coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Still hanging on

I will eventually write about Charlottesville.  I will eventually allude to the hatred that is no longer festering in the hearts of so many American citizens, but has burst, sporelike, into the light of day. Hideous, disfiguring hatred is making zombies of the living. Hatred is born of fear and ignorance. And, of course, there is really no way to get around the fact that it is a sin.

Today, however, I am still trying to hang on to the goodness and beauty that is all around me. So I am going to continue with another post about the wildflowers found in the nearby nature preserve. 

Here is an interesting flowering vine. The identifying sign on the walkway referred to it as balsam pear. It is also known as bitter melon.  According to Wikipedia: "When ripe, the fruits burst apart, revealing numerous seeds covered with a brilliant scarlet, extremely sticky coating." It is not a native plant. However, it is still beautiful. Here it is in various states of being, and splitting open to spill its seed:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Scarlet Hibiscus

We went for a walk at a nature preserve yesterday. This preserve has a raised, wood plank path to walk on, which I appreciate considering the place is filled with alligators, snakes, monster spiders and strange lizards. There are also Florida wildflowers blooming at various times of the year. Yesterday we came upon a Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus). It is also called scarlet rosemallow, marsh hibiscus, or swamp mallow. We've only seen it in the wild at this one preserve, only at this time of the summer, and in this one spot along the walk. There were a number of buds, but only one flower in bloom yesterday.


Thursday, August 3, 2017


I am NOT religious. However, I am curious about religions, and religiosity. I've been intrigued by the concept of "grace" since I stumbled upon it in a Catholic Encyclopedia entry one lunch hour when I had nothing better to do than to sit in the library, looking through reference books. I came upon "grace" and it kind of blew my mind. Here's one definition:

"In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it"

I guess you can imagine why it appealed to me.  Getting something for doing nothing, not asking for it, not expecting it, and not deserving it in any way. Wow. Sign me up.

The agnostic who lives inside my brain is screaming "it is totally random, dumb luck, girlfriend!" 

But still, sometimes wonderful random things happen and they seem like a gift. Sometimes they change your life and things are never the same again. Of course random bad things happen, too.  But I am trying not to go there. Not today.

“Citrus Worker” by William Ludwig, Leu Gardens, Orlando, Florida

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Health caring, at least

I'm reasonably good about taking care of myself.  I exercise, eat well, and go to all the required doctors (and dentist) for all the annual exams. I do this in spite of the fact that, like many others, I absolutely hate going to the doctor.

I have this "not very well thought out" belief that if I go to a doctor, they WILL find something wrong that needs to be fixed. It's their job, for crying out loud. I know this is ridiculous. But since it is a belief (i.e., emotion based) I don't feel inclined to defend it as an idea (i.e., logic based).

Consequently, I was not surprised when my dermatologist found a basal cell carcinoma on my face. It has been there for a few years. My previous dermatologist pooh pooh'd it. I tried someone new this time. She biopsied and sent it off to the lab. A week later, she cut it out. Then I had the indignity of spending another week with 4 stitches between my nose and my lip on the right side. The swelling pushed my nose up on one side, and my top lip hung down over the bottom in the opposite direction. She also froze off 4 actinic keratosis on other areas of my face. I looked lovely.

Now I'm in the market for a big floppy hat. Perhaps one like Sally Rayburn wore on Bloodlines? That might be big enough to hide me from my enemy, the relentless *^$@! sun.

The only problem is that, unlike Sissy, I am not a skinny little person. I am a chubby little person. Consequently, a hat like this will likely make me look like my totem animal, the turtle. As one gets older, life seems to become a series of indignities. I'm getting used to it.

Sissy Spacek as Sally Rayburn in Bloodlines on Netflix

Friday, July 21, 2017

Owl be fine.

My husband was attending a meeting that was held in a building on a nature preserve the other day.  It was about 6:30 when he left and as he walked to the parking lot he glanced over and this is what he saw staring at him.  It never got scared or flew away.  It was clearly scrutinizing him. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Turtle Musings

The blogger am recently commented on my turtle masthead. She is an artist and a women of power. When she speaks of images, I pay attention. 

This photo represents a creature with fears and anxieties, but who pokes her head out of her shell from time to time with great hope and with as much energy as she can muster. She is small and seemingly insignificant. She is slow, but she is steady. Despite being restrained by a giant, she is curious and takes a chance by coming out of her shell to see what is going on. Who knows where that small act of courage might take her? 

I came late to blogland. I started writing in 2012, when I went to help my daughter for a few weeks after the birth of her son. I blogged to share the experience with my large extended family. They probably didn't read it.

Many of the original posts have long since been deleted because they revealed too much about me. I retreated back into my shell. I let my writing slide when I went back home and returned to work.

As I prepared to retire in 2013, I started blogging again. This blog became my lifeline as I adjusted to a new and considerably less productive life. This is where I think out loud.

I hope you have noticed the other turtle on my page. She lives on the bottom. She is swimming in full glory. If the little, tentative turtle on the top of my page is where I started, then the big one at the bottom is the one I hope someday to become. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

NOW Conference: Part II

The conference consisted of 3 break-out sessions each day (with multiple possibilities each time) and then various all-conference sessions with speakers.  On Saturday, there was a PAC lunch featuring a number of terrific speakers, including some from Florida, which hosted the conference this year. The speakers included Democratic Florida Senator Bill Nelson, and two Florida congresswomen, Lois Frankel, and Val Demings.  There was also a union activist named Kim Shultz, and a spitfire older feminist named Dr. Janet Canterbury.  It was so fun to hear these political warriors speak in person.

Representative Demings (the new congresswoman from my district, and former police chief of Orlando) set the place on fire towards the end of her speech letting us know why "she won't go back."  When she was done, I felt like I had been to church.  Then the last person to speak was Eleanor Smeal, someone us older feminists will remember.

According to Wikipedia, Eleanor Smeal "is one of the major leaders of the modern-day American feminist movement. Smeal is the president and a cofounder of the Feminist Majority Foundation (founded in 1987) and has served as president of the National Organization for Women for three terms, in addition to her work as an activist, grassroots organizer, lobbyist, and political analyst."

Her most entertaining quote came when she was speaking about the amazing Women's March on Washington, the one that happened they day after the most current presidential inauguration.  She noted that there were 661 additional marches that day in the U.S. alone, and hundreds more around the world.  She said:

"We will never forget how mad we were.  But we didn't sit back, we organized."  A little later  she said something like: "...and as every knows, when we (women) get screwed, we multiply!"

But you can watch it yourself.  The incomparable Eleanor Smeal starts speaking at about the 1:30:00 mark.  Do yourself a favor and watch Val Demings, too.  She starts about 53 minutes into the video, but doesn't really get going until about half way through her speech.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

NOW or never: Part 1

As promised, I spent two days as an eager newbie participant at the 2017 NOW conference in Orlando. It did not disappoint. In fact, it raised so many issues and inspired so many revelations for me, that I will be writing about aspects of it for at least a couple posts.

I arrived 20 minutes early and sat in my car feeling foolish. Nothing strange about THAT!

At exactly 8:00 a.m., I meandered into the hotel, and found the registration desk on the mezzanine. I also found a table laden with pastry and fruit.  More importantly, I found the coffee service. Fully loaded I searched out an empty seat on the mezzanine to wait, and perhaps to schmooze. My friend, CAP, who was to meet me there, was not the uncool early bird I am. It was early and I was feeling alone and dazed brave, so I sat down with a few strangers to see what would happen.

I sat down next to someone about my age. She was a talker, which took the pressure off me. When I managed to blurt out who I was, where I was from, and why I was there, she gave me a long look and then, with squinty eyes, said "I'm not sure how I feel about those new social media groups." For a few long moments, I felt like a fraud.

Thankfully, I have a strong ego. I also know secret groups serve a purpose for women who would not otherwise be politically active. AND we meet young people where they congregate, a real problem for traditional feminist organizations where the inter-generational tension is palpable. I thought to myself "Okay, now I know certain members of the old guard are uncomfortable with the proliferation of secret Facebook groups." Forewarned is forearmed. Next time I'll have an answer!

Fully caffeinated, I moved on to the breakout session on voter registration, which started at 8:30 a.m. I didn't want to miss a minute of it.

I had such a great time.

Much more to come.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A case for volunteering

Tomorrow I go to the NOW (National Organization of Women) conference. I am going with one of the other administrators from the political Facebook group I moderate for. Hopefully, we will learn practical skills we can take back and use for our Florida group. I am looking forward to it, even though I dread going. Does that make sense?

When I first joined the group, I was heartened to discover many like-minded women (and men) who wanted to create political community in a swing state. I had felt so alone in this crazy state. I needed to feel part of something bigger, even if it was virtual. Okay, maybe especially because it was virtual.  I am quite happy to stay at home.

I became a moderator for the group's discussion page in late December, and I was overwhelmed.  Uh, I had a LOT to learn. Some of us didn't spring full grown from the head of Zeus.

I had not done political work before, and I had been retired for 3 years. I was "rusty." I was afraid of conflict and confrontation. I was afraid I would be asked to do things I was not comfortable with. I doubted myself. Most of all, I was reluctant to give up a portion of my retirement time.

Because I am a notorious hot-head, I actually quit once, but went back a few weeks later. I have learned a lot about myself while growing into this role. I am thankful for this opportunity to learn and change. I was afraid those days were over. 

If you are content living a quiet life in retirement, I am happy for you (and a bit jealous). Nothing wrong with that! But if you are floundering and/or depressed you might consider seeking a volunteer gig that interests you. Volunteering can give purpose to your life if you are feeling the lack.

It can be as simple as making one phone call a day, or doing spreadsheet work from home for an organization you believe in. Or you could volunteer to go to an animal shelter one afternoon a week to play with the cats and dogs. Whatever floats your boat. The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I understand cynicism. Really, I do. I just don't happen to like it.  It seems...cowardly.

You know, like when there is a spirited election coming up and the two candidates have radically different approaches to solving public problems.  There is always someone who will smirk and say "All politicians stink, that's why I don't bother to vote."  When someone says that to me, what I actually hear in my head is "I don't know right from wrong, I don't want to think about the issues, so I am just going to act like nothing matters. I hope you think I'm cool"  I don't.

It is easy to be distrustful and negative. Life is simpler if you tune out the noise of the modern world. The hard part is listening to all that noise and trying to make sense of it.
The truth is, life is complicated and requires a certain amount of intellectual rigor to figure out right from wrong. Mainstream American culture encourages citizens not to think. The more passive we are, the more compliant we will be.  Don't fall for it.

This is why we are thrilled by heroes. They seem to have thought long and hard about right and wrong. They are incorruptible and keep going when the going gets tough. They take a stand. They DO things. They give us hope, and inspire us to be our best selves. Doesn't everyone want to be a hero? If not, why?

Here's a sweet little piece from an Emily Dickinson poem to help us all recharge our batteries:

We never know how high we are 

Till we are called to rise; 
And then, if we are true to plan, 
Our statures touch the skies—

Okay, I needed that. Now I am going to go plant some seeds.