ashamed if others find you too political or too opinionated. They want the same things, they are just simply afraid. We are both truly blessed to have been raised by parents that believe in speaking up for what is right or just even when we may be in the minority. Blog on big sister!
    I hope I embrace 50 as beautifully as you do!
    P.S. – I did not know that Dad took you to see Mary Poppins the day I was born!
    xo,
    Amy

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    • Linda R Neff
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 20:43:17

      Wow Amy – thank you. Finding my voice is akin to finding my sea legs – I still get fairly queasy along the way. I’m driven to speak-up for the younger woman like Helen and Meredith who will follow us into our roles as mothers, wives, care-givers, professionals and all the other hats we wear along the way. You found your voice years ago – I’m just watching and learning from you!

      Thanks for jumping into the conversation in an important way!

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  32. Kathy
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 09:41:43

    Sorry to be late -but Happy 50th! Your blog and voice is inspiring! Thanks for sharing it! Dinner soon?

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  33. Dasha Kelly
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 11:06:38

    Linda~

    I think you’re on to something here … looking forward to the next post!

    Thank you for … everything.

    Best,

    dnk

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